Having started writing her phenomenally successful DIMILY (Did I Mention I Love You?) trilogy of books at the age of 13, Estelle Maskame has always been a passionate and determined young woman. Now aged 20 and with an army of fans behind her, she’s more confident and ambitious than ever. Just before she embarked on a book tour in support of her new novel, Dare To Fall, Estelle spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about DIMILY’s success, future projects and her advice for aspiring authors.
TITL: You’re now one of the biggest young adult authors in the country, if not the world, thanks to your DIMILY series, so exactly how old were you when you discovered that you had a passion for writing?
Estelle Maskame: Writing is always something I’ve always loved and I was first introduced to it back in primary school. Once a week we got asked to do story writing and I just really enjoyed it; it was my favourite class. But doing it once a week wasn’t enough for me and so I started doing it at home and it sort of just grew from there. It became my one big hobby – I wasn’t really good at anything else. I kept doing it, kept writing and then I started posting it online – where it somehow all just blew up.
TITL: I read an interview where you said you started writing your DIMILY series aged 13. How did you juggle that with school and all the other aspects of daily life a teenager has to deal with? Was it something you just worked on at home or did you sneak in a few chapters while at school?
EM: It was a mixture of both really. At the age of 13, I didn’t have exams or anything like that yet so I was always writing. Every night I’d come home, lock myself in my room, get on the laptop and start writing. But then over the years, when exams started coming around, it was harder to kind of balance it. I did used to write at school as well. I’d be in a class and underneath my notebooks, I’d be scribbling away. Even some of my report cards say that I would get distracted in class – but I just loved it so much that I couldn’t stay away from it.
TITL: Can you recall the first book you really loved and what impact, if any, did that have on your own writing and career plans?
EM: There’s not a specific book; it’s just books in general. I was always picking up books. I loved and still love the effect that books had and have on me – just being able to put everything else aside for a while and lose yourself in this other world.
TITL: Did you ever think your DIMILY book series would become as successful as it has?
EM: No, not at all. Even now, it’s surreal. The books were literally just an idea I got when I was thirteen, and I could never have imagined that something that stemmed from just an idea would be so big now. At the time, I just thought the idea I had would be fun to write and then I started posting it and people really enjoyed it and now it’s turned into what it’s turned into. I still can’t believe it. It’s been a few years now since the books were first published, but things just keep getting better and better.
TITL: What do you think it is about those books that have made them so appealing to so many people?
EM: I think it’s kind of a mixture of things. I think certainly for readers in the UK and Europe, the fact that the books are set in America is quite interesting and the rather controversial story-line – the step-sibling plot line – which isn’t one often written is possibly another factor. Then of course there’s the fact it’s written from the view-point of a teenager – by a teenager.
TITL: You’re about to release your new book Dare To Fall. How long did this one take to write and where did the idea for its story come from?
EM: I started writing it last August, September time. It took about seven or eight months in total. I had the characters, especially the main one, MacKenzie – Kenzie for short – in my head before I had the plot. The plot itself focusses on the effects of loss on young people. I wanted to write a novel that explored that a bit more.
TITL: Ultimately, what message or idea would you like readers to take from Dare To Fall?
EM: Like I said, the book explores loss in the lives of young people and how they deal with it – how they can turn it into a positive and learn something from it. I think that’d be the main thing I want readers to take from the book for sure.
TITL: Which one of the characters would you say you connect and identify with the most?
EM: Probably Kenzie. Out of all the female characters I’ve ever written, she’s the one I feel I can relate to the most in terms of her personality, her thought processes – they’re both pretty similar to my own.
TITL: How hard has it been for you to put the DIMILY series aside and focus solely on this new book and what lies ahead? Is it hard to say a sort of goodbye to a series that has helped establish you as a writer and earn you an army of fans?
EM: It was at first, especially when writing the last chapter in the trilogy, and by then I’d been writing the books for essentially five years, throughout the majority of my teenage years so it was a bittersweet moment for sure. I was glad to finish the trilogy, but at the same time, I guess I was a little worried about moving on and starting to write something completely new.
TITL: You’re about to embark on your book tour. How excited are you to get out there and meet just some of the fans who’ve supported you all these years?
EM: I love doing signings and events. It’s always really nice to get out there and interact with the people who’ve read and been touched in some way by what you’ve written. It’s always really nice to hear their thoughts and opinions and to just have the opportunity to thank them for their support.
TITL: You’ve said in the past that if and when the DIMILY series is optioned for Hollywood – which I’m sure many people would like to see happen – you’d like Selena Gomez and Drew Roy to play the central characters Eden and Tyler, but who would you like to see play Dare To Fall’s two leads, MacKenzie and Jaden?
EM: I honestly don’t have anyone in mind for them yet. I think, because I was writing the DIMILY trilogy for so long, I was able to really think – as the series progressed – who would be a good fit for the characters, but with Dare To Fall being so new, I’m not quite there yet. Maybe eventually I’ll figure it out, but at the moment, I really don’t know. I would love to see the DIMILY series optioned – that’s the next big dream.
TITL: Have you started thinking about where you’re going to go next or are you just taking some time to enjoy sharing Dare To Fall with everyone?
EM: I’ve already started working on my next project which is another contemporary young adult novel but that’s all secret at the moment.
TITL: As an author who gained a following on Wattpad, where you first started sharing chapters of your DIMILY books, the internet and social media have played a huge part in your career, but how do you deal with the more negative side of things that can come from and with that such as trolls?
EM: When I was younger, I definitely got a lot of negative comments from people, notably because I was so young and putting myself out there. I did kind of make myself an easy target in a way because with the good attention I was getting, I knew there was always going to be bad attention too. As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve learned how to deal with it. When I was younger, it was hard to see people say and write nasty things about me and my writing, whereas as I grew up, I learned to just ignore it because those people really weren’t worth my time and they were just looking for a reaction from me. Now I just roll my eyes a bit and usually just block people straight away.
TITL: Do you think you’ve become a stronger and better person because you’ve faced the good and bad sides that can and do come with being a writer, and such a young one at that?
EM: Yeah. I think because I threw myself into it quite young and dealt with criticism at a young age, obviously now I’m 20, I’ve matured and I’ve learned that some people and their comments just aren’t worth my time. The people who go out of their way to put others down, I think, are either jealous or just have nothing better to do with their time.
TITL: What would you say is the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about you and your work?
EM: Oh my goodness, that’s hard. It’s always nice to read comments from people who say that they didn’t like reading before they discovered my books and now they really enjoy reading. I’ve had several of those over the years which are already really nice to see. As an author, you want to inspire people to read because books are amazing, and it’s always nice to know that your books have gotten people into reading.
TITL: Young adult books in particular are undergoing quite a resurgence at the moment. What do you think it is about the genre that’s getting not just young adults but a much wider audiences to read them?
EM: I think the YA genre is probably the most diverse genre out there at the moment. It deals with real issues and serious matters that young people are going through and that anyone can relate to. Some people might assume that YA books are just for younger people, for children and are a light, fluffy read but they’re not. YA books are amazing and address issues that everyone, no matter their age, can relate to.
TITL: Finally then, in an ever-competitive market, what advice would you give to those wanting to make a name for themselves as writers?
EM: My biggest piece of advice for people who want to get their name out there is to put yourself out there. Especially with online communities these days, it’s so easy to get your work out there and get feedback from people. I know some people can be worried about letting others read their work and it’s a bit nerve-wracking at first, but you really have to show people – even if it’s just friends; getting feedback really does help. With the internet and social media, more and more publishers over the years are looking at sites like Wattpad and those kinds of communities to see which writers are on there. That’s how a lot of people are getting discovered recently, so yeah, definitely put yourself out there. Have a look online and share your work with family and friends.