The screenshot below was taken on October 07th, 2013.
Hi Wonny. Congratulations on the success of Jack-Knifed in the Amazon UK store … would you tell our author community about your journey so far as an author?
I find it a bit scary talking to a community of people who may have forgotten more about being an author than I will ever know. The truth is I never set out to be an author – I had already retired from a satisfying career. I guess it started after my husband and I argued about what I thought was an unsatisfactory ending to one of the television crime dramas. He challenged me to have a go at producing something myself and somewhat tongue in cheek I started writing my first novel. Fashioning the characters and developing the story line became seriously addictive and I quickly found myself engrossed in the experience. However when I had finished writing ‘Jack-Knifed’ it stayed on my computer for some time before I plucked up the courage to let my husband, John, read it. By that time I had decided that the characters I had created were nagging me to give them something else to do and I was already well into seeing how they would react to ‘The Coopers Field Murder’.
I knew John had finished reading ‘Jack-Knifed’ but he had made no comment and his silence made me assume that he was summoning the courage to let me down gently. When I asked him what he thought he said “It’s as good as most of the stuff I have read and a hell of a lot better than some!” I had given no thought to publishing but after he had read the first book it was John who did all of that. Since then I have continued to write about DCI Martin Phelps and his team and I am currently working on book number five.
To ring the changes and just to see if I could I started writing some short stories, a series for young children and some poems. None of this work has been published yet. Apart from continuing with my crime series I have one ambition as far as writing is concerned and that is to write about the time when I was a student nurse in the 1960s. It was good at the time but even better in retrospect and I think even the younger generation would find it fascinating.
When you published your first book what were some of the things that you did to get the word out there among readers?
I guess my expectations were low and so I did very little other than telling close friends and relatives. Even selling small numbers of books was more than we had anticipated but as the numbers grew we realised the potential and started doing more on the social networking sites and creating a website. I always respond to anyone who contacts me regarding the books and this has certainly raised the profile of my work.
Did you make any conscious efforts to get readers to leave reviews for your book?
The short answer to that question is no! Being totally new to the whole business we didn’t really know how to go about getting reviews and were more than a bit worried about what they would say. As our sales improved we had some hits on our website from readers and I always replied to those and suggested they may want to review the book – but nothing more than that.
As an artist, it is always a challenge to expose your work to the world … and it is inevitable that a few people will criticise your work. How do you deal with such negative reviews?
I didn’t set out to write a literary classic and so I was not surprised when some readers picked up problems with my first book. Maybe because I have lots of miles on my clock I have learned to take the rough with the smooth – if we do anything thinking it’s going to be all things for all people then we are going to be disappointed. I have acted upon some constructive negative reviews and although I wouldn’t go as far as to say I have welcomed them, they have made a positive difference to my writing. It’s more difficult to stay calm about a negative review when the reviewer who is criticising your work has produced more spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in a couple of lines of review than would seem humanly possible! There is only one way of dealing with those reviews and that is to ignore them but obviously they have a negative influence on your rating and that’s frustrating. Undoubtedly the negative reviews that send my blood pressure through the roof are the ones that hide behind the cloak of anonymity and where it is obvious that the so called reader has not even read the book – what’s that all about? Even authors who are household names have negative reviews so I know I am in good company and my top tip for dealing with a negative review is to first of all note anything that may be constructive. If there is nothing but negativity then I read a few of my five star reviews and get a cup of coffee (or something stronger!).
If you could go back in time and do this (i.e. the act of writing and publishing your books) all over again, what would you do differently?
We did it all ourselves and we are amazed at how much our efforts have achieved but of course we have learned a lot during the process and yes there are things we would do differently if we were starting today. There are agents out there and there are experts in the fields of editing, publishing and marketing and we would undoubtedly have benefitted from their knowledge and experience. However it’s not that easy to find someone who shares our philosophy that the whole process has to be enjoyable and we are still looking and meanwhile, and most importantly, I am enjoying my new world of writing.