Today’s featured author, Wendy Cartmell, is sooo right. Novels may be about character, character, character, but, as Wendy says, a challenge for thriller writers, in particular, is “getting the plot right.” That’s where I am right now with Novel #2, In the Red – working through a maze of threads that, hopefully, will all tie up in the end and make for a compelling read. But enough about me… Here’s Wendy!
Name: Wendy Cartmell
Name of book: Steps to Heaven
Book genre: Crime
Date published: October 2011
Publisher: Wendy Cartmell
What is your day job? Retired teacher
What is your book about? Sgt. Major Crane is a Special Investigations Branch detective in the British Army who has to deal with a horrific case of murder/suicide.
Why did you want to write this book? I wanted to write a novel in my favourite genre – crime – and came up with a detective with a difference, one in the British Army. My husband spent 22 years in the Army and has helped enormously with making the book authentic, which is very important to me.
What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? With a crime novel, getting the plot right! Is it believable? Have you covered all the bases? Does each chapter move the story forward?
Did you conduct any kind of research in order to write this book? My book is set in Aldershot where we used to live before moving to the Costa del Sol in Spain, so I used locations I knew in the book. I had to do research on cults and brainwashing, easily done over the internet.
What motivates you to write? Telling my stories! Why leave them stuck in a drawer or on your computer? Stories need readers to breathe life into them.
Did you experience writer’s block? Not really. I let the idea stew for a while before writing a complete plot outline, right down to what should happen in each chapter. I then follow this when I write the book. Once I’ve started, my characters take over each chapter, and I write what I see them doing.
How long did it take you to write this book? About six months, but then the editing process took another three.
Why did you decide to self-publish? I had sent the book out to many agents. Two of them requested the complete manuscript and were very encouraging, but at the end of the day they felt the market was very crowded and would have trouble placing the book with a publisher.
Was the self-publishing process easier or more difficult than you thought it would be? The actual mechanics of self-publishing – preparing the document, etc. – were harder than I thought, but the Smashwords style guide is invaluable in helping with this. Also, the marketing side takes a big chunk out of my day.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? That everyone has a book inside them and anyone can write a book. Both these things may be true, but you have to have the tools to make that story worth reading. Honing those skills takes time and a lot of hard work. It’s something you have to learn.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? Watching my characters in my head as they act out each scene. Sometimes I can’t get it down quickly enough.
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? I have used social media such as Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter. I have also worked hard on getting people to read my book and post reviews. Promotion is hard work and means you have to start marketing yourself and well as your book.
How has life changed for you since the publication of your book? As Steps to Heaven has been well received, it has given me the confidence to write a second book and hopefully more. But I’m realistic enough to know I’m not going to get rich on it!
Do you find yourself obsessively checking sales stats? Yes, because at the moment I am deliberating over the purchase price and playing about with it. Some people advocate a price of $0.99 for a new author, and others are saying you should charge at least $2.99, which is a decent price and reflects the hard work that goes into each novel.
Tell me about your second book. It is already written and in the editing stage. It is the second in the Sgt. Major Crane series and called 40 Days and 40 Nights. Once again set on Aldershot Garrison, Crane has to investigate a terrorist threat to Team GB who are training there in preparation for the 2012 Olympics.
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 would totally agree! Those people who have been lucky enough to become published authors and see their books selling well are working extremely hard behind the scenes. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.