"If this is the first book I can't wait to see what's next!"
"From the minute I started reading this book I couldn't wait to get to the next chapter."
"Beautifully written, clever use of language, well constructed and one of the best reads I've had in years."
"For a first time writer this is a magnificent achievement."
"A beautiful story showing life's twists and turns told with warmth and poignancy, created around believeable, relatable, and likeable characters. When's the next book?"
Catherine Alexandra is a first time writer who has recently self-published her debut novel to growing reader acclaim. That it took 22 years to write and bring the book to publication is part of what makes her story so compelling. A teacher by trade, Catherine turned to writing in the midst of an unhappy marriage with a desire for a better life for both herself and her then infant son. Writing did not change her life overnight, has not (at least not yet) brought her fame and fortune, but she says it has enriched her life.
To be fair it was not 22 years of nonstop writing. A lot of life happened along the way. Through it all, Alexandra says she learned much about the writing and publishing process. Most notably that she had to do this her way... a lesson learned when once working with a mentor.
"Changes that were suggested to me changed the tone of the book to me, or didn't quite match the voice that I had in my head for that character and so there was a rub there. At that point I recognized that, being as stubborn as I am, no, I needed to write this book on my own, I needed to write this in my own way and in my own style... getting to the end game had to be completely my own work."
One of the lessons learned, says Alexandra, is that she went out making the rounds of agents, editors, and publishing houses far too early and got rejections "by the dozens." Then, once completed her novel sat finished for 5 years with even her Mum often asking " What are you going to do with your book? You finished your book, what are you going to do with it now?"
In December of 2017 she decided the time was right and published on 1 January 2018. Alexandra says she resisted self-publishing in part because of the stigma often associated with it, that if you have to self-publish you're not a success, your book isn't good enough. While she admits some less than stellar works have been self-published, she no longer fears the stigma and insists there are benefits to writers who self-publish.
"A number of authors, well known authors, are choosing to self-publish now I think because the traditional publishing business can be quite ruthless. There are pros and cons to both absolutely, but as a self-published author you retain way more rights over your work, the royalties you receive a far more significant than they would be if you were going down the traditional route... and as long as you're confident that your book has been professionally edited as best that you can, then that is definitely the way that I choose to work now."
When it comes to her advise for aspiring writers based on her own personal journey, Alexandra has two key thoughts...
1. Stick at it. It's very easy to want to give up, to suffer a bit of writer's block, or for life to get in the way and cause you to set your writing aside. Be resilient!
2. Do it your way. Ignore all the advice about how writer's should work, how many words you should write a day, when to approach an agent and so on. Do it your way, in your time and in your style.
Alexandra is now at work on a second novel completely unrelated to "Dancing Through Fire" and says while not originally her intention, reader feedback does have her considering a sequal to her debut story. And, she promises it won't take 22 years until we hear from her again!
"Dancing Through Fire" is available for download through Amazon as an e-book only at present. Here is Alexandra's synopsis of the book...
"Dancing Through Fire" is a story of love and redemption and a very unlikely friendship. It features Ellie, who is a very naive 18-year old from Scotland who goes to work in Mallorca (Spain) for the summer before going to university and she is ready to take on the world. And it features Guy, who is a 42-year old American who has been living the life of a loner on the island of Mallorca, having left behind a very tragic past that he hasn't shared with anybody and he doesn't want to talk about. Because of an event one evening in Mallorca their paths collide, and the story is about the friendship that develops, it's about the kindness of strangers, and it's about unexpected love in unexpected places."
*For more on Scottish authors and books check out these previous episodes...