Crowdfunding your novel: 3 campaign tips and 5 ways (not) to cope with the stress

I have a good line in quackery and jargon that may assuage many of the problems you are presently encountering

Dear Doctor Taylor,

For the last six months, I have been crowdfunding my novel The Backstreets of Purgatory with Unbound. Although I am making good progress, certain things are beginning to concern me. Recently I have noticed that when I start a conversation, my partner’s eyes glaze and he stares wistfully over my shoulder as if he is reminiscing about a time when our conversations sparked with such intellectual firecrackers as whether it is acceptable to add milk while the tea bag is still in the mug, or whether Cheddar or Gruyère makes better cheese on toast.

Tea bag in a mug of milky tea
Milk before the teabag is out? Unacceptable, surely.

Worryingly, whenever we are out and about and I open my bag to rummage through it, he flinches and distances himself from me as if I’m about to batter him with a baseball bat, which is frankly ridiculous because Continue reading “Crowdfunding your novel: 3 campaign tips and 5 ways (not) to cope with the stress”

Novelist Catherine Hokin answers my Proust Questionnaire

I can’t choose between gravy-based and custard-based options

Blood and Roses by Catherine Hokin

The second victim in my series of Proust questionnaires is the Glasgow-based author and novelist Catherine Hokin. Not only is she a fabulous writer but she is extremely generous and supportive of the rest of us who are trying to do the same thing. In her debut novel Blood and Roses, she draws on her fascination with medieval history, political propaganda and hidden female voices to bring a new perspective to the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482, wife of Henry VI) and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses.

The theme of Catherine’s blog posts and articles is often dangerous women and I suspect that, under her apparently gentle exterior, she may be a pretty dangerous woman herself. Her answer to my first question is evidence enough.

Here she struggles with that age-old dilemma—whether to go for a gravy-based or custard-based meal—and reveals a slightly bizarre situation involving hats with animal ears (a situation that cannot possibly be hypothetical as it has clearly left her traumatised).

1. What was the first music you ever paid for?

Telegram Sam by T-Rex—it was a red vinyl 45. I was impressed [Ed: Me too. Impressed, that is].

2. What was the most recent music that you paid for?

Does shifting to Premium Spotify on the basis of severe guilt count? If so it would be Positive Songs by Negative People by Frank Turner.

3. What was the most recent book you read?

 The Devil’s Feast by Miranda Carter—delicious.

4. What is your favourite novel?

Wise Children by Angela Carter.

5. Who is your favourite poet?

I’m meant to have one of those by now but it hasn’t quite happened. I’m a bit more of a prose person.

6. What is your favourite work of art?

Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

7. What is your favourite museum?

The Kelvingrove in Glasgow.

8. What would you spend your last tenner on?

I’m assuming this is an apocalyptic scenario so a Continue reading “Novelist Catherine Hokin answers my Proust Questionnaire”

Frisson

those small moments of everyday ecstasy

Frisson. A ladybird walks over the back of your hand. A chickadee feeds straight from your palm. A deer brushes by close enough for you to feel its breath on your skin. You’re filled with a rush of joy (if you are a ladybird, finch, deer loving kind of person, that is) and something akin to love, and the whole thing tickles slightly, and you want to laugh from the unexpected wonder of it but you know that if you do, the moment be spoiled, so you hold your breath and watch in fearful anticipation and hope that it lasts. Someone is running a feather over your heart and you don’t know whether to smile because it feels good or squirm because it is distinctly unsettling.

A chickadee feeds from my palm
Don’t breathe, don’t laugh

Frisson. That’s how I think of it anyway. That feeling you get from a piece of music that thrills you, from a poem that resonates perfectly, from a work of art that leaves you speechless.

Recently, I read a couple of articles on exactly this subject and it got me thinking about the physical and emotional responses that we have to art in its various forms. Andrew Scull’s article in the Times Literary Supplement gently mocked the idea of the enlightened connoisseur being overwhelmed by the sublime, their extreme sensitivity a measure of their delicacy of taste, of their elevated cultural discernment. A sensitivity not dissimilar to religious exaltation and taken to an extreme in Stendhal’s Syndrome.

Panoramic view of Florence
Florence: Frescoes and Fainting for the Oversensitive? Photo by Ghost of Kuji

But my measure of frisson is on a less dramatic scale. I’m not talking about fainting attacks in front of Florentine frescos or falling to your knees before a breathtaking view of an unfamiliar dramatic landscape as experienced by 18th century enlightened tourists on their grand tours (landscapes, incidentally, unappreciated by the vulgar and loutish peasants who are too busy actually having to work the land to contemplate the scenery). I’m talking about those small moments of everyday ecstasy. The intro to Space Oddity. The tension of unsaid words Continue reading “Frisson”

The University Café: Glasgow, Italy and Ice Cream

Pasquale in his suit and Guiseppa in her white apron, the windows full of adverts for Cadbury’s chocolate and Capstan cigarettes and, above the door, a sign masquerading as a lamp. Or a lamp masquerading as a sign. Ices.

The Soul of a City

There are certain landmarks in any city that always make the postcards or the souvenir bookmarks and mugs and tea towels, landmarks that even a stranger would recognise silhouetted against the skyline. In Glasgow, they might be the Finnieston Crane, The Mackintosh Building at the Art School, the Squinty Bridge (or the Clyde Arc to use its official name) or even the statue of the Duke of Wellington on Queen Street with his obligatory traffic cone.

But then there are those places that are less recognisable to folk who don’t know the city but which are easily identifiable to those who live there. Places which don’t shout their touristy credentials quite so loudly but which engender words like institution and hidden gem. Places barely changed for years which—because of the lives that have passed through them and the events they have marked—have come to embody the soul of the city and with which we can all illustrate our personal histories. In Glasgow, that might mean The Pavilion Theatre, for example, or the Glasgow Film Theatre, or the blue Dr Who-style Police Box at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens, or any of the numerous legendary (and I don’t use the word lightly) pubs and bars that adorn the city.

The University Café is one such place. Situated on Byres Road just around the corner from the University of Glasgow (the clue is in the name), it has been selling teas and coffees and its own ice cream to West Enders and students since 1918. It was a favourite of mine when I was a student and more recently a regular treat-stop when my nieces came to visit. My mother-in-law was brought up round the corner in Partick and remembers going there as a child. Even Jamie Oliver is a fan. There are two pages devoted to the University Café in Jamie’s Great Britain and apparently his 20 minute visit there extended to nearly an hour by the time he’d eaten breakfast and been shown how the famous ice cream is made.

Pasquale and Guiseppa

Recently, I had the enormous pleasure of chatting to Carlo Verrecchia, the current owner. In his early 60s now, he’s been working in the café since he left school, aged 16. He explained that his Italian grandparents Pasquale and Guiseppa Continue reading “The University Café: Glasgow, Italy and Ice Cream”

The Right Words in the Wrong Order

It is when things go slightly awry that the best stuff happens. At least, that’s the excuse I’m using. Welcome to my blog. It is, and no doubt will remain, a work in progress essentially describing the journey to publication of my novel The Backstreets of Purgatory and all things related to its content. For the moment that means Glasgow (where it is set) and art (Caravaggio is one of the stars of the show). But that’s just for starters. All digressions, anomalies and inconsistencies are part of a greater plan. Unfortunately I’m not sure what that is yet.

PS If you’ve signed up to my email list and haven’t received your FREE SHORT STORY, check your spam folder incase it is hiding out there. If it isn’t, contact me and I’ll make sure you get it somehow.

Man With Glasses Answer My Proust Questionnaire

Perfect happiness? A girl from Paisley named Michelle.

As you may have gathered if you’ve read my post about unknown unknowns, I’m pretty new to twitter and all that malarky and not exactly gifted at it. However, it isn’t all bad. I’ve made some pretty good discoveries since I started twitting. One of the bands I came across early on (i.e. about a month ago) are the fabulous Man With Glasses. They are based in Glasgow and hence qualify for my questionnaire. Their music is instrumental electronica, melodious and up lifting and I’m really chuffed that they agreed to answer my daft questions. Ian plays along with a fab mix of humour and sincerity.

1. What was the first music you ever paid for?

Rockin’ Over the Beat by Technotronic.

Still love this!

2. What was the most recent music that you paid for?

Trick by Jamie T.

3. What was the most recent book you read?

Seventy-Seven: My Road to Wimbledon Glory by the wonderful Andy Murray.

4. What is your favourite novel?

Of Mice and Men.

5. Who is your favourite poet?

I have not ventured into the world of poetry………

Maybe I will at some point but I prefer action more than words (maybe that is why my band Man With Glasses play only instrumental music).

6. What is your favourite work of art?

The Metamorphosis of Narcissus by Salvador Dalí.

7. What is your favourite museum?

My girlfriend’s Continue reading “Man With Glasses Answer My Proust Questionnaire”

Unknown unknowns and my Unbound adventure

The moon stuff came out of nowhere, knocked me sideways, sent me swirling into a vertiginous panic

The first time it happened, I was in the infant class at primary school. At the end of the spring term, the adorable—adored—Miss Hughes announced to her pupils that she would be getting married during the Easter holidays.

‘So what will my new name be when we come back to school?’

Left to my own devices, Rumpelstiltskin would have seemed as sensible a guess as any. No joke though, the entire class replied in unison.

‘Mrs Thompson.’

When I say entire, what I mean is entire minus one.

me-age-4-or-5
Baffled

To this day, I have not the faintest idea how my class mates came by that (correct) answer or where I was (physically or mentally) at the moment they were primed with that particular piece of information. I’d even go as far as to say that I’m fairly certain I wasn’t even aware of the possibility of a Miss to Mrs transition, never mind the idea of a whole change of surname.

So there I sat on my miniature chair at my slice of a shin-high, half-hexagonal, light-grey plastic table, while Miss Hughes basked in the radiance of her future marital happiness and the adoration of her tiny students, and was (as I remain) utterly baffled.

Another time. It’s First Year at High School. A science class and Continue reading “Unknown unknowns and my Unbound adventure”

The journey begins

They seemed effortlessly cool—cool but professional—turning out top quality, exciting, left-field works like one of the good indie record labels from back in the day.

It is almost a year ago now since I met Rachael Kerr, Unbound’s Editor-at-Large, at a National Creative Writing Graduate Fair at Manchester Metropolitan University. She was one of several industry professionals speaking at the fair and I was immediately taken by the whole idea of Unbound. They seemed pretty rock and roll compared to traditional publishers. Adventurous, innovative, and totally down with the digital age. Qualities I’d love to say that I shared but a body of evidence the size of a hairy mammoth pretty much proves the opposite.

Technologically challenged, a late adopter, insecure and hideously introverted would be perhaps to understate my defining characteristics. Not ideal when Unbound’s model relies on crowdfunding, on gathering supporters to pledge to buy the book in advance. As soon as a project has enough support, the book goes into production—special editions for the supporters alongside a commercial print run (in conjunction with Penguin Random House). But to find that support, the authors have to do a large part of the marketing themselves.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m more than willing to work hard (so long as the hard work doesn’t involve picking tatties—worst job ever by the way). But I have issues asking people to sponsor me for a charity run, never mind ask them to pledge for my book.

So, back at the conference, I chatted with Rachael, pitched my idea and she seemed to like it. The basic synopsis of THE BACKSTREETS OF PURGATORY  is as follows: Caravaggio arrives in present day Glasgow to help out a struggling art student and things get messy. Rachael asked me to email her the manuscript. Result.

But I didn’t. Not for Continue reading “The journey begins”