Ali ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for taking the time to chat about your book
What is it about your book that will pique the reader’s interest?
I think my main character, a feisty eighteen-year-old, and her string of predicaments (why is she a social outcast? why is she eyeing up someone else’s boyfriend?) will sweep the reader along and I think I have achieved a distinctive and consistent voice for her. I think many people have come to it because of it’s setting on the Fife coast – a big holiday area - and of course in Edinburgh, a unique and much-loved city.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of A Kettle of Fish?
Difficult question as I am a very stop-start kind of writer. The idea was born during a holiday in 2007 (yes, that long ago!) when I was still doing final edits to a previous novel. I probably put ‘pen to paper’ in early 2008. I did go off at a good pace and I know I took a first draft to a writer’s conference in June 2009 – for me that’s a very quick write. However, after that I took a longish break (as usually happens with me) during which the plot was restructured and lots more changes made until it was picked up for publishing in spring 2012. For me 5 years seems to be standard.
The book world is very competitive – how do you get your book noticed?
I was determined that my book would look good and grab attention. I did try to choose an interesting title and I asked my publisher if I could employ my own designer (who just happens to be my daughter) for the cover, in the hope of having a product that would stand out. I am very happy with the results, but I have since learned that to some extent it’s better to conform to a recognisable style in matters of presentation, so maybe it has stood out a little too much! From then on it was a case of using all the tools at my disposal to get the first (e-book) edition noticed. I already had a blog and was a confirmed Twitter user so I did have a ‘platform’ from which to sell my wares. But of course so does everyone else! For a year I was a member of an online writers’ cooperative group who worked as a team on marketing and promotion, and that did provide a boost. When I went on to publish the paperback it was more a case of foot-slogging. I’ve done presentations in my local libraries and other community ventures and have recently been part of a joint project with my writing group (http://writersunchained.wordpress.com) which has given all of us more publicity. I have to say public appearances have not come easily, but is all part of the job. I’ve also been involved in workshops and other activities to support new writers which feels more satisfying than straight promotion.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write. Keep writing. Get help.
I think finding the right help is very important. Having been a ‘closet writer’ I went on a one-day writing course which was a total disaster. I stopped writing for quite a while. A few years later I signed up for a six-week evening course which turned out to be exactly right for me. Or maybe it was just the time that was right. Since then I've been in two different writing groups and in both of them have found ‘critical friends’ whose comments I trust. Accepting criticism is hard especially for a new writer, but we will all have to deal with it sooner or later. The next thing to learn is when to take the criticism on board and when to stick to your guns. It is your writing after all.
Which writers have inspired you?
Writers who speak to me in a direct way have mostly been mainstream women novelists like Rose Tremain, Penelope Lively, Margaret Forster, and more recently Ann Patchett. I suppose they are the people who make me think ‘If only I could write a book like that’ or even ‘maybe I could write a book like that’. Then there are other books that just sweep me away to somewhere wholly unfamiliar and they provide a different kind of inspiration. I’m thinking of the Time Traveller’s Wife, The Handmaid’s Tale or Kate Atkinson's earlier work. My first novel was about a middle aged woman coming to terms with an old love affair but in some obscure way I was kicked into writing it by Rose Tremain’s Restoration - about a courtier to King Charles II.
Can you tell us what you are writing next?
True to form I’m going off in a totally new direction again, this time by writing a historical novel. It came about because I became interested in (obsessed by?) a Victorian photographer who lived in Edinburgh and whose name has somehow kept cropping up in my life. Clearly I would have to write his story! It has taken me a while to do the research and also to get to grips with how much will be history and how much will be fiction. I’ve already made a few false starts but I think I’m pretty much ready to make a go of it now.
Ali Bacon was born in Dunfermline in Scotland and graduated from St Andrews University. Her writing has been published in Scribble, The Yellow Room and a number of online magazines. She was shortlisted for the A&C Black First Novel Competition 2006. She now lives near Bristol. A Kettle of Fish is her first published novel.
Website and blog: http://alibacon.com
A Kettle of Fish is a rollercoaster family drama set in Scotland and published by Thornberry Publishing
Buy it from Amazon UK (£1.99) or Amazon USA in Kindle format.
Print edition: ISBN 9781781768624
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/AKettleOfFish
Ali ~ thank you so much for spending time on our blog. Jaffa and I wish you continued success with your writing career. Come back and see us soon.
Ali is very kindly offering a Kindle copy of her book to one lucky winner of this giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Ailsa has just finished school and faces the agonising dilemma of either moving away to Edinburgh and university life, or remaining at home in Fife, with her increasingly demanding mother. Both choices brings its own set of problems, but when Ailsa is overtaken by raging hormones, and meets and falls, sort of in lust with, one of the local boys, suddenly her life starts to get even more complicated.
What I loved about this coming of age story was just how realistic it was in terms of Ailsa’s thoughts and feelings, and how the sheer draining energy of Ailsa’s mum, Lorraine was conveyed in heartbreaking detail. Time and place is captured perfectly, as is the indecision of those late teenage years, when although the world beckons, we are somehow reluctant to leave behind the safety of childhood. Drifting from one bad relationship to another, Ailsa is not just learning about her own sexuality, but is also hampered by childhood memories, and the revelation of a well kept and sordid family secret means that Ailsa needs to confront the past, before she can move on into her future.
Quite effortlessly, the author has captured not just the indecision of youth but also the sense of drifting along aimlessly with no real purpose until galvanised into action. She has combined this with a love of Scotland, from the urban environment of cultural Edinburgh, with its cafes, galleries and bars; through to the beauty of Scotland’s stunning coastline, all merge into really thoughtful and well written story.