Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book?
I'm based in New Zealand and I write in collaboration with my Sydney, Australia-based son James. We have two newly released books available as ebooks and trade paperbacks on Amazon. Details follow:
The Ninth Orphan – an international espionage thriller.
Fast-paced, totally fresh and original, filled with deep and complex characters, The Ninth Orphan is a high-octane thriller with an edge. Merging fact with fiction, it fits the current trend toward stories about shadow organizations rumored to exist in the real world. Tackling genetic selection, mind control, secret societies and a chase around the globe, The Ninth Orphan has intimate character portraits usually associated with psychological novels. It also has a poignant, romantic sub-plot which means it will appeal equally to males and females of all ages.
The storyline: An orphan grows up to become an assassin for a highly secretive organization. When he tries to break free and live a normal life, he is hunted by his mentor and father figure, and by a female orphan he spent his childhood with. On the run, the mysterious man's life becomes entwined with his beautiful French-African hostage and a shocking past riddled with the darkest of conspiracies is revealed.
Fiji: A Novel – an historical adventure-romance set in19th Century Fiji. Partly inspired by James A. Michener's Hawaii, it is a spellbinding novel of adventure, cultural misunderstandings, religious conflict and sexual tension set in one of the most exotic and isolated places on earth.
The storyline: In the mid-1800's, Fiji was a melting pot of cannibals, warring native tribes, sailors, traders, prostitutes, escaped convicts and all manner of foreign undesirables. It's in this hostile environment in our story that an innocent young Englishwoman and a worldly American adventurer find themselves. Despite their differences, there’s an undeniable chemistry between them. When their lives are suddenly endangered by marauding cannibals, they are forced to rely on each other for their very survival.
With the strong themes of love running through what is essentially a fast-moving and sometimes violent adventure story, this novel appeals equally to male and female readers. It has already made an appearance in Amazon’s top 100 list in its Historical Books category.
Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
Yes we certainly did. We had several publishers and lit agents advise us they believed The Ninth Orphan was a potential bestseller, but because of the financial climate and because we were unpublished authors etc. etc...they wouldn't commit. We finally secured a publishing offer from a UK publishing house, but because they showed no urgency, we decided to self-publish. We formed Sterling Gate Books and published the novel on Amazon.
As for Fiji: A Novel - Several years ago, we secured a US publisher for it, but the publisher ended up in breach of contract and we took back the rights, formed Sterling Gate Books, and the rest is history.
Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?
No. I don't believe in such groups. I'm of the school that believes the best way to improve your writing is to write (and read...though I don't have much time for reading unfortunately).
What factors influenced your decision to self-publish to Amazon?
Being unable to secure a contract that stuck and being let down and/or not supported by those publishers who did show interest in our literary work influenced us to self-publish. We decided to go with Amazon because they seemed the most professional and influential in this field.
Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
No. Finances did not permit that luxury at the time. Anyway, I'm a former newspaper editor, and both James and I are fastidious in the proofing of our novels, which have undergone numerous rewrites of our own volition.
What have you learned during your self-publishing journey?
Self-publishing is a viable option to traditional/conventional publishing. High concept storylines and quality writing are still prerequisites for success, no matter who the publisher is. That aside, smart network marketing/social networking of your books certainly helps fast-track them into the bestseller lists.
Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
Yes on CreateSpace (Amazon's print division) and in certain libraries and bookstores around the world courtesy of Ingrams who, I understand, buy books direct at wholesale rates. And I've sold some direct to libraries here in New Zealand.
What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
We have a presence on several sites including Twitter, YouTube, Goodreads, Google+, Shelfari, LinkedIn, the film industry site IMDb and, of course, Amazon and CreateSpace. We've deliberately avoided Facebook as we see dangers in our personal lives overlapping (in a very public forum) with our business lives, and prefer the likes of Twitter and Google+ to that forum.
As an ex journo, I generate a lot of publicity for our books. Fortunately, both are quite controversial in their own way and, of course, the media loves controversy.
We plan to establish our own Morcan website in the near future as we realize that's the missing ingredient in our present marketing mix.
Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
Yes! Currently, only James has time for writing (he's working on The Orphan Factory, the prequel to The Ninth Orphan) while all my time is currently devoted to marketing and the biz side of our operation. That's a real pain.
What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Do your research first. And go the Amazon route. Amazon seems to have it sorted. They give easy-to-follow instructions on formatting, pricing, marketing etc. And bring your book out as an ebook and trade paperback. The extra work required to format a paperback is worth it.
However, first and foremost, ensure you can write (don't just rely on your Mom's opinion) and ensure you have a high concept story people will want to read.
Major challenges you have faced as a writer?
Collaborating with a co-writer is always a challenge – artistically and creatively. As I'm based here in New Zealand and James is several thousand kilometers away in Australia, we have to communicate via Skype and email, and that's an added challenge. However, the negatives of our father-and-son collaboration are outweighed by the positives. Two heads are better than one and we 'savagely' critique each other's work. This does create conflict, but it also lifts standards. It's like having an editor permanently on the writing team.
What’s next for you?
Our first priority is to complete the prequel to The Ninth Orphan and get it on Amazon by March if possible. Then we'll turn our attention to the sequel, the third book in the planned Orphan trilogy, with a view to publishing it before the end of the year.
As James and I are also screenwriters and film producers, we've adapted both our published novels to feature film screenplays and put them into development with our production co., Morcan Motion Pictures.
Bay of Plenty Times article: http://www.bayofplentytimes.co.nz/news/papamoa-author-climbs-amazon-rankings/1228589/