My current work in progress is proving quite a challenge, and one of the key reasons for this is voice. When I mentioned my struggles to a friend recently, he said he could always recognise my voice in my writing, and that when he reads my work, he hears my voice in his head. I tried to explain this wasn’t quite what I meant, but I realised he had a point. I began to wonder if it is actually possible to separate the writer from the writing.

Amaranth is written in the first person, and the narrator is a nineteen year old girl named Eva. If I’m honest with myself, Eva’s narrative voice is very close to my own internal narrative; I wrote her much the same way I would write myself. She has a dry, dark sense of humour, is given to pessimism (and melodrama) and can be quite caustic. It was quite easy to write from her perspective.

However, the next book in the series is written from a different character’s perspective, and though she is also a girl in her late teens, she is a very different character to Eva. She’s bright, bubbly, mischievous and though she has a dark past, she refuses to let it get her down. It was a complete shift in gears for me, and I’m glad I took the time to write some short stories in between novels so that I could cleanse my palate of Eva, as much as is possible anyway, given the points I made above.

The interesting part is that two chapters in, though I’m struggling to keep the new voice authentic through word choice and structure, I’m finding the best thing I can do is to adopt her mindset. Method writing, perhaps? In order to know instinctively how she would react and what she would say in any given situation, I need to think like she would. I’ve found it rather therapeutic to shift my brain into nothing-gets-me-down girl; I’ve stopped for a break a number of times and found that I’ve been unconsciously smiling.

Reading back through the chapters I’ve written so far, I have managed to create a distinctly different voice for this novel, and yet my writing voice is still in there. Perhaps there are writers in the world who are true chameleons and can write in a completely different voice from book to book, but I am not quite there yet. And yet… I’m not sure I want to be. Not entirely. When I pick up a book by a favourite author, I want to hear his or her voice in there somewhere. It’s like a trademark. No, on second thoughts, it’s more subtle than that. It’s more of a watermark. Something at the nucleus of the writing that stamps it as theirs, and without it, I wouldn’t be able to trust the unfamiliar book to deliver what I liked about previous works.

Ideally, I want to find a balance. I hope that at some point my work will have fans who don’t know me personally, and don’t know what my real-life voice sounds like. For those people, I would hope to create something new and engaging each time, but with an intangible familiarity that allows them to trust that they’re going to get a healthy dose of what I do, no matter who the characters are, what they achieve or where I take them.