This week, I’m delighted to introduce you to A D Starrling, who splits her time between writing thrillers and being a highly qualified and experienced Neonatal Intensive Care doctor! Her path into the world of indie publishing is both impressive and inspiring – it certainly proves that it’s possible to build a writing career and maintain a healthy sense of humour whilst holding down a demanding job. She’s also well-known and liked in the indie community as being generous and supportive towards fellow authors.
This series gives me the excuse to ask my guests six questions that I hope go to the heart of why they choose to earn – or attempt to earn – their living as writers. I’m featuring a different writer every week, some of whom you will probably have heard of, and some of whom may not have hit the best-seller lists yet, but are beavering away to produce the highest quality work they can. Likewise, some are self-publishing indies, whilst others are ‘traditionally’ published, and yet more – like me – ‘hybrids’ spanning both paths. The series is growing to represent a wide cross-section of authors, revealing how they ‘tick’ to aspiring writers and fellow authors alike. Do join in and leave your comments below.
1. What sort of writing you most love to do? Include as much as you like – fiction (including genre), non-fiction, blogging, copywriting, academic, courses, poetry etc.
Fiction writing, definitely. I started out writing a humorous fantasy series which got compared to the works of the late Douglas Adams, accidentally ended up penning a paranormal action thriller short story that turned into my current bestselling series Seventeen, have dabbled in horror and science fiction, and I also write romantic military thrillers.
Of the genres I’ve written so far, action thrillers, be they military or paranormal, have been my favourite. But I am also thoroughly enjoying my current secret project a lot more than I thought I would. I have just finished the first in a romance series that I will be publishing later this year under a different pen name.
2. How long did it take to earn your primary living from writing (if, indeed, you do) and what were the major obstacles you have had to overcome?
I am currently earning about one third to half what I make from my busy, part-time medical job as a Neonatal Intensive Care doctor and I am hoping to make a full time living from my writing soon. The major obstacle to my success has been learning the business aspect of being a writer-publisher, especially the marketing. The next obstacle is one all authors face and I probably shouldn’t define it so much as an obstacle as a fact of life. And that is fear. Fear of failure. The last obstacle is impatience. You need to develop nerves of steel and the stoicism of a Buddhist monk if you want to make writing a career.
3. Briefly describe your writing and editing process. Are you primarily a plotter or a ‘pantser’?
I’m a tweener, from James Scott Bell’s definition of the term in his book Write Your Novel from the Middle. Before I start writing a novel or novella or even a short story, I would have been thinking about my characters and the plot for a few weeks if not months in the case of the Seventeen novels. I usually know how each story starts, how it ends, and about three or four major crisis points/obstacles my characters have to overcome to get to their endgame. The rest of the magic happens during the process of writing itself. I do my research as I go along. I often get the most incredible ideas and plot twist points from reading around the topics I’m researching. I think my writing process would suffer if I researched too much in advance.
On average, while still working part-time as a doctor, it takes me about four to five months to write a 100,000 word novel, about two to four weeks to pen a 20-30,000 word novella, and about a week to write a 7-10,000 word short story.
Although I did just write an 18,000 word novella in six days!
4. Which writers, living or dead, do you most admire and why? (As many as you like, but just a couple will do.)
The late Alastair McLean and Terry Pratchett, for how staggeringly addictive their stories and prose were. I learned so much of my storytelling skills from them.
5. What advice do you wish you had been given when you set out to become a writer?
That it could take until Book 5 in a series for you to start seeing some real money. That learning the business side if you are not from a business background will be challenging. That you have to be patient.
6. Why did you decide to take the indie route?
Because I could see other indies bypassing the gatekeepers and making a successful career out of their writing. And I am glad I did. I am still interested in securing an agent to sell some of my rights, but I would have to be offered a very sweet deal to sell all the rights for any one book or series. I believe indie and traditional publishing will continue to co-exist for a long time, and so they should. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. My advice to newbie authors would be to do their research and look at both routes. But be clear that unless you are already a big name or you land a huge once in a lifetime six or seven figure book deal, you’re still going to have to do most of the business and marketing yourself, even if you sign with a traditional publisher.
Where to find A D Starrling:
A D Starrling’s Blog: www.adstarrling.com
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Thank you for your time and great answers, A D!