Interview with self-published author Catherine Condie
Catherine Condie is another example of a successful self-published author, meaning she is 100% dedicated to her work, polishes her work till it shines brighter than all others, uses all the necessary platforms and just generally gives it her all.
Her recent book The Switch was released a couple of weeks ago. Catherine may describe herself as a quiet person but her prose is definitely anything but quiet. Whether you’re a youngster or a more mature reader make sure you hold on tight to the straps during the ride because the rest of you will be swaying wildly in all directions. Catherine is an intense, action-driven writer. Her pages explode. Enjoy!
Where do you live (town, country)? Were you born and bred there?
I live about seventeen miles from the cycle city of Cambridge, UK, where I have lived for most of my life.
What kind of food do you like? Are you a good cook? How important is food to
Without doubt, my favourite meal out would comprise something sweet and sour, or more likely Peking Duck plus trimmings – tastes of the orient first given to me when as children we were taken to a small restaurant in the Kite area of Cambridge. I enjoy cooking and have learned much from the skill of my mum, but it has to fit in with what I’m doing and I become very organised in a very small space of time once I move away from the computer! Good cook? Good enough and fairly traditional I would think, with requests from my children and their friends for my shepherd’s pie and apple crumble.
Do you do any sports? How often? What does exercise mean to you? Any other
Now this is more me. I am a pretty competitive sports person, and on and off belong to a local friendly tennis club. I also attend keep fit once a week and have been known to run through the village at 6am or at least it was until last year when I decided it was far too early for such energy! I am very keen on hockey, table tennis, track (400m) and long distance running and have belonged to various clubs. That said, this summer’s parents’ race at the primary school saw me come in last!
And . . . Music!!! A big part of my life. These days I play a Taylor electro-acoustic guitar and have been singing and songwriting since the age of 8 when my parents bought me a Spanish guitar – still sentimentally the best of those I own. I have had some great singing/songwriting partnerships over the years, and have been part of an all-girl a cappella group, singing at folk clubs across Cambridge in the 80s. In the last ten years I have been performing at the Cambridge Folk Club, and have recently got together with a lovely talented Irish friend, to sing harmonised folk pop (I love harmonised music!). Our ambition is to play at the Cambridge Folk Festival, where I was lucky enough to get a 15-minute slot when I was 19 years old. I am also part of
a local rock band, again with talented friends.
Do you have kids? If so, please tell us a little about them?
I have two children; a daughter aged 13 and a son, aged 10. And of course they are both wonderful. My daughter enjoys writing for a hobby, and my 10 year old has surprised us all by his sudden change from only listening John Williams’ film scores to mastering a complete run through of AC/DC’s Back in Black on his electric guitar. (It helps that my husband is a fab lead guitarist).
Do you have another job apart from writing? For how many hours? How do you feel about the ‘other’ job?
Since the children arrived I have tried to be ‘mum at home’ as much as possible but to keep my career as an editor, marketing consultant going in various guises. I have taken on part-time roles working for businesses run by friends, and become very much involved in local organisations including the playgroup and the primary school, where I am still a governor. Until last year I spent three years working in internet marketing for a local company, which has given me extra confidence in my work to self-publish.
How do your family/friends react to you being a writer? Have their opinions changed since you became a published author? Which remark from your surroundings has stuck most with you?
I think for a time no one actually believed anything would happen as I rewrote my first children’s book three times plus, and I have myself to thank for making it into a bit of a standing joke! Yes, opinions have changed, but I think having written songs/poems in the past has meant becoming a writer was no real surprise to most. The children have never known me not to write, so it is no big deal for them. Although my son always tells me when his friends borrow my book from the school library and recently confessed that he was pleased to tell his teacher she could download it on her Kindle!
Would you call yourself a social human being? Do you have time for going out and spending time away from the writing desk?
I have always been quite quiet in everyday circumstances so I wouldn’t say I’m naturally a social person. But I thrive alongside others and I do love being with people and going out occasionally. My musical background gives me the excuse for this, either to see a band, or to perform. During the writing day, my dog – a Westie named Dan – and my social networking friends help me survive the solo working experience!
Which character trait do you like best about yourself and why? Which trait would you rather do without?
I think I have an ability to look at the positive side of most situations, which is always useful, and especially so in the writing business! On the downside, if you speak to my friends they would probably say I worry a bit too much.
Can you describe the place where you write + the view?
I write in the dining room at a computer desk, which until recently faced out the small bay window to the garden. I have to confess, this was more inspiring than the white wall and line of children’s DVDs I see before me now, so I have taken to writing at the laptop on the dining table, where the sun reaches in.
Is there something you always need to have near you when you work (beverage, cigarette, mascot, music, quote, etc)?
Writing is mostly a term-time activity for me, and I will intersperse it with short bursts of housework and periodic cups of tea and coffee, and invariably half-drunk and cold (the tea or coffee, not me!).
What genre(s) do you write in? How did that develop?
I have written two novellas for children/young adults. The genre of my writing reflects the focus of my life at the current time, and the books are written for children of a similar age to my own.
Whirl of the Wheel I wrote for a number of reasons. Firstly, I was inspired by the will and determination of my Goddaughter, herself a wheelchair user, and I wished to write an adventure featuring a strong lead character that happens to have a disability. Secondly I struck upon an idea for a portal through time when talking to our village potter about the potter’s wheel, and thirdly because I have an interest in the Second World War, notably the evacuation of children, and also military special operations.
At some point you decided to self-publish. Can you tell us how that process developed?
Well, I spent almost a year submitting Whirl of the Wheel to traditional publishers and agents, without too much success – but I have to admit now that it wasn’t ready.
I think it was Penguin Publishing and one other publishing house that along with the polite rejection letter also sent me information about Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. I attended a great residential weekend, hosted by Lee Weatherley and Helen Corner, along with new authors like me (Jon Mayhew, Mortlock and The Demon Collector, Bloomsbury Publishing was a fellow course member). The sessions were insightful and allowed me to focus on scene and story construction, polish my writing generally and prepare my ms for submission. Kathryn Price at Cornerstones
continues to be a friendly contact and support to me after five years of my association with the organisation.
In July 2009 I joined Authonomy.com, and fellow Authonomists gave me useful feedback on my work, for which I am grateful. I am a great believer of asking questions and so I found out as much as I could from asking and simply observing what other people on the site were doing. Dan Holloway is one such individual I can name and thank from my time at Authonomy for the inspiration to self-publish my work on the internet and in paperback.
How do you feel about self-publishing now? What are the advantages, disadvantages, pitfalls, etc.?
I am probably one of the biggest advocates of self-publishing, and particularly e-publishing, which is one of the fastest growing businesses in recent years. At the last count e-books were outselling print books at least 2:1. I love the feeling that I have control over my work at all times and that I can target an audience precisely via genre-specific blogs, websites or other media.
I published Whirl of the Wheel at Smashwords in December 2010 and decided to make the publication free. This has enabled me to establish a huge publicity platform for my work, which will hopefully stand me in good stead for future books.
Whirl of the Wheel is currently in the Top 100 most downloaded books in all genres at Smashwords.
Are you in a network of Indie authors? How do you market your own book?
I have a great network of indie author friends and writing associates and belong to a number of writing groups with associated frivolity on Facebook. Most of us are ex-Authonomy and have published via Smashwords, Kindle Direct Publishing, Lulu and CreateSpace either independently or with a host publisher.
Key to me are my friendships with those at Authonomy, Cornerstones, SCBWI (Society of Children’s Bookwriters and Illustrators) which by the way puts on great writing courses at a pub close to the Embankment underground station, Night Reading, and Authors on Show, and the networking opportunities all these organisations create.
Marketing my books . . . yes I try! And in an attempt to be as professional as possible I will start by telling all my friends. Once they are bored I will go back to the traditional routes of a press release programme via PRlog.org and regular input to Kindleboards, Mobileread Forums, Nookboards, etc. I am about to try out the affiliate marketing programme at Smashwords too, so I’ll let you know. . .
With my free book, there are plenty of sites that will promote DRM free literature and I have managed to list Whirl of the Wheel with a good number of these. Notable indie sites are Simon Royle’s Indie Books, and The Frugal Ereader run by Elizabeth Trudgeon Brown, which also has Facebook presence. I highly recommend the Smashwords Marketing Guide by Mark Coker and the Goodreads website.
When was your first book released and how did that make you feel?
Boxing Day 2009! I spent time preparing Whirl of the Wheel for self-publishing at Smashwords and once I had got to grips with the procedure, decided to abandon my attentions to Mary Poppins just the once, and get my book into the public domain. I published a print version of my book via Lulu two months later.
The Switch, my second book, has just been published at Smashwords and via Kindle Direct Publishing. Again, my plan is for a print version in a few months’ time.
And how does it make me feel? Brilliant!!! Then I realise I have to write another . . .
What are your writing habits? (every day, number of words, etc.?)
I’m not consistent in the way I write, and in my opinion I think I’m stilted by work as an editor when I constantly examine what I am writing, as I am writing!! A good day for me would be 500 words, although sometimes it can be a lot more (or a lot less) but I don’t write every day.
The Switch is a stand-alone fast-moving adventure, for children/young adults over 11. The story is set in France and contains a smattering of French. It has taken me just over a year from start to finish to write, edit and publish.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration and why? Since when?
Inspiration for writing and for continuing to write comes from just about everywhere. I don’t think I can name one person, everyone is important .. . and in self-publishing we all help each other
THANK YOU SO MUCH CATHERINE CONDIE for this lovely interview!
Want to read Catherine Condie’s books?