Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
In a small town in Lincolnshire, England, and it was a long time ago - quite frightening really. I was a keen reader - if I couldn't find a book I read the back of a cereal packet. But I was lucky that my father was also a keen reader and had lots of books. Perhaps the books weren't entirely suitable for a growing child (lots of Mickey Spillane and Raymond Chandler) but I lapped them up and I'm sure that early experience contributed to my preferred reading now (mostly crime novels) and, of course, my own writing.
When did you first start writing?
Not until a few years ago. My marriage of over 30 years broke down and I took it hard. I started to write a diary to keep myself sane. I told myself I wouldn't remember the detail of those bad times, and for some reason I thought I should. That diary led to my first book which was non-fiction called His Midlife- Your Crisis and written under my other pen name of Ali Marston. And so I suppose I have my ex-husband to thank for leading me into writing. Once I'd started to sell a few copies of that first book I decided to turn to fiction and produced Unexpectedly Back on the Market, and now I'm writing crime novels. I've just finished my third and I'm beginning my fourth.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book is called Two Late and tells of a teenage party that ends in tragedy when a young boy collapses. It is the third in the Laura Jessop series. Laura is the headmistress of a school in northern England who ends up helping the police to solve a series of murders. Initially she has little confidence in the Detective Inspector, Dave Jenkins, but by book 3 they have a healthy respect for each other's talents.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I had written my first book and put it for sale on the internet and achieved modest sales, so I knew it was possible to go it alone. My first novel took me a long time to write, and was quite personal to me so I didn't really want to go through the porcess of submitting it to publishers and having it rejected. And that's when I read an article about John Locke who had achieved a million sales as an indie author. And I thought, why not? I'll give it a go. And I just kept writing, and writing.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
It's early days, but I'm hopeful. I've had my books on Amazon as Kindle downloads for about a year, and I have to admit I didn't think about other e-readers. Yes, it was very naive of me and I'm now kicking myself for being so stupid. I also signed up to Kindle Select which tied me in to an exclusive deal with Amazon so I had to wait a while before I could publish elsewhere, but now I have all five books on Smashwords and they've been accepted into the Premium Catalogue as well.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Learning about my characters. They actually have personality that almost develops by itself. I find myself driving my car and suddenly an idea pops into my head about one of my characters - almost as though that character is talking to me. And writing crime novels allows me to change the plot as I go along. If I don't know whodunnit when I'm writing how will the reader know?
What do your fans mean to you?
They have given me the confidence to believe that I can write and that people will enjoy what I have written. I have had tremendous self-doubt along the way, and without the kind words of encouragement I wouldn't have had the courage to keep writing. Each review gives me a real boost, even the negative ones of which there have been thankfully only a few. I knew when I started that my 'market' were the sort of people who enjoyed the works of Agatha Christie and Ian Rankin rather than the darker and more horrifying mystery novels. And inevitably that means that there are lots of people out there who will find my writing humdrum. But equally I know that there are people who really identify with my characters and can't wait for the next book. That's what keeps me going.
What are you working on next?
I have two projects on the go at the moment. One is Book Four in the Laura Jessop series. I think this might be the last in the series, although I have half an idea for Book 5 (there are only so many dead bodies that a school can cope with!). My other project is a book of short stories based on some of the characters that my readers will already have met in the Laura Jessop series.
Who are your favorite authors?
I've already mentioned some. I like Agatha Christie, Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, Elizabeth George, James Patterson. Although I enjoy a good murder it's more the mystery than the actual murder - I do find some descriptions of murder scenes quite chilling.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I've always been a glass half-full person at heart and so I've always been keen to see what the new day holds for me. But I've also been the kind of person who knows that life will only give me as much as I put in, so each new day is an opportunity for me to do a bit more.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I like puzzles of all kinds - jigsaws, crosswords, sudokus. And being with my second husband who luckily shares my interests.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
From all sorts of sources. I browse various websites such as Goodreads and Smashwords of course. I read reviews, and I am a member of various online groups via Facebook and LinekdIn. And many of the people I follow on Twitter are authors and e-publishers so I find books that way.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
As a child my natural talents were for maths and science. English was not my favourite subject. I had an essay to write and i'd been putting it off until the last minute, so I finally had to get something on paper very quickly. I dashed something off and the only thing I can remember is that it involved Adam and Eve and waterproof figleaves! Anyway, my English teacher raved about it and I got an A- perhaps the only A I ever got for English.
What is your writing process?
I like to work out an outline of my story first, and then I just start writing. I write as much as I can each day and try not to beat myself up if it's only a thousand words! Generally it takes me a couple of months from the beginning of writing to a fairly finished product. I don't change it much when it's done, just proofreading errors really.
How do you approach cover design?
I usually have an idea that develops as I write and I try to work on that in my head. I try to find a good photograph as a starting point, but I have quite a lot of software that lets me change photos and merge bits to get the image I want.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Kindle which I love.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
It's difficult to say really. Marketing is perhaps the thing I find the most difficult. Every little helps. I have some great reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and on Authonomy and they obviously help. I use social media - although I'm a bit awkward and reticent. It certainly helps that I have more than one book to sell as people who buy one often buy several. And people like a bargain so offering Book 1 at a discount or even free helps the sales of Books 2 and 3. And I find the guides written here at Smashwords have been tremendously helpful.
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