Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Author Interview: R.A. Black

R.A. Black, author of Apple. Self-published using CreateSpace and Smashwords

There's still time to enter the giveaway to win a paperback copy of Apple. Here's the story of how it was published.

Enter a gothic story of madness and cruelty, where the bonds of sibling loyalty are tested to the grave and beyond.

High on the hill, Cavington Hall lurks like a beast surveying its territory. Spoken of in hushed whispers, it is home to Doctor Charles Cavington, last of a family cursed by genius and insanity in equal parts. It has now become home to twelve year old Apple. A run-away, she is forced into the doctor's service as payment for saving her brother's life.

While Apple struggles to cope with her loneliness and isolation, the mysteries surrounding Doctor Cavington are growing. What exactly is his interest in the two siblings? Is there any truth to his strange tales of Guardians and Reapers, ethereal figures he claims are responsible for dealing with the souls of the dead?

And what is making that thumping noise in the locked nursery at night?


How long did it take you to write Apple?

The first draft took a month. If I'd written it in November I would have won NaNoWriMo with it. After that it went through extensive drafting with a couple of very good beta-readers for the rest of the year, and then I've been checking and revising just the text rather than the story on and off over most of this year.

Where did you get the inspiration from?

There were two things that started the story. The first was coming across a male character in another story called Skye and deciding that I really liked it as a name. The second was that I have always wanted a big brother, for as long as I can remember. Those things sparked off the first couple of chapters. Once the characters were on their journey, it became clear to me they were in a horror novel.

What is your favourite book?

Probably To Kill A Mockingbird. If I ever have a daughter, I can think of worse role-models than Scout.

When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?

I never did. I never wanted to write for money. I never liked the idea of deadlines and of writing because I had to. Then, over the last couple of years, I realised that I wanted to do more with my work. I wanted more people to read it and I wanted to hold it in my hands as a real book.

What did you do to prepare your novel for publication?

I edited it extensively myself and with beta-readers. This was by far the most work and probably the most important bit. I didn’t want to put out something that looked sloppy. I commissioned an artist to create the cover. It took a long time to get something that captured the feel I wanted for the book, but I’m happy with how it came out. I really love the font she created for my name and the title. I also created social media profiles and I pushed it heavily on Figment to make people aware.

What was the hardest part?

Probably learning about all the options for self-publishing, reading all the opinions on various different sites, and choosing the best route for the paperback and the ebook. Beating Microsoft Word into doing what I wanted it to do was also quite a challenge, though I now know lots about styles and headers and footers that I never knew before!

Did anything surprise you?

The time taken to do everything was longer than I expected. It took several days on each other primary sites (CreateSpace and Smashwords) to get the book approved and then up to a week to appear in other stores like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Are you glad you went through with it?

Yes. It was stressful and nerve-wracking, and I have no idea how well it will do. But yes.

What would you do differently next time?

I'd co-ordinate things a bit better so it was available on sites at the same time. Also, I’d take advantage of delayed release and similar tools. And probably do more pre-release promotion. I'm still feeling my way around things at the moment.

What is your best piece of advice?

Take it slow. It's exciting, yes. You want to put your book in your hands as soon as you can. But stop and plan every step. Make sure you're doing the best you can.

Who would you recommend it to?

Anyone who wants to just hold their work and isn't worried about the career aspect. Anyone who has a book that means something to them, but isn't necessarily prepared to wait for the market to catch up with them. And anyone who is willing to take a gamble. If your book does take off, you can do very well out of self-publishing.

And who would you deter from self-publishing?

I would deter anyone who hasn't shown their book to people outside their close friends and family. Make sure you show it to people who can be honest with you, rather than just encouraging you to push your book out as fast as possible. There are a lot of books that are not ready to be published available, books with basic grammar issues, or plot holes, or other issues which spoil a potentially good story.

How would you rate your publishers?

I used CreateSpace (Amazon’s print on demand service) for the print edition. Having held it in my hands, I love how it’s come out. It is well bound and put together. The site was reasonable easy to work with, though I struggled a little to get the cover right. They give you a clear breakdown of royalties and help you fill out the US tax form required. My biggest issue is I have to buy my personal copies from the US, rather than the UK printer. They still work out cheaper, but I have to wait longer, pay more for shipping and potentially pay customs charges.

I used Smashwords for the ebook, except the kindle distribution. Their site is very friendly, and has a lot of information for indie authors. The process of creating an ebook, especially one that will be accepted into major stores, is quite involved, but they have a very helpful guide. The biggest issue with them is they don’t do kindle distribution unless you’ve sold 2000 copies, and I’ve sold most of my ebooks through kindle, so I had to set up a third site for selling copies (though most of this was ported through from CreateSpace).

So, should we buy Apple

Yes, I think you should. If you like creepy tales that leave you checking under the bed; if you like feisty and determined female leads; if you like stories that remember love doesn’t need to be romantic, then I think you will enjoy this book.


Author Profile

RA Black is a self-published author. Her horror novel, Apple, is available from Amazon. Read a review here, and there is still a days left to win a paperback copy!

The details in her novel are particularly vivid. You can read her article, How to Leave you Readers Cold, Hungry, and Afraid, for tips on how to immerse readers into your world.

You can also check out R.A. Black on Figment and Facebook.