Friday, May 17, 2013
I am delighted to welcome the very lovely HOLLY HEPBURN to Coffee & Roses. Her brand new e-book novella, Cupidity, has become an instant Amazon bestseller and if you haven't read it yet you're missing out! I asked Holly to tell us about her scary decision to self-publish - a decision which has clearly paid off...
Brave. It’s a word you associate with heroic people – like firemen and soldiers and trailblazers. It’s not the kind of word you associate with writers, unless they are Salman Rushdie or E L James.
It’s certainly not a description anyone would normally level at me. I’ve never done anything remotely brave, apart from risk my stomach contents on Nemesis Inferno at Thorpe Park. I’m even scared of spiders.
But when it came to self-publishing my first adult book, I didn’t so much as flinch. Self-publishing has come a long way since the days of murky, sweaty-pawed vanity publishers, who charged you a small fortune for a badly printed, thin papered, unprofessional looking version of your dream. Thanks largely to the rise of e-books, self-publishing has stepped into the light and, boy, has it stolen the show from its papery co-stars. Some people even think it’s the future of publishing. I’m not sure that’s true but it did offer me a way to dip my toe into adult writing.
I’ve always wanted to write a chick-lit novel and although I’ve started writing one, I’ve never managed to finish it – other commitments have got in the way. So it stands at 35,000 words, sad and neglected, waiting for me to come back to it. My agent even sent out the first three chapters to a couple of publishers, and the response was positive, with one gigantic publisher requesting the full manuscript. And that was the problem – I didn’t have it, and lacked the time to finish the novel. So I worked on other things and forgot my chick-lit yearnings. I wrote an opening chapter for the Harry Bowling Prize for New Writing 2012, which reached the final ten. And still I didn’t feel I could finish a book, until the end of 2012, when I had an idea that wouldn’t go away. I don’t have to be a novel, it whispered, I could be a novella...
Once I’d decided to write a novella, self-publishing was a natural home for it. No publisher would be interested in a 20,000 word story from a debut novelist, after all. And I knew several other people who had self-published with great success. So, after a false start or two, I finished the novella and set about creating a cover, one that set out very plainly that this was a chick-lit story. Once it was ready, I uploaded everything to Amazon and Cupidity was born.
It’s absolutely terrifying, putting something out there that hasn’t had the benefit of an expert editor and proof-reader. Of course, you can employ professionals to do this for you and I recommend that you do. I ran out of time to do it with mine but I went over and over it so many times that I hope the mistakes are few and far between (memo to self: ask writer friends who have read it if they spotted any mistakes). The morning I was ready to publish, I felt sick. The project felt much more personal than anything I’d put out there before. What if people hated it? What if they thought it was rubbish? What if – horror of horrors – they didn’t laugh?
I hit publish anyway. That was two weeks ago and it’s been OK. Cupidity was an instant bestseller. In fact, it’s been top of the Amazon bestseller chart ever since. People seem to be reading it. More importantly, they seem to be laughing and it seems to be at the bits I meant them to find funny. I’m thinking about running a local course on how to self-publish, to help other writers to navigate the lumps and bumps of e-book formatting.
So it strikes me that although I’m not an astronaut or a tightrope walker, maybe I am a little bit brave after all.
Thanks Holly! I adored Cupidity and absolutely recommend it! You can follow Holly at her gorgeous website: hollyhepburn.com and on twitter @hollyh_author.
Friday, May 3, 2013
All this year I will be documenting the writing, editing and publishing of my fifth novel, giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I'll tell you all about my writing competition for unpublished writers, The New Rose Prize 2013 and bring you exciting details of my sparkly online writing course, which is coming soon...
2013 will see the return of The New Rose Prize for unpublished writers! I'm extending the competition this year to include separate prizes for Crime, Literary, Romantic Comedy and YA short stories, plus for the first time I'm adding a First Chapter award for the most impressive first chapter of a novel (open genre). I'm so excited to be bringing this competition back after a cracking opening year in 2011, which was won by Naomi Frisby. There is a stellar line-up of judges and awesome prizes. Submissions will open on WEDNESDAY 8th MAY and close on Saturday 31st August, with the shortlist announced on 6th September and winners announced on 20th September.
My judges are: TAMSYN MURRAY for the YA Prize, MEL SHERRATT for the Crime Prize, JAMIE GUINEY for the Literary Fiction Prize and I'll be judging both the Romantic Comedy Prize and the First Chapter Award.
The announcement of the official opening for submissions, plus all the entry details for New Rose Prize 2013 will be published HERE at 1PM on WEDNESDAY 8TH MAY - so make sure you check back then!
I'll tell you more in this week's vlog below - enjoy!
p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'New Summer Hat'...
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Today, I sat in a cinema all by myself and watched a film.
This is not a statement that I have no friends or that I'm a rock-star author who can command private screenings. It was just a lovely, serendipitous happening. But it made me think about what writers do for our readers.
I didn't have special permission from the director the view the film alone. I didn't have to pay a King's ransom for the opportunity. I didn't even have to book the experience in advance. I simply turned up at my local multiplex cinema on a Saturday morning and bought a regular ticket for the first show of the day. As it happened, nobody else had the same idea and so, with my £6.20 ticket, I watched the film as the only person in the cinema. Yes, I felt like a celebrity. And yes, I grinned like a complete loon all through the film. It was one of those moments that probably won't ever happen again, but I loved every second of it.
And then, it hit me: as an author every book I write offers each reader an experience like this.
Every author who writes a story for other people to read is inviting those readers into an amazing world which feels as if it was created just for them. The audience of one. It doesn't matter if a book is read by one person or several million, the experience is the same. We offer people the chance to step into their own private cinema of their imagination and project a story into it for them to enjoy. And as each reader's ideas and expectation of the story are different, each mind-movie is different, too. We give readers an indulgent, VIP experience by welcoming them into worlds of our creation, no matter who or where in the world they are.
That's why books are magical.
I mean, where else can you receive that kind of attention for less than a price of a cinema ticket?
Friday, April 26, 2013
All this year I will be documenting the writing, editing and publishing of my fifth novel, giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I announce the final two winners of my #getinvolved challenge, talk about edits and answer your questions!
After a completely crazy couple of weeks, the first edit on Book 5 (still awaiting a title) is done and I've recovered enough to be almost coherent!
So, without further ado, here is this week's vlog - hope you like it!
p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Oy! Oo nicked me teef?')
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
I am delighted to welcome fantastic author CAROLINE SMAILES to Coffee and Roses. Her brand new book, The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is published this week. It's already receiving rave reviews and is an absolute must-read. Over to you, Caroline!
Being a student and finding out that I was pregnant seemed like the end of the world.
And even after I had come to terms with the pregnancy, and long after my baby had been born, I was dogged by a sense of failure. In fact, three children, a happy marriage and several house moves later, I was still haunted by that ghost of my abandoned studies.
So, when the opportunity to return to academia presented itself I jumped at the chance to study for a PhD, but this brought with it new, unforeseen problems.
My break from university had left me out of touch with current research and being a mother and wife had changed me. I wasn’t the same naïve, young girl who had been excited by the challenge of phonetics and phonology. Yet I continued with my studies, the voice in my head telling me that I would prove wrong all the people who had told me that having my baby would ruin my life.
I was in my second year of PhD study when I miscarried our fourth child. This brought devastation into my daily life. I felt lost and confused. In my sadness and grief I recognised that I wasn’t being true to myself. I finally understood that I’d been too busy trying to please other people and in doing so had forgotten how to please me. It was in amongst the chaos and upset that I turned to writing.
Writing had been my 'safe place', it had always been my safety net. I had numerous diaries, poems and snippets of captured moments. Yet this time it was different. The writing about my feelings surrounding the miscarriage developed into a story and that story into something longer.
I found myself stealing increasingly larger amounts of 'spare' time to write. My time with the story offered an escape and a chance to explore issues and thoughts. Through writing I was finding myself, I was finally being true to me.
Fast-forward five months to September 2005 and I was eating my lunch in front of the TV. I was watching a repeat of a Richard and Judy programme. The presenters were talking about someone who Richard called 'a nearly woman'. It makes me laugh now, but I can’t even remember who they were talking about. He gushed that this 'nearly woman' often tried new things, but she never finished them.
Richard Madeley’s words hit home and I froze. I was a 'nearly woman'.
I felt that I was ‘nearly’ finishing many things, but not fully committing to any. At that very moment I knew that if I didn’t make some drastic changes I ran the risk of living the rest of my life as a 'nearly woman'.
Within the next two weeks, I dropped out of my PhD study and cancelled my funding. I had made a choice, I was going to be true to myself, I was going to be a writer. Of course, my journey was never going to be all plain sailing. Many people close to me had been shocked at my switch, telling me that I was throwing away my career to follow a ridiculous dream. Academia offered financial security, writing didn’t.
Possibly I’m stubborn or maybe I was driven by a desire to prove people wrong, but I spent every single spare moment writing, late nights, early mornings, in the car, in the bath, giving up my favourite TV shows. Writing simply became an obsession, the characters in the novel occupied my mind and I was determined.
I finished the final draft of my novel a year later, on holiday. We celebrated with champagne in the afternoon and my falling asleep in a chair, fully clothed. Ironically, I guess by finishing the novel I put myself onto a different level of ‘nearly’, as it was suddenly all about how to find an agent and how to submit to publishers. My reaction to this was to start a blog, while trying to figure out the best next step. And it was three weeks later that a publisher stumbled on my blog, read an extract from my novel and asked for the full manuscript. And a week later, when I received my first publishing contract.
But even now, with my fifth novel about to be published, the voice of Richard Madeley still haunts me. It taunts me with the threat of one day becoming a ‘nearly woman’, it makes me determined to keep writing.
One day, I’d quite like to thank Richard Madeley.
Thanks so much to Caroline for such a brilliant post! You can follow Caroline on twitter @Caroline_S, on facebook and visit her website here. Her amazing new book, The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is published by The Friday Project this week and I can’t wait to read it!
Sunday, March 24, 2013
All this year I will be documenting the writing, editing and publishing of my fifth novel, giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I bring you the first of my vlogs from my research trip to San Francisco and reveal the winning KOOKY COFFEE SHOP NAME suggestion for this week's #getinvolved challenge!
Bob and I have just returned from San Francisco - what an amazing place! I absolutely fell in love with the city and am having withdrawal symptoms already...
While I was there, I filmed lots of footage to help me recreate the sights, sounds and experiences we had for when I'm writing Book 5. I also kept a blog diary, which you can read at my website. I'll be sharing several videos with you over the next couple of weeks - hope you enjoy them!
Also in this week's vlog I'll reveal the kooky coffee shop name suggestion that is going into the book - keep watching to find out who will get a mention in my acknowledgements.
I'd love to know what you think - also let me know your questions about writing, publishing or anything else that you'd like me to answer next week. Leave me a comment below or email me at email@example.com
p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Check out the shades, y'all...'
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
All this year I will be documenting the writing, editing and publishing of my fifth novel, giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I announce the third of your suggestions for Book 5! Which CUPCAKE FLAVOUR will Nell be making in the book and who will be get a thank you in my acknowledgements? I'm getting ready for San Francisco and also give my top tips for beating the dreaded writer's block...
Your suggestions for a CUPCAKE FLAVOUR for Nell to bake have flooded in this week and I've been like a kid in a cake shop choosing the winner - thanks! Find out in the vlog who will see their suggestion written into the story and their name in the thank-yous!
I'm getting ready for my exciting research trip to San Francisco - and I'm so excited! In my vlog I'll tell you the innovative way I'll be using the trip to create Nell's discovery of the City of Lights. I also give my tips for overcoming writer's block, including a visit to the pub...
So here's the vlog - hope you enjoy it!
p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Ooh for the wiiiiings...'!