Iain is currently acting as editor and cat-herder-in-chief on a collaborative novel with TEN (count them, TEN) writers. A contemporary story set in a tacky British seaside resort, the Ten To One novel will follow ten characters whose lives intersect that of a mysterious old man…
We thought we’d ask those ten writers about themselves and their involvement in collaborative writing. All ten interviews will appear here over the course of the project.
Today, Maria Mankin...
Who are you?
I’m Ten to One’s west coast American (although
sadly, this title doesn’t seem to come with any perks beyond receiving emails
from the UK at odd hours). For the last five years, I’ve lived in the Bay Area,
not far outside San Francisco, although I was born and raised in New England.
Eight years ago, I traded the certainty of digging my car out of snow drifts
and checking myself for deer ticks every year for the slightly less definite
death by earthquake or uncontrollable wildfire. Unfortunately for my friends
and family back east, California has been very good to me thus far, and instead
of returning to the fold, I send obnoxious emails with subject lines like,
“Enjoy these photos of our February picnic!” As you might imagine, it endears
me to them completely.
For the last three years, I’ve been working as
a full-time writer. Before this peaceful shift into working from home, I spent
seven years teaching preschool while publishing part-time. The introvert in me
loves the lifestyle I have now, but I wouldn’t trade those years in the
jam-hand trenches for anything. I've published six resource books for Pilgrim
Press, as well as been part of three anthologies (same publisher). I also write
a book review blog called Books j’adorethat
recently hit ten thousand followers.
How does Ten To One
compare to previous collaborative writing experiences?
I’m used to working with one or two other
people, and while those books require enormous reserves of patience, especially
during the marathon skype sessions (it can be seven or eight hours at a stretch
during some parts of a project) that are required to keep things moving
forward, I also know those writers so well that it’s not terribly difficult to
predict problems or resolve questions. With ten writers…well, I’m not sure any
of us were entirely prepared for the amount of coordination and compromise this
book would require!
It’s a slippery thing, trying to write a book
with a bunch of strangers. We’ve spent months building this novel together, but
when it comes down to it, I really only get to see a facet of each author - I
know them as the stories they tell. Their characters, however, are dear to me.
Since last April, I’ve spent hours reading about each one’s quirks and
considering how these people fit into Nell’s experience in Skegness. Each of us
introduced a character who is integral to the world we’ve created, and it has
turned out to be quite painful to say goodbye to a character after every round.
What do you think are the
challenges/obstacles that face the collaborative writer?
At the onset of a book like this one, it's of
critical importance to be in sync about the commitment level to the project.
Deadlines and revisions can be handled so much more easily when everyone
involved is invested in the end result. Once in the thick of it though, I think
the most important thing to remember is while constructive criticism is both
helpful and necessary, we have to remember how little we know about each other
and harness a certain diplomacy to keep these relationships productive.
In terms of
collaboration, criticism and diplomacy, how easy has the Ten To One project
I actually can’t recall any arguments,
although we probably haven’t gotten to where we are in the novel by constantly
agreeing pleasantly with each other. Our spirited debates are generally
conducted via Dropbox; everything I’ve read there (or received via email) has
been respectful, thorough, and prompt. I do sometimes wish we could hash out
our ideas over a beer or a cup of coffee tea, but as far as
communicating over thousands of miles goes, it’s been great.
What do you see as the
advantages of collaborative writing?
I find that writing collaboratively keeps me
from getting stuck - even if I'm not quite sure what needs to happen next,
other brains are working on the problem at the same time and coming up with
solutions I never would have considered. Also, it's exciting to open up a
collaborator's file at the end of a long writing session and feel freshly
inspired to revise and fit together multiple pieces of writing.
As an American, are there
some specific problems with writing in British English and writing a story set
in the UK?
Well, I think it’s been a chapter or two since
I’ve gotten any emails about my drafts that specifically reference a phrase or
idea that is just completely American, so I consider that a win! Honestly
though, the difficulty fluctuates for me depending on what I’m writing about in
a given chapter. I had actually planned to visit Skegness when I was in the UK
in September, but when I discovered exactly how many trains I would have to
connect to, I lost my nerve. During that same trip, my husband and I were
having dinner with his colleagues, and they informed me (with nearly straight
faces) that I was pronouncing Skegness wrong. One of them had no idea where I
was even talking about until another guy leaned over and whispered, “she means
‘Skegness’ (insert correct pronunciation here).” That just about captured my
most bungling American moment thus far.
You are one of two
American writers in Ten To One. Your character is an American in the UK. Jason
Holloway is writing about Bobby, a British character. Do you think you have an
easier ride than Jason?
I don’t know. I certainly think it’s easier
for me to write an American; it would have rung false for me to try to capture
the British sensibility. Jason volunteered to write a Brit though, and he
seems to be very comfortable with that decision, so I can’t say with any
authority whether he feels cheated out of getting to write an American. I’m
just grateful he took that bullet so I didn’t have to!
Describe your character,
When I started writing about Nell, I thought
she would reflect me more than she has. I started boxing last year, and when I
applied for a spot in the Ten to One crew, I was living temporarily in London
and had to put my training on hold until I was back in the States. I missed it,
and I spent more time than I expected thinking about what might be happening at
the gym while I was gone. Since I had decided to write Nell as an ex-pat, I
wanted her to have a place she could feel a little more at home; boxing offered
something akin to community for her. It was interesting, as well, that she left
the States in large part to escape her difficult family following the death of
her husband, yet the people she’s drawn to in Skegness are combative,
difficult, and even more dangerous than those she left.
After I gave boxing to Nell, however, she
turned into a very different person than I was expecting. Her defining
characteristic, to me, is her ability to survive grief and alienation without
being completely defined by it. In her situation, I suspect I would be
incapable of getting out of bed, much less starting my life over. Nell is not a
victim of her circumstances though. She has a remarkable (and probably
unhealthy) ability to compartmentalize problems; this enables her to make
exciting - and often dangerous - decisions to push her life forward.
We’ve seen a lot of Nell
and yet we’ve not yet got to know her fully. Would you consider using her in
stories outside this current novel?
I’ve actually spent November doing just that.
I have over fifty thousand words written already, and although I haven’t
decided whether I want to turn these stories into a collection of shorts or try
to make them into a novel, I’m having a wonderful time telling her story. For
such a reserved character, she has quite a lot to say now that I’ve let her off
the leash; I’ve developed a nasty case of carpal tunnel trying to keep up!
Which is your favourite
Ten To One character?
I tried to choose between Mabel and Bobby, but
ultimately, I couldn’t decide. Mabel swallows swords; in my mind, it doesn’t
get much more badass than that, and yet she’s the kind of character who excels
at bringing people together. Bobby, on the other hand, is such fun to write
into scenes! He’s vindictive and unpredictable but also seems like he wants to
be redeemed. He tries to disguise that beneath humor and gore, and I think
that’s an interesting place for a character to live.
What does it feel like to
be in the final five writers in Ten To One?
It’s incredible. I love writing Nell, and it’s
been exciting to see how the novel has developed over the last seven months.
This experience has changed me as a writer in ways I never could have
predicted, and it wouldn’t have happened without this amazing little community.
What are your thoughts on
the voting process?
I’ve always thought of myself as a competitive
person (a painful but accurate American stereotype), so I thought I would get a
rush from the voting process, but in actuality, it’s been brutal. I’m too
attached to the story and the other characters to want to see anyone
eliminated. I don’t know what the book would look like if we’d approached it as
an opportunity to collaborate for ten chapters without the elimination element,
but I suspect it would have been…wonderfully complicated.
Do you feel that the
judges and the reading public are looking for something different in the Ten To
I don’t know. I’ve certainly gotten feedback
from friends who have been reading along, but it’s been along the lines of them
wanting more of our story rather than asking for something different from it. I
do enjoy seeing the responses to questions about the book posted on Facebook;
it’s been great that some of our readers have been interested in engaging in
That being said, I also think we’ve strayed
pretty far from the typical reading experience, and while it may be hard for
people to imagine what it looks like to have eleven people (including Iain)
contributing ideas to one book, it’s actually quite a barrage of information!
When it comes down to the decisions made in the story, ultimately the writers
have to claim ownership. We’re the ones who answer for the choices that have
been made - they have to be ones we’re proud to defend. All we can hope for is
that we’ve done our characters justice and that our readers have had a good
time along the way.
Final question. What
should this novel be called when it’s finished?
I’m notoriously bad at titles. When I
was at university, I used to ask my roommates to each give me a word; I would
then take those suggestions and turn them into titles for my poems. It was
incredibly difficult to keep a straight face when I had to workshop those
pieces aloud. I can only hope my co-authors are blessed with a better method!
currently acting as editor and cat-herder-in-chief on a collaborative novel
with TEN (count them, TEN) writers. A contemporary story set in a tacky British
seaside resort, the Ten To One novel will follow ten characters whose lives
intersect that of a mysterious old man…
we’d ask those ten writers about themselves and their involvement in
collaborative writing. All ten interviews will appear here over the course of
Today, Yasmin Ali...
who are you?
Being of a philosophical
disposition, that’s not an easy question. I was born in Birmingham, and lived
there until I went to York University to study politics. I now split my time
between Birmingham and Aberystwyth, the two termini on the Mid-Wales Line. But
I’ve lived in many places in Britain; London, the east Midlands, and the North
on both sides of the Pennines.Also I’ve
travelled a lot, and all these places impact on my writing.
But who am I? A writer, once mainly
of non-fiction, now writing fiction, and keen to explore my identity as a
writer. I’ve had short stories in two anthologies in 2009 and 2010, and I’m
completing a novel. In a bid to test myself as a writer, I’ve written one short
stage play, which had a reading by a professional cast to a large audience in
Cardiff in 2011 at the launch of Black History Month Wales, and which this year
I adapted for BBC Radio Wales. I recently completed another radio play, and I’m
studying playwriting and writing for soaps; the latter because I was told that
it’s a great way to learn how to plot.
I want to write novels, and I want
people to read them, which means publication in some form.But I’m no Dan Brown or James Patterson
(there’s only one of me), so I doubt that I shall be able to make a living from
novels alone. With luck, and the continued existence of the BBC I’m hoping that
writing for radio will fill the gap.
At what age
did you start writing, and why?
As a child, I tried to write a novel
in a series of Silverine exercise books.But I didn’t really believe that people like me were allowed to be
writers, and gradually I stopped writing fiction. Non-fiction wasn’t really an
adequate substitute, though. It takes footnotes, and facts, and stamps on any
ideas that can’t be substantiated. Fiction, I realised, can tell the truth more
accurately than non-fiction. So I went back to it.I think it’s no accident that my first
published short story, ‘Man and Boy’ in Written in Blood, edited by Lindsay
Ashford and Caroline Oakley (Honno 2009) was about a subject - families caught
up with gun crime - which I might previously have tackled as an academic study.
The story was based on a real case, and the idea for the story came from
reading a sociological article. But I think that my story gets nearer the truth
of the matter.
your writing style
I am drawn to the off-beat, to
humour, to satire, but also to contemporary social and political themes.My short story, ‘The Lucky Jacket’ is a bit
The Thick of It, mixing Machiavellian political intrigue with human idiocy. The
novel I’m finishing now will feature police privatisation and riots. I think I
use fiction to explore what’s troubling me in the world.
Do you do a
lot of research for your writing?
Where necessary. But it’s a tricky
issue. The detail may inform, but not drive, the story. Readers want to believe
the narrative, and may be less concerned about factual accuracy.But if something is too obviously wrong, it
distracts the reader and punctures the flow of the story.The last chapter I wrote for Ten To One
described a tour of a meat processing factory. I’ve no idea of what goes on in
such a place.I made it up. But I did
consciously draw on relevant past experiences, such as work I used to do for an
agricultural college.I have been inside
an abattoir, albeit not when it was in use.And I used to drive regularly past a motorway junction where there was a
meat processing plant, and it looked like the one I imagined for the novel.
you found the process of writing collaboratively for Ten To One?
Collaborative writing is already
well established in film and broadcasting, as well as in newer forms of
entertainment, so there’s no reason why a collaboratively written novel can’t
be a good read.Writers of fiction need
active imaginations and broad sympathies; so pooling the wisdom and experience
of many people can be creatively fertile.But we do need to approach the work rather differently from the work we
What I’ve found with Ten To One, as
the months have passed, is that this is writing in the raw. The pieces are
written quickly, with little time for revision, and as time goes on, the need
for discipline, and for respecting editorial guidance, becomes greater.The biggest challenge for me has been with
accepting that I have to make a story work, whether or not I approve of where
it seems to be heading.And that’s as it
If I can dissent from the project
just a little, I find the fact that one writer is voted out each month a
distraction. It can push the balance too much towards competition when what is
needed is cooperation.Writers can
generate competitiveness without the gameshow element. But I also understand
that publishing is a business, and the reality show format is hot at the
mentioned James Patterson earlier, who frequently farms out the writing of his
novel to ‘co-authors’. Is there good collaboration and bad collaboration?
James Patterson’s a brand. No harm
in that. His prose factory brings on new talents, and when they rise up the
ranks they get name checked on the jacket. Any opportunity for new writers is a
good thing.In any case, the
collaborative novel has a long and fascinating history, and has been used for
radical artistic purposes.Ultimately
there’s no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ collaboration, only good and bad writing.
ideal writing gang?
I’m not sure I’d like to be in a
writing gang but there are some writers, usually of a muscular and
argumentative disposition, whom I always love, even when they are being
maddening. Will Self, Sara Paretsky, Hanif Kureshi, Zoe Heller, Michael Chabon,
Lionel Shriver, Howard Jacobson, Val Macdiarmid, Hari Kunzru; I could go on,
and I could give my reasons for a mix of Booker listed writers and those who
sell by the supermarket shelf-full.What
they all have in common is a sense of having fun with their writing and being
wholly in control of their craft.
Jeanette Winterson wrote about the
experiences of women writers of her vintage on the literary scene recently, and
it all seemed peculiarly macho and unpleasant.There are probably writers whose work I love whom I’d want to poison if
I knew them in person.That said, I’m a
member of the Tindal Street Fiction Group, and it’s a privilege to meet every
two weeks with a group of talented and generous colleagues, some of whom are
amongst the finest writers in Britain today.
about your Ten To One character, Anastasia Boty.
I got the initial idea for Anastasia
Boty from a newspaper article on the 1960s artist, Pauline Boty. Pauline Boty
was a beautiful young woman and a talented pop artist, but she died at 28 and
was effectively forgotten.Stealing part
of her name seemed like a little salute to a woman who, had she lived, might
have been feted today.Another influence
was Mabel Pakenham-Walsh, who died recently.Mabel was a multi-talented artist and crafts person with work in several
national collections, including the V&A.Mabel found a dead seagull on the beach. The skeleton in now mounted on
the front of her house.In other words,
Anastasia is nothing like me. I made her up, stealing her from bits of other
Mabel Pakenham-Walsh - an artist who used found objects in much of her work
quite a self-contained individual, isn’t she?
It is fair to say she’s
self-contained, but she’s as active in the world as anyone else in the
narrative; it’s just that her world isn’t Skegness, it’s the international art
scene. Where Anastasia interacts with other characters, she’s not especially
stand-offish, even if she’s not exactly warm. I gave her a certain rudeness
towards Valerie, because I thought that artists and actors tend to have large
egos, and so they might irritate one another.Novels need light and shade, and I thought some low level antagonism
might be good. Alas, Valerie is no more, as I had in mind some comic
interactions for the two characters.But
in formulaic terms, I invented Anastasia as a character who can be
free-standing, and who can act as required as the narrative twists and turns
without becoming unconvincing.
To One characters are the most successful? Is it those who have so far
A successful character needs to be
work within the context of the story.For what it’s worth, the characters who have gone, to my mind, also
contributed significantly to the development of the novel. They, too, are
All the characters have contributed
to the mix, and I hate to single out anyone, but here goes! Flic’s gone, yet I
wanted Anastasia to have a one night stand with her, with tantrums to follow.
Valerie, I’ve already said, was someone I’d an interest in keeping around. Tim
and Gracie, as young characters added extra depth to the narrative. And as long
as Anastasia remains, so will Gracie, as she’s so central to Anastasia’s art.
As for those who remain, we’ve mysteries, enigmas, villains and tragi-comedies.
Don’t make me choose!
Heide and I are big fans of index cards as collaborative
writing tools.Not only can we useindex cards (or file cards or postcards or
whatever) to jot down story ideas and arrange them as we wish, kind of like a
lo-tech version of those drag and drop touchscreens that they seem so fond of
in Spooks, CSI and what have you, but we can also use them to get large numbers of
people involved in the creative process.
We’re currently planning a novel which, for much of it,
takes place in Hell. Our hero is a demon and many of the supporting cast are
demons. I’ve read and really enjoyed CS Lewis’s Screwtape Letters which features a number of demons, including
Toadpipe and the eponymous Screwtape. Lewis’s naming convention for demons
appeared to be to take two innocuous monosyllabic nouns and thrust them
together to make a new word.
And so, Heide and I sat in the pub and got all the people
around us to write single syllable nouns on pieces of card. We didn’t tell them
the ultimate purpose of these cards, not wishing to bias the process. Sadly,
because we were in a pub and alcohol was involved, some of the words were
either rude or, at least, very suggestive. Nevertheless, we then explained the
purpose of the exercise and got our drinking buddies to pair up random nouns to
make demon names.
It wasn’t a high brow exercise and I’m not sure whether
this game has applications elsewhere. But it was fun and that’s what
collaborative writing is supposed to be. Here’s a selection of our favourite
names created in the game:
Iain is currently acting as editor and cat-herder-in-chief on a
collaborative novel with TEN (count them, TEN) writers. A contemporary story
set in a tacky British seaside resort, the Ten To One novel will follow ten
characters whose lives intersect that of a mysterious old man…
We thought we’d ask those ten writers about themselves and their
involvement in collaborative writing. All ten interviews will appear here over
the course of the project.
Today, Luke Beddow...
Luke Beddow, who
are you? I’m twenty-four, I’ve lived in the West Midlands for my whole life, and
I’ve just started training to become an English Teacher. At the moment, I live
above a kebab shop in North Birmingham - I’m not sure if it influences my writing much,
but I’m sure it has an effect on my waist line.
I write mostly poetry, a few short stories and a blog
which I update sporadically I write what I think is going to work well and
about what I am interested in, but I hope that other people will want to read
I started writing seriously (but quite badly at first) at
around 16 or 17. The first full story I remember finishing was a little
obvious, and not brilliantly executed, but as a starting point it was probably
I’ve always read a lot, and I wrote bits and pieces
before then, but at that I age I was really enjoying reading better books
because of A-level English literature, and that helped to push me in the right
direction. After that I studied English and Creative Writing at Birmingham City
University, which helped me to understand the craft involved in writing.
My goal is to keep writing, and to keep getting better at
what I do. I’d like publish some collections of poetry and maybe write a novel
on my own somewhere down the line.
Who are your
I really like Scarlett Thomas, Douglas Adams and Neil
Gaiman for prose, and H.D., Geoffrey Hill and Ted Hughes for poetry. I tend to
flit between lots of different writers rather than collecting ‘the works’
though. I’ve read Trilogy by H.D.
twice since I bought it in the summer, and am already reading it again. I’ve
loved Forster’s Howards End since I
studied it at A-level, and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Hitchhiker’s Guide ‘trilogy’.
If I was forced to choose a favourite, I’d say H.D. for
poetry and Scarlett Thomas for prose. What they have in common is their ability
make links between different elements. I like it when writers draw from a wide
base of references, and allow me to pick up interesting bits and bobs along the
Tell us about the
tools of your trade – pen /laptop /notebooks
When I write I like to have a nice pen and a cool notebook,
never anything as expensive as a moleskin though. I prefer to write poetry out
by hand the first time, but I type out prose. I research the things I’m going
to write. Does Wikipedia count as research? I tend to get distracted though.
I seem to do some of my best writing on busses or trains,
but my favourite place to write is sat in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea.
I quite like playing records (yes, actual vinyl ones) when I write, I think
partly because I can’t pause it, so I’m forced to stay in one place until the
side finishes. It stops me from getting up every ten minutes to make a drink or
mooch aimlessly in the fridge. I love writing, but I don’t have a great
My stories are usually either realist or mostly realist
with one or two odd (but not necessarily supernatural) elements. On a sentence
level, I think it’s important not to overcook things; you only have a few star
sentences, and you really have to earn them. I really like the idea that the reader
can get a full picture of a character or a scene just by choosing a few key
I like to think I let the situation shape the characters,
but if I’m being honest, most of my protagonists are male and in their
twenties. It’s probably a habit I should break out of.
How much of your male
twenty-something Ten To One protagonist is a reflection of you?
Some similarities are probably inevitable, but I haven’t
gone out of my way to put myself into the character. Some other life
experiences inform my writing too…
Being raised in a religious household, but later losing
my faith; working long hours as a general dogsbody in a cinema; working with
annoying teenagers who don’t pay much attention.
Shaun, is a young ex-cultist. We’ve not yet heard much about the “Brotherhood”.
What is it like?
The Brotherhood of the Stars is a UFO cult in the
Heaven’s Gate tradition, but without the mass-suicides. Basically they believe
that aliens have been in contact with selected humans throughout history, and
are communicating directly with the group’s ‘Council of Seven’.
Of course, whatever the dressing, most cults operate in a
very similar manner. The Brotherhood encourage their members to cut off contact
with the outside world and live simple communal lives so that they are more
receptive to extra-terrestrial influences. There are harsh punishments to
anyone within in the cult who might disrupt this.
Where is Shaun’s
story going? What do you think is going to happen to him?
Unfortunately for Shaun, fiction thrives on characters
being put into difficult situations. Shaun is only just starting to find his
way back into society, and in his desperation to protect his ‘normal’ life in
the flats, he risks being pushing himself back into the margins.
Flic and Valerie
and Tim are now out of Ten To One. Anastasia, Bobby, Gracie, Mabel, Mungo, Nell
and Shaun remain. Is there anything that identifies a successful character in a
project like this?
I think the characters who have survived all see the world
from very different viewpoints, and the writers have used this to create
distinctive voices for their narratives. A strong back-story and a sense of
mystery seems to help too.
Apart from Shaun,
who is your favourite character?
Hmm, I don’t think this question is going to win me many
friends among the other writers. There have been things I’ve liked about all
the characters, but I’m particularly fond of Mungo’s downbeat brand of comic
What first drew
you to the Ten To One project?
I thought it would be an interesting challenge, and a way
to really sharpen up my writing. I also thought it could be a fun way to meet
I think that group plotting like this is a good way to
push us outside of our comfort zones and make us write things that will
What do you think
are the challenges/obstacles that face the collaborative writer?
There’s a risk the story will be pulled into too many
different directions. It will take a lot of co-operation to make sure the plot
The plot currently
features murders, a circus fire mystery, an enigmatic Romanian and a little
girl who thinks she’s a changeling. With the story almost half complete, is it
pulling in too many directions already?
Actually, no. With a project like this there was always a
risk that we would lose control, or that readers would feel let down if their
favourite character went out without a sense of closure, but I think that has
been handled well so far, and we’re getting to the point where the different threads
are going to start pulling together. I’m confident that however the story ends,
it will feel like the inevitable result of what has gone before.
If you had any
advice to give to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
Read widely, try to get into a routine with your writing,
edit ruthlessly, and talk to other writers.
And participate in
projects like Ten To One?
Yes! Writing can be a very solitary activity, but there
are a lot of strong writing communities out there. Going to readings or getting
involved in projects like this is a great way to meet and learn from other
writers. And it’s fun.
When we launched Clovenhoof we had a launch party. A real
one, in the physical world. It was a lot of fun, and we sold some books and
felt like rock stars for the evening.
We'll be doing it again for the new book, Pigeonwings. We
love a party and want to share the fun with friends. But what about readers who
aren't local? We've sold Clovenhoof across the world, so it seems wrong that we
couldn't do something for people who can't get to Birmingham.
I'd been to a virtual launch party before. Graeme Reynolds is
the author of a werewolf series, and he had a launch party on Facebook for the
latest one, Moonstruck.
It seemed like a lot of fun, and he's a generous guy who
seems happy to let me copy his ideas, so the Pigeonwings virtual launch was
If you're interested in the mechanics of what we did, there's
a list below.
First of all, I want to talk about the ethos behind it. We were
very keen that our guests did not feel that we were exploiting them in any way.
A launch party is an effort to make a "splash" with a new book, but we
wanted to explore ways that we could do that without putting pressure on
people. For that reason there were two things that we stressed. We made it very
clear to people that we'd be equally thrilled if they came for five minutes and
said "hi" or if they stayed for the whole thing. A Saturday night is
a precious thing, so we wanted people to drop in when they had a
moment. Secondly, we made the book free on Amazon while the launch party was
taking place. That way we could ask people to download the book, share the link
with their friends, and there would be no cost or hard sell.
As a result, we had a really enjoyable evening. Other people
said that they enjoyed it too, and we have boosted the readership of the ebook
Here's our recipe for a Facebook launch. Add your own
ingredients as you wish.
At least 1 month
Setup a Facebook event. We made ours 6pm - 11pm, which was a
feat of stamina for us, but made a nice wide window for people to join when
they were free. Make it public and invite as many people as you can. You can
invite your own Facebook friends, but also send out the link on emails and Tweets.
Mention that people are not obliged to turn up for the whole
thing. Tell them it will be fun. Get some small prizes. We had badges, totebags
and a couple of paperback versions of the book.
1 week beforehand.
Count down to the event to remind people, in a fun way. Show
them the prizes that they might win! Set up KDP select on Amazon to make sure
your book will be free during and after your event (not everyone will respond
Gather together some ideas for music that is themed to your
book. Get some suitable pictures that you can use as caption competitions. Work
out a schedule for the evening. Warn your family that you will be hunched over
a keyboard for the entire evening!
Spin some tunes! Post a Youtube link to a song that you
think is suitable. You will find that your guests join in with this. Appoint a DJ
if someone is especially keen! Otherwise, make sure you have ideas for a song at
least every 30 mins.
We suggested fancy dress. Think of a theme (we had angels,
devils and monks) and ask people to change their profile pictures. Extra kudos
to anyone who actually dons an outfit and takes a picture.
Caption competitions. These are great fun, and you can run
one per hour. Make sure it's obvious when each one is at an end and announce a
winner. Be sure you have a small prize, and be prepared to send it to them,
wherever they are.
Author interview. Announce that you will do an interview,
and collect questions.
Encourage people to share a link to your book. It's free onAmazon(did you check?) so it's not a huge
favour you're asking, but you can offer a prize (we used a paperback) to a
randomly selected guest who has shared. You'll need to run this until the next
day, to give people a chance to get round to it.
Encourage people to review your book. Again, this will need
to run for longer. Give people a week or two after the event (reminding them
before the deadline) and then you can award a prize to one that you select at
Most of all, pay attention to what people are enjoying and
keep the momentum going.
Iain is currently acting as editor and cat-herder-in-chief on a
collaborative novel with TEN (count them, TEN) writers. A contemporary story
set in a tacky British seaside resort, the Ten To One novel will follow ten
characters whose lives intersect that of a mysterious old man…
We thought we’d ask those ten writers
about themselves and their involvement in collaborative writing. All ten
interviews will appear here over the course of the project.
Today, Livia Akstein Vioto...
Livia Akstein Vioto, who are you?
Brazilian and work from home proofreading, copy-editing, and translating. I’ve
attended Law School and History College, and I’ve worked a number of odd jobs
where I’ve picked up skills from answering a phone call to reading a
like to make the leap into writing full-time and, while that doesn’t happen,
I’m trying my hand at copywriting. I like cooking, dancing, reading, and
learning other languages. I’m currently attempting to learn Japanese.
live in a town that used to be small called Jundiaí, in the state of São Paulo.
I suppose growing up in a Brazilian reality did influence who I am and how I
write, but so did all the books I’ve read and places I’ve been.
At what age did you start writing?
always liked telling stories. When I was six, I started writing poems and went
on from there. I’m actually really fond of that first piece. It was the
As a child, I wrote whatever kind of poetry I could. Lots of rhyme and lots of learning,
but also a lot of freedom and discoveries. Now I try to keep rhymes to a
minimal, and I keep pursuing freedom. Dada and expressionism have heavily
now, I’m writing poems, short stories, flash fictions, and I have a novel I
need to revise. My novel is about memories. The best way I can describe it is
as a fictional autobiography.
goals are to write more, keep writing, start publishing and earn a living from
Livia Vioto, the writer - aged 10
Who are your writing heroes?
Carroll, Jorge Luis Borges, William Faulkner, James Joyce, Yukio Mishima, Italo
Calvino, Herman Melville, Oscar Wilde, William Blake, Rex Stout, Raymond
Chandler, John Dunning, Mark Twain, Neil Gaiman and Fernando Pessoa (and all
his heteronyms) – in no particular order.
the word rivering alone, James Joyce would already be one of my favourite
writers, but there are many other reasons (and words) why he is. I love his
versatility, his originality, and his mastery of the stream of consciousness.
He truly inspires me and reminds me to think out of the proverbial box. In
Fernando Pessoa, a Portuguese writer from the beginning of the 20th
century, one has five different authors with completely different styles – and
I’ve learnt so much from each one of them. And I just love to get lost and find
myself in the immense labyrinth of words and stories of Jorge Luis Borges. It
was through him I first came in contact with the world of magic realism and it
was through his words that I encountered my definition of Heaven: “I have
always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
How would you describe your style of writing,
and why are you drawn to it?
like to tell a story, whatever the format or genre. I do focus a lot on
character development. I write both for
myself and my audience, I suppose. But I’m my first audience.
You are one of three Ten To One authors who
are not native to the UK. Although all three of you are still in the project, I
guess this puts you at a bit of a disadvantage, since this is a novel set
wholly in the UK.Would you agree?
really. Whilst it would be nice and informative to be able to walk the streets
of Skegness, I think that as a writer you must have the capability to immerse
yourself in a different reality and be able to convey it convincingly to the
reader. My father is a journalist and he always says he has the best job ever,
for he is paid to learn and share what he learns with others. I think this is
true about writing as well.
had never even heard of Skegness before Ten to One so, to me, Skegness will
forever be linked to the novel. Skegness is to me part imagination, part
excerpts of writings (both fictional and factual), and part the pictures I’ve
seen. It has become this gyrating carousel of beaches, donkeys, piers, arcades,
small convenience stores and cafes, fish and chips and ice creams, the sea and the
How does writing in English differ to writing
in your native Portuguese?
there are not only different rules and rhythm but also a whole different mental
universe behind another language. You have to be able to tap into this mental
universe to be able to be fluent, as well as know the grammar and build
vocabulary. And, of course, growing up speaking a language does give you a
certain intimacy with it. So, when I write in Portuguese, I have an ease and a
know-how that does not come so naturally, so instinctively when I write in
English. On the other hand, because I’m not a native speaker, I sometimes see
some possibilities within the English language that perhaps a native speaker might
miss. An outside perspective, so to speak.
Are there any English idioms you’ve seen in
the Ten To One novel that make no sense to you?
in Ten to One, not so far. I imagine I don’t know the meaning of many English
idioms, and there are some that, even though I know their meaning, make no
sense to me. Like ‘pulling one’s leg’. There are some idioms that are the same
both in English and in Portuguese, but you can’t take it for granted. Kick the
bucket means to die in English but in Portuguese it means to give up, act
rashly or to make a scandal out of frustration. I love the English language and
I find it beautiful, but Portuguese has this inbuilt lyricism I often miss.
Words like saudade (there is really no equivalent in English to saudade, but it
is a noun that represents the act of missing something or someone, sometimes
fondly, though most times in a bittersweet manner – it is a sort of nostalgia)
demonstrate this well.
What first drew you to the Ten To One
found out about it on the last possible day to participate. I just fell in love
with the concept and the opportunity to collaborate in writing with people from
all over the world.
Have you written collaboratively before?
I think the challenge of collaborative writing, the skill we need is the
capability to compromise, to bring many voices into a unity, and the logistics
of it all.
Do you think there is a unity in the Ten To
absolutely. I think that, even though Ten to One is being written by ten
authors, it is being woven together quite seamlessly. There are many voices but
one rhythm. I think the stories the old man Popescu tells Gracie are a good
example of the underlying notes that help form a unified melody in Ten to One.
I’m not sure that it is pulling apart at all. With each round of chapters the
story seems to be taking off rather than falling apart.
think the advantages of a collaborative story include the many experiences,
backgrounds and points of view that come together to create a story.
What genre of novel do you think Ten To One
is going to be?
not sure. Indubitably, there are some elements of mystery already present, but
I think that, at this stage, the story could go anywhere. It’s not going to be
a historical biography nor a western.
someone asks me what the Ten To One novel is about, I direct them to the Ten to
One Facebook page so they can discover for themselves! Honestly. But I also add
that it is a novel written by ten authors, each one of them the creator of a
different character. These characters start coming together around the
mysterious circumstances that are taking place in Skegness and seem to be
surrounding this old man. And through all of these events we get to know who
these characters are and what they are made of.
When we interviewed Danielle Bentley, she
expressed hopes that the story would take a fantastical twist. William
Thirsk-Gaskill offered a preference for something with greater realism. What is
your opinion of this? What strange twists do you think the story might take?
suppose I’m somewhere in the middle, so to speak. I think it could be
interesting and fun to combine both elements, veering the story towards the
magic realism realm. I think that are any number of strange twists the story
could take. I’m stuck with the image of Cthulhu rising by the pier of Skegness
[something mentioned in the last interview]. I somehow can see that.
Really? What is your Ten To One character
Mabel is a woman divided
between the tragedy of her past (the circus where she lived with her family
burnt down) and her attempts to both improve and prove herself as an artist.
She faces her fears head on, that’s why she learnt how to eat fire. She’s
afraid of caring for people – she might lose them – but can’t help herself.
Most of all she is a survivor who doesn’t let anything discourage her. What
Mabel wants – as much as the applause that is at one time the recognition of
her artistry and a lullaby from home – is to find out what happened to her
circus family, and maybe even find herself a new one.
How much of your protagonist is a reflection
much and everything. While I do not put a lot of myself into a character at
all, this character will be a product of my experiences, notions, capability,
bits I have drawn from my own experience include taking a part-time job I
didn’t care for to make ends meet, the struggle to make it as an artist, the
love for sword swallowing and the circus in general – even though I didn’t grow
up in one. Also, the thrill of taking the stage – no, I did not swallow swords
or eat fire, just a bit of acting. I think it is fantastic to be able to share
your experiences by making them your characters’, but even more exciting is to
experience new things through them.
Where is Mabel’s story going? What is going
to happen to her?
I knew! That is part of what is so exciting in this project, you think you know
where the story is going and what is going to happen to your character, but
then the whole story takes an unexpected turn and you have to figure things out
all over again. I’d like Mabel to find what she is looking for, in one way or
Apart from your own, which of the Ten To One
characters do you really like?
think all the characters are great; they all bring something unique to the mix.
I do have a soft spot for Mungo, though. I think there is something poetic
about him, this clown who seemingly gave up on the world and himself – there
are a lot of possibilities in a character like that. He has many layers and a
very peculiar perspective, plus there are things only a clown can pull off. Of
course, there is the fact that Mungo Joey and Mabel have a common past with the
circus life and the fire – they are survivors, the show must go on. I always
want to read more about him, and I think that is the best trait a character can
have: to keep you wanting more.