Another man in the house – this is becoming something of a habit 🙂 Today we have with us Paul Pilkington, author of the Emma Holden suspense novels.
Hello, Paul. You found Romaniac HQ okay then? Come on in and take a seat.
Yes, found it pretty easily thanks. And without need for Sat Nav. Thanks for inviting me over for a chat. I can see you’ve got a cup of tea waiting, so that’s great!
Tea and one of Celia’s famous cakes. Now you’re settled, can you tell us about your writing background, please?
I’ve always enjoyed writing fiction, and English literature was one of my favourite subjects at school. But it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I started really considering writing longer pieces of work, just for the fun of it. It took me a couple of years with those thoughts in my head to actually begin writing consistently. At first, I started out writing comedy, and really enjoyed that – I had some success in terms of competitions and even a comedy sketch on TV. But eventually I turned my hand to mystery suspense, as it was the genre I’d become a big fan of as a reader – particularly the Harlan Coben standalone novels and ones similar in style. I love the challenge of creating suspense and also aim for my books to be hard to put down. My novels are never gory, nasty, or particularly gritty (I don’t read those kind of books, and certainly wouldn’t want to write them!). I prefer to focus on relationships, emotion, and sometimes romance too. All wrapped up in the mystery of course, with a bit of darkness and danger thrown in!
Can you tell us a bit about your Emma Holden series of books? They’ve been very successful, you must be really pleased.
I’m really pleased about how things have gone. The One You Love, the first novel of the series, has been very well received, and has been downloaded around two million times since July 2011. It’s been in the top 10 in the UK Kindle free download chart since then, as well as being in the top 100 of the US Kindle chart for the same length of time. It’s also doing really well on Apple’s various iBookstores around the world, and was recently highlighted as a “Breakout Book” by Apple. It’s fair to say that it took me by surprise, and I still can’t quite get my head around it. The novella sequel has done really well, and the third and final instalment, The One You Trust, will be out in summer 2013. I’ve worked with the characters for quite a while now, and really do care for them. It will be good to complete my “grand plan” but it will also be sad to finish with them. I’m sure Emma in particular will be glad that I’ll be leaving her alone to get on with her life.
How in-depth is your planning when plotting a new novel?
It depends. I did a lot less plotting for The One You Love than I did for Someone to Save You (where I plotted out each chapter from the beginning). To be honest, if I plot too much, it spoils it for me. I feel like things have already happened and that I’m just some reporter writing up yesterday’s news. Whereas if I know just a few key points (start, middle, end, and then a few other key scenes), then it’s much more exciting for me as a writer, as things happen that you never considered before, and could probably not artificially create before putting pen to paper (well, finger to keyboard). That’s what I love so much about writing – that magical moment when you are typing away, and creating things that just pop into your head from it seems like nowhere.
The covers look great and give a real brand to your books. Did you design your own covers and can you tell us the process?
I did design my own covers initially, which were okay but obviously pretty amateurish. Then last year I had my covers professionally designed by a lovely lady called Jeanine Henning. I’m so happy with them, and they really communicate the books and my brand much better than I could have done. I’d definitely recommend having covers done by a professional.
What are your views on social media and raising your platform as a writer?
I do use social media. I have a Twitter account, a Facebook author page, and a website. However I must say that I’ve never been terribly pro-active on these. Partly it’s because I always feel embarrassed doing self-publicity (like a lot of authors, I’m not particularly self-confident about what I do), but also I’m not convinced it works. Especially when there are so many other people out there doing the same thing. I’m not saying it can’t work, but I do think the effort required is probably pretty huge, and means you may well have no time for actually writing! I do love connecting with readers through Facebook and Twitter though, and they are great ways to build an audience once they have already read your work.
How do you fit your writing around your ‘day job’?
It’s difficult! Things change, and where I once had a neat period of time in the day to indulge myself with my writing, I now have a very different routine, where writing has to battle for space with lots of other priorities. When writing The One You Fear, I took time off on leave to get it finished, and I expect to do that again. Writing has always been a hobby for me, and it still is really. Like any hobby, you have to make the effort to fit it in around everything else. I find that once I get into a particular project, I do then find it easier to make time, as the momentum pushes you along and motivates you to carve out space to continue. It’s the getting started that’s the hardest part, especially if you’ve taken a few months off from writing.
As a successful self-published author, would you consider submitting to an agent or publishing house in the future?
I wouldn’t rule anything out. I didn’t self-publish to try and get a deal with a traditional publisher, so it wasn’t a means to an end. I also haven’t submitted to any agents or publishing houses since my success. However, I have been approached by both agents and publishers, and always make a point of listening to what they have to say. At the moment I’m more than happy with what I’m doing, but who knows. My personal view is that we’re going to see more massive changes in publishing over the next few years, and big name authors may well begin to explore self-publishing. As for myself, I’ll just keep writing and will see what happens. If it all ended tomorrow, I’ve had two amazing years, so I certainly couldn’t complain.
What’s the best piece of advice you could offer someone considering self-publishing?
I would say make sure before you publish that you get your manuscript professionally copy-edited. Or at least, you do your very best to ensure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. My biggest mistake was not doing this initially, and it caused a lot of problems. All my novels are now professionally copy-edited. You have to treat readers with respect, and ensuring an error free work is a big part of that.
Random Quick Fire
Right or left handed? Right
Wine, Beer or lager? Beer
Chinese or Indian food? Indian
Football or Cricket? Rugby league actually! But football out of those two.
Town or country? Country
To love or to be loved? I think you need both really.
MI5 or MI6? MI5
Maverick or conformist? Conformist.
Thanks so much for coming in Paul, it’s been great to meet you. Wishing you every success for your novels.
No problem, happy to drop by, and thanks for the cuppa!