When successful indie author, J M Elliott, messaged me about copy-editing her latest book, The Poacher, I was so excited.
We’d worked together previously on one of her non-fiction books and so I knew what a fantastic writer and storyteller she was. What intrigued me most, though, was the notion that she’d moved from non-fiction to fiction. I was in awe. (I’ll let you into a secret too – I yearn to write a novel but haven’t dared venture down that route yet, so I’m in completely in awe of authors who make this switch.)
And the book is fantastic. Once The Poacher was launched, I caught up with Canadian-based, J M Elliott, to ask her a few questions about her book, the scary switch to fiction and what advice she had for other authors.
Congratulations! Your murder/mystery novel, The Poacher is now available on the Amazon bookstore. How did it feel to see it there for the first time?
It felt amazing and a little scary. The plot and characters have been in my head for a long time and now they are out there in the world. But overall, I felt a sense of accomplishment. It’s wonderful to realize a dream.
I bet! Can you tell us a little bit about your book? The setting, the characters and/or what inspired you to come up with the idea?
I’ve always enjoyed reading thrillers and mysteries, so it was a natural genre for me to write in. I went with a journalist as my main protagonist because I always wanted to be a journalist. I’m familiar with the fishing industry because my husband was a commercial fisherman, so lots of the background ‘colour’ comes from his stories. Setting it on the West Coast was not only because I love where I live, it was a commercial decision as well. Many of the successful authors in my genre use location as another character – so the community and aspects of living there become important to the plot. I wanted to create a small fictional town – Coffin Cove is a combination of several real locations on Vancouver Island – because I wanted to use the characteristics of a small community such as everyone knowing everyone else’s business, gossip, wariness of outsiders etc, to influence the plot and the characters.
I moved from London UK directly to a tiny community on Vancouver Island and it was a culture shock for me. I expected the stereotype of white picket fences, 1950’s style Sunday picnics, and going back to the ‘good ‘ol days’, and the reality is very different. So expect more of this theme in the series.
You’ve already written a successful non-fiction book about your sobriety journey, so please tell us why you decided to make that scary move to fiction. I’m completely in awe!
I wanted to write fiction before I ever thought of writing non-fiction. I fell into my non-fiction books because of my life experience. But knowing that I was capable of doing the work and completing a project gave me the confidence to start writing fiction.
Ah, I see. It eased you in gently. Good move! Have you a sequel in the pipeline? I do hope so. The Poacher is the perfect setting for more cosy mysteries.
Absolutely. ‘Hell’s Half Acre’ is the next full-length novel and I have a couple more sketched out after that. I’m also writing short stories and novellas set in the same location. They are fun to write and I can create backstories for my characters. Plus, writing shorter stuff is a very different discipline, and great writing practice.
It certainly is. What advice would you offer other aspiring authors who want to branch out into fiction and/or self-publish their books?
It depends what your goal is. I want to write full time and earn a decent living from my writing. So deciding what to write is not only about what I enjoy writing, but what is likely to sell. I love reading mysteries, thrillers and all the sub-genres of this category, and luckily for me, it’s a popular genre. There’s a delicate balance between writing for market and writing what you enjoy, so make sure you spend time figuring that out.
If you want to write literary fiction, then go for it, but understand that it will be a lot of work to break into this small market, and very difficult to earn a living.
If you want to self-publish, know that you’ll have to put the work in to marketing your book. You must understand the platforms and you must learn the principles of marketing and you must be persistent. Marketing all my books has been a combination of research, experimentation, persistence and patience. Success doesn’t happen overnight, but it will come if you are willing to learn and improve – both your writing and your marketing.
Hear hear! Fantastic advice! Thanks very much and all the best with your fantastic book!
Buy The Poacher here (available in Kindle and paperback):