Interview with Author Bill Aitken

My blog runneth over this month. I’m so pleased to be able to add a bonus interview with historical novelist, Bill Aitken.


Thanks for joining me, Bill. Tell us, what are you currently working on?

At the present moment, I am working on the sequel to my first novel – Blackest of Lies.  Again, it is set in the middle of the First World War and follows the progress of my two main characters – Hubert and Banfield – as they deal with German espionage, this time in the US.  The book is called Sweet Sorrow and explores an outrage largely unknown outside the US – the Black Tom explosion in New York harbour.  At that time, the German Embassy was supporting a large number of undercover agents intent on disrupting America’s support for the Allies, despite her neutrality.  Without the explosives and horses bought from the US, the Allies would have found it very difficult to prosecute an effective war.  The Germans, on the other hand, had no such help and it caused them a great deal of trouble.  They felt, therefore, that they more they could interfere in the “special relationship”, the better.  One of the results was the explosion at Black Tom in July 1916 which, thankfully, caused few deaths.

How interesting. How much research do you need to do for a project like that?

A frightening amount – too much, really – but not because the book demands it.  Simply because I am sucked in to the period and just have to know more about this person or that event.  If I can infect my readers with the same passion, I count myself successful.  These days, of course, it is relatively easy because of the internet but when I took the first steps in planning my first novel, it was back in the early 90’s and most things were paper-based.  Much tougher.

I can imagine. What drew you to this genre?

I’ve always been a fan of historical fiction, especially the slightly off-the-wall variety and I have tried to replicate this in the two books.  I’m not really looking for the sort of history you can find in any text book but rather the strange, out-of-the-way stories which involve real individuals doing their part to affect the broader, historical canvas.  You can empathise with that sort of storyline better, I feel.

When did you decide to become a writer?blackestoflies_cover

Since the early 80s, really.  I wrote military histories and then went on to produce a dozen, or so, textbooks on IT-related subjects.  Blackest was my first foray into fiction and it was traumatic, to say the least.  I discovered that it was a whole new craft, meaning that much of my experience writing straight history and IT stuff was of little use.  But it was such fun coming to grips with the genre that I don’t regret it in the least.

Do you write full- or part-time?

Part-time.  I live and work in the Middle East, designing competency systems for the oil and gas industry so I’m pretty busy most of the time.  Weekends and the odd evening are about it.

Where do your ideas come from?

They come from my historical research really.  I’ll see something interesting which may not be directly related to the plot in hand but I’ll note it down for a future storyline.

Do you work with an outline or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you?

A bit of both, really.  I’ll start with the idea but then the rigour of developing an outline helps me explore it further.  I also use mind-mapping a good deal.

How long would you say it take you to write a book?

That depends on the type of book.  Straight history and historical fiction depend a great deal on the availability of source material.  On the other hand, IT books are already in my head and only require the occasional glance at reference manuals.

Any tips on what to do or not do for aspiring writers?

Keep going.  A little bit most days will see you complete a novel inside a year.  But then the real work begins – editing it.  Have a circle of trusted friends who will look at early versions of your manuscript.  Encourage them to be open and honest.  Take their feedback in the spirit it is intended – constructive criticism.  It worked for me – I re-wrote the early parts of Blackest several times as the result of that sort of help.

Do you have time for hobbies or other interests?

I paint in watercolours and write a large amount of code – some for fun and some to help me at work.
sweetsorrowcoverThanks again for taking the time to chat with me, Bill. Best of luck with your upcoming projects.

Blackest of Lies is available at Amazon.

Sweet Sorrow will be available December 2016.



Interview with author Milli Gilbert

30911-913052738Continuing with my author series, this month I have the amazing Milli Gilbert. Without further ado, here is our interview:

What is the hardest thing about writing?
Hmm… I don’t write chronologically, so I’d say, at least today, that it’s getting everything in order. In the right order. Sometimes, I luck out, and some of it is in order. But most of the time, not so much. I just look at it like a jigsaw puzzle, and eventually, all the pieces fall into place.

Do you ever get Writer’s Block, and do you have any tips for getting through it?
Writer’s block… that’s when we start asking ‘why’s the rum gone’, right? I usually bang my head against a wall, cry a little bit (internally), then have one of my fellow authors call out the characters. It usually gets them talking, and then I’ve at least got an idea of why they aren’t cooperating.

Where do you see publishing going in the future?
I see more independent and self-publishing. I hear a lot of the big names are pushing their authors to do more and more, though, I don’t see trad publishing going away completely. There will always be those who won’t feel validated as an author unless their book has that Random House (or whoever) on the book.

If you hired someone else to format your work, how did you select them and what was your experience?
Someone else? Only for anthologies that I don’t have a hand in helping with, in which case, I don’t have a hand in selecting the formatter. Otherwise, I do it myself. It’s a lot easier to do than you might think, it’s just I go nuclear on the file, which makes it a bit more time consuming. Though I’ve gotten a bit of a flow with it, so it goes a lot quicker now. Plus, for someone on a tight budget, doing it myself is a whole heck of a lot cheaper.

Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?
Um… probably Facebook groups that do nothing but advertise books. You can join them and post links to your sales platforms. Just last week, I did that for one of my short stories, and someone purchased all three of them. Also, and this one relies a lot more on luck, but being active on Twitter – not so much in regards to advertising, I only advertise a couple times a week on Twitter, but interacting with people you follow, replying to those who interact with you. It get’s your visibility up there. I just had 108 pages read by (only sorta) teasingly commenting to a new follower, “if you’re looking for something to review, wink-wink” and she asked for the links and reviewed 2 of the three. (Would likely have been all three if the one had been on KU like it was supposed to be.) So yeah. Interaction. Mingling. Being socially active.

Great advice. Thanks for joining me today, Milli. 

More about Milli: An eclectic writer, Milli Gilbert is a stay-at-home mom who loves to play with words almost as much as she loves to play with her kids. All of her stories involve romance, and maybe a little bit of mystery. Milli loves to write about cowboys and shifters. And smut. Don’t forget the smut. And can usually be found trying to find interesting ways to combine them. She has several short stories published, and hopes to have her first full length novel out in late Summer 2017. She just took off after one of her couples to follow them around for a few months – but don’t worry, she’ll be back. If not, you can find her on  FacebookGoogle+, and Pinterest, or follow her on Twitter.