CK: Hi Jonathan and congratulations on the publication of your first novel! Thanks for coming over to my blog, especially now you are famous, to be grilled about Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens and to answer other impertinent and only tenuously relevant questions.
CK: Let’s start with the hardest question for many writers: In a nutshell, what is your book about?
JP: Well, the clue’s in the title. Sequel to Pride and Prejudice. With aliens. I would, however, like to point out that I’ve taken considerable care to make sure it fits seamlessly with the original (or, as I tend to refer to it, “the first book in the series”). Much of Wickham’s behaviour in P&P, for example, can be explained in terms of him being an undercover agent for the Department of Unusual Affairs. I’ve also devoted a fair degree of attention to developing a credible character arc for Austen’s characters. For instance, it seems clear to me that the only way Charlotte could cope with marriage to Mr Collins would be to become a laudanum addict. Especially if she happened to bump into Lord Byron.
CK: What is it like being sandwiched between Rosamunde Pilcher and Bella Pollen?
JP: Odd. I bet they’re both thinking “There goes the neighbourhood”. Actually, I had to look up Bella Pollen, because I’d never heard of her and she sounded like something out of a Roald Dahl story. Her books look quite interesting, though.
CK: You describe the work with Salt, in particular with your editor, as being published ‘well’. Has your experience changed the way you view the book market and the options for publication? What advice would you now give to other writers hoping to publish a novel?
JP: Good question. I don’t think it’s changed anything particularly in that – despite the fact that I ended up serialising the book online – I’ve always wanted a traditional publication with a good-looking book for sale in the high street. Somehow or other that actually came to pass, and I feel very lucky. My advice to a first-time novelist would still be to aim for a traditional publisher because that’s still where the credibility is. However, if you do decided to self-publish, be prepared to shell out for a decent cover and an editor. And be aware that before he made his million sales, John Locke was also a millionaire insurance salesman. If you want to achieve his level of sales, you probably also need his sales and marketing skills. Then again, even if you’re aiming to be traditionally published, you probably need a fair bit of self-marketing nous. I had to pull quite a few stunts to make myself noticed after all.
JP: Ha. That hadn’t occurred to me! I would however question the juxtaposition of “Respectable” with “Software Developer”. It’s hardly a proper job, you know.
CK: You initially published Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens on the internet, where it was available for free. What was your thinking behind this? When is it OK for writers to give away their work without payment?
JP: It was borne out of desperation, to be honest. I was fairly sure that what I was writing was worthy of publication, but it kept running up against the idea that it was just another of those Pride and Prejudice and Zombie things. So I thought, well, I’ve got a decent social networking footprint and I’ve been writing it in short chunks: let’s see if I can persuade a few people to read it as a serial. I still can’t really believe that the strategy worked.
As for when it’s OK for writers to give away their work without payment, that’s a much thornier issue. The intention with Mrs Darcy was always to take the serialisation down as soon as I got a deal, and that’s exactly what I did. I’m pretty certain that most of my regular readers from last year will buy the book, because that’s what I would do myself. Also, I don’t have a problem with giving my short stories away to ezines like Eclectica or indeed The View From Here, because I know they’re not going to be making loads of money out of me and I also know that they have credibility as a platform for getting my work out there. But once again, the long-term goal is to get a traditionally-published short story collection out – in fact, like the one I’ve got lined up for 2012! With the likes of the Huffington Post, however, the long-term advantage is a lot less clear cut, and I’m not entirely sure it’s a healthy trend.
CK: Do aliens exist?
JP: Whoa! Curve ball alert! I’m sure they do, although it’s a little surprising they haven’t bothered to come knocking yet. Either way, they probably don’t have tentacles.
CK: What are the top 3 reasons why people should click here and buy Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens right now?
JP: 1) It’s got aliens.
2) It’s got Lord Byron.
3) It’s the most fun you can have with a bonnet on.
You heard it here 5th! Thanks again, Jonathan and good luck with the book sales!