Monday 18 May 2015

Considering self-publishing? Jessica Bell shows you the stress-free way

I've known Jessica Bell for a few years as a fellow member of the Alliance of Independent Authors. She's an extraordinary person, charged with energy. Her output is simply amazing: she's a writer, poet, cover designer, musician  ...

I'm posting to recommend the latest in her series, Writing in a Nutshell: these are nifty, pithy manuals helping writers with aspects of composition and here, with self-publishing. Jessica herself explains it best:

Are you ready to self-publish your book, but dreading the massive learning curve? Well, there’s no need to dread it anymore!

This sixth instalment in the bestselling Writing in a Nutshell series will not overwhelm you with all information available—it will tell you exactly what you need to know, without the faff, by following a foolproof, cost-efficient, time-efficient, extremely easy-to-follow, step-by-step self-publishing method, so that you can go from manuscript to a professionally published book within one week.

You’ll learn how to: prepare your manuscript in Microsoft Word, design your paperback and eBook cover, prepare your front/back matter and blurb, format your paperback interior & eBook, proofread your designed pages, register with desired retailers/distributors, export your eBook to a retail-ready file and upload your paperback and eBook to retailers/distributors.

Not only will this book save you time and money, but it will also save you from inevitable stress. What are you waiting for? Grab a copy of Self-publish Your Book today! 

With Jessica at the London
Book Fair, 2014
Visit Jessica's site at to find out more about the series and all her other activities, including her book cover design service. You can buy her books via her website or on Amazon. Self-Publish your Book is available as an ebook or paperback.

Visit the Alliance of Independent Authors for incredibly useful resources and a warm, supportive community to help hold your hand along the self-publishing path. 

Thursday 14 May 2015

Author interview: Alison Morton - strong women and shifting timescales

Another fantastic cover for the latest
in Alison's Roma Nova series
I interviewed author Alison Morton about her writing process back in November (here's the link). Now that she's just published the fourth in her very successful Roma Nova alternative history thriller series, she's back to talk about the new book, Aurelia, which is set in the 1960s.

Alison, I’m delighted to be welcoming you back to Literascribe and congratulations on publication of your fourth Roma Nova novel! 
I’m both delighted and honoured to be your guest.

I’m intrigued by the concept of going back in time within an already-imagined alternative history. As someone who was around in the Sixties myself (!) I’m really interested in reading about how you blend how that era really was with the elements of the alternative culture you’ve created. Were there any particular challenges you had to meet when writing about that decade?
The late 1960s are near enough for people to remember glimpses of it, but our memories are selective, plus there are probably parts of our lives then that we’d rather forget! Like any historical setting, the trick is to do your research thoroughly and discard 90% of it when you write your story. There are the obvious things to bring in; no mobile phones, very crude CCTV, fax, telex, formal suits, typing pools, and beehive hair-dos for women. But the tiny things are as important: flight tickets were booklets with carbon copies, passengers flying were separated from non-flyers only by a cord strung between poles, men wore hats as normal, both sexes wore slacks, not jeans.

What’s crucial about your imagined Roma Novan society is that women play such an important role. In AURELIA, your heroine, I would expect, is going to meet even more challenges than her granddaughter Carina, who features in the first three novels, in that Aurelia is living at the time when liberation for woman was still in its early stages. What differences does Aurelia encounter in social attitudes – or are they the same attitudes Carina has had to handle? Did you find it more interesting to explore the role of a woman in this era than in the present? 
Haha! The clash was much harsher fifty years ago and I’ve hardened it by sending Aurelia to Berlin in a very traditional Prussia. I took part in a student exchange to Germany in 1968 and was struck then by just how more traditional it had remained in gender attitudes than the UK at the time. Germany was under so much economic, political and international pressure through the 1950s and 1960s that traditional, ‘safe’ values were a counterweight to those anxieties. But underlying them was a social and legal structure dating back in some cases to before the First World War.

In the Roma Novan world, the Great War of 1925-1935 was as socially devastating as both world wars were in our timeline. When Aurelia goes to Prussia, I draw on that. No disrespect to Germany and Berlin is intended – I love both!

In what ways does Aurelia’s character differ from Carina’s?
As a ‘bone-and-blood’ Roma Novan, Aurelia has been brought up to do her duty; she joined the Praetorian Guard at age 18 and loved it. Aurelia is no goody-two-shoes; she resents it profoundly when circumstances force her to give up her military career but it never occurs to her to whinge, or rebel in the same way as Carina does. She is more self-contained than Carina, but very vulnerable in respect of her young daughter whom she loves to bits. However, she is put under almost unbearable strain in the story when duty, child and romantic love collide.

Are there strong women in your family (apart from yourself!) on whom you base your heroines?
I’m not sure about being strong myself…  My mother was a full-time teacher, managed a household of two lively kids and a self-employed husband, planned all our holidays, trips, and cultural activities, sewed our clothes and fought in a very polite and determined way for us at every turn, keeping her sense of humour throughout. Her mother had run a furrier and couture business in Newcastle before the First World War and my other grandmother had owned and run a general store in Hastings. So the answer is probably yes, but unconsciously!

You shared on your blog how you had to edit out the original opening to Aurelia. What were your reasons and how did it feel to have to do that?
Quite a simple, but harsh, lesson you must learn as part of your writer’s journey; if a scene doesn’t actively contribute to the story, cut it. I loved writing it, I wanted to bring Carina and Conrad in somehow but, of course, it was a contrivance, a ‘darling’, bit of fluff not really connected to the essence of the story. Readers need to be straight into the action and meet the central characters and the conflict in the first few pages. Chop.

With four books under your belt, do you have plans for more? Has it become more easy, more natural, to write about Roma Nova as time goes by? Do you feel a reluctance to leave that world you’ve created?
Yes, indeed! AURELIA is the start of a new three-book cycle within the series; the next, set in the early 1980s, is half drafted and full of trouble. The last in this cycle is outlined, with a few scenes written about dark days in Roma Nova. After that, I have a few ideas bubbling away. Roma Nova is familiar ground to me; it’s been in my head for decades. The danger is that with such closeness, I could forget to flesh out the background for readers new to the series. But my critique partner and editors keep me on the straight and narrow with that! Sometimes, I do worry that I consider Roma Nova more real than our world. Or is ours truly the real world?

Has it been tricky to weave Aurelia’s plotlines into the pre-existent storyline Carina inhabits?
Before I wrote one word of AURELIA, I re-read INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO and made notes about everywhere Aurelia appeared or was referenced. Then I consulted my spreadsheet with ages, relationships and events. Although I longed to write Aurelia’s story, it was no use setting out to craft nearly 300,000 words if the framework wasn’t right.

I started drafting AURELIA while SUCCESSIO was going through the early structural edit stage, so as events unfolded in the former, I still had time to seed clues in the latter. Characters need a full background and Aurelia’s began to intrigue me more and more. The lesson? Be careful what you write – you may give yourself a larger task than you think!

Thanks very much, Alison, for your answers and I wish you every success with the new novel. I know you have a loyal readership waiting to enjoy it!

Alison Morton: 
Even before she pulled on her first set of combats, Alison Morton was fascinated by the idea of women soldiers. Brought up by a feminist mother and an ex-military father, it never occurred to her that women couldn’t serve their country in the armed forces. Everybody in her family had done time in uniform and in theatre – regular and reserve Army, RAF, WRNS, WRAF – all over the globe.

So busy in her day job, Alison joined the Territorial Army in a special communications regiment and left as a captain, having done all sorts of interesting and exciting things no civilian would ever know or see. Or that she can talk about, even now…

But something else fuels her writing… Fascinated by the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain), at their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women…

Now, she lives in France and writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough heroines.

INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series
– shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award
– B.R.A.G. Medallion
– finalist in 2014 Writing Magazine Self-Published Book of the Year
PERFIDITAS, second in series
– B.R.A.G. Medallion
– finalist in 2014 Writing Magazine Self-Published Book of the Year
SUCCESSIO, third in series
– Historical Novel Society’s indie Editor’s Choice for Autumn 2014
– B.R.A.G. Medallion
– Editor’s choice, The Bookseller’s inaugural Indie Preview, December 2014

Fact file:
Education: BA French, German & Economics, MA History
Memberships: International Thriller Writers, Historical Novel Society, Alliance of Independent Authors, Society of Authors
Represented by Annette Crossland of A for Authors Literary Agency for subsidiary and foreign rights.

Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova blog:
Twitter @alison-morton

AURELIA book trailer: