Welcome back to Najla Qamber Designs! Thanks so much to everyone who has read and supported our little virtual family. It's been our honor to take part in your journeys and we love hearing your stories. Len Webster, the bestselling author of the Science of Unrequited series, sat down with us to talk about writing life and books. Keep reading to discover her writing life journey below.
NQD: Did you always want to be an author? We’d love to hear your story!
LW: HI! Actually, no. I haven’t always wanted to be an author. It kind of happened by accident. I actually wanted to be an Egyptologist. I wanted to be immersed in ancient Egypt and that dream was never to be after some misled guidance. So I went through high school with the plan to be a lawyer. I had a hard look at myself and realised I am not cut out to be a lawyer. So when I applied for universities, I ended up choosing business schools. And halfway through my second year of university, I ended up reading a romance book to get away from my business degree. That eventually ignited a spark and made me want to write. Just for myself—no one was ever meant to see anything I wrote. So in the middle of my bachelor's, I wrote my debut novel, Thirty-Eight Days.
NQD: We love how books led you into your career. It was clearly meant to be :) What would people be surprised to know about you?
LW: Oh! Great question. I try to be as honest and real with what I share with the world, so I feel like everyone knows me. What many don’t know is that I have this fear of Space. Like the idea of being in Space—mainly being stuck—stresses me out. If we had to evacuate the Earth to go to Mars because Earth is about to explode, I will be staying on Earth. It took me years to finally watch Gravity because it was everything I hated but I managed to get through it. Same goes with Apollo 13, which took me forever to watch, and I love Tom Hanks! Though, I’m slowly starting to accept Space for the beauty that it is. Let’s hope I don’t win some sort of space shuttle lottery!
NQD: Haha, the idea of floating in an endless vacuum is pretty terrifying! At least we can use media and books like Gravity and The Martian to face our fears. Were you brought up reading or is it something you fell in love with later in life?
LW: My parents always encouraged reading. I’m a firm believer that reading helps grow minds and develop worlds and ideas. Reading gives escape to many and freedom for others. I was fortunate, like so many, to grow up with Harry Potter. For my birthday, I got Chamber of Secrets from my grandparents after they found out my teacher read a chapter of The Philosopher’s Stone each week to the class. So every release, I would wait for the next Harry Potter book. Then, when I was fourteen, I discovered Louise Rennison’s Confessions of Georgia Nicolson. And again, every year I waited for a new Georgia Nicolson book, and discovered romance, and I was a fan of "the funny guy." Don’t even get me started on my first heartbreak … The Bridge to Terabithia.
NQD: Harry Potter truly did inspire and influence so many of our generation by teaching us about the magic of books. Back to writing, what's your process look like from book to book?
LW: It’s definitely changed in the past year. I used to plot but not so much now. Recently, I just finished a trilogy so that was a new process for me. But mainly, it’s been writing as much as I can without adding too much pressure on myself. I used to write 10,000 words a day but I didn’t enjoy the writing process as much as I do now. So I’ve scaled it down to about 3,000 words a day, and then going from there. Writing is always the hardest part but it always feels so rewarding once every milestone is reached with the book. I get to watch my book evolve and become the piece of literature someone will love someday.
NQD: Wow, both of those are impressive daily wordcounts! Would you say your past professional background or hobbies has influenced your writing?
LW: Definitely! I don’t think I would have been able to write without my experiences and background and hobbies filtering through. I wrote my first book between my marketing and my accounting classes … and that’s how my characters became accountants. For me, I feel as if putting my experiences, background, and hobbies allow my books to feel more genuine. Like my readers can relate to my characters because those moments, events, and feelings are real and they happened to me. My love of sport has definitely played a role in a lot of my books. Someday, I might even write about my current profession. It’s a funny one with many awkward stories that should be told.
NQD: That's one of the things we love about books. By using your own experiences you've been able to immerse your readers into the lives of your characters. Switching gears a bit, let's talk a bit about the design and marketing side of writing. How did you first discover Najla Qamber Designs?
LW: I love this question! I wonder if Najla still remembers our first email? This is actually one of my favourite “How I Met You” stories. I was in search of a cover designer, and there was one book that I absolutely loved. Its cover was beautiful and so captivating. I always wanted to work with the artist who made it. That book, you ask? That book was called Love in, English by Karina Halle. To this day, it is still one of my favourite books and covers of all time. I remember seeing Najla Qamber Designs and writing it down. For weeks, I typed up emails but never sent them. I thought, why would anyone want to work with me? Then one day, I went for it. I needed a cover, and I wasn’t going to get one with my dream cover designer if I never sent the email. So I sent it and slammed my laptop shut and waited.
Najla sent me an email back with so much love and enthusiasm that I knew we would have a great relationship. It’s been over twenty covers later since that first email, and I am so glad that I sent it and was able to watch Najla Qamber Designs grow. And seeing how far booked they are brings me so much joy. I’m so proud of how far NQD has come and it puts a smile on my face. I always knew Najla would build and grow to become the incredible business woman she is. It’s been an honour to be your client.
NQD: I know I speak for the whole team when I say we're just as honored to be a part of your publishing journey, Len. :) What advice would you give your fellow authors on how to pick a designer?
LW: Do your research. Google is your best friend. Get references and find out the kind of interaction and work the cover designer does. This is the person who is going to bring your book to life. It’s what catches readers’ eyes. You have to be able to put your trust in their hands to create what you deserve. And that’s the best cover for your incredible book. Your cover designer is a gear that makes your publishing career work. They’re your own cheerleader who wants to help you be as successful as possible.
After I found out who designed one my favourite romance covers, I googled Najla Qamber Designs. Found that they had designed so many covers for so many authors like Jessica Sorenson, and covers for different genres, too. I saw their different techniques and styles. I knew I wanted my covers to evolve someday, and I wanted a cover designer who had the experience, talent, and abilities to do that. And I knew that Najla was more than capable because she believed in my ideas and vision as much as she believed in me. That’s my favourite part of working with Najla and NQD. It’s the relationship we have together. We’ve worked together since 2014. Years of hard work together. I wouldn’t trade that relationship with anyone else.
So my advice is to find someone who works well with you. Don’t be afraid to communicate and say no if the cover isn’t working out. I trust Najla. And working with her has been the best decision I have ever made as an author. I’ve worked with many people, many who have come and gone, but Najla has always stayed. Because she doesn’t just create my book covers, she brings them to life and embraces the vision I have for them. She puts so much hard work and love in them that is visible. She creates art. I have loved every single cover we have worked on together, and every minute that took to create each one of them. I’m forever grateful to Najla and Najla Qamber Designs.
NQD: You mentioned not being afraid to communicate and saying no if a cover isn't working, and that is fantastic advice. Are there any don’ts you want to share with working with a designer?
LW: Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t be afraid to communicate. At the end of the day, the designer is working to create the cover of your dreams. Sometimes, it takes more versions than you want. Also, don’t say yes straight away if you don’t feel the connection to your cover. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t approve it. Communication is the key. Because with each cover you do together, your relationship can grow and strengthen. And that means you’ll both have an understanding of each others’ style that you can incorporate in the next one.
NQD: Now for a more serious question...who or what would you say your author avatar or spirit animal is? ;)
LW: Hmm. I don’t know. That’s so hard. I’ve never really thought about my spirit animal. I’m going to do a quiz online. I want my spirit animal to find me. So … to Buzzfeed! May the best spirit animal find me.
And according to Buzzfeed’s “What Is Your Spirit Animal?”, I am …
* Drumroll *
I’M A SLOTH!
And it’s so true. I love eating and sleeping. I have accepted my spirit animal.
NQD: Haha, sloths are fantastic and adorable creatures. There's something to be said for moving at your own pace ;) Speaking of pacing, where do you see yourself in your writing career 5 years from now?
LW: Five years? Wow. Umm … I hope to still have a writing career five years from now. I hope people still love what I create. That people still love what I offer in words and sentences printed on pages. And if I don’t have a writing career, I hope people still think of me. Still remember the stories I told. That they miss my voice and return to my books and characters. That’s the feeling I always want to leave with my readers. That when they reread my books, it’s like my characters are welcoming them back home after a long journey away. Because my books are my legacy. And I hope I leave a good one that I am proud of, and those who have been with me are proud of. OH! And I hope that the Earth hasn’t exploded and everyone is not on Mars without me!
NQD: Len, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. We've loved picking apart your creative process and are so thankful for your time, today!
We hope our readers and fellow creatives also enjoyed Len's journey. You can learn more about Len below. If you want to connect with us, please leave a comment below!
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