Alison May is a good friend to the blog and some of us were lucky enough to share accommodation with her at last year’s RNA conference. So we’re delighted to welcome her back for a second chat, now that she has had not only her first novel published, but also a Christmas-themed novella.
Hello again Write Romantics. It’s lovely to be back. I come to bestow the wisdom of the published writer. Much Ado About Sweet Nothing has been published for nearly 7 whole weeks, and therefore, of course, I now know EVERYTHING. Literally EVERYTHING. What do you want to know?
We are really all keen to hear about your experience of the marketing side of things – particularly how much you do and how much help you’ve had from your publisher.
I’m published by Choc Lit (www.choc-lit.com) and they are great, but obviously things will vary from publisher to publisher. I’ve had lots of support on social media, not just from the Choc Lit team themselves, but also from other Choc Lit authors. Choc Lit also do things like setting up local media interviews and sending out press releases on your behalf.
That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be at the centre of your own promotion though, especially on social media. And marketing and promotion are hard – that’s why people who are good at marketing get paid the Big Money. It’s particularly hard if, like me, you’re fundamentally a bit reserved and English. I use twitter and facebook a lot (you can find me here: www.twitter.com/MsAlisonMay and here: www.facebook.com/pages/Alison-May/310212092342136) and constantly worry that I overdo the promotional tweeting and am massively annoying people or that I underdo it and should be selling more books. It’s definitely an acquired skill.
Do you read your own reviews and how do they make you feel?
Of course I read them – I’m human! Generally I’m pretty chilled about reviews either way. It’s lovely when someone loves something you’ve written, but inevitably not everyone will, and either way, it’s just one person’s opinion.
I actually find ‘middling’ sort of reviews more troubling than really terrible ones. At least someone hating your book is a reaction. If they just find it a bit ‘meh’ that’s quite hard to deal with.
Has anything that’s happened since being published surprised you in either in a good or a bad way?
Well, obviously it’s a bit disheartening to discover that I’m not suddenly rich beyond my wildest dreams, and that I don’t automatically earn the right to lie on a chaise longue in my nightie and dictate my next book to a topless male model who, for reasons never fully explained, moonlights as an audio typist.
I am slightly surprised, and disappointed in myself, to discover how obsessed I am with checking my amazon sales rank. One piece of advice – just don’t start down that route. It’s weirdly addictive, occasionally deeply depressing and it’s almost impossible to kick the habit once you’ve started.
We’ve all heard about the difficult second album scenario and we wondered how true that’s turning out to be in relation to the writing of your second full-length novel?
Well just in case my publisher reads this, I’ll start by saying that novel 2 is coming along absolutely fine. Completely fine. It’s totally going to be submitted soon. Definitely. Almost certainly. Probably. Errr…
Honestly, for me writing novel 2 is properly hard work. There are all sorts of reasons for that. Much Ado About Sweet Nothing was my first completed novel, and while I was writing the first draft I basically knew nothing about how to write a novel. Now I know a little bit, and a little knowledge is, as the cliché goes, a very dangerous thing. Having completed and edited one novel you know more than you did when you wrote novel 1, and ignorance is really helpful when writing a first draft. It stops you from trying to correct stuff as you go along, and stops you tying yourself up in knots of anxiety over whether it’s good enough. That tiny bit of knowledge can be paralysing.
So yeah, novel 2 = really hard. Sorry about that.
How are you finding the development of new characters and new themes, do you have any concerns that you might find yourself inadvertently sticking with ‘favourites?’
This is something I’m very aware of, but I’m trying not to think too hard about it, because it’s another anxiety that can become paralysing. If you look at every character, every plot point, every choice you make about narrative voice or tense, or about setting or structure, and think ‘Oh, have I done that before?’ it stops you from progressing. I think you just have to write the best book you can and put everything else out of your mind.
What are you most looking forward to/most anxious about as you move onto the next phase of your writing career?
Looking forward to finishing book 2! Hopefully that will be published in paperback as well as ebook, which would be great. Print publication is a big outstanding ambition. After I’ve finished novel 2, I’m committed to writing a sequel to Holly’s Christmas Kiss, which I’m excited about. Holly really exceeded my expectations in terms of the sales and reaction over Christmas, so I’m looking forward to revisiting that world again in time for next Christmas. I’m also excited about building up work alongside the writing. I used to teach creative writing and I’m really keen to get back into teaching and critiquing.
In terms of anxiety I guess it’s just the awareness that my current situation could change. Novel 2 might not be good enough. All sorts of stuff could go horribly wrong. Again, you can’t spend time thinking about all the stuff that might go bad, because it’s another of those paralysing voices. You’ve just gotta keep writing.
So there you go. Sorry it got a bit long but there are my honest answers to your very insightful questions. I hope you found them enlightening, or if not enlightening at least passably interesting. That sounds more realistic. I hope you found them passably interesting.
And now you should all go and buy my book. If you want to. Or not.
Much Ado About Sweet Nothing is in the current Kindle 100 deal and is only 99p during January!
About Much Ado About Sweet Nothing
Is something always better than nothing?
Ben Messina is a certified maths genius and romance sceptic. He and Trix met at university and have been quarrelling and quibbling ever since, not least because of Ben’s decision to abandon their relationship in favour of … more maths! Can Trix forget past hurt and help Ben see a life beyond numbers, or is their long history in danger of ending in nothing?
Charming and sensitive, Claudio Messina, is as different from his brother as it is possible to be and Trix’s best friend, Henrietta, cannot believe her luck when the Italian model of her dreams chooses her. But will Claudio and Henrietta’s pursuit for perfection end in a disaster that will see both of them starting from zero once again?
This is a fresh and funny retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, set in the present day.
Alison May last visited the WriteRomantics in September. Since then her first novel, Much Ado About Sweet Nothing, and her Christmas-themed novella, Holly’s Christmas Kiss, have been published by Choc Lit Lite, and she has almost learnt to say ‘I’m a writer’ when people ask her what she does for a living. Her next goal is to be able to say it without giggling uncontrollably and spluttering drink all over poor innocent question-asking strangers.