Today I am very fortunate and honoured to be able to introduce you to Kerry Letheby, and her debut novel Mine to Avenge.
Many people believe that being an avid reader means you must also be a writer of some sort; that the two activities go mutually hand in hand. But this isn’t always the case. Did the call of writing always appeal to you personally? Or was it something that you only began to play around with more recently? Was the call to write an innate decision or a spur of the moment decision for you?
The writing call has always been with me even though I have left it until later in life to heed the call in the sense of writing a novel. For as long as I can remember I have been a reader and a writer, and was writing stories from a very young age, but my life went in an unexpected direction, and writing stories was put on hold, though I continued to be an avid letter writer for many years.
My own life story kept me in a place where I was unable to give myself to writing for a long time. It wasn’t until my early forties that my life began to stabilise, and my early writing ambitions came to the fore again. Even then, when I first had the seed of the idea for Mine to Avenge in 2001, it still took me another 9 years to believe I had within me what was needed to write it. So, my urge to write is definitely innate, and not spur of the moment.
In early March, I recently attended the Australian Romance Readers Convention in Brisbane where a few authors describe little quirks they had when writing. For example, Nalini Singh mentioned that for one of her books she had to have peanut butter on toast, while Keri Arthur trained herself to write to certain pieces of music. Do you have any particular quirks like these?
I’m not sure if this is a ‘quirk’ in the sense that it is something I have to do to be able to write, as I can write without indulging this particular habit. However, more often than not, I write with a favourite old movie playing in the background (usually Cary Grant or something of a similar vintage), though I play it with the sound off so that I can concentrate on writing. I just like to glance up now and again and see where the movie is at, while I am writing. I know the chosen movies well enough not to need the sound. I don’t really know why I do this at all. (This actually leads nicely into tomorrow’s post on the tour.)
During the course of writing ‘Mine To Avenge’ did you ever experience writer’s block? And if so, how did you overcome this obstacle?
I did – several times. I just had to give it time. Occasionally I just wasn’t sure which way the story was going, so I left it for a while, and indulged in some old movies, seeking the inspiration I needed. It eventually came. However, the writer’s block I am currently experiencing with my work in progress is worse than any episodes I endured with Mine to Avenge. I have been stuck since November last year, when I surged ahead during NaNoWriMo, and am still waiting on the direction I need. I’m trying not to yield to the frustration and am getting on with living, but frequently turning my new novel over and over in my head.
How have the public received your novel so far and how does that make you feel? Does it change the way you look at your book and the process?
I have been pleasantly surprised by the reception of Mine to Avenge so far. At this time I have only received one negative review, but I am doing my best to be prepared for more. It is very unrealistic to expect that everyone will like my book, because of the subjective nature of reading. Even my own sister can’t read past chapter 1 because it’s not her kind of book. I certainly wouldn’t be too keen to read a review she wrote.
But, seriously, people have been very kind, and have appreciated the degree of research that has gone into the book. As a debut novel, I wondered at times if I was being somewhat ambitious to attempt a generational saga, but generally it has been very well received.
With the popularity of Goodreads and other social media sites advocating and promoting authors and their books these days, there appears to be more pressure on the author to not only promote their own work independently, but also for them to abide by a set of unspoken assumptions in order to do so. Have you had an issues or experiences with this to date?
There seems to be an ‘unspoken assumption’ that to successfully promote your own work, you need to have an author platform ready to launch from, well before your book is ready. While I agree that promotion would be much easier if your author platform was up and running, I worry that this assumption might put people off giving things a go, if they don’t have their platform ready before their book.
I was in that predicament, only starting to learn about promotion when my book was already with the editor. Yes, it means that I am behind in many ways – the ideal time to be having a blog tour is at the time your book is released, promoting it in the lead up to publication. Mine to Avenge, was released in October last year, when I had very few Twitter supporters, and was just getting over Facebook – phobia. Here I am ‘touring’ six months later. My publisher has said to just keep pushing it out there, and says that there is some benefit in a drawn out release. It keeps the book in the public eye for much longer.
As an author how do you react and deal with negative feedback?
It really stung badly when I read my first negative review, but I was surprised how quickly I got over it. My publisher sent the review through to me by email while I was on lunchbreak at work one day, and I felt like someone had thrust a knife into my heart. But I thought about it and considered her criticisms, culled out the good bits (there were some) and then realised that I still had more than 20 positive reviews, as opposed to one negative one, so I realised I wasn’t doing badly. I was over it in five minutes.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
As said in the question above, I think the earlier you can have your author platform up and running the better, and if I could do it that way, I would, but I’m not easily discouraged and will keep on promoting Mine to Avenge in any way I can. I am thankful for the many wonderful Indie supporters out there who go all out to support Indie authors with many wonderful promotional opportunities.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment? And what was the best advice you have ever received?
At this stage as I have only had the one negative review, it’s easy to choose. The reviewer described it overall as a ‘messy and disappointing novel’ that she wouldn’t read again.
Choosing the best compliment is the hard part, as I have had a lot of them but I have to go with what Todd Barselow (Editor – Philippines) said, although I think he was being overly generous – ‘This truly is one of the best generational novels that I’ve read in a really long time. Mrs. Letheby has written a novel that is, in my opinion, worthy of comparison to such greats as James Michener, Leon Uris, James Clavell, and Herman Wouk.’
The best advice I’ve ever received is to try to write every day, but I fail badly at this.
Is there any author or novel that has had an impact on your own writing?
I don’t think I can answer this question at this stage as I have only written the one novel, and I can honestly say that no author or novel had any bearing on it at all. It might be a question best answered when I have more writing under my belt.
If you could have written any book in the world, which one do you wish you had written first?
It’s a very obscure book, by Norah Lofts, called ‘How Far to Bethlehem’. It fictionalises the account of what we commonly know as the ‘Three Wise Men’, building up three entirely fictional character studies around these unknown men. I love the way authors such as Loft can choose some small piece of history as an anchor, and weave such a gripping story as this around it. Of course we know the outcome of their trek, but even so, Loft keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering whether the three men and their camels will arrive at Bethlehem in time. I would love to write something similar one day.
And in keeping with the above question, if you could be any character in any narrative, who would you choose?
Anne of Green Gables – I think I saw the ‘me’ I wanted to be in her character. I identified with her desire to write and I also had a vivid imagination that was sometimes rubbished and ridiculed by my friends. But, I think I’d like to be her more because I was madly in love with Gilbert Blyth.
Can you recall the first novel that you read?
No, unfortunately this is beyond the reach of my memory, but I can certainly remember my favourites. By the time I was 12, my favourites were – Cue for Treason, Ash Road, The Silver Sword and The Secret Garden. I re-read these many times.
What are your top five books of all time? And why?
1. RANDOM HARVEST – Paula Ridgeway’s expression of love in action is close to what I believe love really is. I believe love is much more than just a feeling that a person can’t help having, though such feelings are certainly part of it. Real love involves much more – it is a choice and willingly endures deep sacrifice for the one who is loved.
2. A TALE OF TWO CITIES – similar reasons to the above. Sydney Carton shows a similar understanding of a deeper kind of love.
3. BEN HUR – I’m a sucker for the old Biblical epics. I still get so involved with the chariot race each time, as if I don’t know the outcome.
4. LES MISERABLES – Where do I start with the ‘why’ for this? I think the characterisation is superb, and Hugo’s descriptive abilities and portrayal of Paris of the time are beyond compare.
5. THE SILVER SWORD – I’m not sure why I put this up there. I think it was the first story about war that I ever remember reading, and have always loved war stories and movies ever since.
Who are your top five favourite characters of all time?
The characters for this question come straight from the books in the previous question –
1. The bishop – Les Miserables
2. Paula Ridgeway – Random Harvest
3. Sydney Carton – A Tale of Two Cites
4. Javert – Les Miserables
5. Jean Valjean – Les Miserables
If you could live anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose? And why?
I have always wanted to live in Europe for a while – Paris in particular. This is based on an idealised, romantic idea I’ve had of Europe and Paris since I was a child, growing up on a diet of movie mysteries/dramas/musicals with European and Parisian backgrounds. I’m going to visit Paris for the first time later this year and look forward to it, but a chance to live there for a year or two and visit all the main European cities for a week or two each would be a wonderful opportunity. I think though, that I’d always want to come home to South Australia. I think it’s the best place in the world to live.
What are you most looking forward to reading next?
I want to have a CS Lewis fest – I want to re-read the Narnia chronicles and get into some of his other works.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you so very much for your constant support and faith in Mine to Avenge. I am humbled by the generously kind comments and reviews and am working hard to get the sequel out there – once I get past the extreme case of Writer’s Block that appears to have stalled its progress.
In celebration of Kerry’s debut novel Mine to Avenge, Kerry has gladly donated a couple of copies to give-away. Up for grabs are two e-books of Mine To Avenge (Kindle format only sorry) open Internationally. And one signed paperback edition to one lucky Australian reader. Comp closes Friday 3rd May 2013.
To enter this fantastic give-away simply do one or more of the following.
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Remember to leave your name/username for each of the various entries (i.e. Facebook user name) in a comment below so that we can verify before announcing the winners. No email addresses will be published on this site unless you leave them in the comment section below. I can access email address left in the form below privately (through comment moderation) and these will not be shared with anyone, EVER.
To find out more about Kerry Letheby and her novel Mine to Avenge be sure to check out Kerry Letheby’s Website, Blog, Facebook, Goodreads and follow her on twitter @kletheby. To find out more about Kerry’s blog tour click here or to purchase Mine To Avenge click here.
Thanks for stopping by and GOODLUCK 🙂