Welcome to my latest indie author interview, this time with author Rae Stoltenkamp. I first came across Rae when we were both authors on the now defunct indie publishing platform Autharium. I read her excellent crime thriller Six Dead Men and will soon be diving into her new venture, the first in a young adult series, Where Rainbows Hide. In this interview Rae talks about her writing and publishing journey so far, tells us about her writing process and offers her advice to writers about to embark on the indie route!
Q1 Tell us about your writing and publishing journey so far;
In 2006 I made the firm decision to leave teaching and write on a more full time basis. When I told my dad of my decision he didn’t blink an eye and supported me without a moment’s hesitation. In 2012 my dad died and my rebellious streak asserted itself in a desire to do something to honour his passing. I had a completed novel (Six Dead Men) which I was editing whilst sending letters and emails to agents and publishers – getting the usual rejection mail as expected. His death prompted me to do SOMETHING more concrete with my novel. Unbelievably, an opportunity arose to publish in e-book format without any expenditure on my part at all (Autharium). At that time e-publishing was a much debated topic and people were convinced it would have no place in the world. I thought, “Well, what the heck – it’s not costing me a penny.” Tons of no risk no gain sayings crossed my mind: Nothing ventured nothing gained If you’re not willing to risk the unusual you’ll have to settle for ordinary For who that dare not undertake, by right he shall no profit take So I forged ahead. I didn’t have the slightest clue what I was doing but the e-book went into the world and I told my friends and family all about it. I made the sum total of £12 in royalties and could not have been prouder.
My preferred genre is Magic Realism. I’m intrigued by how much in life can seem totally inexplicable. This genre allows me to explore this and helps me to delve into characters’ minds to look at how they may think or behave or be affected by circumstances and influences. My style is influenced by writers like Toni Morrison and the poet Maya Angelou. I love how these writers use the rhythm, feel and sound of words to get a message across in a dramatic way. I also equally love the element of melodrama you get in work by Austen and the Brontes. My YA books are all Science Fiction as they have a strong eco message which lends itself to this genre. It was also one of my mother’s favourite genres so I have a great soft spot for it. I guess my YA books are mostly a tribute to her.
Q5 You write in adult and YA genres, can you explain to us how this works? Does the character come first, or it is usually the plot?
As I’ve already said, Six Dead Men was born out of a personal experience so the character was built around this. I thought long and hard about the names as I wanted them to be significant. With my WIP; the prequel to Six Dead Men, the character came first. In fact I woke one morning with her words in my mind. Her voice was strong and clear and I had to race to scribble them all down. My YA novels always seem to be story led but I’ve recently found that characters are beginning to demand I tell their story in greater detail. As this is a series of books on the same topic I don’t have to think about the plot so much – it is almost a foregone conclusion. So it seems natural that I can now focus more on characters and what they feel, think and ultimately do.
Q6 Can you tell us about your writing process? What is an average writing day like for you?
I teach at a local charity 3 days a week so only have 2 dedicated writing days a week. I also volunteer one evening a week and tutor in the evenings the rest of the week. So I usually get up around 6:30am. After a coffee I get stuck right in. I have to set the timer on my phone as I often forget to have breakfast. After breakfast I get straight back into it and work until about 2pm. The afternoons are reserved for meetings or any marketing which needs doing. If I have no meetings scheduled I write until about 3 or 4pm then call it quits for the day. I’m currently thinking of moving all my marketing activities to a Saturday as this will free up more writing time as I want to crack on with several projects.
Q7 What are you working on at the moment?
My current WIPs are: 1. The prequel to Six Dead Men 2. A series of short stories based around characters in Six Dead Men and its prequel 3. The sequel to Where Rainbows Hide 4. The sequel to The Lonely Dragon.
Q8 What would you say have been the best and the worst parts of being an indie author?
The best part is writing about things that matter to me and seeing them in print. There is no worst part as it allows me to do something which makes me feel incredibly fulfilled. Sometimes the precariousness of the financial side can cause sleepless nights but when I’m deep into a project and the words are flowing on the page, I get such a sense of rightness that the worry simply falls away.
Q9 What advice would you give to anyone about to embark on the indie publishing route?
Only go down this route if you have great support from friends or family or both. Trying to do it all alone is a very hard road. Be prepared to put the hours in. No-one will be standing over you to make it happen – you’ll have to do that all on your own. Join a body like the Alliance of Independent Authors as they have a wealth of information which is invaluable. And finally – know your product and your audience then market accordingly.
Q10 What are your hopes and dreams for the future with regards to your writing? What would you like to achieve?
My hope is that within 5 years I will be able to earn a living from my writing and give up tutoring in the evenings so I can spend more time with friends and family. I would then wish to publish any writing for children for free.
Q11 Who are your favourite authors and why?
My favourite authors make up a very long list so I’ll just do my top 10: Jane Austen, The Brontes, George Eliot, Toni Morrison, Louis de Bernieres, John Steinbeck, Terry Pratchett, Joanne Harris, Neil Gaiman and Jacqueline Wilson The Brontes, Austen and Eliot because of the element of melodrama they bring to a cracking good story. de Bernieres because he opens up unexpected worlds in my mind. Pratchett and Gaiman because they tackle serious topics but also make me laugh out loud. Morrison, Harris and Steinbeck for their beautiful use of language. Finally, Wilson as she tackles issues so very relevant to children in this day and age and does it with great sensitivity.
Q12 Tell us three interesting facts about yourself
Not sure these are particularly interesting but here goes: 1. I absolutely loath white trainers – don’t know why, just do 2. I don’t like being given cut flowers as a present as they only serve to remind me that they are already dead and only good for the compost heap now. 3. I love watching garden make-over programmes even though I am the worst gardener on the planet and never even go into my own.
Thanks so much Rae!
Rae Stoltenkamp was born in South Africa and came to England in 1987 to visit family. She liked the weather so much she stayed. After a writing holiday in Greece she had an epiphany and realised she should be writing on a more full time basis. It was probably heat stroke since she hadn’t had sun in a while. She then studied writing at City Lit with the poet Caroline Natzler and is now a writer, blogger and former English teacher living in South London.
Currently Rae also works with www.inkhead.co.uk , teaching creative writing courses to children. This has inspired her to work on a children’s book called The Lonely Dragon. She is writing and editing several projects simultaneously, including a series of YA Science Fiction novels and the sequel to The Lonely Dragon.
Rae has a passion for Argentine Tango and when she is not chained to her desk and laptop, can often be seen tripping the light fantastic with her tango friends. She has also recently discovered the delights of Lindy Hop and is laughing her way through this style of dance.