Today’s guest became a member of the irrepressible Love a Happy Ending group just as I did, and now (in fact TODAY) her second novel Surfing in Stilettos, about a ‘mature’ gap-year trip to France, is published by my good friends at Thornberry and very much reflects the spirit of her blog Facing 50 with Humour (well, what other way is there to do it?) Coupled with the fact that from her photo Carol looks just like a friend of mine who lives in Crawley, I can think of no better reason to warm up the cafetierre and send out for some French pastries.
Carol, if it really is you and not my friend Margaret (who knows, maybe she’ll turn up too) what pastry are you going to choose to celebrate this happy morn? (Please note that I have bagged the pain au raisin)
Good thing Hubby isn’t here. He’d wrestle you for that pain au raisin. Personally I prefer a nice large pain au chocolat, or a tresse which I recently discovered and is even more chocolatey!
Tresse ? – clearly time for anther trip over the Channel!
As a former teacher, linguist and physical trainer, what made you turn to writing? I mean, was it a long-term ambition or something that just came over you?
I have always written. Well, since I was in my twenties. I used to write children’s stories and when my son was born I read them to him. I put the writing on hold when I worked as there wasn’t enough time to do a major project but still jotted down stories that taught French to children in my spare time. About a decade ago I tried to get them published and had them accepted by a well-known publishing house. The stories were highly illustrated and were light-hearted, about animals that lived in France. Sadly, my illustrator and good friend died unexpectedly and I shelved the stories. When my son left home a couple of years ago I wrote a lengthy bucket list of things I wanted to achieve and writing a novel was top of the list. I had moved on from stories about Humphrey and the Dustbin Cats or Hurrah for Hugo! and a proper length novel for women my age appealed to me.
The idea of romcom – or just com – for the over 50s is such a good one (I’ve even had a go myself!) Did you try any big publishers or magazines or was self-publishing your preference?
I sent out my script to a few agents but self-publishing seemed the best way to go. I didn’t want to wait for months to be accepted by an agent, then maybe find a publisher. I wanted results quicker than that and I had a target of getting my first novel published before I hit the Big 50 myself.
But now you have a publisher for Surfing – what made you look for a publishing partner?
I was quite happy to be self-published and I learnt a huge amount in that first year but deep inside I also wanted to be represented by a publishing house. There is something more ‘official’ about being published that way. When I completed Surfing in Stilettos I decided to send it to a couple of small publishing houses. They both liked it and I was actually offered two contracts in the same week. I chose ThornBerry Publishing because it was an extremely professional publishing house, new and has a terrific approach to publishing and its authors. It not only sets out to embrace the new digital age but is rolling out a Budding Author Programme for new authors. I was most intrigued by that and wanted to be part of such a forward thinking team. One thing I have learned the last couple of years is that the support of fellow authors is invaluable.
Looking at your website, book covers etc you have developed a great ‘brand’. Have you had ‘professional help’ with that or has it all been DIY? If so, did you have to learn new skills along the way?
I developed the brand myself. I wanted to convey a sense of fun and mischief. My novels are always about enjoying life or laughing at it and I needed my covers and website to do the same. I ‘drew’ the covers myself but in the end sent them to a designer to present them in a professional manner. It’s amazing what you can do with ‘Paint’ though and I mock up all my artwork now. One of the very first blogging posts I read was about using Paint. I became quite skilled. Later, I got to grips with Picnik which was splendid but that website has since gone and I now use PicMonkey. You are never too old to develop skills and I find them testing and yet absorbing. I can spend hours messing about sorting out a website or pictures. I’d rather be doing that than cooking or gardening.
Yes, there are many things I would rather do than cooking these days! But I hear you are off on a promo trip to France – any advice for face to face marketing here in the UK – events, venues, ways to stay sane?
This will be my third tour in France. There is a large ex-pat community there who do a lot of reading and are members of reading and creative writing groups. I have built up a bit of a reputation in the South West and after my last talk on ‘Ageing Disgracefully’ I was booked there and then for next year. Marketing takes up all my free time. I have stacks of advice to people. There is far too much to say about what to do and not do that I would fill up your entire blog for days. My quick tips are:
1) Think outside the box. Don’t just sell your book, sell yourself. Have a back story to offer the press.
2) Get to know your local bookshop staff and build up a relationship with them. They are always willing to help local authors who are pleasant. Waterstones have recently changed their policy on book signings but local smaller bookshops will be happy to host events.
3) Whenever you win an award or launch a book or give a talk, tell your local press about it.
4) Enter writing competitions in magazines. If you win it’ll give you a chance to notify the press or get your name out there.
5) Try and give talks in schools, local writing groups or volunteer to talk at local book clubs. They may buy your book afterwards.
As for staying sane! As you can tell, I lost my sanity some time ago that’s why I write humour.
Sounds like excellent advice – I am taking copious notes!
I’m sure I read somewhere that you had a Costa nomination – I am fainting with envy – please tell us more!
I’m not quite sure how I wangled that. I was ‘chatting’ to my publishers, FeedARead about publicity and mentioned the Costa Awards. I suggested it might be good for them to enter some of their best-sellers for the award. The next I knew they had sent in the appropriate forms and copies of my book and that was that. I’m still waiting to hear how it’s getting on.
So please can you just summarise Surfing in Stilettos?
I’m going to cheat here a little and use a recent review I received from Francine Howarth. It is available to read on Amazon. She summarised the novel far more eloquently than I could so I am going to put her review here followed by a ‘taster’:
Book review of Surfing in Stilettos by Carol E. Wyer
This is a light-hearted fun read in which the main character (Amanda Wilson) utilises Internet social networking sites for communicating with friends and family. Her blog alone has become a diary of sorts and reveals aspects of her life and that of a calamitous journey through France. No wonder then that her blog updates draw forth admiration and sympathy from global followers. Worse, an old boyfriend is looking to re-ignite flames of virtual lust prior to turning up the heat real-time, and all this while her husband is seemingly losing his libido. And, newly acquainted friend Bibi (French) has an errant husband and mistress dilemma to contend with, so girlie times become the norm.
But, when someone adopts Amanda’s identity and signs up to a dating site – albeit innocent enough – her life becomes more than a little complicated. In the meantime her stolen identity (Amanda Wil [l]son) and flirty prose has a rather unstable minded entity champing at the bit and seeking her out. Subsequently, as cross-wired communications travel the Super Highway the global village shrinks, and friends and family and blog followers become embroiled in Amanda’s life in more ways than one. The saying, “Oh what a tangled web weave, when first we practice to deceive” [Sir Walter Scott (Marmion) 1808]”, is the key to the page-turning aspect of Surfing in Stilettos. Believe it: giggles galore. Enjoy!
Thanks so much to Carol for coming along on her busiest day ever.
Surfing in Stilettos is available on Amazon right now (Kindle and paperback)
Here are a clutch of links if you want to chase Carol up at any time.
Thornberry Publishing: http://www.thornberrypublishing.com/page10.htm