Alan Kealey (Indie Author News): What is your (writing) background?
Louise Truscott: I wrote lots of stories as a child – I have memories of creating aliens and rocket ships – but I suppose I first started taking it more seriously in high school. I used to carry around a red notebook and in that notebook was my first novel (written in long hand), a thriller about the victim of a serial rapist. As I’m sure everyone who ever writes a first novel knows, there wasn’t anything special about it except for the fact that I constructed a story; I started writing it and I finished writing it. I still have it. I wrote angsty teen poems, too.
After high school, I studied an Advanced Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing, which gave me practical writing and editing skills, and later on I enrolled in the Master of Writing program, which polished my skills and enabled me to think more critically. I know there are a lot of writers who scoff at the idea of actually studying writing but I found it really useful. I was exposed to a lot of different genres and styles, met other writers and peers, was provided a structured approach to writing and was expected to do a lot of it. I always say that my Advanced Diploma made me employable and my Master’s degree made me publishable.
I finished my Master’s degree in 2007. I’m not sure why it took me so long to go from there to being a published writer – five years. It might be a self-confidence thing. It might be because of the ebook and independent publishing phenomenon, the fact that I didn’t need anybody else’s say so to be a published writer. Or maybe it was the ease with which I could publish an ebook. I just know I got to a point where it seemed like such a waste that I had what I thought was a great novel sitting around in my study where nobody could read it.
“I’m a very critical reader and I think being a trained editor has made me that way.”
AK: Who are your favorite writers, your favorite books, and who or what are your writing influences?
LT: My favorite writer would probably be Jeffrey Archer, particularly his earlier works, but I’m also fond of Patricia Cornwell, Mo Hayder, Matthew Reilly, Minette Walters, Michael Connelly and lots of others. I also have a soft spot for Edward Monkton. The Pig of Happiness and The Lady and The Chocolate are just perfect creations as far as I’m concerned. You don’t have to write long stories for them to be memorable.
I’m a very critical reader and I think being a trained editor has made me that way. There are so many famous authors where I like their early work but their newer stuff leaves me cold. I always surmise it’s because they’ve gotten a bit too big for their boots and stopped listening to their editor.
I like to read widely. I’m always happy to be introduced to a new writer. And I love a twist ending. Anyone who can write something I didn’t see coming and make reading that book a profound experience has my respect. The Godfather, The Fourth Estate, Life of Pi, all books that I felt a particular way about until I read the final pages and then felt a completely different way.
Sometimes I can just read a tiny passage in a book and that stays with me for a long time. I read Stephen Reilly’s debut novel, Ninety East Ridge, when it first came out in 2002 and still one of his descriptions is one of the most memorable for me even though I’ve never read anything else by him. He described a character as having a “star spangled smile” and I just thought it was delicious.
I don’t know if I really have any influences. I’ve always approached writing wanting to turn everything that’s been done before on its head.
AK: When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
LT: I don’t remember ever thinking to myself specifically, “I want to be a writer.” I just remember doing it. To me, being a writer is about writing, it’s not about being published and recognized. You can be a writer all your life and never publish a single thing. It’s not that I wanted to be a writer, it’s that I am a writer. I’m not sure I had a choice. This is just who I am.
AK: Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?
LT: I don’t have a routine as such. When I do get the chance to write, which is usually in the evenings after I get home from work, I like to set myself a target of 1,000 words in a session. Sometimes I plot in advance, sometimes I don’t. I think it depends on the complexity of whatever it is I am writing. With Enemies Closer, I definitely had to plot in advance and I had to do a lot of research – you can’t make your main character a weapons expert without doing quite a bit of research. With the literary crime piece I am in the middle of writing, I haven’t plotted or researched at all because my main character is just an everyday person and I have to admit I’m enjoying that a lot. It feels like what writing is supposed to feel like – fun, spontaneous, just making it up as you go along.
“[…] the hardest thing about writing was finding the time to do it.”
AK: What do you find easiest about writing? What the hardest?
LT: I think the easiest thing about writing, about most creative pursuits, is that you don’t need anybody’s permission to do it. It’s not like being a doctor or flying an airplane or building a skyscraper. There are no credentials required and anyone can have a go. And you can do it in private. You can fail over and over and over again (and learn a huge amount along the way) and nobody ever has to know about the failures.
I used to say that the hardest thing about writing was finding the time to do it. When you have a full-time job and a house and a family and friends, sometimes all you want to do at the end of the day is lie on the couch and watch television. Now that I’ve published my first book I would definitely say the hardest thing about writing is getting the word out. Mine is just one little voice amongst millions of others, some of which are professional voices, and I’m pretty sure they’re screaming a lot louder than me and they know exactly where to scream.
I have two writing degrees but the thing they never teach you is how to market yourself and your work. I don’t think it is an understatement to describe myself as the world’s worst self-promoter! A friend of mine has taken on the unofficial position of my marketing advisor and her catch cry is “Interview over!” because I’m constantly saying things that would have a professional publicity manager tearing their hair out.
AK: Louise, please tell us a little about your novel Enemies Closer.
LT: Enemies Closer is my debut novel about Cassandra Broderick, a former Marine and now a weapons designer. She has always been a woman in a man’s world and puts just about everybody offside because she isn’t interested in playing nice with people who think a woman shouldn’t be doing a man’s job. Cassandra is being investigated for espionage activities by Antonia Parker, a CIA Agent. They are forced into an unlikely partnership to clear both their names when they are accused of murdering a roomful of people, including several of Antonia’s colleagues, and kidnapping an FBI Agent. Cassandra is a bit of a wild woman and even her closest friends aren’t sure if maybe she is into something she shouldn’t be while Antonia is very serious and doesn’t trust anyone enough to have close friends. It’s full of twists and turns, shootings, kidnappings, explosions, non-stop action, a bit of romance and some good old-fashioned revenge. No car chases though. I’ll have to try and work one or two car chases into the sequel.
AK: What inspired you to write the book?
LT: I read a book a friend of mine wrote, a typical action adventure with a male hero and a male sidekick off to save the world. There were plenty of women in his book but mostly they were there for the villains to kidnap and the heroes to save. Their greatest contributions to the story seemed to be wearing bikinis and giggling. When I mentioned to my friend that it would be a great ending to the story to have one of the women playing a meaningful role in stopping the baddie – I mean, he’d set it up perfectly for this to happen and for it to be a profound ending to the book – he just wasn’t interested. He wanted his hero to save the day. And, of course, it’s his story so he can end it however he wants but I just wanted to show him that it could have worked. So I started writing Enemies Closer to do just that. The two main characters are both female and the villain is female and they are just as kick ass as any male character out there. Having said all that, I might have started out trying to make some grand statement about the portrayal of women in mainstream fiction but my focus pretty soon became just writing a compelling book.
AK: Who do you see as your target audience and where can we buy the book?
LT: The target audience is readers of action adventure, mystery, thrillers, crime and general fiction.
Enemies Closer is available as an ebook only at this stage but it is available on all the main platforms including Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Apple, Sony and Barnes & Noble for the RRP of USD$3.49.
AK: How would you describe the success of your book so far?
LT: I’ve had some terrific reviews such as the following:
“Couldn’t put it down. I want a sequel now!”
“Intriguing and compelling…lead characters are strong, sassy…four stars”
“A fantastic read! I was hooked from the beginning.”
“A brilliant read. Sitting on edge of my seat, full of intrigue and interesting characters.”
“Action packed, hard to put down page turner, a riveting read! Thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel, I’ll certainly be looking out for the next installment!”
AK: How long did it take it to write the book?
LT: I started writing Enemies Closer in 2004 and finished the first draft in 2007, so about three and a half years. I always think that sounds like a long time but I was working full time and completing my Master’s degree at the same time. I sent it off to a manuscript assessor in 2007 and took about six months to do a rewrite when the feedback was provided. I spent the next five years basically ignoring the book or doing minor adjustments.
AK: Please tell us where you self-published the book.
LT: I first self-published the book with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I know a lot of people like to bag Amazon, but I found the process really simple and most of my sales have come through this avenue. Plus tracking sales through KDP is so easy. I also published through Smashwords to gain access to all the other bookselling websites such as Apple, Kobo, Sony, Barnes & Noble. Smashwords was a little more complex but their royalty program is more generous and they provide options for the reader to download my eBook in any format they want.
“It is an enormous learning curve […]”
AK: How smooth went the self-publishing process? Any issues? What are things to look for when self-publishing a book?
LT: I found self-publishing to be a very straightforward process. The only snag came when I was publishing on Smashwords after I’d already published with KDP and I realized I needed a second ISBN because the Smashwords edition was technically a different book. Those are the sort of things you would never have to worry about if you weren’t self-publishing. It is an enormous learning curve but there is a lot of information out there for those considering the self-publishing route. Just make sure you do your research.
AK: Did you hire an editor and/or cover designer for your book?
LT: I’m actually a trained editor myself so I didn’t hire an editor to do any copy-editing or proofreading, I did it all myself. I did have a manuscript assessment done when I finished writing the first draft of the book. Boy, was that a dose of reality! It was invaluable though. And I had several friends and family read it before publication for feedback. There’s this completely erroneous train of thought that friends and family will only tell you what you want to hear but that certainly isn’t my experience. Writers need to remember that getting a book to the publishable stage really is a group effort. Sometimes the group is smallish, sometimes it’s large, sometimes it’s professional, sometimes it’s a ragtag assembly of amateurs. But you can’t do it all on your own. The real Jie Gao, who I named a character in the book after, did Mandarin translations for me. And a friend who works in the Marketing Department where I work at my day job did the book cover as a favor. This is definitely one area that I needed help with. I had a vague idea of what I wanted the cover to look like but I don’t have the design skills that were needed to make it happen. It makes a difference, too. Many people have commented on how professional the cover looks. That same friend also took the photograph that is my author portrait.
“Once you have self-published, be prepared to spend a lot of time NOT writing.”
AK: Can you give some tips for other indie authors regarding the writing and self-publishing process?
LT: If you choose to self-publish, be very sure your book is ready to be published. One reader will have no problem telling another reader (or indeed the whole world because book reviews and book blogging are extremely popular) if they think your book isn’t worth reading or has too many distracting issues, such as typos.
Once you have self-published, be prepared to spend a lot of time not writing. All those things a publisher has the staff to do when you publish traditionally you have to do yourself. It can be very distracting.
As someone who didn’t do this, I would also recommend starting the marketing of your book well before you actually publish. Make your connections in advance. And if you’re already a social networking superstar, it will make your marketing a lot easier.
Perhaps the most crucial piece of advice I can give is don’t expect it will all just magically happen. In fact, it’s more than likely that it will never happen because not everyone can have the fairy tale ending. Do it for the mere satisfaction of being able to say you are a published writer and think of anything else that happens as a bonus.
AK: Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
LT: I often see writing tips that say you should always have more than one project on the go. I have three on the go at the moment. I give them different priorities but I am thinking about all of them in cycles. My main project at the moment is the sequel to Enemies Closer, called The Cassandra Syndrome. Within one week of releasing Enemies Closer, some people who are very quick readers were asking when they could expect the sequel. I hadn’t even started thinking about a sequel, I was still focusing on what I could do to get the word about Enemies Closer to as wide an audience as possible.
I was lucky in a way that I wrote the beginning of The Cassandra Syndrome almost as soon as I finished Enemies Closer five years ago. But I set it aside and didn’t go back to it until December last year.
My second project is what I am calling literary crime fiction. I don’t feel bound to any particular genre although there is a theme of mystery throughout all my writing. Whether that turns into an action novel, a crime novel, a thriller, well, the story itself will dictate that. I don’t ever sit down and say to myself, “Let’s write a literary crime novel.” It just happens naturally as I write.
My third project is something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while. It’s called Everything I Know About Writing: A Short Book and is basically just a humorous collection of tips and anecdotes and things I’ve written over the past twenty years.
AK: Are you planning to move forward as an Indie author or are you looking forward to have one of your next books to be traditionally published?
LT: I am planning to publish The Cassandra Syndrome independently but I would like to and will try to have my literary crime novel published traditionally. There’s no reason why you can’t do both.
“I hope there will always be bookstores.”
AK: Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there be only ebooks and will book stores disappear like record stores disappeared?
LT: The book market seems reasonably healthy to me. Perhaps the formats are changing but that’s just life. Things are always evolving. I’d say my book purchases are spread evenly between ebooks and pbooks. I’m also a member of the Folio Society, which is dedicated to the publication of beautiful books. Perhaps bookstores will disappear, which would be a genuine shame, because I love nothing better than browsing in a bookstore and discovering new books and authors. It’s not quite the same when you are browsing online. But I hope there will always be bookstores. Maybe they will need to diversify with cafes to buy coffee and computer terminals to buy eBooks but I hope there will always be bookstores and pbooks. You can’t have an ebook autographed, after all.
AK: Do you write full-time or do you have a day job?
LT: I would love to write full time but I have a day job, which I like to refer to as my second job that pays the bills. I am a realist. I know so few people are able to make a comfortable living as a writer and that most have to supplement their incomes by teaching and speaking and editing or most often having another job that has absolutely nothing to do with their writing. My day job has nothing to do with my fiction writing but I am a corporate writer and editor. I write and collate tender responses and sales materials and it has given me what I think is a very important connection to the real world in which most people spend their entire lives doing a job they don’t particularly want to be doing.
AK: How can readers connect with you?
LT: Readers can connect with me via Twitter and via Goodreads. I resisted an online presence for a long time. But I recognize that the internet is an invaluable tool and as an independent ebook author, it’s really the best place to spread the word and connect.
AK: Thank you very much for the interview, Louise.
*First published on Indie Author News 15 March 2013