Friday, 18 December 2015

Triskele Talks to Author, Linda Kovic-Skow

 
Interview and Review by Liza Perrat



Linda Kovic-Skow is the author of the French Illusions memoirs: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley and its sequel: From Tours to Paris. Today I'd like to welcome Linda to the Triskele Bookclub to talk about her writing of these fascinating memoirs.




But firstly, my review of French Illusions, which first appeared on Bookmuse:

French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley is the first of two memoirs based on the diary entries of the author, Linda Kovic-Skow. Back in 1979, when she was 21, Linda yearned to become a flight attendant. But this required speaking a second language, so she chose to learn French by becoming an au pair to a wealthy French family living in a château in the beautiful Loire Valley. Thrown in at the deep end, without knowing any French, Linda struggled to adapt to her new environment, not to mention certain difficult members of the family. And when she signed up for French classes at the university, and met another student, the handsome Adam, her life became even more complicated.

As an Australian living in France, I completely identified with the author’s predicament. Arriving here to take up with the Frenchman I’d met on holiday in Thailand, without a word of the lingo, I too floundered with the language, customs and traditions, yet immensely enjoyed the food, wine and history.

I felt I was reading the author’s diary entries a she was writing them, and as I accompanied Linda on her adventures and romances, I found myself sympathizing with her problems, and celebrating her triumphs.

By the end of the first book I felt I had truly come to know the author as a person; as she was then––a young girl struggling to find her way in a foreign country. Keen for more, I immediately purchased French Illusions Book 2, From Tours to Paris; which I also loved.

Highly personal and entertaining, as well as informational, I would recommend these stories for Francophiles and young girls thinking of becoming au pairs in France, or any foreign country for that matter.

Interview with Linda...

LP: Your story is very intimate and personal, so firstly, what decided you to write about your experiences?

LKS: In 2007 after my husband and I dropped our youngest daughter off at college, I went through a sort of mid-life crisis. I missed being a mom and I wondered how I would fill the void. Something was missing—but what? This prompted me to review what I like to call my "mid-life list." This is similar to a "bucket list," but instead of exploring things to do before you die, you refocus yourself, while you’re still relatively young, and figure out the things you want to do in your fifties. My list was short.

-Learn to play the piano

-Travel to Africa to see the elephants

-Travel to Tahiti and see the island of Bora Bora

-Write a book

At the time, I didn't own a piano and, with two daughters in college, I couldn't afford a trip to Africa or Tahiti. What about the last item on my list? If I did write a book, would it be fiction or non-fiction? What genre would I choose? The answers to my questions came to me in the shower (which is where many of my ideas seem to materialize, strangely enough). I decided to hunt down my diary from my au pair adventure in France and compose a memoir. I’d told the story on numerous occasions, and the reaction from friends and family was often the same: You should write a book! Now, I finally had the time. It took me three years and countless hours to write the first book in the French Illusions Series, and a few more to write the second, but now I can scratch another item off my mid-life list.

LP: What kind of readership is your story aimed at?

LKS: The simple answer is adult women. Set in the beautiful Loire Valley, my memoir will remind older readers what it was like to be young, adventurous and filled with dreams. Younger readers will relate to the difficult decisions women make as they transition into adulthood. My hope is that both of these groups will come away from my book realizing it's not too late to create your own memories. Go out and explore the world. Life's for living, after all.

LP: You obviously kept your diaries, to write the books, but did you have to fill in many details from memory, or did you have everything written down already?

LKS: I have to admit writing my memoir was a lot more complex than I initially imagined it would be. My diary offered a great outline of the events, but I had to create the dialog from memory and fill in hard-to-find data on the Loire Valley, the Loire River and the town of Tours from 1979. Internet searches produced most of the information and travel books supplied the rest. From the beginning, difficult questions emerged, such as how to deal with the French sprinkled throughout the book, and whether or not to italicize my thoughts. Oh, and I really struggled with how much detail to include in my own love scenes. I wrote and then rewrote these scenes until I could read them without rolling my eyes.

LP: Have you been back to France since this time? If so, did you see it in a different light?

LKS: In the summer of 2001, my husband, my two girls and I spent a month traveling through France, Italy and Greece. It was a trip of a lifetime for all of us, and this time, I didn’t have to worry about running out of money! After a brief visit to the Atlantic Coast, we traveled to central France and toured many of the towns and grand castles I’d missed during my first visit in 1979 and 1980. Each time, before we arrived at our destination, we would pull out travel guides and read the history surrounding the town or castle. It was a wonderful, magical experience for all of us. We stopped briefly in the town where I had been an au pair long ago, and my stomach clenched as memories surfaced. It was a relief when we moved on to our next destination.

LP: Have you kept up your French language skills? And if so, have they been useful at all throughout your life?

LKS: After I returned to United States in 1980, I took French Classes and joined conversational French groups so I could keep up with the language. Once I married and had a family, my priorities changed and I put aside my French studies. When I returned to France with my family in 2001, I noticed how quickly the French words returned. I still treasure a conversation I had with an elderly man in Paris as we discussed the merits of his beloved city. I’ll never forget the look of admiration on my family’s faces.

LP: Can you tell us about the publication of your books? Did you take care of all the publishing aspects yourself?

LKS: With French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley, I chose to publish my paperback through a self-publishing company. They helped create my book, giving me control over design, editing, and pricing while allowing me to retain all the rights to my book. Then, I contracted with an eBook publishing and distribution company to create my eBook, which I published using my own Limited Liability Corporation called Dreamland Press. They were a good match as well because they charged a fee to create the eBook, but they didn’t take a percentage of the royalties.
This year, when I published my sequel, French Illusions: From Tours to Paris, and the French Illusions Box Set, the process moved along at a faster pace. I went directly to a formatter to create my eBooks and covers. Once I had the files, I loaded them onto the various sales platforms. For my print book, I contracted directly to a wholesale book distributer who offered print on demand.

LP: Have you any other memoirs, or fiction, in the pipeline?

LKS: There is nothing in the pipeline right now, but I have a few ideas for future books. Before my mother passed in August of 2014, I recorded four hours of her recounting her life story. She was born in the United States, but her parents took her back to Croatia as a young child, and the family endured enormous hardships during World War II. I think this would make a great historical novel. I’m also considering another memoir about my unusual childhood, something like “Growing up Linda.”

Thanks so much, Linda for answering my questions and I wish you all the best with your writing.


BIO:

Linda Kovic-Skow is a best-selling author in travel in France. Originally from Seattle, she currently winters in Gilbert, Arizona, and spends summers on a boat in the Pacific Northwest Waters of Washington and British Columbia. She earned an Associate Degree in Medical Assisting in 1978 from North Seattle Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Seattle University in 1985. She has been married for 30 years and has two daughters. An enthusiastic traveler, Linda also enjoys hiking, boating, gardening and socializing with friends. “French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley,” was her debut memoir. The sequel, “French Illusions: From Tours to Paris,” recounts the rest of her adventure in France.

Retail link: Amazon

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Friday, 11 December 2015

What's in a Name? Rather a Lot.



by Ian D. Richardson

Back in 1996, when I left BBC World Service, I set up Richardson Media Limited with plans to write newspaper articles, do consultancies and teach television journalism. I did all three for a number of years, but then, by accident, I stumbled across the story of a tragic scandal in my extended family. This led to a screenplay and a book, both called God’s Triangle.

Having witnessed the unhappy experiences of a number of my former BBC colleagues who went down the traditional publishing route, I chose to self-publish. This was when I began to have doubts about my company name. Despite the growing acceptance of self-publishing as a legitimate route for authors, there is still the residual stain, if I can call it that, of vanity publishing.

It became clear when I first published God’s Triangle that it didn’t look good to have a book by Ian D. Richardson, published by Richardson Media Limited. Indeed, I was asked by more than one person “Weren’t you able to find anyone to publish your book?” The answer, whether they believed me or not, was “I didn’t try because I didn’t want to see months, perhaps even years, go by with God’s Triangle and my later books gathering dust in trays on the desks of various publishers.

Self-publishing worked with God’s Triangle because I had it in circulation in Australia and the UK within weeks and a couple of months after that, I had a film deal. But I remained uncomfortable about the name, so my wife/business partner and I decided to change it. But to what? We didn’t want to keep “Richardson” or “Media”, so that left only “Limited”.

It took many days and advice from family and friends before we settled on Preddon Lee Limited. So why that name? Well, first of all, we wanted something that meant nothing, so that should the company change its operations in the coming years, it wouldn’t matter. Some of the world’s most successful companies have names that mean zilch. They are just names. That said, we needed to avoid names that had negative connotations, such as Gloomy Limited, Downbeat Limited, Death’s Door Limited or Smartarse Limited. Then there were other equally important questions to consider: 1) Was a chosen name already registered at Companies House? 2) Was it similar to a company name that already existed? 3) Was it easy to spell? 4) Was the domain name available? and 5) Did the name have a good chance of being at the top of a website search page?

Our accountants assured us that changing the company name was “very easy” and would not cost much. They were right. It was easy and the fee was not much more than £100, but that proved to be a small part of the story, not least because it meant changing a business email address that had been in wide circulation for more than a decade. Then there was the legal requirement that I stop using Richardson Media Limited as a trading name at the earliest opportunity. This was not easy when I had – and still have, for now -- a website of that name that has been in existence for at least 10 years and still generates a great deal of traffic.

Such problems will eventually be solved, but let’s now move on to some other naming issues that have arisen in the past six months. First, there was the name that I originally gave my latest screenplay and book: The Moral Maze. Some of you will know that this is the name of a long-established programme on the BBC. I didn’t consider that a hurdle, because there is no copyright on titles and there were no other possible legal obstacles, other than, perhaps, accusations of “passing off”. This latter issue could not be a problem as my work is a screenplay and book, while the other Moral Maze is a debating programme on Radio Four.

No further thought was given to having the same name as a BBC programme until a remark by a friend made me realise that there might be a difficulty with the search engine ratings. And there certainly was! A quick search of The Moral Maze brought up tens of thousands of results, almost all of them to do with the radio programme.

Our initial reaction was to scrap the name entirely, but after days of head-scratching, we decided we would try The Mortal Maze, a title with an extra “t” and which still fitted the story. A rummage around the search engines proved very promising, and we also discovered that the internet domain name was available. My wife then had a brilliant idea as we organised the design of the book cover: How about inserting a different coloured T into the “moral”, thus giving the book two titles in one? This we did and we are thrilled with the results.

That dealt with, naming challenges still existed. Although my book is a work of fiction, it is openly inspired by my experiences as a senior news editor in BBC World Service radio and television. Therefore, I needed to take great care with the names chosen for the characters. As a further protection against legal problems, some of the holders of real BBC posts were switched from being men to women and vice versa.

I thought I had all that sorted until I realised just weeks before publishing the ebook version that the BBC had recently recruited a news executive with a name almost identical to my troubled anti-hero. So that name had to be rapidly changed. Then two days later, I was listening to BBC radio when I learned that a newish reporter had the same surname as another character in the book. So that also had to be changed. Worse, though, was when a friend pointed out that I had given a terrorist the same name as a prominent Muslim journalist working in TV news. It was at this point that I felt a family of luck-shattering black cats must have crossed my path.

Finally, after checking with BBC friends and double-checking with Google, I was confident that my story didn’t include names of real characters. All I can say now is that if there is a BBC television reporter called Jackson Dunbar, who has an addiction, who has been corrupted by the intelligence services, whose personal life is a mess and who reports from the Middle East, I am very, very sorry. I really didn’t mean to smear your reputation.




Paperback and ebook versions of Ian Richardson’s thriller, The Mortal Maze, can be found here: http://www.themortalmaze.com/ and his non-fiction book, God’s Triangle, is here: http://www.godstriangle.com/



Monday, 7 December 2015

London Launch - Our photo album

We had a fabulous launch at The English Restaurant in Spitalfields, London on Saturday 28th November. We had fizz, books, fizz, food, fizz and actors reading from the new releases!

Full details of the event can be seen on our press release:
https://literallypublicrelations.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/international-author-publisher-collective-triskele-books-wraps-up-another-wonderful-year-with-hugely-successful-launch-party-in-london/

We'd like to share some of our favourite photographs of the day with you.



Relaxed and ready to party!
Rohan Quine reads from Human Rites

Amanda Hodgkinson reads from The Better of Two Men
Piers Alexander reads from False Lights
Jill and her family looking fab in Triskele colours
Don't they look fabulous!
Say Cheese!
Liza & hubby Jean-Yves!
Jessica Bell reads from Blood Rose Angel
Kat, Amanda, Sheila, Jane
Gillian & Amanda


Kat and Jane welcome Jane Davis & Sheila Bugler


We are also very proud to have made the weekly pictorial round-up in the Bookseller!

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/pictures-week-317917







Friday, 20 November 2015

Sue Barnard - Guest



By Barbara Scott-Emmett

I recently read Sue Barnard's novel The Ghostly Father, which I reviewed for BookMuse.

Sue says that the book she always wanted to read was an "alternative version of Romeo & Juliet - the version in which the star-cross'd lovers don't fall victim to a maddeningly preventable double-suicide."

"Why," she asked herself, "should there not be such a book?" And since there wasn't one already, she decided to go ahead and write it.

I was so impressed by The Ghostly Father, and the determination Sue showed in writing the book she wanted to read, that I decided to ask her a few questions to find out more about her.



Which work most influenced you when growing up?

I think this would have to be the Blue Door Theatre stories (The Swish of the Curtain, Maddy Alone, Golden Pavements and Blue Door Venture) by Pamela Brown. They were what triggered my love of the theatre.

Where do you write?

My desk (if you can call it that) is a table in the corner of my conservatory. It has a lovely view of the garden.

Who or what had the biggest impact on your creative life?

Shakespeare. Two of my three novels are based on his works!

How far are you influenced by other media, such as music or fine art?

I enjoy both, but I wouldn't go so far as to say they've influenced me to write anything new. I prefer to appreciate them for their own sake.

Do you have a phrase that you most overuse?

I probably have loads, but I try to edit them out!

Which writers do you enjoy?

Terry Pratchett (I'm devastated that there will be no more from him), Lindsey Davis (I love her portrayals of ancient Rome), Sally Quilford (my friend and mentor, who taught me everything I know about writing romance), and those lovely girls at Triskele Books. Plus all my fellow-authors at Crooked Cat Publishing!

Why do you write?

Because I love it.

What makes you laugh?

Monty Python, Blackadder, The Two Ronnies, One Foot in the Grave, Round The Horne, Flanders & Swann, good stand-up comedy such as Live At The Apollo, and satirical news programmes such as The News Quiz, Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You?

Do you have a guilty reading pleasure?

Yes. I read on the loo!

Which book do you wish you’d written?


That's a tricky one, as there are so many. But one of my all-time favourites is That Devil Called Love, by Lynda Chater (first published in 1999). It's a modern reworking of the Faust story, told with great perception and humour, in which the heroine finds out the hard way that youth, beauty, wealth and fame don't necessarily hold the key to lasting happiness.

Which book has impressed you most this year?

A book which I had the pleasure of editing: Pride and Regicide, by my dear friend Cathy Bryant. It's beautifully thought out, and is written so cleverly that it's almost impossible to tell that it wasn't written by Austen herself.

Would you share what you’re working on next?


I'm working on a time-slip story based on an old French legend. I can't say which one, because that would give too much away!

What’s the best way of spending a Sunday morning?

As lazily as possible.

What's your favourite punctuation fail? (Suggested by JJ Marsh!)

AAAGGGHH - don't get me started on that, or we'll be here all day and probably most of tomorrow!




Sue Barnard is the author of the award-nominated historical fantasy The Ghostly Father and the romantic intrigues Nice Girls Don't and The Unkindest Cut of All. She is Editor at Crooked Cat Publishing.

Find out more about Sue from her Blog or Facebook page.
Follow her on Twitter @SusanB2011
Her books are available from Amazon.





Sue was interviewed by Barbara Scott Emmett, author of Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion.

Friday, 13 November 2015

In My Bottom Drawer (5) - Gillian Hamer

In My Bottom Drawer (5)


With a budding career as a new 'Queen of Crime', we put crime author, Gillian E Hamer, under the spotlight and demand she comes clean about the early manuscripts gathering dust under her bed.

With three paranormal thrillers under her belt - The Charter, Closure and Complicit - plus her latest crime novels, False Lights and Crimson Shore : The Gold Detectives I & II - she has already experienced the highs and lows that indie-publishing offers. Also, she has had a total of three literary agents in the past ten years, and so even in her early work, there must have been something that drew the eye to her writing.

But like all authors, she has novels that she would rather see hit the shredder than hit the headlines.




"THE STRANGER

Many many years ago, when I was a fledgling author (and I use that term in the very loosest sense) I decided I wanted to be a writer of erotica. After years of secretly reading my nan's Mills & Boon and Jackie Collins novels, I felt I was perfectly placed to unleash my new-found sexual powers on an unsuspecting world.

At the time I was dating a chef called James, who looking back I realise had one or two odd deviances, role play among the mildest. He also fancied himself as a budding Tolkien, so we decided to pool our 'talents' in a novel called The Stranger.

The premise was that we would write one chapter at a time, discussing only the vaguest of plots beforehand (two strangers meet, begin a journey together that would end who knew where... ) and wherever chapter one left off, the other writer would take on the baton and write chapter two, ending on a cliff-hanger for the other to take over in chapter three and so on.

Clearly, James had a different end goal to mine, and the novel soon bordered on illegal. I've no idea whether it remains gathering dust in some cyber-space email trash bin, but you can rest assured that's the best place for it.

MURDER, MILLENNIUM STYLE

I'll remain a little reticent about slating this novel, because it does have something, just not enough of anything specific. It was the first novel I wrote that I thought was professional enough to pitch to publishers (I don't think I knew literary agents existed back then) so I bought a 1999 Writers & Artists Handbook and sent the ms out to a long list of publishers - and unsurprisingly received a long list of rejection letters in reply.

One though caught my eye, it was the most encouraging input I could have hoped for and gave me a shred of belief in my writing. It was from a fiction editor at Hodder & Stoughton (as was) whose name I remembered many years later when I began to submit The Charter. She had moved to a literary agency by then, but remembered me as I'd remembered her. She became my first agent and helped bring on my writing in leaps and bounds.

So, although MMS remains buried in an old laptop somewhere, I reckon I may dig it out one day and see if I can shape it into something resembling a crime novel."

Friday, 6 November 2015

Triskele talks to Tamim Sadikali


Tamim Sadikali is the author of Dear Infidel, a book which takes us into the heart of a British Asian family celebrating Eid ul-Fitr, the Islamic feast that marks the end of Ramazan, the month of fasting. The place is northwest London and the time is November 2004, eighteen months into the second Iraq war and seven months before London’s 7/7 bombings, and four cousins – two pairs of brothers who rarely see each other – foregather at the house of one of their parents.

Catriona Troth reviewed Dear Infidel for Book Muse UK a couple of months ago. She wrote that it, "does what the media has so singularly failed to do - show us shades and variations within the British Muslim community. Not between extremists and others – but within one ordinary family."

Here she talks to its author.

Hi Tamim. I’ve just realised that you, like me, are a Warwick-maths-graduate-turned-author. So I have to begin by asking you about your journey from mathematician to author. Was writing always part of your life?

Ha! Small world… But I’ve only became bohemian with middle-age. In my late teens I was a dictionary-definition geek: whilst most ventured out and ‘experimented’ with life, I’d stay in and go through S-level pure maths papers for fun. Eventually I hit my own brick wall with the subject and fell out of love with it. And it was only in my late twenties, well after I’d graduated and started a career in software, that writing fiction just sort of happened. I remember the moment well – I was in the kitchen of my parent’s house late one evening, on my own, and I just began writing a scene that come in my head…scribbling, really. Over the next few days I kept on scribbling and before I knew it, I had ten thousand words worth of scribbles.

Dear Infidel is set in the very specific time period between the 9/11 attacks in New York and the 7/7 bombings in London, when the news was full of brutal images of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We get the sense that your characters know they are living on the lip of a volcano.

Was the idea for the book born at this time, or was it necessary to achieve a certain distance before you could write about it?


Definitely the latter. 9/11 started something whose tentacles have fanned out – continue to fan out. Going back to maths, this is chaos theory: with random storms still blowing, knocking over whole countries as well as vulnerable individuals. It took time for the charge set in motion to detonate, and thereafter, to observe and make sense of that domino effect.

The book has five narrators - four cousins, plus one spouse. (For those who haven’t read it yet, there is Pasha, living in leafy Cheshire with his English girlfriend, disillusioned with Islam but nostalgic for the trappings of his culture; Aadam, successful enough, fond of the British, but tormented by the daily bombardment of news from the war; Nasneen, his wife, a sexually frustrated feminist in the process of rediscovering her religion; Salman, the most religious of the four men, desperate to bring his children up in a true understanding of Islam; and poor, lost Imtiaz, locked in a cage of his own making.) 

How did you go about developing a distinct outlook and voice for each of them? Were some of them easier to write than others?

I aimed for a few, inter-related things: that the characters should be holistic (and therefore believable), and that the author’s hand should be undetectable. Put another way, that none of them should be my mouthpiece.

When I was writing, I consciously became each character – crawled under his or her skin. (There are writing exercises to support this – answering Qs like: what’s ‘X’s favourite movie/food/drink? Who would ‘X’ vote for? How would ‘X’ spend a lazy Sunday afternoon?) As time went on, this became surprisingly easy: to think like a fundamentalist, a Westernized playboy, a porn addict. Once I understood each of them – their outlook and basic motivations – writing as them became surprisingly easy.

One of the moments I love in Dear Infidel is when the cousins all stop to watch a few minutes from a Carry On film. In that moment, they seem utterly British. A few minutes later, it is a Bollywood film that captures their attention. The juxtaposition of those two things seems to distil, and celebrate, the positive side of the second generation immigrant experience. Was that your intention with that scene, and did it take you a long while to find the right elements to encapsulate that?

No, I wasn’t deliberately demonstrating their British credentials – but I’m heartened that this was your interpretation.

These characters are indelibly British: whether it’s those much trumpeted ‘British values’, or British humour, they need no leap of imagination to connect. That they are, hand-in-hand, being pulled by opposing and yet equally irresistible forces, doesn’t override or erase or trump or subvert their Britishness. Regardless of what anyone thinks – even what they themselves think – they are, and forever will be, both British and Muslim. That tension will ebb and flow, manifesting itself both negatively and positively – but they’ll always find Carry On films funny. I guess there’s a message in that.

I kept thinking, as I read, that I would eventually understand why you chose the title, Dear Infidel, but it remains somewhat enigmatic to the end. The title, like the narrator in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, seems to reach out of the book and address the reader directly, but the rest of the book does not. How did you come to choose it and what does it represent for you?

In art, you can say things that you just can’t get away with elsewhere. That said, you may have smoked me out here… When I started writing this novel, I intended it to be some magnum opus on the Muslim/non-Muslim faultline. But then I simply let the blank page take me wherever it wanted, and discovered that I was less interested in ‘Muslim issues’ than I initially realised.

Whilst I touch upon some ‘Muslim’ subjects: hijab, religious schools, terrorism,… - the payload is not in covering these per se, but in illuminating how the coverage of them unsettles the individual. And as this small unsettling is repeated, pretty much every day, this Butterfly effect leads to personal chaos. It’s this that I wanted to communicate – and principally to the non-Muslim reader. The title, Dear Infidel, is a non-literal/tongue-in-cheek expression of this sentiment.

None of your characters finds any real resolution at the end of the book. And in the decade since the book was set, things can hardly be said to have got better for Muslims in the UK or the rest of the world. How optimistic/pessimistic are you for the real life Aadams/Nazneens/Salmans/Imtiazs/Pashas they represent?

I’ve never bought into Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations theory. Rather, what I see is a clash of extremisms: a lunatic strain of Muslim thinking and neo-colonialism, feeding off each other in a symbiotic relationship, and all the while draining the middle ground. I’m pessimistic.

Following the publication earlier this year of Writing the Future: Black and Asian Writers and Publishers in the UK Market Place, there has been a great deal of discussion about diversity within the publishing industry itself, and within the books it chooses to promote. What steps do you think the industry needs to take to get more BAME voices heard?

This is a very tricky question – personally, I’m against positive discrimination. I’d rather have no platform at all, than be given one out of charity.

That said, the conservative tastes of the book buying public is a thing of woe. But if the existential nausea of a 25 year old Cosmo girl is what gets tills ringing, is it really the publishing industry’s role to change that? Honestly, I don’t know.

Like all industries, publishing is reactive: it identifies a pattern and then milks it. How many times have we read a double-page spread on ‘..an exciting new voice’, only to realise that they are ‘exciting’ because their dad played polo with Prince Charles? Or that they are the next brown face to drop on the radar in the wake of Zadie Smith and Monica Ali..? If the industry is happy to engage in these forms of positive discrimination, they might as well share the love.

Can you recommend some books by BAME writers that you think deserve to be much better known?

I reviewed a couple of titles for Bookmunch recently that I thought were excellent: The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah and One Point Two Billion by Mahesh Rao.


You’re sitting in your favourite writing place. What can you see around you?

No-one. Not a soul. I don’t need blue skies and a beach, or a misty mountaintop. All I crave is splendid isolation…to be far from the madding crowd.

Thank you, Tamim!


You can read Catriona's full review of Dear Infidel on Book Muse UK

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Selling Screen Rights, by Adrian Mead (Part IV)

Adrian Mead, screenwriter, with the final part of a four-part series on how to sell screen rights.

By JJ Marsh


Do you think agent representation is essential?

I know plenty of writers that work without an agent. Agents cannot make you a better writer or guarantee you a career. However, if you have an agent with a good reputation they can get you into meetings to pitch your work. Then it is up to you to convince people that your ideas and you are worth backing.

In the event a writer’s idea is picked up, what to expect next?

Depends on the project and the writer. If it is a novel the company will circulate a pitch doc based on the material to broadcasters or financiers to see if there is any interest. If they gain a positive response they may interview a number of screenwriters to read the book or material and see what their approach would be to adapting it. They would then hire one of them to do an outline, followed by a treatment and then possibly a script.

If the original author of the work wants to be the adaptor they must be able to show examples of scripts they have written and make a compelling argument as to why they should be hired. There is no guarantee a producer would want you of course and if this is a deal breaker you must be clear when first negotiating selling the rights.

What are the Deadly Sins of approaching film/TV companies? Or what are the routes guaranteed to land you straight in the bin?


It is always a challenge striking a balance between being tenacious and a pest. Be polite.

Always do your research first. Make sure you approach an appropriate company - your teen romance will not work if they specialise in horror films.

Call up and get a name - Dear sir/madam e mails never get read.

Speak to people who have already been successful. How did they do it?

Get others to champion you - awards, important critical reviews, sales figures.

If you read Making It As A Screenwriter you will see this is the stuff I cover in depth.

I know you’ve been directing as well as writing. Can you share what’s coming up?

Just completed directing four episodes of the second series of EVE, a sci-fi drama for CBBC. It’s a really ambitious show for kids TV and great fun to work on. Here’s a link to last year’s series that I also directed. http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/watch/eve-meet-eve

And what’s next in the pipeline?


I have a bunch of my stuff with companies who are busy trying to raise interest and I am attached to direct two films which are making steady progress towards raising the necessary finance. I have a couple script ideas which I am itching to get written up, so these will be my work on the train as I travel back and forth to edit Eve over the next few weeks. At the same time I will be taking meetings with companies and hopefully lining up other work!

As someone who’s taken control of their career and achieved a dream, can you sum up your advice in one sentence?

I would offer the following that I use for myself whenever I feel stuck or in need of a kick up the backside.

If you want something you must take action.

Adrian formerly worked as a nightclub bouncer and a hairdresser before stumbling upon the world of film and television. His writing credits include ITV’s “The Last Detective” “Blue Dove” “Where The Heart Is”, BBC’s “Paradise Heights”, “The Eustace Brothers”, “Waking The Dead” and “River City”.
He’s also written for animation for the legendary “Dennis & Gnasher” for Nine Network Australia and CBBC in the UK and Iconicles for CBBC and ABC (Australia). He has directed episodes of MI High (Series 7) and Eve (series 1 and 2) for CBBC. 

“Night People” was Adrian’s feature debut as writer director and went on to win the BAFTA Scotland and Cineworld Audience Award and was also nominated for Best Screenplay at the same awards.
His book
Making It As A Screenwriter launched in September 2008 and was hailed by leading industry professionals as the definitive career guide for aspiring screenwriters.
For more useful, comprehensive and targeted information on selling to screen, Making It As A Screenwriter is available at www.meadkerr.com
All proceeds go to ChildLine – the UK's free, 24-hour helpline for children in distress or danger. Trained volunteer counsellors comfort, advise and protect children and young people who may feel they have nowhere else to turn. www.childline.org.uk


Images courtesy of Benjamin Balázs (Creative Commons)




Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Selling Screen Rights, by Adrian Mead (Part III)

Adrian Mead, screenwriter, with Part III of a four-part series on how to sell screen rights.

By JJ Marsh


Adrian continues on the Power of 3...

Now that you have your notes from 3 sources as a result of the Power Of 3 method, you cross check them against your script.

Plan what you need to rewrite.

Do it.

Print it out and re-read.

Tinker a bit.

Now stick the script in a drawer and ignore it for a month.

One month later take it out and read it.

You will immediately have lots of stuff you want to rewrite. Instead make notes.

Now you repeat the whole process again.

Find three new people.

Teach them how to give feedback.

Get notes and rewrite.

Print it out. Tinker.

Put in the drawer for a month.

The whole feedback process involves you doing this three times 3×3. Three lots of feedback three times. The Power Of 3!

Of course in some cases you will be working to a deadline to enter a competition or scheme. If you do a shortened version of this method, such as less time between new drafts, it is vitally important that you do not also cut corners with the number of sources of feedback. Remember 3×3. It works!



WHY “ADVICE” IS BAD

Don’t let your feedback people start telling you how to rewrite your script. That’s not what you want out of the process at this stage. What you will end up with is three people’s versions of what THEY would write. This is about you figuring out the story you want to write and working to make sure you are telling it the clearest way possible. It also requires much less work to write questions rather than coming up with solutions. As a result you get quick feedback and people don’t feel put off doing it again. The Power 3 method helps you to build up a circle of people you can rely on.

REMEMBER: DON’T TRY AND ANSWER THE QUESTIONS DURING THE FEEDBACK SESSION, JUST WRITE THEM DOWN.

Using “The Power Of 3” gives –

1. A massive boost to the quality of script that you are going to send out.

2. It actually speeds up the development process because you aren’t struggling on your own, half-tinkering and losing enthusiasm about your work.

3. It teaches you to work with feedback, act professionally in a meeting and handle notes.

I have been amazed how rapidly people’s work and skills have improved when they have employed this process.

Join a writers group, an online forum or contact some screenwriting bloggers. There are lots of them out there employing this method already. Google Adrian Mead Power Of 3 and you will find lots of positive folk to swap scripts with.

So after this my script is ready to send out? No. First you need to send some small token of thanks to your long distance feedback people and ensure you give them fast turnaround on their work.

Next you need to do a dummy run and test that your script is watertight. It’s time now to consider using a professional script feedback service.

PROFESSIONAL SCRIPT FEEDBACK SERVICES

These vary widely in price and quality. For a fee someone claiming to be a trained professional script reader or editor will give varying levels of feedback on your script. There are different options to choose. The more in depth and extensive the notes the greater the fee. I use two for each script in order to cross-reference the notes with my own and my business partner. The following organisations and individuals have been widely recommended:

www.script-consultant.co.uk

Bang2write www.bang2write.blogspot.com

Script Factory www.scriptfactory.co.uk

I find it useful to get a US take on the script with some film projects that are being aimed at an international market. However, the quality of reports has varied widely and as they are often considerably more expensive than the UK I am loath to recommend any American organisation at this time. There are many more individuals and organisations than the ones I have mentioned that also offer this service. Contact the company or individual direct and get background on the reader’s level of experience. Post some queries on writer’s forums and get recommendations and feedback from other writers about their experiences.

Use professional script-reading services when you have taken the script as far as you can by every other means. Sending in rough or under-developed drafts is just throwing money away. Once you have thoroughly utilised The Power Of 3 technique, received a couple of professional reports and done your rewrites your sample scripts should be ready to show the world

For practical examples on how to achieve all the above, download Making It As A Screenwriter from Adrian’s site – remember all proceeds go to Childline.

Look out for Part Four tomorrow!

Adrian formerly worked as a nightclub bouncer and a hairdresser before stumbling upon the world of film and television. His writing credits include ITV’s “The Last Detective” “Blue Dove” “Where The Heart Is”, BBC’s “Paradise Heights”, “The Eustace Brothers”, “Waking The Dead” and “River City”.
He’s also written for animation for the legendary “Dennis & Gnasher” for Nine Network Australia and CBBC in the UK and Iconicles for CBBC and ABC (Australia). He has directed episodes of MI High (Series 7) and Eve (series 1 and 2) for CBBC.
“Night People” was Adrian’s feature debut as writer director and went on to win the BAFTA Scotland and Cineworld Audience Award and was also nominated for Best Screenplay at the same awards.
His book
Making It As A Screenwriter launched in September 2008 and was hailed by leading industry professionals as the definitive career guide for aspiring screenwriters.
For more useful, comprehensive and targeted information on selling to screen, Making It As A Screenwriter is available at www.meadkerr.com
All proceeds go to ChildLine – the UK's free, 24-hour helpline for children in distress or danger. Trained volunteer counsellors comfort, advise and protect children and young people who may feel they have nowhere else to turn. www.childline.org.uk



Images courtesy of Benjamin Balázs (Creative Commons)






Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Selling Screen Rights, by Adrian Mead (Part II)

Adrian Mead, screenwriter, with Part II of a four-part series on how to sell screen rights.

By JJ Marsh

How does a writer know if their work is better suited to film or TV?

It is not easy, as TV is now as ambitious as film in its storytelling and subject matter.

Apart from the massive best sellers most other film adaptations often come from short stories, graphic novels, articles and true stories that have what is referred to as a “High Concept” idea. This means you could explain the story in a couple of sentences, it has mass appeal and some unique quality or twist. For example in the film Ransom, a wealthy businessman’s son is kidnapped. Not particularly original? The smart twist is that instead of paying the ransom, the father pays for a contract hit on the kidnappers. That twist makes the idea original and therefore High Concept. If your short story or graphic novel has a highly original concept at its heart you are already ahead of the game.

The toughest part of adapting material is being able to hold on to what made the original appealing whilst making it work for a new medium. It is often why huge, beloved novels fail as films - too much has to be changed in order to fit into a reasonable running time.

If your novel is particularly long, has multiple plots and a complex structure it is more likely to suit a TV series. However, TV doesn’t like doing single dramas as they are expensive to make and market. In fact most production companies and broadcasters want any new idea to have potential for 5 series each consisting of 12 episodes. This is why cop and medic shows always clog up the schedule, they never run out of stories of the week and they are worlds filled with conflict and drama. Come up with a brilliant new take on either and you will be very popular.

In your book, you suggest plenty of places where writers can pitch ideas, but my question is when. How do you know if you’re ready?

Ideas really are ten a penny, unless of course you have come up with a brilliant high concept as discussed earlier and already have examples of your work that show you will be able to turn that into a fantastic script or book.

Production companies will want to see a finished manuscript and a slick and exciting pitch doc. Unfortunately most writers send their work out before it has been polished to perfection. To get to this stage requires lots of rewrites. It is almost impossible to see some of the mistakes you have made when you have been working for months on an idea. Even the best screenwriters and authors work with an editor. You need feedback.
“Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it.” – Publilius Syrus
Good feedback helps you to fully realise the potential of your story and communicate it clearly. Most importantly you need to get used to the process, as screenwriting is highly collaborative. If you don’t want to change a word go write Haikus.

Remember, industry professionals will not read rewrites so you get one chance to convince them of your talent… or get labelled as an amateur. Rewrites are much easier when you have useful feedback.

Finding people you can trust to give you feedback is important but you must teach them how to do it effectively. I came up with a system I called The Power Of 3 that has become very popular, especially with writers who need feedback via an online community or contacts. Here it is.

WHY YOU NEED FEEDBACK

Ask any industry professional for the number one mistake writers make and they will almost always agree it’s this –

SENDING OUT WORK BEFORE IT’S READY.

So how the hell are you supposed to know when your script is ready? The following is an excellent way of making certain you are giving your script the best chance of achieving its full potential.

WHO TO ASK

You need to be very careful when seeking people to give you feedback on your work. Most people start with their loved ones and family. However, there are a number of crucially important factors to getting the most benefit out of asking non-professionals to critique your work.

DO NOT ask the bitter, twisted and failed wannabe writer that you met at a party, even if they are the closest thing you have to someone with writing experience. Why? Because they hate you!

You have had the audacity to actually write something! You are now their competitor in an already evil and unjust world. They will subtly (or not so subtly) do everything in their power to kill your enthusiasm and your project. Learn to recognise them. They are like urine soaked alleyways at two in the morning, a shortcut that can kill you. The longer route may seem hard work but you will actually reach your goal.

POSITIVE PEOPLE

Do not underestimate the power and savvy of the punter. You were one before you became a screenwriting genius! The average TV and film watching public is now pretty sophisticated in their ability to say what they like and what they don’t. Find someone with a positive attitude to life and who likes TV and Film. This could be friends, family or other writers you’ve met through a writers group or forum (but watch out for the negative types). Next you need to do EXACTLY the following in order to make this work to your best advantage.

THE POWER OF 3

This is a great tool and used properly can make a huge difference to the quality of your work. It may seem like I’m asking you to do a lot but by now you should have started to realise how competitive this industry is. If this is too much you shouldn’t even be considering a career as a screenwriter.

Remember, every time you start wanting to protest repeat the mantra – “if I keep on doing what I’m doing, I’ll keep on getting what I’m getting.” If you haven’t got your big break yet it’s most likely because you are sending out work before it is ready. Use this technique. It works!

1) Find three positive people. Ask if they would be willing to help you develop your career and give feedback on your script. It doesn’t matter who they are but it is important that you treat them like PROFESSIONALS.

2) Teach them how to give feedback. Ask them to immediately scribble down any questions that jump out after they have read the script. Ask that they always couch their comments as QUESTIONS.

Explain that this is the normal way professionals work and that it really helps you to develop the work. Tell them that they don’t have to worry about coming up with comments or critique. All you want is for them to ask any questions that arise from reading it. Even if it is only one question.

3) If possible arrange to meet each of them (separately) somewhere quiet once they have read your script. Offer coffee/beer/food as your treat.

If the other person is also a writer and you are unable to meet, offer to be a Power of 3 reader for them and make sure you give a prompt response to the work they send.

4) When you meet up ask again that they always couch their comments as QUESTIONS instead of telling you what they think is wrong. Be attentive and take notes. During your meeting they will inevitably slip back into wanting to tell you what would work better (especially if they are another aspiring writer.) Each time gently stop them and politely ask that they keep to couching everything as questions. DON’T try and answer the questions or justify what you have written. Just take a note of their question.

Why questions instead of advice? Well, how do you react to the following type of feedback on your script – “I just thought that it was horrible, the way the hero just walked out on his wife and kids.”

There’s a very good chance that one of your readers is your beloved. We tend to be much less patient with our loved ones and the last thing you need is a domestic argument because you start becoming irritated. Or, remember what I said earlier about “Write what you know.” Perhaps you have drawn on some personal stuff for your script (the break up of your marriage?) It is likely that you are now snarling at your script editor…

Okay, how do you react to this example? – “What was it that made the hero just suddenly walk out on his wife and kids?” Different? Being asked a question feels less critical and forces you to consider whether or not you have explained your characters motivation clearly enough.





This is also why you need 3 feedback readers. If all three ask the same question you clearly have a problem you need to address. If only one comments it may just be that the reader dislikes the character or subject based on their own experience or prejudice. You don’t want to end up rewriting for the wrong reasons.


Look out for Part Three tomorrow!

Adrian formerly worked as a nightclub bouncer and a hairdresser before stumbling upon the world of film and television. His writing credits include ITV’s “The Last Detective” “Blue Dove” “Where The Heart Is”, BBC’s “Paradise Heights”, “The Eustace Brothers”, “Waking The Dead” and “River City”.

He’s also written for animation for the legendary “Dennis & Gnasher” for Nine Network Australia and CBBC in the UK and Iconicles for CBBC and ABC (Australia). He has directed episodes of MI High (Series 7) and Eve (series 1 and 2) for CBBC.

“Night People” was Adrian’s feature debut as writer director and went on to win the BAFTA Scotland and Cineworld Audience Award and was also nominated for Best Screenplay at the same awards.

His book
Making It As A Screenwriter launched in September 2008 and was hailed by leading industry professionals as the definitive career guide for aspiring screenwriters.

For more useful, comprehensive and targeted information on selling to screen, Making It As A Screenwriter is available at www.meadkerr.com

All proceeds go to ChildLine – the UK's free, 24-hour helpline for children in distress or danger. Trained volunteer counsellors comfort, advise and protect children and young people who may feel they have nowhere else to turn. www.childline.org.uk



Images courtesy of Benjamin Balázs (Creative Commons)




Monday, 26 October 2015

Selling Screen Rights, by Adrian Mead (Part I)

Triskele Books are thrilled to welcome Adrian Mead, screenwriter, for a four-part series aimed at writers on how to sell screen rights.

By JJ Marsh

Adrian, you’ve had quite a colourful career and I admire your determination to change paths. Have any moments from your previous life as bouncer/hairdresser informed your screenwriting?

If you keep your eyes and ears open there are always opportunities to gather inspiration. Both of my former jobs involved lots of interacting with the public, though in two very different environments. Studying how people react to a situation definitely informs the way I create characters and scenes. As a hairdresser I heard way too much about my client’s extra marital affairs; the deception, how they came to light and the sometimes extraordinary scenes that resulted.



New writers often forget to ensure their characters arrive with a mindset and an emotional state that can be factored in to the scene. For me it is always a case of asking or creating “The story behind the story” and trying to add depth to a scene. For example, attending their child’s first ever school play appears to be a delight for your character and their partner. However, if earlier you allowed your character to hear a rumour that their partner may be cheating on them, possibly with another parent, the scene suddenly takes on another dynamic. Now the smiles are forced, they scan faces for any hint of guilt and scrutinise their partner’s body language as they embrace others.

Making It As A Screen Writer is practical and accessible at the same time. For someone with the aim of becoming a screenwriter, this is gold and must be popular. Why choose to donate all the proceeds to Childline?

I have been a volunteer counsellor for Childline for the last 7 years. Every week I talk with children and young people who are struggling with terrible situations but feel unable to speak out. Often simply having an adult who will listen and not judge them can have a huge impact. Sadly, Childline always struggles for funding and as the number of calls, emails and online chats continues to rise we are unable to answer many of them.

When I first wrote the book it was to help new writers who were contacting me for advice. I could remember being utterly confused and unable to find a clear path through the maze of info that was out there. Once I had some feedback on the early drafts I realised by issuing it as an e book it could be a fundraising tool. I think the book has been very successful because it outlines very simply what you need to do in order to build and maintain a career, rather than just talking about writing technique. The response from industry professionals and newcomers all over the world has been fantastic, with many of the strategies I promote being integrated into the curriculum of screenwriting courses. I find this last bit remarkable as I never had any formal training!

The book is also valuable to authors who want to sell the screen rights to their work. So I’d like to come at this from a different angle – writers who have a book ripe for film adaptation, a series suited to TV drama, a concept fit for Hollywood. Where should they start? 



You need to break through the noise, as everyone and their dog thinks they have work that is ripe for adaptation. Use the following checklist -

Is it especially topical? Historical works can still resonate with current issues but it will help if you can point out how.
Is it controversial?
A brilliant new twist on a piece of history, biography or well known story - fairy tales and greek legends are always being recycled.

If you have an agent or publisher they should be punting it to the people who acquire film rights. However, whether you have representation or not you still need to help whip up interest in your project. The easiest way to catch the attention of producers and production companies is to have a best selling book or one that lots of people are talking about. To do this you should be entering every competition that’s suitable. Then continually plaster social media with the news of your progress.

Next, research production companies and producers who have made projects in the same sort of territory as yours. Many companies will only look at material sent by agents but there are others who will take material from unrepresented writers. Check their websites.

Now call them and get the name of who you should send it to. Do not send an email. If you are nervous about phoning write yourself a brief phone script and practice it (you are supposed to be a writer)

Follow up with a very brief email that lists your prize wins, short-listings, brief critical raves and a brilliantly honed synopsis of no more than a couple of hundred words. Ask when would be appropriate to get in touch again.

Be tenacious but very polite and make sure you follow up until you get a response.


I occasionally teach a two day course about adaptation. Part of the weekend focuses on creating a brilliant pitch for your work. Once you master this it also helps enormously with planning your work before you start writing. Knowing what you want to write and why increases the likelihood of actually completing your project.

If all this sounds like a lot of work or you are worried that self promotion will make you appear big headed you need to get over it fast. All creatives have to hustle, it has always been that way.


Look out for Part Two tomorrow!

Adrian formerly worked as a nightclub bouncer and a hairdresser before stumbling upon the world of film and television. His writing credits include ITV’s “The Last Detective” “Blue Dove” “Where The Heart Is”, BBC’s “Paradise Heights”, “The Eustace Brothers”, “Waking The Dead” and “River City”.
He’s also written for animation for the legendary “Dennis & Gnasher” for Nine Network Australia and CBBC in the UK and Iconicles for CBBC and ABC (Australia). He has directed episodes of MI High (Series 7) and Eve (series 1 and 2) for CBBC.
“Night People” was Adrian’s feature debut as writer director and went on to win the BAFTA Scotland and Cineworld Audience Award and was also nominated for Best Screenplay at the same awards.
His book
Making It As A Screenwriter launched in September 2008 and was hailed by leading industry professionals as the definitive career guide for aspiring screenwriters.
For more useful, comprehensive and targeted information on selling to screen, Making It As A Screenwriter is available at www.meadkerr.com
All proceeds go to ChildLine – the UK's free, 24-hour helpline for children in distress or danger. Trained volunteer counsellors comfort, advise and protect children and young people who may feel they have nowhere else to turn. www.childline.org.uk





Images courtesy of Benjamin Balázs (Creative Commons)