Indie Author Interview with Cambridge Writers member R J Gould

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Today's Interview is with R. J. Gould - the Author of the Contemporary Fiction The Engagement Party - released in 2012 - The book received great reviews.

link to the interview

R.J. Gould lives in Cambridge, England with his American wife Terry. Their children live in Norway, Australia and Bristol (UK). He has a degree in Economics and a Masters in Management and works for a national educational charity.

He writes contemporary fiction that features quirky characters and explores their relationships using humor and a strong sense of irony.

Interview with Author R. J. Gould

Alan Kealey (Indie Author News):What is your (writing) background?
R. J. Gould: I’ve spent much of my working life writing non-fiction, predominantly related to education with articles published in journals, magazines and national newspapers. I’m the co-author of a major work on the education of very able young people. When I started to write fiction I participated in several creative writing courses which have certainly been useful. They didn’t tell me how to write but did offer a menu of techniques to utilise then it was up to me to decide what works best for me. These courses also hammered home the vital importance of editing and the need to recognise the process as part of the writing rather than an unpleasant thing to do at the end.

Who are your favorite writers, your favorite book, and who or what are your writing influences?
It’s really hard for me to pick a favorite (or is it ‘favourite’) writer; it depends what mood I’m in when I read. At present I’m enjoying Victorian pastiche novels like Fingersmith (Sarah Waters), The Crimson Petal and the White (Michel Faber), and The Observations (Jane Harris). My own writing influence is the world around me including the things I read – picked up and absorbed at subconscious level before being stretched and twisted beyond all recognition.

"I don’t always write in sequential order."

Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?
I know the start and end points of my novel and also some mid-story events that I want to include. For the rest I let the characters lead the journey. I don’t always write in sequential order.

I have no regular writing routine though I tend to do most of it in the evening well after finishing my day job. Fortunately I’m a night person, quite possibly at my strongest then and certainly more alert than early morning.

What do you find easiest about writing? What the hardest?
I love writing about people, including their dialogue. There’s such a wealth of potential in focusing on people. Consider your own character, its complexity, mood swings and so on. Next think of the person closest to you, a partner, a relative, a best friend. Despite similarities they are so very different to you. With seven billion people out there that’s a lot of material to choose from, each person with endless plot potential. The hardest thing for me is finding enough time to write.

When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
I began writing fiction approaching fifteen years ago. I have a finished novel that precedes my current self-published The Engagement Party. I wrote this first one ‘just for me’ but I caught the ‘I want to get it published’ bug when so many people including agents said they really liked what I wrote. However in the end the latter didn’t think it was marketable because it cut across too many genres. I’m now considering revamping it and publishing.

Richard, tell us a little about your first novel 'The Engagement Party'.
It’s light-hearted contemporary fiction about family relationships across gender, age and social class. The novel spans the week leading up to and including a lunch party to celebrate the engagement of Wayne and Clarissa, a young London couple. From the start considerable stress is evident with each of the eight parents, step-parents and partners striving to make a success of their post-first marriage relationships. The book leads up to the engagement party which threatens to bring severe tension and ultimately chaos.

Although predominantly humorous, I hope readers discover some thought-provoking issues about relationships. Anyone who has struggled to make something of a broken family and has felt guilty about the impact on their children should recognise such feelings in this novel. And adult children who read it will appreciate that however bad things were in their own family, it could have been a lot worse!

The style is quite unusual with each chapter named after one of the protagonists and written from their point of view.

What inspired you to write the book?
Two things really. Agents and authors telling me that my irony and dry humor are enjoyable to read so I wanted to write something with that emphasis. Then there was the topic of broken families, admittedly not very funny in itself, but such an interesting situation to describe when covering family gatherings – I can say that from personal experience.

"It has been suggested that I use a female pseudonym [...]"

Whom do you see as your target audience and where can we buy the book?
Grrr – this takes me back to a comment I made about genre in a previous question. When talking to agents I’ve found the whole concept of genre rather depressing. The publishing industry is obsessed with finding a precise target market and the result can be prescriptive and dull literature. Authors who I know have been told to change titles, redesign covers and even substantially change content if they want to be taken on. I appreciate that marketing is important but feel that readers are often patronized by the attempt at precise categorisation.

Let me own up, I’m a male and I write about relationships which I appreciate predominantly is for the female market (even though lots of my male friends are interested in this topic). I’ve been told that the vast majority of readers are females and they mainly read books written by females. It has been suggested that I use a female pseudonym or introduce crime or spies into my writing to attract the male reader.

Currently The Engagement Party is available as an e-book on Kindle but is about to be released (August 2012) as a self-published paperback.

How would you describe the success of your book? (Sales, Awards, Reviews)
I’ve been really pleased with the quantity of downloads – approaching 10,000 in the first few months. This has been a mix of purchases and freebies during Kindle Direct Publishing promotions. Whether bought or not I’m glad that there are so many who have or will be reading my work. Reviews have been very encouraging too with the majority awarding five stars. My writing has been likened to F Scott Fitzgerald, Chaucer and the Eastenders! The Arts Editor of The Independent, a major UK national daily newspaper, has submitted a very positive review.

What did you do to promote yourself and your book?
Probably not enough – I don’t tweet or use Facebook yet but feel under pressure to do so. I’ve had postcards made to promote the book and anyone I spot with a Kindle or iPad gets one. I’m a member of Cambridge Writers and a group of us have gone down the e-publishing route recently. We meet to share experiences and are now investigating ways to collectively promote our work: we have a website and are about to make YouTube films.

How long did it take it to write the book?
About eighteen months from the initial idea to the point of e-publishing.

Please, tell us where you self-published the book.
I used Kindle Direct Publishing for the e-book and am in the process of using Feed A Read for the paperback.

"The thing to look for in self-publishing is perfection."

How smooth went the self-publishing process? Any issues? What are things to look for when self-publishing a book?
E-publishing is well organised and easy using Kindle. I needed support from a friend who is an HTML expert because my first attempt to upload, using a Word file, created issues that I didn’t think were producing good enough results for a published work. So far I’m happy with the Feed A Read self-publishing process. The organisation is backed by the UK Arts Council and I think they have done good quality control checks ahead of printing.

The thing to look for in self-publishing is perfection. The novel must be as good as anything that mainstream publishers put out in terms of quality of writing, format and style.

Did you hire an editor and/or Cover Designer for your book?
I was happy with the final version ahead of publishing so didn’t use an editor. I designed my own cover using an istock photo and Photo Suite software. I really enjoyed doing this despite the frustrations. I have recruited a cover designer called gbprint to check it over ahead of publishing the paperback.

Can you give some tips for other Indie Authors regarding the writing and self-publishing process?
Seize the opportunity provided you are absolutely confident that your novel merits being out there and available to the general public. As self-publishers it’s really important that we don’t open ourselves up to criticism from the mainstream publishers because of sloppy writing.

Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m close to finishing my second novel The Reunion, it will certainly be out before the end of 2012. The story starts at a school’s twenty-five year reunion and traces the emergence of the relationship between two of the guests who hadn’t been at all popular during their years at school.

Are you planning to move forward as an Indie author or are you looking forward to have one of your next books to be traditionally published?
I’m very happy with what’s happened for The Engagement Party although I have yet to see the outcome of publishing the paperback. I have every reason to take the same self-publishing approach with The Reunion though I might notify a couple of the agents who I’ve met and valued to let them see my new novel. The big advantage that the mainstreamer publishers have is the ability to market effectively.

"[...] school, college and university textbooks will surely disappear."

Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there still be printed books around?
Wow, a big question. In ten years yes, in twenty or so, I’m less sure. I buy both real and virtual books according to need. I think non-fiction will go first. Electronic books have the great advantage of hyperlinks to take you further, videos, tremendous quality photos. The school, college and university textbooks will surely disappear.

Do you write full-time or do you have a day job?
I work full time for a national education charity.

How can readers connect with you?
They are welcome to email me at rgould130@gmail.com

Thank you so much for the Interview, Richard.

6. Aug 2012
R J Gould
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