Saturday, 10 January 2015

Awesome lady: Danielle Austen

My fellow Xcite author, Danielle Austen, took me under her wing and gave me a heads up as to what to expect when I was preparing for my first novel to be published and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. Turns out we’ve got a lot more in common than just our publishing company. So meet fellow nerd, Dannielle…

Aside from writing erotica, the prophecy girl trilogy was a fantasy story set in the world of magic. What inspired you to choose that setting?

The stories I enjoy (whether in books, TV, film or videogames) tend to combine action, adventure, character drama and a tinge of sci-fi and/or supernatural; so it was a blend of genres I also gravitated towards in my own writing. I chose magic in particular because unlike things like vampires and werewolves and spaceships, I had complete creative freedom. I was able to create my own rules without having to worry about existing genre tropes, and do whatever I wanted within those confines. It also gave me the flexibility to escalate the scale of the magic throughout the trilogy; from Angelito’s illusions in The Magician’s Lover through to Cereza terraforming an entire planet in The Ancient’s Destiny.

I couldn’t help picturing Derren Brown when I read about Angelito. Are any of the characters based on real people/celebrities?

Ha! I completely understand picturing Derren Brown! Alas, he was not the inspiration for Angelito; however a different celebrity was, on a physical level at least. He’s not the only one; Dmitri, Jason, Frank, Tera, Tengu and a couple of others have their appearance inspired by actors and musicians and others. Some characters such as Cammie are inspired by people I know in the real world, and others like Cereza and Zee are entirely new creations who just appeared in my head. In any case, I don’t like revealing specifically who my characters are based on – it can interfere with a reader’s existing mental image, and there is no “right” way to imagine any of my characters.

What’s your favourite video game?

I’d played games before, but almost 15 years ago I played a game which gave me cause to buy my first ever console – Halo: Combat Evolved. It gave me such a sense of awe and wonder that I’d never experienced before, and it was the first time a game really felt like what it was trying to portray – I really felt like a supersoldier alone on a strange alien planet. The whole series is great – I lost almost two full years of my life to Halo: Reach alone, and Cortana’s death in Halo 4 had me in floods of tears – but the first game has a particularly special place in my heart. Hubby & I recently bought ourselves an Xbox One and so far the only game we own on it is the Halo collection – I basically have a £300 Halo machine!

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your free time?

I have a full-time job which sucks up a lot of my time; on top of that I also have routine housework to get through, some pretty extensive home renovations to sort out, time to devote to hubby, and a regular exercise routine to keep up. Sometimes my life can be a little like an exercise in spinning plates – but it’s not a complaint; I would much rather be too busy than bored! When I do get some time out I like travelling, watching good TV with the hubster, playing videogames, and going out running.

Have you always wanted to be an author? What made you choose erotica specifically?

I’d always had a creative side that I needed to release; my problem for many years was trying to find the right avenue for it. I tried being in a band, but had the small problem of being unable to sing or play any instruments! Then I tried screenwriting after having an idea for a movie, but the whole process was infuriating; I found that having to write in the correct and very specific format just got in the way of the actual writing. But after I read Juliet Hastings’ “The Hand of Amun” – for me the greatest erotic novel ever written – my mind exploded with possibilities. Here was something I could actually do! I already had a couple of English qualifications so I knew how to write, and I found the characters and the stories came easily – plus writing erotica gave me a great creative outlet for some of my issues and weird neuroses.

Not too long ago I was having a whinge to hubby about some of the negative aspects of writing erotica and he asked why I don’t just write in another genre – but honestly, I love writing cross-genre erotica. It’s the only thing I feel compelled to write. I don’t think there are many other authors writing the kind of erotica I write; I’m writing the erotica I would want to read, and as an added bonus there’s the possibility that others will enjoy it too. It’s not a financially rewarding genre and I’m never going to be a household name but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Who’s your favourite author?

If we’re talking erotica, then it’s Juliet Hastings by a country mile. I don’t think she’s active anymore, but the books she did write were all phenomenal. But if you mean on a normal day-to-day basis then there are three authors who never let me down – Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen King. It’s tough for me to pick just one as a lot of it is mood-dependent, but if push came to shove I’d probably fall on the side of Vonnegut. He was one of the most unique authors the world has ever seen, and probably the only author to ever make me alternately laugh and cry in the space of three paragraphs.

What’s your strategy for surviving a zombie apocalypse?

I assume that getting my claws into Daryl Dixon isn’t an option?! I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead and zombie movies in general so I feel pretty well-educated on this front. If the world’s gone to hell then I’m off to Hawaii; it’s my favourite place in the world, it’s really remote so it’s nigh-on impossible for hordes of zombies to stumble into, and if there are already zombies there Hawaii has pretty lax gun control laws so guns and ammo won’t be hard to come across – and I know from past experience that I’m a dab hand with a semi-automatic rifle! Granted, getting halfway across the world in the midst of a zombie apocalypse could be tricky but I’ll manage it somehow – if there’s one thing erotica has taught me, it’s that the world is full of yacht-owning billionaires who are just desperate for the love of a woman who likes being spanked!

Visit Danielle’s website

Follow her on Twitter

Find her on Facebook

Awesome lady: Danielle Austen

Friday, 2 January 2015

Free ebooks and the changing face of publishing

I had a sobering thought this morning. I was on Facebook and read a post from someone detailing all the free books she had downloaded from the Kindle store.

I had a little moment of sadness. As a consumer Amazon is great, everything is cheap, there’s bargains to be had everywhere. And as a reader, the promise of downloading more Ebooks for free than I could possibly ever read in my lifetime is a treat indeed.

Then I thought; what will happen when authors realise that there’s just no point in writing. It’s not a sustainable career option, one cannot make a decent living from writing novels anymore.

I thought, what will readers do then? When no new novels are being written? I had a ridiculous, almost satisfied feeling, rather like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Yes, while readers delight in getting free books now, not caring at all that this free books model is hugely undervaluing the time and effort that authors have taken in writing their novel, what will they do when this model collapses and there are no new novels?

But then I realised: with so many free books available, even if no one ever writes another novel again there’s still more than enough books to last several lifetimes.

How depressing.

The average employee works 1440 hours a year and earns £26500.

I spent 500 hours writing Inspired by Night and earned a sales royalty of £14.90. No advance, no other income associated with the novel. I’ve spent at least 10 times that amount on marketing.

I work full time (earning massively below the average wage), and my spare time is spent on the, apparently thankless, task of novel writing.

918 people downloaded my novel, when it first came out, but only 38 of those people paid – the frankly bargain price of £1.83 – the other 880 got it free and will probably never read it.

Still. We write because we love it, right??

The Amazon way has created a monster. Traditionally published authors are competing with a seemingly unlimited number of self published authors. Some who take it seriously and some that don’t even seem to bother with proofreading. Inbetween that is the rise of independent publishers that basically use the self publishing tools to publish other writers. They own the novels but the author is still the one doing all the publicity, with no budget and no control over running sales or special offers.

Getting a publishing deal now is probably easier than it’s ever been. Which massively undervalues the time and effort that has gone into writing.

I realise that I’m published by one of these independent publishers. I’ve benefitted from the current model. I’ll never know whether my novel was good enough to attract an agent and get it in front of a major publisher, because I didn’t have the self confidence to believe it was good enough. But on the other hand, this show of faith by Xcite has given me the self belief that I can write novels worthy of publication, which has made me spend another few hundred hours hunched over the keyboard writing another novel.

If I’d written Inspired, published it myself and sold ten copies, I’d have left it at that. I wouldn’t claim to be an author. I’d have got the writing bug out of my system.

But this way has lead me to think I’m good enough to be published, I’m thinking about getting an agent – as if that’s as easy as saying ‘hey, you can be my agent’ – I’m dreaming about traditional publishers, being interviewed on This Morning and touring branches of Waterstones doing book readings to my legion of fans.

And maybe that’s still possible. Or maybe the current print on demand and ebook model means independent publishers are just less fussy about what they put their name to and in real life I’d be buried under a sea of rejection letters from agents.

I would love to be a full time author but sadly, while the market is saturated and the public demand more for less, it’s likely that, despite being a published author, it will never be my full time career.

Free ebooks and the changing face of publishing

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Video: What was the inspiration for Inspired by Night?

A few things inspired me to write Inspired by Night. My friend’s comments about the poor editing of Fifty Shades of Grey gave me the confidence to just try writing, my long held ambition to write something and my desire to create a world that made sense to me as a female nerdy business woman.

But the core inspiration was what I now refer to as the Catfish romance. I hadn’t seen Catfish before writing but the central story is similar to an episode of Catfish.


I’d had online friends that I barely knew yet talked to almost daily. But I couldn’t really imagine falling in love with them, though I know plenty of people that have. I just wanted to explore it a bit further.

Video: What was the inspiration for Inspired by Night?