Joanne Phillips

A Writers Journey



Listen To My Indie Author Podcast – “Total Transparency Is My Style”

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by the awesome Paul Teague for my first ever podcast – and boy, it was fun! I was pretty nervous, but relieved that the recording wasn’t live. Paul has instructions on his website – including things you might not think about such as trying to make sure your environment is as noise-free as possible (phones ringing, kids screaming, barking dogs don’t do well on podcasts for obvious reasons) – and I had to get hold of some headphones and a microphone and log into Skype. No video, just audio. So I didn’t need to worry about how I looked!


The recording of the interview itself was stress-free – apart from an incident with a neighbour’s howling dog (!) which saw me dashing into another part of the house to find a quiet spot. And Paul is so incredibly professional, he put me at my ease immediately. I had no idea what we were going to talk about beforehand – Paul likes to avoid over-preparing to keep the content and the conversational flow nice and fresh. Chatting over Skype was fun and easy, and it wasn’t long before I was sharing … probably a little too much!

But hey, that’s what I do. Complete transparency has always been my default position, and while I completely support and understand other people’s desire to keep their mouths shut about such things as how many books they sell and how much they earn every year, I just open my big old mouth and it all comes gushing out. Along with some interesting thoughts about publishers, the world of writing courses, and writing in general.

If you’re ready to listen, click here. And please leave a comment below to let me know what you thought. Be kind!

Do You Need A Guide To Indie Publishers and Small Presses?

This week my copy of the Mslexia Indie Presses guide 2016/17 arrived, and never has the publication of a new reference book been met with so much enthusiasm! What an awesome feat of collation and hard work – the team at Mslexia have been working flat out to put this up-to-date guide together, and I think it’s a brilliant resource.

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Why is it needed?

Well, I’m glad you asked. Writers these days stand a far better chance of publication with a small press, but since the death of The Small Press Guide in 2002, there has been no single resource for writers to consult. Mslexia explains in their introduction:

“…there are literally hundreds of independent book publishers and literary magazines (…) but they are incredibly difficult to catalogue. As fast as a new book publisher is launched, another shuts up shop; new magazines appear every year and others disappear into the ether. The original Guide had to be updated every year, which was a truly daunting prospect in the days before websites, emails and smartphones …”

I’d add that trawling through the Writers and Artists Yearbook, trying to sort out which publisher might accept submission and which are only there as a standard listing, is no fun either. Thank goodness Mslexia decided to take up this project and run with it.

What does it include?

Detailed listings of around 200 literary magazines and 250 small presses, including advice on genres and how to submit. There is also a section on competitions, and a useful index. Many of the listings have an additional ‘We say’ section, with helpful comments from the Mslexia team about the press in question. And all of the entries are open to submissions and actively looking for writers at this time!

Who is it for?

You! It’s for all writers, whether you write prose or poetry, fiction or non-fiction, and it’s also a great resource for those working in the publishing industry as a freelance. As well as checking out the listings of small presses for my novel This Beautiful World (which is still looking for a home), I’m also planning to use this guide to target my pitches for indexing work. Win win.

Where can I buy it?

You can buy the guide from the Mslexia website here, and it costs £12.99 +p&p. In terms of the amount of effort and legwork this guide will save you, I think it’s a bargain!




Author Interviews – An Unmissable Compilation of Advice and Inspiration From Authors and Other Industry Experts

Going back through the archives of the blog, I found a wealth of information contained in interviews I’ve done over the last four years. Blogs are great, but who wants to trawl back through post after post, searching for content? Over the coming months I’m going to curate some of that content and bring you the highlights of the best and the brightest blogging from A Writer’s Journey to date. And we’re starting today with expert interviews …

Terry Tyler

Terry Tyler
I found two interviews with indie superstar Terry on the blog, the first from July 2012 about free promotions – and it’s amazing how much of this is still bang on and relevant today! Not so much has changed after all, which is surprising when we feel like we live in times where everything to do with publishing is changing constantly. There is tons of great advice in this interview about Twitter too, so do have a read.

The second interview is more recent, December 2014, and follows the publication of one of Terry’s many big hits, The House of York. This is a stonking good read, highly recommended, and as ever, Terry interviews really well, with lots of fascinating insights and down-to-earth advice.

Linda Gillard

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Another regular, Linda has written a couple of guest posts for the blog, as well as allowing me to interview her, and she’s always so warm and enthusiastic, a real inspiration to other writers. In this interview, from May 2014, we talk about writing in different genres – whether it’s a good or a bad thing – and Linda offers up some great advice as usual.

Martina Munzittu

There are many indie authors publishing fiction, but fewer producing non-fiction titles to the high quality of my next interviewee, Martina Munzittu. With a wonderful idea for a specialised cookery book, Martina went to town and produced the most beautiful coffee-table style self-published book I’ve ever seen. You can read more about it in my interview with her from October 2014.

Kim Nash

In January 2014 I interviewed Kim Nash, who had just gone freelance as a personal assistant to help authors market their books. Here she talks about the best ways to reach readers, offering practical and specialist advice – for free!

Cover Designers Berni Stevens and Chris Howard


Chris Howard_blog
Last but not least in this compilation of interviews, I bring you two from January 2013 which were part of my ‘We’ve Got It Covered’ series. First of all we have Berni Stevens, cover designer to the stars and published author, giving you the benefit of her vast experience, and then the wonderful and talented Chris Howard, my very own cover designer, who is now so popular and prolific I’m worried he’s going to put his prices up! Chris and Berni offer go-to advice for anyone thinking about a cover for their self-published book. The rest of the We’ve Got It Covered series was a lot of fun too, and you can find all the posts on this by typing ‘We’ve Got It Covered’ in the search box above.

Coming next – a compilation of fascinating and eclectic guest posts!

THE TRYSTING TREE – The Untold Story by Linda Gillard

Today I’m delighted to be handing over my blog to the amazing novelist Linda Gillard, whose long awaited new book is out this week. Over to you, Linda …

My latest novel, THE TRYSTING TREE covers a century in the lives of three families, beginning in 1914. Whenever I finish a novel, I show it to a few people: my agent, husband and daughter, my 91-year old Mum (who has a sharp eye for typos) and several friends. Two of these early readers pointed out that there was a lot missing from the book. They meant scenes that were referred to, but not described. This was because much of the novel is told in the form of diaries and letters.

L in Madeira cropped

Re-reading, I was staggered to see how much important material I hadn’t written. It almost looked as if I hadn’t written any of the big scenes. Instead I’d written what comes before and what comes after. In some cases I hadn’t done more than refer to major events. I panicked. Would this be unsatisfactory for the reader? Was my approach superficial?

I was all set to think about inserting new scenes when I started to wonder why so much was missing. I realised I’d written a book where almost all the big events happen “offstage”. I’d set out to write a book about a family history, presented partly as oral history, but also as an incomplete archive that has been badly damaged by fire, a collection of letters, diaries and photographs that raise more questions than they answer, the biggest one being, why did someone try to destroy the archive?

After much discussion with my early readers, I decided not to re-write. There was so much missing, so much the characters didn’t or couldn’t know – but that, it seemed to me, was the point: the story was ultimately incomplete. The reader is left in no doubt about what happened, but the 21stC characters have to deduce a good deal from the evidence that survived the fire, filling in the blanks with imaginative guesswork.

Will this make for a satisfying read? I hope so. A family history is, after all, always incomplete. It’s random, often sketchy, biased and ultimately unsatisfactory, because we want a beginning, middle and end. But it’s the gaps that intrigue us. The mysteries. The untold story.

The Trysting Tree

All I know about my grandfather’s involvement in WWI is that when he came home, my grandmother burned all his clothes and he refused ever to speak about his experience. That’s the sum total of my knowledge – of anyone’s. Even his silence is hearsay. He died when I was two.

Years later, when I was a teenager, Wilfred Owen & the War Poets loomed large in my life. Britten’s War Requiem (a setting of Owen’s poems) became a favourite piece of music. I’ve now written two novels featuring WWI soldier heroes. (The other was THE GLASS GUARDIAN.) I wonder now, did my grandfather’s refusal to speak have a more profound effect on me than anything he might have said?

Looking back over my eight novels, I can see my obsession is writing about what is not seen, not said and not known. I’ve written about negative space and the characters’ search for something that might somehow fill it. They are looking for completion. They’re people in search of more than just Mr/Ms Right. They want a surrogate family (Gwen in HOUSE OF SILENCE) or sanity (Rose in EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY and Magnus in UNTYING THE KNOT) or religious faith (Hugh in A LIFETIME BURNING) or just a fuller life experience (blind Marianne in STAR GAZING).

When I was writing THE TRYSTING TREE, I knew it wouldn’t be a complete narrative, it would have to be an oblique book. I didn’t write about the big events, I described the fallout. For example, there isn’t a word about the Battle of the Somme. I wrote about what happened after a soldier walked away from the battlefield, leaving his memory behind as a casualty of war.

THE TRYSTING TREE could have been a much longer and more detailed book, but would that have made it a better book? That’s for readers to decide. My hope is, what you don’t know and don’t see will have as much power to affect your imagination as what you do know and see. But it’s something of a gamble!

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My grandfather died over 60 years ago. I have no memory of him, just a few photos, but over the decades, the fact that he, like many, refused to talk about what he’d experienced in the trenches has spoken volumes to me. Perhaps his silence said all there was to say.



Linda Gillard on Facebook:

Linda’s books on Amazon:

Note from Jo: I was one of those lucky enough to read the book in an early draft and I can say with authority it is stunning – one of Linda’s best. And reading this guest post made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up – this is such an emotional journey, and I hope you’ll join us in sharing and promoting it.

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