The questions writers and self-publishing authors are always being asked are: why do you do it? Why devote so many hours of your finite existence to spinning stories? How did you ever end up doing this crazy job? And why in the world would you self-publish?
Everyone’s got a different answer to those questions, but they’re usually variations on the same theme. Something along the lines of… “Well, I don’t precisely know, but here’s my theory”.
Ever tried to read your own brain? To figure out precisely what makes you who you are? It’s no easy task, and I know I can’t do it. Not really. It is hard to determine exactly why I do what I do, but I can make an attempt. So here’s my story: a mixture of facts and theories and guesses. It’s the best I can do.
I come from England. Specifically, I come from Lincoln, one of the oldest cities in the United Kingdom. It’s no coincidence that I’m a history buff. I lived there until I was about eight, and then again from the age of eighteen to twenty-seven. Within walking distance of my house were the likes of Lincoln Cathedral and Castle: parts of these buildings date from the 11th century, and the rest span across the several centuries afterwards. Lincoln is full of Roman remains – wells, crumbling walls, aqueducts, foundations, objects, graves. Quite a few buildings still have medieval stone cellars attached, and eighteenth-century frontages frequently conceal older buildings behind. If anybody tells you that history’s about nothing but names and dates and wars, don’t listen. It’s all about stories. Imagine all the people who lived in those buildings, worked those farms and factories, built the fashionable new facades on old houses to stay in vogue. Every one of those buildings has hundreds of stories to tell, big and small, and I’m interested in all of them.
Then there’s books. I read my first real, long book (that I can remember) when I was about eight or nine. It was about witches and talking cats and intrepid children and feline royalty and I was completely enchanted. After my parents divorced I underwent a long period of isolation from much of the real world and from other people; for all those years, books were my refuge, simultaneously an escape from reality and a way of exploring it when I had no other way of doing so. To say that I read voraciously would be an understatement. I read everything that I could get hold of (though my favourites by then were already fantasy and mystery stories). When I couldn’t get at a book, I daydreamed and composed stories in my head instead. When I was seventeen I began creating my first fantasy worlds and concocting plots, most of which never got used in anything. I was living out in the East Anglian countryside for most of those years and I got into the habit of walking a lot (I had a beagle with an inexhaustible appetite for exercise). Walking and daydreaming go together beautifully, has anyone else ever noticed that?
It’s interesting to note that my dad’s a writer, too. He got into it when he was young, and by this time he’s written four novels and hundreds of short stories. We don’t write the same things, though; while I muck about with fantasy and historical fiction, Dad writes crime thrillers and sci-fi. He’s had a huge influence on me since my late teens: without his encouragement I might never have written that all-important first novel. But during those formative nine years out in the countryside when I was reading and reading and reading and scribbling (I won’t call it writing), I hardly saw him. Where, then, did my early habit of stories come from? Do these things run in the blood? Who knows.
Let’s skip over the few years that I spent working in offices and trying to get an education and all that mundane stuff. I began a novel (again) at the end of 2010. By that time being a published author was a dream I’d been cherishing for many years, but I didn’t begin this particular novel with any thought towards publishing it. Maybe that’s why it was the first long piece of fiction I managed to complete: I was doing it just for fun. I knew that the task of finding an agent and a publisher and getting a contract would be long-haul and seriously exhausting, so I ignored it. It wasn’t until several months later that I heard about self-publishing.
Here are some more things I know to be true about myself: I hate having to rely too much on other people. I hate having to sit on my hands waiting for someone else to hand me an opportunity. And I hate tiresome, repetitive busy-work that mostly results in nothing. I love being able to handle things myself. I like gaining new skills. And I have a high value for independence. I’m way too anxious by nature to enjoy being wholly dependent on, say, a publishing company to do right by me and get my books out to a suitable standard – supposing I could even get a contract on a series of books that don’t fit into any of the current trends and probably aren’t easily marketable.
All of this being the case, self-publishing hit me straight off as pretty much ideal for me. No wasting months of my life composing query letters! No sitting around hoping for a publisher to take a chance on me! Self-publishing has its own disadvantages – it’s very hard work, for a start, when you’re personally responsible for every single thing – but it works perfectly for me. At this point, I see no reason at all to go looking for an agent or a publishing contract. I’m having way too much fun being my own boss.
To date I’ve written three full novels, the third of which is coming out in about a week. I’ve also published a collection of short stories (related to the novels), and a supernatural mystery novella. I have a second novella (#2 in the Malykant Mysteries series) coming out in May, and in the meantime I’m writing a steampunk adventure novel in an unusual collaborative, shared world project with four other authors. None of these things would have happened if I hadn’t had the gall (as some would say) to go it alone. I’m having a blast, and I intend to keep it up for many, many years yet.
Ritesh: Thanks Charlotte. It is so good to get to know a bit more about your favorite authors! So everyone, do you have any questions for her? I have one! Charlotte, what is your fondest memory from your childhood?
- Crowd-funding: What’s it All About? by Charlotte E. English (riteshkala.wordpress.com)
- Giveaway of the Draykon Series by Charlotte E English (riteshkala.wordpress.com)