Dan Hunter, Joanna Gawn, Katie Henson Sapphire Star, marketing advice for writers, Modern Talking, Nicky Wells interview, Nicky Wells The Writer Who Loves Rockstars, Romaniacs, Sapphire Star Publishing, Sophie's Turn
I want to introduce you to someone special. If you are a regular visitor to my blog you can’t fail to have seen the comments left for me by a certain fellow writer, Nicky Wells. Nicky is awesome on so many levels that I just had to feature her on my blog. I am in awe of her organisational skills and chutzpah, she is a constant whirlwind of activity.
Plus, I have the wonderful Romaniacs blog to thank for meeting her. We both responded to a blogpost and admired each other’s comments and felt compelled to check one another out. Probably the cyber equivalent of eavesdropping on someone’s conversation at a party and thinking, ‘God they’re really cool I want to know them.’ We discovered we had a mutual, passionate love of music and I’ve been a frequent visitor to her blog for Music Monday, where I recall a vivid discussion about The Waterboys and Marillion cemented the bond and also introduced me to Joanna Gawn, another lovely writer ( author of The Cordello Quest)
Nicky recently published her debut novel ‘Sophie’s Turn’ with Sapphire Star and had a huge, spectacular launch for it on social media. She’s currently on a blog tour and today she’s mine ( and yours!) so enjoy the interview, check out her marketing advice for writers and be sure to check out the excerpt from her rockstar romance to see if it’s for you. Here we go ; )
Yasmin Selena x x
YSB: Hi Nicky, tell me where you first sprang from, as I believe you’re originally from Germany? How did you end up in Blighty?
How did I end up in Blighty… Where to start? Well, you did ask, so here goes. Imagine a 19 year old Nicky. Just finished school, enrolled in a teacher training course for English and History at her local university in Essen, Germany. Stuck (ouch, but there it is) in a very stale relationship with a boyfriend of several years. Stuck (again) living at home with her parents courtesy of the way the German university funding system works. Desperate to ‘do something’ with her life, although clueless as to what ‘something’ would be. Got that picture sorted in your head? Just your average teenager with the expected amount of late teenage angst.
So that was me, back then. And, as is my wont, to fix the situation, I kind of went into overdrive. One of my lecturers made the fatal mistake of asking me what I would do if I could do anything I wanted, discounting any problems or obstacles. The answer was immediate, although to this day I don’t quite know where it came from. “I would move to England and study Art,” I said. “Why don’t you apply, then,” he replied. He made it sound so easy, so I had a go.
The Art thing never worked out, and I regrouped after the third rejection letter. Having become far too invested into the moving to England idea at that point, I applied to five colleges for degree courses in European Studies instead. That choice seemed kind of apt: you know, the whole European integration angle and so on. I got accepted in the college of my choice (based on a pure hunch), I told my parents what I’d done, packed up my belongings and set off. Or something like that; it wasn’t quite that straightforward and many tears were shed (not by me) but go, I did. And I neither looked back nor went back. Arriving here was like coming home. I don’t know why, or how that’s possible, but it was, and I stayed and built a life.
YSB: That was extremely brave of you. What marked the turning point in your life when you realised you wanted to write, was there a clear moment of inspiration?
I cringe to write this, but I have always been writing in a fashion. I submitted my first batch of children’s ‘novels’ to a publisher aged around twelve! Needless to say, that didn’t go anywhere (although they did write me a very nice rejection letter, the nicest I ever got). I kept writing though, just for me, in various notebooks and later on an ancient typewriter. During college, the writing took a bit of a backseat as I was too consumed with academic writing. Between degrees, I wrote a short novella in a twelve day period. It just kind of came out, and was the most exhilarating experience (although the results have been deeply, deeply buried!). Then I started work, and I was writing for a living, even though it was non-fiction. So the urge to go back to my roots and my dreams really took hold when I left work five months before giving birth to my first child. I had all this time, a computer, a desk, and a stack of ideas… Suddenly, the opportunity was there and I grabbed it with all ten typing fingers.
YSB: I plan to go to the grave clutching some of my earliest efforts! Massive congrats on ‘Sophie’s Turn’ by the way : ) If you only had two minutes to tell someone the story, how you would describe it?
Two minutes? Wow, that’s a lot. I can fit an awful lot of information into two minutes, you just watch me go… Oh, alright, I’ll let you off. Here’s the elevator pitch.
Sophie’s Turn is a glamorous contemporary fairy tale featuring the rock star and the girl next door. One fine day in Paris, Sophie Penhalligan suddenly finds herself engaged to her teenage crush and love-of-her-life-from-a-distance, rock singer and star extraordinaire Dan Hunter. But there is the small matter of her very recent, but very prior, engagement to Tim. Reliable, honest, trusting Tim, her boyfriend of two years stashed away safely in his mews house in South Kensington while Sophie is drinking rather too much champagne with Dan in Paris. What is a girl to do? Find out what Sophie does in Sophie’s Turn.
YSB: Good pitch missus! I know that music is a biggie in your life, have you always been moved by it? Who were your first musical heroes?
Music has always featured in my life. I learned to play the recorder in Kindergarten, and started on the clarinet age seven. I played in an orchestra at school and was a bit late on the whole pop/rock scene, being too wrapped up in reading and writing books and making classical music. Yeah, I know, not exactly the cool girl on the block, right? But when I did wake up to rock and pop, it was with a loud crash, bang and a wallop. My first musical heroes were a German band called Modern Talking. They disbanded within about three months of me developing a crush on the lead singer (I was only twelve or thirteen) and that, as they say, was that.
I was a bit rudderless for a while and then The Final Countdown hit. Do you remember? 1985, I believe it was. I totally loved that song, and my older brother very kindly bought me the album (yes, vinyl!) for my birthday. They happened to be touring and I went to see them (Europe -YSB) in my hometown the following February. I would have been 13 or 14 then. I stood in the front row, I nearly, nearly was able to touch Joey Tempest’s cowboy boots. Swoon. That obsession lasted quite some time but quickly branched out into all things rock, as long as its melodious with gorgeous vocals. These days, I have the radio on non-stop. Sadly, it’s not rock radio as I haven’t found a local rock station, but I’m partial to a bit of commercial rock and pop too.
YSB: I remember Modern Talking! They had a big UK hit with a song called Brother Louie. I think you can get Planet Rock on DAB but I’m not sure it’s national? Did you listen to a lot of music when writing this book? Did you have playlists with themes?
I did listen to a lot of music, but not when writing. Strangely, I need quiet when I’m writing. Not complete quiet, but certainly no music. I find I would get carried away or sidetracked, and it’s too hard to try to get the songs to match the ever-evolving mood of my work. So instead, I listen to music in between bouts of writing, or when I spend time on social networking sites or email. For Sophie’s Turn, my downtime playlist involved largely a band called FM, and in particular their album, Tough It Out.
YSB: I’ve heard of them, I’ll see if they’re on Spotify. Who is your rock star, Dan Hunter, based on? Did you dream about meeting and falling in love with a rock star yourself
(Blushes) My rock star is based on no one person in particular, but on an amalgamation of various long-haired, golden voiced rock gods with the man of my dreams. That’s the first part of your question. Did I dream about meeting and falling in love with a rock star? My God, yes. Age 13 or thereabouts, I had my wedding to Joey Tempest mapped out to the last detail, right down to the church that we would get married in in his hometown of Upplands Väsby near Stockholm in Sweden. There was no Internet in those days, so it was all based on research in the library (I think I hogged their illustrated Sweden book for the best part of a year) and imagination. It sounds a bit scary now, but I guess it was normal teenage behaviour. Right? (Say something positive, Yasmin, quick!)
YSB: Okay, I am now officially terrified of you, Nicky! Just kidding. At that age I think my great love was Billy Idol : ) I know compared to me you are massively organised when it comes to your writing, but for the benefit of the uninitiated, tell us how you do it?
Massively organised… more like, anally organised. I’m a compulsive obsessive plotter. I tried pantsing once with that novella I mentioned… (shudders) … and I don’t think I want to go there again. So how do I plan?
First of all, I need the core idea, the crux, the concept, the A to B. Where does the story start and end? Then I hand draw, on one page of A4, a rough linear outline of the plot with all the events that happen in the journey from A to B.
In the next stage, I transfer this on a dining-table size strip of paper, which I then populate with the key events already mapped out. From there, I add more events, subplots, character notes, questions, jokes, disasters, etc. I use post-its to add events in, which makes for very colourful viewing but also enables me to move things around if need be. When I’ve pressure-tested this concept a few times, I transfer it to MSWord and then compile one-page synopses for each event or section. I usually walk away with about 20 pages of concept including research notes. That’s my blueprint, and that’s what I use to write. It’s an iterative planning process and it does take time; I allow about four weeks for it. Now that I’m in a sort of rolling writing schedule, I plan for a while, then go back to editing a previous book, then plan the next one again, then plan a blog tour… so there’s lots of maturing time built in, which does actually help.
YSB: I swear if you weren’t a writer you’d make an amazing wedding planner. ‘Sophie’s Turn’ is being re-launched with Sapphire Star, how did you find each other, did you have an agent to help you?
I don’t have an agent. To begin with, I opted to publish Sophie’s Turn independently for a while to see what would happen. What happened was this. First, it got a very positive reception in the reviewing community and saw a steady trickle of sales on Amazon. Second, I learned a lot about the publishing process and industry. And third, a number of small, emerging publishers came to my attention who were accepting direct submissions from authors. So when I came across Sapphire Star Publishing on Facebook, I hopped over to their website, liked what I saw, and fired off a submission. I really do mean ‘fired off’ because I was all fired up. They looked good, it felt right, so I really went for it. Unlike previous submissions to said agents, I had some experience and a lot of positive reviews behind me, and I referred to them quite explicitly. I also had a platform in the making, so I submitted from a very different context.
When I received an email from Katie Henson asking for the full manuscript, I refused to get my hopes up. After all, I’d been there before, several times. So when the next email arrived in my inbox a few short weeks later, on a Friday night, I took a deep breath, steeled myself for the inevitable, and bounced off the walls when I read the words, “would like to offer you a publishing contract.” So that’s how we found each other!
YSB: That is a lovely story and I’m sure it’ll inspire other writers. Nowadays, writers are under pressure to promote themselves, do you have any Marketing advice for writers who struggle to do this?
I don’t claim to be an expert, but here’s what I have learned. I’ll start with the basics, because I had to start from scratch. I really didn’t know any of this stuff just over a year ago!
1. You need a blog or a website. Give it a url that works for you and links to your author name or brand (see below on brand). Once you have it, use it. Post regularly. Post about anything at all that’s relevant to you, your writing or your books. It doesn’t have to be all about ‘buy my book;’ in fact, that would be harmful. Instead, let the world take a peek at you, the writer, the person. Use your blog’s syndication features to post on Twitter and Facebook, and leverage it to invite your email or Twitter or Facebook contacts to follow your blog.
2. Social networking. Do it. If you haven’t signed up to Twitter or Facebook, do it now. Invite friends. Post about yourself, your day, things you like. Stay clear of incessant “buy my book.” It’ll put people off. Instead, join up with other authors and post about them and their work; that way, you’ll both get exposure.
3. Don’t rush it. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’re not going to build your platform in a day. Take your time. Be sure that you put quality content out on your blog, Twitter and Facebook and keep plugging away at it. Don’t despair if you don’t go viral overnight. Few people do!
4. Brand. You need one. Think about it. Why would people read your book? How, in your genre, are you different from everybody else out there? What makes your books brilliant? Think up a few words that describe you and your work, and turn them into a motto, or brand statement. For example, my brand is “Romance that Rocks Your World.” Many authors now use these kinds of taglines. It helps you define yourself and set yourself apart at the same time. Have a go, it’s not as daunting as it looks.
YSB: That is really sound advice Nicky. ‘Sophie’s Turn’ is part of a trilogy, how do you plan to publish the rest of the books? What comes after the trilogy is over?
Sophie’s Turn is indeed part of a trilogy, and the sequel, Sophie’s Run, is written and due for release by Sapphire Star Publishing on 7 February 2013. The third book is currently in the planning stages and scheduled for release by Sapphire in September 2013. After that… I have several ideas on the go that I will explore. It’ll definitely be romance, for now, and it’ll definitely rock your world. It will be very different from Sophie’s Turn¸ however, and it most definitely won’t feature Sophie or Dan. Watch this space…
YSB: Thanks for answering the questions, let’s end things on a wee quickfire just because it’s fun!
Germans – most popular misconception you’d like to right: We are funny. As in, we have a sense of humour. It’s just that the rest of the world doesn’t always get it.
Daddy long legs – discuss: No, no, no, take him away, quick.
A band everyone should listen to: FM
My first crush was… A boy by the name of Alex, four years above me in school and sporting a Human League style hairdo that was called ‘popper curl’ in German
Leather pants are: sticky
Writer I most admire: Couldn’t possibly list, there are too many
Most over-rated book I’ve ever read:Gulp, dare I admit it? The God of Small
Things. I just didn’t get it. Sorry.
Book I’d love to see made into a movie: Sophie’s Turn! Hahahaha, you did ask!
Movie which should have left the damn book alone because it was so pants! The Neverending Story but German author Michael Ende. This was one of my favourite books about a little unpopular boy who hides out in his school attic and finds a magic(al) book that eventually draws him into the story. It was printed in green and purple font, green for the boy’s story and purple for the neverending story, eventually switching into purple only (hint!) and it was truly magical. The film completely ruined it, the chronology, the charm, the magical creatures. Leave well alone, I say. (Too late!)
The book I demand you read because it’s so fabulous: The Eight by Katherine Neville. Or The Shaman by Noah Gordon. Or Ghostwritten by David Mitchell.
Thank you Nicky, the *very* best of luck with Sophie’s Turn : )
Yasmin Selena x
Sophie’s Turn is available in Kindle edition from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk and many other Amazon sites. The paperback edition is also available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. In addition, you can obtain Sophie’s Turn from Barnes & Noble.
Want to know more about Nicky Wells?
Visit Nicky on her blog where you can find articles, interviews, radio interviews and, of course, an ongoing update on her work in progress, the second and third parts of the Rock Star Romance Trilogy. You can also follow Nicky on Twitter and find her on Facebook. Nicky is a featured author on the innovative reader/author project, loveahappyending.com and has joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Nicky also has author pages at Sapphire Star Publishing and, of course, Goodreads.
Now, enjoy an excerpt from Sophie’s Turn:
“What the hell is going on here?” I hissed, trying to prevent others from hearing our exchange.
“Oh, Sophie, Dan’s turned up. Isn’t it amazing?” she beamed at me.
“I can see that,” I kept hissing, “But what is he doing here?”
Rachel was quite drunk herself and looked at me with those bleary eyes that usually meant she was up to no good. “Sophie,” she declared solemnly and rather loudly, “you have broken the man’s heart. He has come to reclaim you.” She wobbled unsteadily and I gripped her arm. Usually one to hold her liquor, party-girl Rachel had clearly gone too far tonight.
“Shh!” I admonished. “Will you keep your voice down? What are you talking about?”
“Dan is completely besotted with you, and he said he couldn’t bear the thought of you getting engaged to Tim so he had to…hic…come and check him out…hic!” Oh God, she had the hiccups. She would have to spend the night in the guest room. Once Rachel got the hiccups, she was beyond salvation. I gave her twenty minutes before she collapsed. I had to extract critical information fast.
“Why did you introduce him to Tim?” I continued my interrogation. “Couldn’t you have sent him away?”
“Oh no, Sophie. I couldn’t turn this lovely, heartbroken man away.” She looked at me with big, innocent, and totally unfocused eyes. “In fact, we were just looking for you. You seemed to have… hic… hic… hic…disapp-hic-eared.”
“What did you say to Tim about who Dan was?” I needed to know.
“That he was Dan, of course. Your boy-hic-friend from Tuscq!” She dropped this bombshell completely nonchalantly.
“You what?” I squeaked. “Please tell me you’re joking.”
“No, I’m s-hic-erious! Ti-hic-im thought it was very funny. Hic.”
I wrung my hands and barely prevented myself from tearing at my hair. If Tim had thought it was funny, he must have thought Rachel was being facetious or winding him up. He had seen her drunk before — the experience hadn’t done anything to endear her to him in any way —so it was likely that he hadn’t paid the slightest bit of heed to the truth she was spouting. But I had to move, and fast.
“You,” I said to Rachel, grabbing her by the shoulders and steering her toward the stairs. “You have had enough to drink. You are going to bed.”
“I hic-am?” Rachel asked, surprised.
“Indeed,” I confirmed grimly and marched her up the stairs. “Right, here you are. Guest room. Bed. Now.” I propelled her forward and she flopped on the bed like a rag doll.
“Very ti-hic-hic-red,” she mumbled before passing out.
I, on the other hand, had sobered up dramatically and had only one thought left: damage limitation. I blundered back downstairs, racing quite unladylike in my high heels, and skidded to a halt in the lounge. There they were, companionably sitting in front of the stereo, playing DJ.
I clattered across the floor, grabbing a bottle of champers and three glasses off a table as I went. Tim looked up, and then sprang to his feet.
“And here she is,” he announced to Dan with no small measure of proprietary pride. “Doesn’t she look gorgeous?”
Dan rose to his feet, somewhat unsteadily, and looked me up and down. A sad smile played on his face for just the briefest of moments.
“She looks stunning, indeed. Congratulations to you both.” He walked over to me and planted a chaste kiss on my cheek. “Well done,” he said softly, and Tim beamed gratefully, completely unaware that the comment was aimed solely at me. In fact, he seemed completely besotted by Dan’s manly, famous presence.
“Dan here and I were just discussing rock music,” he informed me as though Dan were his new best friend.
I shuddered for a moment. God forbid.
“Dan has some very interesting views about the movement, you know?”
I winced and smiled a secret apologetic smile at Dan, but he was too drunk to notice anything patronizing in Tim’s comment. I had to separate the two before things got out of hand. Luckily, one of our other guests absolved me of thinking up more ruses by descending on Tim and whisking him away to the kitchen.
Dan and I regarded each other in silence.
“You do look beautiful,” Dan repeated, suddenly sounding a whole lot more sober.
I wanted to cry. “What are you doing here?” I whispered, not trusting my voice.
“I don’t really know,” he acknowledged. “I just felt…lonely. At a loose end. I had to see you and convince myself that…well, that it really is too late. You know?”
I was simultaneously touched and petrified. “I thought we’d agreed…,” I started, but Dan interrupted immediately.