Being (or not being) a Local Author

Local AuthorIs there any advantage to being known as a ‘local author’?
On the one hand the description implies that this is not a well-known author of national or international renown. There is something quaintly parochial, patronizing and possibly even pathetic about having to try to appeal to potential purchasers because you all happen to live in the same vicinity.
On the other hand, for whatever reason, it is certainly easier to get bookshops, newsagents, corner shops and pubs (thank you Holdings, The Wheatsheaf and The King’s Head in Yarmouth) to stock books and to give you the opportunity to do signings (thank you Waterstones and The County Press Shop in Newport) if you have some kind of local connection.
But what is the attraction of reading books by an author who is ‘local’? Is it to support someone you may pass in the street, or sit next to in a pub, or queue up with in the Post Office? Or is it perhaps because if the author is ‘local’ then the subject matter may well be locally relevant too? Or is it that the places referred to(and, heaven forefend, people) will recognizable?
When I was writing my first book, The Last Dance, I lived near Sandwich in East Kent. That area didn’t feature at all in the book, instead it was based in The Wirral, Cheshire, where I was born and lived for the first twenty or so years of my life. I lived in Shropshire when I was writing the second which, although also based in the Wirral ventured as far afield as Cambridgeshire. I was still living in Shropshire when the third book Runaways was published. Also based on The Wirral large sections were located in Kent and Mumbai. My fourth book, Highly Unsuitable Girl, was also written whilst I lived in (a different part of) Shropshire and failed to feature anything to do with that county.
It was only when I became ‘local’ to The Isle of Wight that my books became primarily based in the area in which I lived. Her Parents’ Daughter, written in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, is the story of a murder in Yarmouth (as is A Second Strand – also written in Yarmouth).
The difficult book was A Set of Lies. The early drafts of this were written when I lived near Ludlow, Shropshire and the main characters lived, and the main settings were located, there. I then moved to the Isle of Wight and it was suggested by various people that the book should be based on the island. So the fourth, fifth and sixth drafts effected that change.
Since I started writing books that have been published I have moved house five times, lived in five different counties and so even when I have been ‘local’ it has only ever been for a short time.
I have now been ‘local’ on The Isle of Wight for three and a half years. This is a record. Perhaps it’s getting near time to think about moving on again.

How to buy books – an Indie author’s lament

BookshopHere we are – three weeks and a couple of days to Christmas, and thoughts turn (if they haven’t already) to thoughts of presents. And what is a better present for anyone from a few months to many, many years old than a book (or books!).
So – where are you going to spend your money?
The quick way is to go on-line and order the book you saw on the television, or the book most advertised, or the book featuring a favourite ‘star’, or a book written by a footballer’s wife’s hairdresser’s boyfriend? Or a book that that on-line bookseller wants you to buy?
A far more satisfying way is to visit a bookshop. There you will find books you may not otherwise come across. There you can ask a (usually) well-informed assistant for advice. There you can touch, browse more than the first few pages, get a real feel for a book. But even bookshops have their own agendas. They push you towards the books they want you to buy (usually stacked high just inside the door), the books that the publishers have ‘encouraged’ them to market prominently.
So how do you get to know about (and buy) an independent author’s books?
They are unlikely to be featured on online booksellers – though they’re there when you look for them. They may not even be stocked in many bookshops (apart from the ones the authors have personally visited).
So you probably won’t know about them and you probably won’t buy them.
So the best sellers lists will again be occupied by the usual suspects – the most advertised titles, the ‘autobiographies’ of ‘celebrities’ and the badly written sadomasochistic tomes with the word ‘grey’ in the title.
PS. To buy any one of my books visit www.carolynmccrae.com and buy directly from me (paying by Paypal); or visit my publishers’ websites www.troubador.co.uk or www.newgeneration-publishing.com  or visit a bookshop and ask them to order them or, if you really have to, visit the behemoth online bookseller and search for Carolyn McCrae.

Progress – but slow

Cat with KeyboardProgress with A Different Coast has been slow this past week.
I have had to do some work (until someone spots that my books would really make very, very good television mini-series and/or films I have to keep up with the day job and that has been quite demanding since last Monday) but progress has been made. There are now over 30,000 words. The format is set as we dart backwards and forwards between two sets of protagonists  and get some back-stories (Berlin Wall, East Germany) and already the characters are making their own decisions. One chap, who appeared in Her Parents’ Daughter, has decided he wants a bigger part in the sequel and has elbowed his way in to dominating a whole chapter. Still it was the right decision and I’m glad it was made. His appearance solved a problem I was beginning to worry about.
Apart from the ‘day job’ slowing me down I’ve had help from The Lodger.
As a cat he can’t really help though he does try. I suspect it’s the warm flow of air from the laptop’s fan that he’s really interested in – that and the clicking of the keys.
With a bit of luck I’ll be able to concentrate a bit more for the rest of the week and will raise my average to more than the 1,600 words I’m doing a day at present.
I would really love to have the kind of life where I could start writing after breakfast and end when supper was on the table – or do you have to be a male writer to have that luxury?

A tale of two (or three) chimney pots

36 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London (Essex Mansions) was built between 1886 and 1888, in the days when every room in the ‘residential apartments’ of the four storey building had a coal fire and so there were a lot of chimneys to be potted.
A little under one hundred years later, in January 1981, I worked in the offices that then occupied the first floor when workmen were doing stuff to the roof which meant removing one of the banks of chimney pots. The ten pots on the outside of the banks of twelve were well worn and in danger of falling but the inside two were hardly worn at all.IMG_0682
It was cold work for these chaps up on the roof so we made them cups of coffee and chatted to them as they went up and down the stairs past our office door. At the end of the week the chimneys were brought down and the two from the inside were carefully placed in the back of my Ford Capri. (This was 1981, I could drive into London and park on the street outside all day every day, religiously feeding the meter.)
In the years that followed the two chimney pots came with me as I moved house, divorced, moved house, re-married, moved house, divorced, moved house, re-re-married, moved house….. Those two chimney pots moved with me eleven times until 2011 when one was destroyed by a careless builder’s van. The survivor moved house yet again and now sits on the corner of the terrace in the Isle of Wight awaiting its winter trailing geraniums.

Last week I had to go up to London, not something I do lightly. On Thursday evening I walked along Maiden Lane to see what had happened to my old offices. ‘Look up there,’ my tall current husband said. I stepped off the pavement into stage doorway of the Vaudeville Theatre and looked up.
IMG_0624Just visible between aerials was our pot’s twin.
While my chimney pots had travelled from London to Kent to Surrey, to Berkshire, back to four different houses in Kent, then down to Cornwall, then back to Kent, then up to Worcestershire, then to South Shropshire and to North Shropshire (where the reversing builder demolished one) and finally down to the Isle of Wight, this one had stayed atop 36 Maiden Lane watching over the changes that had occurred in London.
One hundred years occupying the same roof and thirty four apart – reunited in photos on this blog.