My graduation piece for a presentation skills course I took for work was entitled, “Breeding before Forty” and garnered enough laughs that I was persuaded to take part in a rookies’ night at an Auckland comedy club. I was enough of a success that the club asked me back and I stayed on the professional stand-up circuit for three years, before retiring to concentrate on my writing. Certainly it was the writing rather than the performing that attracted me to stand-up in the first place.
1. What got you into writing / what made you sit down and actually start something? I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember with the love of words being instilled in me by my mother who, if she’d been around now, would no doubt be indie publishing. It was when I was writing for stand-up that I realized I wanted to try my hand at something longer but didn’t have the skills to do so. I undertook quite a few courses to learn the basics and only then was I able to fulfil my dream of writing a full-length novel.
2. What is a usual writing day like for you, how is it structured? I’ll finish breakfast and then sit down with pen and paper and force myself to stay where I am until I’ve written at least 1000 words. If the muse hits, this can quickly turn into 3,000, but I always work to that minimum of 1,000. I like the process of writing longhand because it slows my brain down. I can type at around 100wpm and find that if my first draft is done on the computer, I end up having to do far more editing that if I’ve written it out in longhand first. I then head off to my day job for a few hours and when I get home again, I’ll input the words from the morning, tweaking and editing as I go. This essentially means that the first version in the computer is a rough second draft.
3. Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it? Yes I do. I think most writers get it at some stage. I have found though that if I force myself to write a couple of pages that the words soon start to flow. I work to a very (like incredibly) rough outline and so to a certain extent I always know what is supposed to be happening. That’s not to say my brain doesn’t head off on the odd tangent and write me into a corner.
4. Are you a plotter or panster when it comes to writing a story? I fall somewhere between the two. As I said, I work to a very rough outline, but that is soon shredded if the characters take me off in some other direction. Still, some of the pieces I’ve enjoyed writing the most, and that have worked the best, are those very scenes. It never ceases to amaze how the human brain works and I love it when something random I’ve included earlier in the book works in perfectly with a scene a lot later on. I now don’t second guess myself and leave things as they are knowing I can always edit later.
5. Are you traditionally or self-published, and what was the publishing process like for you? Any advice to aspiring authors? I’m actually lucky enough to be published traditionally and also self-published. Personally I think you’re far better off going down the traditional route for the first book because it’s such a learning process and if you can have your hand held by a good editor then this will make the process that little bit easier.
I was incredibly lucky to be picked up by the second publisher that I approached. Having said that, I crafted my first manuscript to the inth degree and employed the services of a freelance editor to ensure it was as strong as I could make it. You only get one chance when submitting your manuscript and you need to make it as attractive to a publisher as possible. As to whether writers want to stay publishing in the traditional manner or go down the indie route, I think that’s entirely up to the individual. Certainly with the novelettes I’ve self-published under a pseudonym, I’ve enjoyed having control over how I market the books on Amazon and being able to see those sales coming in is such an incentive to get on and write more. With traditional publishers, you only hear how well (or not) you’ve done every six, or even 12, months and it can be a bit demoralizing when you’re writing without knowing how your sales are going.
6. What has been your highlight since becoming a published author? Definitely getting my first 5* review from someone I didn’t know. It’s fabulous when friends and acquaintances write reviews of your books, but so much sweeter when a total stranger likes what you’ve written. I also get a small thrill when my Amazon sales ranking improves, not that it’s at all possible to work out what those rankings actually mean. The algorithm they use to determine these rankings seems to be convoluted enough to give the Da Vinci Code some competition.
7. Can you share a little of your most recent book with us? And any other books of yours, if you wish. I’m currently working on the third in the “Excess Baggage Series”, entitled “Screwed for Money”. The book is set in London in 1979 and is chock full of irreverent humour along with lots of sex and violence. I do like strong heroines who don’t take crap and Brenda, who is the protagonist in this story, is no different to my earlier heroines.
I did have an epiphany the other day though that means I’m going to have to kill one character off and replace him with someone else. It’s something my editor suggested way back and I’ve been resisting it ever since, but now that I’m 60,000 words into the first draft; I can see she’s right. Damn!
This Girl’s Abroad
This Girl’s Abroad is set in Melbourne, Australia, in the late 1970s, before social media and before platform shoes and flares became retro. Samantha think she’s bullet proof, until she runs into a particularly hairy and extremely sweaty Greek with a penchant for garlic and an appendage named after a popular luncheon meat. By the time she’s finished with him, he’s only good for sandwiches.
Mounted and Hung
Jennie’s life has always been planned to the nth degree, but no amount of planning could have prepared her for losing the one she loved. Things are still going according to plan in London, until she runs into Rupert Smythe-Brown, a Hooray Henry who’s missing a chin. From being someone who’s always backed away from confrontation, Jennie turns feral, with hilarious results.
Screwed for Money
Brenda has never had any issues with money, because she’s always been well cared for by the old guys she’s latched onto. But, for the first time in years, she’s having to provide for herself. She hopes to hell her school for girls’ pans out because apart from the financial implications she doesn’t much fancy a love life that’s destined to be littered with dodgy prostates and bouts of emergency CPR.
8. What audience is your book targeted for, and what genre does it come under? My audience is quite broad in that there are woman in their 50s who will read the books with nostalgia when they think back on the time they’re set in (late 70s) and then there are woman in their 20s and 30s who will enjoy reading them purely for the characters and the humour. I think of my books as being Retro Chicklit. Unfortunately this isn’t a genre known to Amazon and so mostly the books are listed under Romantic Comedy although, personally, I think they’re a little too dark in places for that genre.
9. Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time? I do love old-fashioned handcrafts like crochet, knitting and sewing but will turn my hand to anything that takes my fancy and have taken night classes in everything from woodwork to belly dancing. I believe anything is worth trying once.
10. What tip would you give to new authors when trying to build a fan-base / get followers and market their books? (What to do and what not to do.) Wow, that’s a big question. I actually find the marketing side of the business harder than the writing. Getting out there and pushing yourself at every opportunity is incredibly hard, but it’s what you need to do, and keep on doing. You need to have a social presence on FaceBook and Twitter as well as Instagram and even the likes of Pinterest. Take every opportunity that comes your way to talk to others about your books (like I’m doing here) and even create your own opportunities. You also need a website, which is something I STILL need to do! I’ve also got a blog, but found that the pressure of updating it regularly was taking me away from my writing and for me, there doesn’t seem to be any point in having an amazing social presence if you’ve only had time to write one book. I’ve got too many books in me for that and so I’m hoping for a happy middle ground.
11. How would you describe your writing style? My style is definitely conversational. Much as I love beautifully crafted words, I like books that don’t have me re-reading sentences several times to work out what’s going one. I spent twenty five years in advertising and at the end of a 12 hour day the last thing I wanted was a book that was going to trash my few remaining brain cells. I love books where I get to laugh out loud and so that’s what I aim for with my own and I’ve had enough positive feedback on that front to know that I’ve been successful. I also like a happy ending. I know they’re not as fashionable these days, but hey I don’t think I’m alone in wanting one of those.
Twitter: @AndreneLow Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andrenelowauthor