Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more Today’s is with non-fiction author Kerry Dwyer. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello Kerry. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Kerry: Hello Morgen. I am based in south-west France where I work as an English (TEFL) teacher. I am British, my husband is French and my daughter laughs at both of us. Before moving to France I worked in finance for many years and travelled quite a bit with my job. My parents retired to France and I followed them.
I am not at all sure that people become writers. I don’t mean writers as a job but recreational writers. Maybe I am wrong. People I know who write just do it. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to write. I have always written. I won my first poetry competition when I was about seven. I keep a diary and more recently a blog. I write letters to people and I stick pictures in albums with notes next to them. Those two things have also become computerised recently.
Morgen: You write non-fiction, how do you decide what to write about?
Kerry: My blog is almost a diary. It doesn’t contain everything that I do in my life but holidays and special occasions are recorded. Since I started the blog I record more things. It is a photo album and a diary combined. I can tell the stories with the pictures. Sometimes I am not sure which generates the other. That is I think I do some things just so I can write about it later.
My book started out that way. I was writing the story of my holiday and getting the pictures uploaded. I had already written it in my head as we were walking and talking on the holiday. The problem was that I wrote about the conversations we had too and some of the other things I thought about. It became quite tangential and far too long for a blog post.
Morgen: You’ve self-published – what lead to you going your own way?
Kerry: Yes I self-published after being professionally edited. I had sent my book to a number of publishers and agents but it really wasn’t ready. I didn’t have a clue how to proceed. After several refusals and a lot of silence, I put the book away and forgot about it. It feels quite deflating to have rejections but in some ways the silences were worse. At least the rejections would say ‘not quite what we are looking for’ or ‘doesn’t fit with something or other’. Silence suggests it was not even worth printing out the standard rejection slip and putting it in an envelope, or pressing the button to send out the rejection email even. I had, however, written about it on my blog which was where Joel found it. He persuaded me to have it edited; scrap and re write chunks of it and publish it myself.
Morgen: Is your book available as an eBook? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Kerry: Yes my book is available for all electronic devices. I have read very few books on my PC. I don’t like to do it because I work with a PC all day and it gets tiring on the eyes. I only do it when other authors send me books or when there is something I really want that is free. Most of the books I read I get from an English book exchange in our local town. All the English-speaking residents swap books there so I am rarely short of something new to read. My dad reads a lot and we have similar tastes so he passes books on to me as well. My mum has a kindle and an iPad – I don’t know what that generation is coming to I really don’t.
Morgen: A book swap sounds like a wonderful idea. I volunteer at a local charity shop and buy most of my books there, although I download a lot of eBooks too. Did you choose the title / cover of your book? How important do you think they are?
Kerry: The title of my book was there before the rest of it. It comes from my blog sub heading ‘Ramblings in foot or by speech’. I love the Freudian idea of letting your mind wander with free association, that more than anything is what this book is about. I think the title is very important to a book and can make or break it on its own. The cover was painted for me by my mother especially for this book. It is a watercolour of the bay of Beara in Ireland. I had the choice of who to use and how to do it. I am proud that my mother did this and that there will always be copies of this book that we each had a part in. I think cover art is very important. Some books just don’t look interesting and a dull cover might dissuade you from picking it up. It is very personal what works for one person might not work for another.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Kerry: I have a lot of short stories and poems that I have written over the years. Some of them might make it others are nowhere near good enough to be published but I keep them for my own purposes. I also have a couple of unfinished novels that I really would like to finish. One day I will find the time to do all the writing I would like to do.
Morgen: How much marketing do you do?
Kerry: I do all of it. As a self-published author I have no large company behind me putting my books on the shelves and my cover in gloss magazines. All independent authors have the same job to do unless they are already famous for something else. I take my books to independent bookshops and promote them through the social media. I write to anyone who reviews books in my genre to ask them to read it. I promote my book by any means possible. In November 2012 I did a 22-step book blog tour. It all helps to get the name out there.
It is different for me, I believe, than for a fiction writer because I am my product. Everything I do is part of that. If I am on twitter or Facebook for example they have to portray me. I can’t hide behind a fictional character. On the other hand I don’t have to portray something I am not and remember that persona either. Sometimes I have guest posts on my blog and they have to fit in as well. I have a policy of what I will accept on my blog. It is not that I don’t support authors in other genres but it has to fit the ‘Kerry Dwyer’ brand. A cover reveal for erotica for example would not work. If the same author wanted to guest post about self-publishing and the problems they faced with that, it would be OK.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Kerry: Write. Don’t do it for any other reason than for the love of writing. If it becomes a chore then stop unless you are making a mint.
Morgen: But then you’d be running the risk of your readers feeling like it was a chore to read it. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Kerry: I like a quote from Oscar Wilde, ‘Be yourself, everyone else is already taken’.
Morgen: It’s a great one. Do you write fiction? If so, are there any differences or similarities between writing non-fiction and fiction?
Kerry: I do write fiction and it is quite different. You can use events and details from life of course, even in fiction. You can talk about places and events and even people. If, however, you want someone in fiction to do something that none of your friends or family would ever do then you have to invent someone. It is not as easy at it sounds. What makes someone kill or steal? How can you invent those characteristics so well in a person that readers will believe it and feel it? My biggest problem is taking me out of my fictional characters.
Setting up fictional events has to have logic to be believable. Someone once said that non-fiction is easy because real life events don’t have to be logical whereas fiction does. I can see that.
Morgen: That’s very true, and well said. If your book was made into a TV series, who would you have as the leading actors?
Kerry: I would want Felicity Kendal and a French equivalent of Richard Briars. I’ve been told it is best to have someone ten years younger than the character so we would have to go back in time a little. If you do get hold of a time machine I also have a short story that I would like Thora Hird to read on the radio.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Kerry: I like walking and I do as much of it as I can. I hate walking in the rain, anything more than a light drizzle and I am inside. I go to a line dancing class. That is more for winter exercise than anything although it is fun and sociable. Some of the people there are very enthusiastic and go to organised events each weekend. I would rather be up a mountain. I love going to the local Jazz club as well. Even when the music isn’t exactly Jazz it is always fun and it is lovely to hear live music.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Kerry: I think we are likely to see fewer paper books and more e books being released. I also think that more people will self publish. It has gone a bit crazy at the moment and there are just thousands of people trying to make it. They see people like Amanda Hocking and EL James making a fortune and think they can do the same. I’m sure this will die down eventually and people who write will carry on writing. People who have tried to become published overnight successes and failed, will try something else. I will carry on with my blog and writing, publishing when I think I have the next book worth publishing finished.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Kerry: I dedicated Ramblings In Ireland to my husband. He has supported and encouraged me the whole way through from idea to publication. I could not have done it without him. If you look at the first page you will see that the dedication is in French. Bertrand does not speak a lot of English and yet he made the effort and took the time to read every page of this book.
Morgen: It must be great to have that support. Thank you, Kerry.
I then invited Kerry to include a synopsis of her book…
The book is called ‘Ramblings in Ireland’. It isn’t a book about rambling in Ireland. It is the story of one particular walking trip and the memories and musings it inspired.
British ex-patriate Kerry Dwyer leads Bertrand, her trusting French husband, astray on a walking holiday in South West Ireland. She can’t read maps and he insists that she leads the way. As they have so much time in each other’s company they reminisce and reflect upon accents and accidents, family and friends, love and what it means to be alive. Bertrand doesn’t mind getting lost – he loves Kerry all the more for going off the beaten track.
This is a book about ramblings in Ireland. Walk with Kerry and Bertrand and follow where your thoughts lead you.
This book was inspired by the beauty of Ireland and the wonderful people we met when we were there.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on the mixed blog but everything else (see Opportunities on the main blog) is free.
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