Last month I really enjoyed reading Killing Cupid: it's a stalker novel with a twist and an unexpected lightness of touch - and it only costs 70p to download to your Kindle!
The story manages to be both comic and unsettling, frothy on top but dark underneath - and when you read it you're never quite sure how dark it may become. Apart from its twists and turns, its strengths are those of wit, lively dialogue and a well-handled alternating viewpoint. The story is told in the voices of the two central characters, Alex and Siobhan. To convey both male and female perspectives convincingly is a challenge - so perhaps it's appropriate that this is a dual-author novel. I met Louise some years ago and was intrigued to discuss with her how she and Mark came to write the book, so here follows a joint interview with them, which I'm posting in two parts. In Part One, they discuss the process of writing together and how they came to publish on Kindle:
Lorna: I very much enjoyed reading Killing Cupid and am fascinated first of all by how you came to write as a team. What are the advantages and disadvantages of working in this way? Were there any moments when you absolutely hated one another?
Mark: We cooked up the ideal of writing together on a boozy night at the Groucho (those were the days!) although because of the booze neither of us can remember who first came up with the idea of a stalker novel first. At that point I had just been unceremoniously dumped by my agent after a string of near-misses and Louise was halfway through her contract with Transworld. Writing together seemed like it would be a fun exercise and respite from the slog of writing solo novels. We were right: it was a dream to write. We did almost all of it by email, made necessary as I moved to Tokyo about two months in. I would write a chapter as the voice of Alex, the male protagonist, then email it to Louise along with some ideas about what happened next. She would edit it, suggest changes and then send it back along with the next chapter, written as Siobhan, the novel's heroine. It was a genuinely easy process and we barely even spoke on the phone during the process. It was all done by email. Pehaps it's the first co-written pan-global thriller. I think Stephen King and Peter Straub did something similar years earlier, actually, in Maine and England. They had to do it by Airmail which is almost beyond comprehension these days. There were never any points at which we fell out. Louise is probably the only person I can take criticism about my writing from without feeling offended or wanting to argue. I trust her judgement. Maybe she hated me though ...
Louise: All true - it was the most fun I've ever had writing a novel - so much easier than going it alone. And no, I certainly never even felt irritated with Mark, let alone hating him! Perhaps the fact that we've always led such separate lives helped - we never had the familiarity that might have led to contempt (or at least preciousness about our own efforts!). I do remember that he came up with the title.
(Lorna's note: other teams that spring to my mind are the husband and wife co-writers Nicci Gerrard and Sean French writing as Nicci French, and the mother daughter team who write as P.J. Tracy - who, if memory serves, live in separate states in the USA and email chapters to one another. I recommend both (all four?!))
Lorna: When you completed the novel, did you intend trying to publish it in the conventional way or did you always intend for it to be an e-book?
Louise: Yes we did want it to be published, as we wrote the first version way before e-publishing was even dreamed of. E-publishing has given it, and us, a whole new lease of writing life.
Lorna: How many agents/publishers did you approach? How long did this take? Were there any near-acceptances?
Louise: I have to say that I thought we would find a publisher for it - for some reason I felt more confident about it than I did about any of my own novels, even though at the time I had a publishing deal. But my then-agent and my editor were both quite lukewarm about it when they read it. Perhaps this was because it was in its first incarnation and therefore less polished than it is now. They both said it was partly a genre issue - the publishers didn't want to launch me in another direction while they were trying to sell me as a women's fiction author - and besides Killing Cupid didn't fit into another genre anyway, as it was neither pure thriller nor pure comedy. I actually can't remember if it got sent out to any other publishers. Because I had an agent, I didn't feel that we could go behind her back and send it out ourselves, which must have been very frustrating for Mark. [Lorna's note - how often have we read about the problem writers have when it comes to writing in more than one genre? I remember Joanne Harris talking eloquently about this some years ago at the Oxford Literary Festival. Writer 'Fred Bloggs' ends up writing as 'Fiona Durham' - because publishers feel we readers need to be guided by a separation of writerly avatars when writers branch out into different genres - even though we know it's the same person!)
Lorna: Once you'd decided to publish to Kindle, how easy did you find the process? Did you have the advantage of technical expertise yourself? Have you any advice to give us as a result of your experience? Are there any pitfalls you can warn us about?
Mark: The process seems a little daunting at first but is actually more straightforward than you would expect. The most important thing is to format the book correctly so it looks good on Kindle. For example, it has to be single spaced, you need to remove fancy formatting, make sure it's saved as plain text. But then you just save it as a Word doc and upload it. Easy! You also, of course, need to create a book cover which has to be the right size. And write your blurb. Finally, you will be asked to choose your categories or sub-categories - up to 2. These are important. You don't want sub-categories that no-one ever browses unless you are aiming at a very particular niche. Then again it's very easy to rank in these obscure categories. One thing to note is that it takes 48 hours for the book to be published. It takes 24 hours for them to review it and another 24 for it to be 'published'. After that, you can make amendments at any time but it always takes 48 hours for them to appear. So if you make a typo in the blurb it will sit there for 2 days so be careful. (Er, we did this.)
Part Two of this interview will appear tomorrow - Mark and Louise will be talking about how they promoted Killing Cupid and telling us of their exciting plans for the future.
Killing Cupid is available at http://amzn.to/fnxVQY and http://amzn.to/eGhcPx and on Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/51410 . Mark's excellent blog is at http://www.indieiq.com