Interview with Harriet Goodchild

It gives me tremendous pleasure to be able to announce the official publication of Harriet Goodchild’s After the Ruin. Harriet has kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her work and influences.

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H: Thank you, Jane, for inviting me here to talk about After the Ruin. It was you, of course, who acted as midwife to bring it into the world. Thank you for that too – without your help I doubt it would ever have been published.

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J: After the Ruin has a timeless quality about it, in the sense of it being out of time. It reads like a story that was written centuries ago about people and events already passed into legend. You use a writing style that has more in common with poetry than with most contemporary fiction. What or who would you say have been your most important influences?

H: I think my style when writing fiction is, in large part, a reaction against academic prose, which – for obvious reasons – is designed for straightforward communication of information rather than style.
I was a reader long before I was any kind of writer and there are all sorts of influences muddled up together in my stories. As far as mood goes, I’d probably name Rosemary Sutcliff as an influence. She writes with a bittersweet elegiac quality, always aware of the transience of beauty. Her novel Sword at Sunset is the most hauntingly lovely retelling of the Arthurian legend I’ve ever read. She is also very good on relationships, the delicacy with which friendships and marriages must be negotiated when one side has all the power. The other, important influence is Mary Renault. She treats myth as though it were history in her two novels centred on Theseus. In those books, the gods, the supernatural, the preternatural, is real, so, although Poseidon or Zeus never actually appear, because everyone knows that, at any moment, they might appear, a reader is convinced of this too. One of the important things Renault did in her books was present gay and bisexual relationships as easily as breathing and just as natural. Also both Renault and Sutcliff wrote beautifully. Not just telling a story but completely and un-selfconsciously inhabiting a world.
Beyond that, it is poetry. Robert Graves, best known for I, Claudius, was, I’d say, the greatest English lyric poet of the twentieth century. Others I read over and again are Louis MacNeice, Kathleen Raine and Philip Larkin, and a poet few people seem to have heard of, Michael Roberts. His poem, The Images of Death, is something of a touchstone of mine.
And, of course, folk songs, especially the Child Ballads.

J: I would hesitate to call After the Ruin fantasy; it seems to recall a folk world that is almost familiar. Was this deliberate?

H: After the Ruin begins with the declaration Stories link together. That’s true, not only within the confines of a book but within the wider world of storytelling and thus one can use these common frames of reference to create an atmosphere which is almost, but not quite, familiar.
When creating the setting for the story I borrowed a lot from myth (largely Greek and Roman with a pinch of Norse) and folk lore (largely British) but, like the landscapes, it’s all changed and twisted and mixed about to suit the needs of my story and my world. Is the firstborn tree Yggdrasil? No, it isn’t, any more than it’s either of the trees which grew in the gardens in Eden or the Hesperides. But its presence and purpose in the story draws on my knowledge – a reader’s knowledge – of those other trees. The same is true of many other elements within my stories.

J: How do you feel about the categorisation of literature, and do you think fantasy is an adequate description for your work?

H: I’m entirely happy with describing it as fantasy. There’s a magician, a witch, a symbolic sword, a tree with magical apples… If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then why worry about calling it a duck?
Categorisation is something else. Its main purpose is to enable people to find what they want to read by providing a system for putting books on shelves. When it becomes prescriptive, rather than descriptive, when it is used pejoratively, then it becomes a straitjacket constraining both authors and readers. Individual books may have something meaningful to say about the world or be intended as entertainment or – thinks sadly here of Terry Pratchett – both. Moreover, and often regardless of authorial intent, individual readers may find something in a book that speaks to their interests and experiences. None of this has anything to do with the category in which the book sits upon the shelf.
There seems to be a lingering perception – recent discussion of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels Never Let Me Go and The Buried Giant springs to mind – that genre fiction can be of no literary merit, thus if a book is perceived as literary fiction it can’t also be genre fiction. This leads to convolutions such as ‘appropriates many of the conventions of genre fiction’ or ‘seems to demand an allegorical reading’ (Alex Preston’s review of The Buried Giant, The Observer, 1 March 2015)*. Anyone who has read broadly knows this is nonsense. Genre labels such as ‘fantasy’ or ‘science fiction’ are descriptive categories of what type of story lies between the covers of a book: they say nothing of that book’s quality.

J: Your writing is very dense. Each word counts. There are none of the passages of short sharp sentences to accelerate the pace or indicate action we are used to seeing in modern prose. How do you answer the critics who say that this very rich style of writing in which the story develops slowly is not suited to a modern age of instant everything?

H: When one looks beyond the superficial trappings of instant communication, it’s clear that people do still have long attention spans. To pick out a couple of examples: A Song of Ice and Fire rivals (probably beats hands down) the serial novels of the nineteenth century in length and Wolf Hall is no slim tome. Both are successes, according to several different definitions of success. In each case a reader has to hold multiple relationships, motives and plot strands in their heads across very large number of pages and, for ASoIaF, over an increasing number of years. So people – or at least, some people, some of the time – are interested in reading complicated books that require thought and concentration. Often I think of reading as akin to eating (well, it’s nearly as necessary): sometimes one is in a rush and grabs a sandwich on the go, other times one has time to sit down and eat a long meal that took effort to prepare. Both are satisfying. It’s a both/and situation, not either/or.

J: It isn’t just the pace of After the Ruin that flies in the face of modern convention. The reader won’t find the almost obligatory ‘strong female’ main character, where ‘strong’ means violent and aggressive. Not that Marwy Ninek is a dishrag or a simpering damsel in distress, but her courage is much more that of a woman who knows her physical limits and yet manages to surpass them. What is your take on ‘kick-ass’ phenomenon? Empowering, feminist, or simple glorification of violence, and a case of letting the girls play with the boys’ nasty toys?

H: I think there are several points to disentangle here. After the Ruin is not a thriller and, as you’ve pointed out, it’s not fast-paced. Moreover it is the consequences of violent aggression that I wished to explore. This means in large part it’s about reaction rather than action. It’s not just the women who are not ‘kick-ass’ heroines, the men aren’t kick-ass heroes either. One of the themes is self-restraint, where those with power must set a curb upon their own will so as not to cause harm to the vulnerable. The conflict and crises in the book arise largely from a failure to exercise such self-restraint and from the abuse of power.
So no, there isn’t a violent, aggressive female character in After the Ruin. There’s only one person in the book with those traits and he’s a villain. He’s not, however, the primary antagonist. That’s a woman. The difference between them is, when faced by a locked gate, he breaks it down and she asks that it be opened. The consequences each time are devastating: patient determination can be as effective as brute force.
As for my take on the kick-ass phenomenon? I’m going to say what I always say when someone asks me this sort of question: it depends. Some women are violent and aggressive, some men are timorous and fearful, most people are somewhere in between. The strong, violent heroine who can outfire, outfight and outthink any number of opponents is a perfectly valid reaction to years of women being defined by the male gaze, to heroines who are objectified and obscured and reduced to a single dimension. Written well, I quite enjoy the kick-ass heroine. Written badly? Well, no one enjoys badly written books.
The trouble comes, as others have pointed out before me, when there is only one female character in a book (or play, or film). In such a case, the character can easily cease to be seen as only herself and to appear instead as the representation of Woman, the part standing for the whole. This is as true for the strong, powerful heroine as for the fainting violet. If you don’t want to write such a heroine – and I didn’t – it’s a very easy fix: include a multiplicity of women with different characters and attitudes. And write those women, and the men they interact with, as rounded human beings with complicated and multiple motivations.
Harper Lee wrote in To Kill a Mockingbird, ‘Courage isn’t a man with a gun.’ That is something which is easily forgotten in a society which values action, decisiveness and physical strength and skill. Sometimes, however, simply to endure is the most courageous act of all. The women in After the Ruin have agency, even Marwy Ninek at her lowest ebb the morning after the fall of Felluria. They make choices, good ones, bad ones, and those choices shape the story.

J: The last question has to be: what are you working on now?

H: After the Ruin is complete in itself but there are other stories that are linked to it still to be told. I’m working on those. I hope that they too will be published one day.

Thank you so much, Harriet, for sharing your thoughts with us. I, for one, am waiting very eagerly to read the rest of the literature set in your wonderful world that is still to appear. Because it’s so lovely, here is the cover art for Harriet’s two collections of short stories.

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Here is the blurb for After the Ruin.

What is the price of a man’s life? An apple? A sword? A kingdom?

There are many ways to leave a life in ruins. But ruined lives go on, and so, after the ruin, there is love, sweet as roses on a summer’s evening. But love is such a little thing, no stronger than a candleflame at noontime. For, after the ruin, Averla, fire made flesh, is hiding in the light. She will use lover against lover, sister against brother, father against son, to build again her kingdom of everlasting flame. Love is not enough to set against her fierce desire. As well seek to turn back the tide with a wall of sand.

Here are the links to Harriet’s UK and US Amazon author pages:
UK author page:

US author page:

Here’s the link to Barnes & Noble:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/after-the-ruin-harriet-goodchild/1121124324?ean=9780989263153

Here’s the link to Fishpond:
http://www.fishpond.com.au/Books/After-Ruin-Hadley-Rille/9780989263153

Here’s the link to Heroines of Fantasy, where Harriet has a regular book review slot:
http://heroinesoffantasy.blogspot.co.uk/

Promote Myself: on Carol Browne’s blog

Carol Browne posted an author interview with me on her rather slick new blog. The reblog button has gone walkabout so here’s the link

http://authorcarolbrowne.wordpress.com/2014/09/14/author-interview-jane-dougherty/

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and a picture of the cover of The Dark Citadel otherwise WordPress will most likely stick Trixie’s mug shot on the thumbnail.

Thank you Carol, they were interesting questions to answer.

The Author Hot Seat with Chris Harrison

Chris Harrison is my last guest (appropriately enough) in this second round of The Author Hot Seat. On the face of it, Chris’s books sound…weird. Funnily enough though, I can immediately think of at least one person who would enjoy them. Are you listening Jane Risden? Read what Chris has to say and see if you end up as intrigued as I am.

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J: Tell us what the story/your work is about, the setting, the background, and where it takes the reader.

C: The story is called Toten Herzen Malandanti. Toten Herzen are a rock band murdered in 1977, but thirty five years later a down-at-heel music journalist called Rob Wallet investigates the murders and discovers the band are still alive.

He persuades them to make a comeback and in TH Malandanti they’re in the studio to record their comeback album. The first since 1976.

The conceit of the Toten Herzen novels is that everyone thinks they’re a hoax created by Wallet. The book’s readers, unlike the characters in the novel, get a backstage pass to every element of Toten Herzen and know the truth. The band are vampires, they’ve turned Rob Wallet, but everything they do is perceived to be rock music excess or a bizarre publicity stunt.

The first novel We Are Toten Herzen asked the question: if you could live your life again what would you do? In Malandanti, the theme is loss and searching. All the characters are looking for something they either can’t have or can’t find. It’s about accepting the direction your life has turned and dealing with the future.

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I think readers will recognise how circumstances determine the choices we make, and how much control we actually have over our own lives.

Rob Wallet is obsessed with the search for a valley he hopes can take him back to his childhood. A new character, Lena, is also looking for a valley, but she knows you have to die before you can gain access.

And the band, battered and exhausted by the antics and litigation of their fans during the comeback tour are looking for a new identity, a search that threatens to split the band up.

Readers can dive into the story as deep as they want. It works as ‘an entertainment,’ but it also acts as a camera to see how others cope with what life throws at them, and in spite of the novel being a paranormal comedy readers will probably find some very familiar scenarios.

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J: What inspired the story in the first place?

C: Last year I did a lot of walking around Pendle in Lancashire. This is Pendle witch country and an area full of stories and myths. It’s a very evocative part of the world, quite a weird place when you’re a child, and prompted me to consider witchcraft as a starting point for the story.

The continuation of Toten Herzen’s comeback was fundamental to the novel, and after the six comeback concerts a new album was a logical next step for the band. The ideas came together once I knew how that link could be made between childhood memories, witchcraft and Toten’s revival. Not the easiest combination to pull together.

I think I might also have watched the film Hansel and Gretel and thought ‘why aren’t there wicked witches anymore? Let’s have some wicked witches again!’

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However, I don’t believe life is as black and white as good versus evil. In Malandanti the ‘wicked witches’ have redeeming qualities, and the ‘heroes,’ Toten Herzen, can be sensationally evil when they choose to be. I like exploring the spectrum between the extremes of behaviour. That’s where interesting characters are found, not at the extremes.

J: True enough. When I read about the bad guy who is ‘the ultimate evil’ the ‘Dark Lord’ etc I want to know—why? The really interesting baddies have a grain of humanity in them, even if it’s an unpleasant human characteristic. And interesting good guys should have a dose of human failing to make them credible too. Back to your bunch of rock stars. Did you try to get agents/publishers interested? What reactions did you get? Have they been helpful in promoting/marketing your work?

C: I did the rounds with agents for the first novel, We Are Toten Herzen. The rejections were the standard replies, but to be honest I wasn’t expecting anything else. The current climate must be like a thunderstorm of self-published books coming through the door and into their inboxes. To stand out in that environment you have to have something special, extraordinary even.

I don’t even bother with publishers. The big ones won’t look at unsolicited material and the smaller publishers don’t have the weight to make a decent sales impact.

The second novel Toten Herzen Malandanti is out with an agent at the moment. I haven’t had a reply at the time of this interview.

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To be accepted there has to be a coming together of key elements: the writing is the necessary standard, something grabs the interest of the agent, the agent knows an editor interested in the subject matter, the financial directors at the publishing house are convinced there’s a market and a profit to be made. That’s a lot of big obstacles to overcome and you have to be realistic.

Back in the nineties I had a manuscript called in by an agent. It was a comedy called Hades Stadium. The agent rejected it, but asked to read my next novel when it was finished. She gave me three opportunities to submit work and I blew it by rushing the second and third novels. That was a hard, but crucial lesson; don’t compromise in a bid to get representation. Agents can only work with quality writing.

J: Has it been a handicap not being able to stick a handy label onto your books?

C: Let’s have a look at what we’re dealing with here.

Toten Herzen – the band’s name is foreign, no one knows what it means unless they speak German. And they’re not even a German band. (Anglo-Dutch)

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Rock music – people who remember the rock music of the seventies might get it, if they’re not dead of alcoholism or drug intake. Modern rock fans want their rock stars to be on a stage, not on the pages of a book.

Vampires – the less said the better. There are still some of us who want to write about vampires, but it’s not a good time to be a vampire.

Vampires who don’t bite a lot of people – these vampires are opportunists trying to live as normal a life as the music industry will allow. They don’t dress like Lord Byron, they’re not caught up in a thousand year war with werewolves, and don’t drive SUVs to school.

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1970s – most young people don’t know what a television is, let alone epiodes of Rising Damp. So they won’t get the nostalgic references.

Horror – not horrific enough to sit squarely in the horror genre

Literary fiction – too coarse and vampiric to be part of literary fiction

Mystery – more human drama than mystery. There are mysteries in the stories, but they’re not the central element.

Urban fantasy – such a nebulous genre that only makes sense if it’s subdivided into something more specific.

Comedy – people expecting a laugh a minute will be disappointed.

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I suppose my target audience are older people who are young at heart, too deaf to listen to music so have to make do with reading about it, and like their mysteries disguised as ’70s vampire sitcoms.

That probably accounts for about three people.

Publishers and marketing people will probably tell me my work is unfocused or too unfocused to be commercial, but that’s the way it is. I’ll just have to live with it.

J: Seems to me that what agents and publishers leave out of the equation is that many readers have eclectic tastes and aren’t afraid to sample stuff outside the mainstream. Maybe they’re just not prepared to take risks. So, how do you tackle promotion?

C: Having read the answer to four you won’t be surprised to know I have trouble with promotion!

My first line of attack when all this started was to create a ‘real’ band. Toten Herzen have a profile on ReverbNation with 196 fans. Earlier this year they were in the top 50 000 music acts worldwide – out of 3.5 million. They have their own website and Twitter accounts. But fans want to see their favourite bands live and hear new music, so there was a big drawback there. The band’s limited following didn’t translate into book sales.

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Free giveaways on Kindle led to triple figure downloads of the first novel, but no knock-on effect on book sales. I decided not to continue that policy.

Twitter and Facebook don’t work. I don’t care what anyone says, carpet bombing social media hasn’t made any self-published author rich. The effort needed to maintain that level of exposure is wasted time.

For the second novel I tried press releases, but there’s been no response to newspaper articles. And leaving flyers on car windscreens will get you an on-the-spot fine in some places if the Environmental Inspectors catch you. (Littering by-laws.)

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I do wonder if there’s any merit in investing in ISBN numbers and trying to get the books into those archeological sites known as book shops, but it’s speculative investment. However, something tells me that if money as well as time is spent to make the whole self-publishing thing look and behave more like real publishing, the book buying public might notice.

Professional editing and proofreading, print on demand that is linked to reputable catalogues and distributors, a publishing imprint rather than doing it all in the name of the author. There is still a distrust in self-publishing on the side of the book buying public, almost like an element of risk when it comes to paying money.

In short I haven’t got a clue once the book is finished and there is no real effective advice out there. Just a lot of piss and vinegar from people who have not made a success of it themselves.

J: Shame, I had hoped you’d have a bit of optimistic advice to pass on! Is there a particular author whose readers might also enjoy your writing?

C: I doubt it. Readers of an established author will expect their standards of writing and I don’t compare to Martin Amis’s level of razor sharp wit, or Umberto Eco’s manipulation of esoteric themes, or Dan Brown’s insatiable conveyor belt of twists and turns.

I try to write curious, intrigue, humour, humanity. The above three authors do the same, but incomparibly better. That’s why they’re published authors and I’m not.

J: Don’t do yourself down! Loads of people read unknown writers as well as the established classics. Anything else, advice, experiences, anecdotes you’d like to add, feel free.

C: Advice – for ***k’s sake ignore everything you read on the internet unless it comes from someone who is successful and they’re telling you how they did it.

Rewrite your novel over and over until it’s as good as your natural abilities will allow. If you can afford an editor and a proofreader invest in their services. You can go on holiday next year.

Experiences – ignore ‘free kindle’ promotion sites. Don’t pay websites that claim to provide fantastic exposure for your book. The only people visiting these sites are other authors and other ‘we’ll promote your book’ website owners.

Anecdotes – when I was putting the music of Toten Herzen online someone said it was refreshing in an age of computer-generated music to hear people playing real instruments. One day I might introduce them to the band responsible!

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To finish, let me give a big thank you to Jane for giving me this opportunity to invade her blog with this interview. I feel a reciprocal arrangement is needed.

J: It was a pleasure to host you, Chris. You’ve given me at least a lot of food for thought. Below are links to Chris’s sites and links to Smashwords if you are tempted by a vampiric rock band.

totenherzen.com
malandanti.wordpress.com
theopeningsentence.wordpress.com
Buy links
We Are Toten Herzen – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/426032
Toten Herzen Malndanti – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/448215

The Author Hot Seat with Kathy Ree

I’d like to welcome Kathy Ree to the Author Hot Seat today. We ‘met’ across the ether a while ago and I have discovered a stalwart, loyal and generous friend in Kathy. Her writing is a little on the special side, exactly the type of author I have fun interviewing. Go, Kathy!

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J : Tell us a little about what you write, and since it’s something that interests me, which genre you would describe it as.

K : My writing doesn’t seem to have a niche of its own. It’s a hybrid of paranormal horror/suspense, with generous overlays of Christian spirituality. But even that is misleading, because I have a universality to my Christianity that transcends the “I’m right and you’re wrong” mentality that pervades, and makes a mockery of, the type of Christian bond that was meant in the first place.

J : Which piece of writing have you been proudest of? I don’t necessarily mean published work. Something you wrote at school perhaps, a poem for mothers’ day, a paper for a debating society? This is just me being nosy J

K : Carry on being nosy—it’s a good thing. I have to say that the work I’m proudest about is not something written by me. I proof-read for a living, and the times I have saved my company from looking like doofuses (doofi?) to the public are my greatest accomplishments—even if it is only my co-workers who praise me on this.

J : Having done my time as a translator, I can empathise with that. Even (especially) when you get no thanks for making a load of cobblers into something reasonably intelligent there is a great feeling of satisfaction to be got out of having worked a little miracle. That was not meant to be offensive, Kathy 🙂

Which authors’ influence can we see in your writing, and whose writing do you most admire?

K : Oh boy…that is difficult. I read so many authors, known and not-so-much, that I have to say that mine is a true Heinz-57. I love Tamar Myers and Rita Mae Brown, but their stylings alone are not what influence me. If pressed, I would say that visualizing scenes in my head and writing what I see are the biggest influences.

J : Good answer. I often think that if you are aware of being influenced by another writer there’s a big chance that what you end up with is pretty derivative.
Has it been a problem fitting your work into an Amazon category, or do you feel your book is at home with the other books it’s listed with?

K : They really need a hybrid category. So many books I’ve read can be classified in many different genres. To tell the truth, I don’t know which genre I am buttonholed into.

J : Spoken like a true oddball author. It isn’t easy trying to get your book noticed. How do you deal with promotion?

K : At the moment, not so great. We’re talking “zero sales”. Promoting to other authors is limiting, and I’ve yet to find out how to reach my genre’s audience online. However, between editing projects, I’ve been compiling info on the bookstores here in Oregon. I’ll be sending promos to them soon, and visiting all of them within an hour’s drive. Perhaps I’ll get a nice tax refund…

J : Good luck with that initiative! Reviews are usually cited as the open sesame to success. Without reviews your book will sink unnoticed. Have you had much success with getting reviews? Do you even agree with the statement?

K : Reviews are only as good as the audience they hit. I’m not there yet—but I now have thirty reviews—we’ll see. Three years to get thirty reviews. Hmmm… Okay, I have to admit, I haven’t been doing a whole lot of promo recently. Three years of hyping the same book is getting tiresome. But “UnHoly Trinity” will be out soon, and with it my renewed enthusiasm.

J : How do you feel about your writing now you feel confident enough to publish? Which aspects do you think are your weak points? What do you enjoy writing most?

K : God has given us all special talents, and writing is mine. And I stink at math. So there is a balance. My weakest aspect? Thinking I don’t need editing. Well, no doubt, it is needed. And I just love to write whatever I find in my brain at the moment.

J : On that one, I differ. I hang on editors’ suggestions with bated breath. Often they point out plot holes I haven’t noticed or make suggestions that make a scene stronger. Of course, when they suggest cutting bits out the advice is harder to take.
Finally, you have the stage. Sell us your writing. Tell us why it’s different, special, and worth reading. Or just tell us why you are passionate about it, why you love your characters, and carry us away with your enthusiasm.

K : It came as a complete surprise to me, since I don’t read these authors, to be compared favorably to Stephen King, Frank De Felitta and Just Cronin. I love it that people have, almost to a person, said that the book is impossible to put down. It has scared some to sleepless nights, and has taken others to a point where they have re-considered their positions on faith. My mission is to do just that—get people to realize that, no matter where they are on their walk in life, they are not far from the benefits of eternal life—if they are looking out for the welfare of everyone, friend or stranger. God is who He says He is to them personally—a good God, a just God, one Who loves them, no matter what they call Him. (Or Her) (Or It).

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Thank you so much, Kathy Ree for appearing on my blog and I wish you the best of luck with the new release. You won’t convince me about God’s hand in what comes out right for me or anybody else, but you have convinced me that you write from deep conviction and a generous spirit.

You can find out all about Kathy and her books here.
FACEBOOK AUTHOR ACCOUNT: https://www.facebook.com/k.r.morrison.author

BLOG: http://krmorrison325.wordpress.com/

TWITTER HANDLE: https://twitter.com/KRMorrison2

PUBLISHER: http://linkvillepress.wix.com/home

BOOK SERIES PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/PridesDownfall

AMAZON U.S.: http://www.amazon.com/Be-Not-Afraid-K-Morrison/dp/1499631545/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1401578397&sr=1-1&keywords=be+not+afraid+morrison

(available in all other Amazon sites as well)

SMASHWORDS: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/440066

BARNES & NOBLE: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/be-not-afraid-k-r-morrison/1100084495?ean=9781499631548

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22425543-be-not-afraid

BOOK TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4R25JI1hJg

GOOGLE +: https://plus.google.com/u/0/113801306910387026077/posts

The Author Hot Seat with Ali Isaac

My first guest blogger this week is Ali Isaac who writes fantasy for younger readers. I’m already a big fan of Irish legends, which some call myth, others history. In addition, Ali’s books are written from the heart. When one’s own child inspired the story, especially when the child in question has needed special care, the book can only be strong in emotion. Here is Ali Isaac to answer the questions in the Author Hot Seat.

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J. What do you write? Can you describe to us your genre?
A. I have written two books to date, Conor Kelly and The Four Treasures of Eirean, and Conor Kelly and The Fenian King. They form The Tir na Nog Trilogy, and are fiction based on Irish mythology. This makes it quite difficult to accurately categorise them into a genre; the nearest I can get is Contemporary Fantasy, as they have all the elements of fantasy and are set mostly in present day Ireland, although they frequently dip in and out of time zones, legendary events, and the magical realm of Tir na Nog. I suppose I would like to see them jostling the shelves with the likes of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Artemis Fowl.
I also write posts for my blog based on interesting nuggets of information I have unearthed during my research. Currently, I am working on a book based on my experiences raising a child with a rare syndrome. I keep putting this off, though; it’s very hard to write because it’s so personal, and still a bit too raw. I keep toying with writing it as a fictional novel, and then abandoning it, because it loses so much depth. Writing it as a memoir, however, is just that bit too painful at present.

J. What piece of writing are you most proud of?
A. This’ll make you laugh! My parents travelled a lot when I was a child. We lived for seven years in Kuwait in the Middle East, where I had to learn to read and write Arabic at school. Although I don’t remember what I wrote about, my teacher gave me a gold star for my first ever story written in Arabic, and sent me to show it to the headmistress, which was cool as it gave me an excuse to be out of class, which needless to say I made the most of. I can’t write in Arabic today, unfortunately.
More recently, my first serious venture into writing was an essay based on my feelings about my daughter’s syndrome, entitled “Ugly”. It is thanks to that small piece of writing and the reaction it received from family and friends, that I went on to write my books and start my blog.

J. Which authors have most influenced your writing, and whose writing do you most admire?
A. I think it’s probably fair to say that I have been influenced in some tiny way by all the books I have ever read. My first foray into fantasy as a young person was CS Lewis, quickly followed by Tolkien and David Eddings. In terms of mythology, no one can beat Rosemary Sutcliffe and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Also, some of Sutcliffe’s books are illustrated by the amazing Victor Ambrus, who most people will know from the hit tv show Time Team. I absolutely love his illustrations. Recently, I read Sharon Draper’s stunning Out Of My Mind, and RJ Palacio’s wonderful Wonder, both of which had a profound effect on the way I view disability.

J. It’s not easy for a new Indie author to get noticed. How do you deal with promotion?
A. Not very well, is the short answer! I have tried all the ‘tools’ offered by Amazon and Smashwords, but they haven’t brought me overnight success! I’m still experimenting at this stage; this is only my second book. I have also decided to concentrate on completing the trilogy before worrying too much about marketing and promotion. From what I can gather, and I have garnered this from hounding all the more successful independent authors, success comes from working hard at your writing, and having a whole bunch of books ‘out there’, so that readers can bounce from one to the other.

J. Reviews…are they the ‘Open Sesame’ to success?
A. I think we seriously underestimate our readers if we assume that. Potential buyers will most probably check out a few of both the positive and the negative reviews a book has collected, but there is far more involved in the buying process than that; a great cover, a gripping blurb, a quality ‘look inside’ with a hook that makes the reader want more, and an appropriate price point. I don’t think anyone necessarily takes the reviews too seriously these days, especially with all the changes Amazon are making just now to the reviewing process.

J. How do you feel about your writing now you are confident enough to publish? Have you any weak points? What do you enjoy writing most?
A. I’ll never forget the first time I held the first print copy of my first book, Conor Kelly and The Four Treasures of Eirean. in my hands! It was such an amazing, proud moment! I can’t wait to see the first print copy of the new book, too! Weak points… yes, I have lots of them, of course; I’m only human, and still learning my craft. I guess I take too long to write my books. Smashwords claim its authors take on average nine months to produce each book. It took me three years to research, write, edit and format my first book, and two years for the second. I use adjectives, italics, speech tags, all considered big no-no’s these days, and I’m not very good with commas. But I hope I have created two great stories which my readers will either love so much they’ll forgive me my weaknesses, or else they’ll become so immersed in them, they won’t even notice the mistakes.
There are very few books on the market based on Irish mythology. We have such a wealth of the stuff here in Ireland, but we don’t shout about it. In fact, we don’t do anything with it. Let’s face it, most Irish people don’t even know much about Irish mythology! My books take in many of our most ancient and wondrous archaeological sites, some famous, some rather less well known, but all the richer for that. My stories place you right there amongst the crumbling, lichened stones beside the legendary characters associated with them. Not only that, but in Conor Kelly I have created the ultimate in flawed heroes. He’s in a wheelchair; his mind is as sharp and active as yours and mine, but his body is about as responsive as a lump of wood. But perhaps his greatest handicap of all is not his mysterious syndrome, but his crippling self-doubt. The odds are really stacked against him, but through it all, I think he shows us that anyone can be a hero.

Ali has sent the blurbs of her two Conor Kelly books which I’m glad to post here. If you were wondering about the storyline, now’s the opportunity to find out.

4TE-V3Front

Conor Kelly is not your average hero. Trapped inside a body he can’t control, Conor’s mind is as active and alert as that of any teenage boy. On the outside, however, he’s about as interactive as a lump of wood.

Then he meets Annalee. She claims to be a Sidhe Princess, some kind of fairy royalty, apparently. She offers to take him into the magical realm, where her people wield the power to help him.

But is she just some child-snatching lunatic psychopath, or can she be trusted? On the other hand, what’s he got to lose?

He soon discovers that Tir na Nog is not the benign, dreamy land of legend. Nor are its inhabitants, the Sidhe, the benevolent fairy folk of Irish mythology. To accept their help has a cost, but for someone who doesn’t value his life, death is a risk worth taking.

With the blood of Lugh, God of Lightning, tingling in his veins, the boy in the wheelchair must dig deep, if he is to unlock the inherited powers dormant within him. Only he can defy disgraced Sidhe-King, Bres, who seeks to avenge himself on his brethren, and subject all mankind to his tyranny.

In the race to recover the legendary lost talismans of power, the Four Treasures of Eirean, before Bres gets his hands on them and becomes invincible, Conor begins to wonder just whose side Annalee is on, as her chequered past comes to light.

There are other obstacles, too; Ruairi, the Chieftain’s son, and worse, his own crippling self-doubt. Not that anything’s going to stop him. For the first time in his life, Conor finds he is not restricted by his physical limitations. Still, it’s not going to be easy.

Nothing worth fighting for ever is.

Book One of The Tir na Nog Trilogy begins an epic fantasy adventure which takes us back in time to the shadowy past of Ireland’s long lost legend, where fairy kings and Gods walk amongst mortals, and where feats of magic, swordsmanship and courage were customary.

On Smashwords
On Amazon.com
On Amazon.co.uk

TFK-med

It’s happened again. Somehow, Sidhe-Princess Annalee has embroiled Conor in another hopeless quest on behalf of her people, Ireland’s fairy folk, the Sidhe. Last time, he very nearly got himself killed. This time, things look even worse.

For a start, Annalee can’t help him. She’s been imprisoned, accused of murdering her own father. The people of the magical realm are at war amongst themselves, whilst Tir na Nog crumbles into the sea and disaster strikes.

The sacred sisterhood of the Morrigan has arisen, wreaking havoc and destruction which threatens not only the future of the magical realm, but the world of mortals too. The Morrigan must be stopped, but how? The heroes of old are all long gone.

Conor Kelly is just a boy in a wheelchair, but with the help of feisty side-kick Ciara, his drop-out cousin, Conor sets out in search of the mysterious Fenian King, prophecied of old to awake from his slumber beneath the green hills of Ireland, and ride to the aid of his people in their hour of greatest need.

Along the way, Conor unearths a personal secret which undermines all he has believed about his own identity, throwing him deep into confusion. Floundering in the darkness of uncertainty and fear, the mortal boy must dig deep if he is to overcome his demons and save his friends.

However, the search for the Fenian King is anything but easy. Known by the name of Fionn mac Cumhall, his exploits as leader of legendary war-band, the Fianna, are still told with awe today.

So just where do you start your search for Ireland’s greatest hero? Well, first you google it, of course. Then you ask the cat…

Book Two of The Tir na Nog Trilogy continues this epic fantasy adventure which takes us back in time to the shadowy past of Ireland’s long lost legend, where fairy kings and Gods walk amongst mortals, and where feats of magic, swordsmanship and courage were customary.

LINKS
http://www.aliisaacstoryteller.com
Facebook
Twitter
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Thanks for taking a turn in the hot seat, Ali, and I wish you the best of luck with your books. Compliments on the covers; they’re lovely. I should add that Ali has made a couple of pretty good book trailers that you will find on her blog.

The Author Hot Seat

My guest in The Author Hot Seat today is Geraldine Evans. Geraldine writes what I call police thrillers, but she also dabbles (very successfully) in historical fiction. As I don’t know her books at all, I’m going to hand over to the author straight away, as we have a very full interview ahead 🙂

KOBO PROFESSIONAL PHOTO OF ME AT LBF APR 2014

J. Tell us a little about what you write, and since it’s something that interests me, which genre you would describe it as.

G. I mostly write mysteries, what I call British Cozies. My largest series (fifteen so far) is the Rafferty & Llewellyn procedural series. My main man, DI Joe Rafferty, is an ‘Ordinary Joe’, a working-class guy, with a council-house upbringing, and from a family not averse to a little back street shenanigans on the edge of the law. I’ve partnered him with more moral than an Easter Sunday Pope, Welsh Methodist DS Dafyd Llewellyn, who thinks the law should apply to everyone—even the mother of his immediate boss, who has an eye for a suspect ‘bargain’ that’s more unerring than Dead-Eyed Dick.

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My other writing arm is in Biographical Historical fiction. Only one of these so far: Reluctant Queen, which tells the story of Mary Rose Tudor, Henry VIII’s little sister.

I also write short non-fiction, mostly New Age stuff. I’ve long had an interest in palmistry and astrology and, with my business hat on, thought I might as well see if I could make this interest bring in a few shekels.

My latest New Age book is Get the RIGHT Guy—which is a palmistry pointer for lovers. This book shows readers what to look out for in a new partner’s palm so you have advance warning of troublesome areas like unfaithfulness, gambling, and so on.

GET THE RIGHT GUY MK 8 WITH RIGHT in WHITE EXPERIMENTAL PATTERN V NICE BLUE BG Palmistry for lovers

J. Which piece of writing have you been proudest of? I don’t necessarily mean published work. Something you wrote at school perhaps, a poem for mothers’ day, a paper for a debating society? This is just me being nosy J

G. School’s too fuzzy a memory on a far horizon for me to remember much! So I’ll have to go with my more recent work.

It’s hard to choose, Jane. I’m proud of the characters in my Rafferty series; I think they give a realistic depiction of a working-class copper and his slightly dodgy relatives and the ducking and diving he has to go in for to keep his career head above water. In a mystery world (in England at any rate) so often populated by middle-class detectives, I was keen to draw a character, in Joe Rafferty, who bears more resemblance to the average copper. It was, until recently, mostly a career to draw the working-classes: you didn’t need ‘O’ Levels, ‘A’ Levels or GCSE passes. As long as you could make a reasonable fist of the police entrance tests, you were in, with the potential to advance beyond uniformed street coppering if you had the ambition.

But I’m also proud of my first Bio Historical, Reluctant Queen. I was still working full-time at the day job when I wrote that (as with almost all of my other books) and when I look back and think of all the research, all the working into the early morning stints, I don’t know how I did it. What luxury, when I start my second bio historical, to have all day and all evening to get that research done (as long as I manage to ignore email, social media, marketing essentials and so on).

BANNER WITH HEAD BLURB TITLE PLUS MY NAMEFOR REL QN6 FINAL NEW JUNE 2014 BANNER

J. Which authors’ influence can we see in your writing, and whose writing do you most admire?

G. For the mysteries, I admire writers who can spring a few funnies along with the serious stuff. Writers like the late Reg Hill and his Dalziel and Pascoe series. Andy Dalziel is such a fabulous character you can practically smell him. And so witty—his dialogue is to die for. When it comes to dialogue, I try to emulate Reg Hill’s wit and work on my hopefully funny lines until they’re as perfect as a mere human can get them. I also always have a funny sub-plot with Rafferty’s family causing him problems as usual.

Another favourite is Ruth Dudley Edwards and her Baroness ‘Jack’ Troutbeck novels and Janet Evanovich; her granny character is great, just how – now that I’m fast approaching such ‘maturity’ – that I want to see older characters depicted. That lady’s got some fire in her belly and has no way given up on life. She gives us all hope that there might be something better in our futures than rocking chairs, knitting and acquiring a cat.

For Historicals, I admire Sharon Penman. She has such skills that she really draws you into the period and the lives of the characters. She’s one of the few authors whose books make me slow down as I near the end as I don’t want them to finish. My favourite of hers is The Sunne in Splendour about Edward IV and his brothers set during the 1400s in an England during the so-called Wars of the Roses.

J. Has it been a problem fitting your work into an Amazon category, or do you feel your book is at home with the other books it’s listed with?

G. There’s not an existing neat category for my mysteries. They’re police procedurals, but with Rafferty’s family, there’s a lot of ‘Cozy’ about them, too. But there’s no ‘Cozy Procedural’ slot. I tend to put a few in one slot and a few in another so they’re scattered through several almost-right categories on the theory that one or more of them will hit a particular reader’s sweet spot. I then keep my fingers crossed that if a reader likes one they’ll take the trouble to seek out more of the same.

And for my Biographical Historical, I wish they had a Tudor England Bio Fiction slot (or Tudor England anything). For this one, Amazon, in their wisdom, has also placed it in non-fiction history which is totally inappropriate when it’s a biographical novel. Their decision earned me an irate review from someone expecting ‘proper’ history! Not my fault, Madam!

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J. It isn’t easy trying to get your book noticed. How do you deal with promotion?

G. Similarly to my Amazon categories, I have a scatter-gun approach; if Bookbub’s flavour of the month and if I can afford it, I’ll promote with them. I’ve only been able to find the cash for one promotion with them so far as they’re very expensive, but when I have the money I’ll definitely go with them again.

I have also tried setting Dead Before Morning, the first in my Rafferty series at permanently free. Though again, Amazon puts obstacles in your path; no matter how many times I tell them about Dead Before Morning being free on the other main retailers’ sites, I still can’t get them to price it at free on Amazon US (or Canada or Australia, my other main selling sites).

But I’m reluctant to go back into Amazon’s Select programme because to get five guaranteed free days from them you have to tie your book up with them exclusively for ninety days and take it down from the other retailers. Not something likely to build readers at other sites. Besides, like other authors, I’m wary of putting all my writing eggs in the one basket. Who knows what the future might bring?

J. Reviews are usually cited as the open sesame to success. Without reviews your book will sink unnoticed. Have you had much success with getting reviews? Do you even agree with the statement?

G. I’m not entirely convinced that reviews are a guaranteed avenue to success, as I look at the first page of best sellers in a given category and there are usually a number of books up there amongst the ones with hundreds of reviews that have few reviews or even none at all.

But, because several of the biggest promo sites demand a certain number of reviews and an average of 4 stars or above, you have to try to get those reviews in. It’s not something I’m very good at, I’m afraid. Every so often I’ll make an effort and send requests out. But I’m just as likely to forget to do it and launch my latest novel with no fanfare at all.

I know it’s also a good idea to try to get some sort of relationship established with the biggest book bloggers, but I’ve never managed a lot of that, either. I’m not much of a natural marketer or networker. And then, everything to do with being an indie takes so much time that it’s ages since I’ve actually been able to just sit down and write.

As for the reviews themselves, I’ve had some lovely ones and some stinkers. I think I’m going to have to re-write the descriptions of my mysteries to make abundantly clear exactly what style of books they are, so no one blunders into buying one with the notion they’re straight mysteries and then discovers how ‘Cozy’ they are.

J. How do you feel about your writing now you feel confident enough to publish? Which aspects do you think are your weak points? What do you enjoy writing most?

G. I was always confident enough to publish as an indie, as I’d been traditionally-published for years. But there just wasn’t the opportunity before Amazon came along with their Kindle, so in spite of my gripes about their unilateral decision-making, I’ll always be grateful to them. And as I said, I came from a traditional published background. Eighteen plus years and seventeen published books of mid-list nose to grindstone while working the day job, for very little financial reward. No one who didn’t love words, writing and creating stories would stand it.

It was only when I took the decision to turn indie in 2010, managed to get the rights back in all but one of my books and turned them into digital, that I actually started to earn a full-time income from my writing. Until then, they’d been languishing, unloved and unsold on my publisher’s backlist. Now my backlist is earning me a living instead of gathering dust.

Weak points? Hmm. None of us like to think we have weak points, but I suppose mine is that I’ve mostly been a ‘seat of pants’ writer. This mode of writing tends to involve the author in a lot more work and a lot more drafts, which makes it pretty stupid. I now try to have at least a basic plan down on paper before I start. But I still have to restrain myself and my inclination to hare off into the unknown and figure things out as I go along.

I don’t do this with my bio historical(s). With these, it’s essential to get your time-line in place for your characters, the events in their lives and the events in the greater world and then fit your depiction of the life around them.

For my Rafferty books, I love getting Rafferty into sticky family situations and figuring out how the hell to get him out of them. I also enjoy trying to create a crafty twist in the tail of both the main plot and the sub-plot. Not that I always manage it.

J. Finally, you have the stage. Sell us your writing. Tell us why it’s different, special, and worth reading. Or just tell us why you are passionate about it, why you love your characters, and carry us away
with your enthusiasm.

G. If you enjoy mysteries with characters who seem like real people; who have families who are not your usual middle-class ‘suits’ and who are not straight, piano-playing, horse-riding British stereotypes, you might enjoy my characters. They’re working-class human beings without the fancy schools, clothes or lifestyles of more educated sections of society (or British crime detectives).

Have you got a bossy mother? So has Joe Rafferty. Has your mother a tendency to match-make? So does Ma Rafferty. Gives unasked for advice? Ditto. Generally feels she would make a better job of running your life than you do? Ditto again.

Rafferty’s ‘Ma’, Kitty Rafferty, is a Catholic, Irish-born widow who had to bring up her six children alone after her builder husband plunged to his death one morning after a birthday celebration too far the night before. Because of her financial struggles (and maybe, too, because she just enjoys a bargain), she’s fond of the ‘back of the lorry’ sort and could be called something of an amateur ‘fence’ to her neighbourhood friends.

Between his Ma, his five siblings and assorted cousins, Rafferty has his work cut out in steering his life and career through the family-created mire. No Sherlock Holmes or Lord Peter Wimsey, him!

If you like some fun in your mysteries, my books should suit you down to the ground. And if you like your novels filled with characters that seem real, you might like them even more. There’s Cousin Nigel Blythe, whose background is every bit as ‘common’ as Rafferty’s, but he has such delusions of grandeur that he’s even changed his name from Jerry Kelly (‘so common’). Nigel and Rafferty have a love/hate relationship. They only tolerate one another because as an estate agent (real estate broker) and police officer, respectively, they’re regarded as pariahs by most of their relatives, so sometimes socialise and commiserate together (Nigel doesn’t appear if I remember rightly, until book six, Dying For You, when Rafferty, feeling like a sad, lonely git after his sergeant’s marriage, joins a dating agency after borrowing his look-alike cousin, Nigel’s, identity.

Rafferty feels the borrowed ID will save him from potential embarrassment via his colleagues and explanations to his nose-poking, match-making Ma who is sure to be offended that he should pay good money when she could do such a better job on the finding a partner front.

Once Rafferty/Nigel is signed up the fun and the murders start when he finds himself in the unwelcome role of chief suspect charged with investigating his ‘Nigel Blythe’ self, which goes down like Prohibition at New Year’s Eve with the real Nigel.

My Biographical Historical, Reluctant Queen, is fiction, but it also shows the actual events in my main character’s life. Mary Rose Tudor, although little heard of in history books, had an interesting life. She was infamous English King Henry VIII’s little sister and his favourite sibling. Her granddaughter was the much better-known Lady Jane Grey who was executed at the age of sixteen after her father (Mary Rose’s son-in-law) had tried to use her to usurp the throne from her cousin Mary (Henry VIII’s daughter by his first queen whom Henry had declared illegitimate).

King Henry, although only twenty-three at the beginning of the story and still on his first marriage, was in loco parentis to Mary Rose. King since just before his eighteenth birthday, he’d speedily become used to having his own way. And his own way with his much-loved sister was to favour his current preference for an alliance with France instead of the Spain of his wife. So, in spite of Mary Rose’s abhorrence for the match, in spite of her love for his friend, Charles Brandon and her long-standing betrothal to the nephew of her brother’s queen, Henry married his little sister to the aged and sickly French monarch, Louis XII.

But Henry wasn’t the only Tudor with rich, red blood in his veins. Mary Rose also liked her own way. So, once her aged husband, Louis died, she ignored what she suspected were the wishes of the mighty monarchs, her brother Henry and Francis, the new French king, took her life in her own hands and made a fateful decision that would impact on her entire future. Mary Rose really was a daring, liberated lady for her time.

Jane, thank you for the opportunity to guest on The Hot Spot. It’s always a treat for an author to stand their books in the spotlight. I suppose we all hope it’ll encourage those twin imps ‘fame’ and
’fortune’ to find us. Yoo, hoo, F and F! Here I am!

It’s been fun!

Thanks for such a detailed look into your work, Geraldine. If you want more information, a link to Geraldine’s website, or a purchase link you’ll find it among this lot. Sorry if it looks like a telephone directory—there’s probably a way of condensing it but I’ve no idea how.

WEBSITE/BLOG: http://geraldineevansbooks.com
Newsletter Sign-Up Link for Bargains and New Releases:
http://eepurl.com/AKjSj

Geraldine Evans’s book pages on Amazon:
US: http://amzn.to/X3xCIj
UK:http://amzn.to/15LoZHh
CA: http://qurl.com/cyyzz

Ditto on Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/geraldine-evans
Ditto on Apple:http://qurl.com/sp1fw

Geraldine Evans’s Biographical Historical, Reluctant Queen page on
Amazon EBOOK:
US: http://bit.ly/1ginUkP
UK:http://bit.ly/17VEPli
CA: http://qurl.com/vmqjz

B & N: http://qurl.com/7hbb4

RELUCTANT QUEEN Paperback on Amazon:
US: http://qurl.com/h282w
UK: http://qurl.com/bqhzc
CA: http://qurl.com/gldn1

RELUCTANT QUEEN Paperback on Barnes & Noble: http://qurl.com/myf6z

Get the RIGHT Guy!
Geraldine’s New Age Non-Fiction (written under the pen name of Gennifer
Dooley-Hart)
On Amazon:
US: http://amzn.to/H239JW
UK: http://amzn.to/16L2J56
CA: http://qurl.com/rwd7c

The Author Hot Seat: Second round

My first guest in this second round of The Author Hot Seat is an old (in blogging terms) friend, Seumas Gallacher.

profile

We all know you as the Scottish crime writer who wears a kilt even when he’s trolling about among the dunes of Abu Dhabi. What we might like to know is what he did before he became a camel driver that inspired him to write international crime novels. So, to satisfy the morbid curiosity of the red top readers among us, I’ve shoved said Scot into the hot seat, manacled him and got the irons nice and hot just in case he wants to hold something back.

J : Do your early years in Glasgow influence your writing?

SG : Undoubtedly. They say you can take the boy out of Glasgow, but you can’t take Glasgow out of the boy. Much of the grit and values that I’ve instilled in the main character in my crime thriller series, Jack Calder, reflect much of what tens of thousand of Dockland Govan residents were like sixty years ago. Survival there, as in many similar inner city post-war environments, demanded resilience, adherence to decent human values, a strong work ethic, and not least, a communal sense of humour.
In fairness, however, having left Govan in my mid teens, time spent in other locations, such as the Scottish Hebridean island of Mull, and a decade in London, also shaped the memories from which I believe most authors write.
A further 25 years in Asia, and the last 10 years in the Middle East, contribute immensely to differing experiences and character descriptions.

J : Where does the inspiration for these very high-powered heists come from?

SG : I’d like to say they come from personally having perpetrated one, but they’d come and lock me up and throw away the key if I owned up to that. My credo in writing my type of crime thrillers is to have ‘high impact’ passages where relevant. This also translates into an almost minimalist descriptive style. I aim to provide enough to let the reader colour in as they imagine, which I think we all do anyway when reading fiction. That ‘punchiness’ also lends the writing more pace.

J : Is it easy being a Scot writer in Abu Dhabi?

SG : Abu Dhabi, where I live, is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It’s somewhat more laid back than Dubai, which tends to attract the more ‘lifestyle’ headlines and interest from the international press and magazines. It’s an Arabic, Islamic society, but is liberally accommodating of other faiths. Living expense is relatively high compared with the UK or most of the USA. I find it easy to write here. Having been an expatriate for the best part of 45 years (if I consider London a ‘foreign’ posting), I tend to adapt readily to wherever I land.

J : Did you try to get publishers/agents interested in your books or did you go straight for the self-pub route?

SG : When I drifted off the pink cloud of having written ‘The End’ on the first novel, THE VIOLIN MAN’S LEGACY, I spent a considerable amount of time researching the best way to acquire that elusive endangered species… an Agent… or that even more under-threat-of-extinction creature, a Publisher… in the end, I sent 40 Query Letters to addresses in London… 40 rejection slips/non- answers later, I was persuaded to consider the new-fangled Amazon Kindle route… the rest is history, and the stuff of legend for me… 75,000+ downloads later, I’d still welcome a top-class Agent or Publisher if one knocked my door, but I thoroughly enjoy the freedom and the hard work that goes with it, in being an independent self-publisher.

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J : On the face of it, your writing looks as though it fits quite easily into the crime category. Is that too simplistic an analysis?

SG : It’s probably the principal tag that describes the novels, but as with most authors, there’s usually divergence and some overlaps into other part descriptions in the writing, such as with mine for example, I could add ‘action’, ‘thriller’, ‘police detection/procedure’, ‘black ops’ and so on.

J : How do you deal with promotion?

SG : I fully believe that the writing is the comparatively simple part of what I call the ‘business’ of writing. Promotion and marketing is where the ‘slog’ comes in. And it’s so necessary. I saw a quote the other day that says ‘you don’t make money from writing—you make money from selling your writing’. I determined from the outset to get aboard properly on the correct usage of the so-called ‘social networks’… ‘social’ it isn’t… hard work it is… I’ve developed a presence on my chosen channels of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Stumbleupon, Google+, etc… but the most vital part of all is my blog, on which I try to post daily… every post is automatically linked to all of my social networks. The potential marketing/promotional ‘reach’ is staggering. For example, when I launched on Kindle my third title, SAVAGE PAYBACK, I asked a few hundred select followers to Re-Tweet the message. I tracked the potential ‘hits’ through the algorithmic ‘delta’ extent of their ReTweets, and after three days I stopped counting at 2,750,000. The strength of the Web is powerful.
I’ve published on Kindle how I deal with this stuff, with SELF-PUBLISHING STEPS TO SUCCESSFUL SALES.

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J : Self-pubbed writers are often criticised for clogging up the machinery with poor quality, poorly edited writing. How hard have you found it to be taken seriously as an indie writer?

SG : There’s no doubt that tons of, at best, ‘average’ offerings have come on stream. The eBooks phenomenon allows the dream to become real for many new wannabe Rowlings, Pattersons and Childs. The tenets of good ‘production’ includes excellent proof-reading, editing, cover art, and so on. The more successful writers will adhere to that, if not immediately, but eventually as they progress through the maze of self-publishing, improvement should develop. For my own work, I strive to sculpt my writing to the best of my ability, but only to the point where I am pleased with it myself, not overly concerned about how other people regard it. If we try to please all of the people all of the time, we know where that leads us. My sales figures tell me I’m on the right track.

Well, Amazon has one satisfied customer at least! Those are pretty impressive figures. Thanks so much for sitting in the Hot Seat today, Seumas, and presenting such an up-beat take on self-publishing.
All aficionados of thrillers can find Seumas’s books at the links below
http://bookShow.me/B00JBL6K80
http://www.amazon.com/seumas-gallacher/e/B005DVJY8U/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
http://www.amazon.co.uk/seumas-gallacher/e/B005DVJY8U

I thoroughly recommend The Violin Man’s Legacy to readers like me who have problems following the plots of standard thrillers. This one is much more character-driven and appeals to the softy just as much as the hard-boiled. You can read my review here.

Biography
SEUMAS GALLACHER escaped from the world of finance five years ago, after a career spanning three continents and five decades.

As the self-professed ‘oldest computer Jurassic on the planet’ his headlong immersion into the dizzy world of eBook publishing opened his eyes, mind, and pleasure to the joys of self-publishing. As a former businessman, he rapidly understood the concept of a writer’s need to ‘build the platform’, and from a standing start began to develop a social networking outreach, which now tops 15,000 direct contacts.

His first two crime-thrillers, THE VIOLIN MAN’S LEGACY and VENGEANCE WEARS BLACK blew his mind with more than 75,000 e-link downloads to date. The third in what has become the ‘Jack Calder’ series, SAVAGE PAYBACK, was launched late 2013.

He started a humorous, informative, self-publishers blog less than two years ago, never having heard of a ‘blog’ prior to that, was voted ‘Blogger of the Year 2013’ and now has a loyal blog following on his networks. He says the novels contain his ‘Author’s Voice’, while the blog carries his ‘Author’s Brand’. And

Blog : seumasgallacher.com
Twitter : @seumasgallacher
Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/seumasgallacher
Email : seumasgallacher@yahoo.com

The author hot seat: That was nice. What was it?

My guest today is Tricia Drammeh, another indie author struggling for recognition. I have always been struck by the thoughtful nature of Tricia’s writing with her sensitive portraits of young people on the verge of adulthood but not quite sure what they are about to plunge into. They are all flawed human beings, some of them damaged, and not all of them come through the story without suffering. All of them though are believable and touching—the hallmark of a writer with her finger on the pulse of humanity.

J: Tell us what the story/your work is about, the setting, the background, and where it takes the reader.

T: I have four published novels in three different genres. My latest release is Better than Perfect, and it’s a contemporary novel with romantic elements. It’s based in a suburban of Columbus, Ohio. Here’s the blurb:
Twenty-three-year-old Karlie is in the type of rut some people never escape from. With few friends, no boyfriend, and no plans to graduate from college any time in the immediate future, Karlie is as stuck in her ways as the elderly neighbor she spends all her time with. When her world is invaded by two surly twins bound for criminal court, a too-good-to-be-true love interest, and a cute cop who keeps showing up at the most inopportune moments, Karlie can either fight against the changes in her life, or embrace them.

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J: Sounds as though you have the ingredients of a maybe-romance. What inspired the story in the first place?

T: The story began as my Camp NaNoWriMo project two years ago. I thought it would be a great idea to write a vampire novel. Needless to say, this didn’t quite pan out. There’s not a single vampire in sight, though I did try to create a love interest who resembles many of the romantic heroes we find in Young Adult and New Adult novels—he’s rich, attractive, and showers Karlie with attention. At first, Karlie thinks he’s the perfect guy, but as she gets to know him, she begins to redefine “perfect.” She realizes that having a “perfect” boyfriend is not nearly as satisfying as making her own way in the world or achieving her dreams.

J: Did you try to get agents/publishers interested? What reactions did you get? Have they been helpful in promoting/marketing your work?

T: When I wrote my first novel, I did the query/rejection circuit. Most of the rejections I received were based solely on my query letter and not on the work at all. With Better than Perfect, I chose to skip the query process and went straight to self-publishing.

J: A story with a romantic element that doesn’t follow the standard romance formula must be difficult to market. Has it been a handicap not being able to stick a handy label onto your books?

T: It has. Better than Perfect loosely skirts the romance/chick-lit genres, though I worry that if I market it as “romance,” readers will complain there isn’t enough sex. The book focuses on the evolution of the main character, and in many ways, the love-interest is more of an antagonist than a romantic hero. This is why I’m on the fence about labeling it a romance novel.
Out of all my books, the most difficult book to label has been The Fifth Circle. I ended up not really promoting it at all. Though it features two young adult characters, the subject matter is too edgy to market toward young adults. With young adult books, it can be very difficult to portray realistic characters and some of the situations they face without offending parents who like to pretend teenagers live in a land of cotton candy, rainbows, and unicorns. And, since there is no fantasy or romance, I can’t market it as genre fiction. Basically, the book has been hanging out on Amazon for over a year and I’ve sold less than fifty copies.

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J: That is exactly the problem that faces many writers—trying to shoehorn their book into category that just doesn’t describe the work adequately. Straight romance is easy enough to market, but there is a tendency for publishers to ask for more sweet sticky romance than the story needs. I had a YA dystopian novel turned down by a very reputable publisher because the romantic element wasn’t strong enough. Romance during the Apocalypse? In a new Ice Age? With packs of mutant wolfdogs and hordes of the undead? Then there are parental expectations to contend with when the protagonists are young people. The entire planet could be torn apart by total war but you’d still get parents complaining about swear words. So, if you don’t fit into the most popular size, how do you tackle promotion?

T: With my young adult paranormal books, I was able to contact reviewers and bloggers because those books neatly fit into genres and were clearly intended for the YA audience. That’s not to say promotion was easy—it wasn’t. But at least I had some idea where to begin. With Better than Perfect, it’s very newly released, so I haven’t done much promotion. I do plan to contact some romance bloggers and we’ll see how that goes.

J: If you were to direct the public towards your novels, whose fans would you solicit?

T: Fans of Marian Keyes, Jennifer Weiner, or Emily Giffin would enjoy my new book.

Anyone who’d like to learn more about my books can find me at my website: http://www.triciadrammeh.com. You can find links to all my books there.

Thank you Tricia for letting me interview you; I know self-promotion isn’t something you jump at. There are a lot of universal truths in your books that give them a depth not often found in novels about the trials and tribulations of young people juggling school and adulthood. There is nothing flippant or dewy eyed about your characters of the portrayal of their problems. For me, they exemplify exactly what I understand by the term young adults: young people on the cusp of adulthood, still dependant on the family environment however dysfunctional that may be, but already with some of the maturity, responsibilities, and outlook of adults.

The author hot seat: That was nice. What was it?

My next guest author to share her experiences of writing outside the Amazon norms is Nikki McDonagh. In Nikki’s case it isn’t so much the genre, which is broadly dystopian speculative, but her style of writing that knocks the reader sideways.
I was attracted to her first book by the beautiful cover and was immediately drawn in by the narrative. There is something Dickensian in the speech of her characters, a quirky style that bears no resemblance to modern tv soap dialogue, but makes me at any rate think of nineteenth century boatmen and other London low life. There’s something sad and out of time in the words that sits very well with the underlying story of loss.

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J: Tell us what the story/your work is about, the setting, the background, and where it takes the reader.
N: The Song of Forgetfulness is an unsettling and mysterious vision of the future where animals are almost extinct, humans are subjugated by the sinister and secretive Agros, and gifted children know as Meeks, are going missing.

In the book I deal with issues that are of concern to us today. Such as overpopulation, rapid advances in technology and global warming. The book is set in Scotland because oceans have risen and that is all the land that is left in Great Britain. There are no animals because of viral infection, except for the elusive birdybirds and they never land. In ‘Echoes,’ I am trying to suggest that if mankind continues to abuse this beautiful planet, then a world like the one I have created might happen. But I am also trying to say that we are all connected somehow, and that we all have something special inside us, even if we aren’t sure what it is. That we are all capable of doing something amazing if put to the test.

Brief synopsis of both books: Set three hundred years in the future, it follows the journey of 17-year-old Adara from the comfort of her hygienehome through the ravaged territories of NotsoGreatBritAlbion, as she searches for her brother Deogol. One of many Meeks abducted by the all-controlling Agros. A misfit in her community, Adara is the only one who can sing to the birdybirds and make them land. In a time of hunger she must keep her talent a secret from those who would abuse her power.
echoes cover for email
During her journey, Adara is kidnapped by lustful Woodsmales, befriends a Nearlyman, is attacked by ravenous wolfies, falls for a Clonie, and is helped by a S.A.N.T. Yet Amongst the outcasts and deviants she encounters, Adara finds unlikely friendships that help her come to terms with her ability and realise her true potential. Whilst hiding out in the Lady Camp, Adara is told she must go to the Clonie zone to find a Backpacker who will help her on her mission. Accompanied by a Nearlyman Wirt, Adara is joined by Eadgard a S.A.N.T. who takes her to the Monastery in the clouds where she discovers her true potential as a Bringer and powerful weapon.
Echoes
In the second book, A Silence Heard, Adara and her friends escape from the monastery in the clouds and with the help of a mysterious map, travel to Agro headquarters. The place where the little ‘uns are imprisoned and Agros carry out sinister experiments.
A Silnce Heard cover sml
Disguised as Ladies and their escorts, Adara, Kendra, Eadgard, Wirt and Marcellus, enter Agro headquarters ready to infiltrate their colony and free the Meeks. However, Agros are smart and Adara and her companions find themselves at the mercy of torturers and sleazy seducers. However, there is hope. The Meeks have a secret weapon and outside, folk are gathering. A legion of Woodsfolk, Clonies, S.A.N.T.S, Holy ones and Ladies, are on their way.

But time is running out. Adara’s struggle to save her kin becomes a desperate battle of life and death, as Agros send in their army of cloned killers to destroy the insurgents who are moving ever closer. Adara is forced to use her voice again and again, to try and stop the Agros from winning the war, but each time she does, a part of her dies.
venom silence amazon
As filthy battles ensue and loved ones perish, Adara must sing The Song of Forgetfulness one last time if she is to save not only the Meeks, but all the folk of NotsoGreatBritAlbion, from a life of slavery and despair.
lights silence amazon

J: What inspired the story in the first place?

N: The Song of Forgetfulness began as a challenge from students that attend a creative writing class I teach at my local High School. We discussed issues that they were concerned about such as global warming, cloning, and the rise in deadly diseases. They said that I should write a book for YA readers. Now, I had never thought of doing this, but when I started doing some research about the threat of future global famine and advancements in technology, I became hooked on the idea of incorporating what scientists are doing now, tweaking it a bit, and using it in my story. Adara, has a Synth bag that is both invisible and so light that she cannot feel it, despite it being full of stuff. Also, the students wanted me to incorporate characters doing things they don’t normally do in YA fiction. Things like going to the toilet and having a menstrual cycle. I asked them if they really wanted to see this in the books they read and they said, “Yes.” Then they said, “Are you going to write one?”
I said, “Okay.” And I did. In fact two, so far.

J: Did you try to get agents/publishers interested? What reactions did you get? Have they been helpful in promoting/marketing your work?

N: I did try to get an agent, but got the usual reply, “We like it, but we just don’t love it.” So I decided to get in touch with Indie publishers. The response was better, and several offered me a contract. Being new to this publishing lark, I went with the one I thought offered the better deal and would do some of the marketing. The reality of the matter is that the author does pretty much all of the promotion and marketing for their book. I am not good at it, but I am learning as I go. Selling books and getting an author profile takes time as does building a fan base and an audience. Most publishers traditional or otherwise do seem to leave the marketing to the authors. Which is why, I suppose, that so many writers are self- publishing. Why do all the work and only get 30% of the royalties?

J: Has it been a handicap not being able to stick a handy label onto your books?

N: I don’t really know? My YA books are described as dystopian and science fiction but they aren’t really just that. Putting a tag on any book will pigeon hole it into a genre or category. This will inevitably attract a certain audience. If the book disappoints that reader, then it could hinder its saleability. So far, I have had really great reviews, but this has not reflected in great sales. I suppose I just have to keep going and write more.

J: How do you tackle promotion?

N: With my hand over my face!
I promote on Facebook with an author/book page and advertise when I do giveaways and Amazon deals. But I have no control over a lot of promotion since it is up to my publishers how and when and if, they decide to make it free or do the Kindle countdown deal. So that can be a little frustrating. I twitter, I have a blog, I do author interviews, and very occasionally I have bought a cheap promo on a site. Sometimes that has generated a few sales. I have found that just telling people I know or meet, and doing a few readings in libraries, have been a good way of letting my target audience know about the book. My book is available in libraries and people are borrowing it to read, so that is really nice to hear and may lead to future sales. It is all about getting the word out to as many people as possible. Also, I work in a High School and am slowly building a fan base with some of the young people. Hopefully they will spread the word. I am planning on trying to get some radio spots. I have made some book trailers and hope they have helped to raise awareness. Building a fan base is a long process though and I keep slogging at it.

J: Are there any writers you feel you share some common ground with?

N: All Indie writers struggling to promote their books!
I would like to believe that I share the same kind of ethos that Ursula Le Guinn has in her books. The philosophical aspects she includes are similar to mine, in that she questions the role of mankind in the grand scheme of things in a lot of her sci-fi works. Also, Ray Bradbury in The Martian Chronicles. He deals with mankind’s arrogance and destructive ways with a sense of beauty and tragedy that is simply compelling. I hope that I have created my futuristic world that is somewhat similar to the way in which these two authors describe their alien environments; with strong imagery, pacey narrative, and interesting use of language.

J: Anything else, advice, experiences, anecdotes you’d like to add, feel free.

N: I would say to new authors, don’t rush to get published. It is so tempting to jump in when you get a positive response from an agent or publisher. I think I was flattered so much by what my publisher said that I was caught up in the euphoria that goes with the promise of being published by a publishing company.
Test your writing out on good writing sites to get a feel of what readers like. There is a really good one called youwriteon: http://www.youwriteon.com/ You submit some of your work, it is then randomly sent to readers who will review it and give feedback. You must do the same thing in return. I did this with Echoes since I wanted to test the waters about using such a slang-based language. Due to the mainly positive feedback I received I went ahead and sent my book off to agents and publishers. I also made sure that I had the manuscript looked at by a trusted professional writer and tutor who also proof read it for me.
After my experience with being published by a small Independent publisher, I decided to self-publish a collection of my short stories – Glimmer and other stories. I do the same amount of marketing and sell roughly the same amount of books that I do being signed with a publisher. I now question the role of many small presses, as it seems from my experience, that they do little to promote their authors. I’m sure there are some really good small independent publishers out there, but I would hesitate to send another manuscript to one unless I was convinced it would help to raise my profile and sales of my book.
Glimmer_Cover_for_Kindle
One of the nicest things I heard recently as regards to Echoes from the Lost Ones and my heroine, was a teenage girl saying that she wished she was Adara, and could do all the things she could do. I was so touched.
Oh, and keep writing! Really it is good advice. The more you write and experiment with genre and language, the more you learn. Edit your work after you have written it and don’t give it to friends and family to read if you want honest feedback.

Thank you so much Nikki for sharing your publishing experiences as well as giving us an overview of your writing. You are certainly not alone in wondering exactly what purpose some small presses serve. They have limited promotional clout and many of them don’t want to waste their time and money on it anyway. Romance seems to be the exception to the rule, but even with the best will in the world, we can’t all squeeze into that particular bracket.

If you would like to sample Nikki’s writing, Echoes from the Lost ones will be a free Amazon download from May 29th through to June 2nd.

To find out more about Nikki and her work—writing and photography—here are some links to follow.

Relevant links:

Book trailers:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoh9FB_bNO4rQdNvJ5AWA5Q/videos

The Song of Forgetfulness website: http://www.thesongofforgetfulness.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thesongofforgetfulness?ref=hl

Twitter: @McDonaghNikki

Website photography: http://www.tracerlight.co.uk

Blog: http://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17986040-echoes-from-the-lost-one

The Amazon links to her books are here:
http://www.amazon.com/Glimmer-Nicola-McDonagh-ebook/dp/B00H89AN1M/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1401198359&sr=1-3

http://www.amazon.com/Echoes-Lost-Ones-Song-Forgetfulness-ebook/dp/B00CXSZIGS/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1401198466&sr=1-2

http://www.amazon.com/Silence-Heard-Song-Forgetfulness-ebook/dp/B00JMPWRX2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1401198536&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nicola-J.-McDonagh/e/B00D4NAH0S