Author Interview; Gail Aldwin

Hello and welcome to another author interview! This time I have the pleasure of hosting Gail Aldwin, a prize-winning writer of short fiction and poetry. She has lived in Australia, Spain and Papua New Guinea and is now based in Dorset. Her new collection of short fiction Paisley Shirt is published by Chapeltown Books. You can purchase a Kindle edition on Amazon (the paperback will follow soon).

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Can you tell us what inspired this collection of stories?

I looked for commonalities in the range of short fiction I had written over time. I noticed a thread of resilience woven through the stories and selected the best. Paisley Shirt is a collection of short fiction that tells of the obstacles encountered in life and how it is possible to overcome them.

I understand you are also working on a novel. What do you find harder? Short stories or novel writing?

All writing is a pleasure and a challenge. I like being able to work on short fiction alongside novel writing. The timescale for finishing a longer piece of work means that it’s good to have other projects on the go where there is satisfaction in knowing the story is complete.

Can you tell us about your novel? What is it about and when will it be released?

I wrote a novel called The String Games as part of studies in creative writing with the University of South Wales. It is the story of the abduction and murder of a sibling told from the older sister’s viewpoint. Rather than a crime novel, the story focuses on the legacy of loss for the protagonist, as she moves from childhood to the teenage years and into adulthood. Last year, I entered the novel into a competition and although I didn’t win and wasn’t placed, one of the judges was a literary agent and offered me representation. This was a lovely experience but it didn’t last long! My agent took maternity leave and decided not to return to work, so I continue to seek a home for this novel.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I’ve been interested in writing for over twenty years but as I child I didn’t like books. I experienced intermittent hearing loss, which meant it was difficult to learn to read, as I couldn’t distinguish the phonic sounds. Reading was hard work and it took until my teenage years to see books as a source of pleasure and enjoyment. My interest in writing started when I lived overseas and enjoyed writing letters. This grew into a love of writing short fiction and then novels, scripts and poetry.

Do you have a day job and if so what is it?

I currently work as a visiting tutor to creative writing students at Arts University Bournemouth. I love my job! It is a joy to watch students develop new skills and confidence. I am also Chair of the Dorset Writers Network. With the steering group, I work to inspire writers across the county by connecting creative communities.

Can you describe your writing process? 

When I get an idea, I muse on it for a while, then I decide which style of writing the content is suited to. Fragments or moments lend themselves to poetry, short fiction needs a story arc, I usually work collaboratively to develop scripts and novels are a home-alone process. The first draft of anything is about getting the words on the page, then the fun begins: shaping, deepening, layering through drafting and redrafting. For the first time ever, the novel I’m currently working on has been fully plotted. This Much I Know gives a child’s eye view of the interaction between adults in a suburban community where a paedophile is housed. The trick in writing from a child’s viewpoint is to exploit the gap in understanding between the child and the actions of adults around them. It’s a lot of fun playing around with strategies and techniques to capture the voice of a young child.

Tell us about your marketing and self-promotion approach

I am new to marketing and promotion so I refer to books with practical advice on how to move forward. I’ve learnt how to write a press release, have made contacts with local press and cultivated friendships on social media. I am hoping there are others like you, Chantelle, who are willing to interview me and review Paisley Shirt.

Where to find Gail:

Email:             gailaldwin@btinternet.com

Twitter:           @gailaldwin

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/gailaldwinwriter/

Blog:              The Writer is a Lonely Hunter

Chair DWN:    http://www.dorsetwritersnetwork.co.uk

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Author Interview: Emily Williams

Emily Williams has written an endearing and emotional debut novel about the enduring and powerful love between mother and unborn child. Letters To Eloise is a book that had me smiling in recognition, and wiping away the tears. The narrator, Flora, is a student who falls pregnant and begins to write heartfelt letters to her unborn baby daughter, who she names Eloise. The story weaves the past with the present, as Flora deals with an unexpected pregnancy, unsuitable men, and heartbreak. The ending was one I did not see coming and I would highly recommend this charming tearjerker. Emily kindly agreed to an interview, and here she talks about the inspiration for her debut novel, her experience of publishing so far and her plans for the future…

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1) Can you tell us about your writing and publishing journey so far?

Letters to Eloise has become a very special novel to me. The journey has been a long one and started quite a few years ago. I started the novel when I had the initial idea five years ago, which I jotted down into a notebook and then onto post-it notes. These post-it notes then formed the timeline of the letters for the whole novel.

I choose the epistolary element for Letters to Eloise as I have always enjoyed reading books that contain diary entries or letters so felt this would fit Flora’s situation perfectly. I liked that she had someone real to write to, someone to pour out her emotions. I loved writing every single letter and making sure that the plot linked up through Flora’s narrative.

I was at a time in my life where I desperately wanted a family but wasn’t in a situation where this was possible, so I wrote Letters to Eloise as an outlet to that. The novel took so long to write as, unexpectedly, I also fell pregnant like protagonist Flora. I had just finished the first draft, and when dealing with all things pregnancy related, I found that I couldn’t read or even look at the book so it was put aside!

Luckily, I did return to the novel after my second child, a daughter, last July. I finally completed my long journey to publication; however, my journey isn’t over and now continues with my new projects.

I am very excited about my next two novels.

2) How would you describe your debut novel Letters To Eloise?

I find it hard to describe my own novel! I will combine some of the lovely words from reviews to make a sentence – a heart-breaking yet warm, witty and touching love story.

I like writing things a bit different and enjoyed writing Letters to Eloise in letter format.

3) What has been the hardest part of your publishing journey?

The hardest part has been learning all the formatting and other details that go with publishing an eBook and paperback. I have had to learn everything from scratch, which although hard, I have really enjoyed! The other hard bits have been the marketing side and embracing social media.

Everything is still such a learning curve at the moment.

4) What do you feel has been the best part of your publishing journey?

Each time I read a review, it has all been worth it. I’ve been so lucky to receive such lovely reviews and reading them makes me smile. I am so pleased that others enjoy my writing and have loved Letters to Eloise.

5) Do you have any advice or tips for new writers about to hit publish?

Don’t rush! Before you hit publish, make sure you have been through the novel with a fine toothcomb. Ensure you have rested your book for a while to look at it again with fresh eyes. Hitting publish doesn’t just end the process though, there’s plenty more work to do! I wish I had organised beta readers and blog tours etc earlier, so be prepared well in advance.

6) Tell us about your writing process. How does a typical day go?

During the day, if any ideas come to me, I use the notes app on my phone to jot down any ideas or post-it notes. Then in the evening (when the kids are safely tucked in bed out the way!), I look back through my notes. I have a chapter’s grid, which keeps track of the order of the novel and any chapters I need to add in. With both Letters to Eloise and now with my current novel, I don’t write the chapters in order. I like to pick and choose what to write which helps with writers block!

I then write for a couple hours in the evening or until at least one chapter is finished. I re-read before saving! The next day I will re-read and edit the work and carry on with another chapter!

7) What are you working on right now? What else can we expect from you?

I am working on a charity novel entitled ‘The Subtle Art of Keeping a Racehorse.’ The proceeds from the novel will go to two horse charities, one of which is the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre. The story is a YA book about teenagers, a missing racehorse, secrets, lies and chaos!

I am also working on another adult novel, more of a psychological thriller than a romance, but will be just as emotional as Letters to Eloise.

8) Who are your favourite authors?

Favourite authors would include Cecelia Ahern, who creates amazingly imaginative worlds for her characters that I can picture myself in. Her stories have strong characters with a magical element of fantasy to them. She too has inspired me to think outside the box! Sheila O’Flanagan writes very clearly about the families in her stories and her characters emotions. There are many, many authors who inspire me and all the books I have read as a child have made me the writer and reader I am today.

I was, and still am sometimes, a massive pony book fan and still have all my childhood pony stories, especially Patricia Leitch novels. I am hoping my son and daughter will love reading them too!

9) Tell us about your long-term goals and dreams

I would love to be a full-time writer and live in the countryside with all our animals. We are hoping to move to the country or even to France soon, to run a small business. I hope that my writing can pay the bills!

10) Tell us 3 interesting things about either yourself or your novel

1. I have no funny bones! After a riding accident I had surgery on both my arms which moved the nerve that causes the funny bone sensation! I find writing difficult now so hand-write or use a Dictaphone if they are particularly painful.

2. The protagonist in Letters to Eloise is called Flora, short for Florence. I called my daughter Florence too. I wasn’t allowed to call her Eloise, so Eloise is a pet cockatiel I have in my aviary!

3. I have never ever been to the hairdresser! My hair does need a good chop but I’m still scared to go!

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Bio; Emily Williams lives by the seaside in West Sussex with her family and a menagerie of small pets. After graduating from Sussex University with a BA in Psychology, Emily trained as a primary school teacher and teaches in a local school. Letters to Eloise is her debut novel.

Links; You can follow Emily on FacebookTwitter

Author Interview with Joel Dennstedt

This week’s blog post comes to you a few days early and in the form of an author interview! I last chatted to indie author Joel Dennstedt around a year ago. Since then he’s been travelling, writing and professionally reviewing books. Here he is talking about his travels, and the inspiration behind his latest release, horror collection, When Dolls Talk

1) Can you tell us where in the world you are right now, and where you are heading to next?

I am back where I began: my hometown of San Diego, California. Five years non-stop trekking through Mexico and Central and South America brought me home to visit family and to re-gear up for 5 more years. I plan to visit Scotland for the Scotch/Whiskey tour, then head to Eastern Europe and across Central Asia into Southeast Asia.

2) Has your travelling inspired any of the books you have written or are working on, and if so, in what way?

Traveling inspired my SF novel,  GuanjoN, , which happens on a planet resembling the Amazon. However, I reached the Amazon after the book was written. So, maybe future thoughts prompted this eerie adventure about Earth natives endangered by indigenous aliens.

3) How has travelling changed you as a person and as a writer?

Oddly, travelling made the authentic me emerge. The true me as a writer. Travelling fulltime gave me the freedom to become myself. Transformation, while challenging, results in total liberation. And travelling is fun.

4) You have a new book out. A horror collection. How did this come about?

This doll spoke to me. Rather, a photo of this creepy doll. She wanted me to write her story. So I did. After that, they just came out of the woodwork.

5) Are you a fan of horror yourself? Who is your favourite horror writer?

Yes, I’m a fan and a follower. My style is inspired by Edgar Allen Poe with a contemporary twist. H.P. Lovecraft has a say for darkness. I worship Stephen King. I never miss a Dean Koontz debut. Overall, I prefer my horror on the literary side, and definitely with a dash of dark humor.

6) Where did the ideas come from for these stories?

Those damn dolls. Actually, I searched out individual creepy photographs to inspire each story. Then I let my fearful imagination go. I’ve posted the photographs on Facebook and in the Bonus Gift Pack that came with every pre-order.

7) I understand you first posted these stories on Wattpad. How useful was that for gaining comments and a potential audience for the book?

Wattpad has a unique audience to itself. They rarely buy the final book. But they keep me encouraged to keep on writing, they offer wonderfully perceptive observations, and they often provide desperately needed Amazon Reviews.

8) Is there a message in this collection? Or in any of your books? Something you wish the world to know? Only to this extent – a

Only to this extent – a marvellous author friend made the following observation about these stories: “So much more depth to them than just scary bump in the night stuff. They’re scary all right, but more about the scary human condition and experience, parables, metaphors, etc.” That is – the real horror in life comes from us humans being human.

9) What can we expect from you next?

Lord, I wish I knew. I want to write a sequel to Guanjo. I plan to write Book 2 of these short horror stories. I need to work on my literary novel, which is still a decade in the making. And I need to keep working on my book of travel short stories based on true events.

10) Is there any genre you would never attempt to write in and if so, why?

I don’t write in genres I don’t read. I don’t read much fantasy. I don’t read hot romance. I wrote a quirky little romance called Hermit, but nothing with muscled men and naked women on the front. But I’m already in trouble with the crowd who says you must pick a genre and stick with it. I cannot do that.

11) How has your journey as an indie writer progressed since we last chatted? Any highs and lows?

It’s a roller coaster; you know that. All highs and lows. More is never enough. The next good thing makes you manic. In the end, it really, truly, MUST be all about the writing. But … it never stays that way. So, I paid my ticket. I’m on the ride. Hanging on.

12) I know you review books professionally. Please give us your top three books so far! What have you read and reviewed that we really don’t want to miss?

That is difficult to answer. I’ll give you my personal favorites, but my taste is not yours. However, I have read many great books by Indie Authors, when I did not expect to do so.

1. Decline – by Jared Kane A perfect little book, a poetic literary

style – understated post-apocalyptic

tale.

2. The Finest Hat in the Whole World – by Colleen Parkinson

Resonates with the feeling and style of

To Kill a Mockingbird. Masterful attention to the details.

3. 602 Brigade – by Musashi Miyamoto

Like Decline, a poetic literary style.

A post-apocalyptic, anti-war tale.

Thanks so much for chatting with me again, Joel!

If you’d like to find out more about Joel, his writing and his travels, here are his links;

Website: http://www.joelrdennstedt.com

Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Joel-R.-Dennstedt/e/B008VJZ6RE

Independent Book Reviews: https://www.facebook.com/independentbookreviews

A Catch-up Interview with Author Kate Rigby

Just over a year ago I posted my very first author-to-author interview to this blog. I was honoured to host the wonderful Kate Rigby, an indie author I had discovered by chance. You can read the interview here. I’m a huge fan of Kate Rigby, and I’ve been working my way through her huge back catalogue since I came across her on social media. I think we’re fairly similar in style and content, and we certainly have the same views in life, so inevitably we’ve become friends and even got to meet up with each other a few months ago! Anyway, I thought it would be great to celebrate a year of author interviews by catching up with Kate to see what she’s been up to since the last interview! Kate has the experience of being both traditionally and independently published, so it’s always interesting to talk to her.

1- It’s been a while since we last chatted – can you tell us what you’ve been doing since then? What books are you working on etc?

Yes, the only new book I’ve been working on at the moment is one I began circa 2005. It’s about a neighbourhood conflict but the political climate of that time which formed the backdrop has changed a lot. So in a way it’s been more difficult trying to bring it up to date than if I was starting it anew. I have spent many years converting my backlist into digital format, this was the one I left until last and inevitably it got more and more out of date! The more out of date it got the more daunting the thought of updating it became. But I need to finish it this year. I planned to finish it last year but things didn’t quite work out that way! I think it’s nearly there or it may be I’m just tired of it now but I’m struggling with the title, not something I usually do.

2- Thalidomide Kid is a story about Daryl, who was born without arms due to the Thalidomide tragedy. Could you tell us what inspired you to write this novel?

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I think it was a gradual evolution and dovetailing of several ideas. I had an idea for a short story involving someone who cut the limbs off their rag dolls (as my sister and I did!) and the idea for a Thalidomide survivor very much fitted together with that idea. I also had an idea about writing a book in a school setting. I wanted it to be retro and to draw upon my own schooldays, so that side of it became (partially) autobiographical. I spent the same years in Cirencester though I slightly changed the name of the secondary school. There was a boy who was a Thalidomide survivor at the school I went to in Liverpool, although I didn’t really know him and visually he was very different to Daryl. But I wanted Daryl’s disability to be incidental and not the raison d’etre for the story. Yes, it has an impact on his relationships and the way his peers relate to him, but he’s also just another kid growing up and having to deal with what all adolescents do: romantic encounters, sexual awakening and friendships with his added disability.

3- How do you think things have changed for people with disabilities since you wrote Thalidomide Kid? Are they better or worse?

I’m not sure how they are for schoolchildren today, I am hoping things are a lot better with all the strides that have been made by people with disabilities for parity in all spheres of life, the Equality Act and so on. I like to think that things like the Paralympics have made a lot of difference to how kids view disability but at the same time I think the pendulum is swinging the other way due to contradictory government policies. You only have to look at the rise in disability hate crime and the number of attacks on people with disabilities, stoked up by the right wing tabloids to justify stripping people of their benefit entitlements. I could get very political here! But it does make me really angry and ashamed to think this is the way society is heading, after all the decades of progress. It just goes to show how fragile progress is and that we can’t take anything for granted.

4- How much research went into the book?

I mainly based it on observation although I will always try and research around areas where there are gaps in my knowledge. But I do like to be accurate and authentic if possible and of course I had a publisher – Bewrite Books – for this novel so had the added input from the wonderful editorial team at that time. I often get my information from TV programmes or documentaries that just happen to be on during the course of writing a book. But having been a child in the 60s I do remember the climate and the impact of the Thalidomide drug. Every child of that era knew of it.

5-I know you are politically active, and in our last interview, you mentioned keeping a ‘campaign diary’, perhaps with a view to releasing another ‘Guide To…’ style book. Is this still something you might do?

Yes, this follows on nicely from the question about whether things have changed for people with disabilities. I began the Campaign Diary in 2012 when I saw how bad things were getting for people with long term health problems and disabilities under the Welfare Reform Act. After yet another person died, quite needlessly, I felt I needed to record it in words. I didn’t really know her, although we’d spoken now and again on Social Media and her name was mentioned on Question Time. But there have been so many needless deaths. There’s much solidarity along many campaigners. This is important because all the time the government rely on divide and rule tactics to divert us when we need to be united. I just had to begin writing down all the terrible things that were happening, as some sort of outlet, and as documentation. Some of it is just copying and pasting from articles until I can get round to shaping into something. Now it has moved on to Brexit and Trump and other depressing things, although Welfare Reform still plays the largest part. It is all too close and depressing but one day I may have the energy and the distance to distil it. Having said that, there are various things relating to it that I’ve incorporated into my current novel.

As for the Little Guides, yes, they are a lot more fun! I have only written Little Guide To Unhip so far but that went down well on Authonomy when I first showcased it and subsequently when it was published. I have ideas for several more but they are stuck in the backlog! But they don’t require a lot of planning and plotting, so they could be done relatively quickly.

6-Do you have any promotion/marketing tips for newbie indies out there? Has anything been a particular success?

Ooo, I wish I knew the answer to that one! I think it’s what all indie authors want – to find that golden goose. Things are changing so fast too, that what worked a few years ago, or today, may no longer work tomorrow. I do the occasional paid promotion with tried-and-tested promo sites but if I break even that is good. The general advice is to build up your reviews so that you get more visibility on place like Amazon. But people rarely leave reviews these days, even friends who mention how much they’ve enjoyed a book, and I’m not very good at asking people to post reviews! I don’t wish to sound as if I’m nagging. I prefer to approach review bloggers who like my work and there are some wonderful dedicated bloggers out there doing a fantastic job of featuring or reviewing indie authors on their blogs. It’s just a question of finding the ones who review in your genre and like your work. And of course interviews and guest posts like this all help to garner visibility! Another area that is growing is audiobooks and that’s something I would like to explore at some point. The thing that has been most successful in all my years of writing was having a traditional publisher. I was very lucky to find one back in the day when books were all paper and there were many more bookshops. They did all the marketing, they had the contacts and they did get me some reviews in some thrilling places like The Times and The Face as well as publication in the States. But those times are gone. Even people with traditional publishing contracts these days are expected to put in a lot of the leg work and time on social media, so the lines between different publishing contracts are blurring.

7-If you could rewrite any of your novels now, would you, and if so what would you change?

Not so much a major rewrite but maybe some major tweaking. Nowadays that is easy to do with the advent of digital technology but with my first published novel, Fall Of The Flamingo Circus, once it was in print that was it! If I was writing it now I would have included more about punk music and bands than I did and also I’d have had Lauren in a band. In fact she was based on a character I invented called Donna who was in a band so I just don’t know why I didn’t translate that into the book. When I brought it out digitally a few years ago that was the time to rewrite it but because it was successful as it was I decided to leave it be. I also should have properly capitalised on the relative success of Flamingo Circus. I had a publisher and an agent at that time and they were trying to help me with my follow up book but I didn’t really take on board their feedback. They say that it’s harder to get a second book published than a first and I think that was very true in my case.

8-You’ve covered so many gritty social issues in your novels, such as domestic abuse, substance abuse, homelessness, racism, runaways, disabilities and even feral children. What else is left to do? What else would you like to get your teeth into?

I think humanity is such that you never run out of things to get your teeth into! It may seem as if I’m an issue-based writer but often it’s the characters that come first. I have a backlog of ideas for novels and short stories. Sometimes a couple of ideas for short stories, for instance, will be combined into something longer. I also want to get on with the Little Guides and have also been doing some poetry so I have an idea of putting together a collection of that too at some point. Shorter pieces in the form of poetry, flash fiction or short stories seem to be the way forward, not only because of my own health and time restrictions these days, but also seem to lend themselves more to the 21st century way of life where there’s so much more vying for people’s attention but only the same number of hours to read it in, and that’s just the literature! The same is happening in art, photography and music. If people have to leave Facebook and click on a link to read more or listen to something they tend not to. So their attention needs to be held before that. This is where poetry, art or photography have the advantage in their immediacy. I also want to write something more autobiographical, not that I’ve led a particularly exciting life but I have a plan to do a slightly different take on it. My mum, on the other hand, lived through WW11 and has written an autobiography of her early years but she doesn’t want to get it published! But it would be nice to get it into print form for the family and the technology exists for that too these days.

9- Do you currently have any characters in your head who are waiting their turn to get written?

At the present time, it’s more a question of following up on characters from former novels to see where they’re at now. I already decided to do a follow up of Down The Tubes as some readers wanted to know what happens next! I already knew in my mind some things that have happened so thought I should write about it but just haven’t caught up with myself yet. I’ve never been one to do series or sequels but one reviewer expressed an interest in a follow up to Thalidomide Kid and I’ve also left other novels open-ended, like Savage To Savvy, which would lend themselves to a sequel. So maybe I will do some sequels after all!

10-What are you hoping to achieve in 2017?

For the last two or three years I’ve tried to set myself writing goals as well as other goals. This year I tried not to be too ambitious as for the last couple of years I found that I didn’t achieve them and then felt very disappointed with myself. So this year I have been more realistic and then I won’t feel as if I’ve failed dismally! My writing goals for 2017 are to finish the novel I’m currently working on, bring another of my books out in paperback (perhaps Fruit Woman or The Dead Club, both would be nice) and begin the follow up to Down The Tubes. I think that is manageable!

Thanks very much, Chantelle, for this interview – I’ve really enjoyed it.

If you would like to find out more about Kate Rigby and her books, here are the links!

Amazon Page / Facebook Author Page / Goodreads / Website/Blog