Author Interview: Carolyn Gilpin

As I mentioned last week, once a month I will be interviewing other indie authors to discuss their journey and pass on their knowledge of self publishing; the good, the bad and the ugly. This month I would like to introduce you to Carolyn Gilpin.  Carolyn and I met after chatting on Twitter and discovering we lived in neighbouring suburbs; it’s a small, small world people, and we have struck up a friendship since. I loved Carolyn’s debut novel FACING UP and highly recommend you add it to your TBR pile. Without further ado, here is Carolyn.

CGilpin1Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a bleeding heart, soy-mocha-sipping, left-leaning vegetarian greenie with one husband, no kids but two cats, two dogs and four chickens. I work full time as a receptionist for an attendant care company that looks after people with brain and spinal injuries, but writing is my passion, hobby and hopefully one day my full-time job!

 

What is your writing style, what do you like to write?

Contemporary YA with drama and humour, set in Australia. Facing Up, my first YA novel, is about Carly, a rather angry teenager who one year on hasn’t recovered from the car accident that scarred her face, put her best friend Suzie in a wheelchair, killed Suzie’s boyfriend, put the driver (Carly’s crush) in jail, and killed the woman they ran into. Sounds like all drama and no humour, but Carly and Suzie have a pretty funny relationship, and Carly has a habit of finding herself in awkward situations.

Why did you self publish?

I worked on Facing Up on & off for over 12 years, with many rejections. Then finally I got my act together and got my m/s to a point where I was really happy with it and made lots of changes, but I couldn’t face going back to waiting for the rejections, and people kept pointing out how self-publishing was becoming easier and more successful. PLUS (a big plus!) a friend does formatting and cover design for a living, and offered to do mine for free. So I just decided to give it a go and see what happened.Facing Up_Cover.indd

What are the best and worst parts of self publishing?

The best: Freedom to do what you want, being able to achieve it more quickly than the slow turn of traditional publishing, not being one of a stable of authors fighting for attention, and having nothing to lose!

The worst: Having to publicize yourself, of course – most of us writers can be very internalised and self-doubting. I am not good at promoting myself at all! And the self-doubt is awful – that’s where writing buddies and beta-readers come in, also paying a good editor. Also, people often look down on indie authors – the usual thing is ‘wasn’t it good enough to be published traditionally?’ Well, to be really honest, I don’t know, because I changed the manuscript a lot in the years following my last rejection.

What are you currently working on?

My second YA novel, Inside Out, is about Allie, the clumsy, shy daughter of sports legends who walks out of PE, sick of being bullied. She is forced to take up drama instead, and finds herself exposed on stage.

What advice have you got for people who may be thinking of self publishing?

Make sure your manuscript is as ready as possible, to the point where you can argue every aspect of it if needed. Then pay a good editor, have lots of people (trusted friends but also strangers who read a lot in your genre) read it, don’t be afraid of their criticisms or feedback. Try to get other shorter things published, such as short stories or non-fiction pieces, and enter competitions & mentorship programs and attend writing courses (see your state or city writing centre). Try to build a website, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook following before you publish; get to know your genre ‘scene’ on social media and in real life (going to festivals, launches, events).

Book or eBook?

Paperback! I still love the feel and look of a book, plus the smell of the paper. But I have to admit that eBooks are handy and (usually) cheaper and easier to access in a hurry.

If you held a dinner party, which literary characters would you invite and why?

This is always a funny question for me, as I can never imagine all these people together, but here’s a few I’d like to talk to:

-Norah from The Billabong books. Funny, animal-loving, feisty but fair, and a practical horse-riding Aussie country girl from early last century.

-Hermione from Harry Potter. Independent, loyal, so smart, but a whiz with magic as well.

-Will from Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series – a teenager caught up in ancient magic long before Harry came on the scene. He’s a nice kid, family-orientated, but carrying a wise brain and old self alongside his boyishness.

-Hilary Mantel’s version of Thomas Cromwell – such a thinker, rather charming when he wanted to be, plus he adored his family AND loved cats, while manipulating England’s politics of the 16th century.

FAST FIVE:

1) What was the last book you read? The Things I Didn’t Tell You, by Kylie Fornasier.

2) Who is your favourite author? I HATE this question, it’s so hard to have a favourite! Tim Winton (adult), Vikki Wakefield (YA) – both so Aussie & so unique.

3) What can’t you leave home without? Handbag, damn it (it’s so heavy!)

4) What was the last song you heard? Creep, by Radiohead, it’s on repeat in my head right now because I’m writing an essay about it.

5) What is your favourite word? (Can be in English or another language) Chocolate (it sounds great in French and Spanish too!)

Writing…with a baby

IMG_1892A lot of people have asked me how the hell I wrote Tumble with a 3 month old baby. The answer is simple: I didn’t.

By the time my son was born (five days late so I had 7 weeks on maternity leave) I had already written the book and it had gone through about 10 drafts. I kid you not.  Once the newborn craziness had stabilised somewhat I felt sane enough to contact an editor to take this seriously. I had been thinking about self publishing for some time and knew I wanted my book to be at it’s very best, so I had begun researching who I wanted to edit my MS. I emailed Elise with a brief of my novel and what I wanted done and lucky for me she took me on. We discussed a rough timeline  (I send the MS, then she has it for a week, then I have it for two weeks, then back to Elise etc) and just as I was about to agree I ended up back in hospital for a week. My baby was 6 weeks old and I got appendicitis and another week in hospital.

After emailing Elise to explain I was back in hospital and on pain killers and I thought it best we hold off on the editing until I was off the drugs, I gave myself a further two weeks to recover before I sent it off to her. This was December 2015 and I knew I wanted my book to be released in February or March 2016 at the latest.

In between this I was working with a designer (more on this later) to work on my cover. All this in between feeding and playing with my baby and in between morning and afternoon naps (for bubs and me). I would like to state to the jury that there is no way I could have written the book with a newborn. Yes we were blessed with a baby who started sleeping through from 8 weeks ( I don’t say that flippantly we know how god damn lucky we are) but even though I was getting sleep in a block, it appeared my baby brain did not leave my body when my son did.

The simplest of tasks like writing a text message tired me, I could only read one page of my book and not understand a word, and I had no idea what was going on outside my door let alone being able to write a novel but over time that has changed. I have always been someone who has been most productive while they’re at their busiest  – I don’t recommend having a baby to test that theory – and I had the time as I was on maternity leave so I thought what the hell?

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This was taken a couple of weeks before I gave birth. My brain and my back had flown the coop by this point

 

 

 

After my son was born I realised how much time I had wasted before he came along. I’m a pretty efficient procrastinator but having a child changes that. Gone are the days of hours passing with me doing nothing but writing or researching. Now, I’m lucky if I get one hour uninterrupted. I have become a morning person because I have been forced to be one. I get up at 5am to get in 1.5 hours of writing time before my son wakes at around 6.30. This 1.5 hours is purely for novel time, no social media, no emails just solid writing. And guess what? My novel is coming along faster then when I wrote without a baby.

Now, I’m not advocating that you go out and get pregnant and poof! Novel! When I wrote Tumble I worked on it whenever I felt like it. Before work, after work, sometimes on my lunch break, and whole Saturday afternoons because I’m a cricket widow and  I lose my husband to a game that takes two weekends to complete. But there would also be large chunks of time that would pass where I wouldn’t work on it at all. I had the luxury of no real deadline until two lines on a stick gave me a deadline.

But now the window of opportunity is so small, I can’t be the A+ procrastinator I once was. I love that most of my day is taken up by my son but because I have limited time to write I have to MAKE the time and take it when it’s offered to me, however big or small that gap may be. As an example, this post has been written over a couple of days, squished in between naps, washing, dishes and eating.

My theory is I never know what my day is going to bring so if I start my day writing and if the rest of the day turns to shit and the most accomplished thing I’ve done is feed my son and my dog, so be it, because I snuck that writing session in. I miss long writing sessions when you get on a roll, but I jot down my idea, leave my writing in a spot where I can easily pick it up next time and get on with my day. So how the hell do you write a book with a baby? Simple: you sacrifice sleep. Or TV watching time. There are 24 hours in a day and I intend to make the most of them.

Over the next weeks I’ll talk about my self publishing journey as well as introducing you to some other pretty awesome indie authors.

 

TUMBLE launch party

In case you missed it, I wrote a book. It was the hardest thing I’ve had to do to date (that includes child birth, but I had drugs for that) so I thought I needed to celebrate. So back in March I threw a little party with my friends and family to say thank you for still being my friends even though I’m a crazy writer lady.

Kindle surprise
Kindle Surprise -aforementioned crazy-writer-lady

 

When one writes a book, a lot of tea and alcohol are consumed both during the process and to celebrate. In my case this was definitely the case (although we still have a bottle of Moet to consume when neither one of us have to look after our little man for a night, small children and a hangover are not a good combination) and during the editing process if you had rung me out, tea would have dripped from every pore.

Writing a book can be described as a selfish endeavour but I’m very blessed to be surrounded by people who not only love and support me but understand when I couldn’t always come out to play. So everyone was more then happy to consume a shit load of sugar and bubbles and spend an afternoon underneath purple and yellow balloons and make a toast to the newest member of our family, Tumble.Mum and baby doing well.

little books 2
Tiny books made by my uber talented chef friend, Kate Mulvany