Further to last week’s post, when Chandler’s Ford author, Richard Hardie of the Temporal Detective Agency fame, shared what signings and other events have occupied him recently, this continuation shares some of his further news as well as tips for fellow writers.
Is there anything you would have done differently in the past concerning your stories had you known then what you know now? (I know – million dollar question!).
A good question, and the honest answer is that I don’t think I’d change anything. I love the characters in the Agency books, and I was lucky enough to have two agents who tutored me in authorship and gave me an excellent grounding in publishing books. In many ways I’ve been very lucky.
Many good authors remain unpublished most of their lives and it’s apparently true that around a thousand books are written for every one that gets properly published (in other words not self-published), so the odds are stacked against the would-be author. The only regret I have is that I didn’t start writing books earlier. But then, had I done so I might have given up instead of persevering.
How many edits do you do? Or does it vary from book to book?
It’s true that you can do too many edits, to the point you start putting errors into the manuscript. My first agent told me I had to keep editing the book until I hated it!
Three is my norm. The first is to read the book for grammatical and spelling errors, as well as silly mistakes, like a character contributing to a dialogue conversation when they’re not actually in the same location. The second edit is to read the book as a buying reader would, but looking for inconsistencies, and the third is to do a final search for errors.
Inevitably there will then be a rewrite and a final read through before anything gets submitted.
Richard has had the covers of his books redesigned and Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords now look like this.
Back in 2012, Richard’s first book, Leap of Faith, was published in the UK by Crooked Cat Publishing. It sold well and was a finalist in the 2014 Beryl Bainbridge Award. Trouble With Swords was published in 2014, again by Crooked Cat.
In November, Richard with four other published authors formed a marketing co-operative which is now a registered company known as Authors Reach. Between all five writers, nearly 30 books have been published and Authors Reach will republish these over the next 3 years under its banner. All 30 books will be available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback but, best of all, will also be in UK bookshops.
In 2016 there will be a distribution deal for UK book stores (February) along with media interviews and launch events (throughout the year).
How do you keep yourself going on those (inevitable) days when the creative juices just don’t seem to be flowing as well as they should?
(Allison: I don’t think this is writer’s block incidentally. I think it is part of being human. There are bound to be times, partly fuelled by circumstances, where writing is more difficult. We’re not robots after all).
Someone once said that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. It’s either laziness, or you’re writing the wrong book! On those days when I’m feeling “lazy” I take my cocker spaniel on long walks, or concentrate on the marketing side of being an author.
You’ve carried out author events all over the county and into Dorset as well. Where are you hoping to go next?!
My most recent event was my book signing at Barton’s in Leatherhead. The Authors Reach organisation will open up many avenues and new opportunities.
Your top tips for writers. Your Do’s and Don’ts. Suggest 3 of each.
- Do believe in your ability. If you don’t, then no one else will.
- Do join a local writer’s circle
- Do know what you’re going to write about and be enthusiastic about it.
- Don’t give up. Treat each rejection as an encouraging sign. J K Rowling had over 40 rejections.
- Don’t try to copy another author. Be yourself.
- Don’t stare at a piece of blank paper just because someone said you have to set aside the same couple of hours every day for writing. Take the dog for a walk and that piece of paper will soon start filling in, at least in your mind.
Character -v- Plot: The Endless Debate in some writing circles. Which do you think is most important?
I’ve read books with a superb plot and very 2D characters, but I’ve also read books with fantastically real characters and I’m often left wondering what the point of the book is. Both are therefore equally important and any author always has to remember “Who, What, When, Where, Why and How” and keep asking if the book answers all of them.
Allison: Rudyard Kipling had sound advice about writing questions in this poem, “I Keep Six Honest Serving Men …”
What have been the best stand-out moments for you as a writer?
If there has to be one, I would choose from the following:
- Receiving the proof paperback copy of my first Temporal Detective Agency book in the post from my publisher.
- Doing my first solo book signing at The Book Shop in Lee-on-the-Solent.
- Forming Authors Reach with the other 4 authors who are Gina Dickerson, Shani Struthers, Catriona King and Sarah England.
If I have to choose one it would be forming Authors Reach, which may seem strange, however it’s the next stage forward in all our writing careers and the future is important to any author.
Which author do you think you learnt the most from and why?
Without a doubt, it was my old friend Terry Pratchett. He told me not to give up the day job, and he meant it kindly. Terry remained a technical author for the CEGB until after his 3rd Discworld novel was published and selling well. Even then his agent, Colin Smythe, used all his skills to convince Terry to concentrate on writing.
Terry had a strong work ethic which enabled him to bring out 2 books almost every year. His rule per book was 2 months to write, 1 month to edit, 1 month to promote, 1 month research plots. Terry’s wife insisted that the rest of the year was holiday. Terry kept to that. He also was very sceptical about authors who set a competitive target of so many thousand words a day and then boast about it on Facebook. He always queried why they would do it, because the amount of extra editing usually made the words useless.
Which author has inspired you the most and why?
Three authors have inspired me and remain the authors I read most…… actually I read them almost exclusively! Terry Pratchett as I’ve already mentioned is my favourite fantasy fiction author without a doubt. His humour, vision and pure talent trapped me when my son introduced me to his books many years ago.I would recommend the following books by Terry…. The Thief of Time, Night Watch and Pyramids.
Bernard Cornwell has written three series that still enthral me…. Sharpe, the Uhtred series now being shown on BBC2 and the King Arthur Warlord series. He has also written a number of stand-alone books that will also stand the test of time. I’m also assured that there will be at least one more Sharpe book.
On the non-fiction front, Peter Ackroyd is without parallel. His epic series on the history of Great Britain is wonderful and full of life, especially the Tudor and Stuart periods. He’s also written superb books on the London underground, UK ghosts, and biographies of Dickens and others. I’d recommend them all.
Given you write Young Adult fiction, do you read a lot of Young Adult fiction? If so, whom?
To some extent I do. Once again, I love Terry Pratchett’s YA books. He understands the way young people think without patronising them. He always said that his adult books were written for grown-ups and also read by children, and that his children’s books are also read and enjoyed by adults.
Do you outline?
Do you mean before I start writing do I storyboard the book? I do to some extent. However in some cases I think of a great ending and I’ll write that without knowing what happened at the beginning. That’s the case with the 4th book in the Agency series. I’ve written the last three chapters, although I don’t know what happens earlier in the book in detail.
Many thanks, Richard, for bringing us up to date with your writing activities. Book signings such as yours in our “Tier 1” library are a boon to both you and the library.
As writers we need to support each other and our libraries. Why? Our mutual love of books means that support should be there. And it can help libraries survive in an era where they’ve never been under more threat.
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