Lucie Smoker's first novel 'Distortion' is out next month.Congratulations on your debut novel! It sounds very exciting; tell us a little about it! Distortion
is a noir mystery told from the point of view of the “bombshell,” except she isn't stupid, evil or blonde. An artist, Adele Proust, paints a crime scene in reverse perspective and turns a murder investigation backwards—onto her friends. To clear them, she introduces undercover feds into her art-punk community. She betrays its secrets. Along the way, she figures out that it isn't her art that defines her, or even herself. Adele Proust is truly defined by her reflection on the people around her—the way she treats the people she loves. What started you writing and is it something you always wanted to do?
I've always been a huge reader and wrote in my teens/early twenties. While I never saw writing as a career option, I dreamed of becoming an author and wrote fiction mostly secretly. My poetry and non-fiction were published at school and in tiny little newspapers. When I started my volunteer work and business career, I fell out of the creative habit, just kept a diary. Then I had kids and no time. As my children grew older, I looked into my wide-open future and decided to go after my dream career: to be a novelist. Describe your typical writing day.
I do write every day. Because I still teach in the daytime, my schedule varies, but typically I'm up at 5am. I like to work out first at the gym, sort of shake up my brain. Afterward, I sit down at the computer for a good hour or so. My goal is to write 500 words per day. Sometimes if I feel blocked, I take a paper notebook outside to write. For some reason I find the blank computer screen intimidating, but the blank paper page inviting. I often add in a second writing session late at night. With my husband and children asleep, I crank up the volume on my headphones and allow myself to fall into the rhythm of a scene. What projects are you working on now?
I'm currently revising a short story for Buzz Books called “Retribution.” A prequel to Distortion,
it focuses on the time period when Adele first fell in love with the activist Jack Thomas. My morning sessions are focused on the sequel to Distortion,
my Charlie Parker plumber mystery, and travel articles. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Yes, two things: 1) Write every day. To do that, you have to allow yourself to believe that you have a unique insight into the human condition. This messed up world needs to hear it. You cannot share your wisdom or become an author if you don't write. 2) Learn about the industry and put together the tools you need to present your work to agents and publishers in its best light. Other than your own, what’s your favourite work of fiction?
(First, I just have to say that I love that “ou” in favourite. When I came home from study abroad in London, my family and friends often caught me “misspelling” words in British fashion.)
Do I have to pick one book? As a small girl, my favourite book was The Long Winter
, a sort of darkish sequel to The Little House on the Prairie
. By sixth grade (at about age 12 in the U.S.), I took home The Count of Monte Cristo
because it was the thickest book in the school library. That was my fave for many years. As a teen I fell in love with Doyle's “Sherlock Holmes” mysteries and Kurt Vonnegut's insane Slapstick
. More recently, I have to say I love Elizabeth George's What Came Before He Shot Her.
If I must sum up a lifetime love of books in one novel, it would have to be Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone--
and yes, I read the British edition. I picked it up in a used bookshop to read aloud with my son, completely unaware that it had a different title in the U.S. From the cat reading the map through our first encounter with Voldemort. I felt a perfect escape into the magic that IS reading. Which author had the greatest influence on you as a child?
Laura Ingalls Wilder.Finally, and most importantly, you’ve lost your wallet, who do you enlist to help you find it, Poirot or Miss Marple?
Most definitely Miss Marple. She embodies my belief that every one of us has the wit and forbearance to rout out the bad guys. Lucie can be found on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/LucieSmokerAuthor and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/luciesmoker
Jane Heller has been writing chick lit for nearly twenty years and all of her novels are now available as ebooks. To celebrate we invited her round for a chat!What started you writing and is it something you always wanted to do?
I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer – at all. I wanted to be a comedienne like Lucille Ball, but my only “acting” was doing impressions of my teachers, our family doctor, the mailman, etc. for my family at the dinner table. I also wanted to be a sports broadcaster, because I’m a baseball fan, but women weren’t hired to do sports back then. After college, I got a job at a publishing house in NYC and for the next 10 years I promoted authors from Stephen King to Judy Blume. Even then, I never thought of being a writer because I saw up close how tough a job it was. But one day I got an idea for a funny story. It was as simple as that. I started writing at night, without telling anybody what I was up to – a paragraph, then a chapter, then several chapters. By the time I had written 200 pages, I said, “Hello, you’re writing a novel.” Since I’d worked in publishing for so long, I knew I needed an agent. I found one and she got me a three-book contract for that unfinished novel, which became CHA CHA CHA (newly retitled CLEAN SWEEP for its ebook edition) and two more, THE CLUB and INFERNAL AFFAIRS. I ended up writing 13 novels in 13 years, and never expected to. Describe your typical writing day.
I get up in the morning, eat breakfast and get to work. I have an office in my house, so my “commute” is about 10 seconds. I take a break for lunch, and then I write again until about 3 when I try to move my body – either do yoga or go for a walk. If I’m nearing the end of a book, I become a little manic about getting to the finish line, so in that case I’ll work at night too. And let’s face it – being a writer is a 24/7 proposition. Your brain never shuts off. I can be sitting in front of the TV with my husband, ostensibly watching whatever’s on, but I’ll also be turning over the day’s plots and characters and lines of dialogue in my head. What projects are you working on now?
I’m in the promotion phase of my new nonfiction book that’s coming out on November 7th. It’s called YOU’D BETTER NOT DIE OR I’LL KILL YOU: A Caregiver’s Survival Guide to Keeping You in Good Health and Good Spirits. It’s a combination of my personal, candid, often irreverent essays about being married to a man with a chronic illness, interviews with other caregivers (some caring for an elderly parent, some caring for a sick spouse or child), and advice from experts. With over 65 million caregivers in the U.S. alone, I think the topic is timely and important and people need a book that’s entertaining as well as helpful. Once that book is out, I’ll go back to the novel I started over the summer and try to finish it. It’s another comedy with both romance and suspense. What’s your favourite of your own novels?
I’ve written thirteen. Eleven of them have just come out as ebooks for the first time. The other two were already released in ebook editions. When I was asked that question in the past, I said that THE SECRET INGREDIENT was my favourite of my novels, because the story and the characters and the twists came so easily to me. It’s about a wife who’s disgruntled that her husband has become less attentive to her, so she goes to an “herb guru,” buys an herbal potion meant to “enhance” her hubby and secretly dumps it into his orange juice – only to have him turn into a man she can’t stand. The novel was optioned for a film, as eight of my other novels were, and I was hired to write the screenplay. It was a fun, if frustrating, experience, since the movie didn’t get made. That said, after re-reading all the novels to prepare them for their ebook conversions, I decided that I really do like them equally. There’s something about each one that makes me say, “You know what? That was pretty funny.” Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
My first advice is, of course, to just sit down and write. Stop thinking about how you’re going to do it. Stop talking about how you’re going to do it. Stop trying to plan a time for when you’re going to do it. Just write, even if it means one sentence at a time. That’s how I did it – in small portions. If you project too far into the future you can become overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. So just keep your head down and write – something, anything – and see where it leads.
My second piece of advice is to read a lot. Read everything by authors you enjoy. Learn how fiction flows, has a structure. Reading books by others is a great education for a writer.
And third, find your own voice. Are you funny? Ironic? Serious? Do you like to tell stories in the first or third person? Are you someone with an ear for dialogue or do you prefer the narrative style? Other than your own, what’s your favourite work of fiction?
That’s a tough one. I’ll always love Susan Isaacs’s novel COMPROMISING POSITIONS because it was the first novel I read that combined elements of romance, mystery and contemporary pop culture. I loved Isaacs’s SHINING THROUGH too. And Nora Ephron’s HEARTBURN will always be a touchstone for me, because it proved that funny women really do succeed. Which author had the greatest influence on you as a child?
It’s shocking, I know, but I was more interested in movies and television as a child than I was in books. Maybe it was because I was left to my own devices a lot growing up – i.e. neither of my parents stood over me and told me to read books. Finally, and most importantly, you’ve lost your wallet, who do you enlist to help you find it, Poirot or Miss Marple?
Miss Marple, for sure. In my books it’s always the woman who solves the mystery. Miss Marple would not only find my wallet but also spin a great tale doing it.For more information about Jane visit her website at: http://www.janeheller.com/
Serdar Ozkan's debut novel, 'The Missing Rose', has caused quite a stir in the literary world, and has been published in 44 languages and 50 countries so far. Here the author answers a few questions about himself and his work.Your book is often compared to the “The Alchemist”, “The Little Prince” and “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”, all very significant works. How do you feel about that? Was it planned that way?
Yes, The Missing Rose
is often compared and likened to all-time favorites The Little Prince,
The Seagull and The Alchemist
by the world media as well as literary critiques. All these books emphasize the universal side of man. So does The Missing Rose. I think it is this aspect of The Missing Rose which prompted book reviewers and readers to compare and liken The Missing Rose with these books. I also believe that it is for this reason that the book, a first novel, has been translated into 44 languages worldwide and enthused readers from so many different cultures. It all comes down to the story being able to connect with our universal side, the side which every human being has regardless of race, culture, religion, and so on.Where did the idea and initial impulse to write this book come from? The idea came from my own desire to know myself, and from the recognition that we have at least two conflicting selves within us. And the universality of the human being and the forces within the human being. However different we may appear on the outside, differences vanish as we go deeper within ourselves. The Missing Rose has a story which intertwines different cultures and philosophies with contemporary modern life. In all of my works, I intend to emphasize our meeting points, rather than our differences. I acknowledge the differences among people coming from various cultures, however, I believe that still our similarities as human beings are far more important than our differences.Living abroad for four years for my college education in a culture totally different from my own gave birth to these ideas and the story of The Missing Rose came out of that.
Also, I could say that works of St. Exupery, especially The Little Prince, have been an inspiration for my work. That’s why I have included The Little Prince
in my book; the main character in The Missing Rose leaves her home and embarks on a journey upon rereading The Little Prince
after many years.The story is told by women – there is just one man in the book. Why did you decide to write it like that? Why is the main character Diana and not Mathias? Before beginning to write a book, I don’t think and intellectualize what story I should write or which characters I should use. I try to bring out the story which has already started developing within me, I try to see the story. And in the case of The Missing Rose, I saw that the main character was a female. And the second story which I found within me was about a little boy, and that is my second book. “The Missing Rose” was your first book and very successful. Did the success surprise you?Not the success, but the story surprised me. Readers, regardless culture and nationality loved the story as much as I did. And success was a natural outcome of readers’ love for the story. If the author is not touched by the story he is writing, the reader will never be. And when The Missing Rose was completed, looking at how I felt in my heart about it, I knew that readers would enjoy it. How does it feel to get your debut novel translated into 44 languages? How did the journey forward happen for the novel?
It feels very good, of course.
I feel fortunate in this respect that, because my novel is published in over 50 countries worldwide, I have the chance to interact with many people from so many different cultures, and also see how differently or similarly they react to the same story, The Missing Rose
which carries universal themes. And I get so happy when people of different nations verify my belief that regardless of race, culture and religion, we have a huge meeting point and that our similarities are far more important than our differences.
The journey for this success happened with the story, and it took several years. First, a few foreign publishers believed in the story, then readers loved the book, it went onto bestseller lists internationally, and then this triggered further publishers in other foreign countries, and the number of languages and the feedback from the readers and the world media reviews triggered others, so we came to this point. Any clues about your next book?My second novel, When Life Lights Up, is related to self-discovery on a different level. It is a novel about hope, unconditional love and the miracle of life. The story is about a unique little boy; the special friendship he enters into with a dolphin and his experience with the Angel of Death twenty years later.For more about Serdar and his work visit his web page at: http://www.serdarozkan.com/indexuk.html
What started you writing and is it something you always wanted to do? I have this one vivid memory of me writing my first poem in the second grade. I think that’s when I first realized that I was a creative person and that I liked to write. Also, I was one of those freak-of-nature children that would rather read than watch TV. Much like my main character, I majored in Economics in college just because it was practical. I also worked in finance for most of my corporate career. Truly, I don't regret it since publishing is still a business at the end of the day. But I always knew that writing was what I was really good at, especially story-telling. There’s also a unique sense of fulfillment you feel when you create something out of nothing and when you’re doing something you love. I was inspired by my mom to quit my job in corporate finance and pursue what I really love. After she retired, she was really honest with me and said that she couldn’t even remember what she loved to do after working in the corporate world for 25 years. I just decided that I didn’t want my life to start at 55. I wanted it to start now.Do you write full-time or do you have another career? Writing is my full-time job and it comes in many forms. I am currently the Co-founder and Publisher for Minted Magazine, an online publication that empowers women in their career and life. My job involves everything from writing to photography to computer coding. I am also working on my second novel and promoting, Recession Proof.Describe your typical writing day. My day is never typical since most of my time is dedicated to building the magazine. I write my second novel when I have the time or when I get a burst of inspiration. It’s not ideal but I do know I will never release something I don’t absolutely love and believe in. What inspired you to write ‘Recession Proof?’ It started out as a way for me to express how I felt as a young twenty-something professional working in today’s economic landscape. I think there’s an incredible sense of fear and uncertainty when you’re in your twenties and for today’s twenty-somethings, it’s exacerbated by the Recession. So many times, people sacrifice their passions to simply get by. I wanted to create a “heroine” that experiences all these fears and challenges but manages to triumph and have a little fun along the way.What projects are you working on now? Most of my day is spent building my publication, Minted Magazine. It’s the most gratifying experience to build a company of my own. How do you publicise your work? Bloggers are amazing! Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? http://www.kimberlyslin.com/Thoughts.htmlOther than your own, what’s your favourite work of fiction? The Heart of the Matter, Emily GiffinWhich author had the greatest influence on you as a child? Ann M. Martin, The Baby Sitter’s Club authorFinally, and most importantly, you’ve lost your wallet, who do you enlist to help you find it, Poirot or Miss Marple? Poirot. I like cool mustaches.Kimberley is the author of 'Recession Proof', she can be found on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/KimberlySLin) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/KimberlySLin) .
Carol Mason is the author of ‘The Love Market’, ‘Send Me A Lover’ and ‘The Secrets of Married Women. All her books have recently been re-released as Kindle e-books for $2.99. For the month of March she’ll be donating 50% net proceeds to Breast Cancer. Please see her website [www.carolmasonbooks.com] for more details. What started you writing and is it something you always wanted to do? When I was about 12 years old I would furtively read my grandmother’s Harlequin romances. I became addicted to the boy-meets-girl-girl-hates-boy-boy-gets-girl storylines, and noticed how they all followed virtually the same format. I thought, I could write one of those! Then when I was 25, I did write 2 Harlequin romances. I had an idea they’d be easy to get published. But then they didn’t get published, my computer got stolen from my apartment, and I hadn’t backed up my work, so the novels were stolen with the rest of my entire worldly possessions. I took that as a sign to give up and get a real job. Which I did. But I still had the writing bug so eventually I came back to it, I left my job as an advertising copywriter and set about trying to get published with a more contemporary women’s fiction story. After three books and three years, my agent sold The Secrets of Married Women to Hodder & Stoughton in the UK. Do you write full-time or do you have another career? I write full time. But because I work from home I sometimes feel I am a full-time housewife too! Everyone assumes that because you are in the house all day, you can write books while you vacuum, make dinner and run all the errands! Describe your typical writing day. I walk the dog in the morning – otherwise I’d probably never leave the house. Then I try to get 2 hours of solid productive writing done before lunch. Somehow I am always a little tired in the afternoons, so my productivity slackens off. Then I come alive again at 4pm. It’s weird but I can solve all my plot problems and do some great writing at 4pm, yet at 3:30 I am virtually brain dead. Then I make dinner, have a glass of wine, and then go back up to tweak what I’ve got written that day. What inspired you to write your latest book ‘The Art of Letting Go’, which is due out this year? I find a lot of inspiration in things I read. Sometimes random articles I come across on the Internet – like the article about Vietnam’s real Love Market in the mountain village of Sapa where young people go to find their future mates, and older people go to reunite with their lovers. This became the inspiration for my third novel The Love Market – about a woman who recently divorces and isn’t sure she’s done the right thing. Then to complicate things, someone from her past gets in touch with her quite mysteriously - her first love, a Canadian foreign journalist whom she met 20 years ago while backpacking in Asia. She met him in Vietnam, in the Love Market… With The Art of Letting Go, it was an article I read on how dementia patients often respond positively to visual art and it can help them remember details of their life. This made me think of two love stories that interconnect – one in the past and one in the present, and how they are revealed due to an elderly lady’s response to a painting in a Seattle art gallery. What projects are you working on now? I started a new novel in October. I wrote quite a bit of it but something about it felt wrong. I left it alone and wondered why I wasn’t excited to get back writing it. Then I read an article that inspired another idea that I thought, Wow! I LOVE this one! THIS is the book I must write. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m changing course and starting to plot out and take the first tentative steps to writing this new idea. It feels so good to be working on something I am passionate about! How do you publicise your work? When a big publishing house takes on your novel they do a lot of publicity for you. But of course social media – Facebook, Twitter - helps writers connect with their readers and I love hearing from readers of my books and being in touch with them. I have done the odd TV appearance and radio interviews etc. But I’m not good at selling myself. I find it a little embarrassing to self-promote. I always feel that my job is as a writer, and that tends to be a more introverted career choice, and while it’s fun to attend publicity events, I prefer it when my publicist has arranged them! Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? Really ask yourself why you want to be a writer. If it’s because it brings you the kind of happiness that virtually nothing else can, then you probably will write no matter what. If it’s because you think it’s a)glamorous, b)highly paid, c) easy to succeed at, d)cool to see your own work in a book store…. Then you might want to pack the whole thing in! The publishing industry is quite a brutal business. It is insanely hard to get published, and even harder to stay published. I only recommend it for people who are very thick-skinned, realistic about their chances, and passionate about writing. Other than your own, what’s your favourite work of fiction? There are so many. Lately I’ve read a bunch of great books. The Lost Wife, by Alyson Richman, anything by Jonathan Tropper, Melanie Benjamin’s Alice I Have Been…. I also love The Bridges of Madison County, The Horse Whisperer, anything by Tony Parsons, Girl with the Pearl Earring... I could go on but I’d be answering this question all day! Which author had the greatest influence on you as a child? I suppose Jane Austen – though I don’t know if that’s because we studied her so much in school! But she really made me think about characterization and human nature and how it comes to play in fiction. I never got into Dickens. Don’t know why. I loved a lot of poetry when I was a kid – especially the war poet, Wilfred Owen, and Keats, Dylan Thomas… Finally, and most importantly, you’ve lost your wallet, who do you enlist to help you find it, Poirot or Miss Marple?
Poirot. But only because, after retrieving it, I’d help him solve a murder on the Orient Express! There are no lengths I won’t go to for a free vacation. Carol can be found on Twitter [@carolmasonbooks] and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=562571492
Multi-talented Keith Brooke is a writer, editor, e-book publisher and creative writing tutor. His latest book ‘The Accord’ is available now. What started you writing and is it something you always wanted to do?
For me, writing has always gone hand in hand with reading, and I read voraciously from an early age. If you read, it just seems natural to want to write. What really kick-started things was a wet holiday in Yorkshire when I was 17: it rained just about every day, and so I ended up working through just about every trashy paperback they had in the village shop. It passed the time and, more importantly, it set me thinking seriously about writing: writing as a career, writing as a way of life. Do you write full-time or do you have another career?
I've had periods of several years writing full-time, but pressures of mortgage and regular bills tend to make a day job a necessity for most writers, and I'm no exception. I currently work at a University, managing the website and learning technology teams, with a bit of creative writing lecturing on the side. I also run the infinity plus ebook imprint (www.infinityplus.co.uk/books), publishing the work of award-winning authors such as Eric Brown, John Grant and Iain Rowan. Describe your typical writing day.
Ideally, I get up early, go for a run, have some breakfast and a good strong coffee. Then I try to get 1500 words in before lunch. I aim for another session of at least 1000 words in the afternoon, by which time I'm slowing down a little. Anything on top of that is a bonus.
In reality, even a day devoted to writing is broken up with the business of being a writer and publisher: keeping on top of correspondence, promoting books in various media, Facebooking and tweeting, various administrative tasks, etc. And a day entirely devoted to writing is a rare thing, so more typically I carve out slots of an hour or two from days when I'm at the day job or doing family things. One of the most useful things I've learnt over the years is how to take advantage of even a short opportunity to write: a couple of hundred words in a snatched hour on a train is far better than waiting for that perfect writing day to come along. What inspired you to write ‘The Accord’? The idea
first came to me as a fantasy short story. I was driving to work and out of nowhere I wondered what it must be like for a trusted advisor to be in love with the Emperor's wife. By the time I'd reached work, the trusted advisor had become a wizard and his solution was to conjure up a parallel world where copies of himself and the Emperor's wife could be free to have an affair. As the idea matured, I started to wonder how long this parallel world might exist - could they live there forever, if the wizard has created it? And what would the Emperor do when he found out? Gradually, the idea of a love triangle that spanned millennia, and the ensuing feud as the Emperor pursued his wife and her lover transformed into something more science-fictional: rather than wizards and magic, why not have a virtual reality heaven instead? Once I'd made that leap, I knew it was going to be a big novel rather than a fantasy short story, and there was no turning back. What projects are you working on now?
I've just delivered two books. Strange Divisions and Alien Territories is a non-fiction book about science fiction, with chapters written by some of the top writers in the field, due from Palgrave Macmillan in early 2012. And alt.human is a science fiction novel, an extreme alternate history crammed full of aliens - both topics I've tended to steer clear of in my 20 years as a writer. How do you publicise your work?
Websites (mine and one for infinity plus), my blog and guest-blogging elsewhere, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Academia.edu, interviews, mailing lists, readings and signings, appearances at conventions and other publishing events, by writing non-fiction for various publications... and probably lots of other ways that slip my mind. I hate to be brash and pushy about it, but I like to engage with people anyway, and I think it all adds up to raising awareness that, yes, I'm a writer and I have books available. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Be persistent. Finish what you write. Revise it until it's the best you can do. Submit it. When it's rejected, submit it elsewhere. When you think you've run out of markets, find somewhere else to try (my first novel sold to a publisher right at the bottom of my list; I so nearly didn't bother submitting it to them). Be very wary of self-publishing to start with, unless you're sure you can do it really well. Other than your own, what’s your favourite work of fiction?
I love writers like Graham Greene and Ian McEwan, and it's hard to pick out a single work. If forced, I'd be torn between Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Silverberg's Dying Inside. Which author had the greatest influence on you as a child?
Depends at which age. I was an obsessive Enid Blyton fan as a kid, but I'm not sure what influence that might have had! Later, John Christopher and John Wyndham figured large. Finally, and most importantly, you’ve lost your wallet, who do you enlist to help you find it, Poirot or Miss Marple? Probably Poirot: I love the cleverness and the way he plays people. Miss Marple plays people too, but she's just a little too creepy for my liking... For more information about Keith and his work check out: http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/books/kb/accord.htm
Ben Hatch is the author of the fantastically funny and entertaining ‘Are We Nearly There Yet?’, a very honest account of the five months he, his wife and two very young children spent driving eight thousand miles around Britain in a Vauxhall Astra, visiting several attractions a day and staying in a different hotel each night. My review can be found at: http://www.bookwormink.co.uk/2/post/2011/11/review-are-we-nearly-there-yet-by-ben-hatch.html When did you begin writing professionally? I submitted a sketch to the BBC Radio Comedy Series Weekending about the Gulf War when I was about 24. That was the first time I was paid for writing anything. I never cashed the cheque, I was so proud of it. £32. Ironically my dad had been the first ever producer of this show. That made it doubly special, particularly because in competition with me (we were always very competitive), he started submitting his own anonymous sketches to them after that. In terms of creative professional writing I finished my first novel aged 30. Are you currently working on a new project? I’m working on a follow up to Are We Nearly There Yet? It’s about a 10,000 mile road-trip around France. Where do you write best? I don’t think there is a best place for me. A best time is in the mornings though. I like to start about 6am before the kids are up demanding piggy backs to breakfast. For some reason every day for the three years I have had to give them piggybacks to breakfast. They won’t come downstairs otherwise. They sit on the step shouting, “PIGGYBACK!” I feel quite smug at breakfast having already done a few hundred words. The adventures your book recounts were in aid of a travel guide, when did you decide to write ‘Are We Nearly There Yet?’? About a year and a bit ago. We’d just written a guidebook about family-friendly attractions in the UK. My editor for the guidebook company, a lovely guy, had become so fed with having to chop out all the funny stories and anecdotes I was trying to lever into the guidebook, he introduced me to my current editor at Summersdale, who suggested I write about our experiences in a travelogue. Have you and your family got any similar trips planned for the future? We’d love to drive around Australia or America and do the same thing. I drove across the states – coast to coast - with my wife Dinah before we had kids but it was so rushed when we reached the Grand Canyon, I stayed in the car and kept the car engine running while my wife got out and peered over the rim. I’d like to do it properly this time. How do you publicise your work? Mainly through remorseless self-promotion on twitter. I’m with a small publisher with a very limited budget. They’re very lovely but they can’t hype me like other publishers can with their authors. Basically it’s just me and tweetdeck. Actually that’s a lie, I haven’t got tweetdeck. I’ve heard of tweetdeck. I’m not sure what it is though. I’m also going to be doing a few signings over the coming weeks. I’ve not done one before. I’m a bit nervous actually it’ll be just be me sat there behind a pile of books in Hitchin Waterstones on my own like Alan Partridge. Are you pleased with how your book has been received? Very pleased yes. I’ve had some wonderful responses. John Cleese read it and it made him laugh. It’s been featured on the Wogan Weekend Radio Show, is currently being serialised in the Telegraph and it was a Radio 2 pick of 2011. The book was even voted the No1 favourite kindle Read of 2011 by Amazon Customers. Even my daughter has been swept along in the hype. She’s insisting I read it to her at bedtime. It’s the first book she’s ever read without a fairy picture on the front, I think. I do have to screen some sections and change a few choice words and it is a little embarrassing. We had a babysitter the other night and my wife, anxious that I not appear conceited, took the book from her room in case “Keely thinks you’re MAKING her read it, Ben.” Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? Read a lot, stick at it, don’t be afraid of rejection, and marry an understanding partner. Which author had the greatest influence on you as a child? JD Salinger. It was after reading Catcher in the Rye that I wanted to become a writer. The first person narrative was so direct, and Holden, the main character was so engaging, it made me think about literature completely differently. Before this I’d only read thrillers full of needless details about the calibre of gun someone was holding. Or else period pieces where the women fuss around in bustles having hot flushes over their needlework. This book seemed like real life, real life but with a very cool, comic twist. Finally, and most importantly, you’ve lost your wallet, who do you enlist to help you find it, Poirot or Miss Marple? That’s easy because if I said anything other than Poiror the in-laws would murder me. My mother and father in law LOVE Poirot. They come to stay every Christmas and within 5 minutes of arrival, even before they’ve unpacked and said hello to the kids, they’re in the living room, a fire on, the door shut to keep everyone else out, lost in a Poirot on some ITV 3 type station. They can find a Poirot on at any given time of the day. At Christmas they watched 5 Poirots. For some reason they hate Marple. It’s Poirot or die with them. Ben Hatch is on Twitter as @BenHatch and ‘Are We Nearly There Yet?’ is available on Kindle for the bargain price of 99p.
Stella Stafford is the author of the very English murder mystery ‘Did Anyone Die?’, the first in her Little Wychwell Mystery series. My review of ‘Did Anyone Die?’ can be found at: http://bookwormink.co.uk/2/post/2011/11/review-did-anyone-die-by-stella-stafford.html So Stella, what started you writing and is it something you always wanted to do? I have written for pleasure and amusement ever since I could do so. Quite recently I found a little book for children that I wrote by hand when I was 5. It wasn’t very good but then I was five! But I have never written a full length novel intended for adults until I wrote “Did Anyone Die?” Do you write full-time or do you have another career? I suddenly found myself with time to write ‘Did Anyone Die?’ because I had given up work to look after a disabled relative. After two years being a carer my relative died. So for the last year I have had much more time for writing and I suppose you could describe it as my full time occupation. However I think of it as a very enjoyable hobby. Although I don’t have another regular career at present I do a lot of things that are not writing, like voluntary work and singing. I am also a perpetual student, I am nearly always taking a course of some sort. (I also have a husband and children!) Describe your typical writing day. I usually compose the next section that I am going to write while I am walking in the countryside, I write the whole thing in my head, descriptions, dialogue, everything. I walk for at least an hour, usually longer, in the morning and another hour in the afternoon. When I get back in it’s a rush to get to the computer and type it all up before anything interrupts me. Sometimes I grab a sheet of paper and scribble down a short summary before I start typing. My subconscious writes the plots for me, its ideas are much better than the original vague plot that my conscious produces before I begin writing each novel. My characters, who are all very strong minded, voice the thoughts of my subconscious. They all argue with me about what they were supposed to do and even make me re-write whole sections. They are always right and I have to agree with them. What inspired you to write ‘Did Anyone Die?’ My disabled relative loved reading and read around twenty books a week but wouldn’t re-read the same book. The local library were brilliant at finding and supplying books but it was getting difficult to find enough and so I decided to start writing suitable books myself. This was, on reflection, obviously ridiculous as it takes far longer to write a book than it does to read it. But it seemed like a bright idea at the time. Once I had begun to write, however, the novels and characters became part of my own life and the original reason why I had started writing became irrelevant. I write because I find writing enjoyable in the same way that I find reading books that other people have written enjoyable. I am pleased when my books are published but I would enjoy writing them just as much if this never happened. The Little Wychwell Mystery books are set in Oxfordshire and Oxford because this is the world in which I live and when I started writing ‘Did Anyone Die?’ I seemed to remember hearing a piece of advice that you should write about ‘what you know’. However I have just completed my first science fiction book which is about a world that definitely doesn’t exist and has no connection with my own life. What projects are you working on now?
The second Little Wychwell Mystery, the sequel to ‘Did Anyone Die?’, which is called ‘A Very Quiet Guest’,
Is being published in May so I am still involved in reading final proofs for that.
I am currently writing the fifth Little Wychwell mystery at the minute. I have recently finished writing my first science fiction book.
I have just popped a rather ad hoc book called Nature Notes and Other Musings 2011 on to Kindle, this is an edited version of my nature tweets from last year.
I have also just started writing poetry again, I had some poetry
published when the children were small. How do you publicise your work?
This is the part of being an author at which I am truly terrible!
I use Twitter and Facebook because my publishers advised me to do so and because, since I started using both of them
in a rather grumbly way, I have found what a wonderful supportive community exists on both of them.
I do tweet and FB post adverts for my books from time to time but I still feel rather embarrassed about doing so.
I was brought up to believe that ‘self praise is no recommendation’ and I find this concept very hard to shake off.
I have a book Facebook page and an author website.
I very much appreciate sites like Bookworm Ink who are kind enough to review my book for me or to interview me! Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? Enjoy writing and love it for its own sake!
Other than your own, what’s your favourite work of fiction?
I have such a lot of very favourite books! It would be very hard to choose just one.
I love classic authors like Dickens, Tolstoy, Thackeray, Wilkie Collins, Poe, the Brontes, Leroux, Elizabeth Gaskell….. But I also enjoy modern authors like Jasper Fforde, Michael Ondaatje, Yan Martel, Umberto Eco, John Wyndham, Gabriel Garcia Marquez….. If I want to read something lighter I really enjoy Georgette Heyer.
I quite often choose to read non-fiction, especially travel books. Which author had the greatest influence on you as a child? When I was a child I still preferred reading classic books so my favourite authors were Laura Ingalls Wilder, Elinor M Brent Dyer, Elizabeth Nesbit and Noel Streatfield. Finally, and most importantly, you’ve lost your wallet, who do you enlist to help you find it, Poirot or Miss Marple? I wouldn’t want to enlist either of them as I would almost certainly finish up dead, a trail of further murders usually happen around them before they solve the very first mystery. I think I would rather enlist Sherlock Holmes or Inspector Maigret. But if I have to choose Miss Marple or Poirot I would prefer Poirot parce qu’il est très charmant! Stella Stafford’s webpage is www.stellas-home.co.uk. She can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Did-Anyone-Die-by-Stella-Stafford/221583511185270 and her Twitter id is @stellastafford
G.E. Johnson is an indie author living just outside Atlanta, GA. She writes fiction novellas and inspirational non-fiction and is the author of the ‘Love & Wrath’ series, the first book of which is currently available as an e-book from Amazon and Smashwords. Here’s the blurb! “This first novella of a three part series pulls back the curtain on the lives of three best friends to reveal love, friendship, and budding romance. Their stories are woven together against the backdrop of the midwestern art world of Kansas City, MO, but pretty pictures are the last thing that photographer Lily and her business partner Sheila are worried about after their mutual friend reveals an explosive secret that ends up threatening all of their lives. Readers will ride out with these divas and enjoy the joy & laughter of their posh lives. Beware though... before you know it you will be pulled into a roller coaster ride of suspense, intrigue, and a good old-fashioned throwdown! Captivated until the last page, you will be begging for part two as the friends execute their form of justice in LOVE & WRATH”.
‘Love & Wrath is getting some fantastic reviews on Amazon so let’s meet the lady herself! What started you writing and is it something you always wanted to do?
Wonderful teachers in the schools that I attended as a child really got me writing. I remember being encouraged to write as early as elementary school, but I really fell in love with words in a high school Etymology class. Later, during my freshman year in college, I realized that I might want to try writing professionally one day. Do you write full-time or do you have another career?
I currently write full-time, but before I became fully immersed in the indie author lifestyle, I had worked in Accounting for 10+ years. Describe your typical writing day.
Well, my typical writing day would actually be a writing night. For some reason I’m better able to slip away completely into my storyline in the wee hours of the morning. I start by putting on some music that matches the mood of whatever section I’m writing and then I type what I see as the scenes play out in my mind. What inspired you to write ‘Love and Wrath: The Beginning’?
The storyline of “Love & Wrath” was one that I had been playing with in my mind since 2008. A co-worker of mine at the time had just finished a fiction manuscript and one day, during a conversation about her book, I mentioned my idea and she loved it! Three years later, during some downtime between jobs, I decided to go ahead and get the idea on “paper.” The rest is history! What projects are you working on now?
I am currently editing book two of the “Love & Wrath” series. My hope is to have it available for readers during the first part of November. How do you publicise your work?
Numerous ways! I use Facebook and Twitter to share the book and connect with awesome book bloggers. I connect with book clubs, both online and in person. I also work with other writers to cross promote each others work. As a matter of fact, “Love & Wrath: The Beginning” is being offered as a bonus buy during the November 1 launch of the third novel of best-selling author Melissa Foster. With a little time and internet savvy, the avenues are endless! Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Go for it! No matter how long it takes, don’t give up on writing that first book. I know that there are times when you want to throw in the towel and you may even have to step away for a while to regroup, but please don’t give up! You will be so fulfilled when that first book is completed. Other than your own, what’s your favourite work of fiction?
Wow… that’s a really hard question to answer. I’m not sure that I can choose just one favourite. I can say that I recently reread “Sense and Sensibility” and fell in love with the story again. I’m a huge fan of the classics. Which author had the greatest influence on you as a child?
There were several, but one of the most memorable from my childhood was Shel Silverstein. I remember checking out “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and “A Light in the Attic” from the school library at least 10 times each. I could not get enough of his clever poetry. Finally, and most importantly, you’ve lost your wallet, who do you enlist to help you find it, Poirot or Miss Marple?
I would choose Poirot. I can just imagine him, neat as a pin with his moustache neatly twirled upward, being utterly flustered with my American sensibilities and mannerisms. We would bicker about me being in the way, but he would eventually come to love me. All the while I would be incredibly smart and good looking. I think that would make a good book or even a great movie! G. E Johnson can be found on Twitter: http://twitter.com/writermom2011and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/gejohnsonfans She also writes a blog: http://gejohnson.blogspot.com ‘Love & Wrath’ is available from Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/82927 and from Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Wrath-The-Beginning-ebook/dp/B005F4FNE4/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1319960398&sr=8-3