I'm delighted to welcome the lovely Larisa Villar Hauser to the blog today. Larisa writes books for children and her first published work, Uma & Imp, was released in 2014. She lives in London and has spent stretches of time in New York, Austria and Brazil, where she expanded her horizons and her overdraft. Although Larisa always wanted to write, she was in her thirties before she started work on her first book - an unpublished crime fiction novel that now acts as a draught excluder. It took her over seven years to complete Uma & Imp - she is confident that her next book will be completed in at least double that time.
Check out Larisa's website to discover more about her and her writing: www.impprintbooks.com. Or connect with her on Twitter, Facebook or Goodreads. For dedicated and signed copies of UMA & IMP with free UK P&P, please click here.
Welcome to the blog, Larisa, and congratulations on the publication of Uma and Imp. Could you tell us who your intended readership is and, briefly, what the book is about?
Thank you for having me on the blog, Christina! UMA & IMP is a fantasy adventure for boys and girls aged around 8 to 11. It is the story of Uma’s journey to find out why her parents never came back from Peru – and why they left. At heart it’s also the story of Uma’s relationship with her best friend, an invisible imp with attitude.
How did you come up with the title?
For a long time, the manuscript was called UMA, IMP & ODD THINGS because during the story lots of odd things happen that lead Uma to realize that she is, in fact, quite unusual. Though as I couldn’t actually say the full thing without getting my tongue in a twist, I decided to go shorter. By that stage, anyway, the story really had become about Uma and Imp.
What inspired you to write this story?
This is such a hard question because Imp just appeared from nowhere, fully formed and talking back. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure the story is inspired by the death of my aunt. But that makes it sound like a sad story when it very much is a fun and fast-paced adventure.
I expect it's unfair to ask you this, but I'll ask you anyway: who’s your favourite character, Uma or Imp? Why?
I love Uma, but Imp has to be my favourite because he is so DEFINITE, cheeky and uninhibited.
Your book cover is such fun. Can you tell us who designed it, please?
The illustration is by a young L.A. artist called Mimi Alves – I feel very lucky to have found her because she really has conveyed Imp’s spirit. And I love the dragon on the back cover too.
Why did you choose to self-publish Uma and Imp?
I went through a long process of submitting the story to agents and publishers, which lead to many positive responses. A large chunk of these ended in ‘but no thanks’ because people couldn’t see how to place the story in the market. So instead of leaving the manuscript to languish on my laptop, I decided to try and get it out there myself. Also, I wanted to write the sequel and couldn’t justify that to myself until the first book was out in the world.
What was your self-publishing experience and would you advise other authors to follow your path to publication?
The most incredible thing about self-publishing has been children’s responses. I’ve had messages from kids asking when the next book is out and please can I hurry; kids dressing up as Uma or Imp for their schools’ book days; and some brilliant reviews. It makes all the (seven years’!) work totally worthwhile and makes me feel good about having gone down the self-publishing route. Having said that I would be wary of advising any writer to go down this road because the support that a traditional publisher can offer in terms of getting a book in front of readers is worth its weight in gold!
What would be your reaction if a traditional publisher came along with an offer to publish Uma and Imp?
I would sign the publishing contract faster than you can say “gimme a pen”!
I believe you’re planning a sequel to your debut? Can you tell us a little about the story and when readers can expect it to be published?
The sequel should (will?) be published in time for Christmas 2016. Uma’s story continues when she is forced to use everything she learned in book one to avoid a terrible tragedy. There is a new ‘baddie’ who might, in her own way, be even nastier than El Jefe.
Have you always wanted to write fiction for young people?
I always wanted to write fiction. Always. Though the fiction for young people (cliché alert!) only happened after the birth of my daughter. I blame Imp.
Can you give us a brief outline of your writing process, please?
When I first started writing it was very much get a piece of paper and go for it. These days I do a broad outline, write a first draft, weep, do a much more detailed outline and write the second draft, weep, make notes on things that aren’t working or things that need to be expanded, write the third draft, weep … and so on …
I notice that you’re available for school visits. What type of sessions do you offer?
Up until now, my sessions have usually focused on craft but lately I’ve teamed up with fellow author R.M.Tudor to develop some workshops that look at the whole author experience from initial inspiration to book reviews. At the moment it’s called “From Ping to Bling” – because people always assume authors are rich and drive a Bentley.
Now it’s random question time:
Do you really a pet tarantula named Gladys? If so, why?
Because my pet boa constrictor was called Gladys and I miss her (oh, ok, I don’t really have a pet tarantula, that’s just Imp getting up to no good!).
What’s your favourite language and why? (Larisa speaks five. Impressive, right?)
Portuguese because I learned it in Brazil and it reminds me of sun, salt, tropical fruits and warm smiles. But if you ask me tomorrow, you’ll probably get a different answer!
Seagulls or crows?
Aren’t crows just black seagulls?
Nightie or PJs?
I’m a PJ person … who wears nighties. Don’t ask me why. It’s wrong.
Going up or coming down?
Up. All the way.
How would you spend your perfect day?
Making the final changes to a sparkling manuscript and sending it off to my publisher, then going out for a spa afternoon with my sister followed by a yummy meal with family and friends.
Sci-fi or Fantasy?
Fantasy. I rarely find sci-fi truly inspiring.
Charity shop or department store?
I had great fun visiting Portobello Market this weekend, so am going to say charity shop – particularly for anything teacup, sugar bowl or milk jug related
And finally, what’s next for Larisa Villar Hauser?
When I finish the next UMA & IMP book, it will be time to move onto a new story that is brewing at the moment – watch this space. Overall, I am focused on improving my craft and learning more about what works in publishing generally and for my writing in particular. It’s official: I am a writing geek.
Thanks for stopping by the blog, Larisa. It has been a pleasure to interview you.