It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for this week’s Debut Author Q&A. A hearty welcome to today’s featured guest, Robert Craven.
Book: Get Lenin
Book genre: WWII/Action/adventure
Date of publication: June 2011
Publisher: Tim Roux – Night Publishing
What is your day job? I work for a print and packaging company in Dublin, Ireland.
How did the idea for this book come about? The idea came about when a read a book review in the Sunday Times about a book called Lenin’s Embalmers, which revealed that Lenin’s mausoleum was shipped out of Moscow in 1941 to the Ural mountains during the German advance in 1941. The first thought that came into my head was “What would happen if…”
Do you have an agent? I don’t have an agent, but I am seeking representation. It took about five years to find a publisher. I went the usual route of pitching the manuscript then posted it up on Authonomy.com where I found Tim Roux’s Night Publishing. I pitched Get Lenin directly to him, and he accepted the manuscript and offered me a contract.
What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? The most challenging part of writing any book is the commitment level. It can literally take over your life. I wrote Get Lenin in blocks of free time, and keeping a cohesive thread throughout was a huge challenge once the rewrites began.
What motivates you when you write? The motivation for me with this book was really a tick against the bucket list. I always wanted to write a novel and felt once I turned 40 it was time to do something about it.
Tell me about the process. Did you experience writer’s block? I did experience writer’s block on several occasions and at times left the manuscript for a few weeks. How I got around it was by reading the hard-copy with an A4 pad beside me. Where something didn’t “feel” right, I’d write out the passage on the pad in longhand and clip the page to the manuscript. Then I would type it up again.
How long did it take to write this book? It took about five years to write, though I uncovered a very rough outline from 2001, where a German officer discovers a dying Russian soldier with a map with a rail route on it.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about writing a book? It’s “Oh, yeah, I can do that!” What I’ve learned from this process is never to sneer at anyone’s book. I respect anyone who has managed to get published.
What was your favorite part of writing the book? Developing my main character Eva Molenaar, particularly her development from an innocent caught in the wrong place at the wrong time to the assured heroine that she becomes. I enjoyed doing the research also as I love history, and it gave me lots of time to read up on the 1930s and 1940s.
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? I created a Get Lenin Facebook page as well as my own Facebook page to promote the novel. I have linked this page to Twitter, so every posting goes directly onto it. I’ve also tried to think out of the box. I’ve pasted the Amazon link to festival websites where there are message boards, and an old friend of the family has posted the book up on his travel website.
I plugged Get Lenin recently on a national radio station as a “weekend winner” once it reached 20,000 on Amazon. I received five comps – one has been sent to a national newspaper, two to radio and the remainder in a local bookshop. I’ve also alerted the library service in Dublin, making them aware of the book. I’m accepting all interviews whenever and wherever they arise – anything I can do working hand-in-hand with Night Publishing to raise awareness of the novel.
How has life changed for you since the publication of your book? I feel a huge sense of achievement. Being published is really better than winning the lottery. My life hasn’t changed radically, though you develop a certain degree of paranoia with people’s attitudes. Some have been encouraging; others, dismissive.
And now for my favorite last question: Oprah once 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 absolutely agree with Oprah – you make your own luck. The great golfer, Gary Player, once said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” The more determined I became to be published, the more opportunities presented themselves to me. I can’t stress enough that you should never, ever give up.