A blog from Tonto Books, featuring musings from the publishing world and some occasional special guest appearances.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I interviewed Caroline Smailes yonks ago now. Well, a few weeks ago. Hey, I've been busy, ok!
So, now that I'm fully in LBF mode, it seems a nice time to post it up. Caroline is one of those rare writers who has time for anyone and doesn't mind spending time doing interviews like this and passing on words of wisdom to newer writers. In short, she's one of the good guys of the writing world and someone who is only going to find more success with everything she does. I know it's annoying, but lets find out a bit more about her...

Stu: When did you start writing seriously?
Caroline: In 2005, when I packed in my PhD and enrolled on an MA in Creative Writing.

S: What was your PhD? Completely different life for you?
C: It was in Applied Linguistics and I was studying language development in children with Down's Syndrome. So, yes, worlds away from now.

S: What compelled you to write?
C: For me, the writing stems from a gnawing feeling of something that has to be said. It’s an urge, a desire, a need and clearly that sounds far too pretentious! In 2005, it was more about a ‘now or never’ wanting to see if I could be a published writer.

S: It isn’t an easy thing to do – discipline, rejection, despair (and those are the good days)... have you ever been at a point when you nearly gave up? If so, what made you carry on?
C: Last year was the lowest point for me. My publisher went into liquidation and everything was falling apart on a personal level. I began to question the route I was taking and my writing dream. But, even amongst all of the chaos, I still wrote a novel and I don’t think that giving up was ever really an option.

S: How do you rise above and overcome the ‘thanks but no thanks’ letters?
C: With whisky.

(Good answer. And a splash of dry ginger and a piece of lime with crushed ice in mine)

S: You’ve mentored a couple of writers for Tonto Books recently – is that a welcome distraction for a writer?

C: Working with Roz and Nik has been an absolute pleasure. Being a published writer means that I can understand the angst, frustration and hope that debut writers experience. Mentoring was a welcomed break from my fiction into the brilliantly disturbing worlds that Roz and Nik created.

S: Does it help in your own work?

C: I think it has helped to increase my anal tendencies in the editing of my own work. I’m not really sure if this is a good or a bad thing.

Writers take note:

S: You’re great at self-promotion – how important is this for writers?
C: I would question any fiction writer who didn't have a strong online platform - at least on blogs, Twitter and Facebook. There are so many connections waiting to be made and online self-promotion offers opportunity to interact with a wider audience, one that the standard PR offered by most publishers would not reach.

S: What tips would you give anyone in starting to promote their wares?
C: Set up a blog and post regularly. Set up a Twitter account and Twitter regularly. Read and comment on other writers’ blogs. Be friendly and open, the rest will come.

S: Do you actively set up your own interviews, signings?
C: Blog wise, my network is supportive and I have been interviewed or reviewed by a number of bloggers. Twitter has led to a few interviews too. My publisher organises signings and formal interviews, but if I have any requests I can ask them to make initial contact for me.

S: What’s the biggest misconception(s) people have towards writers?
C: That all published writers are sitting in their counting houses with big pots of money!

S: And the second biggest?
C: That anyone can write and so everyone has 'a book in them'.

Big thanks to Caroline for the interview.
Stay tuned for part two.


DJ Kirkby said...

Great Q & A's. Only one question of mine remains unanswered...when will Tonto start 'Twittering'?

Tonto Books said...

Tonto isn't quite A-list enough yet. I'm sure it'll happen though.

Leatherdykeuk said...

Fabulous interview. Bravo to both misconceptions!

(And how cool - the word verification was my own name!)

Jamieson Wolf said...

What a fabulous interview! I think it's interesting that Caroline mentioned a low time.

Writers seem to write no matter what else is going on in their lives. Writing is a hunger that must be fed, even amongst hardship.

Also love the advice on what a writer can do to promote themself. Everyone thinks promotion has to be a big, huge thing. But as long as you're connecting to others, the rest will follow.

Lovely stuff!