Welcome to this virtual landscape where debut authors share their joineries with us.  
This month Helen Simmons steps out with author Marisa Noelle.

Marisa's debut The Shadow Keepers was out on 30 July 2019.  
Let’s begin our journey...

There’s nothing like a good walk to fuel creative ideas and give us inspiration in our writing. Where are you taking us on our walk today? 

I have always loved the ocean. Although I was born in the UK, my family is American and I spent some of my childhood in California. We lived ten minutes away from the beach and three hours from skiing. There was a beach near where we lived called Corona Del Mar, where there is an old pirate jail. You could venture out to it, but could get stuck at high tide when the water rushed in. Ever since, or maybe even before, I’ve loved being near water, specifically the ocean. I love the power of the waves and how devastating it can be. Sitting on the beach and watching the waves crash on the shore really moves me and fills me with inspiration. I want to be as strong as the waves and harness their power in life.

What about the landscape you have created in your novel? How important is the setting to your plot and themes?

For The Shadow Keepers, the setting is what came before the plot or characters. The novel takes place at Brookwood Hospital, which was a real mental asylum that only closed down in the mid ‘90s, although it hadn’t been a mental hospital for a while. It was converted into luxury flats and kept much of the original architecture, including the clock tower that rose above the building. That clock tower, I could see from my bedroom window for five years. The whispers among the new residents told of ghostly and supernatural experiences. Coupled with my father’s own experience working in one of America’s premier mental health hospitals and the horrific stories he related from the ‘70s, my curiosity was piqued and I thought the hospital would be a perfect setting for a horror novel.

Tell us about your inspiration for your novel.

Besides the setting which I mentioned above, my inspiration comes from my own mental health problems. When I was growing up I struggled with an eating disorder and then developed anxiety and OCD and I found it very difficult to find a novel that normalised these behaviours without making it a plot point. In recent times, society is beginning to recognise mental health issues better, but I think we still have a long way to go. I wanted a teen to be able to pick up a novel and see themselves reflected in the pages, but not because they needed to get better or that there was something wrong with them, but so they could see people with mental health issues can be strong in their own right and often have other skills because of what they struggle with.

Now we have got into our stride, can you tell us what you loved most about writing this book?

I love writing creepy and tense books. I was an avid reader growing up and seemed to go straight from Nancy Drew to Dean Koontz (who is my favourite author). He is a master of building tension without anything actually happening. I do lean towards anything scary (although I’m not into slasher stuff and gory) and so it follows that my writing would go that way too. Having read so many books in the genre, my brain tips over with all the novel ideas I want to write. My favourite part of writing The Shadow Keepers was to show how strong Georgia is, despite people perceiving her to be weak. I love to come up with names for my characters and can’t write a single word until I have it right. For this book, there weren’t any particular associations, but the names all had to “feel” right. Although for my forthcoming mermaid book, all of the names are related to water.

We seem to be lost in the woods now. Can you describe your most difficult moments when you were writing, and how you got back onto the right path?

My writing journey has been a long and bumpy road. I’ve been writing for ten years with increasing seriousness (now bordering on obsession). When my first agent picked me up, I’d written my first novel and subbed my first draft and had no idea what a query letter was! Many years later, I have had hundreds of rejections and I’m now on my third agent. This time I’m confident the fit is right. It is very true what they say, that you really need to find the right relationship. There have been many, many tears over the years and the thing that really picked me up was my writing group, who I met on Twitter. Once we banded together, rejection was much easier to take and I also had people to celebrate the highs with too. Although my husband and family support me, they don’t know what it is to be a writer, and so within this group, we get it, and we can really be cheerleaders for each other, as well as critique partners and brainstorming sounding boards. I always pick myself up. I can’t imagine doing anything but writing, and so I know I have to keep going in the face of all the tough stuff. Only if I persevere will I get anywhere.

As we reach the summit, can you tell us how it feels to be a first time author?

Being a first-time author is a wonderful feeling. All those dreams I had late at night, especially about being able to hold my own book in my hands, are finally here. It’s a very fulfilling sense of achievement. Here is this thing that I have spent many years creating, here it is in my hands! I often equate it to being pregnant with my first child at 38 weeks, being so jealous of the other mothers who had their babies already, and wanting mine to just come out! My book launch was on 6 September at Guildford Waterstones. I was very nervous, not knowing how many people were going go turn up or if I might have the guts to read from the book. With no agent for this book and my publisher in the States, it was up to me to do the talking. But it was lovely to see so many people from so many different corners of my life celebrating with me. In my credits I thank my family, close friends who have read many drafts, and all my twitter friends, as well as my publisher and cover artist. It takes a team to bring a book to life, and I am always thankful for that support.

We’ve finished our walk and now so I think we deserve to celebrate with tea in a cosy inn. As we warm our feet by the blazing fire, tell me where you think your writing will take you in the future? 

I have so many manuscripts on my laptop and I’m hoping my new agent will help me find homes for them. I do have two more books coming out soon. The Unadjusteds is due out on 1 November and is about a 16-year-old girl who must cope as a human in a world where 80% of the population are genetically enhanced. The second is called The Mermaid Chronicles: Secrets of the Deep and is due out in Spring 2020. I like to think of it as a Romeo and Juliet retelling, underwater, with mermaids and shape-shifters competing to find a magical relic.

Finally, I have really enjoyed walking and talking with you today. Can you give us one take away tip for yet-to-be-published writers? 

My tip for unpublished authors is the same I give myself. Keep going! Dust yourself off and try again. You only need one yes. Also, don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone’s journey is so different in the writing industry, that you just have to be proud of foraging your own path. And finally, find your tribe to support you and who understand writing and what the rejections are like. Find those you can learn from too.


Marisa Noelle is the writer of middle grade & young adult novels in the genres of science-fiction, fantasy & mental health. The Shadow Keepers is her first novel. The Unadjusteds is due out in November 2019 and The Mermaid Chronicles – Secrets of the Deep in Spring 2020. 

When she’s not writing or reading or watching movies, she enjoys swimming. In the pool she likes to imagine she could be a mermaid and become part of some of her make-believe words. Despite being an avid bookworm from the time she could hold a book, being an author came as a bit of a surprise to her as she was a bit of a science geek at school. She lives in Woking, UK with her husband and three children.

Twitter: @MarisaNoelle77
Instagram: @MarisaNoelle77


Helen Victoria is a writer of YA fiction, a full time drama teacher and a reader of anything and everything. When she is not putting on shows, reading or writing, Helen loves to walk in wild places, or hang out with her family and friends in London, France and Cornwall.

Follow Helen:
Twitter: @helensimmons100


Imogen Foxell is an illustrator with a particular interest in creating intricate imaginary worlds. She illustrates English literature revision cards for, and interesting words for Her website is Follow her on Twitter and Instagram

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