Today’s blog features Constantine, a local Neurodiverse writer. With a Degree in creative writing, here’s what he has to say about the process of writing and self-publishing.
When did you first start writing?
(what motivated you to write and self-publish your book?)
That is a big question. I guess it started when I was a child in primary school. Making up stories seemed the only thing I was good at. Although I was encouraged at an early stage, by sympathetic teachers; the move to middle school crushed any hope I had. My learning difficulties were severe, and I was left feeling I would never amount to anything. Flash forward 30 years, and I found out that I am Autistic as are my children. I wanted to show them that we could achieve, so, I took myself back to school and then university (B.A. Hons, in Creative Writing,) where I achieved a first. Then I took my Master’s Degree where I had no less success. I was privileged to write four episodes of PABLO (CBeebies), and then I decided to finish the story I had written for my daughter. This became ‘The Cats Of Charnwood Forest’.
Traditional publishing at that time was a closed door, as selling myself is something I have never been good at.
Tell us about your books.
I currently have four books available.
‘The Cats Of Charnwood Forest’ is set right here around Coalville. It is a fairy tale about the secret world of cats and the magical creatures they encounter.
This was followed by ‘Jötunheim’ in which the Cats of Charnwood explore the Norse heritage of our corner of the country.
Tiya and the Minotaur is a picture book. It is particularly aimed at autistic children of all ages. Unable to find or afford an illustrator. I learned to use Blender (a 3-D computer program) and created the art myself.
Most recently there is ‘…And Things Begin To Change’. Which is a collection of shorts I have donated to Coalville C.A.N. as the first book we have published as ‘Coalville C.A.N. Community Publishing. All proceeds go there.
To be a good writer, you must be a reader – who are your favourite authors and why?
The ‘Why’ is that all these writers tell stories I want to read: –
P. L. Travers
Tolkien (J.R.R. and his son Christopher)
(also, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett but Shh.)
What’s been the biggest challenge in getting your book onto the bookshelf for sale?
The biggest challenge has been me having faith that I can do it. I’m no marketer. My books may never sell in tens of thousands. But I have had enough feedback to know they have been read and appreciated. That is enough.
What aspects of writing a book should you get help with?
Getting professional help with editing and proofreading is important if you can afford it. Not everybody can.
This is something we hope to be able to help with through Coalville CCP. But I will say this also. I have recently read for the first time all the ‘Mary Poppins’ books. There are mistakes on many pages. Capitalisation in the middle of sentences is some of the worst I have ever seen. But they are also some of the most wonderful books I have ever read. Better a great book with a few errors, than a poor book that is error-free.
(*our advice is always to get an editor and pay a professional proofreader If you can afford it – they are not the same. Being good at English does not make one a proofreader, it is much more than spelling and grammar.)
What advice would you give to any other aspiring author in our community?
Writing is a craft.
a) Join a group if you can. Go to college or uni. Learn your craft and find your voice.
(If you would like to join a supportive, local writers’ group, join Debbie who hosts a writing group – they meet at Coalville Can every Monday evening – here’s the link: – ‘We Can Write’ group at Coalville C.A.N.)
b) Don’t be scared of the blank page. Writers’ block is part of the process. when your subconscious is ready it will come but while you’re musing over your next big work. do some little works, practice is key.
c) If you fail and learn… you haven’t failed.
d) If you’re writing something you wouldn’t choose to read… why are you writing it?
What can Coalville Can offer in terms of support additional support for those who want to write and self-publish their book?
If you live in NW Leicestershire (or the surrounding towns and villages) – get in touch with us to see how we might be able to help you.
How does an author go about finding an illustrator for their work? (e.g. if it’s a book for children and/or illustrations are part of the book?)
In my case, I did it all myself by learning to use Blender. I would prefer to have found an illustrator, but professional ones can be expensive. You should avoid A.I. When submitting books to be published, for instance on Amazon, you must specify if A.I. has been used and in what capacity. This information is made public, and readers generally look down on A.I.-created work. In other areas, the rules around usage are very vague.
If you are any good at drawing, photography, or digital art you can try to create it yourself or you may know someone who is. Perhaps consider asking a local art college if any of the students might be interested in doing some illustrations for their portfolio or look on Facebook – there are plenty of illustrator groups set up and they may be interested. Do note though that any illustrator will expect some kind of recompense and an illustrator will rarely work for nothing -or a share of royalties. (Coalville C.A.N. may be a place to ask.)
Are you writing another and if so, what is it about and when will it be due out?
I am putting the finishing touches to a children’s story collection, (Alien Boy and other stories,) this will also be a Coalville C.A.N. Community Publishing work.
Where can people buy your book(s) and how much are they?