Anne O’Connell combines some of my favorite things: she’s writes in multiple-genres and has a special liking for memoirs, she’s a giving and helpful person with a good deal of expertise in marketing, and she’s traveled the world. Here’s to Anne!
Giveaway: Two copies (print or electronic) of Anne’s book Mental Pause will be given to two commenter’s names who will be randomly drawn. Good luck!
1. Please provide a brief synopsis of your book.
Mental Pause is a Women’s Fiction/Mystery novel. Abbie is riding the hormonal roller coaster and hanging on for dear life. She finds herself in a body she no longer recognizes, a marriage that feels overwhelming, and she questions her very sanity. Her existence has become one big hot flash inflamed by killer moods. A chance meeting seems to give her the escape she’s desperate for but at what cost? Accused of murder she finds herself in a jail cell accompanied by her regrets and the gnawing fear that her life may be changed forever. It’s a kind of mental pause that Abbie has never imagined, in a story that offers no letup from start to satisfying finish. Change of life, anyone? Mental Pause promises to take you way beyond.
2. Tell us a little bit about what motivates or inspires your writing.
What motivates me is an inner drive, almost an addiction. I write every day, whether I have a particular project on the go or not. If I don’t, I work on content for my own marketing like my website or social media platforms or flesh out an outline or idea that’s been previously dormant. I gather inspiration from wherever I happen to be standing at the moment, whoever I’m conversing with, whatever I’m eating, feeling, touching, seeing. I read other people’s work, listen to writing webinars, visit writing blogs, and participate in discussions on LinkedIn. Inspiration is all around us… you just have to stop and absorb it!
I don’t’ think you can choose to become a writer. Sometimes the realization that you are one comes a little later in life, but I believe you’re born with it. I have been writing for most of my life. Up until a few years ago most of my writing was in PR, corporate communications and marketing. I took advantage of a move overseas to reinvent myself and went freelance. Shortly after, I landed a contract to write a book on Dubai.
I think writers bring so much to the fabric of society. It’s such a broad term but it’s writers who create the foundations for the novels that we escape into; they develop the backbone for the live theatrical performances we enjoy; they craft the messages that move people to emotion and action; they’re not only artists but philosophers, instigators, storytellers and teachers. They often make the intangible, tangible for the masses.
3. It’s hard to pick just one, but what do you consider your favorite novel and why?
It’s really tough to say what my favorite novel is as I have so many favorites and all for different reasons. Do memoirs count? If so, I’d have to say Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt and The Woman Who Fell from the Sky by Jennifer Steil. I love real life stories with a bit of angst and conflict yet where the author also has a sense of humor. I also love crime novels and murder mysteries. PD James is amazing. I like historical fiction as well like Wilbur Smith’s work. I guess what all my favorites have in common is in-depth character development, realistic dialogue, great descriptions and unexpected plot twists. But don’t we all love that? I tend to use a lot of dialogue in my writing and keep to just a few central characters to allow readers to become more connected rather than introducing too many players that makes it hard to keep track.
4. What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?
I have two blogs – Writing…Just Because! that I started a few years ago where I share thoughts, ideas and experiences on being a freelance writer. I started the second blog in January so I could focus specifically on the launch of my novel, Mental Pause. It’s a different target audience and I didn’t want to alienate the followers on my writing blog but I have posted blogs on the self-publishing process as I’ve experienced it with Mental Pause.
5. Are you traditionally published or self-published?
My first book, a non-fiction called @Home in Dubai, was traditionally published by Summertime Publishing out of The Hague. My second book was a short eBook called, 10 Steps to a Successful PR Campaign – A Do-It-Yourself Guide for Authors that I self-published using Kindle Direct Publishing. My most recent book, Mental Pause, was also self-published after a year of querying agents unsuccessfully (lots of positive feedback, some requests for chapters and even one for the full manuscript). I was getting impatient since I had sent it around to some close friends and then a few trusted professionals who all said it should be published. It was my New Year’s resolution! I hired a designer to do the cover design and interior pages for print but I formatted it myself for Kindle upload.
6. Can you offer one or two helpful tips for fellow writers when it comes to marketing and publicity?
The biggest piece of advice I can give is to start early! If you’ve just started writing your book, it’s not too soon to begin creating your author platform and building a following. This means creating a website (a blog will do) and developing a presence on social media. Being active is key! You can’t just observe from the sidelines. As you’re establishing a presence, take note of other bloggers who do reviews and start to create a list for a virtual book tour (especially if you’re an author living abroad like I am). Even if you’re local, a blog tour is an amazingly effective way to spread the word about your new book.
The best advice I’ve received in this area was to do at least one thing a day to promote your book.
7. Describe your writing background.
During my time at university while I was taking my PR degree, I took numerous writing and reporting courses (for journalism) as well as creative writing courses. Over the past 20 years, I have also participated in (and given) workshops on writing. One of my favorites was actually a couple of years ago at the Dubai Festival of Literature when I took a class on plot development and point of view from Marina Lewycka, author of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. She writes great comedy and had us in stitches the whole time. I’ve also done a couple of workshops with Jo Parfitt, How to Spice up your Life Stories and How to Write and Publish a Book.
8. What does your drafting and/or editing process entail?
I write every day. When writing a full-length book, I prefer to get it all down first and then edit after unless I get bogged down. If the writing isn’t flowing I’ll go back a few chapters and edit some pages while I loosen up the block. Sometimes as the story evolves I may have to go back and make sure I haven’t left any holes and that there’s consistency in the plot and character descriptions. I do have a wonderful critique group that I started in Dubai, and even after I moved we continue to share our work with each other to get honest feedback and suggestions. I’ve also found some amazing critique partners through LinkedIn. I do a lot of self-editing but it’s impossible not to get too close to you’re writing and then you can’t catch everything so it’s critical to have an outside editor. I do edit other people’s work and have others edit mine. I’ve often done it on trade if the individual is a professional that I trust.
The launch of Mental Pause is keeping me pretty busy right now but I am working on a second novel called Deep Deceit that revolves around a kidnapping in Dubai. It will hopefully launch this time next year. I also have a couple of non-fiction, travel books in draft form that I will most likely publish within the next year.
10. Is there anything else you want your potential readers to know?
When people ask me what I do, it’s easy to answer. I’m a writer. Then, when they ask what I write, it becomes a little more convoluted. I read a blog recently where I heard the term ‘multi-genre’ for the first time. So, I guess that’s me… a ‘multi-genre’ writer. In a recent review of my novel on Amazon the reviewer said, “I don’t even know how to place this in a genre so I’m having to split it as a Crime Drama/Family/Mystery/Chic…it’s a weird combo but it works.”
My first book, @Home in Dubai, is a guide on how to settle into life in Dubai that included my own personal experiences along with quotes and case studies from other expats who shared their stories and advice. I’ve definitely been bitten by the fiction bug but also love to write about my travels and living life as an expat so there’s more of that to come too, interspersed with my feature and copy writing projects! I’m a regular contributor to Global Living Magazine and am working on a series on altruistic expats, which has been really exciting as well.