Tracey Sinclair works as freelance copywriter, editor and legal directories consultant. A diverse and slightly wandering career has included writing factsheets for small businesses, creating web content for law firms, subtitling film and TV and editing one of the UK’s largest legal directories. A keen blogger, she regularly writes for online theatre site Exeunt and science fiction site Unleash the Fanboy and her blog Body of a Geek Goddess was shortlisted in the Cosmopolitan Blogger Awards 2011. Her work has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies and her short play Bystanders was premiered in 2011 as part of the CP Players New Writing Season at Baron’s Court Theatre, London. She has published two small press books (Doll and No Love is This, both Kennedy & Boyd) and is now dipping a toe in the digital self-publishing world with her new urban fantasy novel, Dark Dates.
Tell us a little about your book.
It’s an urban fantasy book set in contemporary London. I wanted to have some fun with the standard fantasy /vampire tropes, and create a book that has all the ingredients of an urban fantasy/paranormal romance book, but with a sense of humour, too.
What inspired you to write this book?
I wrote a short story for a friend who liked vampires, just for fun, and then the more I thought about it the more I thought the story had legs and could be expanded into a full-length novel. Then I just had so much fun writing it I couldn’t stop!
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
No, although the book is fairly feminist, in the idea that the heroine is a very strong woman; although she’s not super humanly strong, she’s independent and capable, and develops strong female friendships during the course of the book, and she has a career that she cares deeply about. I was starting to get sick of books that seemed to portray the heroine as some swooning teen who only cares about romance: I wanted to write a book that portrayed a modern woman with all of her complexity.
What is your writing process?
I start out doing character sketches and short scenes by hand, not in any particular order, then I do at least two full-length handwritten drafts before I start to type it up. Then there are usually another couple of drafts before I send it out to beta readers for feedback, and do another couple of drafts to incorporate that. So it’s quite labour intensive!
What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
Probably the first two stages – the character scenes, because you have no limits as to what you can write, and the first draft, when you can see it all coming together.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
No, I’m pretty happy with it. Nothing is ever perfect, but I’m a firm believer in getting to the stage where it’s as good as you can make it and then letting go, or you’ll never put it out into the world.
What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?
I think the biggest challenge was making the move from ‘literary’ fiction – which my first two books would sort of be classed as – to urban fantasy, and overcoming my initial hesitation as to whether I could write anything that wasn’t just derivative of what’s already out there.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I think it’s more that I reminded myself just how much fun writing can be. I’d got out of that habit, and had started to see writing as a chore, so coming back to it just made me realize how much I enjoyed doing it.
Do you have a favorite line or scene from your latest release?
I think my favourite scene is the first one between Cain and Cassandra, when he appears in her room, and they have a bit of a stand-off where they are both armed and pointing guns at one another. “At this distance, I could kill him. At this distance, he could kiss me” – that’s probably one of my favourite moments because you see in quite short order what their relationship is.
Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
No, partly because I am a professional editor, and two of my beta team are writers. Though in retrospect I should have got it proofed, as the odd typo has crept in – you can never properly proof your own work!
Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
Yes, I did – but the general consensus was that ‘vampires were over’. So rather than waste months sending the book out, I thought I’d just put it out there and see what happened.
What factors influenced your decision to self-publish to Amazon?
Really, I just wanted to get the book out there. Traditional publishing can seem so slow once you’re used to working in the digital sphere, and I know lots of writers who are both traditionally published, and self-published, so I thought, why the hell not?
What have you learned during your self-publishing journey?
It’s been a steep learning curve, and I think I’ve realized you need a decent support team around you, as you have to do everything yourself, and the amount of work you need to promote the book is enormous. And I’ve been surprised by how much prejudice there is about indie authors, and the assumption that they are unprofessional. But I’ve also learned that there is a great community of bloggers and indie authors out there who are amazingly supportive, and that’s been a great discovery.
What are you doing to market your book?
Mainly through bloggers – sending out review copies, doing guest posts and through social media, and I provided review copies for one of the groups on Goodreads. I’ve also done local radio shows, too. I’m already really active on Twitter, I have a blog and a Facebook page and I write for several sites including Unleash the Fanboy, so I use those as platforms to promote my book, but I’m also fairly dependent on word of mouth!
Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
Yes, though really it’s more that I have to balance all my other work commitments with writing. That said, I enjoy the variety, and I love connecting with bloggers and readers so that never really feels like work.
How are readers/reviewers reacting to your book?
Generally the reviews have been great – and I’m surprised how many people say they found it really funny, as I knew it had a lot of humour in it but you’re always worried other people won’t get the jokes! So while I’ve had the odd duff review – which of course you have to expect – I’ve generally been thrilled with the response.
What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Don’t think that because it’s self-published you can skimp on the quality; you need a good cover, you need it to be as good as you can make it. And recognize that the hard work starts AFTER the book comes out!
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have lots of favourite authors so it’s hard to single one out, but I love good prose stylists, and I love humane writers, who seem to have a kind, generous approach to humanity. I love Terry Pratchett, Jim Butcher, Hilary Mantel and have recently fallen utterly in love with Madeline Miller, who wrote Song of Achilles, which is my favourite book of the year so far.
Have you published anything else?
Yes – I’m a full-time freelance writer, so I’ve been publishing stuff for years! In terms of books, I have a novel, Doll, and a collection of short stories, No Love Is This, out (both Kennedy & Boyd). But I’ve had a lot of stories published in magazines and anthologies, and I write for a number of publications and websites.
What’s next for you? / What is your next project?
I’m working on a sequel to Dark Dates at the moment. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to comment on the book – whether on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter or wherever. It really means a lot to get feedback.
All Cassandra Bick wants is to be left to get on with doing her job. But when you’re a Sensitive whose business is running a dating agency for vampires, life is never going to be straightforward – especially when there’s a supernatural war brewing in London, a sexy new bloodsucker in town and your mysterious, homicidal and vampire hating ex-lover chooses this moment to reappear in your life…
Witty, sharp and entertaining, Dark Dates is a heady mix of vampires, witches and werewolves – with the occasional angel thrown in – and introduces Cassandra Bick, a likeable heroine destined to join the ranks of fantasy’s feistiest females.