Here is the third and final part of my interview with British author Linda Gillard, in which she talks about genre-related hurdles in trying to crack the North American market, fascinating heroines, and her upcoming writing plans.
Me: How are your sales in other territories, in particular North America and Oceania? Do you have any plans to promote your books specifically for those markets or are you happy enough with your success in the UK?
Linda: So far I’ve made no real impact anywhere other than the UK. I’ve tried paid adverts for the US market. They boost sales for 2 days, then they go back to single figures, so I’ve now let it go. I have no experience of paid adverts working, so I’ve stopped buying them. My UK sales earn me a living. I’m gradually getting more reviews on US Amazon and they’re good, so I think my readership there will grow slowly – possibly slower than stalactites, but that’s how it was in the beginning in the UK.
I don’t write genre fiction and that’s made it hard to crack the North American market. I’m not sure how well my stories will travel anyway. I’ve been told by American fans that my books don’t have enough sex in them to appeal to readers of romance and paranormals. Most of my heroines are well into their forties. They aren’t the girl next door and never were. Sadly many Amazon reviewers assess books according to whether they’d like the heroine to be their best friend. I’m not writing for those readers.
I think the first duty of a protagonist is to be fascinating, not likeable. Let’s face it, Jane Eyre is not exactly Miss Congeniality. And I’m surely not the only one who’d like to slap Emma Woodhouse. Cathy Earnshaw is a minx at best. Becky Sharp, Anna Karenina, Emma Bovary, Scarlett O’Hara, Tess D’Urberville – none of them would have made Head Girl. But these problematic heroines haven’t exactly blighted the books in which they appear. On the contrary, they’re the reason we read and re-read. We relish their complexity, their guts and their moral ambiguity.
I cherish a review of my first two books in a Scottish literary journal that said, “The emotional power in these novels makes this reviewer reflect on how Charlotte and Emily Bronte might have written if they were living and writing now.” That reviewer picked up that my protagonists and stories pay homage to the Classics. A LIFETIME BURNING, with its incestuous twins, is my 21st century take on WUTHERING HEIGHTS. My novel STAR GAZING owes a lot to Charlotte Brontë’s VILLETTE.
That’s a plus for many UK readers. I don’t know if it would be for North American readers. I’m not all that bothered. I write what I want to write in the way I want to write it. I’m indie.
Me: What has your experience been with niche subjects and do you think they fare better in a self/indie publishing environment than the traditional publishing world?
Linda: I think they probably do fare better because there are no editors setting themselves up as arbiters of taste. In the indie world, niche subjects can at last find their readers.
I’ve discovered readers are quite happy to tackle novels featuring challenging topics (bipolar, PTSD, depression, suicide, disability, bereavement, addiction, survivor guilt). My fiction is issue-led because I’m interested in discussing these issues and how they affect people. I think issues like these also increase the drama potential of a story.
Issues also give you an angle for your book promotion. I can say to you as a reader, “Try UNTYING THE KNOT. It’s a great love story, it’s funny and it will make you cry.’ Do you care? Probably not. But supposing I say to you, ‘I saw a white van in Glasgow with the words “Bomb Disposal” on the side. I wondered what sort of guy goes into bomb disposal. Then I asked myself, what sort of boy grows up to become a man who goes into bomb disposal? Then I wondered what it would be like, being married to a man in bomb disposal. So I decided to write a book about all that.” Do I have your attention now?…
Don’t tell people your book is good, tell them why you just had to write it.
Me: What’s next for you? Do you take a break between books or plunge right into the next one?
Linda: I usually take a short break after a book, but I don’t stop for long because I’m addicted to writing. But there was a sad hiatus last year when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Surgery & treatment stopped me in my tracks and I wrote no fiction for a year. Instead I wrote a lot of guest blogs and caught up on my reading.
I started writing a new novel on New Year’s Eve and I hope that will be launched before Christmas. It will be another genre-buster: a contemporary family drama set in a decaying Scottish castle. It’s a bit of a whodunnit, with a love story and a ghost. In other words, it’s a marketing nightmare. But so was HOUSE OF SILENCE, my most popular book. I’m not worried. When readers buy my books now, they expect the unexpected. That’s all part of the fun.
A big thank you to Linda for taking the time to share her absolutely fascinating insights and experiences. You can find out more about her (and of course buy her books!) on her Amazon author page here.