Saturday, February 12, 2011

Interview #2 Linda Acaster

Author: Linda Acaster
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 I now critique unpublished novels for a London literary consultancy and have a few private clients, all of which helps to pay the bills.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?

You have a pretty impressive background in the writing field. Would you say this has been a benefit? Why?

It’s taught me a great deal about the craft of writing, which has been a great benefit. Along the way I’ve learned a great deal about the print-publishing process, at least in the UK, and much of that has left me jaundiced, which is why I consider it a boon to be able to embrace indie authoring.

Is writing a dream job, hobby, or way to earn extra money for you?

When it’s going well it’s a dream job. I maintain that to make a go of writing fiction, even if the financial rewards are low, a professional attitude is a necessity.

Do you have a homepage/blog/twitter/facebook etc... that fans can follow your progress or contact you at?!/@lindaacaster

Are there any specific sites that you visit for advice or inspiration?

+A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing not just for Konrath’s evangelical stance on indie authoring, but for the knowledge of the commenters.
+The Kindleboards forum 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.

What served as your inspiration for “Torc of Moonlight : Special Edition?”

A walk in the woods with an Ordnance Survey map. I used to write up recreational walks for a regional newspaper. The UK is blessed with a lot of ancient tracks called bridlepaths, and natural springs named Lady Well kept appearing with regularity. A bit of research unearthed that these weren’t dedicated to female saints forgotten during our Protestant Reformation, but to Celtic water goddesses. When I found offerings beside one… how many believers does it take to keep an ancient religion alive?

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 you currently working on anything new and if so when can we expect to see it?

I’m giving my time in sponsorship to a short story competition this year so I’m indie authoring a writers’ aide to coincide: “Reading A Writer’s Mind”, which is almost ready for beta readers. The w-i-p is “The Bull At The Gate”, Book 2 in the trilogy. It’s set in York, a city which still boasts its Roman walls, never mind its Mediaeval walls, and has more history per square yard buried beneath its pavements than even London. For the sort of timeslip Fantasy I’m writing it is an absolute gift. 

Do you have even a tentative date on the release of your second book in this series?

November 2011, if it stays on track.

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.

What other work do you have available?

Contribution To Mankind and other stories of the Dark” is a collection of 5 ghost/horror stories which includes a 20,000 word extract of “Torc of Moonlight SE” – all for 99 cents.
Two historicals, including a Native American (I used to be a re-enactor) that were my first indie ebooks. 

What sites is your work available on? 

and B&N direct

Thanks very much for taking the time to do an interview Linda.  I wish you the best in your writing career.


  1. Hi Scott, thanks for having me across today; it's appreciated.

    If any reader wants to ask questions, of the Torc of Moonlight trilogy, of my writing in general, publishing in the UK, whatever... leave a comment as I'll be dropping in throughout the day.


  2. As a UK author, are there any organizations which you are part of, Linda? If so, how are they useful, please?

    I loved your Beyond the Shining Mountains! If you ever conisder writing another native american fiction novel I'd certainly buy it.

    Best wishes, Lindsay Townsend

  3. Great interview! I'm off to check out Torc of Moonlight.

  4. Great interview and contained some really useful stuff. I've sent the link on to people I know who are thinking of doing similar with their rights-reverted backlists.
    I've read Torc of Moonlight. Loved it. Looking forward to Bull and the Gate.

    Penny Grubb

  5. As one who has reviewed several of Linda's novels (and one coming up soon) I can add my lauds to those she's already received, I eagerly await the sequel to Torc of Moonlight.

  6. Hi everyone, just back in - it's dark here, 7pm gone on the Yorkshire coast - so I'll be around all evening now.

    @ Lindsay: Thanks for the thumbs up to my Native American HistRom. It's a rights-reverted indie that has stood the test of time. It caused a flurry when it was print published as there are no European characters in it (rolls eyes...)

    To your other queries, in the UK the Society of Authors is the main lawyer-muscle organisation; they advise on rights and contracts.

    The Historical Novel Society was started for readers by an Englishman who was appalled by the academic snobbery in the UK to genre novels, but it is now a USA/UK joint venture covering fiction set from Ancient Egypt to early 20th Century, as well as Alternative Histories, Pseudo-Histories, Time-Slip, and Historical Fantasies.

    The problem with both, and others, is that although they knew the digital revolution was coming they didn't foresee the sea-change to erupt in indie authoring. I believe most of the industry looked upon it as a subdivision of vanity publishing, but what has happened is that perceptive print-authors who have managed to grab back their rights are embracing indie authoring, not just for their back-list but, after years of being kicked in the shins by the industry, for forward projects, too. If you are not a bestseller there's little to lose.

    General readers might be interested in looking up which has had its finger on the pulse for years.

    @ Jennifer: hey, thanks, that's good to hear. Enjoy.

    @ Penny: It's all down to indiebookblogger's perceptive interview questions. Great to hear that you liked the ebook (book?). I joined #samplesunday at its inception and have been serialising the opening three chapters, but I have to pull the plug as it's getting into the, er... 13/16+ range, and I author an open blog. There's an excerpt of The Bull At The Gate at the end of the ebook.

    Thanks to everyone who dropped by. I'm being called for dinner - the joys of having a son who can cook - but will be back later.

  7. Hey, Toni, hello. Didn't see you there. Thanks for coming across to add your (two-) *ten*-penn'th. I'm grateful you could make it. Scott's launching a great venture here, and it's good that readers are supporting him - and me!


  8. Linda,

    Thanks for the kind words. I am still trying to get a hang of this whole blogging and interviewing thing. I will say that indie authors are excellent to communicate with. You guys all rock!! This is also the first timeslip novel I have ever read and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

  9. You're welcome, Scott, and thanks for hosting the interview.

    BTW, I have to ask, do you have an illustrious ancestor??

  10. No illustrious ancestors that I know about.