Results Not Typical Blog Tour | Q&A With Catherine, Caffeinated.
Catherine is an Irish writer, blogger and expert in self-publishing. This month is the launch of her 4th title, and debut fiction novel Results Not Typical: a Corporate Satire.
It is my pleasure to welcome the wonderful Catherine and congratulate her on her book release – she’s a smart and fun writer, and I just know you’ll love this chat we had.
(The Interview is in three parts: 1. Self Publishing Your Novel, 2. The Writing Process, 3. Results Not Typical.)
Catherine Ryan Howard is a 29-year-old writer, blogger and enthusiastic coffee-drinker.
She currently lives in Cork, Ireland, where she divides her time between her desk and the sofa. She blogs at www.catherineryanhoward.com.
Part 1: Self Publishing Your Novel
Okay, I know you’ve talked about this a gazillion times before but for the sake of readers unfamiliar with your blog, why did you decide to self-publish your novel. Didn’t you say you never would?
Yes, once upon a time I said that I would never, ever self-publish a novel – and I’m so glad everyone remembers that… (!) My first adventure in self-publishing was a travel memoir, Mousetrapped, which I released in March 2010. I decided to self-publish it after getting rejection after rejection from publishers, who all said the same thing: we like it, but there’s no market for it.
With the novel, I figured that it would either be good enough (and so get published) or not good enough (and so rejected and best left in a drawer). But when I started submitting Results Not Typical, I started getting the same reaction: we like it, but it doesn’t fit the Irish/UK chick-lit market. As its humor is satirical and it’s set in the States, I understood why they felt this way.
Then Mousetrapped sales took off – I’ve sold over 8,000 copies to date – so I started thinking, well, I have an established readership and, as a self-publisher, I can sell worldwide, so maybe I’ll self-publish my novel as well… It wasn’t a decision I came to lightly, and I hope it’s the right one!
And… a VERY brief overview of the process that took you from words on paper to self published?
In the fall of 2009 I booked six weeks in a vacation cottage by the seaside here in Cork, installed myself in it with a coffee machine and my Mac and wrote the first draft of Results Not Typical. Then I went back home and wrote a second draft, and then worked with a friend of mine who runs a manuscript critique service and writers’ workshops to do a third, much tighter draft.
It was eventually polished and ready to go in May 2010. Then it went off on submission for a year or so, until I hauled it back in and decided to self-publish instead. It got a final professional proofread before I formatted it for e-book conversion by Amazon KDP and Smashwords, and turned it into a Print-On-Demand paperback interior.
Your cover and title for Results Not Typical are fab: I certainly couldn’t tell that you are indie published. How important do you think these elements are and how can self pubbers ensure such high quality work?
I think cover design is the most important thing after having a good book. Your cover says far more than you can imagine about your book – it says everything about it – and most of the time, it’s all a potential reader sees before making a decision to either go find out more about your book or forget all about it.
The only way to ensure high quality work is to hire professionals to do it. I use Andrew Brown of www.designforwriters.com (based in the UK but all our work is done via e-mail) for all my covers, and I really think he outdid himself with the cover of Results. I LOVE it!
Part 2: The Writing Process / Being an Author
You write, maintain a very active blog, market several books simultaneously and answer ridiculous interview questions like this one. (Oh, and you format manuscripts for the Kindle, gross!!) How on earth do you stay sane?
One word: COFFEE. And drinking it from those enormous mug/buckets they sell in Starbucks.
I also don’t do anything else; I write full-time. I quit my 9-5 back in 2009 (just before I went to that vacation home to write Results, as a matter of fact) to give my dream of writing for a living a chance of coming true, and proving that that was the right decision and not just a foolishly reckless thing to do has been quite the motivation indeed!
You’re Irish. Do you write in British English or American English, and can you explain your choice?
That’s quite the interesting question – no one has ever asked me that before! That’s actually a very real issue that my editor and I were just discussing recently for Backpacked, my second travel memoir. It’s not a straightforward decision for me because even though my natural inclination would be to write in British English, most of my sales are in the US.
With Backpacked, we ended up using British English and the associated grammar and punctuation rules, but for some words, we made executive decisions. For instance, in my first draft I talked about a stall selling chocolate bars, chips and soda cans. Now if I was sticking strictly to British English, I’d say chocolate bars, crisps and fizzy drinks, but Americans would find “crisps” and “fizzy drinks” unusual. But then if I used American English (candy bars, chips and soda) it would sound weird to my Irish and British readers. To complicate things even further, in Ireland we tend to call soda “minerals” for some inexplicable reason. In the end we stuck with chocolate bars, crisps and soft drinks, because that was the closest to my native language while still being understandable and clear to all.
You have to strike a balance between being correct and being understandable, and do it while remaining consistent. Not an easy task over a whole book!
You’re banging books out like bullets these days. What are your 3 secrets for staying on track with your publishing deadlines and remaining self-motivated?
Rest assured, it just seems like I’m banging them out like bullets! If only…! This year I’ll release, in total, three books. I wrote Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing over a period of about 4 weeks back in April, but that was easy (relatively speaking!) because it was a how-to, Results was written last year and I wrote Backpacked over the summer.
I’m really the last person to ask for advice on how to stay on track because I always leave everything until the last minute and only really get going when time has already started to run out. (Don’t tell anyone!) I am a fan of making charts and graphs though showing how many words I have to write everyday, even if I rarely stick to them. I also reward myself with things like a DVD box set or a day off to read someone else’s book – things that you can do in the midst of writing a book that will help you relax, but won’t take you too far away from it.
How do you know when your book is absolutely ready to go to press?
Hmm. I’m not really sure, to be honest. With Self-Printed, I literally wrote it all out, had it proofread and then published it. I didn’t even re-write it, and that’s probably my best reviewed book out of the lot. With Backpacked, I wrote a rough draft, re-wrote, had it copyedited, went through those changes/notes/corrections and then had it proofread.
I suppose professional editors are always involved somewhere along the line, and when they say it’s good to go, I believe them.
Part 3: Let’s Talk about Result Not Typical!
You describe it as “The Devil Wears Prada meets Weightwatchers and chick-lit meets corporate satire”. Be a good sport and tell us about your inspiration.
In 2008 I signed up for a weight-loss clinic that claimed to specialize in behavior modification therapy, whatever that is when it’s at home. It was the most heinous program of starvation, protein shakes and matchbox-sized pieces of tuna that I ever had the misfortune to cross paths with, and I learned pretty quick that it wasn’t for me.
But whenever I’d regale friends and family with stories about my experience with the clinic, they’d be falling about the place laughing. They thought it was hilarious, and they couldn’t believe that any company was seriously doing the things they were. At the same time, an idea had been gestating somewhere deep inside my brain, something about a corporate satire in a female-heavy industry – I’d wanted to write a corporate satire ever since I’d read Company by Max Barry, one of my favorite books, and then had the pleasure/misfortune of working for a huge American corporation, one who gave us, among other delights, personal “emotional bank accounts” and encouraged us to make deposits in the emotional bank accounts of our colleagues. (Yes, really.)
The evil weight loss clinic, a female-run corporation and satire all met one day in my mind and then there it was: the idea for Results Not Typical. The name comes from the disclaimer you frequently see on ads for dieting aids and exercise equipment, which I thought made a fantastic title.
Here’s a great description of the book:
“Through their Ultimate Weight Loss Diet Solution Zone System, Slimmit International Global Incorporated claim they’re making the world a more attractive place one fatty at a time. Their slogans ‘Where You’re Fat and We Know It!’ and ‘Where the Fat IS Your Fault!’ are recognized around the globe, the counter in the lobby says five million slimmed and their share price is as high as their energy levels. But today the theft of their latest revolutionary product, Lipid Loser, will threaten to expose the real secret behind Slimmit’s success…”
Do you really feel cheated by the weight-loss industry?
No, not at all. I just think it’s an industry that’s ripe for satire. I’m also SO fed up of reading about skinny chick-lit protagonists obsessing about putting on a pound when you probably can’t see them when they turn sideways, and that’s so alienating and almost insulting for the average woman, who would love to only be worried about one solitary pound. But then at the same time I don’t want to read about women who are “big and proud” because I’m overweight and I’m certainly not proud of it – I know it’s unhealthy, and I’m trying to address it. That leaves weight loss memoirs, but what about fiction? And what about fun fiction? I wanted to write a novel that was entertaining, featured women who were actually struggling with their weight (not just imagining that they were) and had a little bit of corporate satire thrown in for a twist. I’m not sure if I’ve done that, but I’ve tried.
How much of yourself can we see in the main characters?
Nothing. I’ve certainly drawn on my personal dieting, um, adventures, shall we say, for the things that happen to the characters, but as their personalities are all a bit on the extreme side, I can’t say I’m in there anywhere. If anyone reads the book and at the end of it thinks, That person is just like Catherine, I’ll be in trouble for sure! That’s one of the things I find hilarious about writing fiction – everyone thinks you have to be in there somewhere, but I make it all up, folks.
Have you found a cure for writer’s butt yet? Some members of Ladies Who Critique wanna know the answer…
We call it Writer’s Arse on this side of the Atlantic (or Writer’s Bottom)! And sadly, no, I haven’t, unless by “cure” you mean “way to get your behind to expand even faster.” I’m a certifiable expert in that!
Ladies Who Critique readers can visit Goodreads to enter a giveaway to win one of five paperback copies of Results Not Typical. Open for entries from September 30th-October 31st. Open to all countries.
About Results Not Typical:
The Devil Wears Prada meets Weightwatchers and chick-lit meets corporate satire in the debut novel from Catherine Ryan Howard, author of the bestselling memoir Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida.
Through their Ultimate Weight Loss Diet Solution Zone System, Slimmit International Global Incorporated claim they’re making the world a more attractive place one fatty at a time. Their slogans “Where You’re Fat and We Know It!” and “Where the Fat IS Your Fault!” are recognised around the globe, the counter in the lobby says five million slimmed and their share price is as high as their energy levels. But today the theft of their latest revolutionary product, Lipid Loser, will threaten to expose the real secret behind Slimmit’s success…
The race is on to retrieve Lipid Loser and save Slimmit from total disaster. If their secrets get out, their competitors will put them out of business. If the government finds out, they’ll all go to jail. And if their clients find out… Well, as Slimmit’s Slimming Specialists know all too well, there’s only one thing worse than a hungry, sugar-crazed, carb addict – and that’s an angry one. Will the secret behind Slimmit’s success survive the day, or will their long-suffering slimmers finally discover the truth?
Available now in paperback and e-book editions.
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