This week, I’ve had the absolute pleasure of interviewing author, Warren Slingsby, about his debut novel, “To Catch a Storm,” and also to chat to him about his route to life as a self-published author.
Before we get on to the interview, I have a bit of a confession to make: Warren’s novel was my first foray into reading a self-published novel.
Shocking, I know.
Despite having met many writers over the last couple of years who have opted to go down the self-publishing route, I had always rather snobbishly held a sneaking suspicion that self-publishing was the final outpost before giving up altogether and slinging one’s manuscript on the proverbial bonfire.
Before you all jump in and lynch me, I’ll hold my hands up and say that I’m feeling more than a bit sheepish about this now.
I sincerely hope that I’m one of the last to be enlightened because reading Warren’s fantastic crime thriller has completely changed my outlook on self-publishing for the better.
It has also given me hope that one day self-publishing might become the norm and allow authors a level of creative and contractual freedom that is so rarely handed out by the mainstream publishing industry these days.
I could bang on ad-infinitum about this, but you’ll be pleased to hear I’m going to shut up now to let you read all about Warren’s experiences as an author in this brave not-so-new world. Enjoy!
Q: What led you to go down the self publishing route for your debut novel?
When I had finished my book, I tried to contact some agents but found them just too slow to respond. Plus I found there was so much scaremongering about getting a book published. ‘Well you’ve done the easy bit, now getting your book published is gonna kill you’. Most of the agent’s websites I read said feel free to send your manuscript, but ‘if you haven’t heard back from us within 3 to 4 months, your work is probably not right for us.’ So I thought I can’t wait that long. I want people to read this. People are asking to read it now. So I decided for now, I’ll go it alone.
Q: How straightforward a process was getting your book from final edit to print/e-book? e.g. did you shop around before settling on a provider?
I did a little shopping around and chose CompletelyNovel.com for my print book and Kindle Direct Publishing for the e-book. It took some trial and error to get my final edit to work particularly as an e-book. This was mainly down to formatting as I used several fonts in the book to signify hand writing and texts and emails. These all worked in the printed book really well and less so in the e-book.
Q: How do you find the self-marketing process? Do you find certain channels better than others?
I’m not particularly good at self promotion but you have to be as an author, so I am trying to improve. I have my own website now – warrenslingsby.com – and I use Twitter for promoting myself as an author. I also used crowd funding through Kickstarter in order to get enough funding to publish my book, this allowed me to pre sell books and have a launch party.
Q: How did you come up with your book title?
Coming up with the title is one of the toughest parts of writing a book. The title has so much work to do to convey what the book is about, draw potential readers in and make them choose your book over the competition. The title I ended up with – To Catch A Storm – was probably title number 11. It was partly inspired by a real life stolen Rembrandt which featured in the book called The Storm on the Sea of Galilee but it was also a homage to the film To Catch A Thief which is also set on the Cote D’Azur where the end of the story plays out.
Q: Did you have to do a lot of research on art theft and the criminal underworld/organised crime before embarking upon the novel?
I did a lot of research about art theft during the writing of the book and I was shocked at how many amazing works of art have been stolen over the years, most of which is never seen again.
Q: Did you set out with a plan for the storyline or did it develop as you went along?
At the outset of writing the book, I didn’t know it was going to be about art theft. I simply set out with the quote from film maker Jean-Luc Goddard who said – “All you need for a great story (film) is a girl and a gun.” So I began with a girl waking up in a hotel room in Glasgow after a drug and drink fuelled binge. As well as waking up next to a dead guy, there was a bag with a lot of cash and of course, a gun. I then wrote the book as if I was reading a book but I made the story go where I wanted it to go.
Q: Describe your daily writing routine.
As I run my own company plus coach sport and mentor young business people, I try to find time to write 500 words per day, usually in the morning or on weekends. It works out at about an hour per day at the moment, but I’d like to spend much more of my time writing eventually.
Q: The novel is set in several awesome cities (inc. Barcelona, Nice, Glasgow, Edinburgh)- how important was the choice of your locations in scene settings and what made you choose these in particular?
I simply set the story in several of my favourite cities. They are all cities I’ve visited several times and hold my affection for different reasons. Writing for me is quite a self indulgent activity as you draw on your personal experiences and travels. I guess setting the story in all these cities is a way of telling people about your favourite places.
Q: High performance cars and other luxury items are used to draw out aspects of the character’s personalities very effectively – was this your intent?
I’ve been a car obsessed my whole life. My family have always been in the motor trade so writing about cars is something I love doing. The yachts in the story came from a holiday in Ibiza where I used to go canoeing each day around Figueretas Bay for a little exercise. I would paddle around all the yacht’s and have a good nosey in them. Then I started thinking what a brilliant place to hide stolen art – out in the middle of the ocean.
Q: How easy did you find getting into the mindset of your strong female lead character, Janet?
I have no idea why I ended up with this strong female lead but I just loved writing about her. She made bad decisions, was greedy and didn’t really know what she wanted other than she wanted the best things in life. Most people who speak to me about the book identify with Janet in one way or another. I guess we all have the desire for the sort of life that Janet grabs for herself.
Q: This feels like it could be the start of a series of books – do you have any plans to continue the adventure?
I’m currently writing a sequel which has some of the characters from To Catch A Storm. It’s set about 6 months after and is also about art theft, but there is a much darker streak running through this book. I’ll just say for now, the working title is Ink, Blood and Bone.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
I will be launching a 2nd edition shortly. I’d like to launch the sequel later in the year and plan to keep writing. In the future, I’d also like to write a radio play and then more books.
Thanks to Warren for allowing me to interview him about, “To Catch A Storm.” I was not asked to provide a review in return for reading but, for what its worth, I gave “To Catch a Storm” a solid 4/5 star review on Goodreads. If you are interested in reading this novel for yourself, it can be ordered via Amazon here, and you can keep up to date with Warren’s upcoming projects via his website.