Welcome to the three hundred and forty-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with writer and artist Lesley Fletcher. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Lesley. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Lesley: Hi Morgen. I am an artist / writer living in Montreal and a Canadian in every sense of the word. Being Canadian is actually part of my definition as more and more I am learning that ‘we’ seem to have a collective personality on many levels; the most important to me being the ability embrace different cultures and maintain a level of spiritualism without letting religion and racism disturb the mix.
Writing came to me via my visual art. As I painted the characters from my first book (Prom Girls a North American Rite of Passage) they provided stories that I had no idea resided in my brain’s filing cabinet.
Although I applied and was accepted into journalism school many years ago, life managed to veer me in other directions. It was not until four years ago that I remembered the dream of being a writer and have been pursuing it since.
Morgen: I was only two years earlier, although I only realised a couple of years ago that I wanted to do it for a career… that part I’m still working on. 🙂 What have you had published to-date?
Lesley: My first book, mentioned above, followed closely by two children’s books – “Hey Angel!” which is for very young readers or a bedtime type of story and “All I Want for Christmas is a Wishmas Tree” which is about immersion and acceptance in a multi-cultural world. Finally I just published “5 Pillars of the Gypsy” – A collection of art (about 50 pieces) and poems meant to connect the reader with their inner voice and emotions.
Morgen: The ultimate picture book. 🙂 Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Lesley: Yes, without details I can say rejection is a part of life. My skin has grown thicker and my esteem has grown stronger in spite of it.
Morgen: Excellent. Well, not excellent that you’ve received them but that they’ve helped you. Mine have made me more determined – they’re just the right thing for the wrong person. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Lesley: Nay I am an Independent Publisher all the way. If an agent knocks I will answer though as I believe a top ranking agent can certainly help an author catapult to a higher level. ‘Vital’ is a big word that doesn’t seem to fit as there have been so many documented successes not owed to agents or publishers for that matter. Time changes everything as does technology.
Morgen: It does, and I love it (I grew up with an older brother). Speaking of technology, are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Lesley: eBooks are a phenomenon in a way. I don’t think anyone realised the impact they would have on the industry! I did publish “5 Pillars of the Gypsy” as an eBook with Kindle Select because of the opportunity to offer it free and to fill the need for instant access. I had reservations as e-books have not been very image friendly until recently. I did the formatting myself. Actually other than the editing and proofing I produced the whole book myself including cover and layout. Recently I downloaded a desk-top version of Kindle where I have three books awaiting me. The thing is, after being on the computer most of the day, I really like the idea of curling up on the couch with a good book and so as yet they remain un-read. I have a fondness for the feel of paper and don’t imagine that will change any time soon. All of my books are available in print.
Morgen: Most people I’ve spoken to say that they won’t give up paper books and there’s nothing stopping anyone curling up on the couch (sofa :)) with a paper book, I do (all too occasionally) but I love having 400+ books (including mine :)) with me when I go out. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Lesley: My days are filled with marketing in one way or another. Because I have been in a production mode with both my art and with books (four in three years) I was not focused on marketing. Now I have almost got myself on a schedule I can live with. I know I am not the only one that gets distracted by the Internet so I feel free to say that I end up flipping through art collections, reading blogs / news etc. but I think it will all tie in at some point. I have been fortunate to meet many great talents via Twitter and LinkedIn and even Facebook although with FB I am a bit uncomfortable with the Author and Artist page ‘liking’ as they are not fully interactive so I keep my personal page and welcome adding friends. Yes I am Branding Me. 🙂
Morgen: I love that and yes, I get swayed by FB and Twitter (and the ping of my email) but I’ve been good the last couple of days and actually closed them most of the time, although yesterday I was volunteering at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival (and am again today) so was living Facebook and Twitter. 🙂 Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Lesley: I favour my latest book. On the title page I say ‘This is my heart’ and I mean it. The courage it takes to expose ones heart is not describable especially for a (former) introverted person as me. Now, if you will indulge me… It would be a dream of mine to have my work (5Pillars) interpreted into a stage production such as Cirque du Soleil. This is really a cheeky dream because their latest production is based on Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’. 🙂 Still, I can close my eyes and see it all unfold.
Morgen: It’s funny you saying you were introverted, it does seem different online – you can be someone else and seeing how friendly and hugely encouraging fellow writers are (online and in real life) it’s easy to have your confidence boosted. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Lesley: All of my covers consist of my artwork so yes I had a lot of say! I believe I read that 80% of shoppers pick the book up based on the title and cover alone so these are extremely important qualities. I know that I personally fall into that percentage. We are a visual world.
Morgen: I’m not too fussed about covers (although if they grab me then all the better) but I love titles. That said a bad one won’t put me off (I did by James Patterson’s ‘The Quickie’!) providing the content looks good (in James’ case it was co-written by Michael Letwidge and I bought it because of how good their ‘Step on a Crack’ was). What are you working on at the moment / next?
Lesley: I have been writing and writing in my portable notebook (paper!) and toying with tackling schizophrenia in a fictional setting but it is such a heavy subject that I cannot be sure of moving forward with it. I do have several other ideas but no firm commitment to anything right now.
Morgen: Maybe you could do a bit of everything? Do you do a lot of editing?
Lesley: Major time consumer – yes.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Lesley: They just did, Morgen. 🙂
Morgen: Oh dear. 🙂 Right at the start of this interview you said that your characters provide your stories (my favourite aspect of writing), what’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Lesley: Writing comes as a first nature to some people but it does not to me. I have to be totally committed, in the zone and heads down without interruption of even normalcies of life like eating or sleeping or dressing on a schedule. This has caused me a great inconvenience. I took a trip in order to write and wrote nothing worth noting – I was disappointed in myself for that but surprisingly all of my travels combined to produce my poetry. I now have a ‘stand back and run with it’ mentality. I love to read back what I have written and be surprised by the fact it came from me. Do you know what I mean? What is meant to surface will surface for me but at its own pace.
Morgen: I absolutely know what you mean. Sometimes I look at older pieces (and they don’t have to be that old) and be pleasantly surprised (others times I cringe, of course). What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Lesley: Be true to yourself.
Morgen: That’s a great one but is there a word, phrase or quote you especially like?
Lesley: There are so many but I will stick with Albert Einstein’s – “The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before.” I have a tendency to be a bit daring in the eyes of my peers so find this suiting.
Morgen: Daring is great. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Lesley: I am an avid Texas Hold ‘em player. Nothing as refreshing as playing poker with the guys who spend the evening talking about subjects totally out of my realm of thinking and expertise! Oh and art of course.
Morgen: I hope you’re making notes when they tell you so you can use it in your writing. 🙂 Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?
Lesley: Yes. I told Sandra Beckwith that she was my new Guru because her blogs are so relevant to the current book business. Sandra’s site offers free access to priceless information and she, herself is accessible which is a rare commodity. One of her lines is “ And because you’ve found this valuable resource, you probably already know one of the dirty little secrets of book publishing: “You are responsible for marketing your book.”
Morgen: I don’t know Sandra so I’ll have to take a look. You mentioned a couple earlier but are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Lesley: I really like LinkedIn. Now that I have figured out how to properly use it, it has become a very valuable resource as have the writers who post their experience, expertise and humanness.
I am starting to warm up to Twitter (@gypsyles) as I have now connected with a wonderful variety of minds and have learned a few tips. I followed @CeeBee308 who is a native Montrealer too and a successful author who markets his own books (Claude Bouchard). On his website he answers how he built his Twitter community. What I admire about Claude is he is also accessible and true to his word as he answers tweets, promotes other authors (he has 250k+ followers) all while branding himself in a non-aggravating way.
Morgen: I was listening (as I do every Sunday evening, and commenting in the chatroom) to online Radio Litopia’s After Dark programme with guest Jeffrey Archer and he said he dictates his tweets – apparently his secretary prints them off and he dictates his replies – now to me, that’s the ultimate in cool, although a lot of what Twitter is about is instant banter so he’d miss out on that. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Lesley: The same as it always has but with an improved ease-of-use manual. Someone said write a great story and a great book will happen. (I think I said that to myself! lol)
Morgen: All we need now is for great people to buy them. 🙂 Where can we find out about you and your work?
Lesley: My website is the best place to connect and to have an overview of my artwork and books. The contact page has live social networking links and each of my book covers has links directly to Amazon. My Amazon Author page has a Bio and all my books listed.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Lesley: Yes, I will be offering my book free as a Kindle download today and tomorrow (April 22, 23) and invite all to enjoy, relate and connect with both myself and “5 Pillars of the Gypsy.”
Morgen: Oh yes folks, please do. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Lesley: YES! who would you have to dinner if it only had to be a choice of three. Would they all get along or would your choices be self-indulgent?
Morgen: No hesitation. I’d have my dad (who died September 2001), Roald Dahl (who my dad took photographs for) and Kate Atkinson. My favourite two authors and my favourite father. 🙂 I think they’d get along, despite my dad not recognising Roald when he first brought a film into my dad’s shop to be processed (he had to ask his name). Roald obviously forgave him as he went to his house in Great Missenden a few times (including taking a video of one of Sophie Dahl’s birthday parties). Kate’s always struck me as someone who’d get on with anyone, as my father did, so I think they’d all get on famously. 🙂 I do wonder if I’d have been a writer sooner had I known (or perhaps I knew but didn’t pay attention) at the time that my father was working for Roald (so I never met him). I love to read and write dark stories with a twist so Roald’s influence obviously rubbed off on me. Thank you, Lesley, for asking.
Lesley: Morgen, I would like to thank you very much for taking the time to interview me and for the all the work you put into helping writers better themselves as well as offering a marketing platform. It is truly appreciated.
Morgen: 🙂 I appreciate the authors volunteering themselves. It’s a LOT of work (practically full-time) but I enjoy it (and it helps when sometimes it leads to a book sale :)).
I then invited Lesley to include an extract of her writing and this is from the 5th Pillar of the Gypsy – excerpt of ‘The Gypsy (part1)’
When the winds of change
And the gypsy
And there is no
Then the hands
And the spirit
Then no longer
No fire in her gaze.
She lays her head
To bed at night
The bed is
Warm and solid.
Is cool and calm.
Then why is it
That she belongs?
Update October 2012: My book, 5 Pillars of the Gypsy is now available through Smashwords and I have received seven 5-star reviews which have aided in dictating the direction of my writing. I am currently developing a stage play based on one or more of the concepts from the book.
Also as a connection point I now have a blog about both my art and my books along with others. I have opportunities for interviews, exposes and guest posts from all artists including photographers, visual artists, authors, musicians (the works). 🙂
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
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