Welcome to the latest in my series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am pleased to introduce the talented author, Christopher Galvin, creator of the children’s fantasy novel, Strings. Christopher has selected the self-publishing path and it has been interesting to find out his take on the positives and negatives associated with his experience.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m from Co. Offaly in Ireland. My background is in TV and film. I have a BA Hons Degree in Video. I’ve always enjoyed writing since I was very young, whether it was short stories or plays or comics. I write short films which seem to do reasonably well on the film festival circuit – the last one was called Stuck. I really enjoyed writing and co-directing that one.
2. What do you do when you are not writing?
Marketing my book! Pushing it on social media etc. But I’m also a videographer so I edit videos etc. too.
3. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I’ve been writing since I was old enough to pick up a pen, but my first book… I recently finished the third draft of my first novel, Arthur Smallwood’s Quest for Magic, which I’ve begun to submit to agents. Although ASQM is technically the first book I completed, Strings, is the first book I published. It’s a children’s fantasy book which I’ve self-published on Amazon and came out earlier this year.
4. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
I’m not sure I have a genre as such, but there’s usually something supernatural added whether its monsters or ghosts etc. but I wouldn’t classify it as horror. Maybe drama or comedy with a hint of the unusual about it.
As for where I get my ideas… Sometimes they jump out at me from nowhere. Other times they have been developed from something else. For example, Strings came about because I read about a competition for a story which had certain ground rules (i.e. the protagonist had to be a certain age and had to meet certain people). I simply started writing the requested scene and a couple of hours later I created the basis of a story around a young girl, her imaginary friend and their discovery of a mysterious puppet theatre materialising in her room. After writing that piece I started thinking about what would happen next, so I just continued to write and finished it in a few days.
5. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes. The way your head goes blank. It’s frustrating but it can be overcome. Either by sitting there thinking it through, or by walking away and going about your business. Usually when that happens the ideas eventually start flowing again.
6. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I just write. Most times I’ll have thought about it a lot, building the story in my head, but when I sit down, I simply write. I can edit out the bad bits later. I’m a great believer in just letting the words flow, especially with a first draft.
7. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I suppose the author or authors that stick out are Stephen King and Terry Pratchett. Their styles, while miles apart, really appeal to me. King’s strength is in his great build up of suspense and the horror he can unleash. Pratchett’s is his wonderful way with world play and his characters. Imagine combining those styles together!
8. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (self-published or traditional)?
When I wrote Strings I thought, well I’ll self-publish it. This was on the basis the experience would give me a better understanding of the market and the process if I decide to self-publish, Arthur Smallwood’s Quest for Magic. Publishing it on Amazon was fairly straightforward and went well. The decision on the size of the paperback was a challenge and the cover design certainly had its issues (although I’m pleased with the result). Sales went fine for the first few days (family and friends buying it) but there comes a time when you have to reach out to an audience of strangers and say, ‘Here’s my book – I think you’ll like it!’ I’m still trying to figure out how to do that effectively.
9. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I post about it on twitter and Facebook. I have a Facebook page for Strings and an Instagram account for it too. I made three short trailers for it (I think the last one got the most response) and I had a one-day sale where the digital version was free for the day. I haven’t cracked the market by any means but I’m constantly researching and plugging away.
10. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
Well, I mentioned Strings which is about a young Irish girl who has trouble making friends. She ends up creating an imaginary friend who helps her through her ups and downs. But some malevolent force has detected she is unhappy and initiates a plan to lull her into the magical town of Puppet Town. Now, Puppet Town is great, has marionettes and shadow puppets and hand puppets etc but if she stays there for 24 hours she will become a puppet too and can never go back home. The remainder of the tale follows her journey to do just that.
Arthur Smallwood’s Quest for Magic is a bit more complex and is aimed at the YA market. I’ll talk more about that when it’s ready to go.
11. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or is it purely imaginative?
One or two little pieces that reflect my own life but mostly pure imagination.
12. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been your greatest compliment?
The toughest I think is that I’m very much in a hurry to get things written and done. In the past my first drafts were ‘it’. I didn’t bother with editing much. But that has changed for the better and I’m more patient. You kind of have to be. It makes your writing better. My greatest compliment is probably that I tend to make things very vivid – if you read my stories you can really imagine what the characters are feeling and the worlds they inhabit.
13. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
This is hard as I’d still describe myself as an aspiring writer. That said I guess my advice would be firstly to take your time and don’t rush a project. Give as much time to perfecting your work as you can. Secondly is simply to keep writing – don’t wait for inspiration to arrive before writing, it won’t! You have to work at your craft, inspiration rarely just appears and if you simply waited you’d be staring at a blank page most of the time. Finally you must engage with those willing to help. Let people read your work; if you are lucky enough to be friends with someone who can edit, don’t be shy about passing over your manuscript! They are a huge help and can improve your writing. If you have writing heroes follow them and keep reading. Sometimes going to a book signing can push you to want to have one of your own. *takes a deep breath and ends answer*
14. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Please pick up a copy of Strings and take a look. While it’s a kid’s book, it’s also not. I would imagine a lot of adults now might feel some of what Mary is feeling and enjoy her adventure. And if you do, please leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Not only is It a huge boost when you read about someone loving the story you have told but reviews are the life blood of a self-published author and essential if new readers are to discover our work.
Please join me in thanking Christopher for the insight into his publication journey and for sharing his more general writing experiences. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Christopher via the following links.
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