To give my readers and fellow writers an insight into the processes and successes of other like-minded creatives, I'll be featuring some hardworking authors in my journal .
Today's author is N. J. Cartner and he's independently published.
Photograph courtesy of Mark Allott
What made you want to become a writer?
I’m not sure really. From my late teens there was always this little voice in my head telling me that it was something I had to accomplish someday. I think in my own dreamlike state I naively imagined that being a writer would be my ticket to never having to work a typical 9-5 job. At that time I wasn’t really inspired by books. I always found more influence in film and music, but for years I didn’t know what to seriously write about. It was more of a pipe dream at that point. It was only by gaining more life experience when ideas started to flow more freely. I began my first serious writing steps days after returning from a trip to Las Vegas, and I suddenly found that I was writing a novel. From there the floodgates opened and I got involved in writing within the music industry by reviewing gigs and albums, which I still do today.
What are your thoughts on the indie vs traditional publishing argument?
From a literature side I’m not very knowledgeable on the subject, and others will have a better idea than me, but given my music background I can see a similar argument when talking about being signed to a record label or going solo. I don’t think that being traditionally published means that success is a given as I’ve heard horror stories from people going down that route, unless you sign with one of the top publishers. But, I don’t think doing it all yourself is anything to fear as it can lead to something bigger as we’ve seen with a few books, and at least you retain control. I’m self-published and I’ve not regretted the decision. I might not have the same reach or knowledge as a traditional publisher, but no one will be more passionate about selling my book than me, and I think that can count for a lot if you truly believe in yourself and are prepared to work hard to achieve a dream.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest novel?
It’s called ‘Lost in Manchester, Found in Vegas’, and it’s a coming of age/travel story about a 28 year old man who breaks up with his girlfriend, and with that comes the realisation that life has passed him by, so he goes to Vegas with his three friends to find himself and who he really is, and what direction he wants to go in, which in Vegas can be a dangerous thing to do given the city’s seductive nature. It’s ultimately about how Sin City can influence a man at a crossroads in his life. There’s a lot of humour to it, and a look into the male psyche, with observations of our American cousins from an English point of view, but there’s an undercurrent of emotiveness and honesty which brings more depth to the story and keeps the laddish behaviour to a minimum. There’s also a lot of music used to aid the atmosphere of certain scenes and create a better understanding of the emotions the main protagonist is going through.
Please share your top 3 marketing tips with us.
I would say organising book signings is the main one that’s worked for me. Getting out there and promoting your book and meeting people is fundamental to getting your name known. Social media is obviously a huge thing these days with its various channels. In the creative arts I believe that marketing starts with your immediate friends and family and can grow from there. Reviews/interviews/features are also huge, whether they are on amazon or on other sites and publications like what you’re doing, Rachael. People can have a reach that you can’t. Contact your local press too and try and build up interest that way. I’m sure there are many other avenues I’ve yet to explore too that work for other authors, but one thing I feel reluctant to do is to go down the paid review route.
Tell us about your typical writing day.
Despair, lack of motivation, self-loathing, lack of confidence, moody, another cup of coffee, avoid the laptop, write, hate what I’ve done, then repeat the process until something pops. Isn’t that what most writers go through? Haha. I wouldn’t say every process is to this extreme, but elements do appear from time to time. I think in the main, inspiration can come at the strangest and most inconvenient moments, and equally, it can blossom when you’re in the full flow of writing. The important thing to do is just to write and see what happens.
What is your definition of success? Would you say you are a successful author?
I think everyone has the same dream of becoming a bestselling author and it becomes a full time profession. The reality is that’s not likely to happen for most of us. But I think if you manage to complete a book, that itself is deemed a monumental success as it’s not an easy feat to achieve. I have the utmost respect to anyone who completes a book, and if just one person takes something from your story and gives you a pat on the back then you’ve done your job and that should be seen as success. Anything after that is a bonus and should be enjoyed.
Share some of your writing goals with us. Have you met any of them yet?
Completing a book and getting it out there was my major goal. Having people enjoy it and taking something from it was a secondary goal, but now those are complete I’m just happy to keep plugging away with promotion and working on another book. I’d love to see ‘Lost in Manchester, Found in Vegas’ on screen someday, however far-fetched that may seem, but many people do see a film in it so who knows – it’s good to dream. I do have ideas for about five or six other novels so I would love to work towards releasing at least that many books throughout my life and have a catalogue of work as my legacy. I could live with that.
Photo courtesy of Matt Johnston
How do you deal with negative reviews and criticism?
Constructive negative reviews and criticism I can handle and will take onboard as everyone has an opinion and some of them can be useful. I’m lucky that so far these are at a minimum. I understand though that ‘Lost in Manchester, Found in Vegas’ won’t appeal to everybody and that’s fine. I don’t expect everyone to love it. What I don’t tolerate is rudeness and people crossing boundaries with their comments. I think there’s a deeper issue going on from the accuser if that happens so I’ll take no notice if any come my way.
Do you have a favourite author for fiction and non-fiction? Why are they your favourite and which of their books would you recommend?
I’m not sure I have a definitive favourite author or genre, but I like different authors from different genres, fiction and non-fiction. Nick Hornby and Rex Pickett are fictional favourites of mine from authors who can tell a relatable story mixing humour and emotion, like ‘High Fidelity’ from Hornby, and ‘Sideways’ from Pickett. I love Charles Bukowski and Hunter S Thompson for their extremities, and these do kind of fall under non-fiction in many respects. ‘The Rum Diary’ and ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ are favourites from Hunter S, and ‘Women’ is a favourite from Bukowski. They’re so raw, and I’m attracted to that mentality of the times. I do like a good fictional thriller too, Jillianne Hoffman’s, ‘Retribution’ is possibly my favourite from that genre. I do find myself truly gripped by Dan Brown novels too. ‘Angels and Demons’ was probably my favourite from his catalogue. These are proper page turners. Of course, being a lover of music I’m gripped by autobiographies/biographies of rock stars – with Jerry Hopkins’ ‘The Lizard King: The definitive Jim Morrison’ being my favourite.
Where do you get your ideas/ how do you find inspiration?
Music is a huge source of inspiration. Because of my love for film too I can hear a song in my car, or wherever, and visualize it soundtracking a specific scene I conjure up in my head, which I will then look to use somehow in the novel I’m writing. A lot of general inspiration comes from everyday living and what I’ve already experienced in life. I have a tendency to experience something or see or hear about something and either use it or go off on a tangent in my head and completely embellish a what if story around it. Whether that’s how other authors gain inspiration I don’t know. It’d be interesting to know actually.
Can you share any free resources or tools you have found helpful?
The internet can be a minefield but you can generally find advice on publishing and marketing etc if you look at various sites and judge for yourself what’s best for you.
Do you outsource your work (editing and cover design specifically)?
I was lucky enough to know people who helped with my editing and proof-reading (thanks Judy Marsh) and an illustrator (thanks Stacey Knowles), who designed my front cover. Just want to say a huge thanks to both in helping making my dreams come true.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I think I’m a little bit of both. I plot in my head but I find that when I’m writing ideas come to me and I can go off in a different direction than I initially intended. I’m not sure I have any pre-writing processes, but I do like to start with a coffee by my side and with music playing to kick start the creative juices flowing.
Why do you write?
Because there’s a twisted and compulsive need inside of me that tells me to do so and to not have any regrets in life.
What is your mission statement?
“You can ultimately fail at what you don’t want so you might as well do something that you love!” – Jim Carrey
What do you love the most about writing and why?
I love writing something that readers find inspirational in some way. There’s no greater sense of achievement than when someone tells me how ‘Lost in Manchester, Found in Vegas’ has inspired them. That’s the highest compliment I can attain.
What do you dislike about writing and why?
The constant re-reading and editing of work – and that horrible period between saying you’re going to do some writing and actually sitting down at your laptop. It’s weird, there’s like a fear and you do everything possible to avoid it, even though you ultimately made the decision to write that day – no one else did.
Do you ever visit other authors' websites and if so, what do you look for? Why?
Occasionally I do, but I should do more often really and learn from my peers. I don’t look for anything in particular really – only what books they have and what they are about.
Thank you so much to author N. J. Cartner for sharing his insights on writing and publishing books. If you would like to support N. J and his work, please consider purchasing a copy of the book, Lost In Manchester, Found In Vegas available on Amazon now. Check out the handy link below: