Monthly Archives: July 2016

Author Interview: Anne Goodwin

AG at jesmond

Anne Goodwin at her launch, Jesmond 2015

It is a year since author, Anne Goodwin, published her debut novel, Sugar and Snails. An intriguing novel which explores the sense of being different and feeling not quite right in one’s skin. I am delighted to welcome her as today’s interviewee and to catch her during her anniversary tour.

Anne Goodwin loves fiction for the freedom to contradict herself. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was published in July 2015 by Inspired Quill and longlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, is scheduled for May 2017. Anne is also a book blogger, author of over 60 published short stories and was recently awarded First Prize in the Writers’ Bureau short story competition.

What are you currently working on?
I’m working on the edits of Underneath and trying to get to grips with the second draft of what I hope to be my third novel, Closure, about lives wasted through psychiatric incarceration.

What has inspired your most recent novel?
Sugar and Snails emerged from a strange interaction between my response to a newspaper report about a distinguished academic who died of anorexia without anyone in her immediate circle being aware of her difficulties; questions about gender fluidity and my attempts to reconcile myself to my own traumatic adolescence. Underneath stems from my academic and personal interest in attachment, and particularly the terror of being totally dependent on someone who is unreliable. Closure builds on my interest in family secrets and on my first job as a qualified clinical psychologist as part of a team tasked with resettling long term psychiatric patients to the community.

How much do you think fiction intertwines with real life?
I live so much in the fictional world, I’m not sure I can separate them! It’s something I continually puzzle about, but I think a lot of my fiction starts with my own experience of the world as I see it. Yet, both for my own privacy and because, as a reader, I prefer a gap between author and narrator, I don’t want that link to show. If your writing has deep emotional resonance, which is something I aim for, it’s highly likely to connect with themes that interest, energise and disturb you in “real life”. But I’d like that to occur on the level of metaphor, rather than in the nuts and bolts of the writing.

Any tips to aspiring writers?
After a blog post questioning the creative writing industry, I’m loath to advise others on how to write. However, Sugar and Snails has taught me a few things about writing about diversity and on crafting the awkward character which I’m happy to pass on (via the links).

Another thing I’ve learnt, and am still learning, is that when there’s a choice – be it regarding character, plot or use of language – go for the simpler option. The best piece of advice I got regarding my novel, Sugar and Snails, was to cut two of the three point of view voices. As a book blogger, I read too many debuts that would have been better had the author had been less ambitious. It’s very hard as a novice writer, as we are trying to distinguish ourselves and impress, but I’m increasingly discovering that less is more in this business.

How would you describe your writing process?
I like to play with the ideas in my head for as long as I can, be that hours, days or months, before committing anything to page or screen. The benefits of playing with the ideas seem to outweigh the risks of losing a good idea. I start to write when my thoughts are overwhelming and I have sufficient space to channel them, uninterrupted, onto the screen. I’m not a planner, and I like to take my time. However, last winter, partly inspired by National Novel Writing Month, I surprised myself by producing a fast first draft. It hasn’t altered my overall approach, but it was a bit of a revelation that I could keep going at an average of a thousand words a day.

In terms of the mechanics, I’m proud that my mother taught me to type the quick brown fox runs over the lazy dog way, using all fingers and thumbs of both hands. But too many dissertations left me with repetitive strain injury, so now I type by voice. The manufacturers claim their voice recognition software is faster than typing but, until they produce a version perfectly attuned to my Cumbrian vowels, I have to disagree.

What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
I have the usual love-hate relationship with social media, especially Twitter, through which I’ve gained the support of lots of lovely fellow-writers, as well as a few book sales, but it does eat time. Bad weather that keeps me indoors is helpful – although I can go a bit stir crazy if I don’t get out for a walk.

What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
I’m a lazy researcher, and tend to write about topics I already know something about, just checking facts and details on the internet. Also, my husband is the kind of person who knows all those obscure facts that come up in pub quizzes, so I often ask him. I’ve also recently taken to asking Twitter for answers to factual questions; you get a great sense of the supportive community when someone comes back with exactly what you need to know.

AGfull cover (2)Please say something about your publishing journey.
I’m published by a small press, Inspired Quill, which has worked well for me. I have a post on Writers and Artists website advising others considering that route to learn about self-publishing; not to be afraid to ask questions of the publisher; negotiate a contract; and be realistic about the limitations of what the publisher can do.

What’s the scariest thing you’ve done to promote your work?
An interview for Bay TV Liverpool, which has recently been broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAnBqfEIGmc&feature=youtu.be. It was the first time I’d ever been filmed for TV, yet only ten days later I was involved in some filming for an event in the Peak District where I volunteer.

How can readers find you and learn more about your writing?

My next event is at The Bakewell Bookshop, Derbyshire, on 6 August 2016.

Catch up on my website: annethology blog Annecdotal or on Twitter @Annecdotist.

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14157781.Anne_Goodwin

In honour of its first birthday, Sugar and Snails is available in Kindle format at only £0.99 / $0.99 until 31 July 2016.

Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Sugar-Snails-Anne-Goodwin/dp/1908600470/

Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sugar-Snails-Anne-Goodwin/dp/1908600470/

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Cultural Break: re-writing Shakespeare

There’s been a lot said about the playwright William Shakespeare in recent months because in April it was four hundred years since his death. He is frequently pronounced the greatest writer in English and his legacy is undoubtedly enduring. His plays are still performed around the world and are on many a reading list for literature students.

Why is the appeal of his work so long-lasting? There must be many reasons, out of which I would pull two. Firstly, his stories feel universal because they tap into collective narratives which are central to our common humanity. To say he nicked all his plot-lines would probably be disingenuous, but it is telling that they have found echoes in stories which have been told and re-told in languages and countries around the globe (pun intended). Love, hate, grief, treachery, honour, lies, truth, memory are shared throughout peoples, they cross borders. Not to mention, political shenanigans. Does anyone else in the UK look at the current manoeuvres in government and the political parties, and think of the many twists of the knife in Shakespeare’s plays?

The second reason I would propose, is that Shakespeare allowed his own emotional landscape to shape his writing. Yes, it all feels like it is about kings and queens and battles and love affairs made complex by misunderstandings and misrepresentations. But knowing a little of Shakespeare’s life – and I know only a miniscule measure of the small amount which can be verified – the development of his plays follows aspects of his personal life. The death of his child, for instance, ushers in his tragedies. In his last play, The Tempest, the magician gives up his powers.

One of the documentaries about Shakespeare which I saw of late, was BBC4’s ‘Arena: all the world’s a screen’ which I saw on the 24th of April this year. It charts the way Shakespeare has been depicted on screen and I was particularly struck by the non-US/UK adaptions and translations. One specifically, Haider, an Indian film (Vishal Bhardwaj, 2014) where a revolutionary in Kashmir adapts the speech in Hamlet:

‘UN Council resolution number 47 of 1948, Article Two of the Geneva Convention and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution raises the question. Do we exist or do we not?…’

This Saturday, the 16th July, in Scarborough, we are lucky to have further modern interpretations of the universal themes of Shakespeare’s plays. The Beach Hut Theatre Company is presenting Natural Shocks at the central library between 10am and 2pm (a free event). Nine local writers have created short plays and a musical performance piece using a scene from Shakespeare as inspiration. Artistic Co-Director, Beach Hut Theatre Company, Ali Watt explains:

‘I think Shakespeare continues to inspire writers because, in his plays, he usually highlights how emotion informs on and shapes the everyday actions people take. Anger. Despair. Love. These are the emotions that are often key drivers in creating dramatic plot and character. The current culture may have shifted significantly since Shakespeare’s day but writers will continue to want to explore political ambition (Macbeth), unrequited love (Twelfth Night) or depression and madness (King Lear).   Reference to the work of Shakespeare will always provide a ‘touchstone’ for finding the way.’

The writers are drawn from a broad spectrum of local talent, including those with national recognition. A play by Jackie Daly has recently been selected as one of three winners of the Windsor Fringe Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing. She says of her contribution to Natural Shocks, ‘It was a creative challenge to write a new play inspired by a scene from Twelfth Night. Olivia and Viola are fantastic characters with so much drama going on between them. It was fun to imagine them into a contemporary situation and let the sparks fly’

This is an opportunity to see Shakespeare re-imagined for the 21st century and to enjoy work from some formidable local talent. Plus it’s FREE. Not to be missed.

More information from: https://www.facebook.com/Beach-Hut-Theatre-Company-43292254078/

Author Interview: Kate M Colby – comes with free gift attached.

Kate C photo Oct15In honour of American Independence Day, I am thrilled to welcome writer Kate M. Colby to my blog. I have made some of my journey to being an ‘indie’ publisher alongside Kate and I have found her knowledgeable and inspiring, as well as a skilled writer. Her advice and encouragement has always been spot on. It’s great then, that, as an added bonus, her 100 Fantasy Writing Prompts (Fiction Ideas Vol. 4) is FREE today, download it here: http://hyperurl.co/adq1ul

Kate M. Colby is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. Her first series, Desertera, consists of steampunk fantasy novels with themes of socio-economic disparity, self-empowerment, romance, and revenge. Kate’s writing contains everything she loves about fiction imaginative new worlds (the more apocalyptic the better), plots that get your heart racing, and themes that make you think. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Creative Writing, and Sociology from Baker University, which she uses to marry her love of the written word with her passion for the human experience.

When she is not writing or working, Kate enjoys playing video games, antiquing, and wine tasting. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children.

What are you currently working on?
Currently, I am working on two projects. The first is the sequel to my debut novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, to be published in early September. The second project on my docket is a series of nonfiction booklets, written for aspiring writers. Each booklet contains 100 creative writing prompts and each one focuses on a different genre of fiction. There will be 10 in total, to make a collection of 1,000 genre fiction writing prompts. Thus far, I have seven of the 10 volumes complete.

What has inspired your most recent novel/writing?
My first novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, focuses on the theme of revenge. In it, my protagonist showed she would do anything for “justice,” and never questioned the righteousness of her path. In the sequel, I’ll be diving deeper into the nuances of justice. When my new protagonist takes on the role of avenger, she seeks true justice, not merely her own definition of the term, and she constantly questions the righteousness of her actions. I think readers will enjoy the contrast in how these two women approach similar problems.

My nonfiction project is inspired by my desire to give something back to the writing community. As I move forward in my career as an independent author, I hope to leave a trail of virtual breadcrumbs behind, so that others who share my goals have a resource to follow. Right now, what I can give back is inspiration and motivation, in the form of creative writing prompts. Down the road, I hope to provide more information about the publishing process, marketing, and creating and running a successful business.

How much do you think fiction intertwines with real life?
I think how much fiction intertwines with real life depends on the imagination and empathetic The Cogsmith's Daughter - Ebook Smallability of the reader. For example, The Cogsmith’s Daughter takes place in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland. Some readers will look at that and think, “Wow, this has nothing to do with reality. It’s so crazy!” Whereas others will look beyond the surface level and see that the themes explored and the experiences of the characters are parallel to those we in “reality” undergo every day. For me, personally, I see fiction as completely intertwined with real life. Fiction is a reflection of reality, a way of revealing truths, even ugly ones, in an artistic form that makes them easier to swallow and accept.

Could you give five tips on how to tackle either characterisation or plotting or dialogue or descriptive passages?
I’ll give you one for each!
Characterization: Make a point of giving your character a flaw. Perfect characters are boring and unrealistic. One of my protagonist’s flaws is that she can get tunnel vision when striving for a goal and miss things that others see as obvious.

Plotting: Start with your three big points: beginning, middle, and end. Where is your character starting? What is the end goal? And what is one thing that must happen for her to reach her goal? Once you have those figured out, fill in the gaps.

Dialogue: Learn to convey each of your character’s unique voices. Some ways to do this are: varying sentence length (some people are more long-winded than others), varying vocabulary levels, and using curse words judiciously.

Descriptive passages: Study poetry. Seriously. I give my poetry classes full credit for my descriptive fiction writing. It’ll teach you how to incorporate sound into your writing and how to make your thoughts flow into each other organically. My readers will probably notice that I do a lot of flowing where others would inject an “and.”

My best tip: End your chapters on a high note. This can be a cliffhanger, witty line of dialogue, or dramatic realization. Either way, it will keep your readers turning the page. Many of my readers have said that they couldn’t put my book down. That isn’t a coincidence – it’s a design.

How would you describe your writing process?
I’m not sure that I really have a “writing process,” but I can tell you how a writing session typically goes. Basically, all I do is schedule a time for myself to write each day. Most days, I have to adjust the time because life gets in the way. Leading up to a writing session, I mentally plan out what needs to happen in the scene. Then, when I sit down at the computer, I write until I reach my goal, whether it be a set word count or the end of a chapter. I try my hardest to just let the words flow and not self-edit. If I think of something I should change later, I make a note in the sidebar and keep going. I also like to write in silence to minimize distractions.

What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
There are two things that help me write. First, I feel obligation very strongly. If I set a deadline for myself, I can usually guilt myself into meeting it. Second, my husband is really supportive, and he’s also great at being my drill sergeant when I need it.

What gets in the way of writing? Is everything an answer? Procrastination, exhaustion at the end of a 12 hour work day, our Netflix account. One thing I’m learning is that the world is REALLY good at sabotaging your writing, and you’ve got to fiercely protect your writing time.

What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
Honestly, I really dislike doing research. It’s one of the many reasons why I write science fiction and fantasy – if I make up my own world, I don’t have to research it! However, there are a few things that I have to research, mostly related to the steampunk gadgets in my world and the steamship. For these, I read articles on the internet and browse through books at the library until I find what I need. Personally, I’m much more interested in “aesthetic” research to help my descriptive powers, and this I do almost entirely on Pinterest.

Why did you choose the ‘indie’ route? What are your five tips for would-be indie authors? What are the pros & cons to indie publishing?
Oh, boy. These are big questions. I’ve written on all of these at length, so anyone who is interested in more information can check out my website. I’ll try to keep it brief here. I chose to be independently published for several reasons. One, I believe readers are the only valid gatekeepers and determiners of a book’s worth. Two, I believe the royalties paid by publishing companies are unfairly low. Three, I want full creative control of my work.

The pros of indie publishing line up with my reasons for doing it. The cons are: you have to invest your own money upfront, you have to market yourself in the ocean of Amazon and the internet, and you will still face stigma from the larger publishing industry and others you encounter on your journey.

My tips for indie authors:
At first, think of publishing as a hobby. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t take your writing seriously. I mean, you’re going to be sinking a decent amount of money into a passion project that may never pay you back. And that’s what a hobby is. You buy a fishing pole or a room full of scrapbooking equipment, and it only pays you back with enjoyment and pride. That’s what the beginning of your career will be like.

Do everything right the first time. Shell out the money for professional editing and cover design. Make connections, formulate a marketing plan. First impressions are everything, and some readers (and other authors) will write you off from the beginning if you look like an amateur or someone seeking a quick buck.

That being said, don’t be afraid to upgrade later. Sometimes, you’ve got to cut corners just to get your book out. If that’s the case, don’t be scared to go back and rewrite, hire an editor, or change the cover. The biggest benefit of indie publishing is that you are never locked into anything. You can always grow and adapt as time goes on. You are free to be better without restrictions.

Make connections. Do this by blogging, participating in forums, or joining online communities. Get a solid group of indie author friends around you and help each other. Everyone says the indie community is so much more helpful and supportive than the traditional publishing world, and it’s true. But it won’t stay true unless we all hold to that spirit.

Be proud. If you decide to indie publish, don’t feed into the stigma. When someone asks you who your publisher is (and they will, even if they cannot name a single publisher themselves), be confident. Say, “I started my own company and am handling the book production process myself.” It’s a huge accomplishment and you should feel happy to share about it. If you’re ashamed to admit you’re indie published, you’ve chosen the wrong publishing path.

When did you start calling yourself a writer? An author?
For the longest time, I called myself an aspiring writer. For a while, this was accurate, as I did more whining about writing than actual writing. I didn’t begin calling myself a writer until I started my blog and fully dedicated myself to writing my first novel. I didn’t use the term author until I had completed (not published, just finished) my first novel. And even today, a little nagging voice in the back of my mind says I’m a fraud – even though I know I’m not.

This is what irritates me about writers (myself included): so many of us are afraid to call ourselves writers! Listen up, people: language is free. You can call yourself whatever you want. If you feel a passion to write, if you express yourself best through language, if you maintain a blog or a journal or scribble poetry on grocery receipts, you are a writer. No one’s going to write “PHONY!” all over your corner of the internet. Embrace the label and get on with your creative life!

Where can people find you & your books?

Website – http://katemcolby.com

Amazon (all countries) – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0996782508?keywords=the%20cogsmith%27s%20daughter&qid=1454458705&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

Barnes and Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-cogsmiths-daughter-kate-m-colby/1122713259?ean=2940152250190

Kobo – https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-cogsmith-s-daughter-desertera-1

iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/cogsmiths-daughter-desertera/id1043808485?mt=11

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/580266

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26499463-the-cogsmith-s-daughter

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKateMColby
Twitter – https://twitter.com/KateMColby
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/KateMColby
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/KateMColby
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/katemcolby
Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/katemcolby
Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+KateMColby
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/katemcolby