Measuring success as an author

IMG_0544How do you do it? The concept of what success means is constantly shifting, not just for writers as a collective, but for each of us as individuals. Even when we achieve what we thought we wanted to achieve, there’s no guarantee it will actually make us *feel* successful. There are always others who seem to be doing better or perhaps doing things differently to us, who will make us question whether we’ve made the right decisions or whether we should be on a different path altogether.

 

So what’s writing success? Perhaps it’s…

  • Getting a publisher?
  • Getting an agent?
  • Owning your writing journey as an indie author?
  • Seeing your novel in a book shop?
  • Appearing in an Amazon top one hundred chart?
  • Receiving lots of 5 star reviews from people you’ve never met?
  • Making a decent amount of money from writing?
  • Getting an email from a reader to tell you how much they loved your book?
  • Making your mum, dad, children or next door neighbour proud?
  • Creating a social media presence with followers in their thousands?

Maybe it’s lots of these things or something else entirely. In the last couple of years, between us, the WRs have achieved more of these measures of success than I think we ever really thought possible. But, lately, I’ve been questioning what it is that would make me feel I’ve been successful as a writer and I happened upon a quote that really resonated with me:

‘Success should be measured by how much joy it gives you.’

For my writing life, this is so true. Whilst I’ve ticked a lot of things off the list above, there are several still to achieve.Chart position AATS However, I’ve discovered if I approach writing chasing too many of those measures of success, I can rob myself of that joy. I started writing just because I loved it and that’s how I want to measure my success. If my writing gives me joy, then I can’t really ask for more. The rest is all just garnish.

As for my social media presence, that’s probably strongest here, on this blog, with the rest of the WRs. There might be lots of blog awards we could have won with a different approach and there are writing collectives with a higher profile than ours. However, if success really is measured by the amount of joy something brings you, then being part of this blog and, more importantly, this group has also been a resounding success for me.

I’d love to know how other writers measure their success and, whatever form that takes for you, I wish you lots of it.

Jo

How to research a novel

Author photo - Helen J RolfeI’ve always been what I’d call an ‘over-researcher’ if there’s such a term. Back in the days when I wrote articles for health and fitness magazines I’d read up on a subject using literature and the internet, I’d interview a couple of experts in the field and even for a short article I’d have far more information than I ever needed.

So what about when it comes to writing a novel?

With The Friendship Tree I really took the age old advice of ‘write what you know’. I knew the Sydney location well enough to send my characters, Jake and Tamara, into the city. I’d worked with a PR team, Brewer Creek was a fictitious town and I had enough knowledge to place it in the right area. To make Jake’s job as the local veterinarian realistic I chatted to Write Romantic, Rachael Thomas, who owns and runs a dairy farm.

I’m finding that as I write more novels, I need to do more research. My ideas and my characters are taking on dimensions that I’m not familiar with and I owe it to the stories to get all my facts.

So how do I know when I’ve done enough research?

At a certain point I find that the information I’m uncovering is repeating what I’ve already found, what experts in the field have confirmed, and it’s at that point I know I have enough information to go on. Sometimes questions crop up during the writing process and I’ll do a little more research at that stage, but by then it’s minimal.

So what am I researching now?

Well, for book four, which is in the editing stages, I took myself in to see professionals in the field because I knew it would allow me to make my characters jump off the page. This book focuses on a character who owns and runs a chocolaterie and apart from eating chocolate, I know nothing about what they do each day. Luckily, Creighton’s Chocolaterie in Leighton Buzzard invited me in for a couple of hours to watch them work and to ask as many questions as I liked. By the time I got home I knew I had plenty of information to start writing and as I got the words down on the page I knew it wouldn’t have been so easy without seeing the work environment for myself.

Of course, part of my research was to taste a few varieties too and bring home some samples. I couldn’t resist!

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I think research for a novel is easy to begin on the internet. There is a plethora of information out there and as long as you’re using reliable sites it’s a good foundation. I think talking / interviewing experts in the field is also really key to good research. For Handle Me with Care I interviewed a specialist who knew so much about testicular cancer. I was able to tell him the situation I’d put Evan, my character in, and ask him if this would happen. I asked him physical symptoms, the emotional trauma patients face. And most of all, it helped keep my story believable, realistic and accurate.

For my novel, What Rosie Found Next, I interviewed a firefighter from Australia and again asked about certain scenarios and technicalities for my characters and situations I’d be putting them in. This was crucial and the firefighter who helped me passed some of my writing around the rest of the team so I could get feedback from more than one source. It helped me make the writing accurate and I was so happy when a few of them said they were desperate to know what was going to happen in the book!

Another way to research is in person. It’s not always possible but I feel it really enhances the way you write if you are able to experience something yourself whether it’s doing a parachute jump (not me!), visiting a foreign country where you want to set your new book, or work shadowing to see how a job is performed and ask questions on the spot.

My first draft of book five is underway now and with it being in a totally different settting, a place I’ve never been to myself, the research is heavy but fun! All I need to do is persuade my husband to let me book a flight over to New York! It’s work-related after all!

Helen J Rolfe.

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If you want to find out more about me or my books, please visit my website: http://www.helenjrolfe.com/

Or you can find me on Amazon:  http://hyperurl.co/pxu978

 

Ode to a Writer

Conf 2014 3I had one of those conversations the other day, where you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. My head was wedged into the porcelain torture device more commonly known as a hairdresser’s sink and the young girl washing my hair was talking about her sister who’s studying English at uni.   I asked, as you do in these situations, what her sister wanted to do when she finishes. “She quite likes the idea of writing books, so I think she’s going to do that.” Did I tell her how difficult that was? Or ask her to pass on to her sister that she should have a back-up plan, a postgraduate certificate in teaching perhaps? Of course I didn’t, I just nodded and laughed inwardly. Drawing here on a melting pot of WR experiences, this is what I should have said!

 

Ode to a Writer

You want to be a writer and your mum’s your biggest fan,

Poems penned at eight-years-old convince her that you can.

Your dreams you keep them quiet, until you’re Brahms and Liszt,

You tell your friends who laugh-out-loud and soon you get the gist.

“A living as a writer? I suppose there’s always hope,

You stand about as good-a-chance to get elected Pope.”

 

You read a lot of ‘how to’ books, but not quite ready yet,

You spend enough on stationery to beat the national debt.

After learning twelve new swear words and an awful lot of graft,

Your book’s more holes than Swiss-cheese, but at least you’ve got a draft.

A hundred versions later, to submit it you’re all set,

And stop hiding from friends’ demands if it’s been published yet.

 

Out to publishers and agents, sure the slush pile it will ride,

But what if they all want it? How on earth will you decide?

You start to stalk the postman, your relationship you taint,

He’s forced by your obsession to an order of restraint.

He just brings pizza flyers, not a flaming other thing,

Your email’s also empty and your phone it doesn’t ring.

 

Then a meeting with an editor! To pitch it in one line,

It takes deep consideration and a bucket-load of wine,

A teenager in hot pants rejects the book as “out of style”,

You’d like to run her over, but you force yourself to smile.

“Your target market’s disappeared, your genre in the past”,

Another pitcher full of wine? You swear this is your last.

 

Who needs a publisher anyway? Self-publishing’s the key,

To notice it amongst the rest, you start the book for free.

You don’t let stats stand in your way, you know you’ll be the one,

To earn enough, once you charge, for mansions in the sun.

Your statement comes from Amazon, the sales they do amaze,

Enough to buy a whole doughnut, but only without glaze.

 

A fab five-star reviewer puts the smile back on your face,

But then there is the one-star for that comma out of place.

Mad to be a writer? We’re afraid that much is true,

Take comfort that you’re not alone, as we’re all crazy too.

And if we weren’t still writing, how would we spend the time?

Now pass us back that laptop and another glass of wine.

 

I probably could have written another twenty verses, but despite all this the WRs wouldn’t – or more accurately couldn’t – swap writing for anything else. Happy writing all you crazy fools! Jo x

Saturday Spotlight: Interview with Heidi-Jo Swain

It’s a great pleasure to welcome Heidi-Jo Swain back to the blog today.  Heidi-Jo first joined us last year and a huge amount has happened to her since then.  I’ll hand over to Heidi-Jo to tell you all about it…

image1 (1)Hello everyone! Thank you so much for inviting me back. It seems an awfully long time since I was last here!

A lot has happened to you since you joined us on the blog last year. Can you tell us about it and how it all happened?

To be honest, I can’t believe just how much has happened myself. Looking back through the archives I can see that when I first visited I had just submitted The Cherry Tree Café to Books and The City as my #oneday submission and had everything crossed that the Team would enjoy reading it as much as I had enjoyed writing it!

Fortunately they did and after a couple of visits to Simon and Schuster I was offered an e-book deal for two books just in time for Christmas. Quite literally the best present ever! The novel was published in July this year, almost a year to the day that I sent off my submission.

How are you feeling about your second novel? Is it linked to your first book? Can you tell us a little about it?

InstagramCapture_1e326093-f9dd-4633-9084-1b67fdff9e03I’m absolutely thrilled with the second novel. My editor has described it as WONDERFUL and yes, she did write in caps so I was jump up and down excited that day. I can’t tell you too much about it just yet, however I can confirm that Wynbridge and The Cherry Tree Café still feature and a couple of familiar faces can be found gracing a few of the pages. That said it isn’t a sequel so you don’t have to have read the first to enjoy the second. Not that I’m objecting if you did of course!

What’s the best thing that’s happened since The Cherry Tree Cafe was published?

Cherry tree cafe green coverThat’s a tough question to answer because so many fabulous things have happened. The spring blogger evening with Milly Johnson et al, the launch party in Arts Desire, (a local crafting café), the newspaper article and the radio interview, not forgetting the forthcoming reading and Q and A event in Norwich…

Of course all that glamour and excitement has been fabulous and I can’t wait to plan it all again for the second novel, but thinking about it, the cherry on the cupcake has been reading reviews and receiving messages from readers who have chosen my little book for their holiday or weekend read and then told the world just how much they enjoyed it. I don’t think I’ll even get over the thrill of that.

Have you ever owned a cafe? Would you like to?

No I haven’t and to be honest I think I’m far better at consuming tea and cake than baking and serving it. Bunting construction a la Lizzie Dixon is more my style! Although saying that, my Vicky sponge always goes down a storm.

We know that you put The Cherry Tree Cafe on Wattpad before it was published. Why did you do that and do you feel it was a benefit?

Uploading the first few chapters of the novel on to Wattpad was a huge moment for me. It was the first step along the path to sharing my work with the world and feeling brave enough to hear what readers really thought about it.

Although the numbers of reads weren’t through the roof I made some great author chums who are still friends today and I also gained the confidence to push ahead and seek out a publisher. So yes, it was beneficial.DSCF0411

You have a strong social media presence. How important do you think that is and how would you recommend new writers go about building theirs?

I think it is hugely important to have a strong media presence. Fortunately I’m a natural chatterbox so getting involved with readers, authors, in fact anyone online, is an absolute joy. I’ve discovered that people want to know a bit about the person behind the book jacket and I love that.

With regards to building media presence I would say don’t be ‘all about the books’. Chat, interact, share stupid cat photos and above all else, remember your manners. If someone bothers to comment, share or re-tweet then say thank you and return the favour.

We know you enjoy crafts and baking as well as your day job. How do you find time to fit writing in?

DSCF0512Well, since my last visit I’ve had to adapt my writing routine to fit in with the added demands of being a published author. I now write longhand before work, during my lunch hour and occasionally (although not as often as I would like), in the evenings. I type up what I have written on my specific ‘writing days’ and sometimes at the weekends depending on what else I have to do. Particularly when I’m writing a first draft putting pen to paper has to become a priority and writing every day helps keep the words flowing.

Thank you so much for inviting me back. I hope you have our little catch up as much as I have! H x

Read the blurb for The Cherry Tree Cafe:

Cupcakes, crafting and love at The Cherry Tree Cafe…

DSCF0399Lizzie Dixon’s life feels as though it’s fallen apart. Instead of the marriage proposal she was hoping for from her boyfriend, she is unceremoniously dumped, and her job is about to go the same way. So, there’s only one option: to go back home to the village she grew up in and to try to start again.

Her best friend Jemma is delighted Lizzie has come back home. She has just bought a little cafe and needs help in getting it ready for the grand opening. And Lizzie’s sewing skills are just what she needs.

With a new venture and a new home, things are looking much brighter for Lizzie. But can she get over her broken heart, and will an old flame reignite a love from long ago…?

For everyone who loves settling down to watch Great British Bake-Off, the Great British Sewing Bee, or curling up to read Milly Johnson or Jenny Colgan, The Cherry Tree Cafe is a coffee-break treat.

Heidi Swain’s Bio

Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

A lover of Galaxy bars, vintage paraphernalia and the off bottle of fizz, she now writes contemporary fiction and enjoys the company of a whole host of feisty female characters.

She joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme in 2014 and is now a full member. The manuscript she submitted for critique, The Chery Tree Café, is her debut novel published by Simon and Schuster in July 2015.

She lives in Norfolk with her wonderful husband, son and daughter and a mischievous cat called Storm.

You can find out more about Heidi-Jo and The Cherry Tree Cafe by checking out the following links:

Blog:        http://www.h-writersblog.blogspot.co.uk/

FB:           https://www.facebook.com/WriterHeidiJoSwain?ref=hl

Twitter:    https://twitter.com/HeidiJoSwain

Cherry Tree Café Links:

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cherry-Tree-Cafe-Heidi-Swain-ebook/dp/B00RM4V02E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1430324049&sr=8-1&keywords=cherry+tree+cafe

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/the-cherry-tree-cafe/id955075784?mt=11

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-cherry-tree-cafe

Genre, romance & mystery with Nancy Jardine

Today we welcome Nancy Jardine to the blog to talk writing … welcome Nancy!

Could you start with introducing yourself and telling us a bit about your writing?

I’m an ex- primary teacher from Aberdeenshire, Scotland, who particularly liked to teach history – though most subjects had their own appeal! My romantic historical Celtic Fervour Series, and The Taexali Game Book 1 of my Rubidium Time Travel Series for the Teen/ YA market, are heavily influenced by my obsession about Roman Britain. I also write contemporary romantic mysteries which were initially intended to be ‘a break’ from the heavy research necessary in my historical work but historical aspects sneaked into two of my contemporary mysteries in an ancestral way!

When you read, do you read the same sort of books as you write or do you try to read outside the genre?

My reading spans many different sub genres of fiction.  I’m presently reading a dystopian/urban thriller; the book before that was a political thriller and the one before that was a romantic women’s’ fiction novel. My favourite is probably the historical romance genre but I enjoy other categories if the book is well written.

Could you ever see yourself changing genres, and if so, what would you change to?

So far I’ve written 3 contemporary romantic mysteries, 3 historical romantic adventures and 1 time travel historical adventure novel for Middle Grade/ YA readers. I have a slowly ongoing work in progress that’s a family saga and some might say that’s another slightly different sub-genre. It begins in Victorian Scotland and is planned to continue to approximately the 1950s, so it’s historical yet also about relationships according to the environments the characters live in.  I don’t see myself adding any other sub- genres in the near future since I’ve work in hand that fits my current writing types.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, Monogamy Twist.  nancyjardine2

Monogamy Twist isn’t quite my latest book. Monogamy Twist was relaunched by Crooked Cat Publishing at the end of March 2015 – a different version from the previously published US edition. It’s a contemporary romantic mystery set in Yorkshire, England.  The plot idea was sparked as I was doing ancestry research of my own family background while on the TV the current adaptation of a Dickens Novel was snagging my interest. It didn’t take long to decide to use the ‘mysterious inheritance bequest’ theme and adapt it for a fun contemporary novel. I really enjoyed creating the family tree around which the mystery is based, and it was a lovely change to create a different sort of spirited heroine in Rhia Ashton. She’s just perfect for Luke Salieri, because he needs help to find out why Amelia Greywood chose to leave the slightly dilapidated Greywood Hall to him.  However, Rhia is no pushover; she sets her own quirky conditions to the already weird deal set down by Amelia in her will.

Since Monogamy Twist was relaunched in March I’ve self published The Taexali Game (official launch date 22nd May). This is the first of a time travel series for Middle Grade/YA readers; though anyone who enjoys a good adventure will love the action packed Celtic Roman shenanigans during AD 210 when the Roman Emperor Severus plays havoc in northern Britannia.  My intrepid trio of time travellers have a task list to complete, and they’ve also to solve a local mystery— yet stay alive long enough to return to tell the tale!

On June 5th 2015, Crooked Cat Publishing relaunched Take Me Now, a contemporary romantic mystery. This story was great fun to write since I wanted to create a contemporary mystery around my version of a Scottish Highland Hero – my hero being somewhat flawed.  Nairn Malcolm finds he’s in a bit of a pickle having been involved in a mysterious accident. He needs someone to fly him from his Scottish island castle in his floatplane, down to Glasgow and then in his jet to London and beyond. Aela Cameron, a Canadian Vancouverite, is just the woman for all of his needs and together they eventually uncover the saboteur who causes further mayhem to both of them. Like Monogamy Twist, Take Me Now is a ‘sweet’ adaptation of the original US published version.

nancyjardine1

What is your favourite aspect of writing?

I’m a natural ‘pantser’ yet one who has gradually learned the value of planning a novel- even if I’ve still a lot to learn about that. That means I’m generally excited about working out the next stages in a novel as the story develops – my characters taking pathways that aren’t predictable when I make the general outline of the story.  I also love the editing processes since I’m pretty anal about making sure things ‘fit in’ properly. In my historical work this has meant ensuring that the time-lines work accurately (not always as simple as that seems) and in my contemporary mysteries it’s tying up all those potentially loose ends and sometimes adding little red herrings.

And your least favourite?

My least favourite might be finding that I’m in the ‘doldrums’ – which happened in the middle of the second book of my Celtic Fervour Series.  Book 2 is about Brennus of Garrigill and Ineda of Marske who become spies for King Venutius when the Romans are pushing further north in Brigante country (Yorkshire) in AD 71, but their romantic story is a long one since Ineda is captured by a Roman Tribune. Enslaved for a number of years means different relationships for Brennus and Ineda till major Roman military events occur to bring them back together.  After running the very long story past my publisher at Crooked Cat it was decided that Brennus’ story needed Book 2 and Book 3 of the series, 145 plus words being thought far too big for an ebook! Though they’re linked they were written to also stand alone. Since Book 2 doesn’t have an HEA ending the series couldn’t all be called historical romances – hence the labelling as historical romantic adventures, there being elements of all three in all three books.

Where do you get your ideas for writing?

Take Me Now transpired as a result of the chartering of a seaplane for a special birthday trip which flew us up past the Inner Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland.  The seaplane seats nine so nine family members climbed on board. This was followed by a chartered catamaran sail around Mull and the closer Hebridean islands. The whole weekend trip was fantastic and just begged to be used in a contemporary novel so my hero, Nairn Malcolm, is from a fictitious island off the coast of Oban where he bases himself at his restored castle. He’s not always the archetypal handsome highland laird but you’d need to read the story to know why not.  Monogamy Twist, as earlier stated was an amalgam of ancestry and a ‘borrowed’ Dickens plot. Topaz Eyes came about because I really loved making the family tree structure for Monogamy Twist. I decided to make a much more complicated family tree where I based the original matriarch in Europe, allowing me to include fabulous locations like Heidelberg, Vienna , Amsterdam and Edinburgh for her descendants.  The third generation tree structure gave me fabulous characters (some nice and others nasty) to include in the family treasure hunt for jewels which once belonged to an Indian Mughal Emperor. The trail for the gems also takes the protagonists beyond Europe to Minnesota and New York – as they evade the clutches of the deadly assassins of the family.

The Taexali Game  is dedicated to former pupils of mine who wrote excellent little stories as ‘end of project round-ups’ back in 2005.  I joked back then that I would someday write a full length Celt v Roman novel that could be used as a companion novel/ class reader for 12 year olds like them. The manuscript for the Taexali Game was lifted and shelved many times over the intervening years since I was too busy being a teacher to properly polish the story. I always knew I’d publish ‘it’ someday and 7th May 2015 was the day! My Celtic Fervour Series resulted from my continuing interest in Celtic Roman Britain. Instead of focusing on finishing the Taexali Game (set in AD 210) I instead spent time writing about a different era of Roman Britain for The Beltane Choice (#1 of my Celtic Fervour Series) – AD 71.  

If you could choose one perfect location in which to write, where would it be?

Somewhere with a proper desk, a large screen and a separate keyboard and mouse—because I’m useless with a laptop keypad. I’d prefer the desk to have an outside view overlooking a garden or a lovely vista. But since my desk at home has those things and I overlook my garden then I’m quite happy to be at home when writing. Not having Facebook or email minimised and blooping at the bottom of my screen would be wonderful  tactic– I’m too easily distracted by them!

If you could be mentored by one writer, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

I’d probably choose Charles Dickens. I love the fact that he walked for miles and miles (some 15 a day wasn’t unusual) composing the next part of his story in his head. When he returned home he had the ‘freedom’ to immediately write down what he’d composed so that he could send it to his publisher immediately, since his work tended to be serialised on a weekly basis. He couldn’t miss those deadlines yet he also managed to create the unity of the whole plot at the same time. His creativity was amazing while managing to have a busy family life which included a lot of kids! I’d love him to tell me great strategies for composing my next scenes when I’m gardening or when I’m doing my grandchild minding tasks.

And finally, can you tell us a bit about what you are working on at the moment?

I’ve started Book 2 of my Rubidium Time Travel Adventure Series for Middle Grade/YA readers where my trio of time travellers hop back to Victorian Glasgow, 1884. I’ve also begun Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series. This is about another Garrigill warrior; the niece of Lorcan of Book 1.   I’ve planned out and begun my 3-book family saga beginning in 1950 Victorian Scotland.  My task now that I’ve no new launches in the near future is to prioritise and finish my works in progress!

Thanks Nancy for coming on to the blog with us today!

If you’d like to know more about Nancy, she can be contacted via the links below.

Helen J Rolfe.

http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk

http://nancyjardineauthor.com/

Twitter @nansjar

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG

Amazon author page:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nancy-Jardine/e/B005IDBIYG/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

 

Somebody pinch me!

book14I know there’s nothing more annoying than someone telling you about the dream they had last night, but bear with me please, or perhaps that should be ‘bare’ with me given the nature of the dream…

It was one of those almost nightmarish scenarios where you realise you are totally exposed. It wasn’t quite as bad as the recurring dream my friend has about pushing a shopping trolley around Morrisons, in her birthday suit, but it was bad enough. Somehow, in my dream, I had got myself a job promoting gym membership. Now trust me when I say I wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice to promote their gym. Perhaps I could make it as a ‘before’ photo, but I’ve somehow never got round to getting the necessary physique for the ‘after’ shots. Anyway, I digress. In this dream it was my job to stand in the high street, wearing nothing but a lycra leotard and one of those signs you see being held up by someone who wishes they’d done better in their GCSES, about a golf sale being around the corner, that sort of thing.

People, understandably, were looking at me agog and I think it was their laughing that woke me up in the end. I did one of those flinching, falling-from-a-cliff type jolts awake, giving my long suffering husband a swift kick in the shin in the process. So far, so weird you might be thinking. But I know exactly why I had this dream and it wasn’t entirely down to the birthday Prosecco consumed the night before. It was all about being exposed and thinking I’d somehow been given a role for which I was a complete fraud and that I was about to be found out any minute. Which is more or less how it feels to be published.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely thrilled, but I can’t quite believe it’s happening to me and that today marks the release of my debut full-length novel. I’m expectingAATS Cover someone to tap me on the shoulder any moment and ask me to move along, make room for the real authors. Getting somewhere with writing wasn’t something that happened to people like me and yet, once it did, it was a bit of a domino effect. I ended up with several potentially interested publishers for ‘Among A Thousand Stars’ and I’m so glad that I went with So Vain Books, as they’ve been beyond brilliant and I can’t recommend them enough.

Publication deals ended up being like buses and shortly after signing with So Vain Books, I had an offer on a pocket novel from DC Thomson, ‘No Time for Second Best’ which hits the shops tomorrow. So if you happen to read in the news online that a woman has been arrested for taking selfies in WHSmiths over the next two weeks, that will be me. DC Thomson have also bought another pocket novel from me and it will be their Christmas release this year, so Christmas shopping with me could be a trial whilst I see just how many shops I can spot it in! I also had an email this week, which could bring some more exciting news, but I’m not talking about that just yet, in case I really do jinx all this.

snorkelI’m not cool in any sense – my thirteen year old, who has the wit and merciless delivery of Joan Rivers, will attest to that – and I’m certainly not cool about being published. I’ve been getting stupidly excited by the lovely reviews for ‘Among A Thousand Stars’ and if I spot someone reading it on the beach this summer, they’re likely to have to take a restraining order out against me! But if someone as terminally uncool as me can become a writer, then anything is possible.

 

 

 

Blurb for Among A Thousand Stars by Jo Bartlett

When her mother turns up naked and proud during her first term at college, Ashleigh Hayes assumes that life can’t get any more embarrassing. Ten years later, with best friend Stevie at her side, and a successful career as a freelance photographer for monthly magazine Glitz, it looks like she might have finally got the hang of things. Only she seems to have inherited the embarrassment gene from her mother and her every encounter with new boss, Tom Rushworth, looks set to send her career spiralling backwards. Getting past their shaky start, Ashleigh and Tom embark on a relationship that was only ever meant to be a bit of fun. But when life, paparazzi and love-sick Labradors get in the way, they suddenly find themselves caught in a roller coaster ride of emotions.

‘The perfect feel-good read’ Kerry Fisher, Bestselling Author

‘A very funny and thoughtful look at relationships behind the lens – a really enjoyable and poignant debut’

My Reading Corner ‘Sharp and witty dialogues, realistic characters, laughing-out-loud and tear-jerking situations’ On My Bookshelf

Behind the scenes… with Sophie Childs

Me croppedHappy Valentine’s Day! Our guest on the blog today is Sophie Childs, who shares a publisher with both Write Romantic Julie and Jo.  Sophie is a home educating mother of five. She spent five years living in New Zealand, but home kept calling to her, so she now lives in the lush Welsh Valleys, along with her husband, children and their copious amounts of animals. She’s the author of Behind the Scenes, which is due for release on 26 February 2015 from So Vain Books and would love to hear from anyone who reads it to know what you think.

Welcome to the blog, Sophie, we’d love to start by asking you a little bit about your writing journey so far and how your publication deal came about?

It sounds like a total cliché, but I’ve always been a writer. I used to make books when I was a child, sewing together the pages then creating elaborate covers before filling in the pages. I wrote my first full length novel when I was 18 during the summer holiday before starting university, just to see if I could sustain a story for 50,000 words. I could, but not well enough to attract the attention of a publisher or agent.

Fast forward many years of office work followed by marriage and full time motherhood, and I set up my own publishing company because I knew too many talented people who deserved to be in print but weren’t. Eventually I sold the company as a going concern to focus on my own writing and started working as a freelancer, which brings us to today.

So Vain knew me through my freelancing work and they approached me to see if I had a novel I wanted to pitch to them. Luckily for me, I did, so I finally got the coveted book deal I’d always wanted.

What are the best and worst things about being a writer and how did writing a novel under your own name differ from the ghost writing you’ve done in the past?

I don’t know that there are any downsides to being a writer, although my family would probably tell you that I’m a workaholic! Writing’s both my job and my hobby, so it makes me happy to be able to do what I love and get paid for it.

The biggest difference between ghost writing and my own work is that with ghost writing I’m writing for a client, so I need to produce something that fits their vision, whether it’s what I would personally usually write or not. I always go out of my way to exceed their expectations, but you are restricted by the brief and their target market. If I’m writing for myself, I have the freedom to do whatever I like, so if I don’t like a concept, or I realise that it’s a bad premise, I can ditch it and move on to something new.

We know you love to write horror and that ‘Behind the Scenes’ is more of a romantic comedy, but do you Behind the Sceneshave a favourite genre – either to write or to read?

That’s like asking me to choose my favourite child! I do love reading and writing horror. I enjoy taking outlandish ideas and really twisting them to see just how strange things can get, but there’s also a lot of fun to be had in creating characters that are more true to life and watching them deal with the stress and strain of everyday living. The one common theme with all my work, though, is that there’s a distinct quirkiness to it, which comes out in characters like Bethan.

What inspires you most in your writing and what gave you the idea for ‘Behind the Scenes’?

I take inspiration from all around me. Sometimes someone will just say something and I’ll use it as the opening line of a story or something happens and I know that if I just tweak a few of the details, it would be perfect in a book. There’s a lot in ‘Behind the Scenes’ that’s based on my own personal experiences. There isn’t anybody directly copied from real life, but elements of lots of people I’ve met over the years have found their way into the story.

As far as where I got the idea from, I was writing articles for a movie website and read about how Keanu Reeves is known for travelling around on the subway in New York. It got me thinking about what would happen if I’d met a Hollywood A-lister on the train. The closest I ever got to one was when Ewan McGregor came to an open mic night I used to host, but sadly, I didn’t even spot him in the audience (which is probably a good thing, because, unlike Bethan, I probably would have dissolved into a gibbering wreck!). However, I did get talking to Darren Boyd, who was also there and is one of my favourite actors, and that encounter formed the basis of ‘Behind the Scenes.’

What are the best and worst things about being traditionally published? Would you ever consider self-publishing?

I must admit that I can’t think of any bad thing to say about being traditionally published. My publisher and agent have been absolute dreams to work with. We have a fantastic working relationship and it’s thanks to them that the book turned out the way it did. They’ve been really supportive of my work, so it was really easy to sign a second contract with them for another book.

However, I’d never say never to self-publishing. I set up my own publishing company a few years ago and ran it for five years before selling it, so I understand the hard work that goes into getting a book on the market. If I had a manuscript I felt really passionate about but didn’t think I’d have any success with getting it picked up, there’s a good chance I’d put it out myself.

How have you approached the marketing of your novel?

I’ve had a lot of support from my publishers in helping to get the word out. Obviously, I’ve been tweeting up a storm and the book’s listed on my website, www.sophiechilds.com, and I’ve also got a number of guest blog posts coming out over the next few weeks to help spread the word. There’s even going to be a book launch event, but the details haven’t yet been made public, so I can’t talk too much about it.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Who is your writing hero/heroine and do you have an all-time favourite novel?

My favourite book of all time is “Tigana” by Guy Gavriel Kay. It’s a truly beautiful book and if I had half the talent he does, I’d be happy. He manages to make all his characters so well rounded, even the most minor, and he pulls you through every emotion imaginable. I can’t recommend it enough.

As far as chicklit authors are concerned, I’d have to say that I have huge amounts of respect for Marian Keyes. She manages to deal with some really deep issues in her book, yet keeps her tone light and readable. Mike Gayle’s another favourite, too – I’ve never read a book of his I didn’t like.

What are you working on at the moment and what are your writing aspirations for the next few years?

I’m working on my next project with So Vain, which is due out in February 2016. This one’s based around an internet dating site and it has some larger than life characters in it that I’m really loving writing about.

My ambition is to take over the world! In all seriousness, though, I would like to get a few more books out over the next couple of years, hopefully some horror as well, although that will be under one of my other pen names. I’d like to build on my freelance career as well. I write part time around my children and I’d like to see how far I can push that side of things.

Who is your favourite character from ‘Behind the Scenes’ and was (s)he based on anyone in particular?

Obviously, I adore Bethan. She’s the kind of girl you can’t help but like because she’s such a sweetheart and tries so hard to make everyone around her happy. But I also have a soft spot for Livvy, Bethan’s predecessor in the office. She doesn’t actually appear in the novel, but some of the stories Bethan hears about her are outrageous and I’m working on a short story based around her, just so that my readers can get to know a little more about what makes her tick.

If one of your children told you (s)he wanted to be a writer, what would you say?

Two of my daughters already have expressed an interest, which I think is great. Writing’s such a versatile career and you can do it from anywhere in the world, so it would give them a lot of freedom to do whatever they wanted.

There’s two things I think they need to know. One is that if you want to be a writer, you have to write. It sounds obvious, but you only get better by doing, so you need to keep creating stories until you find your voice and then create some more. The stories I wrote as a child were horrendously derivative, but they taught me a lot about structure and gradually I’ve managed to hone my style over the years until I have a distinct style of my own.

The other is that if you want to make a living as a writer, you need to change your preconception of what writing actually means. I write both fiction and non-fiction for my clients and the non-fiction pays significantly more money. If you want to pay the bills, a few business clients who come to you for regular work is a really good way of funding yourself while you write on something of your own that you truly love.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given as a writer and would you add anything further for author 2aspiring writers reading this interview?

When I was at college, I went on a writing course run by Joseph Heller. He could barely understand my generic London accent and I struggled to cope with his thick Bronx dialect, but somehow we met in the middle. He told me that it was important to stay true, not just to yourself, but to your story. Your story has a point and a message – it’s up to you to make it sing.

Is there anything else you want to tell us or any other advice you can share?

Just that I’m really excited about the release of my book at the end of this month – it’s been a long time coming, and I’m so glad it’s finally happening. I’d also say to any other wannabe writers out there, don’t give up. It might take you years to get you where you want to be, but if you keep working hard and don’t lose focus, you’ll get there in the end.

Thanks so much for joining us on the blog, Sophie, and we can’t wait to read ‘Behind The Scenes’.

You can tweet Sophie @sophiewritealot or visit her website http://www.sophiechilds.com

You can order an ebook or paperback of ‘Behind The Scenes’ via Amazon or the So Vain website.