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An Interview With Indie Writer PJ Blakey-Novis

1st August 2018
(Blog Posting)

Hi Indisciples,

This week, for your enlightenment and delectation, we have an interview with independently-published writer PJ Blakey-Novis.  Peter has self-published two novels and two collection of short stories all of which are available via the PJ Blakey-Novis writer area on Indipenned. Peter also publishes the digital magazine Indie Writers Review.

Hi Peter, can you give us a brief synopsis of your Broken Doll novels?

P.J. Blakey-Novis, Indie WriterThe Broken Doll novels are set in a small town in southern England; fictitious but with some similarities to my home-town. They tell the story of Sebastian Briggs, a family man whose life is thrown into turmoil when he meets Ella, a somewhat unstable woman in need of help. The first book has been compared to Fatal Attraction, but a lot steamier. The second book picks up where the first left off, and is more of a crime thriller, as the events in book one set off a chain of events with far-reaching consequences.

How long did it take to write your novels and what would you consider to be a good day’s work when it comes to word count?

The first book took me a year to write and publish. I was writing little bits in my spare time, with little thought as to what I would do with it when it was finished. When I finally got it out there, and received such fantastic reviews, it motivated me to write book two. The second book took me six months, and I put this down to already having developed the characters so it was certainly easier.
I don’t write every day, although I know that I should, and when writing the Broken Doll books, I was getting around 10k words down a week. Now, I write a short story of about 5k words every other week on average, as well as 2-3k a week on my next novel. On a writing day, I’m happy with at least 2000 words.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Definitely a pantser for these books. The first one I made up as I went along, with only a vague idea in my head as to where the story was leading. For the second, I made a few notes as to who would do what, but it was barely plotted when I began writing it. The ending was a surprise to me, as it just came together as I wrote it.

How do you develop the characters that feature in your writing?  Do you ever base characters on people you know?

Everyone I know that has read the books insists that Sebastian is based on myself, which may be true to some extent. I tried to put the character into different situations and decide how I would act in each instance. There are also similarities between Sebastian’s wife, Natasha, and my own. Everyone else in the book is product of my imagination; it’s just some of the locations that are based in reality.

You write both novels and short stories.  Does your approach differ depending on the format you are working in?

For short stories, I set myself a day to write a first draft, and come back to it a week later to read through and edit it. All of my short stories are horror stories, and it does depend on when an idea comes to me so I don’t give myself any deadlines for these. For my next novel, I have tried to outline in as much detail as I can, and am taking a much slower approach, writing two or three chapters a month.
Can describe the process you go through from having the original idea for a book, through to writing and publication?

The first book was a whole new thing to me, and I had not even intended to do anything with the story when it was complete. If I’d done my research then I would have known to begin marketing it before it was launched. I get a lot of story ideas, and the first question is whether or not they are enough for a novel, or more suited to a short story. I set myself quite strict deadlines, and with my next novel I have dates to have each chapter written by. When I have a first draft, I edit on paper, before letting my wife read it. I then edit again based on any of her suggestions. Finally, it goes through editing software and one last read-through. Thankfully, I now have the hang of formatting the files and creating the paperback versions.

The paperback versions of your books are published using Amazon’s CreateSpace Print on Demand (PoD) Service.  How have you found this?

CreateSpace has been really good. The quality is great, and it is easy to use once you have the document formatted in the right way. And it’s wonderful not having to lay out large sums of money for printing in advance of any sales.

How does PoD work when comes to book festivals, book signings and the like?  If your books are print on demand then surely you don’t have a stock to lay across your book signing table?

CreateSpace allows you to order copies at a good price, the only downside is the shipping costs from the US. It is frustrating that they cannot send them from the UK, as they print the books here for Amazon customers. I have found that it’s virtually the same price for me to reduce the cost to the minimum on Amazon, and then buy in a quantity as a customer would. I have Prime so they are delivered the next day for free. Ordering from CreateSpace can take around six weeks, so it depends how many I want and how organised I am!

How do you go about promoting your books?

The vast majority of the promotions are on social media, with regular updates to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I also have a fortnightly blog, which is posted to several blogging sites as well as going out to my email list. I have experimented with some paid advertising, but haven’t seen much benefit to it. I take some time each week to promote other writer’s work, including listing some on my website from when I ran a Halloween promotion, and this in turn gets me more exposure. I attended my first book fair in November, which was a great experience, and I have more booked for 2018 as well as organising my own, alongside another local author, in Brighton in May.

Please tell us to stuff off if you’d rather not go public just yet, but can you tell us what writing projects you are working on at the moment?

I have recently released my second collection of short horror stories, entitled Tunnels and Other Short Stories, which has had some amazing reviews. In the new year I plan to begin compiling stories for a third collection. As I mentioned, I have begun work on a third novel. This is something different to the Broken Doll books, and deals with mental health, PTSD and abuse. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I have a children’s book due out by the end of 2017 which has recently been illustrated, featuring my daughter and a time-travelling monkey.

What advice would you give authors just setting out on their writing careers?

It’s a long process, so don’t expect too much, too soon. Do your research on marketing the book, there are some fantastic guide books for this. Talk to other writers, write as often as you can, but read whenever you are not writing. If it’s financially viable, get your work edited by a professional, but if not then make sure it’s as good as you can get it before it goes live. Learn from negative reviews, but don’t take them to heart; everyone gets them. Support other writers, be enthusiastic about your work, and enjoy it!

What do you feel are the greatest challenges faced by independent writers?

Marketing, without a doubt. Amazon has a new book added every five minutes, so it’s a mammoth task just to be seen. I spend more time marketing the books than I spend writing at the moment, but fortunately I have previous sales experience, so I knew the basics, at least. There are plenty of ways to advertise for free, and it’s essential to be on as many platforms as possible.

What is your favourite aspect of self-publication?

Having such control over the final product, from the cover design to the pricing. I can run a price promotion any time I feel like it, make changes easily, as well as earning a higher percentage of the royalties.

In three words describe what it’s like to be an independently-published writer.

Liberating. Exhausting. Exciting.

Click here to visit the PJ Blakey-Novis writer area on Indipenned.

Or, before 31st August 2018 to win a signed copy of Peter's book The Broken Doll.



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