Interview with self-published author Lisa Scullard
Please meet verbal virtuoso Lisa Scullard, without doubt a girl born to be a writer. You may be getting tired of me digging out all my superlatives to draw attention to this or that writer, but Lisa - yes Lisa Scullard – may simply not be missed if you want to know what quality is available in the self-publishing biz. What an extraordinary writer, whose kaleidoscopic view of the world around her is reflected in a dazzling array of ideas, images, actions. The world as her playground is translated back into superb prose, which is both flawless and original. Lisa weaves humour with muscles and her versatility makes you believe that stories simply drip from her fingertips as soon as a keyboard is near, such casual articulation. She’s a bombshell writer. Don’t know if that’s a correct term in the industry, but it defines Lisa’s work for me!
Please pay attention to the fact that Lisa is doing her first public reading at http://eightcuts.com ‘s Steampunk Christmas book event at The Albion Beatnik Bookshop, Oxford, OX2 6AA, on Friday (the 9th December) between 6pm and 9pm. So if you’re in the neigbourhood, don’t miss out on this opportunity!
Where do you live (town, country)? Were you born and bred there?
I live in Lymington in the New Forest, UK. I’m a relative newcomer to the area. I was born in the south suburbs of London and grew up in Kent and Cornwall, and I’ve lived in London and Hastings previously since leaving home. I first moved out aged 17 and left home permanently by the age of 21, trying out different colleges and jobs. I’ve worked as a motorcycle mechanic, bartender in a biker bar, carer with the
elderly and learning disabled, and as a nightclub security guard/first aider which I did for several years.
What kind of food do you like? Are you a good cook? How important is food to you?
I love food and cooking – I can make guacamole and a sweet chilli dipping sauce that bites back As you can guess I like flavourful stuff, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Spanish, Creole – there’s also nothing like a good Sunday roast dinner. My greatest achievement so far was making Christmas dinner for my grandmother once, and she’s the greatest cook I’ve ever known – everything was ready on time, I even made an extra dessert of sweet potato pie with Cointreau cream. It was like magic. My first
time making a full Christmas dinner as well! I tend to fluke things like that.
I think I have analytical tastebuds – I only have to taste something to know what’s in it and how to reproduce it, but I wouldn’t know how I do that. I hope I have inherited her culinary gene. So far I don’t have a gene for entertaining, though – my socialising skills are way behind on that one.
Do you do any sports? How often? What does exercise mean to you? Any other hobbies?
I hula-hoop to music, anything from half an hour to three hours a day if I’m feeling inspired and practising new skills. My aunt got me started and made me a sparkly custom hoop – I’m already onto my second, and getting a couple more as I found I can hoop with up to six at once so far! I did yoga from the age of three, and martial arts for 22 years. I do find it addictive if it appeals to me. I tried going to the gym but it didn’t do anything for me as a routine, but I use my own gym equipment at home sometimes. I also went horse-riding on holiday recently, having not ridden
since I was 17, and it was like I’d always done it – so I might take it up again regularly. Exercise to me is about feeling flexible and stamina and having fun, and also not having to buy bigger sizes of clothes… Since giving up martial arts, I seem to prefer exercise I can do alone and not compete with others in, although hoop jamming once in a while is great fun as you learn new tricks.
Do you have kids? If so, please tell us a little about them?
I have one child from a holiday romance who has just turned 13, online known as “Dragon Spirit 10” (http://dragonspirit10.blogspot.com) – I taught her to blog 3 months ago and she’s already overtaken my own blogger stats! I school her at home, we’ve had to deal with some rough times together, but she’s come out of it an incredibly smart and witty individual. I think she’ll be an animator, games designer or film-maker in future.
Do you like travelling? Where do you go then?
I haven’t been abroad for about five years due to studying, self-employment and single-parenting, but I love cultural places of interest as well as historical, not just a great beach – one of my favourite towns to visit so far was Lindos on the island of Rhodes, also the island of Symi – I would live there if I could – perfect isolation for writing.
I’ve also been to the USA, Barcelona, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. My dad lives on the Isle of Man which I’ve visited twice so far, which is really a unique place.
Do you have another job apart from writing? For how many hours? How do you feel about the ‘other’ job?
In my last ‘real’ job which was as an NHS health care support worker in a hospital stroke rehab & elderly physio ward, I was only working as required ‘bank staffing’ so I could say no if I wasn’t available. But then I got work self-employed again as a social media consultant/editor which is as and when, but I’m getting regular work which meant I could give up the NHS, as shifts were dropping off after a ward closed.
So now I do a few hours a week consulting as required, and the rest is for my own writing and projects. It fits much better around parenting, and developing my own identity and ambitions.
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’ve been a writer as far back as anyone in my family can remember – according to them it was only a matter of time before I published something, as I’d written my first ever 101,000-word novel aged 18. I did start to feel the pressure! My mum confided recently that she’d always thought I should be published before I was 40, which I managed! Mostly my daughter’s attitude changed. She went from grumbling about my day job every time I had a shift, to thrilled about owning and reading my own books, and recommending them to people. She didn’t see my writing in its physical form until I published, then suddenly it was a huge achievement. She said to me if she went back to school in the future, she’d be able to answer the question
“What does your mum do?” with the answer “She’s an author and wrote these books” instead of “She’s a nightclub bouncer,” and to her that was a significant jump up the approval ladder. It’s also good to hear from former colleagues who have bought one of my books – that’s a great feeling.
Would you call yourself a social human being? Do you have time for going out and spending time away from the writing desk?
I still hear from door work colleagues and bar work friends, a lot of them long-distance now, and even keep up with friends from school and places I lived ten years ago, so I definitely have a social side. Most of my socialising has been going on internet site blind dates recently, but it’s not enough to count as a regular thing – I’ve only had four dates this year so far! I’m not in a hurry as I’ve not had a relationship before. That’s definitely my biggest social hurdle. I’d rather feel good about myself first, before looking for a relationship. Otherwise I know lots of writers now, online and in real life, and it’s the best social network I could have. Especially when we discuss anything but writing!
Which character trait do you like best about yourself and why? Which trait would you rather do without?
I like myself as a person, I think that’s invaluable – probably because I haven’t got a degree yet, or broken into a ‘serious’ career, or got married or lived with anyone or anything like that, I haven’t had things in life I could take for granted. But I always trusted myself to jump to whatever the next thing was by the seat of my pants, in the dark, not knowing the outcome – I never got attached to my image or a demographic of what I should be doing or in what order – I just did what was available and opportune for me to do at the time, instead of trying to reach things that weren’t. I learnt through massive disappointments that trying for things which
weren’t meant for me just led to depression and feelings of failure. Two things I’d rather do without – I wish I was more organised (I’m not exactly untidy, just really good at stacking things that ought to have a designated place) and I wish I’d let scars heal without investigating them all the time. I had a scar under my eye which had to be biopsied after it took two months to heal, from just a tiny pimple about a millimetre across – luckily the biopsy showed nothing. I since tried to remove the rest of it, and now use a silicone moisturiser to treat it – three months on it’s nearly invisible – I have no patience and should probably marry a plastic surgeon willing to take away all my scars for me and stop me operating on myself I also had an oven-door burn on my arm at the same time, however, which I left alone and put Savlon on three times a day. I’m amazed how quickly it disappeared – you’d never know I was a First Aider and gave folks serious medical advice! It’s a case of ‘Do as I say,
not as I do’ definitely. I’ve had about ten operations, and always taken stitches out myself before they were due, or sometimes after, if I found stray ones. I have cut one or two out after scars grew over them. I’m a bit Rambo when it comes to my own surgery. I won’t get into more detail, but I did have to replace a stitch once which came out prematurely…
Can you describe the place where you write + the view?
My sofa, and the view is of the TV, obscured partially by the computer screen. Occasionally I still write by hand in folders or casewrap notebooks in bed. I like to write using a fountain pen, or Zebra rollerballs – they have really comfy grips.
Is there something you always need to have near you when you work (beverage, cigarette, mascot, music, quote, etc)?
Usually a cup of tea or coffee, water, sometimes music, TV or a movie DVD on. I think I’ve watched lots of films, the same as I think I’ve watched hundreds of CSI episodes, but usually I’m typing and asking my daughter what happened to who, and who was arrested. I need lots of books around me for motivation, whatever latest cover image or genre or style is currently waking up my inner muse.
What genre(s) do you write in? How did that develop?
I write crime/romance/humour and direct parody. It started with wanting to write fantasy/horror when I was a teenager, then realising I couldn’t stop my characters cracking jokes, or trying to snog each other. Parody is just my evil sense of humour looking for an outlet. “The Terrible Zombie Of Oz” was the first result of that.
At some point you decided to self-publish. Can you tell us how that process developed?
My first book that I indie published was Terrible Zombie, even though I’d only written it in four weeks. Soon as I finished it, I published it. It was my mining canary, my trial run for the other three books I wanted to publish. I’d been on Authonomy for six months and seen other authors self-publish, and bought a couple of self-published books (“The Perfect Wave” by film-maker Pearl Howie (Flying Machine Films) was the first I’d read) – didn’t really believe it could be done for nothing, but found that it could – even finding the software I needed to format the paperback interiors online to download for free from OpenOffice.
How do you feel about self-publishing now? What are the advantages, disadvantages, pitfalls, etc.?
I can’t praise print-on-demand highly enough, as a business decision. A book
isn’t printed until someone orders it, and they’ve got the option of buying the
eBook as well – so in terms of being ecologically sound, it’s magic. And my
up-front costs are zero – all I pay are author price and postage if I order a copy myself. One pitfall is editing and proofreading. I was completely OCD about it – if I spot a typo in one of my eBooks or paper copies after approving it, I’ll still upload a new version. It bugs me to see typos in publishing house books, so if you can run off a perfect indie-published book, you’re already ahead of the game. Once, I even found Chinese Kanji characters in one of my eBook’s bonus material, where some of the old formatting in Word hadn’t copied to the latest wordprocessor I was using! The disadvantage is if you decide to promote. It’s time-consuming, and 5 billion people in the world don’t know you even exist. The internet can help, but you take a risk on how interesting vs. how annoying you want to be. There are public examples of both, if you can picture it
Are you in a network of Indie authors? How do you market your own book?
I’m in an online community which started with Authonomy.com, then met up with some in real life, and also a fortnightly local group in Southampton called Writing Buddies, where we don’t tutor or read or critique, but share progress and experiences and tips, and have guest speakers – it’s a motivational group, and I’ve gained much more confidence through them than being in a class. We never know how many will turn up for each meet, it’s informal, but great to be among like-minded creative folks in person – I get a real buzz from attending indie readings as well, like at Stoke Newington LitFest and Literary Death Match 100, won by Dan Holloway of Eight Cuts earlier this year. I’m hoping to my first public reading at some point at one of his events.
When was your first book released and how did that make you feel?
It was February 2011 that The Terrible Zombie Of Oz was approved, I immediately ordered six copies just to give away to family and friends. It was such a great feeling to see that it worked! I think I uploaded my next three books over the next two days as well, and began the arduous task of proof-reading three 400-page books back-to-back. I’d never do three at once again! It took three months to complete proof-reading and reviewing on those. But by the end of May 2011 I’d approved Death & The City: Book One and Book Two of Tales Of The Deathrunners, and Living Hell. I
also published them in eBook on Kindle and Smashwords, and did hardcover/dustjacket editions of Living Hell, and an epic 2-in-1 hardcover of
Tales Of The Deathrunners: Death & The City, exclusively to Lulu in order to keep the price down.
What are your writing habits? (every day, number of words, etc.?)
I do write every day, and although my record is quite high, I set myself a realistic limit of 2500 words. It’s achievable, and not so much that I kick myself if I don’t get around to it. I keep several stories going at once, so there’s always something I’m in the mood for writing.
Recently, I had a go at straight romance, and entered a chapter into the Mills & Boon New Voices contest 2011. But I didn’t get through to the second round, which was a relief, as I was having very bad zombie-withdrawal. Many people have teased me about writing a zombie romance, and I’m very happy to announce that I’m finally getting around to it!
Who’s been your biggest inspiration and why? Since when?
Ooohh. Tough question. I have to say Tom Sharpe. Ever since I saw “Blott On The Landscape” on television, and subsequently read many of his books by the time I was 18. It made me realise that was no limit on humour, wickedness, irreverence, and comeuppance, in any shape or form. Terry Pratchett comes a very close second.
Where do you see yourself in 5-years’ time?
I’m planning on publishing a book a year from now on, to pace myself – but if an additional one sneaks in here or there, I won’t be fighting it! Otherwise, I’m hoping to be a little more organised, and with no new scars visible
THANK YOU SO MUCH LISA!!
Books available in all print/eBook formats from Amazon, Lulu, and Barnes & Noble.