Novel: “Torc of Moonlight : Special Edition”
When did you decide to become a writer?
I don’t think anyone ever “decides” to become a writer, it sort of happens as a hobby and takes off from there. I am the eldest of three and when very young we were all put to bed at a time most suited to the youngest. The other two slept; I play-acted stories under the bedclothes. It was at secondary school, aged 11, when I first realised the power of enacting stories on paper. By 13 it was my ambition to see my name on the spine of a novel on a library’s shelf.
If you are not a full time writer what do you do to pay the bills?
Marry a supportive spouse and have a part-time job! After my first two novels were accepted by a mainstream UK publisher – after a lot of short fiction for magazines – I was asked to stand in for five weeks as an adult education tutor in Creative Writing while the salaried tutor visited Australia. Three years later…
It was only two hours a week, but having to explain the hows and whys of what I usually did by gut instinct gave me perspective into the art and craft of writing fiction. I now critique unpublished novels for a London literary consultancy and have a few private clients, all of which helps to pay the bills.
What was your route to Indie authoring?
“Torc of Moonlight” had a good response from mainstream publishers, but no contract. When low cost print-on-demand (POD) publishing became available in the UK I took advantage and the paperback is available in the UK/USA. A few months after it launched, Amazon announced that it was opening its dtp, now Kdp, to non-USA citizens. I’d only ever seen one person with an e-reader but knew the revolution would soon be hitting our shores, so I used my rights-reverted historicals as test ebooks before uploading “Torc of Moonlight : Special Edition”. It has bonus material as well as the paperback’s text.
Any tips for your fellow Indie authors?
When my first published short story came out I marked up, in red, my submitted typescript to match the edited, magazine printed version. It taught me a great deal about punctuation, syntax and losing waffle. I did the same with all my short fiction, and the two historical novels that followed. Very often indie authors haven’t the benefit of such an apprenticeship, so I’d suggest sending either a long short story, or a 50 page partial of a novel, for an in-depth critique to someone who focuses on their genre. A true edit is very time-consuming and so costs, but if the author asks politely for an in-depth edit of 3-4 pages along with the critique few will ignore the request. Those pages will return littered with editing marks and look horrific, but, if the author takes the information on board, and in conjunction with the crit, what can be learned will prove invaluable. Anyone can upload an ebook. What we are all looking to do is be selling handsomely in five years time, and none of us will do that if we keep repeating our mistakes.
What do you see the biggest challenge in being an Indie author as?
Being noticed. I spend a great deal of my writing time promoting. “Beneath The Shining Mountains”, the Native American historical, is in a small category and benefiting from Amazon’s “Customers who bought this item, also bought…” which has happened almost by accident. But how do you make accidents like that happen for every genre?
Do you have a homepage/blog/twitter/facebook etc... that fans can follow your progress or contact you at?
Are there any specific sites that you visit for advice or inspiration?
+A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ not just for Konrath’s evangelical stance on indie authoring, but for the knowledge of the commenters.
+The Kindleboards forum http://www.kindleboards.com which is, ostensibly, a readers’ forum which welcomes authors’ ebook promos. However, its sub-forum Writers’ Café is a repository of indie publishing knowledge.
What genre would you consider your book?
When it was first offered to my then UK agent, and to print editors, I categorized it as a Supernatural Thriller and was roundly howled down because “there is no such genre”. Which rather left me in a quandary. I’ve referred to it as a Timeslip, a Paranormal, a Fantasy, a Thriller – and it is all of these, while being atypical of each. Moving into digital hasn’t made this any easier.
You use very detailed geographical locations in your book. How many are true to life? Did you visit any of them in person to get your descriptions?
To both questions: all of them, except for the farmhouse and the pool at the climax of the novel, and those weren’t figments of my imagination as I’ve visited places like them. None of this was envisaged when the novel was in incubation but when I started doing the research I realised the locations were a part of the character set.
The novel is about the resurrection of a Celtic water goddess. Think of the myths of King Arthur: when he lay dying his sword Excalibur is tossed into “The Lake” and received by a female hand; the era is always portrayed as Early Mediaeval but it’s far older. We toss coins into a “wishing well”, but it’s exactly the same rite to the same deity. A water goddess was both a sentinel between worlds, demonised by Christianity to what we refer to as Halloween, and a fertility goddess, an aspect of Mother Nature. In the novel the man-made locations are emphasised for their route back into history; the natural locations, even to the trees in the cityscape, are emphasised for their pervasive infiltration of Nature. What binds it all together, and allows entities movement from pool to city, is the natural cycle of rain.
Are your character personalities based off of people in your life?
I don’t work that way. Many years ago I watched a television programme about Method Acting, explaining how actors immersed themselves in the back-research of the character they were to play so as to ensure credibility. It struck me as the ideal system to build fictional characters. I don’t tell readers what’s happening to my characters, I become the character leading a scene and show what’s happening to me, allowing readers, who are carrying more information than the individual characters, to work out what’s going on.
Which character do you identify with the best?
Oddly enough, despite Alice being the lead female, it is Nick, which is good considering he has to carry the trilogy, lol. I’m not a sporty person but needed a group contact sport to mirror Celtic battle training. Football (soccer to the USA) was hopeless as give players a bruise and they’re rolling about in perceived agony. However, Rugby Union remains true to its roots. There’s a lot of skill involved, but at the lower levels it’s laddish, macho and often flounders into testosterone-fuelled fights, and apart from a gum-shield, there’s hardly ever any protection padding worn. Once I researched its moves, it became ideal for the novel’s purposes and so I had Nick in a team “for a laugh”.
Are there any details on book 2 that you are willing to share with us now?
The water goddess aspect of the trilogy remains but The Bull At The Gate is a very different novel. Haunted by circumstances he cannot explain, Nick has moved to York’s university to study early British religious practices in an attempt to make sense of what occurred in Torc of Moonlight. When one of his group vanishes the police suspect foul play, and when the investigation flags up the macabre deaths in Hull, Nick becomes a suspect. But York was once the Romano-British colonia Eboracum, and the stains of older, sacrificial, deaths lay buried deep in modern cellars, desperate for escape.