My guest today is Barnaby Walter, who writes under the name B. P. Walter. His debut novel, A Version of the Truth, is a dark psychological thriller published by Avon.
It has been called: ‘Beguiling, surprising and sometimes shocking.’
Barnaby is an alumni of the Faber Academy and currently works in social media coordination for Waterstones in London.
IN THE INTRODUCTION
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I answer the following listener question…
I’ve now got a ‘finished’ manuscript and I know the next steps will be to send it out to readers, agents and ultimately publishers. However, I can’t bring myself to let anyone read it – even my very supportive husband! I just seem to have a real worry about anyone reading my fiction (which is a bit of a contradiction in terms for someone who wants to be a novelist…) The fear of being judged or finding out I have no talent is really holding me back, but I know I won’t improve my draft or my writing generally unless I get some feedback. Do you have any strategies for getting over this wall?
I’ll answer it on the show and credit you (unless, of course, you ask to remain anonymous).
This month I’ve been editing The Silver Mark and I sent it out to my ARC team last week. I’ve already had some feedback – good feedback – which is, as always, a massive relief!
Those who have been listening a while may already know this, but my Crow Investigations series is something I decided to do independently, another step along the hybrid publishing path and, so far, it’s gone really well. Far better than I hoped, I’ll be honest, which is very exciting indeed. I’m in the process of signing a deal for the audio rights, too, so The Night Raven will be truly hybrid with a traditional deal for the audiobook.
I think a large part of The Night Raven’s success is down to the amazing cover and, in case you are hybrid or independent (or thinking about it!), I want to recommend the agency I used. It’s called Books Covered and the art director is Stuart Bache who has many years of experience in the traditional industry. He has designed covers for authors such as John Le Carre and Stephen King and he is absolutely brilliant to work with. www.bookscovered.co.uk
Barnaby plans his books and recommends the following book for getting to grips with story structure.
Barnaby also did a creative writing course at the Faber Academy and he recommends it highly. His tutor at the academy was Rowan Coleman.
IN THE INTERVIEW
On his book industry day job and how it affected his dreams of becoming an author:
I started for Waterstones as a weekend bookseller when I was fifteen or sixteen years old… Now I work in the head office doing social media coordination… Surrounded by the industry, the traditional publishing world, being surrounded by a lot of success… And on the other side of it, knowing that some books don’t do very well…
Knowing the astonishing the highs which are possible – and it’s very exciting to see a book catch fire like that, I think in part inspired me. Not that I thought I could achieve that, but seeing people be so passionate about story was amazing.
The other side, it meant I knew how difficult it was for any book, even once it’s published, to even make it to a bookshop shelf… Simply there’s just not enough space… It’s a fight, really. It didn’t stop me, thankfully, I didn’t shrink away in fear.
On the Faber Academy:
I had an idea for a third novel, but I was conscious that I had never been taught creative writing… So I read in the back of a lot of books, I quite like reading acknowledgements in the back of novels, particularly if you’re trying to get published… The things they say are often really interesting and the Curtis Brown and Faber Academy courses kept cropping up… I was so lucky, my employer made it possible for me to got to the Faber academy and change around my working schedule to make it possible for me to attend on Thursday mornings… I felt I needed some kind of guiding hand, a route through the darkness.
The Faber Academy was a very important turning point when I was trying to do this thing we call writing. It gave me tools, almost like an armoury, to approach it in more of a methodical way… It helped me realise that it wasn’t this strange potion making, this mystical magical thing that nobody knows how it works… It helped me to find my formula, my own mystical alchemy. And by sharing it with other writers and by being guided by a brilliant tutor, I had the wonderful writer Rowan Coleman… She’s such an incredible inspiration to her class because she really, clearly loves what she does and the art of storytelling and that really helped me get to grips with the story I wanted to tell. The WIP I did while at the academy was the one that ended up getting published.
I can’t even say how helpful it was because it’s so buried in the fabric of what I do… If anyone is considering it I would say go for it.
On the submission process:
So many times in this industry you are ready for the next step or for things to get better, or you think ‘my God this is the next step, this is it’ … Each time you get an email which says can we have the full manuscript or can we have an exclusive on this title or whatever, you think ‘oh wow, it’s really going to happen’. And then it doesn’t. It’s hard not to feel as if you’re back to square one.
On writing when working full-time:
I find it really difficult… Trying to cram in the thing that’s most important to me, but squeezing it into little bits of time here and there is quite upsetting really. Because it’s the thing that you want to devote your full attention to and to do the best you possibly can… but you really have to slot it in.
I try to write a little bit in the evenings and I write every lunchtime for an hour.
The main hassle for me is that I spend my entire day in front of LED backlit screens so when I get home the last thing I want to do is spend more hours in front of a laptop screen.
Weekends are when I’m most productive because I can do bits and have breaks… I would struggle to give tips because I don’t have it figured it out.
I would say do what fits in the rhythm of your own life and don’t get too hung up on trying to get a routine if your current situation doesn’t lend itself to a routine yet.
I don’t focus on the amount of words I’m doing or pages or anything like that. A lot of it can be research or thinking which doesn’t lead to a thousand words a day… I do try to think about the book each day and think about how it could progress and to think about any of the nitty gritty problems in the plot and try to untangle them.
I need a map to follow. When I have an idea for a book… I then have to write it down step by step. I normally write down a chapter breakdown, with a plot synopsis.
Just having it makes me feel in control of the process rather than the process being in control of me.
I quite often cast my characters with actors. I cut out their pictures from publicity stills or whatever and I copy that to a cast list with every character and their age, job, where they figure in the plot and have their picture next to that. It helps me visualise them when I’m laying it out and that probably comes from my film studies days.
On writing process:
I can write at home, I can write in a coffee shop, I’m not too sensitive or particular, really. Complete silence would probably be the worst thing. If there’s nothing, I put on rain sounds or something in the background. Something to generate white noise so it’s not pin drop silence which can create an echo chamber in your head.
On the three act structure:
‘Once you’ve got structure to build on, the building on it becomes a lot more enjoyable.’
On life post-publishing:
‘It introduces a new level of consciousness and anxiety into the process’
‘It’s very strange… When you’re writing you think of it as the dream. You think something really stupid, you think once this happens all my problems will be solved and I’ll be forever happy.’
‘You just collect other problems and stresses… Which isn’t to diminish the wonderful feeling of having done it. It is wonderful but it’s not a one-sided thing.’
‘The feeling of anticlimax… Your life, quite often, doesn’t change.’
‘The week of publication when there’s a lot of focus on you and your book, I actually found that trickier than I expected… I’m a natural introvert and I’ve spent decades making sure I’m not the focus of attention in a room full of people.’
Thanks for listening!
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