It’s the best part about being connected and travelling the ‘social media rails’. We have so much to learn from one another and, through our platforms, we can help each other in ways previously unimagined.
So, one of my favorite missions on this blog will be to seek out and highlight the writers who have proven that it’s never too late.
I hope their stories inspire you to do the work you’ve always dreamt of doing.
My first interview is with Ben Adams, debut novelist of Six Months to Get a Life, which is scheduled for release on January 21st and available for pre-order now on Amazon.
About your book
T.O.: For those who know nothing about your book, how would you describe the story in thirty words or less?
B.A.: Wow, you’re harsher than Twitter! ‘Six Months…’ is the story of a man coping with divorce, battling to maintain a role in his children’s lives and fretting about whether he will ever have sex again. And, and, and… Oh, alright then, I’ll stick to your rules!
T.O.: You include very recent events, like the 2014 World Cup, that make the story feel immediate – like it was, literally, written yesterday. When did you start writing the book and how long did it take from start to finish?
B.A.: I wrote the book in the first half of last year. My aim when writing it was for it to be grounded in the events of 2014. I had intended to set the story in a reality that everyone identified with, but the reality of the summer of 2014 wouldn’t have lightened the mood. A story about coping with divorce is hard enough to keep light, but if I had added in references to the dreadful terrorism, war and conflicts going on around the world, readers would have wanted to slit their wrists by the end of chapter three. The odd World Cup reference is painful enough for England fans.
T.O.: You’ve got a full-time job and family responsibilities. How do you write so quickly?
B.A.: I get up early, sometimes write before going to work, do a nine to five job, get home, neglect the children, go to bed late and cram in the hours at weekends. Basically, I live life like a hermit. And if you believe that, you believe anything.
Honestly, it is often difficult to find the time, but I just prioritize writing whenever I can.
T.O.: The narrative feels personal and real, so I can imagine that many readers will be tempted to see it as crossing the line from fiction to memoir. Are the characters and events fictitious?
B.A.: It is fair to say that the book was inspired by a change in my own family circumstances. It did start its life as a bit of a memoir, but in very short order I realized that ‘Six Months…’ shouldn’t be about me.
To be more accurate, I realized it shouldn’t be about my ex or my children. What right did I have to write about them? None. So I invented a new ex. I enjoyed that process so much (who wouldn’t?) that I then started inventing new friends too – friends who were far more interesting than my own (there goes any chance I had that my friends might share this blog post). From there, it only seemed natural to invent a new lover, new events and occurrences. Did the marriage guidance scene happen to me? Did I meet my ex in a sexually transmitted diseases clinic? Is the unconventional weekend away with a new love fact or fiction? Have I ever ‘twerked’ in a night club? I’ll leave you guessing on those questions.
Friends who have already read the book have noticed that the only person I didn’t reinvent was the leading man, Graham Hope. Figuring that I am not about to sue myself, when it came to the divorced male character, I stuck to what I know. Me.
Graham does his best to have a positive outlook on life, as do I. Graham craves human company, whether it’s going out for a few beers with his friends or something more intimate. As do I. Graham hates nightclubs and is hopeless on the dance floor. As am I. Graham gets tongue-tied around attractive women, as do I. According to Graham’s ex, Graham has a big ego and a small penis. Next question. [T.O. coughs a little]
T.O.: I saw a teaser of a new novel at the end of Six Months. Is that what you’re working on now? Do you have a tentative release date in mind for that one?
B.A.: My first draft of ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ didn’t include any reference to even the possibility of a second book, but when I sent the manuscript off to the editor, I couldn’t stop writing. By the time the editor gave me her thoughts, I had written a big chunk of the second book, ‘Six Lies’. I then had to sew a few seeds in the first book, to keep the reader wanting more. I really hope it works!
I have neglected ‘Six Lies’ over the past couple of months, spending all my free moments marketing ‘Six Months to Get a Life’. Hopefully I will get back to it in the next month or so, with a view to finishing and releasing it either this autumn or, at the latest, in January next year.
Your publishing story
T.O. First, let’s talk author platform. It’s a phrase that strikes fear and trepidation into the heart of many new writers. Tell us about the ‘whens’, ‘whats’, ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’.
B.A.: I didn’t start creating my author platform until last summer. I hadn’t even heard of the phrase until that point. I am still not sure I know what it means.
I love my blog. That’s basically because I love writing. I haven’t got a multitude of followers but I am gathering a following that, for some reason, seems to appreciate hearing from me. Writing can be a lonely pastime, but the warm comments I have received via my blog have helped me believe in myself and made me feel part of a bigger community.
The one thing I would say for certain is that developing my platform has helped me form relationships with fellow authors, virtually all of whom are a) more experienced than me; and b) very willing to share their thoughts with a “whet behind the ears” newbie. That’s how I met my generous host for this interview. [T.O. is blushing]
T.O. Did you submit your work to agents?
B.A.: No. I might be able to write, and my story may be commercially attractive, but would agents really sign someone up who has spent half his life working in local government? I didn’t think they would, so I didn’t bother submitting.
Anyway, putting a positive spin on it, going it alone can be an attractive proposition these days. Large publishing houses might have hundreds of experts in every field, but the deal I signed with an ‘author services company’ brings in different experts at different stages of the process. You can do that these days. I truly believe that the book is as good as it would have been had it been traditionally published.
By self-publishing, I get to keep a much larger proportion of the royalties. I do sometimes ask myself whether a larger portion of a smaller pot will work out better than a smaller portion of a potentially larger pot, but the decision is made so I don’t dwell on it.
T.O.: What has been your greatest challenge throughout the publishing process?
B.A.: Definitely marketing. I am not a natural salesman. But any serious author soon realizes that if they don’t think about how to sell their books, then the books won’t sell. I have learnt a lot about book promotion, but it is too early to say how effective my marketing effort will be.
T.O.: Your bio says you “went to school, then college and eventually grew up and got a responsible job”. Were you always an author at heart?
B.A.: I have always enjoyed writing. It is the only creative art I have ever been any good at. While I was at school I wrote science fiction nonsense that I didn’t dare share with anyone. At university I wrote boring politics essays. In my 20s I dabbled with crime fiction when I wasn’t writing about local government. I didn’t have enough life experience to make the crime fiction sing though.
In my 30s, my dad duties kept me busy so I just found enough time to write boring work-related web content and the occasional acerbic complaint letter to the council.
Sometimes it takes a life event to set you off on the right track. It wasn’t until last year, when, stimulated by my familial upheaval, I began writing in earnest. I was 42 at that point.
T.O.: You mention a ‘midlife crisis’ kicking in. In your mind, how exactly would you define that?
B.A.: In my mind, I try to avoid the subject altogether. But if you make me think about it, I guess I would say that my midlife crisis coincided with my family issues, but was actually wider than that. It was a state of mind.
Half-way through my life, a voice that had always been there in the back of my head started shouting loud and clear in a way that I couldn’t ignore. ‘What are you wasting your life for,’ it was asking me. ‘You want more than this for yourself.’
I wanted to make a difference in the world. I wanted people to notice me. I wanted to make them smile and laugh, and, slightly egotistically, I wanted them to talk about me.
Hence the book. Writing it felt like a risk. What if no one buys it? Would it make me look like a prick? Up until my midlife crisis, these thoughts had stopped me from taking the plunge. My midlife crisis was just the process I went through before I came to agree with Tennyson:
[bctt tweet=”It’s better to have tried and failed than to live life wondering what would’ve happened if I had tried.”]
T.O.: Do you think it’s been more or less difficult to start a writing career at this stage in your life?
B.A.: For me personally, I couldn’t have started a writing career sooner.
Some young writers can inject an amazing amount of emotion and sentiment into their writing because they have experienced extremes of emotion, turmoil and loss at an early age. I only recently went through my challenging time. Before that point, my writing lacked an emotional edge. Readers wouldn’t have been able to truly empathize with the characters I created. So, for me, while I would have loved to have been an author sooner, I just didn’t have it in me until now.
T.O.: But did you ever worry that you had started too late?
B.A.: I’m only forty-three! [T.O. smiles]
T.O.: Where can people find you on the Internet?
B.A.: Hopefully in the future, people will be able to find me a lot easier than they can now. If you google my name at the moment (I do it every day but I probably shouldn’t admit to it), you will find a bloke from a boy band. That’s not me. Nor is the Ben Adams that writes children’s books. I am sure he’s great though!
To be safe, just go to http://benadamsauthor.com. I would love to meet you there.
Thank you Ben! I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed doing this interview!
For any of you looking for an engaging, sometimes ‘laugh-out-loud’ story, told from a refreshing and lively point of view, I highly recommend you pick up Six Months to Get a Life, now available for pre-order on Amazon.
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