In the words of Homer Simpson: D’oh! Apparently, I had so much fun over the Memorial Day weekend that I lost track of time and didn’t realize that today was Tuesday, not Monday. So for the first time in the history of this blog – a whopping 13 months – I’m posting twice in a single day in order for you to meet this week’s featured debut author: Mark Edwards. I originally stumbled upon Mark’s story on another blog and was so enamored with his devotion to his craft, his determination, his giving up and then his “rekindled” determination, that I asked him to join our growing list of featured writers. He agreed. Yay! I hope you enjoy the interview, and if you like what you read, Mark’s novel, Killing Cupid, is available on Amazon for 99 cents.
Name of book: Killing Cupid (co-written with Louise Voss)
Book genre: Psychological Thriller
Date published: February 19, 2011
Publisher: Self-published (Amazon Digital Services)
What is your day job? Marketing director for StudentBeans.com
What is your book about? Killing Cupid is a novel in which a woman who is being stalked turns the tables on her stalker, sending both of their lives into freefall and also wrecking the lives of the people closest to them. It’s an anti-romance novel for people who believe in love. As one of our reviewers said, the main characters are a “pair of nutters.”
What was the most challenging part of the writing process? The book was co-written, so the biggest challenge was to produce something coherent and for us both to know where we were heading at all times even if we didn’t know exactly what the other person was going to write next. I wrote the male chapters and Louise wrote the female, and we had a lot of fun alternating chapters – I would write a chapter, then send it to Louise to read and edit, then we would swap. It was amazingly easy, actually, and I don’t think we ever disagreed about what should happen next. We certainly never fell out. I think trying to co-write a novel would test most friendships (I certainly wouldn’t write something with my girlfriend, as we would probably kill each other by the end of the prologue), but Louise and I are a perfect creative partnership.
What motivates you to write? Weird compulsions. Hearing voices in my head. Being unable to concentrate on real life. It was either writing or the madhouse.
Seriously, the main thing that motivates me to write is a love of reading and wanting to create something that other people will love, to write a book that affects someone else in the same way The Secret History or Less Than Zero affected me. For a long time (my twenties, basically), I was crazy-obsessed with the idea of “making it” as a writer. I had a deluded vision of literary success as being the cure-all for everything. I eventually realized that I was being an idiot and took a chill pill. Now my motives are purer, although I still have the occasional fantasy about hanging out with Bret Easton Ellis and Martin Amis, sipping champagne and being chased down the street by literary groupies (if such a thing as literary groupies exists!).
Did you experience writer’s block? I’m pleased to say that I’ve never had writer’s block. More like writer’s muddle. My main issue has always been deciding which ideas to follow through [on]. I have too many and am not always sure which ones are good and which should immediately be stamped on. I have wasted many months in the past laboring on books that should never have been given oxygen.
How long did it take you to write this book? About 9 months. I was in Tokyo, working full time as an English teacher and writing in short bursts whenever I could. Louise was in London writing full time (she had a contract with Transworld). We were motivated to finish it quickly, because halfway through writing it we sold the TV rights to the BBC.
Why did you decide to self-publish this book? This could potentially be a VERY long answer! In a nutshell, I had completely given up on my writing dream, and Louise – who no longer had a contract – had stopped describing herself as a writer when people asked. We had been through an awful lot of disappointment, and, from my point of view, there’s only so much you can take before determination becomes masochism. Then when Amazon launched the Kindle store, and I started reading about self-publishers like Amanda Hocking, I persuaded Louise that we should give it a go. It felt like self-publishing no longer had such a stigma attached to it. It was time to take control of our own destinies.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? Tricky question… Probably that all you need is a good idea. Characters are far more important than concepts, and a book needs to be crafted carefully to gain life.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? Without a doubt, writing it collaboratively. Louise is such a brilliant writer that I felt privileged to be on the same page as her. Also, I love the characters and some of the stupid things they do. I love having my characters make mistakes and suffer the consequences. I also managed to make myself laugh numerous times during the writing of this book. There are some passages, mainly when Alex is creeping around Siobhan’s house while she’s out (or in the bath), that I’m immensely proud of. The sex scenes were fun to write too!
I’ve read that you needed to update this book in order to publish it now, since there have been so many technological innovations (Facebook, smartphones, etc.) since you first wrote it. Was that difficult to do? Yes, we wrote the first draft of Killing Cupid in 2002. We had mobile phones, but none of the characters in the book did. And there was no Facebook, no smartphones, no broadband… We had to go through the whole thing and update it all. It was easier than I expected, and I love the new Facebook passages. However, it did slow down the publishing process. It would have been ideal to go live last September or October before the self-publishing revolution exploded. Instead, we launched at a time when there seems to be a new book being published every minute.
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? The main thing I’ve done is write articles, for example for crimetime.co.uk, and interview other authors. I have also shamelessly self-promoted on Kindleboards, Facebook and Twitter. I don’t really feel in much of a position to give advice, because I don’t feel successful yet, but I would say that you need to have a really strong book cover and a gripping premise for your book. The biggest mistake I think people make is to endlessly network with other writers when really it should be about reaching readers.
Unfortunately, this is much harder than chatting with other writers, and Amazon doesn’t make it very easy. It’s all about their recommendation engine. Get recommended a lot, and you’re laughing; without that, you’re screwed.
Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? I’m definitely still waiting for my moment of opportunity! I believe you need to have the right book, at the right time, in the right place (or in front of the right person). That does involve some luck. Successful people often belittle luck because they want us to think they made it purely because of talent and hard work. But even Oprah had some luck along the way.