What can you tell us about your books One Step Too Far and A Serpentine Affair?
Both books are what I like to call well-written page-turners, with intricate plots that resolve satisfyingly, and which have more than a twist or two. The reviews have been great, so I'm delighted with that. One Step Too Far has a massive twist which to date (to my knowledge) no-one has guessed and that is one of the reasons I have always been convinced that it could be a commercial success. The other thing about both novels is that they are very contemporary in their style, I write about real things that happen in real people's lives - and for this reason the books seem to really touch people.
You used to work in marketing so please tell us about your role in this profession and how it compares to setting up your own publishing company.
Well, what I've been doing lately doesn't seem that different from having a full-time job, as for the past five months I have pretty much exclusively been working on setting up the company, producing and launching the books and marketing them. This has meant that I spend a huge amount of my time on either the phone or email to production experts, designers, typesetters, journalists, advance reader sites, distributors, Amazon, accountants etc. - and of course readers and bloggers.
When you were on holiday in Venice you got the inspiration to write your first novel, so please tell us about your thought process for this.
I don't know why, but as we were walking along near the Rialto I just suddenly got the idea for the big twist in One Step Too Far and I literally thought "now that would make a great story for a novel." I'd never written a novel before and my only attempt had been once (for about half an hour), years ago on a beach in Goa. What I wrote was so bad that I ticked novel-writing off my future careers list. But I had been attending creative writing classes in Highgate for about a year before the trip to Venice, purely for fun, and I think the class gave me some techniques that, once I had the central idea for the novel, enabled me to just get on with writing it. So that's what I did.
One Step Too Far is therefore very much engineered around getting to a pre-determined outcome whereas A Serpentine Affair's original ending actually ended up being only the middle, and I had no idea how it was going to end until it ended, if you get what I mean!
When did you decide to give Kindle Direct Publishing a go?
When I first wrote One Step Too Far three years ago I sent it off to six or seven agents but got absolutely no response, and as my mum had just died, I forgot about the book for a year. Then the following summer I started thinking about publishing it myself, but when I looked into it I realised that to be successful you needed both a good product and to put in a lot of hard work. I was begging people vaguely connected with publishing (and in fact anyone!) to read it to give me feedback, and one of those people suggested I pay to send it to a literary consultancy to get professional feedback so I'd know whether the book was good enough to bother with or not. The consultancy liked it so much they helped try to find me an agent, but when by Christmas of 2012 I still hadn't got one I started to read every book under the sun on publishing and decided that, almost exclusively due to KDP, the publishing model had changed to such an extent that I could do it myself. From that point on I always saw my biggest challenge to be cracking how to launch on Kindle.
What is KDP select and how does it work?
KDP Select is a platform for anyone to publish their own work as an eBook and be sold on Amazon. It's so simple. What's not so simple is working out how to stand out amongst the 2 million or so other books, and that is what I was terrified of and why I worked so hard at trying to figure out how to be "discovered."
A Serpentine Affair is about a group of friends meeting up, so how important is friendship to you?
Well, the book is about seven friends from 25 years ago that went to University together. I am one of seven friends from 25 years ago from University so it's very important! If they let me I am dedicating the book to the six of my friends in the hope they won't hate me forever. None of the characters are them though, although there are aspects of each of my friends (and me) in the characters and one of the houses is my friend's house.
You wrote One Step Too Far in only 2 months, so what was your writing process at this time?
My mum was becoming suddenly unwell, and the doctors didn't know what was wrong with her. She was getting depressed and so I started sending the book through to her to read in a bid to cheer her up and keep her interest. I was working for a company in Dublin at the time as well as looking after my son, so I'd be up half the night, or writing at the hospital, or in the garden, or on the plane, wherever, writing chapters and sending them through to her. I just had this weird level of energy, and although I didn't want to acknowledge it I just knew I was on a deadline. My mum died only a few days after I finished the first draft.
You took a writing course at Lauderdale House in Highgate, so how much did this affect your skill and would you recommend a writing course to other aspiring authors?
The writing course was just wonderful. I had an inspirational teacher; the other people were lovely and from a variety of backgrounds and the focus was purely on the process of writing. At the beginning of each class we'd be given a word, for example, grey or water and be told to write for five minutes solidly, with that word as the inspiration. It was almost meditative. There was no expectation or marking or homework, just the enjoyment of writing and discussing writing. I'd recommend it as a fantastic hobby rather than as a means to write a novel, but I guess everyone's aspirations for the class were different. And as it happens the first draft of A Serpentine Affair was written in 20 minutes flat as one of the exercises!
What is next for you?
I'm bringing out A Serpentine Affair in September, so the production/marketing treadmill has begun all over again (although at least I know a bit about how to do it now!) Then I want to get back to writing: I am currently stuck on making the plot work for my 3rd novel - which bizarrely has done me a favour, as if I hadn't got held up on that last November maybe I wouldn't have gone for it and done all this myself. I'm also on the lookout for other manuscripts, and have someone waiting in the wings to help launch those when we find them!