Monday, 26 July 2010

Q & A with Michele Gorman author of Single in the city

Michele Gorman Author of Single in the city kindly offered to do a Q & A for My Women’s fiction group on Facebook. So here are the answers to your questions and the questions I put to Michele.

1.Chick Lit Author would like to know:
“The book has a great cover. I would like to know: How much input does an author have on the cover design of their book?”

I love the cover too (big thanks to Nellie Ryan and team) and it’s better than anything I could have dreamed up. My fab editor at Penguin did ask for my ideas, which I happily gave, but there’s a reason that I’m the writer and the design team is, well, the design team. So they sensibly went in their own direction with the illustrations, and I think they captured the essence of the book perfectly (I did get them to add the American flag though to the spine, because I thought it was very important to signal that the book has an expat angle). Essentially, when a writer signs a publishing contract she hands over the marketing to the publisher, and things like the cover and the blurb on the back are included within the publisher’s remit.

2.Marian Pearson Stevens Would like to know:
Congrats on your new release, Michele! Can you tell us about the journey of this book? Is this a first sale to this editor? How was the process and time frame? Thanks for the Q and A!

Thanks very much! It is my first sale to this publisher, and indeed, it’s my first sale ever (I wrote three books before Single in the City). So the process has been fascinating to me because I didn’t know what to expect. I chose my (amazing) agent a year ago last December and she put the submission out to around half a dozen publishers. Penguin came back within 48 hours with an offer and I signed my publishing contract at London Fashion Weekend (a fitting venue). That was in March 2009, so it took around 15 months from signature to seeing the book on the shelves. Lots went on in that timeframe. My editor suggested a couple of rounds of edits. These were ‘bigger picture’ edits, i.e. adding a scene, beefing up a character, etc. Then my sub-editor got hold of it and I did an edit for spelling, punctuation, etc. Then it went quiet for a few months before the design team kicked into gear and the cover was produced. Around six months before launch date the proofs were ready, which is the last chance we have to make changes. Things started getting busy a few months before publication, as the sales teams around the world approached the shops and online distributors to get them to stock the book. And my lovely PR and I started pitching article ideas to the papers and magazines to generate publicity. That part of the process is still very much going on, so I’m now focusing on doing features or columns for the papers, and Q & A's like this for the blogs.

3. For those who don’t know could you tell us what Single in the city is about?

Single in the City follows 26 year-old American, Hannah, who lands alone in London only to find that she is totally ill-equipped to live there. Not that a complete lack of forethought has ever stopped her before. She charges headlong into London life, perplexing its residents with continual faux pas and cultural misunderstandings in her pursuit of a new life, new love and sense of herself.

4. Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?

I have a ‘day job’ on Mondays through Wednesdays, so Thursdays and Fridays are writing days. I’m cursed with the inability to sleep late, so am usually up by 7.30 or so. Coffee first, then a jog if I’m feeling energetic, or have a plot problem to work out (I do some of my best thinking while plodding through the park). I generally write for 3 or so hours before lunch, then have a break, and carry on for a few more hours in the afternoon. There’s usually a nap in there somewhere. I like to think it’s necessary for creativity. I don’t have a specific word count that I try to stick to (mainly because I don’t want to beat myself up if I don’t hit it), but am thrilled if I write a couple thousand words in a day. My flat is tiny, but I like to write in different places (even though these places are all about an arm’s-length away from each other). So I might start on the sofa, laptop on lap, then shift to a comfy reading chair, then the dining table. And I often write on my bed if it’s sunny because the light is lovely there in the afternoon.

5. What was your journey to being a published author like?

It was fraught with optimism. I don’t think you can get there if you don’t believe in your writing, and believe that you’ll make it one day. A few years ago I calculated how many hours I’d worked ‘for free’, writing all four books. It worked out to around 6,500 hours. That’s either incredibly optimistic or incredibly misguided. I like to think it’s the former. It’s hard to get those rejection letters (I have more than 60 of them under my belt), but after a while you develop rhinoceros-like skin. And, a bit like falling in love, I think you know when you’ve got a sellable book. I didn’t have total confidence in the first three, but I knew with Single in the City that I was on to something. Once I had the book, I looked for, and found the perfect agent, and she sold it very quickly.

6. What are you working on at the moment?

If Single in the City sells well then I’ve got the follow-up outlined and about a quarter written. I hope I get to do that one, because I’d love to spend some more time with the characters. But that will be a commercial decision that I make with my agent in the next month or so.

I’ve also got a book for an older target market up my sleeve, which is also chick-lit. Most of the books for thirty-something’s seem to involve cheating spouses, body issues, date-hindering children or deafening biological clocks. But there are a lot of women out there who are happy, well-adjusted and independent, in their late 30s, who may not have married yet, or have come out of a relationship, and are optimistic and enthusiastic about their future. There doesn't really seem to be much out there that reflects that kind of character. So I’m writing one. That’s about 50,000 words long so far (I figure it’ll be 80,000 by the time I’m done).

7. What’s the best piece of advice you can give to readers who want to write a novel of their own?

I only realized when it came time to write the synopsis for my first book, a full length novel, that it had no storyline. It was therefore unpublishable. You may not be writing to get published (there are a million reasons to write a book), but even so, presumably you’ll want your book to have a storyline. So do this little exercise. Think about your book idea. Write a single sentence that encapsulates it (for Single in the City this was: American Hannah lands in London to build a new life in a nation that doesn’t always see the funny side of her cultural blunders.). Then expand it into a single paragraph of 3 or 4 sentences. By doing this, you’ll be sure that your book won’t meander off in random directions, because you’ll always know what the essence of the story is, and you can develop your plotlines and characters accordingly.

Also, remember that you don’t have to be published to be a writer. You are a writer if you write.

8. What is your favourite Women’s fiction book of all time and why?

That’s easy. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. Her main character Becky was winsomely ditzy, unerringly funny and the story galloped along, making me want to read it from cover to cover in a single sitting. To me it is the epitome of excellent writing – it seems effortless.

9. Can you tell us how it feels reading reviews, of Single in the City, whether they are good or bad?

I’ve thought a lot about this in the last few months. The way I figure it, if I let the good reviews affect me then I have to let the bad ones do so as well. In both cases they are someone’s honest opinion, so I listen to them, like I do all opinions, but don’t necessarily let those opinions, whether good or bad; dictate how I feel about the book.

Of course, it’s nice to get good reviews!

10. What was it like seeing your book in the shops for the first time?

I literally squealed. And it was even better because my Mom was with me. She’d flown over from the States for the launch party, and I was dropping her off at Heathrow the day after the launch. We went into the WHSmith in the T5 check-in concourse and there was Single in the City, right on the front sale table! A young couple, looking at the books on the table, were clearly startled by my commotion, and even more so when Mom forced them to hold up the book so she could take our picture together. I have the photo, labelled ‘Day 1’, framed on my table. The poor couple are probably still recovering from the American onslaught.

11. Lisa Heidke would like to know: I'd love to know what kind of publicity/promotion Michele is doing for her book. How involved is she with that side of things. Thanks, Lisa

The short answer is that I'm doing all the promotion I possibly can, using every medium available. As a debut writer, there isn't a marketing budget for the book, so no advertisement at all.

However, I have a fabulous PR at Penguin who has taken me on as her personal project :-) She's managed to get me three kinds of publicity so far: features for me to write in magazines and newspapers (Cosmo, Telegraph, Guardian, Scotsman, etc), Q & A's on women's fiction blog sites, and interviews in a couple of newspapers. We're hoping for some radio and TV coming up. At the same time I've contacted all of the book clubs and women's clubs in London offering to come talk to them, either about the book or about writing in general, and have emailed hundreds of expat women living in the UK to introduce the book and ask them to recommend it to their friends if they like it. I also put out a chain letter email with the first couple chapters attached for free to 800 friends and colleagues, asking them to pass the email on to everyone they think might like the book. And I've been in touch with lots of blogs and Facebook interest groups to introduce the book and offer to do some writing for them. Basically, even with the best PR people in the world, the writer needs to hit the streets (not literally - that would be another kind of book) and market, market, market. Hope that helps! And best of luck with 'Lucy' and 'Kate'! Mx

I’d like to give Michele a big thank you for the Q & A and wish her luck with Single in the city xx.

Single in the city on sale now.




Michele's website