Author Interview: Anne O’Connell

Posted by in Interviews & Promos | 18 comments

Picture of Anne O'Connell

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.

Mental Pause by Anne O'Connell

 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.

Anne O'Connell in Dubai

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.

Anne O'Connell

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.

books about dubai9. What future projects can we look forward?

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.


You can connect with Anne on either of her blogs mentioned above, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Anne’s work can be found on Amazon US and Amazon UK.[signoff][/signoff]

Jeri Walker-Bickett
JeriWB writes short stories, creative nonfiction, and psychological suspense. The rough Idaho mining town she grew up in populates her literary landscape. She also works as a freelance editor.
Jeri Walker-Bickett

@JeriWB

Author of short stories, creative nonfiction, and psychological suspense. Blogger of writing tips and lit chat. Freelance editor. http://t.co/sfCsmQ5hyM
Added to Wish List: 'Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity' by David Allen via @amazon http://t.co/uXBx2fso8Z - 7 hours ago
Jeri Walker-Bickett
Jeri Walker-Bickett
Jeri Walker-Bickett
I offer a variety of freelance editing services. Previously, I served as an editorial assistant with The Idaho Review, Boise State's literary journal.

18 Comments

  1. She sounds like my kind of writer. I may have to use the ‘multi-genre’ term. Thanks for the introduction! :)

    • Hi Geek Girl,
      I think you should use it too! The more who do the more mainstream and less crazy us multi-genre writers sound!

      By the way, I love your handle. Seems like Geek is the new Chic ;)

      Happy Writing,
      Anne

  2. I agree with Cheryl. I like the multi-genre designation. This may be the beginnings of a trend.

    It has been many years now but I have been in Dubai. Though at the time I think I spent more time in Abu Dhabi. This was during the first gulf war.

  3. The author used a term I’ve never heard before — do a “blog tour.” That is so interesting. In the PR business – and especially in the book publishing business — “media tours” are the backbone of the publicity effort against a new book. The author appears on local TV and radio talk shows in person or by satellite. But I can see how getting quoted in a blog can be quite effective if the blog has a following and goes viral on the social networks. Good strategy.

    • Hi Jon, I’m sure if you went back to Dubai (or even Abu Dhabi) today you’d see a lot of changes!

      Thanks Jeanette! I was in PR for almost 20 years and arranged many a media tour. I absolutely put the same strategies to work in preparing for a blog tour ;) As an expat it’s difficult to do the traditional media tour from overseas so it’s nice to have the ‘new media’ option (especially with bloggers like Jeri who welcome guests and do interviews)! It’s been a lot of fun.

  4. The book sounds exciting and one I would enjoy. I have seem others who have gone thru that kind of challenge, not with the same results, but interesting nonetheless.

    I love the statement you don’t’ think you can choose to become a writer. That fits me. I would never in a million years imagine that I would be writing for a blog much less writing at all. :-)

    • Thanks Susan!
      I find writing to be a tonic sometimes, especially when the ideas are flowing. If you do read my book, I hope you enjoy it. Maybe you’ll win the draw!

  5. Great interview; I particularly related to this one; fully understanding Anne’s sentiment and approach to being a writer, as well as the need to be one being inherent. I know exactly what she means about seeing inspiration everywhere and in everything – actually to the point sometimes, voicing it aloud, and loving it when the company I’m with wonder what the hell I’m talking about! So it’s great to hear someone else say that.

    Also in terms of her world travel experience, we have so much in common with that too, right down to having lived in Dubai – where I know I would have enjoyed Anne’s company (basking around a pretentious pool of a private ex-pat club or two).

    The multi-genre thing was interesting also; whether applied within one single book or across their entire bibliography, it’s entirely acceptable for an author to write like this – even if some still try to hold it at bay. I think sometimes the old school publishing approach from both the reader and publisher gets in the way of what today’s writers want to turn out, and not just in terms of (perhaps) insisting it has to be one genre or the other, but of book size etc too, where it’s not always relevant anymore. (That also goes for a writer who wants to dip into other genres for each individual book, e.g. comedy for one, literary for another… etc. expected to use pseudonyms to differentiate… and yes I get why, but I don’t agree it can’t be handled otherwise). I think slowly, but surely, the rules are changing with some things though, and about time too.

    Thanks Jeri and Anne, an enjoyable interview.

    • Thank you SP! I love variety and am even thinking of changing perspective in an upcoming novel that will be set in Paris. Mental Pause is written in 3rd person, which I think is the easiest perspective to master, but I’m tempted to give 1st person a try. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

      I remember those pretentious expat clubs and enjoyed a few afternoons chillin’ out around the pool! We loved our time in Dubai but were happy to move on and now live a very simple life in more naturally beautiful surroundings. However, my next novel is set in Dubai so I will need to pull from those memories for sure.

      Cheers!
      Anne

      • Yet again, you’re like me, I have always written in third person/omniscient voice, but decided to give first a try in my latest works. Actually, I read once that a publisher said 1st is a sure sign of an amateur (don’t know how true that is) but certainly I see it all over the place, and that’s fine, even if I don’t personally like it, if it’s not done well – I can’t abide with ‘I sighed…’ ‘I blinked…’ but, I did this that and the other; every inconsequential little action described with a lack of exposition etc. And I’ve noticed that the POV can certainly be misplaced a lot of the time by inexperienced writers using this style as well. However, my latest novella trilogy, ‘The Hairdresser’ stories, attempted first person, and I found that I needed to find ways to get the POV across without seeming amateur, and also a reason to know certain things about other characters – an interesting exercise though – somehow, at least I think, I managed to retain something of my omniscient voice… if that makes sense.

        I’lll look forward to your book set in Dubai; I have what might only be described as ‘fantastical’ memories from there and am sure I’ll be able to relate. I still have friends living there working for Emirates, and one day it might be nice to go back. One day.

        • So true! I’m too far into the next one to switch so it will also be in third person… what you have to watch out for with that omniscient voice is not to head-hop too much!

          Where can we get a copy of ‘The Hairdresser Stories’? Sounds like it would be a great read!

      • Anne, I’ve not written tons of stories, but grew quite fond of first-person via all of the personal essays and other pieces of creative nonfiction that I have written. I agree with SP that first-person can often come off as a bit amateurish. It’s extremely difficult to really get inside the head-space of another character in a convincing way. Only one of my published stories uses first-person and with good reason. I find it exhausting to write that close to a character. Third-person allows more narrative distance. Although I am considering first-person for my next book idea, but time will tell. Choices, choices!

  6. I really like your author interviews and always pull some good nuggets out of them… amazing that she can keep the habit of writing every day. It’s easy to skip a day here and there, and suddenly you have a post due and you haven’t written one!

    • Hey Dan,
      I guess being a ‘multi-genre’ author makes it easier to write every day :) If I get bored of one thing I can jump to the other refreshed and ready to go! I do take the odd break to surface and spend time with family and friends!

      Anne

  7. Good interview Jeri and I liked what Anne said about inspiration, that you have to stop and absorb which is great advice especially in today’s hectic world.

  8. This was truly a great interview and Anne, people have also asked me what genre do i write in, and I always say MULTIPLE ONES! I write poetry, novels, how-to guides and am working on my first children’s book while promoting my first book. Kudos to you and I will follow your writing. I wish you all the success your heart and head can hold!

    • Thanks Nonnie!

  9. Congrats to Cheryl and Nonnie! The number associated with your comment was selected using Random.org. Anne will be contacting you shortly regarding your free book. Thanks once again for supporting indie authors as well as this blog :)

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