Our seventh Author In The Zone is Trevor Belshaw, from Nottingham in the U.K.
Trevor Belshaw writes for both adults and children and lives in Nottingham with his wife Doreen and two Springer Spaniels, Molly and Maisie. When not writing he listens to rock and blues music.
He is an ardent supporter of Nottingham Forest Football Club. Trevor is 56 and took up writing late in life, but has been rapidly making up for lost time. Over the last eighteen months his articles, poems and short stories have been published in a variety of magazines, e-zines and paperback anthologies. Trevor is a regular contributor to The Pages e-zine and is one of the contributing authors to the 100 Stories for Haiti charity book project which raised money for the victims of the Haiti earthquake.
His eBook, Tracy's Hot Mail, has just been published by MA2books. The paperback and audio book of Tracy's Hot Mail, is due to be published soon by the new kid on the block, publisher, BigBadMedia. Trevor has four children's novels under his belt and is currently working on the second Tracy book, Tracy's Celebrity Hot Mail.
Hi Trevor, welcome to Authors In The Zone. Your book Tracy's Hot Mail will be released later this year. Can you tell us a little about it?
Hi Noel, it's a pleasure. Tracy's Hot Mail is an unusual book, it has no chapters as such. The text is laid out as a series of emails sent from Tracy (the new girl in the office,) to her friend Emma who works at the bank.
Tracy is a gossip collector and dishes the dirt on friends and colleagues alike. No one is spared, her benefit fiddling father and porn obsessed boyfriend get the same treatment as her boss, Mr Tugger, and the office tart, Olivia. The book is a rowdy romp, detailing the life and longings of a typical British working girl.
Tell us about your route to publication? Who, if anyone, helped you along the way?
I wrote Tracy's Hot Mail over a period of nine months. It began as an experiment. Each individual email was posted onto a website which I had opened to get feedback on the project. The initial reaction was favourable to say the least, and I was often asked if I was planning on publishing it as a book. I wasn't really sure if there would be a market for it, so I decided to try the e-Book route to begin with.
The first company I approached accepted it immediately and it was available for download a day or two later. A few days after that I was approached by Greg McQueen, the man behind the 100 Stories for Haiti charity book project. He had just set up his own publishing company called BigBadMedia, he offered to publish Tracy as a paperback, an audio book and Iphone audio app. To say I was gobsmacked by the interest would be a major understatement. Within a couple of weeks he had booked Emma Newman to be the voice of Tracy and work had begun on recording the audio project.
What is the release date for the book?
The Iphone app and paperback will be available before Christmas. The full audiobook will follow later.
Tell us a little about your writing process?
I write whenever I can. I have to work in the day, so I'm mostly limited to evening and weekends. When the muse is with me I can turn out three to four thousand words a day, but on average I knock out between one to two thousand. I tend to write Tracy between breaks in the children's books, it gives me something different to think about.
I'm lucky in that I don't really suffer from writer's block. If I am struggling, I'll write down whatever is in my head at that time just to get something on the page and I go from there. It could be the shopping list, a memo, anything to get a few words down. Once my brain realises it's not looking at a blank page it kicks into life and away we go. My desk is in my workshop (I repair computers for a living) and because of that I tend to be interrupted a fair bit, which can be annoying. My dogs will bark at anything and my wife thinks that because I'm sat in front of a computer screen I must be available any time she wants to go shopping.
Ah yes, I get that too. Sometimes I think our significant others feel when you work on a computer you're not really at work. Grrrr. ;)
You've had positive news from publishers with regard your childrens books. How important is this for writers?
I've had positive feedback from children's book publishers a few times in the last few months. One of my books, Magic Molly, was pretty much set to be published. Unfortunately the board of directors decided that they couldn't afford to set up a children's imprint in the current financial climate and the editor wrote to me saying that although she loved the book they couldn't publish. She did add that if the book was available when the imprint was set up, they would still want it.
That gave me a lift as I had been getting the usual, form replies from publishers until then. Recently I had an email reply from a quality children's book publisher regarding my latest novel, Peggy Larkin's War. She said that although she loved the book and thought it was a beautiful story, the book needed a bit of a polish before it was publishable.
It's a shame more publishers can't spend a little more time on their replies when they reject work. A bit of encouragement goes a long way, and one half decent reply can lift an author's spirits and make them realise that they do have a bit of talent after all.
How do you see publishing evolving over time?
eBooks will eventually become the de-facto standard for publishing, but it will take a few years yet. Children's books may take longer to make the move to digital, as kids don't really have the same access to e-readers and Ipads. When schools start handing them out for free to pupils, that may change. In the meantime, more and more small, independent publishers like BigBadMedia will arrive on the scene, and that is good news for authors everywhere.
Do you belong to a writers group?
I did join a writer's group a few years ago but the members were so full of themselves that I soon gave up. I tried again last year with a different group but soon realised that it wasn't for me. The group was so cliquey that there was virtually no chance of a new member getting his work heard.
Instead I joined an online group called Writelink. They really are a friendly bunch and you can post your work into their 'arena,' where it will be commented on by the rest of the membership. The community is made up of published authors and new writers, they're a real friendly bunch and tend to concentrate on the positives while letting you know where you're going wrong. They helped me a great deal and I would recommend the site to any aspiring writer.
What advice would you have for new writers?
Don't try to write that best selling blockbuster right at the start. Writing is like any other trade, you have to work at it to become proficient. Try your hand at short stories before you attempt a novel. You'll find a variety of websites and magazines asking for flash fiction and short story submissions all over the Internet. Don't just go for the ones with prize money, you can earn writing credits for your CV without going for the big prizes.
Above all, Keep at it. Rejection hurts and it can knock the heart out of a writer, but try to understand that it's not a personal thing and a book that one editor doesn't like may charm the pants off another one. Don't just rely on your friends and family for feedback on your writing. They will mean well but they won't help by telling you something is wonderful, when it isn't.
If you had one wish for your writing moving forward, what would it be?
For now I'd be happy to get one of my children's books in print. Once that has been achieved I'd like to find an agent. I worked with one for a few weeks last December but sadly, I let her escape. She did ask me to send her anything else I write though, so all is not lost yet. I'd like to finish an adult novel I started this year too, it's about a new writer who joins a cliquey writers group...
Thanks very much for your time and insight, Trevor. Hopefully you will drop in again in time and share more of your wisdom with us about that new writer and that cliquey writing group...
Trevor's ebook, Tracy's Hot Mail is available here.