This is the second part of a lengthy set of interview questions I completed to be featured on a fellow writer’s blog in January 2019.
As usual with these reproduced interviews, I’ve changed the wording of the questions for copyright reasons, but without changing the questions’ meaning. The answers I haven’t touched except that, where relevant, I’ve added the occasional update in square brackets after my original answer.
What music do you listen to while writing?
I envy writers who can work with music playing in the background. That’s not for me, I regret. It has to be quiet so I can escape into the world I’m creating without distraction.
Name one indispensable aid to writing.
Is there any part of the publishing process you detest?
If by ‘publishing’ you mean the narrow process of getting polished manuscript to distributor, there’s no part of that I detest. But if we’re talking about the wider process, then the most detestable thing to me—though, sadly, a necessary evil—is marketing. I’m a complete muppet at it. I’m also not keen on writing the first draft of a novel—it always feels a little like pulling teeth.
[The title of my long-running series of blog posts about marketing—Marketing for Muppets—remains apt.]
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve faced to becoming a writer?
Finding the time has always been one of my biggest problems, at least until about eighteen months ago. Then I went part-time in my regular job and my writing productivity shot up.
[When I gave this interview, the possibility of taking early retirement in November that year hadn’t yet occurred to me. It was during a chance conversation in work a couple of months later that a colleague mentioned we could take early retirement at 55 and a flashbulb went off in my head—my Archimedes-in-the-bath moment.]
Who are your go-to authors?
Terry Pratchett, Stephen King, Tolkien… countless others. They remind me what it feels like to become lost in a fantastic world and why I wanted to write in the first place.
Do you market your books?
I run Amazon ads on the first book of both completed trilogies. The ads just about pay for themselves in terms of sales of the books so advertised, but the real benefit comes in follow-through sales of the sequels. I also blog about writing, reading and publishing, which I enjoy but also regard as a form of marketing.
[Amazon advertising, so effective for me then, has since gone drastically downhill as it has become so expensive and effectively priced me out of the market. I have also dabbled in Facebook advertising, with mixed results. I feel I’m almost back to square one when it comes to marketing, nearly as invisible as when I started out. As for blogging, I have stopped posting to a fixed schedule because I was finding it was interfering with the writing and audiobook production, and becoming a chore. So I now blog irregularly and it feels like fun again.]
Do readers ever get in touch with you?
It does sometimes happen, usually through my author Facebook page, or more occasionally by e-mail. I’ve been lucky that they’ve never been less than complimentary about my work.
[Reader interaction has since largely died away, which I suppose is inevitably a result of reduced visibility. In common with most writers, I have received less-than-glowing comments on my work in reviews. I’m not complaining—it’s an occupational hazard.]
Is there anyone you trust to read your draft work?
I have a few trusted beta readers, the main one being my brother. If he says something needs to be changed, I listen.
Describe your first book signing.
I’ve never done one and, unless it was essential for furthering my writing career, I’d shy away from ever doing one.
What message are you trying to pass to readers through your work?
I’m not trying to pass on any messages or make any points with my work. They’re stories told for the sheer enjoyment of telling them and to entertain the reader. If, as a by-product, they make the reader think, that’s a bonus.
There’ll be a Part 3 along shortly. Till then…