Tasha Harrison

tasha pictureWhen did you first start writing? 

I loved creative writing from an early age and always dreamed of writing novels. I was forever writing stories and poems and entering writing competitions. But it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I reconnected with that dream and decided to start working towards it seriously.

Are you a structured writer or a see-what happens? 

 I’m a bit of both. I like to let an idea grow in my head over a period of time, occasionally jotting down notes as the story starts to take shape. Eventually I sit down and sketch it out, see where it’s heading. Then, if the trail goes cold, I try to drive it forwards. Once I’ve got a rough outline together, I’ll work on tightening it up and sculpting the characters. Often the characters reveal more about themselves after I’ve started writing and that can nudge the story in directions I hadn’t planned on. The inspiration for a story can appear in a flash, but evolving a 20-second daydream in my head into an 80,000+ word novel on my computer is a long slog. Some days it feels effortless and fun, like paragliding on a thermal, but other days it’s like climbing Everest with concrete boots on and I wonder what makes me do it.

packagedealTell us about your first novel

My first novel, Package Deal, is a comedy about a group of British holidaymakers whose lives become entangled on the Greek island of Kefalonia. There are lots of different characters – young, old, male, female, married, single, gay, straight – and the story is told through their various viewpoints.

What inspired you to write it?

The idea for the story came to me when my husband and I were on holiday there years ago. We stayed in a cheap apartment complex with rather thin walls and it wasn’t long before we got to know a few of the other guests, some of whom inspired various characters in the book, such as Caz and Babs (mums on a child-free break), Simon (jilted honeymooner), Steve and Craig (lads on the pull).

Tell us about your latest novel or what you are working on at the moment.

I’m working on two books at the moment. Blown-Away Man is a comedy drama about an ambitious advertising creative who, approaching middle age and feeling restless, organises a school reunion with friends he hasn’t seen for 25 years. It’s there that he uncovers a long-buried secret – that he fathered a child when he was 16.

The other book I’m working on is a collection of short stories for children called The Adventures of Fartina Gasratilova, about a girl with a rather windy gift. Both books are nearing completion and I hope to launch them by the end of this year or January 2014.

What motivated/inspired you to become an Indie Author? 

In the 13 years I’ve been writing and trying to get published, I’ve been taken on by two literary agents who wholeheartedly believed they’d get me a publishing deal. Neither could. Three novels later (plus one I decided not to publish), I couldn’t face trying to find a new agent or submitting to publishers direct. It seemed utterly pointless. Every day I was hearing more stories of writers who had agents but couldn’t find publishers, or who had publishers that had no budget for marketing, or of authors who’d done quite well but whose publishers were letting them go…and on and on it went. The traditional publishing landscape was looking increasingly uninviting – not to mention inaccessible. When I learned, in January 2012, that lots of writers were already self-publishing on Amazon, it was a no-brainer. I had nothing left to lose, and all I wanted was to give my books a chance of being read. I don’t see myself as an ‘indie author’ particularly, just an author who took an alternative route to getting her books out there.

How do you market your books? Do you have a process?

Marketing is something I’ve been learning as I go along. When I uploaded my first two books, Package Deal and Hot Property to Amazon, I had no marketing plan – just a blog that my husband set up for me which I had yet to post on, a Twitter account and Facebook author page that I had yet to use. I took to it slowly and apprehensively.

As I’ve been writing and editing pretty much non-stop since I published my first two books, marketing has always taken a back seat. It’s not my area of expertise and I find shouting out about my books uncomfortable. I hope, now that my current projects are almost finished, that I’ll have more time to work on marketing next year. I have an idea for a you tube trailer that I need to set time aside to make happen. My top priority until then has to be producing the best manuscripts I can.

What advice would you give to any writer wanting to do it the ‘Indie Way’?

Self-publishing can be liberating and exciting. But if you’ve just finished writing your first book and can’t wait to put it online, don’t give in to the temptation to rush it out. There’s a checklist of things you need to tick off first. If your budget allows, get a professional designer to do the cover and a professional proofreader to spot typos and inconsistencies – which there will be. A couple of typos among 80,000 words is forgivable (and is the case with most traditionally published books), but more than that, or a typo that appears on the first page will seriously grate with readers. I saw recently via social media that an indie author had released their debut novel. Their marketing campaign was quite impressive, so I decided to take a look at the book on Amazon. I read the first page and bang – there was a typo in the third paragraph, and some confusion over who was speaking in the next bit of dialogue. If you want your book to stand a better chance of success, I’d put your budget into editing and proofreading before you start splashing out on marketing.

Tell us what you are reading at the moment.

I recently finished reading The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – a fairytale like story set against the wintry background of Alaska in the 1920s. The whole time I was reading it, I felt like I was in an antique snowglobe – it was magical. I also loved The Dream by Jill Rowan, a fantastic time-travel romance set in New Zealand. And I’ve just started Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists, which is set in Malaysia in the 1950s and which I’m looking forward to getting stuck into. I love being transported to another time, another place, or another culture.

Anything else you would like to add to your readers or to other writers.

Writers, never give up writing! Don’t let other people’s scepticism put you off. Grow a thick skin and wear rejections like badges of honour. Starting a blog can be a good way of putting snippets of writing out there a little at a time and getting used to people’s reactions – or no reactions at all! Above all, keep a sense of humour about your writing journey. I blogged about my experience of parting ways with my agent and got some great responses from other writers, which cheered me up no end!