In Conversation with author GJ Minett
I was lucky enough to meet with Graham, author of "The Hidden Legacy" (ebook published Nov 2015, paperback Aug 2016) and the hotly anticipated "Lie in Wait" also releasing in August 2016.
I discovered "The Hidden Legacy" after reading a review by @cleo_bannister (cleopatralovesbooks.wordpress.com) - book guru and book blogger extraordinaire! My crippling To Be Read pile is almost wholly down to her fantastic recommendations! Since reviewing his debut novel, we have kept in touch and I was fortunate enough to be able to grab a coffee with him recently giving me a chance to meet him in person and hear more about his life as a writer.
For Graham, one of the biggest things he has discovered is that actually the life of an author is not one of tranquil isolation, where you are left undisturbed at your desk to write to your heart's content; it is actually very social and the impact of this interaction is invaluable. "I probably spend a few hours a day on Twitter," he told me, "The first thing my publisher insisted on was getting myself an account and embracing the whole world of social media, which was a bit scary but actually has been such an enjoyable eyeopener." It's not just a way to market and promote his own novel but Graham discovered "book bloggers"! "All these people who will give up their own time to read other people's books -not just one or two but hundreds and hundreds of them! And then review them! It's such a huge job, so time consuming...." But also one that actually generates sales and can have a direct influence on the success of a book - particularly a new writer. "My first review on Goodreads was a 5 star rating," - there are many many more now, in fact on Amazon, 85 out of the 129 reviews are 5 star and a further 26 are 4 stars - "Two days later, I went back to have another look, we all do obviously, despite what we say! - and there were 17 comments posted under this first post, all saying they were now or would soon also read my book following this recommendation from a trusted reviewer. And then things just flew! I've written a post all about book bloggers," he continues, "I'm just so grateful for what they do and admire their time and commitment to reading and supporting writers."
Graham still works part time but is hoping that in the next 18 months or so, he can fully "retire" from his "day job" and concentrate completely on his career as an author. "A few years ago I made the decision to really make a go of writing. It was something I wanted to do for a long time and it was too easy to make an excuse up not to get on with it. The time was right and I enrolled on an MA in Creative Writing at Chichester University." The course was very professional and as it took him seriously as a writer, Graham could take himself seriously as a writer. Not only was the course and the teaching paramount to honing his creative skills and helping him become more expert at characterisation, plot development and all the other things you'd expect to study, Graham actually found the structure of having to meet a deadline, submit your pieces and then have them workshopped with really constructive feedback was the most motivating and valuable element of his time there.
The MA gave him the chance to complete several short stories that were redrafted and redrafted until they could redraft no more, and he then began to submit them to competitions and win prizes! This gave him a few credentials with which to include in his letters to agents when he began to submit "The Hidden Legacy". He'd completed the opening 3 chapters of this as part of his dissertation.
"I would highly recommend an MA in Creative Writing to anyone who is serious about writing," Graham says. "I learn so much - not just about writing and how to be a critical reader but, perhaps even more importantly, how the book publishing industry worked."
So the idea for "The Hidden Legacy" had been in existence for a while? "I'd created this character, Ellen. I have completed pages and pages of character sheets with every detail of information about her from the colour of eyes, to what she had for breakfast, to the last song she'd bought. I'd sit watching the news on telly and in my head I'd be wondering what she was making of it all! I had to write about her." The tricky part was transferring all Graham knew about Ellen into the story at the right time and in the right way. Sometimes when you know someone too well you can miss out the crucial detail. "I had two sheets of paper. One with every single scene I wanted to do in the book. Another with every single thing I wanted to use about Ellen. Then I highlighted a characteristic and matched it with a specific scene so the whole novel was colour coded and minutely planned out by the time I came to pull it all together."
Graham is also an avid reader and gets through about 75 - 80 books a year. He's currently reading "The Spy of Venice" by Benet Brandreth and also highly recommends "Tall Oaks" by Chris Whittaker, "Cut to the Bone" by Alex Caan and "Without Trace" by Simon Booker. Graham often posts recommendations on Twitter and I read "The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir" by Leslie Allen following his advice and it has been one of the best books I have read this year!
It was great to meet with Graham, hear all his news and learn a little bit more about his writing life. His new book, "Lie in Wait" is out on August 25th 2015. Thank you so much Graham for making some time to catch up and giving me the opportunity to write about our conversation. I wish you all the best with the sales of the paperbacks of both your books this Autumn!
UPDATED STATS - Hidden Legacy has now received 140 reviews on Amazon, 119 are 4 or 5 stars!
For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacUK)