Today I have a Q&A with Steven Kedie, author of Suburb.
Tell us a little about Suburb.
Suburb is the story of a young man (Tom) discovering who he is and who he wants to be. It’s about his desire for adventure and the decisions and mistakes of youth. It looks at how experiences can change the dynamics of relationships. It also deals with an extramarital affair.
Where did the idea for Suburb come from?
The opening line in the book is: I returned home from three years at university to find my parents exactly where I had left them. The themes of the book are built into that line. I wanted to look at how being away from home for a long period can make returning difficult. How relationships with friends, family and, in Tom’s case his ex girlfriend, can all be feel different. I wanted to write about how difficult it is to feel different when no one else does. It’s a strange time; you’re not an adult yet, but you’re not a kid anymore either. The world feels like it’s in front of you but you can’t touch it.
Are you a plan it first writer or do you sit down and see where the inspiration takes you?
Generally I like to plan. Not scene by scene, but a general overview of what is happening. Certain scenes or incidents that I think the story needs get scribbled in a notebook and mapped into a timeline. With Suburb I was writing about a specific period of time and, due to a real life event, had a certain date I wanted the drama to end on. That gave me my end point and I worked backwards from there.
Within the planned framework I like to see where the characters and conversations take me – that is part of the fun of creating something, the lack of knowing where it will take you. I’m always conscious not to lose that by over planning. If everything is planned to the word, I might miss that moment when a twist or piece of dialogue comes to me and changes the direction of the story.
Time is also a factor in how I write. I have a young family (my second son was born in September) so sitting down to write is not always the first priority. If I do get an hour to write, I don’t want to sit looking at the screen for 45 minutes waiting for inspiration to wander into my mind. I’d rather have an outline to write to, if only to get words on the page to be fixed or improved in later drafts.
My latest novel (which I’m still grafting through the first draft of) is about a fictional Olympian. There are so many real life events (including London 2012) in the book that I’ve spent months planning and researching to even get close to the 75,000 words I’ve got currently. Maybe I should relax on my next book and just see where the words take me.
Why did you choose to go down the self-publishing route?
When I decided to sell my book online, I’d never heard of self publishing, not at least in the form of this huge industry that exists currently. I didn’t know what Kindle Direct Publishing was. It simply started because I got an email from friend of mine out of the blue. He’d bought an ebook online and the process involved inputting your email address and the author sent him the ebook via email once the payment had cleared. My friend had read an early draft of Suburb and liked it. His email suggested setting up a website for me and selling Suburb in the same way. So we did. I’d spent long enough at home reworking lots of drafts of stories and novels and “doing some writing”. This email made me think about doing something different and putting something out there to see what the feedback was.
We set up the website and a company, created a front cover, learnt about mobi files and all the other stuff. Another friend had just done an editing course and was looking for work (and experience). She edited the book. When everything was in place we launched it and people (friends, friends of friends) bought it. The feedback was really positive.
But we struggled to get people in the wider reader community to hear about it. We were trying to be professional, approaching book bloggers etc but found out that people wouldn’t review the book if it wasn’t on a platform such as Kindle or Kobo. So we started looking deeper into it and suddenly this huge world of Self Publishing opened up.
We were maybe a bit naïve at the beginning. But it was an incredible experience; from what was a simple idea I had for a story, we managed to set up a company and sell books. That’s something I’m incredibly proud of, especially when somebody I didn’t know bought my novel for the first time. The guy who designed my website and front cover lived across the road from me when we were kids. I was able to give my friend experience in her new adventure of editing. As inexperienced people in this massive industry, we managed to make it work, even on a small level.
That’s the simple truth of why I self published. My friend sent me an email and we tried to do something we thought might work. It wasn’t about choosing self publishing over traditional publishing. It was just about timing and opportunity. Now, with more knowledge and understanding, I can see self publishing’s benefits for all their worth.
You also wrote a short story – Carl Stone’s Girl. Did you find it easier to write a short story or were you surprised by any challenges along the way?
The idea for Carl Stone’s Girl was around for a while, ten years or more. I’d never really been able to find the right voice for it. Once I’d finished Suburb I wanted to write from a different perspective (Carl Stone’s Girl is written from a female perspective) so I took my laptop on holiday and started again. Everything clicked in the first draft; the voice, the story, the twist. Further drafts were just about tidying up what I’d written in the peaceful French sunshine. Maybe that’s the setting that gets the best out of me! The long term idea is to write a series of stories about Carl Stone from different character’s perspectives, telling the story of his world through their eyes.
Suburb is available to buy on Kindle.