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The Diversity and Inclucion Partnership - The Local Voices Project
We have two events next week we would like to invite those in the London area to. The first is a Focus Group we are holding this coming Thursday, 9th November. The focus group is part of our work with Literary Agents and Publishers where we want to speak to aspiring writers who are not usually consulted in the publishing process and feedback to the publishing industry where the barriers and gaps are for authors to get their work published. We’ll be really keen for those who feel left out of the process or are not sure what they need to do to get published. We will be in The Gallery Room at Islington Central Library on the 1st floor at 6pm. For details, please look at our Eventbite link .
And then on Saturday 11th November we would love to invite you to a very special event we are doing at Newington Green Meeting House. The Local Voices Project: An Anthology by Hackney, Haringey & Our Neighbours is released on the 11th of November by Indie Novella.
It features 34 local writers from across the boroughs and guests from further afield. The anthology is part of a project we have been working on across 2023, promoting incredible writing at a grassroots level bringing together experienced published writers and up-and-coming writers. The result has been an incredibly pleasant, remarkable surprise.
When I explained what the project was to one bookshop owner, their response, though supportive, was "you're not going to be able to use half of the entries, they'll be all over the place..." We actually found a place for ALL the entries, each on their own merit, and because as a collection they created an incredible story about Home, Identity, and Belonging. I was genuinely moved when reading them. There were stories about forming diaspora communities, growing up in a multi-cultural society, coming together during COVID, caring for relatives, rent hikes, gentrification, being Black and British, and finding a place where you feel accepted. And though the authors had not met each other or shared any form of brief, each story shared this common theme of finding a place we can call home and feel that we truly belong. It is a true snapshot of Hackney, Haringey and what North London, with all its incredible communities, means to us.
We are running the launch event at 1pm on Saturday 11th November at the Newington Green Meeting House, with tea, coffee, nibbles and wine, and you are also very much invited to attend. Here’s the link to our Eventbrite page .
If you'd like a copy of the book, Pages of Hackney and The Broadway Bookshop are the first two shops to order it in stock (we only sent out order links on Thursday). You can also check in out on t he Indie Novella website: The Local Voice Project
Launch of the Local Voices Project Anthology
Way back in April we were extemely fortunate to host authors Abiola Bello, Rebecca Ley, Eithne Nightingale and John McMenemie and hear them speak about the importance of promoting writing at the grassroots level while launching a call for submissions for our own unique anthology — The Local Voices Project. We are delighted to now announce the launch of what has developed into quite the incredible story: The Local Voices Anthology brings together writers from Hackney, Haringey and further afield, thinking about home. This is a heartfelt collection of stories, essays, and poetry from thirty-four incredible writers talking about the subjects closest to them — stories of identity, acceptance and a place we can call home, from modern day Hackney and Haringey. And we are even more excited to announce that we will be hosting an official launch event on Saturday 11th November at Newington Green Meeting House (39A Newington Green, London) and we would love you to join us. The event will feature a series of readings, showcasing the work of some of most exciting establishing and up and coming writers in the boroughs, as well as a discussion with Indie Novella founder, Damien Mosley and special guests on the creation of the anthology and the importance of continuing this work to promote and unearth new writers at the local level. You can also pre-order your copy here . We’re also delighted to be continuing our work meeting and working with new writers. Thursday 26th October sees our Hackney Writing and Peer-Editors Circle move to The Mildmay Club and we will be welcoming new and established faces at 6.30pm. We are also continuing our season of workshops, almost every Saturday at various locations: An Introduction to Novel Writing Workshop: Islington Central Library - Holloway Road — Saturday, 21st October 2023: 10:45 - 16:00 Creating Compelling Characters: Workshop: Islington Central Library - Holloway Road — Saturday, 28th October 2023: 10:45 - 16:00 11th November Launch of The Local Voices Project Anthology, with guest speakers — 1pm Newington Green Meeting House Novel Writing and Demystifying the Publishing Process Workshop: Islington Central Library - Holloway Road — Saturday, 18th November 2023: 10:45 - 16:00 Creating Compelling Characters Workshop: Sheffield Central Library — Saturday, 25th November 2023: 10:30 - 16:00 An Introduction to Novel Writing Workshop: Islington Central Library - Holloway Road — Saturday, 9th December 2023: 10:45 - 16:00
Inclusive Cultures Workshop with literary agencies and publishers
Yesterday Indie Novella was delighted to host a very special workshop on Embedding Inclusive Cultures in Publishing, run by Inclusion and Diversity Specialists, HSM Advisory, which was attended by a wonderful array of literary agencies and publishers, as part of the Diversity in Publishing Partnership initiative. The Zoom-held workshop featured thirty participants from the UK publishing industry all coming together to work collaboratively and leverage their experience and expertise to understand how we as induvial publishers and agencies – and we as an industry – can foster a more inclusive environment that will aid nurture publishing talent from underrepresented backgrounds. As HSM initially reiterated, Inclusion and Diversity has long been on the agendas of organisations within publishing and this manifests in different ways, from diversity metrices to unconscious bias training. However, it is not always clear what actions we are expected to take, or the end-state we are working towards. This is often because Diversity and Inclusion are different things. Diversity is about how we differ from one another, whereas Inclusion is how we navigate those differences to create a thriving, high-performing culture, together. The workshop therefore set to open up conversation between different agencies and publisher so we could hear and learn from each other, in order to understand how to equip the publishing industry professionals to action and embed real change. HSM set out 5 pillars for embedding an inclusive culture in publishing: 1) Overcome Unconscious Bias; 2) Help people bring their whole selves to work; 3) Learn from diversity of thought; 4) Encourage flexibility; 5) Embrace co-creation. When looking at overcoming Unconscious Bias, HSM was quick to flag how latest research demonstrates that standard one-off Unconscious Bias trainings have not been hitting the mark or been demonstrating effectiveness regarding reducing individual biases. In fact, to some such trainings have generated defensiveness. Rather to overcome unconscious bias, it needs to be an empathetic process which provides practical tools to sense check decision and alter the environments in which decisions are made as our biases are not as prevalent. Diversity of Thought honed in on our willingness and readiness to include different voices in discussions at all levels of our organisations and what spaces we create to share idea. This topic generated a really encouraging debate in breakout groups where each agency and publisher gave examples of how such spaces are opening up and sharing their own experiences of initiating opportunities where ideas have been encouraged across all levels of the organisation. Across the different Pillars, we saw discussion and collaboration and the workshop in itself was a place where participants could ‘bring their whole selves’, facilitated ‘diversity of thought’, and most importantly, became a space were we as an industry can champion the concept of co-creation and be open to discussing how think about inclusion and what it means for both those entering publishing and the authors we represent. The Diversity in Publishing Partnership would like to that HSM Advisory and all those who took part in the workshop. We look forward to putting on more through our wonderful partnership with the Arts Council England, and hope this can be the start of a collaborative journey.
Volunteer Editors Programme
Remote Editors Programme looking for Aspiring Editors from Black, Asian and Global Majority Backgrounds who want to get into publishing Indie Novella is extending the closing date for entries for our Volunteer Editors Programme specifically to encourage entries from aspiring editors from underrepresented backgrounds. Our programme has currently attracted wonderful applicants from outside London and the LGTBQ+ community, however Indie Novella wants to encourage editors of Black, Asian and Global Majority backgrounds who are best placed to work on fiction from diverse authors and have lived experiences they can share with their fellow editors so collectively we can champion authentic voices in literature. We would love to encourage interested applicants to send a short cover letter and brief CV to email@example.com . The details of the programme are below: Indie Novella is a small press whose books and publishing ethos champion diversity in publishing and writing at grassroots levels. As such we are looking for individuals looking to embark on a career in publishing to be part of our Volunteer Editors Programme. The programme is part of the Diversity in Publishing Partnership and offers individuals who are unable to access publishing opportunities the chance to receive monthly training from industry experts on how to develop their editorial skills and take manuscripts through the editorial and publishing process. Participants will gain the practical experience of working on live manuscripts and reviewing submissions. The Programme will run from July 2023 to June 2024, and has the flexibility to be managed outside a candidate’s full time job. The Programme is targeted at those who have obtained a degree in English Literature, Creative Writing or Publishing and are unable to find opportunities in publishing. The year long programme, with monthly training sessions outside standard office hours, is to provide practical experience of working with a publisher that will fit around another day job. Training will be via Zoom and take place once a month on Tuesday evenings after 6pm. Sessions will be with experienced editors and industry professionals who will share their insights and experience from publishing. Additionally, you will be invited to join Indie Novella’s monthly publishing meeting, share your thoughts on our latest submissions and take on manuscripts to put into practice learning from the Programme. Time Commitment: Two evenings per month but with flexibility if not all sessions can be made. Participants should also be prepared to dedicate time outside sessions for reading submissions and manuscripts. By the end of the programme we hope participants will have a solid grasp of best practice in the editorial and publishing process and will be able to take forward that knowledge into a publishing career. To apply please send us your CV and short cover letter telling us a bit more about yourself and why you are interested in the Programme to firstname.lastname@example.org by 24th July 2023.
Part-Time Publicity Consultant
Bookseller and Influencer Engagement - One Day per Week Indie Novella is a small press whose books and publishing ethos champion diversity in publishing and writing at grassroots levels. This is a unique opportunity to join a small publishing company as part of a unique Arts Council project seeking to promote diversity in publishing. The role is one day a week for an initial contract of 4 months, ideal for someone with bookselling experience looking to transition into publishing or someone with publishing experience looking to work on an exciting new project. We are looking for someone to help us build our connections and engagements with bookshops in London and over the UK. At Indie Novella we are huge admirers of independent publishers such as And Other Stories who build connections with booksellers and have booksellers as key influencers recommending and championing their novels. Indie Novella is also a founding member of the Diversity in Publishing Partnership which brings together actors in publishing to champion diverse writers and the role will play a key part in engaging bookshops and other small publishers. The Bookseller Consultant will work closely with the Executive Director, our editors and our influential authors and be able to travel to our workspace in Newington Green, London at times, and to bookshops across London - though the majority of your time can be working from home. This role is a fixed contract, which means you will receive £200 for 9 hours a week plus travel expenses, and you will be responsible for completing the full term of the contract. Responsibilities will include: Building a network of booksellers and influencers who Indie Novella can engage through our books and publishing philosophy Engaging bookshops over email, over the phone and in-person Sharing and promoting publicity materials with booksellers and being confident to explain our projects such as the Diversity in Publishing Partnership Having face to face meetings with booksellers to understand their needs from publishers Assisting with marketing mailings to booksellers, influencers and bloggers Researching influencers for marketing campaigns This is a one-day a week contract and pays £200 a day as per the Artist Union day rate for project work. The contract will take place for 4 months from August to November. To apply please send us your CV and short cover letter telling us a bit more about yourself and why you are interested in publicity and assisting Indie Novella engage with bookshops to email@example.com by 5th July 2023. Interviews and initial inductions will be in person at our workspace in Stoke Newington with flexible working encouraged outside these occasions and bookshop visits.
Bruno Noble - The Colletta Cassettes
1) You’ve written a great novel, could you briefly explain to a potential reader what it is about? It’s about a 16-year old boy, Sebastian, who falls in love on holiday in Italy, and about a retired CIA agent who recants his participation in Operation Gladio post-WW2. That’s when the CIA-backed Right-wing government in Italy committed acts of domestic terrorism and blamed the Left in order to frighten voters away from communism. 2) Where did the idea for your book came from? I’d long wanted to write a love story with humour at its heart but when Americans protested about Russian interference in their 2016 presidential election, I thought, Oh yeah! And you’ve never interfered in another country’s domestic politics? And I knew immediately how to combine Sebastian’s and the American’s stories that are both about a loss of innocence, one sexual and the other political. 3) Can you tell us about your experience writing your novel? I was helped by lockdown. Longhand writing in the morning followed by a walk and then typing in the afternoon. But it’s not the sitting down that’s the discipline, it’s the editing, the scaling back of adverbs and the cutting down of long sentences, the elimination of the friends you’ve included who add nothing to the story – the killing of one’s darlings, in other words. 4) What made you start writing or want to write a novel? Reading Lawrence Durrell, JD Salinger and William Faulkner in my 20s. But I was broke! I had to find work and then provide for a young family which left me little time for writing… And then I began to enjoy my work and exorcised (exercised?) my writing demon by writing financial market reports until such time I’d had enough and wanted to write for myself. I began my first novel in 2013 and got it published in 2018. One writes in order to discover what one has to say; anything else is propaganda. 5) What is the biggest challenge you've faced as a writer? The first is saying No. To my wife when she asks me to visit a gallery with her, to my children when they asked me to take them to the park, to friends who ask me to the pub. The second is finding an agent or, specifically, writing something good enough to land an agent. 6) What do you think of the publishing industry and its processes? How easy is it to get a novel published? It’s phenomenally difficult. No-one owes a writer publication. A publisher can choose to publish a writer out of love or out of the need for financial gain (and it’s not for me to tell them which), but I am all too aware of some awful books that get published and of some brilliant ones that don’t. More often than not, though, I think the industry gets it right. 7) Why have you chosen Indie Novella? I’ve always championed the underdog. In my last place of employment I had a choice between choosing the market leader or an unheard-of start-up with vision, drive and integrity. I chose the latter and never regretted it. To play a tiny role in the success of a trailblazing upstart publisher would be a privilege and something I’d be very proud of. 8) What do you think of diversity and inclusion when it comes to novel writing and publishing? Is there more we can do to encourage new writers from different backgrounds? In the 1970s, orchestras began using ‘blind’ auditions, whereby musicians would audition behind screens in order to get more women into their ranks – and this worked. Today, enlightened businesses receive ‘nameless’ CVs from recruitment agencies that ensure all indication of gender, race and faith are absent in order to achieve diversity in the workplace – and the indications are that this is working. Perhaps the publishing industry could organize ‘blind’ short story- and novel-writing competitions? I’d love to have the evidence to be able to say definitively that literary agents discriminate against older writers but I can’t! 9) What advice would you give new writers? It’s never too late to start. There are no short cuts. The real work starts once the first draft finished.
Karen Edwards - Author of Somebody Knows Something
Karen, thank you so much for joining us. We really enjoyed reading Somebody Knows Something and were thoroughly gripped. How was the writing process from your perspective? Once I started writing Somebody Knows Something , I couldn’t stop. The story wrote itself over three crazy days. It ultimately became part of a larger work which I’ve trunked — with good reason — but I always suspected Somebody Knows Something had merit. I’m so glad it’s finally seeing the light of day. What made you start writing or want to write a novel? I wrote my first novel at the age of nineteen, a romance novel with pirates and heaving bosoms and. . . eek. Then, life got in the way. I headed to college, earned a BFA, worked as a graphic artist, went back to school for my teaching certificate, pursued a Master in Education whilst teaching little kids (until I couldn’t) and the rest, as they say. . . But yes, I’ve always loved writing. In fact, in high school, my three possible career choices were veterinarian, writer, or artist. Two out of three ain’t bad. You’ve written a great novella here. We love it. Could you briefly explain to potential readers what Somebody Knows Something is about? First of all, thank you very kindly. In Somebody Knows Something , a little girl named Olive heads outside to play one day and is never seen again. Twenty years later, two strangers, Ginger and Daniel, are drawn to Olive’s tragic story. There’s a reason Ginger feels compelled to write Olive’s story, which she hopes will spur someone to finally come forward with information as to Olive’s whereabouts or fate. Daniel, who was there that day, now has a beloved daughter Olive’s age. Guilt is killing him, but admitting what he did is more than he can bear. Ginger seeks the truth, and truth may be Daniels’s salvation, but only if he tells somebody. Where did the idea for your book came from? It’s kind of like art imitating life. I was a teacher of little kids and loved it, but an unfortunate accident cut my teaching career short. I’ve always loved writing and when my husband suggested I take it up again, I thought, Why not? I started writing the story of a woman who has to quit teaching and decides to take up writing, but she quickly develops writer’s block. Then, she stumbles upon a newspaper article about a little girl gone missing, and that gives her the idea to write about a little girl who disappears, and about two people, twenty years later, who find themselves on parallel, but opposite, quests: one, to uncover the truth; the other, to keep it buried. What is the biggest challenge you've faced as a writer? Aside from crushing self-doubt? 😊 Finishing a story has been my biggest challenge. It’s like pulling teeth sometimes. I usually don’t plan out my stories in advance; instead, I get an idea and just start writing. I wish it were otherwise—I suspect it would be so much easier to have an outline to guide me—but I just don’t work that way. What do you think of the publishing industry and its processes? For new writers, the querying process can be demanding, daunting, exhausting. There are so many people out there who’ve written manuscripts, most of which will end up in the slush pile. Not only do you need to write a great novel, but then you need to write a great query letter, find the perfect agent, hope that agent can entice a fantastic publisher, hope that publisher finds the right audience. . . it’s not easy for most of us, and lucrative for few. You have to be willing to keep trying and meanwhile, keep writing, whilst facing what may be a shitload of rejections. Why have you chosen Indie Novella? I started searching for an independent publisher who might be interested in novellas and happened upon Indie Novella. While Indie is relatively new on the scene, I was really impressed by your social enterprise model. Plus, Indie seemed open to publishing the kind of stuff I write, which tends toward dark and edgy; kind of ‘out there’ in content and format. I figured, if you guys are willing to take a chance with me, I’m certainly willing to take a chance with you. I’m very excited, very grateful, very humbled to be an author with Indie Novella. What do you think of diversity and inclusion when it comes to novel writing and publishing? Is there more we can do to encourage new writers from different backgrounds? We are all human beings with shared experiences, and our commonality is the thread through which we reach and relate to others. But each author also brings their own experiences to their writing; unique perspectives that drive and inform their stories—it’s what makes each work unique and hopefully, entertaining and thought-provoking. We share ourselves through our writing in hopes of connecting with others in some meaningful way. Our diversity not only sets us apart, but brings us together, encouraging and celebrating our similarities and differences, too. What advice would you give new writers? First, have faith in your work. Ultimately, your name is on the cover so be true to yourself. Write what you want to write and think about finding an audience for it later. Second, prepare to grow a thick skin quickly if you’re going to open your stuff to critique or go the querying route. If you’re lucky enough to have smart, savvy people reading your manuscript, you want them to be truthful and point out areas that may be problematic. And querying generally results in a lot of rejections which hurt , especially at the beginning. Third, be willing to listen and then, to edit your stuff. It’s hard to look at your work with a critical eye, especially when you’ve been so immersed in it, so close to it. And if you fall in love with your book, oy . So be willing to step away from it, view it with an open mind, be willing to hack and slash if that’s what it takes. Embrace the editing process because ultimately, your novel will be better for it. Finally, don’t write in a vacuum. Find writing buddies. Seek out writer websites ( Absolute Write was a god-send for me). Join writing groups. You can’t beat having the feedback of others to share and help you through the rough patches, keep you going when the words don’t come and the rejections do, and you’ll be helping your fellow writers in the process. Writing novels is unlike any other endeavor: you do it alone, hoping against hope that it will one day be shared and appreciated by many. It’s crazy and wonderful and everything in between. You don’t have to be alone on that journey.
John McMenemie - Full Wire
John, you’ve written a great novel, could you briefly explain to a potential reader what Full Wire is? Full Wire is a sci-fi thriller. It’s a story of unrequited love in an age of transhumanism, set against the backdrop of a crime which takes place in London, in the year 2186. Its key themes are the effects of technology upon society, and our perception of things like love, trust, and reality itself. Where did the idea for Full Wire came from? I was planning a kind of music review blog, set in the far future where people routinely have all kinds of bodily augmentation. There was no plot, the idea being that the vision of the future would be drip fed during the picaresque adventures of these transhumans. When our daughter was born, my partner suffered heart failure, and the blog was scrapped entirely – all 20,000 words of it. I began to think about organ cloning and how amazing it would be if a new heart could simply be grown for her. I found myself wondering whether any of it was actually happening, and we were all just in a terrible dream. At nights, with our baby daughter sleeping on my shoulder, I picked up my phone and tapped out what would become the first draft of a novel, and it developed rapidly from there. Can you tell us about your experience writing your novel? I already had many of the characters from the music blog, and it sounds like a cliche but they began to develop themselves. However, it was when the character Maclise showed up that the plot really got going. He’s so enigmatic and mysterious, and I spent a lot of time with him. I imagined myself interviewing him! I planned the whole thing from start to finish, before sitting down to turn what I’d done during those nights with my sleeping baby into something coherent. I actually wrote the whole synopsis and took that to my writers group before I’d written most of the novel. I think I write best when I know where I’m going. As my partner will testify on our travel experiences, I don’t like not knowing where I am. What made you start writing or want to write a novel? I started in my early teens playing in bands, writing songs and lyrics, which turned into poetry and little stories. I’d write at night in big A4 scrapbooks, all these sketches and vignettes, peppered with crazy pictures I’d cut from magazines. I even wrote down my dreams. At college, the students were given some short story exercises which I absolutely loved doing. One of these developed into an idea for a novel which I eventually wrote a considerable amount of, but honestly it was so dreadful I didn’t write much at all after that. Still, my writer’s brain was steadily tapping away, making notes, writing down ideas etc. Eventually, the urge to get some of these ideas down became too strong to ignore, and I started writing again. I found myself writing short stories which ended up being published and longlisted in competitions. I thought to myself “I can really do this!” and that gave me the impetus to finish Full Wire. What is the biggest challenge you've faced as a writer? Self motivation. Because I feel more comfortable writing at night, finding the time to write hasn’t ever been an issue. For me, the hardest part has always been just sitting down and getting it done. What do you think of the publishing industry and its processes? Reading takes time, therefore publishing takes time. The big agencies receive something like 30,000 submissions a year. It can’t be easy having to sift through all of that, but as writers we have to submit if we want to get anywhere. In October I received a rejection from a piece I’d submitted in January. It’s just what it is. What I’ve learned about publishing so far is to never give up. Opinions are highly subjective from one agency or publisher to the other, but eventually, if you keep going, and with a little luck, you’ll find a home for your work. Why have you chosen Indie Novella? From the moment I was contacted by Indie Novella, it’s been a pleasure. They’ve shown real enthusiasm for myself and my novel. Also, because of their collaborative nature, I’ve learned a great deal about how to prepare a manuscript and produce a book. What advice would you give new writers? Read. I can’t emphasise this enough. If you want to be a writer, then you have to read a lot, and not just within the bounds of whatever genre you are writing. Read widely and write a lot. There’s no other way to hone your skills as a writer. When you’ve got something you’re happy with, submit it. Don’t be afraid of rejection, because that’s just part of the process, and don’t be afraid of others critiquing your work. When you receive some positive feedback, or have a piece published, it’s a fantastic feeling. The single best thing I ever did for my writing was to join a writers group. Without them, I would never have had the confidence to write and submit short stories, and I would never have completed Full Wire. Their feedback and encouragement has been incredible. I say this as I’m preparing to present the synopsis of my second novel to them – which is currently running at twice the length of Full Wire – so we’ll find out shortly how far that enthusiasm actually goes!
Sarah Airriess - Author of The Worst Journey in the World
Buy The Worst Journey in the World here Buy The Worst Journey in the World here Sarah, people have been talking by Worst Journey even before you announced your publishing deal. Can you tell us what it is about? The Worst Journey in the World was written by one of the youngest members of Scott’s infamous expedition to the South Pole, and is a compelling personal account of a story that has entered the national mythology. Apsley Cherry-Garrard has all the idealism and excitement of a young man on the adventure of a lifetime, making friends and playing a minor role in a great enterprise. As things start to go wrong, he finds himself drawn to the centre of events, and burdened with responsibility far beyond his abilities. A painful loss of innocence is the axis on which the story turns, but it’s ultimately about the power of friendship, the value of curiosity, and the extremes to which people go for the sake of an idea. I am translating Cherry’s tome into cinematic visuals, keeping as true as possible to the facts while bringing out the emotional core of the story, in a way which I hope will open up a classic book to new audiences. Where did the idea to create a graphic novel come from? Like so many great things, BBC Radio 4. I would plug into R4 while working on my animation jobs, and when they broadcast a dramatisation of Worst Journey , it got its claws into me, and I listened over and over. I couldn’t believe the real story was as thrilling or the characters so wonderful, so I was reluctant to pick up the original book, but when I did, I discovered that not only was it all true, but the story was much bigger and the characters even better. I thought then that it ought to be a graphic novel, but it took a few years for me to accept that I was the one to do it – I had a good animation job, I didn’t know anything about graphic novels! But before long I had read more on the subject than most people, and with my artistic training I was probably the most qualified person to do it, so I accepted the calling and started orienting my life in that direction. Can you tell us about your experience creating this book? It’s been very long! I had a lot of research still to do, and moved to the UK to be closer to the archives where I could find the sort of details I needed. Before I could start drawing the book, I needed to design the characters, figure out the art style, and teach myself how to work with colour. The best part was the research trips – I travelled to New Zealand to see where the Expedition started from, spent a week on a tall ship so I could draw sailing life more truly, and best of all, got to visit Antarctica as a guest of the U.S. Antarctic Program, and visit the actual locations where the story played out. So it’s been very educational, in many ways! The two years spent sitting at a desk drawing pages were much more in my comfort zone, but they’re only a small portion of the time and effort that’s gone into the book. What made you start writing or want to write a novel? I wrote and illustrated a lot of stories when I was a child. As I got older, my interest shifted more to illustrations of the books I’d been reading, as I have a very strong visual imagination and the pictures were itching to get out. I went into animation because it was a job where I’d get to do that every day, and I hoped that someday I might get to make films of the books I loved. That’s not really how the industry works, though, and when the polar bug bit me, I knew that this story would never be made into an animated film, so switching to comics was the only option. Luckily it’s the perfect medium for Worst Journey, because I get to keep Cherry’s voice in the narration, which would be much harder to do gracefully in a film. What is the biggest challenge you've faced as a writer? Finding enough hours in the day! In animation, one is part of a big machine; one simply works through one’s inbox and hands off to the next department. Other people handle the admin and peripheral tasks, letting the artist focus on the work, and one can get a lot done in a 40-hour week. Living alone and working on my own project, not only am I every department, but I’m the cleaning and catering staff as well. I’ve developed a deep appreciation of the invisible support structure around any great work. What do you think of the publishing industry and its processes? Obviously there is a lot going wrong in the current model, and maybe I haven’t been involved enough to be cynical yet, but coming from the movie industry, publishing seems refreshingly innocent! I can see it’s changing to be more like entertainment, leaning more on big names and tentpole releases, and it will probably continue that way as long as they’re chasing profits – Hollywood has proven that’s the model that works – but there is still a streak of idealism. And I say this as someone whose pitch was repeatedly rejected on the grounds of unmarketablity! But I look at the wide range of print and graphic novels on offer, and I see a range of stories and styles that you just don’t get in film and TV. Because the production of a book is a much smaller investment than a film, authors have more creative freedom, and it’s still easier to get a small book onto shelves than a small film into cinemas. Twenty years from now, if mainstream publishing continues down the road they’re on, who knows! The industry would benefit from being less cloistered, but even now it’s not a lost cause. Why have you chosen Indie Novella? I see, in Indie Novella, what Netflix was to the entertainment establishment when it started producing its own content: an intentionally independent, clear-headed disruptor, who has looked at the market with fresh eyes and seen opportunities that are invisible to those whose heads are buried in the status quo. On top of that, Indie Novella has put its ethics at the heart of its business: keeping things local, working as a cooperative, and bypassing evil Amazon are all things I want to support! What do you think of diversity and inclusion when it comes to novel writing and publishing? Is there more we can do to encourage new writers from different backgrounds? Stories are how humans tell ourselves who we are, so the greater the range of stories and storytellers, the broader and deeper our understanding will be. In my working class American high school, all the books we read were by and about Victorians or East Coast elites. These worlds were more alien to us than Tatooine, and our teachers didn’t know enough about them to explain them to us. As an adult, I’ve come to appreciate the insight into those worlds; it makes me wonder what difference it would have made to start with something we understood, and work up from there. Whatever background people come from, they need what screenwriters call “a way in”. The greater the diversity of perspectives, the more entry points there are to the world of literature. Once in, a reader can follow a trail of books to learn about so many other perspectives, and become a wiser and more well-rounded person. But they need a way in. One person’s relatable entry point is another’s mindblowing new perspective, so diversity makes everyone wiser and richer. It helps, also, to see that people like oneself have become writers, and how they did it. I was neither a Victorian nor an Ivy League graduate; how was I supposed to become a writer? I enjoyed writing, but I could only ever imagine it as a hobby. I enjoyed drawing, too, but I knew people who worked in animation and the path into that career was very clear. It’s easy to look at names on shelves and think they were born with a publishing deal, but everyone comes from somewhere. Showing people how to get from where they are to a published book, especially if they’re not already on a well-trodden path, can make a world of difference. What advice would you give new writers? You hear this from everyone, but: READ A LOT. Just reading loads of books gives you a sense of how a good book feels to read, and if you spend enough time immersed in good writing, your instincts will improve. Reading a lot of different stuff also helps you figure out what you resonate with, be it a genre, a style, a theme, whatever. Now here’s some less common advice: When you find something that really sets you on fire, figure out what’s so great about it. Purely noticing and describing what’s done well in a book or film (or illustration, or animated scene), and why and how, has been some of my most potent education. Learn from the masters – you don’t have to reinvent the wheel! An artist is the sum of their influences, so fill up and get the most out of them. And just write for the joy of writing! You get better at things you do a lot, and love is motivation to practice. It’ll nourish you just to do the thing for its own sake. Most of my advancements in drawing were made by pushing myself to get better at fan art – without drawing stuff purely for fun, I’d never have got into animation school, or made the jump from cheap TV to Disney features. Share your writing online. Get feedback on it. Do NaNoWriMo. Get the sort of day job that gives you room in your life to write. If writing is your passion, put it in the centre and structure everything else around it. Then when an opportunity comes along, you’ll be ready to show us all what you can do!
Alex Woolf - Mr Jones
Alex! Thank you so much for joining us. We loved Mr Jones and really appreciate you answering our questions. First, what made you start writing or want to write a novel? As a child I read voraciously, especially science fiction. I loved making up my own stories and thought it couldn’t be that hard to write a novel. I began a science fiction fantasy, but soon became overwhelmed by the complexities of the plot and ran out of steam. My next attempt was a novel about the ghost of a murder victim who takes over the body of his own murderer. It had a decent plot and garnered some polite comments on the rejection letters, but I hadn’t yet found my voice as a writer. Still, it gave me a taste for novel-writing. In my thirties I began to have some success. My first published novel was Chronosphere , a time-warping science fiction fantasy aimed at young adults. It attracted some good reviews and I followed it up with two sequels. Mr Jones is your new novels and it is receiving some wonderful reviews. Could you explain to a potential reader what Mr Jones is about? It’s a psychological thriller about a stressed-out suburban single father called Ben and his creeping suspicion that someone is out to kidnap his eight-year-old daughter Imogen. Ben hears noises in his basement and witnesses weird goings-on in his local park. Imogen starts receiving messages from someone claiming to be her missing mother. Then there’s the terrifying entity known as Mr Jones who haunts the imaginations of the children at Imogen’s school. The question is, how much of Ben’s fears are real and how much are a result of his own stress-induced paranoia? Where did the idea for Mr Jones came from? Back in 2015, when my daughter was about Imogen’s age, I’d walk her to school each day and we’d pass through this overgrown recreation ground. I’ve always found parks or gardens that have gone wild quite sinister, and I think it was on one of these walks that the idea of Mr Jones popped into my head. Can you tell us about your experience writing your novel? I wrote the first 25,000 words very quickly, and then I hit what seemed like an insurmountable roadblock with the plot and I abandoned it. Five years later, during the second Covid lockdown, in search of something to write, I took it out again and as I reread it I realised how the plot should progress. Once I’d figured this out, the process was, again, fairly quick. The hardest part was that the book is set during a summer heatwave and I was writing it in winter so remembering what heat felt like could be a struggle. The characters pretty much wrote themselves. For Ben I used elements of my own personality, such as my tendency towards paranoia and my fear of feral nature, and exaggerated them for effect. I didn’t have much of a writing routine – I tended to write it in bursts whenever I found the time. What is the biggest challenge you've faced as a writer? Luckily I’ve never suffered from writer’s block or struggled for ideas. My main problem is finding the time to turn these ideas into stories. Another problem is perseverence – once I reach that inevitable point in every novel where it’s stopped being easy and has become a battle, I’m tempted to abandon it. As a result, I have an embarrassing number of half-completed manuscripts. Another more recent problem has been concentration. My mind is a moth to the flame of social media, unfortunately. What do you think of the publishing industry and its processes? My story is unusual. I’ve never had an agent, but I’ve published around 16 novels and 19 chapter books (along with nearly 200 non-fiction titles), mainly for young people. This has happened because I worked as an editor in children’s publishing for a few years and built up a lot of contacts in the industry before I became a freelance writer 20 years ago. Having said that, I’ve not yet had a novel published by one of the top publishers, which tend only to work with agented authors. As a result, the books I’ve written haven’t benefited from the kind of marketing, publicity or reviews enjoyed by those produced by the top publishers. Why have you chosen Indie Novella? I was very impressed with Indie Novella’s publishing model. I had previously been put off going down the self-publishing route because of the amount of work required in marketing the book, the often low-quality product and the slim chances of success. I was also struggling to make any headway with the traditional agent/publisher route. Indie Novella seemed to offer a “third way” for authors, which is, as Damien Mosley says, “zero cost, time efficient and high-quality”. I like their passion for books, their commitment to beautiful design, their not-for-profit, cooperative status, and the fact that many of them are authors themselves, happy to work directly with authors instead of via agents. I’m also really intrigued by the read-as-you-go format, which seems well suited to the smartphone generation. What do you think of diversity and inclusion when it comes to novel writing and publishing? Is there more we can do to encourage new writers from different backgrounds? My experience of working in publishing and then later as an author is that it’s not very diverse either in terms of class and ethnicity, although this has improved in recent years. Storytelling is, of course, universal and it’s sad if new and original voices aren’t being heard because of some perceived idea that novel-writing is not for them. Publishers are, I believe, trying to encourage writers from different backgrounds to submit their stories. The more diverse their list, the more this is likely to inspire working-class and ethnic minority authors to give novel-writing a try. What advice would you give new writers? The most important advice I’d give is read, read and read. Everything I learned about writing came from reading other people’s work. Read widely, outside your comfort zone. Read analytically: note the passages that work and those that don’t, and try to work out why. Also, try to write something every day – even if you only have ten minutes. Writing is a talent like music and you need to keep practicing.
Damien Mosley - Joined Up
Damien is one of the founder members of Indie Novella, and the author of hit novel and Indie Novella exclusive, Joined Up. Damien hails from Stoke Newington, London and is also one of the tutors on our writing course. He was recently interviewed by Indie Novella's Paola Mingione. Here's what he had to say Damien, could you briefly explain to a potential reader what Joined Up is about? Joined Up is my take at a lighthearted look at life after depression. When I started writing Joined Up, I wanted to write a novel about depression, but more about life when coming out of it. The rebuilding process and how long it takes to get back to normal even when you feel a bit more yourself. It’s about my character Scott who went through the mill for almost a year but kept it secret from his family and friends. And now he’s essentially starting again, newly self-employed in a failing gardening business, living with a flatmate who he knows hates him, and trying to reconnect with a sister who has resented him her whole life. Scott and Ellie, said sister, then realise that they are the only family each other have and have to unite as their mother, who walked out of them twenty years ago, has just inherited their family home. Joined Up is about essentially trying to cope with the everyday after you’ve let your life and relationships slide for a very long time. Where did the idea for your book came from? I was on a short writing course by Curtis Brown and we had to do an exercise that took a character we were working on and put them in a particular situation. The one I chose was Being Stood Up. Basically, the week before, I was having a rough time in new job and was having a one-month probation meeting with my boss who I wasn’t gelling with. But to show they had a personable side instead of doing it in the office they took me to a local café to have the chat there. They were quite rules-based and went through this review form in minor detail providing criticism on every single thing I had done over the last four weeks. After about twenty minutes I felt my heart sink and my face just went. They asked if I was okay and then suddenly I erupted in tears. They looked at me completely alarmed and I just had to leave the café and go straight home. A week later I turned this experience into a story of a brother being stood up when he’s trying to clear the air with his sister and that became my first chapter of Joined Up. Can you tell us about your experience writing your novel? I started writing Joined Up four years but I don’t think it was until two years ago that I found my flow. I remember spending a whole month writing the same scene over and over, finally abandoning it and then spending the rest of the year getting bogged down in what my plot was. I ended up taking a two month break to write a zombie related screenplay it was going that badly! But then I found a new flow. I put away my laptop and got out a pen and notebook and just started writing and not worrying about plot etc. I went back to my characters and just wrote from their perspectives and kept putting pen to paper, without looking at screen or having a delete button. And then, when I was done, I had to type the thing up! But this helped me with the editing process as I eventually had a feel of what Joined Up was. What made you start writing or want to write a novel? I wasn’t a big reader when I was younger. I grew up with dyslexia so reading was a slow, painful process and something I avoided. But then, when I was thirty, I quit my job and went volunteering in Uganda and stayed in this really quiet town for three months. I took a load of books with me and suddenly I found without the distractions I absolutely fell in love with literature. I started reading the classics and amazing contemporary fiction at the time like Gillian Flynn and Julian Barnes and, aged thirty-one, I wrote my first short story. I then began waking up every day at six a.m. just to write. It’s what I love. What is the biggest challenge you've faced as a writer? Definitely writer’s block. And delusions of grandeur when I first started writing. Every time I wrote a scene, I thought I would get nominated for the Booker Prize, and when I look back I now cringe at my writing. I think what has helped with both is not to take myself as seriously as a writer and just enjoy the process of waking up in the morning and doing it because I enjoy it. I now know what I’ve done is not earth-shattering literary fiction, but I feel I’m at the stage when I can be a bit more impartial and know when it at least works technically and if the story is something I myself would like to read. I’ve been enjoying myself a lot more as a writer since I started doing that. What do you think of the publishing industry and its processes? So tough and I have so much respect for authors published by the big houses. There are a lot of writers who refer to agents as gate keepers, but I once read that Curtis Brown Literary Agency gets over 13,000 submissions a year! How can you possibly read all those manuscripts? So I think there is a place out there to change how we publish and how we find more, diverse stories from new writers, so we don’t get novels which are essentially the same story over and over with just a “fresh take”. Writing is fun! Why can’t publishing a novel be fun too? Why have you chosen Indie Novella? I’m completely biased here, as I’m one of the founders, but Indie Novella is here to bring forward these interesting, diverse stories, and also support authors who want to improve as writers. Writing courses teach us so much, but not everyone can afford them. So the real way to level the playing field and bring about true diversity is to remove all the cost barriers. Indie Novella providing its writing courses for free is so that new writers can learn the skills and tips to become published authors. Indie is there so not only the middle class understand what literary agents are looking for or what makes a novel flow smoother from start to finish. Plus, Indie Novella is such a fun team of volunteers who all give their time at no cost, which create a real community spirit. What do you think of diversity and inclusion when it comes to novel writing and publishing? Is there more we can do to encourage new writers from different backgrounds? This really follows on from the above. What I’ve seen in the publishing community is that because it is so challenging to ‘hook’ an agent, and because agents’ inboxes are overflowing with submissions, this has paved the way for Literary Consultancies and Editorial Consultancies to do some, frankly, quite sketchy practices. I’ve seen some consultancies advertise themselves as ‘scouts’ for literary agents, and others claiming agents prioritise submissions from them. All you have to do is pay the fifteen hundred to three thousand pounds to get your manuscript reviewed… How is that fair? Like I’ve said, so many people from diverse backgrounds cannot afford to do this so we really need eliminate the practice and do what Indie Novella is doing by create free, inclusive courses where writers from any background can come together, learn and share their experiences. What advice would you give new writers? First, try the Indie Novella writing course! Joking aside, I think there are some great courses and books out there which teach you so much – I just think they should all be free 😊 The other piece of advice is read. They use the term, read as a writer. Every time you read something good, notice what the writer is doing, like how does Gillian Flynn make Gone Girl so, so gripping from start to finish? What is it about the start of a novel that makes it so difficult to put down? Then you can start to use the phrase, write as a reader, and start writing something you would like to read yourself.