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Diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of eleven T L Spencer turned to writing as a way to cope with her condition. Her vivid imagination and love of all things paranormal influenced her writing. T L Spencer enjoys all forms of literature and is currently studying at university, hoping to become a teacher.

T-L Spencer: An Open Book

What made you become a writer?
From a young age, all I wanted to do was write. In lessons, I would finish my work (like a good little girl, of course) and then sit and jot down stories or poems. But the main thing that really sparked the desire was when I was diagnosed with epilepsy. Writing became a way to cope. Years later it is not only a tool of relaxation but part of my livelihood: teaching and studying keeps my skills sharp and enables me to pass on said skills to others. In some ways, it is the actualisation of my dreams - admittedly in a variety of guises.

Where do you get your ideas?
My ideas come from everywhere and anywhere; from people walking down the street to headlines heard on the news. Even phrases from books or a random word can give me that ‘Eureka’ moment. Though I do have to admit, I am drawn to music for ideas: that perfect note or soulful song lyric can really spark off a potential story or character. I find that certain music has the ability to overwhelm the senses. Magical.

Do you enjoy writing?
I love it. Not only is it fun and interesting but when writing, I always find myself doing something new.  Never do I write the same thing twice. There is nothing better than writing while sitting on a comfortable chair in a warm house with a good supply of chocolate on hand. The feeling is fantastic and the sense of accomplishment after a story is completed is just indescribable. As I say in blog:  writing purges the soul.

Do you focus on character or plot?
This is different for everyone. For me, it varies. In my opinion they are so closely linked, character and plot often blend together. However, I have to say that it is beneficial for me to know what my characters are doing and why. Characters seem to make themselves known once the plot is sorted. On saying this, sometimes characters are so pushy that they are the plot - their motivations, their wants, needs and flaws seem to create a whirl of murky stepping stones that you as a writer can do nothing but follow. It's annoying at times, but I wouldn't have it any other way. If characters want the story pulled in a certain direction, I let them. They need to speak. Who am I to stop them?

Are your characters based on real people?
There are always elements of my characters that are based on people I know. Whether it be a personality trait or dress sense, there will be something somewhere that is inspired by someone I have met or known in some way, shape, or form. I like to connect my characters with the real world, ground them so readers can relate to them. It makes life as a writer more complex but definitely more interesting.

What are the hardest aspects of writing?
It used to be dialogue. I can vividly remember  writing down conversations that used to bounce around in my head and thinking how forced they seemed. Now - most likely due to practise and experience - this is not so. The trickiest part about writing, specifically teen romances, is creating am intimate scene that is romantic, suitable and yet explicit at the same time. There is a careful balance to be maintained and I never really know if I get it right until I pass the scene along to my editor. I'm always cautious when writing about 'the kiss' or scenes like that due to age and so on. It is much easier writing for an adult audience in that respect.

Do you have a favourite writer?
I have three. The first one has to be Jane Austen – her quintessential romances are adorable and I have always enjoyed her writing. The second is J.K Rowling. My generation has been raised with the Harry Potter series and I am an ardent fan. When I was diagnosed with epilepsy, I spent a lot of time in hospital; it was there I devoured the books. In fact, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was the first book I read that was over 200 pages. While I know she isn't famed for her literary 'depth', I think she is worth a note. She has taught millions, if not billions of children many worthwhile life lessons (perhaps adults, too) and her books are relaxing. The movies aren't too bad for adaptations either.

The last author I'm going to mention is another author who is famed for his teen books, and I like his books not just for their action and adventure but for their dedication to equality and diversity. Rick Riordan. Since reading his books: Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus, Kane Chronicles etc., I have come to appreciate how diverse not just his writing is, but his characters. Rick Riordan's characters have ADHD and dyslexia, two of his protagonists are gay, one is a Muslim, one is black, another Hispanic... These are major steps forward in teen fiction, especially when we as a culture are trying to tackle racism and extremism in all forms.