A warm welcome to author Jon Rance

I’d like to welcome fellow comedy author Jon Rance to my blog this week in celebration of his new novel This Family Life. For anyone who is new to parenthood and in desperate need of some belly laughs, this could be just the tonic you’re after. Over to Jon…

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Firstly a HUGE thank you to Tasha for hosting what is the first stop on my ‘This Family Life Blog Tour’. Over the next few weeks I’m going to be visiting a lot of different blogs and along the way I’m hoping to write a lot of very funny, informative, and thought-provoking blogs on how my new novel ‘This Family Life’ came to be. So with the pleasantries out of the way, let’s crack on.

In this blog I want to talk about how ‘This Family Life’ evolved. If you read the first book in the series ‘This Thirtysomething Life’, you’ll know it was about the slightly useless, immature, thirtysomething Harry Spencer and his wife Emily. When Emily suddenly becomes pregnant, poor Harry has a bit of an emotional breakdown and makes some questionable choices thereafter.

Both ‘This Thirtysomething Life’ and ‘This Family Life’ evolved from my own experiences. Firstly with ‘This Thirtysomething Life’ of going through a pregnancy with my own wife and having a ‘bit of a wobble’ (as we like to call it in my house), and secondly with ‘This Family Life’, of trying to survive the first year of parenthood.

If you have children you’ll know what I’m talking about. The first year can be a proper Tim Burton style nightmare. Babies are terrifying. You’re always waiting for them to either A: Die. B: Injure themselves and then die. C: Get injured by you and then die. Or D: Lull you into a false sense of security and seem really happy and you’ll tell people at parties and friends that actually they’re an ‘easy baby’ and then die. Basically, most of the first year you’re worried they might die. If you aren’t worried about that, you’re worried about how they look. Is their head a funny shape? Why do they have a comb-over hair style? In the book Harry worries constantly about baby William, and yes it’s generally about ridiculous things like, why does his wave look like a Nazi salute? And why does he babble with a Japanese accent?

I think at the heart of the novel it’s about his fears, and I think the fears that most parents feel when they have babies, that they have a life to protect. It’s this fear that I think gives the novel its funniest scenes and also its most heartfelt – just like real parenthood. I think Harry says it best in this scene from the book.

Wednesday 27 February 9.30 p.m.

I wouldn’t class myself as a big worrier. A medium worrier maybe, but since William was born all I’ve done is worry. Maybe it’s just how parenthood is. 1% enjoyment, 99% worry. I worry about William all the time. There was a kid at my middle school who couldn’t say ‘cinema’. He pronounced it ‘swinema’. And of course, all the mean kids would make him say it as often as possible. What if William says ‘swinema’ instead of ‘cinema’? What if he breaks a leg, or both legs, and we have to push him around in a wheelchair with him saying ‘swinema’?

Then there’s the now. I wake up most nights and listen to him breathing on the baby monitor, but without fail I decide I can’t hear him, and I go in his room to check on him. Sometimes I lie in bed and tell myself to stop being silly and just go to sleep, but I can’t. I have to check on him. But even this is OK against the bigger worry of when I can’t protect him. When he’s at nursery, or primary school, or secondary school or just at the park without me, and I can’t be there if he needs me. He’s only six and a half months old and already I’m worried about the rest of his life. I just want him to be happy. I just want him to be able to say ‘cinema’ properly. Is that too much to ask?’

This Family Life Synopsis

Things that might happen during your first year of parenthood:

1. You’ll get covered in a ‘nuclear’ poo.

2. You’ll be convinced your son is talking with a Japanese accent.

3. You’ll worry that when your son waves, it looks like a Nazi salute.

Of course, this might just be Harry Spencer.

Taking up where This Thirtysomething Life left off, Harry Spencer and his wife Emily are back and trying to survive their first year of parenthood. It has its ups and downs (and a few bits in the middle), but along the way they begin to understand the true meaning of family and what it takes to be a parent.

Featuring a hilarious cast of extras including Harry’s father-in-law Derek, who has a unique problem with Scotch, Steve and Fiona, the parents from children’s entertainment hell, and a yoga instructor with a prominent camel-toe, This Family Life is the ultimate comedy for anyone who is a parent, has a parent, or is thinking about becoming one.

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An interview with author Charlie Plunkett

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I’d like to welcome author Charlie Plunkett to my humble blog as part of her big blog tour to celebrate her new book, 100 Little Words on Parenthood, in which Charlie and other writers contribute their experiences, anecdotes, poems and tips on parenting.

I met Charlie (above, with her son Cole) on Twitter. She’s written and self-published several books in which she shares her real-life experiences about getting married, being pregnant and being a mum. Her writing is honest and unpretentious, completely from the heart – a quality that can be elusive to many writers. It was this refreshing honesty that prompted the first of my questions to her…

You’ve done something far braver than most writers – you’ve written openly about yourself. You’ve shared your real experiences with the whole world. Weren’t you a bit worried about putting yourself out there like that?

To be honest when I wrote my first book The True Diary of a Bride-to-be I wanted to have a keepsake of my wedding preparations and had the attitude that if I was the only person to ever read it then that was fine because it was something I knew I would treasure forever. The realisation that I had shared a lot of personal information came much later when the book was stocked in every branch of Waterstones and my friends knew a lot more about my life than I did theirs! I have kept a diary pretty much all of my life and it never crossed my mind to be anything but honest. With my pregnancy and baby’s first year books the information gets even more personal. My dad, bless him, bought the books but said he couldn’t bring himself to read them as he knew there would be a little bit more information in there than he probably needed to know! I have been careful not to be too personal about other family members and have also not embellished in any way so some entries are quite mundane – my pregnancy journal has a lot about me doing D.I.Y.

What kind of feedback have you had from readers? Has there been any negativity at all?

I have been very fortunate to receive some amazing feedback from readers. As an author it means so much to hear that your book has touched someone enough to leave a lovely review. Some of my favourites have been from pregnant ladies and new mums saying how reading my books have made them feel they are not alone. With my wedding book I have some fabulous reviews from wedding magazines as well as brides-to-be who have all really enjoyed it.

When I had my first bad review for my pregnancy book I must confess it really upset me. I felt the reader had not ‘got’ me at all. She took umbrage to the fact I was a vegan and said she was sick of hearing me saying I had cravings for salad with tahini dressing. I felt so picked on as it is a well-known fact that when you are pregnant you have all manner of strange cravings and I couldn’t believe she gave me a poor review because of them. At the time I really wanted to ask her if she would have been less harsh had I been craving gherkins, steak and ice-cream. She also didn’t appreciate all the references to D.I.Y during my pregnancy but once I had stopped crying about the review I realised there was nothing I would have done differently and it wouldn’t have been a ‘true diary’ if I had omitted those things. I guess she was maybe feeling some of those grumpy pregnancy hormones when she was writing her review lol!

When you were compiling 100 Little Words on Parenthood, did any of the contributions surprise you in any way?

They all blew me away! From the day I tweeted out my request for help I received so many fabulous contributions and opening my emails became my favourite part of the day. I think the most surprising thing was the diversity of them all, some were poetic, some anecdotal and had me crying, others were so funny I was often chortling away as I read them. My husband has become quite used to me interrupting his favourite TV show to read them to him. The overwhelming feeling I got from all of the contributors is that we may be at different stages in our journey and parent in our own unique ways, but we all share the bond that is parenthood and are all trying to do it the best we can for our individual families.

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What are the best and worst things about being a parent in your opinion?

There are so many best things I could write a book about them! For me the top one I guess is the immense love that me, my husband and little boy have for each other, it is simply priceless.

Worst things are the decisions you have to make! From the moment you conceive a baby you are worrying about absolutely everything from what you eat to whether it’s OK to paint the nursery and once your baby is born it continues. Are they too hot, too cold, hungry, wet, tired, should you immunise them or not, which nursery or school should you choose and so the list goes on…

If you hadn’t been able to have children, would you have pursued adoption or fostering or followed another path?

Dave and I struggled to have a baby and I did write about the two miscarriages I had in The True Dairy of a Mum-to-be. I clearly remember sitting on the beach together discussing this very topic and we both agreed that if we couldn’t have a child of our own that we would consider adopting or fostering a child. Fortunately it was a case of ‘third time lucky’ and we were blessed with our gorgeous little boy.

What mistakes have you made as a parent?

I think the one that sticks in my head the most was letting our little boy sleep on our bed and not pushing it up against the bedside drawers. He rolled over and fell off, he was fine but I felt absolutely terrible. Even now – he is four and a half – if we visit family we have to put a pile of pillows on the floor by his bed as he is still a little roller!

Are there any other books on parenting that you’ve found helpful?

When Cole was born I went through a phase of reading lots of parenting books while I was breastfeeding him. My absolute bible and one I still refer to is The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears. It’s packed full of easy-to-read great advice and the section on childhood illnesses is brilliant for reassuring you that you are doing the right thing. My GP even commented that it was a good book when I explained the advice it had given when my little boy had gastroenteritis. My other favourites are You are Your Child’s First Teacher – What parents can do with and for their children from birth to age six by Rahima Baldwin Dancy. Raising Boys – Why boys are different and how to help them become happy and well balanced men by Steve Biddulph. Growing Great Boys by Ian Grant. Baby-Led Weaning – Helping your baby to love good food by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett and How Children Learn by John Holt.

You’ve more than earned a day off on Mother’s Day this year. Any special plans?

Mother’s Day this year is going to be a triple celebration as it lands on my husband’s birthday and my lovely Mother-in-law is coming to visit in the evening. We will most likely go to a National Trust garden during in the day, have a pub lunch and then a meal in the evening with my in-laws. I’m really looking forward to it.

Check out Charlie’s website to enter a free giveaway: http://www.charlieplunkett.co.uk/

An interview with author Kerry Wilkinson

Crime writer Kerry Wilkinson is one of the UK’s first self-publishing success stories of the ebook era. He uploaded his first novel Locked In to Amazon in 2011 and, without any traditional advertising, went on to sell over 300,000 copies within a year. The first in a series about Detective Sergeant Jessica Daniel, the novel’s phenomenal success led to a six-book deal with Pan Macmillan earlier this year.

With the fourth book in the Jessica Daniel series, Think Of The Children, to be released early next year, AND the first in a YA fantasy series called The Silver Blackthorn Trilogy to follow later in the year, I talk to the highly productive Kerry about writing, self-publishing and what the future holds.

First I want to ask you about your writing. The Silver Blackthorn Trilogy – was this something you’d been brewing in your head while writing the Jessica Daniel series?
Not really. I went on holiday and came back with most of it plotted long-hand. I work all the time, so actually doing “nothing” for two weeks allowed it all to form in my mind. I started writing the day I got back and didn’t stop until it was all done.

Is Silver Blackthorn’s world something you created recently – or did its creation begin way back when you were a kid reading sci-fi and fantasy novels?
It happened mainly when I was plotting it all out but I read sci-fi and young adult books while growing up. The world-creation is both a blessing and a curse. With Jessica, it is grounded in the real world, so you have to think your way logically around any plot points. With sci-fi, you can make up anything you want – so it’s balancing that with creating a cohesive and plausible world. That and making sure the story is still about the characters and not the concept. I also deliberately tried something new, so Silver is all first-person. It makes the books very different, not just in content but style too.

Going back to your crime series, in Locked In we meet a young, hungry, feisty Jessica Daniel. With the fourth book in the series soon to come out, has she changed much?

At the beginning of book one, she’s still finding her feet in a newish job, living with her best friend and wondering exactly what she wants to do with her life. By book four, she has changed through everything experienced through the first three. She’s more mature and a little calmer dealing with things but also has a greater awareness of what she’s capable of. Her personal life is ever-changing too and I try to balance the books in examining that as well as her work life.

Jessica Daniel’s been a consistent presence in your life for a while now. Do you ever feel like she’s leaning over your shoulder telling you what to write?
Not really, I can go away and do other things and come back to her. In terms of where her life is headed, I am quite a long way ahead.

I read somewhere that you plot your novels out in full before you start writing. When you start writing, however, do you find that sometimes things start going in a different direction to the one you planned?
Sometimes what I think is going to be a small plot point branches off and can become entire chapters, other times something I assumed would be big ends up being a paragraph. I tend to let the story tell itself. It’s easier to cut after it’s been written than write entirely new sections potentially months later.

You used to work as a journalist, thereby earning a living writing. But was writing fiction always your end goal?
I still work as a journalist! I never had any aspirations to be an author or to write fiction. It just sort of happened.

What made you decide to upload Locked In to Amazon, rather than submit it to agents and publishers? Or did you plan to submit to publishers eventually?
I uploaded it on a whim but I wasn’t too fussed about it. I only wrote for myself, to show that I could – or for something to do, depending on which way you want to look at it. My main goal was achieved by getting that far. I had a look into the agent/publisher thing and figured that I left school over a decade ago and barely did my homework then. My days of double-spacing and stamped address envelopes went out then. Essentially, I couldn’t be bothered. I didn’t want it that badly. As it was, I had over two-dozen agents come to me anyway, including the representatives of some very famous people.

What do you think helped Locked In to take off? Did you blog and use social media sites to spread the word? Did pricing play a significant role?
Social media is ridiculously overrated as a marketing tool. I like it because readers find me and let me know what they think of the books, and ask when the next one is out, etc – but that all comes after they’ve read my stuff. It’s a direct way of communicating with them. But I’m still not entirely sure how or why an endless stream of “buy my book” spam is meant to endear yourself to anyone. My books took off because of reasons as old as publishing itself: people read it, liked it, and told others. Word of mouth is the greatest marketing tool you’ll ever have. This endless stream of self-publishing conferences and workshops are, for the most part, run by snake oil salesmen selling you a dream that doesn’t exist. They’re certainly not run by successful self-publishers and, as far as I know, no successful self-publishers have ever emerged from these things. It really annoys me that these people use my name as an example in their marketing, which happens a lot.

I concentrated on getting a lot of little technical things as right as I could with my actual ebooks and the listings – but I figured it out for myself. Indeed, the thing most successful self-publishers share is that they found their own way to make things happen – either by coming up with their own marketing plan, concentrating on aspects relating to the format, or other things. Anything you could ever be told in any of these workshops is something that thousands of other people are already doing. Plus, they forget the number one thing: Write something people might want to read.

Pricing is also overstated as a reason for success. Locked In was a pound – but so are tens of thousands of other books. There are a bunch of 20p books from traditional publishers out there too. It was important in giving people a reason to buy – among others – but actually tens of thousands of readers returned, paying more to buy the Jessica Daniel sequels because they were invested in the character.

Some people think the key is selling everything as cheaply as you can but the actual goal is give something a sense of worth. For self-publishers who actually want a publishing deal (I never courted one), selling yourself for 99p is probably the worst thing you can do. It depends what your end goal is.

You now have a six-book deal with Pan Macmillan. Aside from that being a fantastic achievement, I’d imagine that going from being an indie to handing over the reins to a big publisher might also be a bit scary?
Yes and no. I’m still running the listings and will be for another month or so yet. The odd dynamic is that, to a degree, I know as much about e-publishing as they do. What that means is that I’ve shared all sorts of knowledge with them, which I would hope and expect them to use at least when it comes to my own listings. The main reason to go with a big publisher is that they can get you into places you can’t get yourself. Print books still outsell ebooks. I had nothing to lose by taking their offer.

Now that you have an agent and an editor, are they the first to see your work? Or do you have a muse or muses you run it by first?
I still work in the exact way I did when I started writing – everything gets finished before I hand it over to anyone. I know why I would want to read or watch something and hang everything I do on that in regards to pacing and characterisation. I wouldn’t want anyone’s input before I’m finished. After that, I’m happy to listen.

Have you read many books by other self-published authors?
I haven’t read any… but then I don’t get time to read that much anyway.

And finally, what does the future hold for Jessica Daniel? Has she been snapped up for a TV dramatisation yet?
It’s in the same state as any of these things: agents looking to push things. I don’t worry about it.

Thanks for joining me Kerry, and best of luck with the launch of The Silver Blackthorn Trilogy and the continuing Jessica Daniel series. Visit Kerry’s website to find out more about his books and other news.

There’s honey on the horizon

Emberhoney: Ben King, John ‘The Baron’ Kent and Taylor Madison Damion

There are many parallels to be drawn between the music industry and the publishing world. Musicians and writers alike chase their dreams of being taken on by a record label or a publishing house, and the digital revolution has changed everything, in good ways and bad.

As part of the indie-noir band, Emberhoney, Taylor Madison Damion and John Baron Kent have been working towards a recording contract for several years. They’re talented, make beautiful music and have come close to realising their dream on several occasions – and yet remain without that elusive deal. I asked singer, songwriter and musician Taylor how they’ve managed to keep going and not lose sight of their goals.

It’s been about eight years since I first met you, and I remember thinking Emberhoney were on the brink of something wonderful happening, ie a recording contract. What happened?
There was a lot of excitement around our band at the time with radio play and very positive feedback from record companies etc, but we had no manager or backing of any kind and didn’t know how to capitalise on all of this. We gigged ourselves to exhaustion and literally went bankrupt funding rehearsals, studio costs, gig expenses and promotion. John and I were also working as decorators, our days filled with manual labour. We simply couldn’t earn enough. We burnt out at every level without any support and became utterly demoralised after making endless trips to play in London for the benefit of reps who didn’t bother to turn up.

You could say that the timing of our emergence on the scene was unfortunate because this was when the industry was starting to change dramatically towards its present state – where record companies can’t afford to invest in artists like they used to due to the revolution in music downloading that undermined the usual channels for their revenue. I was also very young and naive and like most artists, lacked business acumen. This version of the band ended after two years and we didn’t play together again for four years. But two years ago we decided to try again and formed a new Emberhoney project with our present bass player. We recently released our latest EP “Smoke” and are now gigging regularly.

How many times did you come close to being taken on by a record label?
There was never any contract on the table, but certainly enough feedback from record labels making us feel that Emberhoney was producing some great music. John talked with 4AD records (who had produced acts such as the Cocteau Twins and the Pixies) and their MD said, ‘Emberhoney were in the top 10% of music received by unsigned acts’. Likewise, ex-Cocteau Twin bass player Simon Raymonde who now runs the Bella Union record label, stated the ‘the songs are well arranged and performances excellent….it won’t be long before you find a suitable label’. However, at the time, Bella Union were not taking on any more artists. There were many others, including some small labels like Words On Music in the USA, that showed great interest in Emberhoney.

What triggered you to set up Honeytone Recordings? Is this your own independent label?
When we first started playing shows as Emberhoney, some bands had mentioned that they were taken more seriously if they presented themselves with an associated ‘label’, a name often thought up by the band themselves. Honeytone Recordings was one such idea during the release of our second EP. However, on reflection I don’t think it was a good idea. If you genuinely want to attract the interest of a record company then there’s no point in making yourselves look like you’re already ‘signed’ to another label.  And if you’re trying to be a label, you need to create a marketing department and develop business skills. Without these, the name is merely a self-publication imprint.

These days Honeytone Recordings is more appropriately the name of our studio where we rehearse and record. We simply couldn’t find time to write, rehearse, record and gig as well as develop marketing skills – until recently. Now we divide the labour. I act as a pathfinder for the band by playing a lot of open mics and solo shows. In doing so, I’ve connected with other musicians who are open to promoting each other, and several local promoters who are impressed enough to ask me back – often with the whole band. Meanwhile, John doesn’t touch his guitar but instead spends the time at Honeytone HQ handling the business side; research, marketing, networking, securing more gigs. This approach is working as our Facebook numbers have increased dramatically in recent weeks and opportunities to play more shows are coming in. This measure has given the Honeytone Recordings imprint a marketing department, but it’s untenable in the long term because John will be forced to pick up his guitar in order to rehearse, gig and record. But we’re hoping it’ll raise our profile sufficiently to attract a manager.

The biggest obstacle self-published writers face is getting publicity for their books. I’m guessing it’s the same for musicians?
Yes it is. The marketing and publicising of your work is a full-time job and an art in itself. There is endless praise for the power of the Internet and how musicians no longer need a record company, but without serious marketing skills and time commitment, this exciting “anyone can do it”  theory does not translate into reality. Our EP’s free on several music-based platforms (see links below) but the challenge is driving traffic to our sites and raising our profile enough to even get people to listen to it. The most effective tool so far has been performing live as often as possible and directing enthusiastic audience members to the websites. This might be the hard way but it works.  I think that combining forces with other artists in the same situation to create a movement greater than any individual artist is an even better way forward.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years’ time? Have your ambitions and outlook changed?
Yes, my ambitions and outlook have changed. I spent those four years of hiatus studying metaphysics, esoteric philosophy and art. It was very therapeutic and I cultivated a completely different attitude to myself and music. I had painfully concluded that the lack of professional recognition and success was a sign that I was not meant to follow my dreams. I was devastated and utterly lost. It’s now clear to me that no matter how little external success I’ve had, I am still a singer and songwriter. I now am trying to perceive the marketing side as an application of my creativity! I no longer imagine being saved from obscurity by a record company. I can see that our own efforts to raise the profile of our band through every means at our disposal including social media and networking as well as gigs, will likely attract investment and free us at some point to focus more on being musicians. We still intend to sign to a label because the division of labour between artist and marketing will always allow you more time to do what you love to do…make music! But we know we’ll have to do much more work than musicians ever had to do before in order to get this sort of investment. In 10 years’ time I hope to have recorded and released at least the three albums’ worth of material I’ve already written, toured the world with my band and have a thriving relationship with a record label. By then, I’ll probably be so addicted to Twitter and Facebook and obsessed with generating an endless stream of “content” and blogging that I’ll never have time to write another song!

Free Emberhoney MP3 downloads 

Free Emberhoney high quality audio downloads

Emberhoney on Youtube

Emberhoney on Myspace

Emberhoney on Twitter

An interview with author Mel Sherratt

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This week I talk to gritty crime writer Mel Sherratt, who stormed up the Kindle charts with her debut novel Taunting The Dead. Now she’s just released her second book, Somewhere To Hide, which is promising to be just as successful, and she’s got a third novel on the way.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I’ve always been interested in writing – from as far back as writing short stories in exercise books at school. I just love words – writing and reading. And I’ve always wanted to write a book. To see my name on the cover, see what people have to say about it – that’s always special and a great motivator.

Have you always wanted to write about crime specifically?

Strangely enough, I think my writing was influenced by my reading and I’ve come full circle. My early attempts of writing a book were more crime thriller (even though I was into reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz) – actually I still love my first idea which was a kind of paranormal, psychological thriller…I may write it one day now I’ve learned how to do it! I then started to read the greats such as Marian Keyes, Adele Parks and Lisa Jewell and my writing attempts were then lighter but with a working class edge. And then my writing just went darker. I decided to study more crime thrillers and wrote Somewhere To Hide. And then I took it one stage further and wrote Taunting The Dead, predominantly a police procedural.

When I read Taunting the Dead, I found myself both attracted to and revolted by the villainous Terry Ryder. Where did you get the inspiration for his character from?

Thanks so much for reading it. Terry Ryder is actually based on a local business man that I have never met, nor would think he would be anything like him in real life! My only aim was to create a good-looking charmer who is a ruthless and dangerous man underneath. I wanted readers to like him one minute and loathe him the next. And of course there are lots of screen bad boys that I could use as inspiration too.

DS Allie Shenton’s marriage certainly got put to the test in Taunting the Dead. I got the impression she’s capable of sabotaging a good thing…

Wow, that’s a great impression to get, thanks. Yes, Allie is a passionate soul. I always intended her to be a likeable person, at home and at work. I wanted her to be warm yet vulnerable and strong at the same time. I also wanted a character that was content within a loving relationship but may or not be tempted when the situation arose. And I think it depended on your views around infidelity if you really liked her or not…

What are you writing next? Will we see more of Allie Shenton?

I’m just about to start finishing off the second novel in The Estate series, Behind A Closed Door, which is out in October. The main character in this one is Josie Mellor. She’s a housing officer so it’s about some of the cases she deals with on the estate, as well as some of her work life around domestic violence starting to mirror her home life.

DS Allie Shenton is a tricky one. There are so many people asking me to write the next one but for me, I think the success of Taunting The Dead was partly because the book was set around a ‘did she, didn’t she’ question. There is a lot of sexual tension and obviously there can’t be that in the next book. I’m worried that it then might become too ‘ordinary.’  Scary stuff, although at this moment in time, I do intend to bring out another Allie Shenton book. When? Hmm…

When you write, do you plan the whole story carefully before you start writing, or do you let the story evolve as you write?

I do a bit of both. I start with the characters and their stories and this usually gives me a rough beginning, middle and end. Then I interlink the sub plots and create about twenty chapters consisting of bullet points. Those twenty chapters turn into about forty as I draft the story out. But I do let the characters dictate – which sounds bizarre as I am the writer – but if a character goes off plot, I know it’s for a reason and as I always write a quick ‘dirty’ first draft, I can figure out what I need to happen as a result of those changes later in the second draft.

Do you have a muse or someone you frequently go to for honest feedback on your writing?

I have five people. I have my best friend from my home town who isn’t a writer, I have three writer friends and also my mum. I have to say they are all extremely honest, to the point of being brutal but that’s what I need to hear. Fresh eyes always make something better in my opinion.

When do you know you’ve finished writing your book?

Once I’ve finished with it, and my five readers have come back to me with their thoughts, I do one more draft and then I’m done writing wise.  I send the book off to a copy editor and she checks through it for me. Because I’ve self-published them, I then read the script three times before uploading it so I can spot/change any tiny amendments, even plot-wise if I still feel the need. Once it’s uploaded, then I can say it’s finished.

As a writer, you’re bound to have had your fair share of rejections from publishers. How have you learned to overcome that?

Rejection has been a biggie for me. I took the last one really hard last year after four months of hoping and going a step further and a step further, but as a writer you need to learn to pick yourself up, brush yourself down and carry on. Also, in the case of Somewhere To Hide, not writing something that fitted into a genre mould has meant it’s been harder for me. But I do believe in what I write and thankfully readers have enjoyed it.

What other obstacles have you had to overcome in your writing career?

I suppose it would have to be trying to overcome self-doubt – although it still gets to me every now and then. I mean, really, I sold how many books!

What would your top tip be to all aspiring novelists out there?

Always keep honing your craft, playing with words, read others to learn from and, above all, love what you do. Trust your gut reaction. And if you’re after a book deal, never give up!

  

An interview with chick lit author Nicola May

This week I’m interviewing Nicola May, successful self-published chick lit author of Star Fish, Working It Out and Better Together. Nicola embarked on her self-publishing journey by bringing out her first two novels in paperback. This is what she has to say about her experience so far.

You’ve self-published three novels: Working It Out, Better Together and Star Fish. Firstly, what led you to self-publish, and secondly, what led you to self-publish in paperback as opposed to in ebook format?

I tried for years to get published in the traditional way. I even had a reputable agent at one stage but it is very hard to get a publishing deal. It wasn’t until I got a letter from Hodder saying they hoped it wasn’t a big regret turning me down that I knew I was good enough to get my writing out to the wider world.

My dream was always to write a book that people could hold and read and I could see it on a bookshelf. Even now if I saw someone reading my book on a train I might faint with excitement. It hasn’t happened yet! I think that avid readers do still like to hold an actual book in their hands and the face-to-face contact at launches, signings etc is good for word-of-mouth marketing.

Being honest and I hate to say it out loud, it is actually far more cost effective to sell electronically only as overheads are minimal. I do see lots of authors following this route. My third novel Better Together has outsold both of my other novels on the Kindle as I haven’t printed this one. I am going to put my fourth novel in print due to popular demand from my readers but only a small run initially. I will of course put it on the Kindle too as it would be stupid not to. 

What have you done to market your books?

What haven’t I done to market my books! I have an author website (www.nicolamay.com), Facebook page (Nicola May) and Twitter account @nicolamay1. I have done local radio interviews talking about my self-publishing story and have had various articles in local papers, plus in WOMAN magazine. Star Fish was also hot read of the week in WOMAN magazine earlier this year. Plus, it has a full-page review in Horoscope magazine this month. I constantly sign at various Waterstones stores and get involved in local craft fairs and festivals.

What has self-publishing taught you about the publishing industry?

That it’s a hard industry to succeed in. Unless you have a bestseller you are not going to earn life-changing money and constant marketing is a must.

What would your top tips be to anyone contemplating self-publishing?

Be prepared to work VERY hard. Everyone aspires to be the next J.K. Rowling but it ain’t that easy. You and your books are a brand and successful, constant marketing is key to your success. Be nice to everyone you meet along the way. Keep writing and most importantly, be BOLD!

Are you working on a new novel? If so, when will we be able to buy it?

I am indeed, it is entitled The School Gates and I’m half way through. I am aiming for an autumn release. I haven’t got an exact date yet but follow me on Twitter and I will give regular updates. This is an exclusive book blurb just for you and your readers!

The School Gates by Nicola May

At 3.10 pm every weekday, parents gather at Featherstone Primary to collect their children. For a special few, the friendships forged at the school gates will see them through lives filled with drama, secrets and sorrows.

When Yummy Mummy Alana reveals the identity of her lovechild’s father, she doesn’t expect the consequences to be quite so extreme. Ex Czech au-pair Earth Mummy Dana finds happiness in her secret sideline, but really all she longs for is another child. Slummy Mummy Mo’s wife-beating husband leads her down a path she never thought possible, and Super Mummy Joan has to cope when life deals her a devastating blow. And what of Gay Daddy Gordon? Will he be able to juggle parenthood and cope with his broken heart at the same time?

Four very different mothers. One adorable dad. And the intertwining trials and tribulations that a year at the primary school gates brings.