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Joanne Phillips

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Superstar Interview – Terry Tyler and The House of York

This weekend I’m really excited to welcome Terry Tyler to the blog! Terry has agreed to let me interview her following the release of her latest novel, The House of York. (You can read my review of Terry’s book at the end of the post.) This is an intriguing book, not least of all because it uses – albeit loosely – the characters and plot line from a major historical event. It’s not a historical novel, however – this is bang up-to-date contemporary fiction, and is currently riding high in the charts. Let’s find out a bit more about why and how Terry did it …

The House of York

So, Terry, The House of York, which I loved so much, is a contemporary novel with more than a passing link to historical events. What gave you the idea for linking it to the Wars of the Roses in this way, and can you think of any other novels that have taken up this idea? I can’t.

“What, you mean apart from my earlier novels, Kings and Queens and Last Child, that mirror the Tudor period?!  Aha, you unwittingly provided such a book-plugging opportunity, Jo 😉

But seriously…. I have to admit that the idea stemmed from Susan Howatch’s wonderful Cashelmara (a 19th century retelling of the story of Edwards I and II), and The Wheel of Fortune (The Black Prince, Richard II and Henry IV).  I first read these books about 25 years ago and, thus, my interest in the Plantagenets began, as I wanted to find out the real stories behind her novels.  I’ve had a bit of a thing for the Wars of the Roses since reading Phillipa Gregory’s The Red Queen (about Margaret Beaufort, a fascinating woman; she inspired Megan in The House of York).  But these three of my books are, essentially, just contemporary dramas; no historical knowledge necessary!  For my two test readers, I have one history lover and one who knows nothing about it and cares even less, to get a good balance.”

I thought the combination of different first person viewpoints was masterful – and this is something a lot of writers find it very hard to pull off. What advice can you give to other novelists who would like to try this technique but have been warned off, or put off, by reports that readers don’t like it/find it confusing?

“Only use this structure if you feel confident doing so.  I think to pull it off successfully you have to become the person you’re writing; I remember when I was writing the prissy Jenny (Jane Seymour) in Kings and Queens, I suddenly realised I was sitting like she might, with a Jenny-type expression on my face!  The ‘voice’ has to change: the vocabulary, the mood, everything.  You need to be aware of the differences in how men and women think, the ways in which people express themselves according to levels of education, and the effect of upbringing, experience and social class on their attitudes.  Having read The House of York, you may have noticed how bookish, middle class Megan ‘speaks’ very differently from working class single mum Lisa!  Several times I had to stop and think, no, that word is in Megan’s and my vocabulary, but it wouldn’t be in Lisa’s.

This structure might not be within every writer’s repertoire (as, indeed, some styles are outside mine) and, as you say, it won’t appeal to every reader, but I can only write the book I want to write.  Again, it was Susan Howatch who gave me the idea.  If done well (and I would never flatter myself that I have her skill!), it gives the reader knowledge that the other characters do not possess.  Often, this can give the story a new and surprising perspective; perhaps Person C isn’t quite as confident/cold/sincere as Persons A and B might have led you to believe…”

You’ve now published an astonishing eleven books on Amazon, and I get the feeling you’re only just getting into your stride. I’m sure I’m not the only person who wants to know the following:

            Where do you get your energy from???

            How do you keep the tone and voice of each novel so fresh?

            How do you find time to write, edit and publish quality novels and still have … a life?

“Jo, I just love writing, I can’t imagine not doing so!  I wrote nine (or it might be ten, I can’t remember) novels back in the 1990s, before Amazon self-publishing.  As for energy and time, you ought to see the state of my house!!!  I don’t go out to work and don’t have children, which immediately gives me more hours in the day than many people.  I don’t cook much, only watch television after 9pm when I’m done with everything else for the day, and rarely go out in the evenings.  In fact, I don’t go out much at all; my husband is a homebird so I’ve got used to that, and he’s very laid back; being creative himself, he understands that I need time to write.  It’s just what I do, I suppose.  Two years ago, I actually spent Christmas afternoon editing Kings and Queens.  We don’t really do Christmas, either!

As for the tone and voice being fresh – thank you, it’s something I always worry about.  A lot!  If this is so, I think maybe it’s by not doing the ‘expected’ … for instance, in Dream On, the reader first meets Janice, a mum with a wannabe rockstar boyfriend, Dave, who she suspects is still in love with his beautiful ex.  Okay, so everyone likes and sympathises with Janice; she is no wimp, and is someone many women can relate to.  Then along comes Ariel, the beautiful ex – and, surprise surprise, she’s not a self-obsessed, conniving bitch, but a really great girl!  Quite a lot of the reviews said ‘I was surprised to find myself liking Ariel’.  And in What It Takes, I took a risk by making my main character not very likable at all.  I try to do the unguessable with plot twists; I am not sure if I will be able to beat the one at the end of The House of York, though, what do you think? :)”

Your books are, I think, only available on Amazon in ebook format. Do you intend to branch out to other eretailers, and if not why? And what about paperback?

“Other retailers: I haven’t got any plans to do so, partly out of laziness but mostly because people who do publish across many sites say that the lion’s share of their sales still come from Amazon.

Paperbacks: yes, I keep saying I will, but it doesn’t happen … I sway between ‘I really ought to’ and ‘but perhaps it’s not worth it, everyone says nearly all their sales come from ebooks’.  I’m not one of those who are desperate to see my name on a paperback, although yes, I suppose it would be nice to be able to give books to friends who don’t use ereaders (not to mention seeing them in book shops, I imagine that’s quite a kick!), but I prefer reading on Kindle myself, anyway.  It’s the words on the page that matter, not the medium.  I think the truth about me and paperbacks is simply this: I haven’t got round to it :)”

Finally, you are the Twitter queen – 64.7K followers – count them! I’m guessing this has taken a fair amount of time and effort to build, but in terms of reader engagement and book promotion, do you feel that Twitter is the place to be, even for those of us with a more modest following? What other forms of promotion have you tried, and what would you recommend to other writers just starting out?

“I’m not very astute about all this stuff, to be honest; I could do more, and better.   Different things work for different people.  I’ve never heard good reports from anyone who’s paid for advertising or promotion via book marketers.  I enjoy Twitter, otherwise I wouldn’t use it so much, but these days the market is so overflowing that just tweeting your book and retweeting a few others is unlikely to produce sales, unless your readership is already established.  You have to invest a bit more time in it; network with others who write your type of book, get involved with the bloggers who promote and review them, add as friends and interact with likely readers.  Be generous, don’t only promote your own stuff, but be sincere too; don’t rave about books you haven’t read or didn’t like.  Oh, and getting into 5* review swaps with other writers is a seriously bad idea; it’s already put the whole Amazon reviewing system into disrepute.

I’ve been using Twitter for over four years, and after 10k followers it just grew of its own accord; I don’t actively pursue them.  If you’re active on the site, you appear in lots of ‘who to follow’ lists.  The best promotion tool is, of course, a really good book; competition is much, much stronger these days, and if your book is only mediocre, readers will not review it or buy another one, however many tweets and Facebook posts you do, however sharp your marketing skills.  One of the biggest problem non-traditionally-published writers face is getting someone to try their book in the first place; with jam-packed Kindles everywhere, if I knew the answer to that one I expect I’d sell a lot more than I do!  I think you’d be a better person to consult about that, Jo, than me.

Many, many thanks for inviting me onto your blog, and may your own success continue :)”

Thanks for coming on, Terry – it’s been really interesting finding out all about your process and I always love picking your brains about writing and publishing. I’m sure readers will carry on enjoying your books for a long time to come. Guys, you can connect with and find out more about Terry and her books below, and carry on down the page to read my review of The House of York. 

Terry Tyler

Twitter
https://twitter.com/TerryTyler4

Amazon UK
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Terry-Tyler/e/B00693EGKM

Blog
http://terrytyler59.blogspot.co.uk/

Book Review Blog
http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

I was intrigued by the blurb for The House of York – love and loss, murderous intent, abduction, a compelling saga – and having read quite a few of Terry’s previous books I knew I was in safe hands before I started reading. What I wasn’t prepared for was just how astonishingly good this book actually is. Very few authors could carry off multiple first person viewpoints, but Terry Tyler not only carries it off, she makes it into an art form.

The story pivots around Lisa, widowed single mum who falls for wealthy businessman Elias York and finds herself plunged headlong into his complicated family life where nothing is as it seems. Throughout the book we meet other key characters, such as Elias’s sister Megan (my personal favourite), and his brothers Gabriel and Richard. Each section has its own distinct voice, and each chapter will have you riveted to your seat, eager to find out more.

Tyler is the master of the unnerving story line, and this book is no exception – just when you think you know where it’s heading, you are thrust down another ally, and it is the twists and turns as well as the incredibly well-drawn characters that make this book a joy. At times, while reading The House of York, I lost myself completely and the world of the York family became entirely real to me. I did not want this book to end, and I know it’s one I will read again in the future. Highly recommended, five stars.

Snakes and Ladders – An Indie Journey With A Very Happy Ending

Today on the blog I have the very lovely Jan Ruth, taking about her indie journey – it really has been a game of snakes and ladders, but I’m sure you’ll agree the success Jan has found has been entirely of her own making. If ever the phrase ‘You make your own luck’ applied to anyone, it’s demonstrated here in spades. Read on …

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“My self-publishing journey has been up and down, round the houses and back again. It’s a different experience for each and every author. Any perceived failure or success is dependent on a lot of individual criteria, how you measure it and what you learn from it.

Throw into this mix, hundreds of online experts clamouring for your attention and offering advice – most of it speculative and out of date in less than a week – from how to market your book, how to design its cover, why you need a click-through Contents page, why you don’t need a click-through Contents page and why a dark blue fancy font with pink dots says hysterical, not historical.

Waiting somewhere along the line is a Comma Buff; offering to proofread your material at £1.50 per 1,000 words. For a joining fee you can be a member of his gang, appear on an incredibly popular site or be included in a brand-new advertising strategy called the Pay-it-Forward-Tweet-Team. Not sure? You can bet your last dangling participle that someone, somewhere, has written a blog-post about it. You may be swayed by several writerly pieces about publishing, but I’m not sure I was ever convinced that anyone has that top-secret information about the Amazing-Amazon-Algorithms, or the reason one book sells dozens of copies on every third Friday in October on Nook, but never on Kindle although occasionally on the Spanish version of Scribd, if the wind is blowing from the east. And as soon as you’ve got to grips with those new sub-genre keywords – juggling the dice all the way to IndieBooksIndia – that hot new site –  the goalposts change again, and oops… everyone’s been pirated on IndieBooksIndia. There’s no time to work on your new novel, you need to dash-off an angry email, or two, or three, or four and have a good rant in each and every one of the 42 groups you’re in on Facebook – and a tweet for good measure. Confused and utterly exhausted yet? Take a deep breath, there’s more…

For varied fees, you can enter your books to win badges: the coveted Golden Cuckoo, a Silver Songbird maybe or – oh, the shame of it – just scraping a Bronze Blackbird. Will it help sales? Will it help readers find you? Writers are always seeking validation, and awards and reviews are a major emotional player in the game. To put these awards and maybe more than that, into some perspective, consider the journey of Book One (Wild Water):

He was born a humble paper copy 15 years ago and adopted by a London agent. He was praised and patted on the head by Pan Macmillan and other notables throughout nursery school. He was a trier, re-inventing himself many times in order to please but eventually, he was declared non-commercial and almost destroyed.

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Then King Kindle came to Slush-pile City.

Smoothed out and loaded-up, he became self-published, where he suffered an abused spell as a badly behaved electronic copy, running with the wrong crowd. He was rescued just in time and re-educated in his late teens by John Hudspith. Loved and reviewed positively after this by many readers, he even rode high in the Amazon rankings with BookBub. Despite all of this, he was rejected outright by Blah Blah Award, but he soldiered on. Finally, his fate was sealed, he was signed with Accent Press and the book lived happily ever after. True story.

So, maybe you’d be better investing in 50 reviews? You’ve heard that the magic number is 40 and then huge sales and mass visibility happens of its own accord. Maybe you should give that nice friendly author a five-star review and then maybe… Oh, hold on that’s unethical, isn’t it? Well, yes… to some authors, but not to others. And if I upset said author on a later date with my political views on Facebook, he might change it to a two-star review.

The problem – and rather conversely the joy too – is that there are no rules, but self-publishing is sometimes more difficult to navigate than a re-write of War and Peace. Ask a simple question and you will get fifty different answers.

It’s certainly a game of hissing snakes and slippery ladders.

SNAKES

There is money to be made in self publishing, but not always by the authors.

Who are you?

Camp One. You write full-length fiction, which can take anything up to 12 months to produce in its polished form. You write because you have something unique to say and hopefully to not only entertain but to inspire and inform. You may have been traditionally published before. You write because you are inspired, and challenged by the craft of writing, and strive to improve and develop. Your only keyword is quality. You struggle to sell, but your reviews are numerous and positive. Your audience tend to be mature and still enjoy paperbacks and bookshops. You might be seeking an editor to work with, who has the skills to teach where necessary, and nurture your positive traits. You dislike self-promotion and trying to run with the crowd. You’ve likely learnt the craft over many years but struggled to get published or agented because your work fell between traditional genres, or didn’t quite cut it. You’d love to attract a publisher.

I’m not a celebrity, get me in there… please?

Camp Two. You enjoy writing but you wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t pay for itself. You approach self-publishing as a commercial venture. You are prolific, you write popular serials, novellas and novelettes; often across several genres with a specific market in mind, keep up to date with the latest promotional sites, know how to play the system with keywords, and buy all the ‘how to’ books. You tend to make your own book covers, format everything yourself, and your books are available on every obscure platform you can find. You write ‘how to’ books. Your audience are young, read stuff on their iPhones and probably enjoy whatever is current, like American steampunk fantasy, or fetish erotica. It doesn’t bother you that the camp is set on moving sand, you are quick-thinking and adaptable. Your books sell well. You’re not seeking a publisher and you don’t need an editor.

These are wild extremes in self-publishing. Of course, it depends who you are, the adaptability of your camping equipment and how well you can handle a variety of cooking pots and pans when the chips are down, rain is pouring through the canvas roof and wait, there are enemies on the horizon… a huge semi-colon with a machete!

Who am I?

I’m Jan Ruth, I’m a self-published author and I’m in camp one. I’m glad I self-published, although I may not sound as if I enjoyed the experience. Publishing my own work was a steep learning curve but it’s now at an end for me. Visibility is increasingly difficult over in camp one and there’s only so much one can do before some sort of burn-out happens. But one man’s burn-out is another man’s fuel… it rather depends on which camp you thrive in.

I’ve had forays into camp two but without lasting, or consistent success. This is why I have made the decision to leave self-publishing and I’m very happy to announce that I  signed a 6-book deal with Accent Press. After my family, I have to give massive thanks to my editor John Hudspith, because without his support, both professionally and as a friend and mentor, I would not have arrived at this point. I’d have given up, Once Upon a Long Time Ago. So, on to new beginnings for 2015. And keep the camp fires burning.”

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I think Accent Press are very lucky to have Jan – look out tomorrow for my review of Silver Rain. Bye for now!

Jan Ruth lives in Snowdonia, North Wales, UK. This ancient, romantic landscape is a perfect setting for Jan’s fiction, or simply day-dreaming in the heather. Jan writes contemporary stories about people, with a good smattering of humour, drama, dogs and horses. http://janruth.com/

PS: If you’re interested in self-publishing, check out this new course from Writers’ Workshop. Avoid all the pitfalls described by Jan and have fun at the same time.

Pandora’s Prophecy – A Guest Post by Julie Ryan

Today I’m delighted to welcome to the blog the very talented Julie Ryan. I asked Julie to write a guest post in the wake of her latest book release, Pandora’s Prophecy. Read on for a sneaky peak at a reader/writer’s bookcase …

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“I think my obsession with books began early. I remember lining my books up, on my bookcase that my grandfather made, in size order. Heaven forbid if either of my sisters tried to move them. As the eldest I was fortunate enough to have my own room. Perhaps if I’d been forced to share a room then I wouldn’t have become so obsessive about books. Even when I travelled around the world teaching, my books were with me; a reminder of home and a comfort in an unfamiliar land. At least that’s what I tell my husband!

Unfortunately, being dyslexic, he doesn’t share my passion for books. He did try to curb my enthusiasm by buying me my first Kindle in the hopes that it would stop me buying more books. I love my Kindle but I think the obsession has just spread as I now have hundreds of books on there too just waiting to be read. Even so, I can’t resist the scent and feel of a ‘real’ book so it hasn’t really solved the problem.

Things have now reached crisis point! I have five bookcases full of books with several hundred more still in boxes in the cellar. This was supposed to be a temporary move until we finished doing up the house. Ten years later and there isn’t much sign of me having my very own library. In fact, as I can’t access them easily I’ve probably got several duplicates, as I can’t resist a bargain!

A spot of reorganization was called for and having been invited to write a blog post, I thought I’d try and regroup my books beginning with my favourites set in Greece. I was going to be mega-organised and try to order them alphabetically but that looked too organized for me so… instead I’ve gone for a Greek bookshelf where I can easily locate books set on Greece or with a Greek theme. I must admit to being quite pleased with the result so the next step will be to do the same for all my books set in France, then in Italy and so on. It means that I can take a quick trip around Europe simply by looking at my bookshelf.

Unfortunately it hasn’t solved the problem of what to do with the thousands of other books that are not set in a particular country. Maybe it’s time for me to take a librarian’s course and then I can group them properly. Until then though it seems that my long-suffering husband is just going to have to put up with my books for a little bit longer or at least until I get my very own library.

I’m pleased to have passed something of my passion on to my son as he now has his own bookcase in his bedroom, which is beginning to overflow. I’m thinking it could be time for a house move! Please tell me I’m not alone in this, as I’d love to know how you categorise your books. Now, as long as I live to be around 300 I might just manage to read them all!”

You’re not alone in this, Julie 🙂 I categorize by author if fiction, and then topic for non-fiction, and I have three main bookcases, not including my daughter’s two bookcases! 

Julie's book

Julie’s new book, Pandora’s Prophecy, is the third in the Greek Island mystery series but can be read as a standalone, although some characters from the previous books do make an appearance. Lisa and Mark are going through a rough patch, Vicky is seventeen and has just discovered that the man she thought was her father really isn’t, Ruth is getting over her husband’s betrayal after nearly twenty-five years of marriage. On the surface they have nothing in common except that they are all staying in the same hotel on a Greek Island. As they each come into contact with the mysterious Pandora, their lives will change forever. Bodies begin to pile up as a serial killer is on the loose who might just be targeting the hotel. The Island’s Police Chief, Christos Pavlides, tries to solve the puzzle but he has problems of his own to resolve. It seems that the local celebrity author is the one who holds the key.

Julie RyanAbout Julie:

Julie Ryan was born and brought up in a mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She graduated with a BA (hons) in French Language and Literature from Hull University. Since then she has lived and worked as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language in France, Greece, Poland and Thailand. She now lives in rural Gloucestershire with her husband, son and two cats, a rescue cat and a dippy cat with half a tail.  She is so passionate about books that her collection is now threatening to outgrow her house, much to her husband’s annoyance, as she can’t bear to get rid of any! They have been attempting to renovate their home for the last ten years.

She is the author of three novels set in Greece, “Jenna’s Journey”, “Sophia’s Secret” and ‘Pandora’s Prophecy.” She considers Greece to be her spiritual home and visits as often as she can. This series was inspired by her desire to return to Crete although there is a strong pull to revisit the Cyclades too.

Purchase links

Jenna’s Journey – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EXPDZD2

Universal link – MyBook.to/Jennasjourney

Sophia’s Secret – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LFJGCWA

Universal link – MyBook.to/Sophiassecret

Pandora’s Prophecy – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00V6CWV8W

Author links

Twitter – @julieryan18

Facebook – www.facebook.com/Julieryanauthor

Blog – www.allthingsbookie.com

www.juliesworldofbooks.blogspot.co.uk

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