Greetings folks, today it’s time for something a little different. No veiled attempts to get you to buy my book; no complaints about how much my life sucks; no insights into the craft of writing. Instead, having recently had the opportunity to conduct an interview with fellow indie author, Rebecca Howie, who is a mystery writer from Scotland, I am posting that interview below for your reading pleasure.
Rebecca self-published her debut novel, The Game Begins, last year, which made enough of a splash to make it up to 16th place on Amazon’s Teen and Young Adult Detective category within three months. She is currently preparing her second book, A Woman Scorned, for publication in the not too distant future.
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01. As one of an increasing number of writers choosing to forgo traditional publishing in favour of self publishing, what has been the best thing about being an indie author?
The best thing is easily the freedom. You can write when you want to write because there are no time restrictions or deadlines.
02. What, if anything, have you found to be the biggest disadvantage of your decision to be self published?
People’s wariness when they hear that my book is self published. It makes finding reviewers quite difficult, and it puts off quite a few potential readers, too. I think it’s the easy access of platforms like KDP and Smashwords, because, as someone pointed out to me, you don’t need anything to do it. And that means for those of us who have worked hard to get our books written and marketed, nobody wants anything to do with us.
03. Drawing on your experience thus far, what advice would you give to aspiring authors thinking of going the indie route?
Social media is way more important than you think it will be in terms of getting your book an audience. It lets everyone see your writing processes and your book’s progress, as well as making you more human (no one wants to see a timeline of endless tweets which say ‘buy my book’), and it lets them invest in your characters long before your book sees print.
04. What is the most helpful advice you received about creative writing before you became a published author?
It wasn’t something I’d considered a potential career since I was about six, so I’ve never had any in-depth talks with someone about how to be a better writer, but a great piece of advice I got shortly after publishing The Game Begins was write for yourself, not for your audience.
I think it’s an easy thing to lose sight of, especially if you know there are people waiting for sequels and they have their own ideas of where the characters should go. It’s your book and you’re the writer, so everything that happens is up to you.
05. What would constitute success for you as an indie author, commercial success, critical acclaim or something else?
Anybody liking my book is a success for me, but when those readers really care about the characters and go so far as to make edits, that makes it all worthwhile. They’ve chosen to spend their time showing me just how much they loved my characters and their story, and considering that fanfiction is where I started out, it sort of makes everything feel like it’s come full circle.
06. You are still in the very early stages of establishing yourself as a mystery/crime writer, what was it that attracted you to this genre?
I never made any conscious decision to write a mystery novel, but I’ve been reading mysteries for years so I think it was more a case of it being what I knew instead of it being the easiest genre to write in or the most fun.
I love who-dunnits and I love the moment all the puzzle pieces fall together and you realise who the murderer was, although trying to write my own one and keeping the killer’s identity a secret is a lot harder than it seems.
07. It’s hard to stand out in a genre as competitive as crime fiction, so how would you persuade fence-sitting readers to take a chance on you and your work?
It’s a mystery novel with a twist: the protagonist is a teenager who’s still in school.
08. What would you say distinguishes you and your writing from the rest of your peers? Don’t be afraid to blow your own trumpet.
My experience comes from writing fanfiction, while a lot of other writers have done creative writing courses or have degrees in English or something similar. I know like indie publishing there’s a bit of stigma surrounding fanfiction because everyone thinks it’s just 12 years olds writing sex scenes with their favourite band members, but there are a lot of amazingly talented writers online and everybody’s always so nice and they’re free with their feedback, so the way I write today has been shaped by those websites and their users, and I’d like to think that gives me a different edge.
09. You published your début novel, The Game Begins, last year. Can you tell us what the story is about?
It’s about a seventeen-year-old girl who is still struggling to come to terms with her dad’s death four years after the car crash they were involved in, and her friend Alex suggests she take a PI course and looks into it herself. But there haven’t been any new leads and Sam doesn’t know where to start, so when she hears about a series of break-ins in which nothing was stolen, she decides trying to find out what happened could be a way of distracting herself.
10. For marketing purposes, many writers will describe their story as “this title, meets that title.” Using the same template, how would you pitch The Game Begins to potential readers?
“The Young Sherlock Holmes” meets “Heatwave.”
11. If The Game Begins was adapted for film or television, who would you cast in the main roles?
The only reason I can answer this question is because my friend told me that she had been thinking of Seamus Dever when she read Marshall’s scenes, and that got me thinking about the other characters. I chose Lyndsy Fonesca as Natasha, and one of the models saved to the many, many Pinterest Character boards as Sam.
12. Is there any one book you read when growing up that you credit as ultimately being responsible for your journey to becoming an author?
There are a lot of names on the list of authors whose books made me want to be a writer, but the one responsible for getting me back into writing is J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter books were a huge favourite of mine, and when I heard that they’d been rejected more than once before being published, I started giving writing as a career some more thought.
13. Who or what would you say have been the biggest influences on your creative writing?
As I mentioned before, I stopped considering writing as a possible career when I was about six because I was more sensible then and knew you needed a steady income to live and I was told writers didn’t make any money, but I still wrote in my spare time and I was thirteen or fourteen when someone in one of my classes told me that there was this website where people were posting their own versions of Twilight.
I wasn’t interested in sparkly vampires, but I did like Harry Potter, so I went home and looked up Wattpad and after a few months of hesitation, I decided to upload one of the pieces I’d written, and that sort of got me back into the writing’s-not-just-a-hobby mindset I’d had when I was younger, and I don’t think I would have had the confidence to publish The Game Begins if I hadn’t heard of Wattpad and used it to post other stories and had such positive feedback.
14. There is a tendency for new authors to be likened to established authors. Which author(s) would you most like to be compared favourably to?
15. Which book(s) penned by any other author(s) do you wish had been written by you?
Harry Potter. Sherlock Holmes. Maybe The Hunger Games, too, just to add a bit of choice.
16. Which prestigious literary award(s) would you most like to be nominated for, and win?
Any would be amazing to be nominated for, but I’d love to see my name up on a longlist along with my favourite authors for the McIllvanney Prize, which is awarded to Scottish crime novels by Bloody Scotland.
17. What would you be doing with your life if you weren’t pursuing your writing ambitions?
Being bored out of my skull, probably.
18. Which unfulfilled life ambition do you most want to accomplish before you pass away?
Learn another language. I’ve picked up the occasional phrase or two while doing research for stories, but not enough to hold a conversation and that’s something I really want to achieve at some point in my life.
19. If you could resurrect any deceased author in history, who would you choose to bring back?
Arthur Conan Doyle. A lot of people have speculated as to whether Sherlock Holmes is real or not, and I’d like to be able to clear that up.
20. If you could be a fictional character from one of your favourite books, who would you be, and why?
I’d like to be someone from the Harry Potter series. I wouldn’t want to be any of the Golden Trio, or the Order of the Phoenix, but it’d be pretty cool just to be living at Hogwarts. Maybe I could be the new caretaker or something.
21. If you were a participant in a murder mystery weekend, which fictional sleuth(s) would you want to pit your wits against?
DI McLean from James Oswald’s series. He’s down to earth and doesn’t have an over-inflated ego like some detectives, so I think even if we were in opposing teams, it’d be a good laugh.
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Thank you Rebecca for your participation in this interview, and best of luck with completing your next novel. For anyone now interested in reading Rebecca’s debut novel, The Game Begins, it is currently available from the distributors below:
If you want to know more about the author and her work check out the links below for her website and various social media hangouts.