In an ideal world, I would work on one book at a time. I would be sat there all fresh, waiting for an idea to come along. I would start jotting down notes, forming character bios and doing research. And all of this would happen with a clear mind, a mind undisturbed or distracted from anything else.
Sometimes I think how nice that would be. I once heard another author say that she never starts a new book until the last book has been released. So, for her, it is one book at a time and one book only. Sometimes I envy that approach and think how much tidier and saner her head must be compared to mine!
But as they say, it’s no good comparing yourselves to others, especially when it comes to creative pursuits. We all do things so differently, in our own way, and that’s what makes us unique, I guess. At times, I have worried about my approach and longed for it to be different. These days, despite the headaches and chaos my approach brings, I wouldn’t change it. It is always going to be this way and I have finally accepted that!
For example, at the moment I am preparing to release two books. One, is a re-release, an updated version of my short story collection Bird People and Other Stories. It has a brand new cover and I will release it without much fuss very soon. I just felt it needed a tidy up and I’m really happy with it’s new look.
The other book is a new short story and poetry collection. It needs a few more edits and proofreads and a front cover, so it won’t be released for a while, but it’s basically ready.
While preparing those, I am also working on my four-book post-apocalyptic series, The Day The Earth Turned. I have just finished a rewrite of book one and started a rewrite of book two. Book three is awaiting its second draft and book four has been planned but not started. This is what I call my priority project, although, releasing the two finished books is technically the priority. I work on this series every night. I edit at least four chapters before I let myself do anything else.
I am also working on a YA series with Sim Sansford. I wrote about our process last week. We are approaching the end of book three in the trilogy, but of course, there will be plenty of rounds of edits and revisions to come for all three books. With this project, I respond as soon as I get a chapter from Sim, so I’m writing a chapter maybe once or twice a week, which is not too time consuming at all.
Also on the go, is a spin-off book from my five-book series The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. Two characters are introduced in book five and they really annoyed the hell out of me by growing and evolving so much that they started to demand their own spin-off book! I started making notes for this a few years back when I was still working on The Boy series! Then about a year ago I started writing a rough first draft in a notebook. At the moment I am typing up what I have so far and seeing where it might go. I only work on this if I have completed my chapters for the priority series already mentioned!
I also have another possible series in motion. My son and I drew a wonderful map a while back for a town called Black Hare Valley. Originally, we were going to attempt to write it together but he changed his mind. I couldn’t let the idea go though, and ended up writing a sort of prologue/short story for it. I also wrote a ton of character bios, added to the map and came up with a load of ideas for a YA supernatural/folklore type of story. I am desperate to start writing this but at the moment I have to be satisfied with adding to the planning every now and then!
Added to all of that, I have written half of the sequel to The Mess Of Me and would love to get back to this at some point and I have written a first draft of a YA psychological drama which is just sat there waiting for it’s turn to be worked on. Then, there is another series I’d like to write with Sim when Fortune’s Well is finished. I had an idea one day that grew into a short story…inevitably the story grew into a novel…and possibly a series. But all of these have to wait!!
And then the other day I got another idea! I don’t know why my brain does this to me! It just won’t stop! I don’t know how to make it stop?! I suppose I should be glad I don’t have the opposite problem. No ideas at all would be far, far worse, so maybe I should be grateful. But honestly…I really didn’t need another idea, did I? And this one really wouldn’t go away so I have started writing it….Eek, I know, totally insane.
The new idea won’t take up too much of my time (or so I have convinced myself!) The idea came from me and my sons current obsession with everything zombie and post-apocalyptic. My older son and I have watched The Walking Dead for the first time and have now started watching Fear The Walking Dead. We are pretty obsessed with both shows and the obsession has rubbed off on to real life, where we’ll constantly find ourselves commenting on whether something would make a good zombie killing weapon or not, or how well certain fences and gates would last against a horde of zombies! My younger son is too young to watch anything zombie related but he has enjoyed playing Plants Vs Zombies on my phone and every night when we watch our shows, we have to tell him afterwards what happened. He knows all the characters names and is as obsessed as us without ever having watched either show! We have to do zombie vs survivors set-ups with his Lego or his PlayMobil and any time we go for a walk we have to pretend we are survivors looking for supplies and so on. So, I got this unwanted idea to write a journal style book from the point of view of a teenage boy at the start of a zombie apocalypse. I know it’s an overdone genre but what the hell…I probably won’t even do anything with it. I’m writing it long-hand into a notebook and I write one entry a day just as if it really is my diary. Some are very short, some quite long. It’s so much fun. So addictive. And I’m finding it easy to fit in around my other projects.
So, I guess that’s why I won’t ever be able to work on just one book at at time. My brain won’t let me. Ideas are everywhere. And writing is just so much goddamn fun!! I am too addicted to escaping this world and devising worlds of my own. I have too much fun creating characters I fall in love with and wish were real. I just hope I live long enough to get all these books written and published, That’s my main drive and ambition and purpose in life. Get them all written.
I hope you are all doing well. I have not blogged myself for a while due to all the guest posts I was lucky enough to receive for the pandemic collection. More on that another day! I’ve also neglected to highlight any indie authors lately too, but I’m putting that right today with a special interview. Mick Williams is an author I’ve followed for some time on social media and recently I had the pleasure of reading his latest book, Final Clearance. Mick must be the most versatile author I have come across, with romantic comedies, mysteries, action and adventure and more all under his belt. He is well worth checking out for that reason alone. You are sure to find something that appeals to you. Here he tells us all about his new book, (a dark comedy about a serial killer with a heart) his writing process, proudest moments and what to expect from him next! Enjoy!
1. You seem to be a very versatile author – what genres have you written in so far?
I think I’ve covered most of them! Some of my books seem to be a combination of genres, which makes it difficult to categorise, so it’s probably easier to say that I haven’t tackled historical drama, auto-biography or, as my sister would say, witty-woo stories!! Everything else is probably in at least one of my books. Every one of them has a sprinkle of romance, tons of action and humour and a strong female character.
2. Is there any genre you wouldn’t consider trying and if so, why not?
Yep – witty woo. My Mum reads my books and I’d never dare show my face if she read something overly racy in one of them. I think I’m still her little angel. All of my books have at least a sprinkling of romance in them, and some of my characters might get sexy ideas, but I tend to steer away from being graphic with that stuff and let the readers use their imagination. They probably have a much better time that way, anyway.
3. What comes to you first, the characters or the plot?
This has worked both ways (and a few others, too). For A Reason to Grieve, I had the Doris character in mind from the get-go and wanted to work her into the story. She’s still one of my favourite characters. The Old Farts Club is based on a group of men I saw sitting in a fast-food restaurant one morning: a group of military veterans ranging from men well into their sixties, to a forty-something. They had to have a story (Exodus) and have now become their own series! Location is also something that gives me ideas. The forest in Whatever it Takes is here in Kentucky and loads of the scenes in Exodus came from a trip to Jamaica.
4. Do you imagine what audience would like your book before or after you write it?
Honestly, neither! Writing in different genres is probably holding me back, in that I’m not able to promote myself in one particular area, but all of my books have plenty of action, twists, comedy and a touch of romance. I’d like to think that the people that read my books now come to expect that but, truthfully, I write what comes to mind and hope that people like it.
5. Where did the idea for Final Clearance come from?
I got tired of reading ‘write what you know’ and finally considered what I know! I’ve worked and trained in retail and customer service for decades and thought about that. Then, I saw a video of an obnoxious woman berating and insulting a store worker who, fearing for her job, just stood there and took the abuse. Chances are that the same meeting in a bar or a car park would have resulted in the woman getting a bloody nose! Brody takes it a step further (well, a few steps!) but it served to set him up as a conflicted good guy who can’t stand bad guys and resolves to do something about it. Going back to question three, I bought a sofa in a store like Brody’s, and the location for the end of the book is about a mile from where I live.
6. How did you come up with a complex character like Brody Coulson?
Bit by bit! I didn’t want a stereotypical ‘nice guy turned evil’ kind of character. Brody is just a regular man working a job he doesn’t enjoy, whose patience runs out and he impulsively does something bad. To balance his bad deeds, I needed him to be a caring soul too, which is where Javier and Anita come in. I’d like to think we’re all trying to ‘do our part’ for the people around us, and I thought it would be fun to have a character that would do that – only to extremes. How would he justify murder, and how would he go from killing someone to going home to babysit a ten-year old?
7. What is the hardest part of writing a book for you?
Finding the time – I don’t know how you do it! I still work a full-time job and have a family, so it’s a hard balancing act to accommodate everything. The only way I manage it is to create time and write when I can, which is not conducive to continuity!! There are times I have to re-read what I’ve previously written before I can get going again. I also go back and forth between completely outlining a story and just writing to see what happens, and I spend way too much time procrastinating and trying to decide what to do! I think (or at least hope) that I’ve managed to get my stories told either way with some degree of success.
8. What is the easiest part of writing a book?
The Words. Once I manage to sit and write, the words normally come easily. Some days I can hammer out a couple of chapters and actually have them make sense.
9. What methods do you employ to market your books?
Not enough. Marketing is my downfall. Every time I complete another book, I tell myself that this will be the one I promote properly – blog tours, interviews, signings (at least in the ‘old world’), ad campaigns, emails. Then, I sit down and write the next one instead. Book number eight is with my publisher as I type this, and I’ve just released Final Clearance, and it seems as if I’m releasing them into the ether since, if I don’t let people know they’re there, no one is going to read them. It’s a frustrating vicious circle, and the part of this whole writing malarky that I don’t particularly enjoy. I have an author website (www.mickwilliamsauthor.com) which my much more talented son takes care of. I intend to start a blog on it to give readers something new to look at, and I promise I’ll get to it. After this. Or the next thing! I also have a Facebook page (also Mick Williams author) which I don’t interact with anywhere often as I should, and I also have an Instagram page which has the wrong name on it! I’ve given up with Twitter since, in the few months I had it, it got hacked four times.
10. Where do your ideas usually come from?
Everywhere. I have too many ideas and too little time. As I mentioned earlier, a location can be enough to give me an idea, or an overheard conversation. I read Wired magazine and generally get a few ideas out of every one of those. The most unusual event to give me a solid idea was a dream. I once woke at around three in the morning, fresh from a dream, and jotted down almost the entire plot for Callie’s Eyes – I even had her name and her family. If that could happen once every few months, I’d be able to retire and just write!
11. Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so, how do you tackle it?
Not writer’s block, as such, but I do sometimes reach a point in a scene where I’m not sure where to go next. When this happens, I either save my progress so far and attempt a different scene that I can add later or, if the sun is shining, I’ll go for a walk and mull it over. That’s helped me a few times. And back when I was young and healthy, way back, I’ve gone to the gym and done the same thing. It’s weird how stepping aside to do something else will let my mind wander and get me back to where I need to be.
12. Are you inspired by any particular books, films or TV shows?
To my detriment, yes. I’ve watched plenty of TV where something will happen that triggers an idea that I want to write RIGHT NOW, and I have to fight the urge and just make a note that I may get back to in the future (although it never seems to burn as bright by then). Reading books, to me, is writer homework. I love to read, and it’s another time sapping habit that takes away from the writing time. I’ve read Stephen King’s books since I was a teenager, and love all but one of his stories (I tried and tried to get into Delores Claiborne), but I find that, when I sit to write, his voice is still in my head and I end up writing in his style. I don’t realise it until I read back what I’ve written, and it’s glaringly obvious and I have to go back and rewrite it!
13. What are you working on next?
Two things at the moment, both sequels. My best reviewed book is A Reason to Grieve. It was my first story and I love the characters. I didn’t write it with a view to making it a series, but the characters have never left me so I’m about halfway through A Reason to Breathe, which picks up a few months after the first book ended. One of these days, I’m hoping to add a third, A Reason to Leave, to round out the story and give the characters some closure.
I’m also a few thousand words into the next Old Farts Club story. The first, Exodus, was well received and the second, Dark Target, is with my publisher right now awaiting edits. The third will be another stand-alone story with the same group of characters, and I have a vague outline for number four in that series that I keep dipping into. As I said – not enough time!
14. Do you have a favourite character from your books, if so who and why?
I’ve already mentioned Doris from A Reason to Grieve. As much as I love her, I think all the characters in that book are likeable; probably why I’m going back to them. The banter between them still makes me smile.
The same can be said for the guys in The Old Farts Club. I think that, by the time I reach the end of a book, I get to love all my characters. It’s like they’re my children, but I’m sharing them with the world – if that’s not too weird!
Callie from Callie’s Eyes is a lovely person, and I really enjoyed the chemistry between Cory and Ashley in Whatever it Takes. Hope and Charlie from Hope’s Game are two characters that really intrigue me, and that book was left with an open ending that will be revisited in the future. And Paul and Sabrina from A Guy Walks into a Bar also fascinate me, so much so that I have an idea for A Girl Walks into a Bar which will bring them back against some old adversaries. Again, I just enjoy the chemistry they share, it’s infectious and a lot of fun.
And then there are Brody and Javier from Final Clearance – they’re like my new-borns! They’re only a few months old, so they’re still dear to me. That being said, I THINK their story is told. But, you never know.
15. What’s been your proudest writing moment so far?
I’m fortunate to have a few.
Collaborating with my dear friend, Craig Ostrouchow, on a book (Hope’s Game) and releasing something I’m very proud of that did justice to a vision he created.
Winning the Imadjinn Best Thriller Novel award for Exodus- my first award, that sits by my laptop to remind me that I really can do this!
And every time I open the box of a set of new books. The thrill of seeing months of work formed into an actual book that other people can read never gets old.
If my answers have intrigued you, please stop by on Facebook, or at my website http://www.mickwilliamsauthor.com and say hello! If you mention this interview, I’ll be honoured to send you a free e-book version of either A Reason to Grieve or Callie’s Eyes.
For news and incredibly infrequent and non-rambling emails (see above answer on marketing!) sign up on the contact page, it really would be lovely to hear from you.
And thank you, Chantelle, for giving me this opportunity – it’s been fun!
A huge thank you to Mick Williams for agreeing to the interview! His links are below if you are interested in his books and as he mentioned above, if you contact him and mention reading this interview, he’ll send you a free ebook!
Welcome to another Indie Author of The Month post! This time please welcome award-winning author Jane Davis to the blog. I have followed Jane for a while on social media and have read a number of her novels. I enjoyed each one tremendously. Jane has just released a brand new novel, At The Stroke of Nine O’clock, and is here today to tell us all about it, as well as her publishing journey so far, her writing process and advice to aspiring writers. Enjoy!
1.Tell us about your latest release. What is it about and who is it aimed at?
My latest release is called At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock. I haven’t perfected my elevator pitch on this yet. The short answer to the question ‘What is it about?’ is that it’s a timeless story of sex, class and murder.
My inspiration for the book was the discovery that the subjects of three biographies I read back to back each had a connection with Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Great Britain. My fascination with Ruth Ellis stems from my teens, when I first saw the same photographs that were splashed across the front pages that spewed from the presses when production resumed in 1955 after a month-long newspaper strike. With a four-million-pound loss to recoup, the papers needed something sensational to fight back with, and Ruth’s story was newspaper gold. ‘Platinum blonde ex-model shoots racing-boy lover.’ By the end of the day, in every pub and Lyon’s Corner House, around every dinner table, on front doorsteps and over garden fences, talk was of one subject and one subject only.
The reason for my initial fascination with Ruth Ellis is almost as complicated as she herself was. It’s difficult to accuse those who paid £30 for a seat in the Old Bailey’s public gallery of treating personal tragedy as entertainment, without acknowledging something of the same motivation. At the same time there was something truly shocking about the fact that the last hanging in Great Britain took place as recently as 1965. This was the world I inherited.
For me, the tragedy of the Ruth Ellis story is that, because she admitted that she intended to kill David Blakely, the trial lawyers had little interest in why she did it, the very question that has had me gripped. To a writer, cause and effect is everything.
I didn’t want to put myself in Ruth’s head, so instead I explored some of the same issues she faced through my characters, three very different women, who all have a very personal reason to say, ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ when they learn of Ruth’s fate.
As for who it’s aimed at, one of my readers wrote, ‘Jane Davis straddles the contemporary and historical genres with grace and aplomb, while combining the very best of literary and women’s fiction.’ So my hope is that it will have fairly broad appeal.
2. Tell us about your publishing journey so far.
My publishing journey began before the advent of self-publishing, when the Done Thing for a writer was to secure the services of a literary agent. Which I did. But that agent was unable to place my first novel. (There was an offer and a contract but before I could sign the contract the publisher who had offered the terms was bought up by another publisher, so that was the end of that). There, my journey diverted. Unbeknown to my agent, I entered my second novel in a competition, the aim of which was to find the next Joanne Harris. And I won! Half Truths and White Lies was the result.
Unfortunately (as you may have guessed), I didn’t turn out to be the next Joanne Harris. Transworld published my book under their women’s fiction imprint. I didn’t challenge their decision because I was very green and had no idea of the implications of this. When I submitted my follow-up novel to them, they turned it down because it wasn’t women’s fiction.
There followed several years of trying to find homes for my next three novels. During this time people began to speak about self-publishing in hushed tones. I paid good money for the advice that no self-respecting author would even consider it. But by 2012, I was on the verge of giving up. Before I jacked it all in, I decided that I should see for myself. I booked a ticket for a self-publishing conference. The rest is history.
3. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I didn’t put pen to paper until my mid-thirties. I was quite an artistic child, but I left school at the age of 16 without any idea what I wanted to do. (Being an artist didn’t seem like a very practical plan.) In those days what you did was to go to the Job Centre and say, ‘I’d like a job please,’ and they would look through their index cards to see what was available. I was sent to work in an insurance company. I enjoyed being treated like an adult and earning my own money, so I stayed put. When the time came to apply for another job, my experience was in insurance and so those were the jobs I applied for. I chased promotion after promotion but I was also busy doing all of things that you do as a young adult (buying a flat, DIY, doomed relationships). But I found that I craved a creative outlet. I had been mulling an idea around in my head for a while and, on a two bottles of wine evening, I said out loud that I was thinking of writing a book. After that, there really is no option but to do it.
4. What is your writing process? (How do you plot a book, come up with characters, find motivation etc?)
Do you know, a couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed by an eleven-year-old for a schools project and she asked me that very same question! I had to admit that I don’t have a process. Instead every book seems to require its own approach. Sometimes I start writing with only the germ of an idea. (When writing My Counterfeit Self, for example, I simply decided that I was going to write about the life of a poet, and the only reason I did that was because readers who reviewed my previous book said that my prose was poetic.) Generally, I work on the characters, put myself inside their heads and allow them to take over. Some projects seem to demand extensive research, but I tend to be aware when the research is just a form of a procrastination and it’s time to face the blank page. Several interviewers have put it to me that in XYZ novel, I was trying to get a certain message across. The truth is that, whatever my chosen subject matter, I use the process of writing to explore my feelings on the subject. That doesn’t mean that the views expressed in the book are necessarily my own. Perhaps I need: The view expressed on this novel are the views of the characters and not the author.
5. What has been the most positive thing about your publishing journey so far?
I’m extremely proud of the two awards I’ve won, which acknowledge not only the quality of writing, but self-publishing standards. (Writing Magazine’s Self-Publishing Book of the Year Award 2016 and the Selfies (best independently published work of fiction) Award 2019.) I think it’s so important that professionalism in self-published is honoured, and to recognise that self-publishing doesn’t mean DIY. A team of thirty-five people are behind my books, both professionals and unpaid beta readers who provide invaluable feedback about early drafts.
6. What has been the most negative thing about your publishing journey so far?
I must admit that it was probably having A Funeral for an Owl rejected by Transworld. But it’s a novel I’m incredibly fond of, and self-publishing enabled me to put it out there.
7. Who is your favourite character from your own books and why?
That’s like asking me to choose a favourite child! If forced, I’d have to say Lucy Forrester, my main character from My Counterfeit Self. She’s a cross between Edith Sitwell and Vivienne Westwood. I enjoyed watching her grow from childhood polio victim, from poet to political activist and, in later life, into a reluctant style icon. I was very proud when readers said that they’d Googled her and were surprised to learn that she wasn’t a real person.
8. Where do your ideas come from?
A variety of places. On two occasions now, I’ve been inspired by an episode of the arts series, Imagine. My 2018 novel Smash all the Windows came from a place of outrage. (It was my reaction to a news report.) But I also have a love of photography, and I’m regularly inspired by photographs.
9. What can we expect from you next?
I have an idea for a novel, but the other project that I’ve had on the go for the past eighteen months is the diary I kept about caring for my father who had dementia. (He passed away in April.) I am not quite sure what I should do with it yet, except that I would like to do something.
One in fifteen adults over the age of 65 suffers from some form of dementia. That’s 793,333 people. By the time you reach the age of 80, the odds increase to one in six (approximately 533,333 people). And yet talking about dementia seems to be taboo.
I have so many incredible anecdotes that might provide reassurance to those whose relatives have a diagnosis, but another approach would be to produce a more serious work of non-fiction about how little help is available for the army of unpaid carers who are looking after family members. My 81-year-old mother was my father’s full-time carer (and believe me, it was a 24-four-hour-a-day job), and was not always in good health herself. In October 2018 she was hospitalised with a very serious infection that came about because she had neglected her own healthcare needs. She should have been entitled to a carer herself for six weeks. This was never forthcoming. Instead, she was straight back into the role of caring for my father.
Here is a short extract:
14th October 2018, middle of the night. I am staying at the house because Mum has just come out of hospital. Dad up and dressed.
Dad cutting out newspaper clippings, looks very tired.
Jane: Hello, Dad. I could have sworn I put you to bed two hours ago.
Dad: Where did you come from?
Jane: I was asleep in the bedroom at the back.
Dad: Yes, but who are you?
Jane: I’m Jane. Your daughter.
Dad: Jane? (Incredulous)
Jane: Come on, let me show you. (I take Dad to the hall and point to my photograph.)
Dad: That’s you?
Jane: That’s me. 26 years ago.
Dad: Are you sure? (Looks closely at me.) But your hair is all funny. (Tries to flatten it down.)
Jane: I expect I need to brush it.
Dad: He’s one of mine (points to Bernard). Birmingham.
Jane: To be fair, I think we’re all yours. Bernard, Anne…
Dad: Oh, Anne is very good.
Jane: Jane, Louise…
Dad: Yes, Louise. She came.
Jane: …and Daniel.
Jane: That’s right. Daniel in Edinburgh.
Dad: (Happy now) Shall we have a nice cup of coffee and some of the little round things? (He means biscuits.)
Jane: I think we should both go to bed. It’s the middle of the night.
Dad: I know. It’s ridiculous!
Jane: It’s very dark outside.
Dad: Because of the rain. (For the last two days, I have been telling Dad it is dark in the daytime because it has been raining. Now I regret it.)
Jane: How about it? Shall we go upstairs to bed?
Dad: Shhhh. If you have some blankets, you can still be very cosy. Come on, let me show you. (Shows me his recliner in the sitting room.) You sleep here.
Jane: How about you sit down, Dad, and I’ll do the blankets for you?
Dad: But when is the coffee?
Jane: You sit down and I’ll tuck you in and make you a nice coffee.
Dad: Oh, (nonchalant), I suppose so.
Dad is fast asleep by the time I bring his coffee.
2.30 a.m. Dad is ‘restoring’ one of his father’s self-portraits with Blu-tack.
Jane: Hello, I see you’re up again.
Dad: We have to put it in the holes. One, two three, four, five, six, seven. And we press it in and then we leave it for a few days.
Jane: Perhaps we could do that in the morning. It’s the middle the night.
Dad: Yes! (Very happy)
Jane: I really think you should try and have some sleep, otherwise you’ll be very tired tomorrow.
Dad: (Holds my head and gives me a Latin blessing). You worry too much.
Jane: I probably do.
Dad: Where is the person who makes the porridge?
Jane: Mum? I hope she’s fast asleep.
Mum: (Standing on staircase.) No, she isn’t!
Now we are all up in the kitchen and it is the middle of the night. I decide that one of us really has to go to bed so that Dad does not think we should all be up. Mum insists it is me.
Next day, Dad up bright and breezy at 6.00am. Meanwhile Mum and I are exhausted.
10. Tell us three fun facts about you
I was kicked out of the brownies for refusing to play the game of ladders on health and safety grounds. (I was right. Someone broke their ankle the following week.) I got my revenge by becoming a Cub Scout leader.
11. What is the best advice you could give to aspiring writers?
I learned so much from the process of writing my first novel, my advice is just do it!
A huge thanks to Jane for coming on the blog to talk about her new release. If you are keen to find out more, you can find her bio below followed by her book and social media links!
Hailed by The Bookseller as ‘One to Watch’, Jane Davis is the author of nine thought-provoking novels.
Jane spent her twenties and the first part of her thirties chasing promotions at work, but when she achieved what she’d set out to do, she discovered that it wasn’t what she wanted after all. It was then that she turned to writing.Her debut, Half-truths & White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award 2008. Of her subsequent three novels, Compulsion Reads wrote, ‘Davis is a phenomenal writer, whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless’. Her 2015 novel, An Unknown Woman, was Writing Magazine’s Self-published Book of the Year 2016 and has been shortlisted for two further awards. Smash all the Windows was the inaugural winner of the Selfies (best independently-published work of fiction) award 2019.
Jane lives in Carshalton, Surrey with her Formula 1 obsessed, star-gazing, beer-brewing partner, surrounded by growing piles of paperbacks, CDs and general chaos. When she isn’t writing, you may spot her disappearing up a mountain with a camera in hand. Her favourite description of fiction is ‘made-up truth’.
Welcome to another Indie Author of The Month post! At the end of every month I will be interviewing and generally drawing attention to a fellow indie author I have come across on the internet. For April, I welcome Mick Williams to the blog. Mick is an author I have had the pleasure of knowing online for a few years now. I’ve read a few of his books and he has also read a few of mine. Mick is a very versatile author who writes in multiple genres. He really does have something for everyone! His books are fast-paced and full of adventure. Read on for more.
1. Tell us about your latest release. What is it about and who is it aimed at?
My latest book is called Hope’s Game, a story about a man named Charlie who has lost everything and is offered the chance to earn £10,000 by taking part in research for a new Artificial Intelligence project. Of course, he has no choice but to take part and goes on a life-changing, sometimes harrowing journey. If I had to categorise it, I’d say it’s a little like the Black Mirror TV show… it seems like it should be sci-fi, but it really isn’t, it has all kinds of things in it. Based on that, it’s aimed at pretty much anyone, although I wouldn’t want younger readers to see it, Charlie goes through some tough times!
2. Tell us about your publishing journey so far.
I’ve been writing forever, and it wasn’t until I attended a conference in America that I plucked up the courage to go for it! My first book, A Reason to Grieve, was self-published and, if I’m to be honest, was written as a dare since I’m a fan of action and it’s more of a romantic comedy! Something must have worked, though – it’s still my best reviewed book and people still mention the characters to me and demand a sequel! After that, I finally wrote an action/adventure book called A Guy Walks into a Bar. When it was completed, I printed out two copies (old style, at home!) and handed them to two people who had offered me a ton of advice. One of them was the wonderful author, Tony Acree. Little did I know, he also ran a publishing company. We met for lunch, where I expected some nice food, company and advice, and I walked away with a contract! I now have four books published through Hydra Publications.
3. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
At junior school. I’ve always written. English Language was my favourite subject at school and it followed me home every day. I made my own comics, short story books, magazines – you name it, I tried it. I can’t begin to explain the feeling I had when I opened the box that contained my first ‘proper’ book, and it still gives me chills after a further five!
4. What is your typical writing day like?
Ha! I would LOVE to be able to say that I have a typical writing day. Unless I’m on holiday, no two seem the same. I work a full-time job, so I have to MAKE time to write, otherwise it doesn’t happen. As I write this, we’re (hopefully) in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic. Out of all the horrific negatives that come with it, the first positive I considered was that I might be stuck at home with the entire day to write but, no, my company has me working a full week from home! So, I set the alarm for as early as I dare and write before I get ready for work. It can get frustrating, since my brain never shuts off and I usually get my best ideas when I can’t do much but jot them down.
5. What is your writing process? (how do you plot a book, come up with characters, find motivation etc)
The honest answer is that I don’t really have a process! In terms of plot, I think I’ve tried something different for every book I’ve written. I do TRY to put together an outline (Reason to Grieve, Exodus and Hope’s Game were done on an Excel spreadsheet, Whatever it Takes and A Guy Walks into a Bar were a bunch of handwritten notes, and Callie’s Eyes was a pile of research and a ‘wing it’ approach!). I’m currently playing with the corkboard feature in a program called Scrivener for the sequel to Exodus, which is cool since I can swap, shift and change things as I go and see the whole picture, but I’m also ‘winging it’ on another story, AND writing random scenes for the sequel to A Reason to Grieve!!
Characters are everywhere! Some are people I know, or see when I’m out and about. I sometimes ‘cast’ my characters as if they were in a film, then I can play their scenes in my head and have an idea of who they are and how they’d react to different situations. A couple of the characters in Reason to Grieve were based on characters from a show called ‘Coupling’, and the lead character in Whatever it Takes is based on a customer who came into the store I worked in when I lived in Kentucky. He loved to hunt and was a perfect Cory Keller!
Since I normally know my characters before I start writing, a lot of the time their actions are dictated by what that their personalities would actually do. I have an idea of where I need them to go, but I let their actions take them there… it seems much more natural to let them take over than have me try to force them. If they sometimes surprise you when you read them, you should have them in your head when you write them!!
I remember an author friend saying ‘vomit your first draft onto the page and then sift through the chunks’… I struggle to do that. I normally write a chapter, then go over it and nit-pick it to death. It slows me down but, by the time I’m ready for the next chapter, I’m fully immersed in that world and those characters. It also helps with continuity. Once I’ve completed the first draft (in my fashion), I’ll go through it again and flesh it out with description and emotion. Then, I’ll go again and check it for grammar, punctuation and the dreaded typo. Typos ALWAYS slip through, so then I’ll send it to trusted readers who’ll send back their thoughts. I’ll go through it yet again and either make necessary changes, or decide that what I’d written originally is still the best way to say what I want to say. After that, it’s about as good as it can get at the time, and it’s time to let go and send your story into the world.
6. What has been the most positive thing about your publishing journey so far?
Two things. Mainly, the people. I’ve met some amazing people on this journey. Writers are, for the most part, incredibly supportive of one another. More so, I think, than in most other professions. I have a ridiculous amount of writer friends who are always there for support, encouragement and, as importantly, honest criticism. I’d be lost without them. I’ve also gained some really cool readers who stay in touch to see what I’m up to and, again, offer support and encouragement.
Then, there’s the writing itself. Some days it’s easy, others it seems impossible, but it’s always there. Being able to sit and tell stories is something we’ve done since time began – I get to do it whenever I can. The feeling of opening a new completed book, of seeing a review on Amazon, of writing a particularly satisfying scene… they’re all incredible feelings and something that never gets old. To be able to transport someone from this world into another, even if only for a short time, is fantastic. We read books so that we can check out different worlds without moving. What a gift to be able to supply that world!
7. What has been the most negative thing about your publishing journey so far?
That’s easy – marketing! I love to write but each time I release a book, with the exception of my loyal readers, few people see it and it vanishes into the ether with the tens of thousands of other books that were released at the same time. I love the writing process, but really struggle with advertising and pushing things about me and the fact that I have a new book out (just so you know – I HAVE A NEW BOOK OUT… the link is here somewhere!). I’ve signed up for so many courses and programs, and have so many books on the subject but, when I release a new book, I’m so eager to get stuck in to the next one that I neglect to let folks know about it.
8. What can we expect from you next?
Scarily, three things!! I’m working on a sequel to the award winning Exodus, an adventure/thriller series about a group of army veterans called The Old Farts Club – think of an ‘up-to-date A-Team’! I also started to write a first-person story about a guy who works in retail and gets tired of the abuse the public throws at him – so he embraces his dark side to deal with it. That one came to me after binge watching ‘You’ on Netflix! And, after so many requests, I dipped back into the world of my first book, A Reason to Grieve, to carry on the story of Tom, Emma and their friends; a complete contrast since it’s a romantic comedy. I have enough words between the three of them for a complete book, but my publisher has suggested that I concentrate on one at a time, so Sarge and the rest of The Old Farts are currently engaged on an adventure and have flown from Kentucky to deepest Scotland to save a friend’s life
9. Who is your favourite character and why? That’s a tough question!
Doris, from A Reason to Grieve, is the only character that I’ve shed tears over, so that must mean something. I truly love her spirit and her blunt way of giving advice to the younger characters. If i can be like Doris when I’m approaching seventy (but without the blue rinse!), I’ll be a happy man.
I do also love Paul Howard from A Guy Walks Into a Bar – he’s just an average man who finds himself in an extraordinary adventure. He’s resourceful and witty…and he gets to hang out with the other cool characters.
Then there’s blind Callie from Callie’s Eyes, and Hope from Hope’s Game…did I mention this was a tough question?
10. Where do you get your ideas from?
Everywhere! News and magazine articles, people watching, overhearing things people say (not eavesdropping, mind, overhearing; apparently, there’s a difference!) and, in the case of Callie’s Eyes, a dream. Most of the story, including Callie’s name, happened in a dream and it was one of those fortunate times when I woke with it still at the front of my mind. I jotted it all down on a Post-It note and picked it up in the morning. Hope’s Game is based on a screenplay from a very good and talented friend of mine, Craig Ostrouchow. Whatever It Takes came out of a conversation with a hunter in Kentucky. A Reason to Grieve came from an old workmate who’d browse the obituaries every morning before work to see if he found anyone from his old school in there. A Guy Walks Into a Bar came from people watching – in a hotel bar, and Exodus came from a holiday in Jamaica when we visited Bob Marley’s compound and got to drive through the Jamaican townships and countryside. So, like I said…everywhere!
11. Tell us three fun facts about you
Haha – what was I saying about pushing ‘me’?? Erm… okay –
1. I LOVE music. Alongside reading, writing and family, music is everything. Genesis are my favourite band, and Jude Cole is my favourite artist. If it wasn’t for Jude Cole, I would not have met my wife (if you’d like the full story, join my FB page ‘mick williams author’ and message me and I’ll tell you, it’s a long story!). Truth be known, there isn’t much music I don’t like, I go from punk and pop to rock and reggae and everything in between! MP3s and streaming mean that music is everywhere now. The only thing I miss is the album format. Now that we can stream everything, music seems to be piecemeal where, before, a good album was constructed to flow and have peaks and troughs. Just like books.
2. I have two very cool cats name Thud and Crash. Thud adopted me when we lived in Kentucky. My American brother and my adopted second wife have a house that overlooks a golf course. One cold winter, after a Mexican meal and one or two (or five or ten) drinks, we were hanging around in the kitchen when my wife heard a noise outside. I went out to check it out and was eventually ‘ankle-bumped’ by a dirty, freezing-cold kitten. The end of his tail was broken, and his ears were riddled with mites. At the time, I wasn’t really a ‘cat person’, but our option was to either take him home or put him back into the cold. When we found that he’d been dumped, we had no choice but to adopt him, and now he’s my writing companion (he’s actually on my author pic on A Guy Walks into a Bar!). I call him the OC (Original Cat) since we also adopted another furry fella from the animal shelter to keep Thud company. This ginger tabby is the most lovable animal I’ve ever met and has a habit of nuzzling against you and then falling over to let you fuss him. We had to call him Crash. I should really put their pictures on my FB page and website!!
3. I’m not an army brat, but I’ve lived (I think) in thirteen different places, on either side of the Atlantic, and I’m getting ready to move again once restrictions are lifted! I think this time, once we find somewhere, that’s it! I’m ready to sit still now!!
12. What is the best advice you could give to aspiring writers?
Write what makes you happy. I read a lot about ‘writing to market’, but a) markets seem to shift constantly and b) that seems too much like work! I love to write, and I write what’s in my head, not what I think people might like to read. I’ve been fortunate to find people that like to read what’s in my head which, I suppose, makes them as crazy as me! It won’t ever fund my retirement, but it’ll make my retirement a lot more fun.
Read. A lot. Reading is writer homework. See how the books you enjoy actually work. Why did that scene make you smile? Why is your heart pumping a little faster after finishing that chapter? Good writers don’t hide how they make their magic, it’s right there on the page. Love or loathe him, but no one creates worlds better than Stephen King. How? Description and character. By the end of a SK book, you’ve lived in that town and you know those folks. They’re as real as you and I… that’s why it bothers you so much when he does nasty things to them! Learn from the best.
And, remember that rules are made for bending. While there are definite do’s and don’ts, no one will write your story the way you will. I remember reading somewhere that sentences should vary in length (which I agree with 100%), but that they shouldn’t be overly long. I’ve just finished the latest number one bestseller by Lee Child. There’s a sentence in there that runs at over ONE HUNDRED words (his previous best was 81 – I counted!). This breaks every rule under the sun, but it worked. And Reacher still had time to get the job done
And, finally – just enjoy it. If no one else reads a word of what you’ve written – you have. And I’ll bet it felt great.
Thank you so much to Mick for doing this interview! If you would like to find out more about Mick and his books (and I highly recommend that you do) you can follow him here;