As soon as I started reading Nearly Almost Somebody (then known as Distraction), I knew that I’d love it. The cat in the first chapter may have caught my attention, but it was the cast of characters and the plot twists that kept me hooked. Who knew there could be this much scandal in the Lake District?
I instructed my colleague to read the story, and for two days we did very little else. Before work, after work, during work… we just couldn’t stop reading it. The number of coffee breaks we took tripled as we eagerly discussed the latest plot twist, the morals of the main character, and how we secretly wanted to move to the Lakes since there seemed to be so many attractive men there.
Caroline went on to self publish #forfeit and Nearly Almost Somebody, and has a third book, Afterglow, in the works. She was kind enough to stop by my blog for a Q&A, talking about being in the zone, rewrites, and the best and worst things about being an author.
1) How has Wattpad helped you as a writer?
Without doubt, it showed me that people like my stories. I uploaded Distraction (the book that became Nearly Almost Somebody) on a bit of a whim, but within four weeks and no promotion, it gained 17,000 reads. Okay, today books can get a million reads in that time, but back in 2013, that was pretty hot. Better still, Wattpad picked it to be a Featured book. Front page promotion turned into a million reads and a #1 spot in no time.
2) Where did you get your inspiration from, for both Forfeit and Nearly Almost Somebody?
Okay, so #Forfeit started with the Antiques Roadshow. Seriously. Someone brought along this ivory ball and the expert said it was a Forfeit Ball, a kind of Victorian dice. You threw it and did the appropriate dare. It made me think, what’s the worst thing someone would do for a dare?
Nearly Almost Somebody is a little harder. I knew my hero would be this bad boy vet, and the heroine would work at a riding stable, but the rest… it kind of just happened. Like the Wicca stuff. I was writing the scene where Stan calls Maggie a siren, saying she put a spell on the house and I thought, wouldn’t it be fun if she really did. I love that about writing – though I plan every chapter in advance, sometimes they go where they want to go and nine times of ten, it’s for the best.
3) Which of your characters do you relate to the most and why?
Daisy. I can be a little vain, a little selfish and too indulgent when it comes to wine, but… I like to think I share her hard-working, supportive nature too.
4) When writing your books, did you consider that some of the themes – class A drugs, binge drinking, for example – may not be to everyone’s taste?
A writing friend of mine once told me: Write the book you want to read – chances are, someone else will want to read it too. Serial killers aren’t to everyone’s taste either, but plenty of people buy James Patterson books. I love chick lit, but often it’s a little tame for me, all shoe-shopping and cupcake baking – I want more edge. Yes, there are people who won’t read #Forfeit because of the drugs and booze, (my sister-in-law being one of them) but there are plenty of people who read #Forfeit because of the drugs and booze, because they want a little edge in their chick lit too.
5) You rewrote Forfeit several times – why did you do this and was it difficult to keep motivated during the redrafting process?
Ten times was the final rewrite count. That’s pretty crazy, right? Part of me still loves the first draft, but it was riddled with clichés, a gazillion comma splices and all of the acronyms I could think of. With each draft I changed something, learned something and made the story better, tighter, but crikey it was hard. Friends told me to park it, put it in a drawer and move on, but I couldn’t – I loved Daisy and Xander too much. Okay, I took a well-earned break and wrote Nearly Almost Somebody, but I enjoyed coming back to Forfeit, especially when I got to write sparkly new scenes. Draft Ten brought a lot of changes – the introduction of Daisy’s ex-husband, Finn being a biggie. But I also wrote chapter two – tea and toast the morning after the one night stand. I love that chapter.
6) Do you write every day? What are you tips for making time to write when working full time and being a mum?
I should, but I don’t. When I’m in the zone, I get up at 6am and write for an hour or so before my daughter gets up, but mainly I’m stuck to lunch breaks and late evenings – Doctor Who is the only thing that gets me to sit on the sofa with my husband and watch TV.
My tip? If the writing isn’t working, don’t drive yourself crazy – take some time off and hang out with your family/friends. That way, when the words are flowing, you feel less guilty for being a scatterbrain mummy who makes oven chips for tea every night. Oh, and keep a notepad with you at all times so you can write whenever and wherever you get a few spare minutes.
7) Why did you decide to self-publish and what did you learn during the self-publishing journey?
In November 2013, I played assistant to Kitty French at an author signing event in London. I sat there, surrounded by mega-successful authors, women who all started out by self-publishing. It was such an inspiration. And I thought, why not?
I didn’t want to end up disappointed if I didn’t sell a million books, so I decided to treat self-publishing as a hobby that had the potential to earn me some pocket money – I have friends who make cards and trinkets, selling them of a weekend at craft fairs; it’d be just like that. Obviously, I’d take it seriously, execute it as professionally as I could, but even if all my writing efforts did was break even, then it’d be a cheaper hobby than my husband’s mountain biking which seems to require a new bike ever two years!
My no.1 tip if you’re thinking of self-publishing: Buy Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self-Printed (the paperback version). It’s my bible for all the practical stuff.
8) What are the best and worst things about being an author?
Worst? Marketing – it’s a constant battle trying to let people know your books exist and often what worked three months ago, doesn’t seem to work these days.
Best? Readers. Meeting someone who can barely talk because they love your book, your story, your characters so much… that never fails to blow me away.
9) Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known before becoming a published author?
That I should’ve done it three years ago!
10) What is your current work-in-progress, Afterglow, about, and when do you expect to publish it?
Yeah, that. Although the main character, Jasmine, is a pastry chef and does bake cupcakes, it’s going to be one of the ‘not to everyone’s taste’ books. It’s all about backpackers behaving very badly in Sydney, but with a touch of second-chance-romance and I’m hoping for Quentin Tarantino style humour. Here’s the blurb:
Eat, sleep, rave, repeat. What comes up…
They had three days in Sydney — three hedonistic days of dance music, illegal highs and all-night parties. Then she stood him up. And he left her as good as dead. Five years later, it’s time to find out why.
There’s going to be one hell of a comedown, but are they ready for this Afterglow?
Coming Autumn 2015 – if I pull my finger out!
Caroline Batten Author Bio:
28, wife (of 10 years), mother (to a small girl, a very lazy cat and two Kune Kune pigs). Continually renovating one house or another. Lies about age (a lot).
Salt & Vinegar crisps, Prosecco, horses, cat videos on You Tube, making light fittings out of jars, going to the hairdressers, random acts of kindness.
Bullies, offal, pernod, choosing window fastenings, Christmas pudding.
To be known as the Quentin Tarantino of Chick Lit. Seriously.
Write books that are fun, frivolous but have a darker or more sinister edge. Embrace sex, drugs and old fashioned murder.