Friday, January 28, 2011

Interview with Linda Acaster

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book.
I moved from writing long fiction as a hobby to writing short fiction for magazines, where I learned my craft by noting every alteration an editor made to my typescript prior to publication. I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association in the UK to submit a novel-length script for assessment – but instead of the assessment the script was forwarded to a publisher and suddenly I was a Historical Romance novelist, which hadn’t been my intention.

Did you query agents and traditional publishers?  How long before you got your offer of representation/your first contract?
I started querying agents after my second novel had been published and my third turned down by the original publisher.  My writing had improved dramatically and I had a better understanding of the industry, and the very narrow interpretation of genre that each publisher targets as its niche. I wanted to spread my wings. Unfortunately I might have had a better understanding of publishing, but I was na├»ve as to an agent’s role. I was taken on by a respected London agency because I brought them a contract. Unfortunately it didn’t work out and I was left without a contract, a publisher or representation. Disillusioned, I spread my wings in other directions.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish?
When my two Historical Romances went out of print I had their rights returned immediately and I sat on them. That was the best decision I ever made, as I doubt I’d be allowed them back now. In 2008 started the first of the UK low-cost POD publishers – we are way behind the USA - and I watched with interest, deciding in 2009 to submit Torc of Moonlight, a time-slip thriller that gathered lots of positive comments from publishers while with the agent, but no contract. There were exasperating delays, and when there was a foul-up over the ebook, I took a long hard look and decided that I could do better myself. Then Amazon opened its DTP system to those outside of the USA, and the rest, as the saying goes, is my e-publishing backlist.

How did you feel when you got your first indie sale? Are you pleased with sales so far?
Ecstatic.  Writers in the UK are force-fed the notion that traditional publishing is everything and no writer can survive without it. My Romances are both historical and at the sweet end of the spectrum – hardly the current must-haves – yet from small beginnings sales in the USA are steadily rising. Torc of MoonlightSpecial Edition and a collection of Horror short fiction Contribution to Mankind and other stories of the Dark were launched in early December, and it’ll be interesting to see how sales do in the different genres.

Did you design your cover art?  If not, would you care to share your graphic designer’s information?
Ho-ho! From having the graphic designer’s know-how of soggy lettuce I blindly embraced Photoshop and i-Stockphoto for the HistRoms. For a first attempt they’re not bad, but when I have time, or money for a professional makeover, they’ll be redone.  For Contribution to Mankind and other stories of the Dark I was pointed to and found a free photo that I cropped and tinted via Gimp, the free image manipulation software.  The publisher’s suggested cover of the POD version of Torc of Moonlight was appalling and my son produced what was used, thankfully meaning that I own the design, so could use it for the ebook Torc of Moonlight : Special Edition. It also means that the ensuing Torc trilogy can use the iconic layout for its brand look, an aspect that I hadn’t thought of at the time.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned during your self-publishing journey.
To have confidence in my own ability. The first attempt might not sparkle, but everything is a work-in-progress, not a done deal. If I can teach myself to write well, I can teach myself to use software. It is not a black art.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?
This I am learning. I have a blog I’ve just revamped, and a friend and I bartered my copywriting / proofreading skills for his design / html skills to produce a website, but getting people to view them is up to my interacting with the world. I belong to a few Yahoo groups for the Romances, have a Facebook presence and a Twitter account, and venture onto the Amazon forums occasionally, but using all this effectively is a different matter. This is the next big learning curve. I particularly like, for the interaction with readers, but especially for the support and advice offered so willingly by writers. Can’t be beaten.

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
I am using as my distribution to Sony, Nook, I-Pad, Diesel, etc, as for a non-USA citizen it is simply easier to negotiate the double taxation problems rather than publishing individually.

What’s next for you?
My work-in-progress is The Bull At The Gate, the second in the North York Moors Torc trilogy which is set in historic York and time-slips between the contemporary and 4th century Roman Eboracum as York was called at the time. I’ve also been asked to provide workshop facilities later in 2011, so I am bringing to fruition a non-fiction book exploring writing techniques used in the short story form. It’s been seen by a couple of print publishers that judged it “too niche”, but that hardly matters now, does it?

Thanks for inviting me.


  1. Hello Debra, and thanks for inviting me.

    Hello readers. I'm a bit late to my own interview, but here at last and I'll be calling in during the evening (as it is now in the UK) to chat and answer questions for anyone who wants to stop by and make a comment.

    Speak with you later!

  2. Linda is a really excellent writer and teller of tales. I've read a number of her books and always found them satisfying reads, full of well-researched material against which she sets her imagined scenarios. Her characters are always full of life, real people who you can relate to with ease. Not all are pleasant, of course, but they are all human beings you might meet. Her attention to detail and care over her choice of language singles out her books as excellent examples of the various genres in which she writes.

  3. Ooh, Stuart, let me kiss your hand! I particularly like "Not all [characters]are pleasant, of course..."

    Now where would a novel be if all the characters were pleasant?

    Thanks for taking the time to drop by.

  4. Stuart, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Linda, it was my pleasure to host your interview.

  5. Hi Linda,
    That was a great blog, you have certainly had an interesting publishing journey.



  6. Hi, I, like Stuart, have read a number of Linda's books. I think one of the most important lessons Linda can teach us is that characters are what they are, not what your mother would approve of, necessarily, but faithful to themselves within the plot. Of all the things she has taught me is that of internal and external dialogue within character building. So much so, that,I believe, thanks to her, I have now landed an agent for my historical fantasy books. Linda's writing is so sparse it is almost poetry and I wish I had her facility to put so much into so few words. For anyone wanting to learn the craft, I heartily recommend her books, not just because they are bloody good reads, which they are, but because they can teach the apprentice writer so much about the craft.

  7. Hi everyone, and thanks for dropping by.

    Margaret: yes, it hasn't exactly run smoothly, but you don't learn from the depth of experience if your route is highly polished by others. And it makes life interesting.

    Silversongbird: I don't quite know what to say. Thanks for the accolade. And I wish you every success with your historical fantasy series.

    I think a lot can be learned from reading fiction you enjoy, then going back to study sections to see how the writer achieved that reader reaction in you. It is rarely achieved over a couple of paragraphs, but builds gradually.

    There are three parallel storylines in Torc of Moonlight SE, each free-standing but linked by tendrils of nuance and undercurrent until they physically mesh.

    I've been excerpting sections since 19 December via #samplesunday, and although I was at first wary of serialising the novel like this, it has meant that each section can be more easily studied, such nuances identified, and carried across by a reader/writer learning the craft. - the link is live at the bottom of the interview.

    Thanks to everyone who has commented. It's appreciated.

  8. Madeleine Mc DonaldJanuary 30, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    As a writer going through a fallow patch, I appreciated Linda’s advice to have faith in your own ability since in her case, it has paid off. I enjoyed Torc of Moonlight, and look forward to reading the next part of her trilogy.