To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. - Herman Melville
I should have been born in England! Admittedly that's an odd way to start an article but this month's featured SPARKS guest IS from England where she lives with her husband. I so enjoy some of the expressions she uses that I've determined to at least visit there at some point.
Words like cheers, pub, and loo drip off her tongue like thanks, bar, and toilet drip off mine but it seems so much more fascinating somehow! On top of this, she's a dead ringer for my sister Sandra.
I was curious to know about her, and her process as a writer and I think you'll enjoy her interview as much as I have so let me introduce you to:
Terry has published ten books on Amazon: eight full length novels, a novella and a collection of short stories. Her latest two novels, Kings and Queens and Last Child, are modern day parallels of the Tudor period in English history, and have been enjoyed by Tudor fanatics and non-history lovers who love a good contemporary family/romantic drama alike.
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
To be absolutely honest, Anita, I never had that 'I want to be a writer' thing going on. I had always written a bit, and writing my first novel was a natural progression during a time when I hadn't got a great deal to do! That was 22 years ago. I wrote several over the next few years, then stopped for 9 years (because I was busy living some of the stuff that helped me write the next batch!) and then ... (see next question...)
What was the process that led up to publishing your first book?
I started writing way before Kindle self-publishing was an option and wrote without any realistic idea of publication - in those days such thing was but a pipe dream! Getting traditionally published is still about as hard as it is for musicians to get a recording contract with a major label. I've had interest from literary agents for the three I've submitted, but always with suggestion for too much change; my novels aren't very obviously commercial as they don't fall into one specific genre. I'm wary of going with an indie press as I like to have control over what I do. The good ones only accept submissions of a certain quality and are supportive to their writers, but there are many who will accept virtually anything. Would I recommend it? Yes, if you're prepared to work hard at the promotional side and don't expect to give up the day job any time soon. By 'working hard' at the promotional side I don't just mean a couple of sessions on Twitter each week!
What did you need to learn about that process and how did you learn it.
As far as the physical process of publication goes, the best thing to do is just go to the Amazon KDP website - but I don't do the formatting and publishing bit, another kind person does it for me. In other words, I'm sorry, I can't shed much light on this! You need to choose your book's categories carefully, take a while to write a blurb that will interest browsers, etc. The promotion is another subject entirely, a huge one, and something you learn by trial, error, advice and experience.
How does it feel to be doing something you're passionate about?
Good - I'm so glad my husband made me start writing again or I might never have done so! Frustrating sometimes, though, because one is never as good as one wants to be.
What challenges have you faced?
How long have you got??! So many. It all starts when you see your first book on Amazon and think, right: how will people know it's there? That's what it all centers round, really; finding ways to make your books visible and appealing to people. It never ends, and it gets harder and harder, as every day there are new people publishing for the first time. On the other hand, there are also lots who've given up. I couldn't imagine doing anything else now, though; I feel irritable if I can't write. I think about my work-in-progress all the time!
What would you say to anyone who thinks that if a book is self-published it must be substandard?
I'd say, choose carefully and take recommendations. Since Amazon opened its gates it's facilitated a platform for everything from the worst rubbish imaginable to books that rival the traditionally published in every way possible. Read established book blogs; some I know are Rosie Amber, Between The Lines, Storm in the Stacks, Scatterbooker, A Woman's Wisdom, Ebookwyrm. Since I've started reading 'indie' books as well as my old favourites, at least ten writers now number in my list I'd recommend without hesitation.
What's been most rewarding for you?
There's nothing like getting a message or a review from a complete stranger telling me that they've loved one of my books. It's a truly wonderful feeling! Whenever I have a rough sales patch I think this: before self-publishing, no-one aside from a few friends would have read me at all.
What advice would you give to someone who has a dream but hasn't acted upon it yet?
This is how I look at it: if it's something creative that you really long to do, you should already be doing it. People who truly have a desire to write, paint, sculpt, make cuddly toys, etc, just do it, they don't wait until they think they might make some money out of it. They write, paint, sculpt, and make cuddly toys, instead of watching the telly or going to the pub. If you want to get professional recognition or make money out of your craft, though, you need to find out if you're any good so you don't get disappointed, and if you find that you don't have what it takes to, for instance, produce wonderful oil paintings, perhaps there is something related to the original idea that you could do, instead. As far as writing goes, you might have a talent for writing blog articles, but not novels. Don't wait until the time is exactly right - just start.
Something I've said (perhaps too often!) is this: there's a world of difference between wanting to write, and wanting to BE A WRITER. If you've always had fantasies about winning the Booker Prize but have never actually put pen to paper, chances are you fall in the latter camp.
If your dream is something practical, like opening your own shop, or traveling the world, then look into the feasibility of it, and work out how much you are prepared to risk in order to follow it. I am speaking from the point of view of someone who has had a shop, too!
My sister (@ProofreadJulia on Twitter) gave up her job to become a full-time self-employed proofreader a few years ago; she did it gradually, at first still going out to work part-time until she'd built up her client list and reputation. If you reckon it's worth it, don't let other people's negativity put you off. Life's short; people tend to regret the things they didn't do, rather than the things they did.
Many thanks, Anita, for inviting me to your site, and I do hope that my responses have been of interest to your readers.
Thank you Terry for giving us a peek inside your process and letting us get to know you better. Best of luck with your new book and all of your future endeavors.
Besides her books and stories, Terry also has a widely read blog, on which she writes about anything and everything, a book review blog for her own reading choices, and a blog with articles about self-publishing on the UK Arts Directory.
Book Review Blog
UK Arts Directory Blog