Saturday, August 29, 2015

Interview with Author Alison Boulton

Years ago, I discovered a book called Tom's Daughters on a writing website and it was so good that I bought a version when it was self-published. It was the first e-book I ever purchased and remains one of the best I've read. I still remember the characters like they were real people. So when I heard that the author, Alison Boulton, was publishing a second novel - I jumped at the chance to do an interview.
To read the entire interview, you can go to I'll include an excerpt here.
KO: Tell us about Chasing Sunflowers. Who is your audience?
AB: Chasing Sunflowers is the story of Kate, who moves to Amsterdam with her husband and young son. Lost and lonely in a new city, she develops a passion for the paintings of Vincent van Gogh. Her decision to study them leads her to artist Rudy de Jong and following in Vincent’s footsteps, she makes a trip to Arles which transforms her life.
So, it’s a book about a woman who steps outside her own life, and how the experience changes her. There’s quite a lot about Amsterdam, the south of France and Vincent van Gogh too.
My first audience is me, since it was me I told the story to first and I liked it. So after that people a bit like me, I suppose; usually female, maybe over 25, though my daughters who are 20 and 22 enjoyed it too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Spotlight on Declan Conner

Thriller/crime author and fellow member Declan Conner talked to me about his experiences in publishing and his thoughts on the writing site's closure:

In 2008 I found myself with time on my hands and decided to fulfill a dream of writing a book that had been simmering in my head for many years. Like many new to writing, I didn’t have a clue what to do with the MS, other than I knew I would need to find a literary agent when it was finished. What I found was that writing was a lonely pastime. There wasn’t anyone to turn to for advice that I knew of in my circle of friends. Twelve months later and I had a completed manuscript of 100,000 words. There was no way I could determine if I had a viable commercial story, pretty much the same as other first time authors. I did what many do and joined the ranks of the literary slush pile merry-go-round. It is only now when I look back that I see how high the bar is set and why so many fail at the slush pile stage, in many instances just by not knowing the basics.

Many submissions later, with nothing more than form rejection letters, I was none the wiser as to why it was not getting past the first base. I decided to invest in my work and I put it to an editor. Fortunately for me they were not in it for the money. Five chapters in, they pointed out the errors of my way as well as my strengths and pointed me in the direction of a new writers’ site called authonomy. Long and short is, I ditched the MS and started again, uploading my work in progress for a new project to authonomy. That was in 2009.

In the early days, for me as well as many others on the site, it was all about the competition to get to the editors desk. Sure enough, with persistence I got there. Along the way I received a lot of good advice, but also a lot of poor advice. It also stopped me from concentrating on writing a next book. I am however thankful I got to the desk. The editor’s review was something of an anti-climax and not worth the effort it took to get to the ED. The reason I was thankful was to realize the futility of the game. It wasn’t just the stress of the game to get to the ED. Once there and the month end passed with the ED in the bag, it was like falling into an abyss and the loneliness took over again. That led to some serious soul searching. Once the illusion of publication by Harper Collins was out of the way, then that’s where the usefulness of the site kicked in.

I have learned so much from authonomy over those 6 years in every aspect of the publishing industry and genre crafting and writing. I’ve also met many other authors whom I learned to trust to give solid advice. I don’t usually submit to agents, having made the decision to self-publish. I am one of those who will never forget the “not knowing” so I stuck around on the site not just for feedback on new works, but to give advice and for those who wanted to take the self-publishing route. I even set up which is dedicated to those who wished to self-publish, with free guides on formatting.

As for the writing, I’ve self-published a decent catalogue of thrillers. I’ve also had some of my shorts translated both into German and Portuguese. There have been some successes along the way and some disappointments, but more than anything, logging into authonomy every day was a great motivator to keep going. I for one will be sorry to see it go, not as much for me, but for those new to the craft. I’m just thankful for the apprenticeship. I’m also thankful that other writers’ sites have developed along the way for new authors. I’m also grateful that there is now a wealth of information on the Internet that wasn’t there when I first started, both for those who wish to self-publish, or who wish to follow the traditional route.

No doubt I will find another site and meet up with many old faces and avatars, but for now I am preparing two full-length books that did the rounds on authonomy. One was uploaded on the site as Night Girl. That one is with an editor now and is due for publishing in September 2015 with the new title of, In Search of Jessica. The other was uploaded as Chimera Dawn, now titled, The Killers Among Us and due for publication January 2016.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Spotlight on Bradley Wind

Last week HarperCollins announced it would close down its writing community, I recently had the chance to talk to fellow member Bradley Wind about his experience on the site and his thoughts on its closing.

"I was writing without sharing my work for years. I finally started submitting to agents and was happy to sign with Luke Janklow, but he didn't sell Bulb in that early form (surprising he signed me for it at all really) and as I was nearly finished A Calculated Embellishment I decided to look for some online groups where I might get feedback before submitting again. I'd never received feedback before Luke so it was a real eye-opener to join Authonomy.

I didn't go to school for writing, and mostly just decided I wanted to write a book, picked up an ax and started swinging. But in those early days members like Bluestocking (Maria Bustillos - who's gone on to write for the New Yorker and the Awl) among others were incredibly kind and supportive.

All the forum dramas were already happening and it was fun to follow. All that funny anger over silly stuff like spam aka marketing of ones book, and "gaming the system". The site was flawed but basic enough to enjoy and when I landed on the desk in ...what was it... 2009? with A Calculated Embellishment and then given the pass to the Writers festival in York UK as a prize - well, that made it all worthwhile. 

Although, possibly an equal reward was the amount of reviewing/reading I did to get to the desk.
All those first chapters = great writing lessons, and test of endurance! I made terrific friends on Authonomy - many of which continued off the site: Lee Mundell, Rena Rossner, Sandie Dent, Freddie Omm, Simon Kearns, Billie Storm, Dai Lowe, Jane Alexander, Gerry Dailey(RIP), Daragh McDonnell, Marcella O'Connor, Cait Coog, Oliver many. 

The help kept coming from many smart and generous members and  I started feeling guilty about what I was offering in return (crappy little) but when I saw a need for bookcover help I found my in.

Since Bulb made the desk (and I got that lame review, ha) I've been busy working on a couple projectsI've got another novel I've been chipping away at. I've finished writing and illustrating a children's book...mainly done for my girls, but one day I may push to publish it. ( I'm not a Robot, I'm a Unicorn!I've started another children's book - reworking a Thich Nhat Hanh story into one for children.

Shame what happened to Authonomy. But from the folks I met in York that managed the site, I'm not sure it ever really had the backing and great interest from HarperCollins - a test of sorts. I had hopes with the new site but obviously it needed to be more. 

Ah well. Hope those that contributed to it find success elsewhere. Big thanks to all of you - members, friends, and site developers."

Monday, August 24, 2015

Finding Charlie Cover

This is the brand new Finding Charlie cover. I hope you like it. I had such fun with Debbie at designing it. It really came out better than I could have imagined. She has such a great eye.

Finding Charlie is set to win the editor's desk competition this month - right before the site closes it's doors. That'll be bittersweet.

The next step is entering Finding Charlie in the KindleScout competition. I'll keep you posted on that.

It isn't like Charlie to stay out all night without calling, but maybe Olivia doesn't know her little sister as well as she thought.

The police aren’t concerned when Charlie vanishes without warning, but the people who love her are worried sick. Even if the law considers her an adult at nineteen, Charlie's still the baby of her already broken family. Older sister Olivia is determined to figure out what's happened. She finds a lost cell phone, an abandoned car and a shady boyfriend she'd never met before. And he's not the only secret Charlie's been keeping.

This disappearance feels uncomfortably familiar, reminding Olivia and her father of another loss years before. But this will be different, Olivia swears. Charlie's coming back.