Debbie Bennett

Interview with self-published author Debbie Bennett

So far I’ve only published interviews with Night Publishing authors on my blog but I’m equally intrigued by the phenomenon of self-publishing. Apart from the usual questions about the author’s private life and attitude towards their writing business, I’d like to know what their drive is to do it themselves. And how do they feel about this choice? The first in this series of authors is the queen of thriller/fantasy & crime: Debbie Bennett.

From the little I’ve read of Debbie’s work, I can assure you she’s indeed the queen of suspense with a capital S. Crisp sentences, sucking the reader into the action with no breathing space left, only one urge makes the eyes race on, ‘get on with it, quick, quick, I need to know what’s gonna happen next.’ 

Are you packing your suitcase soon? Make sure you’ve also downloaded Hamelin’s Child on your Kindle. It won’t disappoint you, although your fellow-travellers may complain about not getting enough attention from you. Then you can blame it on Ms Bennett’s writing skills.

Personal Questions:

Where do you live (town, country)? Were you born and bred there?

Northwich, Cheshire in UK. I grew up on the Wirral, spent many years in and around London but I confess I am an Essex girl by birth!

What kind of food do you like? Are you a good cook? How important is food to you?

A good chilli or curry. And chocolate. Never put chocolate in chilli but I believe a lot of people do! I’m a so-so cook – sometimes I enjoy it, but more often than not, it’s a chore. But food is important – it was hell last year when I spent 6 months on a virtually fat-free diet while waiting to have my gall-bladder removed. I’d look at chocolate (especially at Easter) and think – do I really want to risk a night in hospital? But I did lose a stone in weight so it wasn’t all bad.

Do you do any sports? How often?

Not if I can avoid it! But I do try and do a fitness class at work once a week at lunchtime. I’m lucky in that my workplace has a great sports hall and gym, and they lay on quite a few lunchtime and after-work activities for staff. I don’t bother with the gym though, as it’s usually full of sweaty blokes.

Do you have kids?

A beautiful talented teenage daughter…

Do you have another job apart from writing? For how many hours? How do you feel about the ‘other’ job?

I work in IT for the police 4 days per week. Plus I freelance for an independent publishing company. And clean the house/cook/shop/wash/iron etc etc etc. Sometimes I find time for writing, when I manage to kick beautiful talented teenage daughter off computer.

How do your family/friends react to you being a writer? Have their opinions changed since you became a published author?

Hah. They’re most definitely Not Interested. Can you hear the capital letters? As far as they are concerned “Mum’s on the computer again.” It’d be different if I was earning serious money of course, but even then it’d only be the money they’d be bothered about. Art? Writing for the love of it? Not a chance – not when there’s tea that needs cooking …

On writing:

Can you describe the place where you write + the view?

I have a desk in my study with a fabulous view across the valley. On a clear day I can see 20 miles across the Cheshire plains down to Beeston Castle. The disadvantage is the weather comes from the south west around here – sometimes you can see the rain coming in across the valley and it hits the house like buckets of gravel. And a south westerly gale has us scurrying for cover in the downstairs spare bedroom where we end up sleeping in shifts as it’s way too scary to be upstairs. A couple of years ago we went out for dinner as I was convinced the roof was going to blow off and didn’t want to be at home when it happened!

Is there something you always need to have near you when you work (beverage, cigarette, mascot, music, quote, etc)?

Coffee. Coffee. Oh and coffee. Strong, hot and black (don’t say it – just don’t).

What genre(s) do you write in? How did that develop?

Crime and fantasy. My writing and reading roots are firmly in fantasy from over 20 years involved in running the British Fantasy Society in various roles – editing publications, reading for story competitions, handling memberships and organising conventions. I’ve been lucky enough to meet (and sometimes even get drunk with) most of my favourite fantasy authors. I started writing crime when stories and characters began popping up in my head and telling me their tales.

At some point you decided to self-publish. Can you tell us how that process developed?

I had an agent way way back. My current ebook Hamelin’s Child was subbed around various big publishing houses. I subbed it myself to many many agents and editors. I have lots of lovely rejections telling me how great the book is, how they love my writing etc etc. But I’m not “commercially viable”. Then I had a long chat with an agent in the bar at a convention a few years ago – he’d read the whole ms and absolutely loved it, but told me quite frankly that he couldn’t sell it. I know it’s a marmite – love it/hate it – book (fortunately the people that hate it don’t tell me …). That sowed the seeds of self-publishing for me. I’m never going to be commercially viable – I haven’t slept with a celebrity, been on reality tv or had a massive boob job – so I’m never going to have enough of a marketing platform for a publisher to take a chance with me.

Then ebooks suddenly took off and I can publish a book myself without giving up any other rights. I have nothing to lose. Maybe I can even sell enough to interest somebody in picking up paperback rights?

How do you feel about self-publishing now? What are the advantages, disadvantages, pitfalls, etc.?

It’s very hard work and it goes against my personality to be constantly pushing myself forward and yelling me, me, me at every opportunity. I’d love to be able to sit back and concentrate on writing rather than haunting online fora and printing up my own promotional material. But I’m learning a lot along  the way and I’ve made some great new friends.

Are you in a network of Indie authors? How do you market your own book?

Sort of. I started out on HarperCollins authonomy site and met lots of authors like me. That carried through to facebook and twitter and there’s a group of us who frequent the same amazon fora and support each other in many ways. I blog myself (though not as much as I should) and am part of a small writing group. I’m also about to blog with a new group of authors who are mostly traditionally published but with a backlist they are bringing out on kindle, so I’m looking forward to that. I also guest blog on the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival website from time to time.

When was your first book released and how did that make you feel?

End of February 2011 on kindle. A bit of an anti-climax to be honest. I’ve been published before and have quite a few short story credits. By far the best experience was seeing my first paid-for short story in a national women’s magazine many years ago. Although, thinking about it, the experience of my first 5 star Amazon review from a complete stranger came pretty close!

Can you tell us some background information on the book? (How did you get the idea, how long did it take you to write and edit it, is it part of a sequel, how does the published book make you feel now?)

That’s a hard one. The idea for Hamelin’s Child arrived more-or-less fully formed a long time ago. The first draft was written fairly quickly, but it then evolved over a number of years – it was long-listed for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award and that inspired me to keep pushing it. It’s not a nice story. It’s dark and very graphic in places but I am proud of it. Every now and then I read it again as a reader and I think “Gosh, I wrote that!”

Where do you see yourself in 5-years’ time?

Earning enough to give up the day job. With a contract from a big publisher for the hardback & paperback rights and an agent negotiating a film deal. 

THANK YOU SO MUCH Debbie, you’re a pro!!

Want to get in touch with Debbie or read her work. Here’s some more info and all her links.

Author Bio

Debbie is a middle-aged boring civil servant with a secret life as a writer…

She’s worked in law enforcement for over 25 years, in a variety of different roles, which may be why the darker side of life tends to emerge in her writing. If she makes enough money selling books, perhaps she’ll be able to afford counselling instead.

Book Blurb

Michael Redford died on his seventeenth birthday – the night Eddie picked him up off the street, shot him full of heroin and assaulted him.

Now he’s Mikey and he works for Joss. With streaked blond hair and a cute smile, he sleeps by day and services clients at night. Sometimes he remembers his old life, but with what he’s become now, he knows there is no return to his comfortable middle-class background.

Then he makes a friend in Lee. A child of the streets, Lee demands more from friendship than Mikey is prepared to give. But the police are closing in on them now and Mikey’s not sure anymore who he really is – streetwise Mikey or plain Michael Redford.

Time’s running out and Michael has to find some answers …

A thriller set in the seedy world of London’s drug rings, this book contains strong scenes and adult material.

Opening Sample

Michael Redford died on his seventeenth birthday – the night Eddie picked him up off the street, shot him full of heroin and assaulted him.

Michael had been drinking steadily all night, matching Jenny’s Breezers with export-strength lager, and when he saw Jen wrapped around his mate’s brother across the dance floor, he didn’t feel at all inclined to slow down. Totally oblivious to observers, they were all hands and lips – a human octopus of limbs on the red chesterfield sofa with Jenny’s long dark hair covering both their faces. She’d dropped an E in the toilets; he could tell by the shine in her eyes and the way she moved when they’d been dancing earlier – she always came onto him when she was high, then pulled away when he got interested. Michael kicked the pillar next to him in disgust. He hated nightclubs anyway.

‘She came with you, didn’t she?’

Michael turned to see a man standing next to him. Blond hair, cream chinos, polo shirt and too much jewellery. He seemed older than the rest of the punters.

The man waved his hand in Jenny’s direction. ‘The girl,’ he added, by way of explanation. ‘I was watching the two of you earlier.’

Michael nodded. ‘Don’t think she’ll be leaving with me.’

‘Girlfriend?’

‘Ex.’

‘Evidently.’ The man smiled sympathetically. ‘Women are bitches, aren’t they? He’s a dealer, by the way – saw him outside the bogs before. What’re you drinking?’ He pointed at Michael’s empty glass.

Michael shook his head. ‘No, thanks.’ Now fuck off, creep. Something about the stranger made him uneasy.

‘Suit yourself.’ The man shrugged and went off to the bar, returning a few moments later with a pint and what looked like a whisky chaser. He held the pint out. ‘Got you one, anyway. You look like you could use it.’ He had an impressive assortment of gold rings on his hand, which suggested serious money, even if the guy was a poser.

Oh, what the hell… ‘Cheers.’ Michael emptied half of it immediately. He had less than a fiver left from the eighty quid his dad had given him earlier that day and not enough for a taxi home. Still, he couldn’t complain – there weren’t many parents who’d let their underage son celebrate his birthday in a club, and it was largely due to the intervention of his elder sister Kate that they’d let him go at all. On top of that, she’d even managed to talk them into giving him enough money to enjoy it in style. The money had come with strings of course, but listening to the ten-minute evils of drink and drugs lecture had been a small price to pay for his freedom.

Website/Blog

www.debbiebennett.co.uk

UK Amazon Links

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004PLNLWY

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Debbie-Bennett/e/B004PGSOXU

US Amazon Links

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004PLNLWY

http://www.amazon.com/Debbie-Bennett/e/B004PGSOXU

15 Comments

15 Responses to Debbie Bennett

  1. Ron A Sewell says:

    Great interview. Read some of Debbie’s work on another site.

  2. I remember this book well from Authonomy. Brilliant writing, an individual plot, characters you get to know quickly. Excellent interview, Hannah and Debbie. All the very best with the book.

  3. interesting how the characters and stories tell themselves to her. i wonder where that comes from. i’ve heard other writers say that as well sometimes. these other worlds that are fully formed, and inform the writers about them.

    • Debbie says:

      Tantra – sometimes I have to work really hard at it, but this story in particular arrived more-or-less fully formed. I’m not sure what that says about my subconscious! I know life would be easier if I wrote chick-lit.

  4. KJ Kron says:

    I remember Debbie from my authonomy days – glad to hear she self-published. Love these interviews – I feel like I’m getting to know the authors I’ve read. Best of luck!

  5. Dan Holloway says:

    Debbie was one of the first people I met on Authonomy. She’s inspirational and it’s an honour to be part of Kindle UK Authors (http://kindleauthorsuk.blogspot.com/) with her.

  6. Reggie says:

    Great interview Debbie, nice to “meet” you, lol. I’ll put this on my FB page for a bit more propaganda :-D

  7. Poppet says:

    I adore Debbie. She’s a fabulous person and a talented writer. She never ever gives up and always has gentle words of encouragement to share (which I’ve needed a lot of).

    I loved reading this interview. And *doesn’t say anything about the strong black coffee – because I like mine the same way waaaaaahahahaaaaaaaa* *ahem* (Just the coffee – still haven’t said it)

    Nice one Hannah – and great to read a fab interview from you Debbie :D xx

  8. Nice to read about the struggle. Finally, the resolve won. Congratulation for the grit and confidence. It’s showing the way to others. Debbie well done.

  9. Hannah Warren says:

    Thank you all for your comments. I’m glad you all think Debbie is a great writer and I hope that those of you are thinking of self-publishing might find the idea more attractive now.

  10. Even Hannah’s face misses. What happened to the faces? Hannah’s comment form has also got problem it says duplicate content.

  11. Debbie says:

    Thanks for all your lovely comments, guys. That’s what I love about thisvindie platform – everybody is so supportive!

  12. Debbie says:

    Ag. No edit. Must proofread *before* pressing POST COMMENT….

  13. Dan Holloway says:

    Deb, it’s true – chocolate is a standard ingredient in Mexican chilli :)

    • Debbie says:

      I bought chilli-flavoured fudge in the Lake District a couple of years ago – it was truly inedible and I’ll eat pretty much anything sweet.

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