A Writer’s Life with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Debrah Martin


Debrah Martin -BRAG

I’d like to welcome Debrah Martin to Layered Pages to talk a little about her writing. Debrah writes under three different pen names and in three very different genres. She plots fast-paced and compelling thrillers as D.B. Martin, with the first in the Patchwork trilogy, Patchwork Man, having been recently awarded a coveted B.R.A.G. Medallion. The explosive conclusion to the series, Patchwork Pieces, is to be released on 13th April 2015. As Debrah Martin she writes literary fiction, where often the truth IS stranger than fiction, and two new titles are due to be released in 2015/16. And not to be overlooked is her YA teen detective series, penned as Lily Stuart – THE teen detective. Irreverent, blunt, funny and vulnerable. Webs is the first in the series and Magpies will follow in 2015.

So why not stick to just one name and one genre?

‘Variety is the spice of life,’ she says. ‘And I continually have all these new ideas – they have to come out somehow!’

Debrah’s past careers have spanned two businesses, teaching, running business networking for the University of Winchester (UK) and social event management. She chaired the Wantage (not just Betjeman) Literary Festival in 2014 and also mentors new writers.

Debrah, why do you write?

I write because – I think like most avid writers – it’s become almost as essential as breathing for me. If I have too long a spell where I can’t immerse myself in whatever make-believe world I’m currently creating I get twitchy and eventually store up so many ideas in my head I have to get up in the middle of the night to write them down! Once I have an idea in my head, and the characters to bring it to life, it’s difficult not to tell their story, so writing isn’t an occupation or a past-time for me, it’s a passion. It’s also sometimes a way of exploring a dilemma or issue I have to solve for myself – although not maybe quite so dramatically as my characters. Life’s difficulties are usually less extreme versions of the issues they have to tackle, but nevertheless if I push my characters to their furthest limits to see what they would do there’s very often an obvious resolution to my own problems staring me right in the face. Above all though, I love to tell a story.

Patchwork Man

How has writing impacted your life?

I wonder now what it would be like not to write, and what I used to do with all these ideas I think of almost daily. It’s certainly made me more thoughtful of people in real life, their issues and why they may behave in certain – sometimes apparently inexplicable ways. It’s made me people watch, and once you start to really pay attention to the people in your world, some of those mysteries are actually much less of a mystery. You’ve just failed to notice what might be going on for them in their lives and how that impacts on their reaction to you and what’s going on in yours’. I also appreciate the world around me a lot more. Writing with your senses makes you have to actually pay attention to what you’re seeing, hearing and smelling, day in and day out. It’s incredible how much we usually miss in daily life. I remember doing an observation exercise with some students a few years ago to prove it. They all knew there was a bin by the door, but not what colour. And I only knew because I set the question! I tested myself later by going on a ‘listening walk’, concentrating solely on the sounds I usually filtered out. I was amazed at how much peripheral noise I usually ignored as I went about my daily routine, but these seemingly insignificant sensations are what, subliminally, are creating my world – or as a writer, the world I create for my readers. It’s given me a bolder, more vivid appreciation of life in general, and also made me really relish every moment I experience. I’ve always liked the poem by William Henry Davies which starts:

“What is this life if so full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare…”

But the lines,

“…No time to see in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night…”

Have especial meaning for me now because they encapsulate precisely the things I used to miss before I started writing. Writing has made me take the time to stand and stare.

When do your best ideas come to you for a story?

My ideas often come at the most inappropriate moments – as my daughters will tell you. It’s not uncommon for me to announce, ‘I’ve just had this great idea …’ right in the middle of Sunday lunch and have to be threatened with terrible things to stop me dashing away to scribble it down. I also tend to think of ideas when I’m driving or when I’m walking my dog. Typical of life though, isn’t it? You always come up with the best ideas when you can’t do anything about them – then… Overall, I simply remain thankful I get the ideas, wherever I get them!

How do you respond to positive and negative reviews?

I received some very good advice when I first started writing, and that was to always believe in yourself because if you didn’t then no-one else would. Writing – like any art form – is completely subjective. Someone will love what someone else hates. The same applies to reviews and reviewers. Of course it’s wonderful when someone raves about your work and devastating when they trash it, but that is simply their point of view and everyone is entitled to their point of view. I think the best response to a good review is a polite thank you, and to a bad one a polite nothing, but if the bad review makes a valid point then take note of it and improve. After all, all reviews should be used positively, even when they’re negative, shouldn’t they?

What advice would you give to beginner writers?

First of all, join a writer’s group. It is simply the best way to keep motivated, keep encouraged and keep inspired. Even if you love doing something, it’s very difficult to do it in a vacuum. Having people around you who understand your passion, and feed it, is the best way of keeping your passion alive.

Then – and always – read, read, and read. Behind every good writer there are originally other exceptional writers; ones who’ve astounded, excited and amazed you, and are essentially what have prompted you to write in the first place. Maybe you won’t emulate them but you can certainly to follow in their wake. Reading good literature encourages good writing skills – how better to learn than to see a master in action? Gradually you will find yourself deconstructing their plot structures, the way their stories arc and how they create a sense of place and person without actually physically describing them at all. Then you will have the ultimate magic of the good writer at your fingertips too.

Finally, don’t give up. If you want to be published, then be aware that it’s a long and often frustrating road to any kind of success, but success is however and whatever you see it to be for yourself. And every small success is, nevertheless, success. Plan small, achievable steps along the way, explore other writer’s blogs and articles giving advice, and always pay attention to what you are asked for when submitting work to agents and publishers. But more than anything – enjoy what you do, because ultimately that’s the reason for doing it.

Debrah’s links:

Patchwork Man is available on Amazon

As is the sequel, Patchwork People

And the conclusion to the trilogy, Patchwork Pieces, is available for pre-order

For YA fiction readers, my first YA fiction, Webs, is available here

You can also find Debrah’s website here

Her blog is here

Her Facebook Page

And she’s on Twitter as @Storytellerdeb

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