Today I have aspiring author, Aksha Lee dropping by to answer a few of my questions about her routines and loves as she continues on her journey of publishing her first book. I am hoping she can look back on these answers in a few years and perhaps extemporise a little further.
Remember that publicity is important and valuing your readers and connecting with them is vital to success as an author.
Can you tell us a bit about you as an author?
I am currently unpublished. I am wondering what folk are interested in apart from cricketers' biographies, Harry Potter, Twilight and 50 shades.
What are the hardest part of being an author? The hardest part are (sic): the lack of interest by Australian publishers for Australian authors writing on Australian subjects and the rudeness of publishers who simply never respond; publishers and agents who impose ludicrous arcane rules for submissions; people who are interested more in an author's life than the bloody books they write.
What do you enjoy most about being an author?
Writing. Not much more to say about that. An idea forms, I sit down and start pouring it onto the page then watch as the story takes shape and moulds itself around the setting and characters that live in the tale. It would make my enjoyment all the greater to get published and make a few bob.
What authors/books have had an influence on your writing?
William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, John O’Brien, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, O Henry, Fyodor Dostoyevski, Jonathon Swift, Leo Tolstoy, Franz Kafka, Leonard Clark, William Lines, R. M. & C. H. Berndt, Isaac D’Israeli, Mark Twain, Banjo Patterson, Henry Lawson, Patrick White, D’Arcy Niland, Ern Malley, Helen Demidenko, Lee Falk, Barbara Cartland, Wilber Smith, C. S. Lewis, Spike Milligan, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas Keneally, Henry Handel Richardson, Colleen McCulloch, Tim Winton, Neville Shute, Alexander Irvine, Frank McCourt, Frank Hardy, Thomas Hardy, Sol Encel, Elizabeth Jolley, Barry Humphries, Jane Eyre, Kathy Lette, Zoltan Kovacs, Robert G. Barrett, Sally Morgan, Albert Facey, W. E. Johns, Jules Verne, Xavier Herbert, Robin Boyd, H. Rider Haggard and quite a few others.
Do you ever get Writer’s Block? If so, how do you deal with it? Do you believe there is such a thing?
No; plough on; no, let it flow.
Do you have a particular place that you like to write? On my lap-top. It doesn't matter where as long as I am comfortable, warm and dry. I treat it like a job, sit down, get to work, take a coffee break occasionally and if my brain stops or I trip over a problem in the story I go out and chop some wood or something equally physical. While I'm doing that my brain gets to work again and next time I sit down the story flows again.
Do you have a favourite time of day to write? When I'm awake. I find it rather difficult to write while asleep. I write while the ideas flow otherwise I find something else to do.
How do you like to reach your readers?
Not a clue. More than 50 submissions to publishers that never respond. I have recently resorted to social media, to no effect thus far; nothing published that I could sign; no result from blog on wordpress.com or twitter or facebook.
I've read that JK Rowling tried 56 times before she found someone who thought her work had value. I've tried every Australian publisher at least twice for each of my texts and numerous agents as well. Several English and US publishers have also ignored me. One sent a standard reply that recommended various UK-based methods for success.
I have received replies from the Fremantle Press and they all say the same: "not what we are looking for at this time".
Some family have read my work and a mob called Grey Gecko in the US have two of my manuscripts on their "very short" list which may be reviewed next year. I was for a time one of their "slush pile" readers, which gave me an insight into the sort of crap that publishers receive every day but it also convinced me that my writing is worth publishing.
The big problem seems to be not so much as being a good writer as having a broad list of friends in appropriate places with good marketing skills.
As an aspergic person I don't understand "networking" and have very few acquaintences or "contacts" that could assist in the promotion of my work. But aside from that no one is interested in folk like me who don't have a wide stock of friends and work colleagues to rely on.
Can you tell us about your latest work in progress?
"Jane Doughty, a decade of my childhood". It's about a girl growing up from 8 to 18 and dealing with life and society's attitude to sex.
How long did it take you to write it?
About a month.
Do you have a favourite character/topic in your work?
No, just the story. I've written about life in Antarctica in 2000 years' time, a series of murders in outback WA, an adventure/romance set in Antarctica in 1986, and Jane's story.
What was your process? Did you plot out the entire book, or just let the storyline flow? Do you write in chronological order?
An idea forms in my head, I start writing and follow the plot as it crawls down the page. Each story just fell out of my head.
Do you have plans for further instalments?
Depends on the response to the first.
Do you have a plan for your next book?
No, after completing four manuscripts, I'm fed up with not getting any response, so I'm in hiatus until something happens. I'm not going to waste time and energy constructing something that's never going to see the light of day. I already have heaps of poetry, short stories and mangled musical lyrics just waiting for a publisher.
Ebooks vs Physical books? Do you have a preference when reading?
I've never read an ebook, the prospect doesn't thrill me.
Self-publishing vs traditional publishing? What are your thoughts? Do you feel that the industry is changing?
I would self-publish if I wasn't on the dole (government allowance), and to hell with the "industry".
And finally, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read lots and keep writing. Then, most importantly of all, PROOF-READ; fill any gaps in the plot, and correct any errors of grammar, punctuation and spelling. Nothing worse that a text riddled with basic errors, despite some young folks' absolute ignorance of the "rules" of English useage.
How can readers find you?
I can see by Aksha's responses that she feels extremely disillusioned by the whole publishing industry. It is certainly a tough world to compete in, but it's about perseverance and to keep going when the rest all quit. As someone who has been writing for most of my life, and seriously publishing for the past 12 years, the best advice I can give to someone who is in this frame of mind, is to keep going.
Opportunities do present themselves. Sometimes it's about taking the road less travelled, rather than the same journey as everyone else. I work full-time and long hours to 'fund' my writing career, I am also completing my Masters of Arts (Writing) and looking towards another Masters degree when that one is finished.
Twelve years after my first book, I am finally seeing the results of 20 hour days and a gross lack of sleep. People ask why I do it, why do I work so hard, especially without massive financial reward, my answer is always, I don't write for money, I write because it fills my soul. I also say that I will make it. I have dreams and goals, and I work hard to see them come to fruition. Writing is a long tough rough, it is solitary and it is frustrating and confronting, it can be soul destroying but it can be highly rewarding.
I hope Aksha, that you don't give up on your dream, and that you keep going strong. You can do it!
If you'd like to be interviewed for the blog, or have an interesting story to tell, please drop me a line.
Until next time, happy reading!