‘Evan and the Bottom Rockets’

Author Q&A

What’s the book about?

“Well…I don’t want to give too much away but I can say that it’s about Evan, a precocious boy just into secondary school, and Evan’s problem, which is that he breaks wind outrageously loudly and with a tremendously strong and evil smell! The book is full of the chaos that this unleashes in different situations. Eventually the reader finds out what’s causing it.”

Why did you write it?

“I wrote it for my son, who was seven at the time. It made him laugh and so I decided to share it with other children by turning it into a book. Hopefully they will laugh too – that’s what I hoped to achieve with this project!”

Who would like this book?

“It’s probably best suited to children of seven upwards and to anyone with a childish sense of humour! I deliberately tried to write it for parents as well as their children because I know how painful reading the same book, that you can’t stand, night after night, can be. There are jokes in the book for parents that kids might not necessarily get.”

How long did it take to write and how difficult was it to do?

“Writing it was the easy part! It came really quickly. I didn’t sit at my desk for days getting stuck – I wrote in short bursts in between other things – and it didn’t feel like hard work at all. The hard work came in the editing process and in the whole business of finding a publisher and getting it published.”

Why did you decide to self-publish?

“Unfortunately, traditional publishing is failing first-time authors. It’s all down to the bottom line and there isn’t the money these days to devote to publishing and marketing new authors or the willingness to take the risk that their work won’t sell. It’s not just the publisher’s fault; it’s really down to the way that we’re buying books. We don’t tend to try new authors out. We stick to the ones we’ve heard of. This means that a few established authors and celebrity authors seem to dominate the market and other authors struggle. Once something is making money the rest of the publishers seem to jump on it – like the mindfulness adult colouring books a while back.

I knew that there was as much chance of getting published as winning the lottery but I still tried for six months. Publishers get thousands and thousands of authors pestering them each year and only choose a few but I thought it was poor that some didn’t even bother to send me a standard rejection email.

I knew that self-publishing was a route that has proved successful for a number of authors and I wanted to move on with the project. Self-publishing is not like vanity publishing anymore. Many well-known authors choose to do it. I decided to do it knowing that the only other alternative would be to get years and years of rejections before I could even get an agent. Authors don’t need traditional publishers anymore – we can do it ourselves and make it work!”

What has self-publishing been like?

“Researching self-publishing companies took me an age. I just couldn’t make my mind up. In the end I decided on the Welsh company Rowanvale because they were the only ones who bothered to reply to my e-mails in depth and reasonably quickly. I just had a feeling about them and decided to go with that gut-instinct.

The process has been more time consuming than I had imagined, more difficult and certainly more expensive than I would have liked. I dislike the fact that there are hidden charges – there’s always something that would incur an additional cost. Thankfully I haven’t made any errors in my side of the work so far and so I have kept those extra costs to a minimum. I bet most self-publishing companies are the same in that regard.

It’s amazing how editing and proof-reading was still so important even after spending so much time doing it myself. I have a degree in English, and was trained to teach it at Cambridge University, yet I still missed things here and there. In fact, I noticed something even after the manuscript had been checked over twice!

At present I’m very close to having a proof copy in my hands and the marketing service that I paid for will begin shortly. I’ll write more about it in other posts on my blog as we go along.”

How did you find an illustrator?

“I pitched my job proposal on an internet site, and, with great difficulty, finally chose Joe as my illustrator. It was the right decision as the illustrations are great and well-suited to the book.”

Will you be writing a sequel?

“Yes – I’ve already done it! When it will be published I don’t know but I’m just beginning to think about a third. At the same time I’m also writing a book for early teenage kids.”

Why do children laugh at bodily functions?

“It’s not just children! Children are told not to laugh at them, and so, of course, it makes them laugh all the more. They are just funny and kids can make the noises themselves. It’s school-boy humour. It’s gross but funny at the same time.”

Did you draw on real life situations and people?

“Definitely. I’m in the book (I won’t say where). My son appears in it. I have a daughter named Rosie and she’s in it. The teachers are a composite of one or two of my own teachers and I must confess there’s a little of Theresa May in the head-mistress. Every character has a hint of someone I have known for real.”

Were you inspired by other authors?

“I tried not to be. I wanted to be original and I think I have achieved that. I conceived the book very visually, I could see every scene in my head, so I suppose in that way I wasn’t thinking of books I was thinking of films. I would love to see these books as films one day. Dream on!”

What is success to you?

“Good question. Just handing the book over to my son is a success. Perhaps if someone buys the book and leaves a good review on Amazon that will be success to me. I’m certainly not expecting fame and fortune! I’m aware that making money on this project will only come with huge investment, and, sadly, I’m not in a position to do that. I just hope that I can bring a smile to the faces of a few children. That’s a profound thing to do.”

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