Sunday, 23 June 2013

The third of my current Author Interviews - Keri Beevis, author of the award winning debut novel, 'Dead Letter Day'.



This series of interviews is a little different to others, as each question was posed to my ‘victims’ on an individual basis, and in many respects, based on previous responses. This provides a very spontaneous, open, honest, and - I hope, interesting insight as to what it takes to become a writer in today’s world of publishing.


This week’s guest author is the talented Norfolk, England, lass, Keri Beevis - my second guest from around the Norwich area in as many weeks. 


Keri is the author of prize winning debut novel ‘Dead Letter Day’.


Keri also works with a condition called 'Synesthesia' which I had never heard of before, but is quite fascinating in its own right, as she will explain later in the interview.




                          



Welcome Keri!


Q1 - How would you, personally, like to introduce Keri Beevis - the woman and the author...


Keri Beevis is an award winning author from Norfolk, England, who has been writing for over twenty years. In previous incarnations she has worked as a video rental store assistant, the world’s worst hairdresser and as a caricaturist, but the love and need to write has always been in her blood. Her debut novel, Dead Letter Day, an American set, twisty serial killer thriller came runner up in the Rethink Press New Novels Competition 2012. Keri lives with her two pampered cats and is busy working on the sequel to Dead Letter Day. When not writing she can usually be found watching movies or frequenting the beer gardens of the Norfolk countryside.


Q2 - from all of your pages and assorted posts, it appears that you are Norfolk born and bred, and living in the heart of a lovely English County. I am interested to know why you chose to set your first novel 'Dead Letter Day' in the USA and not England. What factors influenced you the most to do so?


I am Norfolk born and bred, love my home and would happily stay here for the rest of my life. Norfolk is a beautiful county with a low crime rate and a picturesque coastline, and my home city of Norwich has a pub for every day of the year. What is not to love?

So why did I set Dead Letter Day in America?

I have always been obsessed with fiction. Movies were as big a part of my childhood as writing and reading and this was only fueled by my dad buying two video rental stores. It was the eighties, a time when the British film industry was in decline and so my diet consisted of mainly American based movies. I watched everything going, comedy, horror, thriller, romance, gangster, you name it, but had a particular fondness for the brat pack films, slasher flicks and anything with a clever twist that would keep me guessing. Likewise, the books I read were by mostly American authors, such as Stephen King, Richard Laymon and Nora Roberts.
It was escapism and I loved it, and when it came to writing I wanted my own stories to be a part of this same world. When I first started writing it felt natural to me to set my books in the States. I tried writing British based stories, but they always felt false and indeed were criticized for being “too Americanized”.

I have never been to Oregon, but hope to visit one day. Of all the states, to me it looks the most beautiful, and maybe there is something about its rugged coastline and lush forests that reminds me of the North Norfolk coast.


Q3 - Given that you have taken your inspiration from USA based films and novels, and noting that for book two you have sought reference from Jon Curtis for background, how have you gone about establishing such realistic data about your American cops and the way they would live their daily lives? Have films and books given you all of that, or do you have other resources in the USA?


I would love to say that I did a lot of in depth research with US police officers, but the truth is I wrote Dead Letter Day when I was 25 and based everything on the many TV shows and movies I had watched and the books I had read. I did refer to reference books whenever I got stuck to try and ensure accuracy.

It was only when doing the final edit after the book was runner up in the New Novels Competition that I was able to rely heavily on the Internet. It was at this point I ran various things past my Californian friends and also my sister, who is a detective with Norfolk Constabulary; though I admit I just asked questions and didn’t give any of them the manuscript to read, so there are a few small inaccuracies on things I neglected to check.

Book two is being better researched. I now have several copper friends volunteering to help (I think they want a mention in the acknowledgements) and Jon has been very helpful. The role of the psychologist is small but crucial to the plot and I have really benefitted from the information he has given me. 


Q4 - It is quite apparent that as a new self-published author, aside from the actual skills and creativity you need to get your book out in the first place, you have a tale to tell about your experiences promoting and marketing your books. You have managed to do this amidst family, social and work pressures, yet seem to have achieved great results.

Would you explain what lessons you have learned about promotion and marketing that could be picked up by authors who have not yet gone through this process?


I would say the one lesson I have learnt about promotion and marketing is that you can never start too soon and the Internet is the way to go forward as it offers a massive audience. The second I knew I was going to have a book published I set up a Facebook author page, joined sites such as LinkedIn, Pinterest, Goodreads and Shelfari, and also started to focus more on my Twitter account.

I found through Twitter that if I followed and engaged with fellow writers, they would often follow back. Likewise, you soon learn which authors are reciprocal with retweets. With LinkedIn I joined writing groups, which brought me into contact with lots of other authors, while with Facebook, I asked friends to follow my page and share my posts about the book. This helped build up my audience and brought the book to the attention of a lot of people before it was published.

When the book launched I did a press release that was sent to all local media, as well as some national. A couple came back and I took every bit of exposure I could. I have linked my Facebook account up to my Twitter account so everything I post gets duplicated and I have tried to post every day, even if it is something very brief. I have learnt that out of sight is out of mind, whereas if I’m plugging away being a pain in the ass in everyone’s face, my Amazon rankings improve. I have also tried to engage readers with some posts asking a question, so they can interact, as well as free book giveaways for sharing my page and of course the character naming idea. I have also had posters printed and tried to get them in as many local shops as possible.

Marketing can be a full time job and it is tough to switch on the laptop after a hard day at work and start all over again, but it is very worth it and the bigger an audience you reach the better the chance you have of your book selling. Use your friends and family, get them to blanket email their address book, retweet you on Twitter and share your links on Facebook. It makes a huge difference.

One other final thing I tried, with mixed results, was Facebook adverts. I would set an advert for about £2 to run over a 2 hour period when I knew several people would be online and I would target fans of specific authors. You only have a few words to play with, so it has to be eye catching and for every 1000 pages on which the advert appeared I would be charged about 15pence. I would then be notified every time someone clicked on to my Amazon link. It was difficult to gauge how successful this was. Some nights my rankings would drastically improve, while on others, despite having a dozen clicks, they would drop. It’s worth bearing in mind though for a cheap form of advertising.


Q5 - You have all gone through the process of Agent rejection, and clearly the process has spurred you on to self publish.

How disappointing was rejection, and having chosen the SP route, would anything persuade you to return and search for a TP route and the treadmill of agents and the like, for subsequent books?


As you’ll have heard in my radio interview I did get signed by an agent and then rejected by a publisher at the last hurdle. The rejection was blowing. The decision came down to one person and that stung. I had been rejected before. In fact I used to paper my wall with the rejection slips to spur me on, as I’d heard that’s what Stephen King had done. But this was gutting, as I really had reached the very last hurdle, and like a fool I gave up.

I actually won my self-publishing package through a competition a friend had nagged the hell out of me to enter. Would I have self-published if the opportunity hadn’t come along? Possibly not, as I had lost all confidence in my writing. It was only because of the competition and the pressure my friend put me under, that I entered. So glad she believed in me.

As for the future, the sequel to Dead Letter Day will be with Rethink Press and looking at the success of some indie books, I have to say self-publishing beyond that would definitely be an option. While traditional publishing undoubtedly unearths some talent, I do think for a lot of writers it is a case of who you know and there are some awful books available through big publishing houses. Likewise, while I know there are plenty of bad indie books, there are also hugely talented writers who deserve the chance to have their book read.


Q6 - How does it feel to suddenly become the focus of attention from people, all over the world, who now see you as a favourite author. Have you acquired any stalkers yet? What has been your favourite accolade?


Yes, I definitely have a few fans since DLD was released and it is the most surreal, but lovely feeling. I can’t get over how much some people interact on my page, all because they loved the book and want to engage with me – the author. It is all good for the book and they are always very polite and kind with their words. I actually had the chance to meet a fan of DLD this weekend, as we were at the same party. She was a lovely lady; smart, elegant and articulate, and there was me stuffing my face with a plate of sausages and coleslaw, already on my second glass of wine and tripping over stuff (which I hasten to add I do with or without the aid of wine). I couldn’t quite get my head round the fact she seemed to find me fascinating and wanted to spend time in my company.

My favourite accolade? I have a couple. My review in the local Eastern Daily Press, which was sweet. I couldn’t have asked for a better review, as there was absolutely no criticism at all and the journalist said she is now a fan and can’t wait for the sequel. That just blew me away. The second one was last week. I was browsing my publishers Facebook page and noticed one of my Australian fans had taken to their page to post about how much she’d loved my book. It was a really good feeling knowing she had felt passionate enough to do that.


Q7 - you state in some of your previous publicity materials that you suffer from 'Synesthesia'. Could you explain to the readers what that actually results in, and how it affects your writing? How might others recognise that they may be similarly affected?


I have a very basic form of Synesthesia, which is colour word/letter association. It is utterly pointless and to be honest I assumed everyone saw words and names in colour, until I read a newspaper article about it. Synesthesia is a merging of the senses. More interesting cases I have read about include a guy who tasted words. For example, whenever he said the name Barbara he got the strong taste of elastic bands. Some musicians with Synesthesia can see sound. I believe I have read that both Billy Joel and John Mayer have this form. I am not sure if my form of Synesthesia helps my writing in any way, though it is said that artistic people are more likely to have the condition. It does mess with my head a little when words are written in one colour and to me they should be something different. For example, on the cover of DLD my name is written in yellow. To me, Keri is a red word and Beevis is a brown word. That would have looked stupid on the book though, so I have to get over it.


Q8 - You are currently working on your sequel to 'Dead Letter Day'. How much of that is down to your personal desire to extend the characters and exploit them further? How much pressure, as an author, do you feel there is to produce a sequel to such a successful novel?


I have never written a sequel and my new book was always intended to be another stand-alone book. Before it went to print my publisher was gently suggesting bringing some of the characters back, but it wasn’t until I had quite a few requests from readers that I finally relented. I already had a plot in mind and a couple of new characters and I was actually debating over whether to set my new novel in the US again or here in the UK. It was flattering knowing that people were eager to read more about the characters I had created, so I decided to make a few changes to the new plot, set it back in Juniper, Oregon and bring back some of the original cast. I am so pleased my fans pushed me in this direction, as I didn’t realise how much I would enjoy writing about my old friends again. The pressure is definitely on. There are high expectations for the sequel and I don’t want to disappoint my fans who are eagerly awaiting the book. Dead Letter Day has a lot of twists, including a final huge one, few people have managed to get. I have to admit figuring out how I am going to top that is causing me a few sleepless nights.


Q9 - What else does Keri Beevis have in the pipeline for her readers? Future plans, projects and aspirations?

Movies and books go hand in hand for me and plan A was always to get published, with plan B getting my novels made into movies. Well, they do say ‘aim high’. With regards to writing, I have another thriller already completed, that I am very proud of. It’s currently called Pandora’s Box, though that title will likely change. The pace is slower than Dead Letter Day and I want to do some work on it before it is released to try and speed it up, but my intention is to release the sequel to DLD, then bring Pandora’s Box out almost on the back of it. I will then probably go back to my characters in Juniper for a third story.


I would like to thank Keri for providing us with such great information and insight!



 ‘Dead Letter Day’, by Keri Beevis, is now available in paperback and e-book formats. For more information, please take the time to look at the links, below...






Website         http://www.keribeevis.com



Twitter           https://twitter.com/keribeevis





6 comments:

  1. It's so encouraging to read how Keri, not only kept writing despite setbacks, but to see how she tackled the bewildering challenges of self-publishing, PR and marketing. Thanks for this interview, Keri and Phil - great job!

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    1. Thanks Teagan. Keri is an another of the new authors who has proven that there can still be success after rejection. To take an award, also, is testimony to her talents. There are some great writers out there presently, and I consider it a real privilege to engaged with them!

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  2. Great interview, Phil, though how could it be anything but with the lovely and engaging, Keri? Your interrogation methods are superb and I count myself very fortunate to have connected with two talented and warm individuals that I now consider friends! Congrats, Keri, on the fantastic and well-deserved career ahead of you!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Megan; You have ALL been great to work with. I hope the interviews give each of us that little extra 'notoriety' and the exposure that will hopefully carry us that bit further. Keri was / is great fun to work with - we have so much in common, yet so much we can learn from each other. Thanks for the feedback.

      Phil

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  3. Keri, Great interview. It was a great read and nice to learn more about you and your experiences. I especially enjoyed hearing about what you've done to market DLD. I look forward to reading the sequel.

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    1. Bryan; Thanks for the comments. I will make sure Keri gets to see them!

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