I am so excited to share with you my very first author-to-author interview! I discovered author Kate Rigby very recently through the indie promotion site iAuthor. It appeared that I was adding my books to all the same themes as hers, so I jotted down her name as an author I would like to check out. After finding her author page on Facebook I made contact and started reading her books. I have read three and loved every one of them. Luckily for me she has a huge back catalogue! Kate’s books appealed to me as they are the sort of stories I am always looking for and can never find. In short, as a reader they tick all my boxes. Great plots, characters to fall in love with, and gritty stories to really get your teeth into. Kate has kindly agreed to this interview, and as an author with experience in traditional and indie publishing, I really think this makes interesting reading for authors and readers as well. Enjoy!
1) You’ve been traditionally published and self-published. Can you tell us a bit about how your publishing journey first began?
Yes, it began in the 1980s when I’d finished my first novel, then called ‘Where A Shadow Played’ which took me five years to complete. My mother was a major influence as she was writing a novel when I was 17, so the idea of novel-writing wasn’t an alien concept. I was able to pick her brains and get lots of tips from her. I began sending that novel out in 1984 but in the meantime started writing another in the university summer holidays. That was ‘Fall Of The Flamingo Circus’ which was ready to be sent out early 1988. My mum had given me the name of a publishing company in Worcestershire – I think I’d already sent my first novel there which had been rejected so I was quite surprised (and thrilled to bits) when they accepted ‘Fall Of The Flamingo Circus’ straight off. Once it was in hardback later in 1988, they sold paperback rights to Allison & Busby. The paperback version came out in 1990 as did the American hardback version. I wasn’t able to capitalise on that early success however and my follow-up novel required a lot of work. I should have concentrated on that and put the time in but I didn’t and so I lost the opportunity. But that’s me all over – I feared success.
2) How would you describe your work?
Character-driven and a bit quirky or gritty – often retro – and often dealing with hard-hitting issues: drugs, child abuse, disability, mental health issues, and a common theme is about the experience of being an outsider in society. I like to think the themes I write about are timeless and universal, regardless of the setting or era.
3) What is your writing process/routine?
I’m not one of these people who sets out to write 1000 words a day or whatever, although I admire people who do. A lot of my time at the moment is spent updating older work or converting to digital or promoting. I think in this day and age, more than ever, it’s important to have a routine as there are so many online distractions that were never there years ago. I think this is why my latest novel took so long to complete! I also have a reduced window than I did, say, ten or twenty years ago in that I have Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue.
4) What are you working on right now?
At the moment I’m just finalising an update to ‘Down The Tubes’ ready for the paperback version.
5) What else have you got planned for the future?
For the last few years I’ve been trying to get my backlist into digital and paperback format – most are available digitally, but only a few are in paperback as several are no longer in print. But I still have two novels written some time ago that need to be revised and uploaded. One or both of those are my priority, although my latest completed novel is with a small press at the moment. I have already sent it to one small press and will try one more – if nobody bites I will self-publish that one too. I also have more plans for ‘Little Guides’ along the lines of ‘Little Guide To Unhip’ and at the moment I’m keeping a sort of campaign diary. I would like to get that into some sort of shape but I’m not sure whether to have that as fiction or non-fiction yet. I think it is all too current and distressing to think about so I’ve put it to a back shelf in my mind.
6) What is your approach to self-promotion?
It is a necessary evil these days, even for those traditionally published unless they are bestsellers and have a successful marketing machine behind them. I wrote a blog about this in late 2010 and have just re-read it – my views haven’t changed that much on the subject! I felt like a chugger then and I still do! I don’t like leaping out at people and saying ‘here is my book – buy it’. It is more than slightly alien to many if not most of us and yet we’re told this is what we should be doing in this day and age. I suppose I have developed a more ‘out there’ approach: blogging, building a website, supporting other writers, posting samples of my writing on various writing sites and social media although you still get this feeling it’s a drop in the virtual ocean.
It’s all about getting a balance : between visibility on the one hand but not over- saturation on the other. Obviously zero-promotion won’t get you very far these days, visibility is important, but it’s a fine line between just-enough exposure and too much. I take the view that if people want something enough, they’ll buy it. I do like the joy of discovering books for myself or on recommendation by friends with similar tastes. Over-exposure or people endlessly plugging their books (or other people’s) can have the opposite affect on me. I’m sure it’s a two-way street with my work as well. The sales I’ve secured are, as far as I’m aware, from people who are genuinely interested, and if they’re genuinely interested they’ll find out how to buy it, I hope. I don’t want to turn them off.
I do find employing a bit of humour helps with self-promotion. For instance, most of my threads die but my most successful one in the Amazon fora was called ‘Reverse Promotion’. This was where we sold ourselves short and tried to put readers off our books – it was all very tongue-in-cheek so that we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. Whether it sold any more books is another matter but it was fun to do.
The upside to self-promotion is discovering authors and books you wouldn’t have otherwise discovered. This often happens in more indirect ways than blatant self-promotion, for example, meeting on writers sites, Facebook Groups, as well as mutual support by blogging and reviewing and interviewing other authors.
7) Where do you get your ideas from?
Now you’re asking! I think I get my ideas from a variety of places, usually life or inspiring books or TV programmes. But there is no rule of thumb. Often it’s the character that comes first and in order for a character to come alive they need to be in context or situation. My sister and I have always invented characters and have been able to enact them, so that can bring them to life too – the way they speak, their interests, their backgrounds, where they come from etc.
8) You have an extensive back catalogue, but do you have a favourite book among them? Or character?
I think my favourites are where I’ve lived and breathed the characters prior to the books being written. Those characters would be Hassan and Leila (Far Cry From The Turquoise Room – they also appear in Seaview Terrace), Terry (Suckers n Scallies) Michael (Down The Tubes) and ‘Lauren’ (Fall Of The Flamingo Circus). But I also like some of the shorter novellas eg Break Point and Lost The Plot.
9) What would your advice be to young writers?
I’d say write because you have no choice, because you’re passionate about it and feel compelled to do it. If you’re only writing because you want to make a name for yourself or be a bestseller you’re likely to be disappointed and there are far more easier paths to fame and fortune! Be prepared to edit and hone your craft as you would any other. They say it’s 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration and I think that’s a valuable maxim. I’m sure young writers could teach me a thing or two as well.
10) What advice would you give a writer determined to follow the traditional publishing path?
Be prepared for disappointments. That said, a lot will depend on your genre, your persistence, your willingness to be adaptable and to follow market trends. There is always that element of luck, being in the right place at the right time with the right story. I don’t really feel suitably qualified to advise as I’ve only been traditionally published once and that was in a different era. I think I fall down on being adaptable and writing for a commercial genre. I tend to write what I want!
11) What advice would you give to a writer embarking on the independent path?
I think a lot of the advice holds true for both traditional and indie publishing these days, as the lines between them blur more and more. Unless you’re published by one of the big six, I think you have to be prepared to put in a lot of the leg work yourself in terms of
marketing. This does disadvantage those who write in a niche genre, have health problems or don’t have business acumen (I tick all these boxes!). Or those that have a day job or other family commitments. I guess that’s most of us!
12) Who is your favourite author?
This is one of the hardest questions! A friend of mine recently asked several of my family to name our favourite 60s record and I told her it was impossible to name one. Books can be a bit like that although it should be slightly easier to find a favourite author. Being a slow reader, I’ve rarely read a whole author’s works but such that I’ve read, my favourite authors include: Jon McGregor, James Bowen, Sylvia Plath, Ali Smith, Gerald Hansen, Alexander McCall Smith, Jane Gardam, Toni Morrison, Stacey Danson, Kat Ward, Sue Monk Kidd and many more. I like to savour books. Get under their skin.
I’d like to thank Chantelle Atkins for giving me this opportunity.
If you would like to find out more about Kate and her books please check her out her Amazon author page here; http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kate-Rigby/e/B001KDR9GE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1423664127&sr=8-1
And her Facebook page here; http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kate-Rigby-Books/127908180613508?fref=ts