Friday, 13 April 2018

Do Fictional Characters Have Ghosts?

 By Jane Davis


 St Mary’s Church in Beddington is normally bolted during the week, but on my mother-in-law’s tenth anniversary, I found the doors unlocked, and so I stepped inside and lit a candle. 

But at the same time as thinking how much Maureen would have liked the building (pointing out that the vicar would never have agreed to play ‘Fat-Bottomed Girls’ at her funeral, as hers did), I was aware of two other presences: Jim and Aimee.

Who are Jim and Aimee? They’re old friends of mine.

There’s something transportative about living in the same neighbourhood all of your life; walking around familiar geography, knee-deep in the history of the place. And superimposed over a street map carried both inside and outside your head (the housing estate that now stands on the site of your old high school), are important milestones. When you learned to ride a bike. Your first kiss. The first flat you owned. But when I started setting fiction within my personal geography, I added an additional strata.

Let me explain. In Smash all the Windows, my character Maggie takes several walks. I work in the City of London so I’m familiar with its streets, so familiar that I was afraid I might neglect the detail. As research for my novel, I walked her routes – from Tower Hill, down the Thames riverside path, over London Bridge, through Borough Market and along Bankside to Tate Modern. I made notes about all of the sights and sounds, notes that made it onto the pages of my book. But now, when I take the same walk, I think, ‘Here’s where Maggie saw the starling’, and ‘Here’s where Maggie bought her copy of the Big Issue’. Her presence is real. Particular locations are now imbued with a certain energy. And by some definitions, such a presence might be called a ghost.


In fact, ghosts are frequent visitors in my daily life. I might park in Shere at the beginning of my favourite walks in the Surrey Hills, and see Sir James Hastings crossing the square from his home, past the war memorial, to the pub he drank in, his elderly German Shepherd called Isambard in tow. (I Stopped Time). I take a short cut through Honeywood Walk in Carshalton and see the tree that caused the collapse of the wall that Judy Jones was buried under (These Fragile Things). I cross the small wooden bridge at the foot of the waterfall in Grove Park and Aimee swirls round, elbows on the rail. (A Funeral for an Owl). I come across a lone stag when out walking in Richmond Park, and somehow it is the stag that blocked Alison’s path, looking her straight in the eye (An Unchoreographed Life).

We live with our characters so long, they’re kin to us. In a way, we know them better than friends and family, because we’ve seen through their eyes and know their every thought. Every single one of these things was a memory of my own, a memory that I’ve since given to a character, and in editing my novels – that constant re-reading – I’ve made the memories more theirs than mine. You might even say that I’m the intruder. Perhaps, inadvertently, I’ve become the ghost.  


Publication Details, Smash all the Windows:
 
It has taken conviction to right the wrongs.
It will take courage to learn how to live again.

For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances.

Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unravelled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives.

If only it were that simple.

Smash all the Windows will be released on 12 April, but you can pre-order it now for the special price of 99p/99c (Price increases to £1.99 on 12 March. Price on publication will be £3.99).

Smash all the Windows is available at all of these retailers.
 
From 13 February to 10 March, US readers can also enter a Goodreads Giveaway for a chance to win one of 100 eBooks.

About Jane Davis

Hailed by The Bookseller as ‘One to Watch’, Jane Davis is the author of eight novels.
Jane spent her twenties and the first part of her thirties chasing promotions at work, but when she achieved what she’d set out to do, she discovered that it wasn’t what she wanted after all. It was then that she turned to writing.

Her debut, Half-truths & White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award 2008. Of her subsequent three novels, Compulsion Reads wrote, ‘Davis is a phenomenal writer, whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless’. Her 2015 novel, An Unknown Woman, was Writing Magazine’s Self-published Book of the Year 2016 and has been shortlisted for two further awards.

Jane lives in Carshalton, Surrey with her Formula 1 obsessed, star-gazing, beer-brewing partner, surrounded by growing piles of paperbacks, CDs and general chaos. When she isn’t writing, you may spot her disappearing up a mountain with a camera in hand. Her favourite description of fiction is ‘made-up truth’.



CONTACT DETAILS

Press enquiries: janerossdale@btinternet.com
High resolution photos available from https://jane-davis.co.uk/media-kit/




Friday, 6 April 2018

BOOKCLUB: The Chalky Sea by Clare Flynn


In July 1940, Gwen Collingwood drops her husband at the railway station, knowing she may never see him again. Two days later her humdrum world is torn apart when the sleepy English seaside town where she lives is subjected to the first of many heavy bombing attacks.

In Ontario, Canada, Jim Armstrong is debating whether to volunteer. His decision becomes clear when he uncovers the secret his fiancée has been keeping from him. A few weeks later he is on a ship bound for England.

Gwen is forced to confront the truth she has concealed about her past and her own feelings. Jim battles with a bewildering and hostile world far removed from the cosy life of his Canadian farm. War brings horror and loss to each of them – can it also bring change and salvation?


This month Triskele colleagues, Gillian Hamer (GH) and Jill Marsh (JJ) discuss our March book of the month - The Chalky Sea by Clare Flynn. Read Gillian's review of the book here.

 
Much of the novel switches back and forth between two separate POV - from Canada/ Aldershot (Jim's story) and the Eastbourne thread (Gwen's story). How did this work for you?

(GH) I found the alternating chapters really easy to follow and the author did well to give each character their own style and voice. I felt it was a given that the two threads would eventually come together, and it was one reason I found myself hooked, waiting for that to happen. I liked how these two characters were literally worlds apart and yet ultimately shared so many similarities. It was very well plotted and that made the story effortless to read.

(JJ) Agreed. Jim's story was such a world away from Gwen's that you are curious to see what will happen when their worlds collide. One thing I found interesting is that when they meet, neither is the person we knew at the outset. War has changed them both. Thus we meet two new formed individuals with personal pain and and history, adapting to a new environment.

Both of the lead characters (Jim and Gwen) had hidden secrets and baggage they carried with them - did you enjoy how this helped develop them into much more layered characters?

(GH) I think it's wonderful when you get to know a really complex character, but are also shown enough of the back story that you understand them. We saw how Jim's secular world was shattered and with Gwen, although we didn't witness the trauma of her past, we knew through her interaction with her husband, Roger, that she was carrying the weight of many issues. The repercussions of both incidents played through over and again with both characters throughout the book and made them much more believable and rounded.

(JJ) The circumstances of war force characters to change and drop much of their cultural conditioning. That can be cruel and unfair, but with these people, adversity offers opportunity. This goes for the entire cast, who adapt to love, loss and moments of tenderness under bombardment. Jim has a bruised innocence whereas Gwen's stoicism is classic stiff upper lip. The almost incredible meeting of wounded optimists is deeply touching.

Pauline was an interesting character and cleverly thought out by the author as a way of contrasting Gwen's personality. What did you think about their relationship?

(JJ) She could have so easily been a 'device' but in these hands, she comes alive. Her gutsy and brave attitude to her circumstances gave her daughters something to hold on to. Her interaction with Gwen reminded me of Sarah Waters's book, The Paying Guests. The typically distant classes are housed under one roof and learn understanding from each other. Attitudes to children, to sex and to manners become more about practicality than 'what the neighbours think'.


(GH) Pauline was a delight, a real breath of fresh air, who despite her own tragedy, blew in through Gwen's life and completely changed her perspective of everything - love, life, loss and finally Pauline learnt Gwen acceptance. Their friendship was a real joy and opened Gwen up to become the woman we see at the end of the book. It was a friendship based on mutual need, but although Gwen seemed to give more to Pauline in terms of material help, it was Pauline's spirit and generosity that was the biggest gift.

I thought Jim was a really strong character, some of his internal thoughts were very in depth - one line I highlighted - "they had stolen his future and tainted his past, but the present would be his alone." What moment did you feel he had finally shaken off his past and started to live?

(GH)  I think his acknowledgement of his feelings for Gwen and yet his understanding that he could not plan a future with her showed that he was finally coming to understand not everything in life was quite so black and white. His relationship with his brother, Walt, even while over in the U.K. had stopped him moving on, but at the end of the book he seemed to have accepted that sometimes you had to do what was the right thing at the time.

(JJ) For me, Jim is still on that journey, processing everything he's experienced. He's still in the oven, not yet baked. Old-fashioned honour is one thing, but flying across the ocean to fight a war is another. At the heart of this guy is a very brave person carrying a wound. He'll carry a lot more by the end of this novel and the way he deals with them make him the person he is. He hasn't yet shaken off his past but he can certainly see a future.

What were the main changes you saw in Gwen's personality and how did the author show this?

(GH) Oh, there was so many changes in Gwen! When she acknowledged that while she hated the fighting, she actually had enjoyed the person she had become in the war was a real eye opener for her. Finally, after mundane years where suicide had often been in her mind, she had a purpose and that drove her finally let go and live. Remembering her abject horror on seeing Pauline kissing one of the Canadian soldiers, you would hardly believe where she allowed her own feelings to take her a short time later. I can imagine WWII reshaped many women like Gwen and this felt totally real to me.

(JJ) Sex. Gwen's relationship with Roger was practical and unsatisfactory in every sense. When she begins to see other women enjoy and take pleasure from sex, it shocks and surprises her. This rang true as so many of my grandparents' generation 'lay back and thought of England'. Her gradual awakening to sex as mutual satisfaction and in combination with that, a consciousness of her own power, comes as an incredible liberation. Sex and sexuality have changed her forever.

The use of location is a main focus for Triskele Books, how did the authors descriptions of war ravaged Eastbourne work for you?

(GH)  I really enjoyed it and thought the author did a superb job of bringing the location to life. It's clear it's an area the author knows well, and it must have been fascinating trying to make as many details as accurate as possible. I thought some of the best parts were the times when the bombs weren't dropping and life could begin to get back to normal, and people could take strolls along the promenade and children could play in the parks. The setting of the house on the hill giving views across the town and across the ocean - a real vantage point - was a clever device.

(JJ) All the locations felt vibrant, not just Eastbourne. The impact the war had on daily life is everywhere, from rationing to propaganda, and the reminder of Eastbourne's natural beauty brings the destruction into sharp relief. Flynn seems to be a sensory writer, giving the reader a fuller picture of the sights, sounds, smells, feelings and tastes of a world in a state of flux.

Research is a minefield in the genre of historical fiction, how do you feel the author handled it here?

(JJ) Impressively well. Not only the detail of wartime facts and figures, but period detail like manners and behaviour, the increased sense of social position and even the fashions of the day appeared accurate and plausible. So much so that combined with the sensory touches, it was like watching a BBC period drama - everything fitted perfectly.

(GH)  As mentioned above, it must have taken a lot of hard work to get this story to flow so effortlessly. The details of the battles, planes, the dates and times of bombing and the routines in the army barracks at Aldershot all felt completely believable to me. There were no massive dumps of information that slowed the pace of the story, it was all cleverly woven into the narrative so it became part of the book.

What were your feelings at the end of the book towards Jim and Gwen?

(GH)  My predominant feeling was one of hope. I hope they both get the happiness they deserve in peace time. But then this is fiction, and it wouldn't make much of a story if they all did get to live happy ever after!

(JJ) My prevailing feeling was one of curiosity. By the end, we feel we know what could happen next, but as Gilly says, stories never run smoothly. I want to see what they do with the gifts and knowledge they have gained in The Chalky Sea and how it will affect their futures.

'The Canadians' series continues with The Alien Corn - will you read it and what are your hopes for the characters in the next book?

(GH) Yes, definitely. I'm just interested to see where the story goes next. If Jim returns home to his farm and how he'll handle the past. And if Gwen can finally accept Roger as a proper husband. The war has changed them as people so it will be really interesting to see how they adapt.

(JJ) Of course I'll read it. I know Jim will do the right thing by Joan, but is it the right thing for both of them? And what of Gwen now she's sexually awoken? Her marriage is going to change for sure. And will this be a fondly remembered wartime romance or something neither of them can get over?





Friday, 23 March 2018

Story of a Novel: The Silent Kookaburra by Liza Perrat


 The Silent Kookaburra began its life as Hosing Venetian Blinds, over ten years before it was finally published. So, why did I write it and why did it take so long to see the light of day?

Basically, it was a nostalgic trip down the Memory Lane of my childhood growing up in 1970s Wollongong, New South Wales.

I wrote Hosing Venetian Blinds, then rewrote it over and over, but for reasons unknown to me, I could not “get it right”. Or as “right” as a novel ever will be. More and more dissatisfied with each draft, on I slogged until one wintery afternoon in 2007, when a phone call interrupted my writing.

It was the Gendarmes of Grenoble informing me that my husband had suffered a nasty heart attack on the ski slopes and wasn’t expected to survive. Well, that was all I needed to completely abandon the novel. Onto a hard disk it went, with the vow that it would never see the light of day.

Luckily my husband made a complete recovery and eventually I began writing again. But still I couldn’t face rewriting Hosing Venetian Blinds; couldn’t stop equating the novel with that awful period of my life.

The Bone Angel Trilogy Boxset
 So for the next few years I plunged into a French historical fiction trilogy: The Bone Angel : Three heart-wrenching adventures of three midwife-healers during the Black Plague (Blood Rose Angel), French Revolution (Spirit of Lost Angels) and Nazi-occupied France (Wolfsangel).

Once the third story was published I began taking peeks at Hosing Venetian Blinds again. Then I reread it closely and voilà, immediately saw what I thought was “wrong” with the story. I rewrote, and published it, within a year.

Even though the book tackles some very dark and disturbing topics, it was fun travelling back to my childhood and teen years, seeing my friends, revisiting those familiar places, most notably the beach.

Sulphur-crested cockatoo
 The city has changed a lot since the 70s, but I’m still fond of Wollongong, and love going back there on my yearly pilgrimage home to Australia (I have lived in France for the past 25 years).

Fortunately for me, my childhood wasn’t burdened with the same terrible dramas as my fictional character, Tanya. However, I could readily identify with her, as that was the case for some people I knew.

Wollongong has a large European migrant community, attracted to the area post WW2 with the offer of work at the Port Kembla Steelworks, which, at that time, was the backbone of Wollongong.

One of my very first jobs, at age fourteen, was distributing grocery store pamphlets into letter boxes in this area. Not the long-term career I envisaged, but it earned me enough to buy my first car at age seventeen –– and my independence –– the day I got my licence. So, at five am every weekday, my lovely father would help me distribute these advertising pamphlets into the letterboxes of Cringila, and this cosmopolitan community piqued my interest. I wanted to know more about them; where they came from, what their lives were like. That prompted me to include the Italian migrant aspect of The Silent Kookaburra.

So why this title, when the kookaburra is anything but silent? Well, that’s just it: what might happen if your friendly backyard kookaburra does fall silent?

I’m pleased that The Silent Kookaburra has been well-received by readers and garnered some lovely reviews, and very glad I stuck with it to the bitter end! I’m currently working on the next novel, also set in 1970s Wollongong. And there will hopefully be a third in this new trilogy of standalone novels.


Extract from The Silent Kookaburra...

Chapter 1

2016


Knuckles blanch, distend as my hand curves around the yellowed newspaper pages and my gaze hooks onto the headlines.

HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY. January 26th, 1973. 165-year anniversary of convict ships arriving in Sydney.

Happy? What a cruel joke for that summer. The bleakest, most grievous, of my life.

I can’t believe my grandmother kept such a reminder of the tragedy which flayed the core of our lives; of that harrowing time my cursed memory refuses to entirely banish.

Shaky hands disturb dust motes, billowing as I place the heat-brittled newspaper back into Nanna Purvis’s box.

I try not to look at the headline but my gaze keeps flickering back, bold letters more callous as I remember all I’d yearned for back then, at eleven years old, was the simplest of things: a happy family. How elusive that happiness had proved.

I won’t think about it anymore. I mustn’t, can’t! But as much as I wrench away my mind, it strains back to my childhood.

Of course fragments of those years have always been clear, though much of my past is an uncharted desert –– vast, arid, untamed.

Psychology studies taught me this is how the memory magician works: vivid recall of unimportant details while the consequential parts –– those protective breaches of conscious recollection –– are mined with filmy chasms.

I swipe the sweat from my brow, push the window further open.

Outside, the sun rising over the Pacific Ocean is still a pale glow but already it has baked the ground a crusty brown. Shelley’s gum tree is alive with cackling kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets shrieking and swinging like crazy acrobats, eucalyptus leaves twisted edge-on to avoid the withering rays.

But back in my childhood bedroom, behind Gumtree Cottage’s convict-built walls, the air is even hotter, and foetid with weeks of closure following my parents’ deaths.

Disheartened by the stack of cardboard boxes still to sift through, uneasy about what other memories their contents might unearth, I rest back on a jumble of moth-frayed cushions.

I close my eyes to try and escape the torment, but there is no reprieve. And, along with my grandmother’s newspaper clipping, I swear I hear, in the rise and dump of its swell, the sea pulling me back to that blistering summer of over forty years ago.


Amazon Reviews:

Compelling psychological drama that delves into the dark heart of family secrets. Chris Curran, author of Amazon bestseller, Mindsight.

An amazing domestic thriller with a gripping storyline, vivid dialogue, a palpable sense of place and time, and a compelling cast of characters that I can't get out of my head. Carol Cooper, Contemporary Women's Fiction author.

I have to say this was one of the most compelling reads I have read. Carol Ravensdale, reader.

... nothing better than a good twist or two in a plot, but this was a first for me - one final hammer dropping on the very last page that made my jaw drop! Cindy Taylor, BookBlogger.

... as well-written psychological thrillers often do, it makes you question everything you thinkyou know, culminating in a true twist of an ending that both shocks and makes you ask "Why didn't I figure this out sooner?" Courtney J. Hall, historical fiction, romance and contemporary author.

Retail Links:

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Sign up for her new book releases and receive a FREE copy of Ill-Fated Rose, short story that inspired The Bone Angel French historical series.  



Friday, 16 March 2018

Thinking of Forming an Author Collective?

A group of authors keen on self-publishing and forming an author collective, recently asked Team Triskele for some tips. Here are our (collective!) answers:

JJ Marsh, JD Smith, Gillian Hamer, Catriona Troth, Liza Perrat


Intro by JJ Marsh & Gillian Hamer

Before answering these astute and vitally important questions, we need to state right from the start that we don't know all the answers. Many collectives we've spoken to have fallen at financial or personality hurdles while we've managed to survive and thrive. We're not quite sure how, as we've had a fair few scrapes and stumbles along the road.

One thing we knew from the off is that we liked each other's writing and respected one another's critical perspective. But whether that would make us good business partners was anyone's guess. Triskele came into being as an act of trust - three independent partners, working together, sharing costs and maintaining individual rights.

Now we are bigger and more experienced, we are an officially registered company with a bank account and administration system. But more important than all of that, we're friends, fellow writers and a well-honed editorial team.



Did you set a maximum number of members of the co-operative at the start? If so, how many?

Liza Perrat
LP: No we didn't. We started off as three members from an online writing group, hence the origin of our 3-sided Triskele logo. It wasn't planned as such, more like an organic gathering of like-minded authors, all at a similar stage of the writing process and wanting to self-publish to the highest possible standard, and to help each other reach that goal. Very soon after, we welcomed two more members, whose work we also admired, and who had similar passions and goals. Personally, I think five is a perfect number. Enough people to take up the slack when someone is "out of order" for whatever reason. And that means four fresh pairs of eyes on each manuscript too, which I believe is a good number for an overall critique, and not too many that you end up with too many conflicting opinions.



How do you deal with approaches from writers who want to join your collective?  

JDS: Currently we aren't actively open for submissions to join our collective. Mainly because we work well as a small team and have built up a huge amount of trust between us when it comes to advice and critiquing, and we don't want to spoil that balance. However we do encourage other authors who like the idea of a collective to create their own, find a bunch of friendly writery folk you get on with, whose work you admire and whose opinions you value and support one another. Writing doesn't have to be solitary and the support of a good network of friends who share the same passion as you makes for a great team.


Did you sign up for a fixed duration, or can members leave when they wish, subject to removing the imprint name from their books? 

JD Smith
JDS: It's not something we've ever really discussed. We've all been part of the collective for a long time, when we published our first books. There's certainly no fixed duration, but of course any books published outside of the collective wouldn't feature our logo, for example. I personally published a book on cover design which doesn't fit the Triskele Books brand, so I did that as a standalone project and it doesn't carry the Triskele logo. Even so, my fellow members supported and helped me in its creation.


Do you put the collective’s name on the books, e.g. spine, title page, copyright page? 

JDS: We put the name/logo on our title page, spine, back of the book and then we also have a joint mailing list which we encourage readers to sign up to in the back of all of our books.


Did you formulate a written agreement? Including which points?

LP: We have no written agreement as such. At the beginning, we had many Skype chats (since we live in different countries), and several face-to-face meetings to define our goals and working methods. This is revisited and overhauled from time to time, or if a problem arises.



How do Triskele manage their joint funding? What rules and regs do they have in place to make it run smoothly?

Gillian Hamer
GH: Well, I am chief treasurer or top accountant or head of finance or what you will! Basically I just oversee the financial aspects of anything we arrange - be that physical launches or online competition, I just make sure the books balance. I pay the bills as they come in and ensure I send out invoices when required. I keep records of everything and share them with the other members so everything is transparent and I hope to think by now they trust me enough that they rarely bother checking!


I guess that in relation to charges, such as web hosting, website design, promotions, ISBNs UK, etc, a member is in charge of all financial transactions, like in an association? Keeping accounts and such?


GH: Part of my role as detailed above is to keep the bank account in the black, and to ensure we have enough in the kitty to pay for the yearly fees that roll round. If we need extra funds, say to hire a venue for a physical launch in London, then every member involved in that particular event will all contribute equally. We are a Limited Company in the UK now, so I do use my book keeping skills from my day job to ensure we keep everything legal and above board.


How do you ensure everyone abides by the rules and pulls their weight?


Catriona Troth
CT: I am not sure if I'd say that we have rules, exactly. But we do expect everyone to pull their weight. We have a pretty regular pattern of things we are each expected to contribute to, and a work plan (refreshed weekly) that sets out what's expected to go into each of those slots. Nominally, once every five weeks, when our turn rolls round, is when we make sure we have completed everything we are supposed to have done. In practice, most of us probably do those things as and when we can fit them in.

That workplan is checked regularly, and if there are gaps that need to be filled, we get a nudge. Then at least once a year we do a big review of how everything has been going - if people have any ideas how things could be done better, or if anyone is struggling to cope. And we adjust accordingly.


How do you manage dispute resolution, in the event of a disagreement?

CT: Perhaps because our joint financial commitment is minimal, we have been fortunate not to have any really serious disputes. But of course we have disagreements.  The key is keeping channels of communication open, and talking things out, not bottling them up.


How do you split group responsibilities (website, FB page, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest...?)

GH: So, my other badge as well as finance is social media. I run the Facebook and Twitter accounts which are regularly updated daily or weekly. If I'm away or extra busy, someone else will always step in and help out. Other members take up the slack with Instagram and Pinterest when we have something to promote, and we all try to share our posts as much as possible. We took this approach as it got a bit confusing at times, not knowing who was posting what and when, so now if anyone has anything they want putting out on Triskele channels we share it internally first to keep things clean and ensure we don't duplicate posts.


What joint marketing activities do you carry out?

CT: We have the Triskele website and blog, which we use, among other things, as a showcase for our work. This year, for example, we have having a once a month feature on the blog focusing on one of our books in particular and talking about the inspiration behind it.

In addition to that, most years we try and do one Big Thing, where we are not necessarily pushing our own books, but promoting the Triskele name. We have run three so-called 'Indie Author Fairs' - pop-up bookshops where indie authors could come and sell their books directly to readers. The last of those was combined with a one-day Lit Fest, where panels of authors writing in different genres discussed their work. And this year we are running the second of two competitions to win a year's mentoring, with the aim of taking a finished manuscript and making it publication-ready, with editing, proofreading, page-setting, cover design etc. Our first winner went through the process, decided to try for an agent and got one in a matter of days!


What do you do about marketing when there are gaps in releases?

JJ Marsh
JJ: We try to keep a bubbling profile, publishing a blogpost per week under the Triskele name. We also publish articles on Words with JAM magazine for writers and reviews on Bookmuse for readers. Aside from individual promotions and advertising, we watch out for opportunities and alert one another. We all jump in and trumpet a member's new release and usually have a physical event each year to promote all our releases and drink Prosecco. Every week, one of us is on duty, stoking the fires.


In addition to a Triskele website, what other joint social media platforms would you recommend? 

JJ: We have a Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest presence in addition to the content delivery above. Others have had success with LinkedIn or Instagram - whatever feels right for you.

How do you co-ordinate your public face, i.e. website, blog, FB/Twitter, etc. Do you use a schedule? And perhaps use a shared Dropbox folder to share documents between all members?  
GH: I may have covered this in my previous answer, but we mostly use our private Facebook group for internal chats and shares, or we add things to our weekly round up emails, and edit them via Google. Nothing goes public until it gets the thumbs up! Website updates are agreed internally and then either myself or Jane will add new books or information as needed.

Indie Author Fair


Has your collective free short story anthology been a good draw and created traffic to your site with resulting sales?

JJ: Our three collaborative publications - A Time and Place boxset, A Taste of Triskele short stories and recipes, plus our collaborative non-fiction book A Pathway to Publication - all earn us a steady trickle of income. On top of that we use an Amazon affiliate code to bring in regular pennies. The great thing about the boxset and story collection is they don't need any maintenance. I'd be hard pushed to define which of our myriad funnels brings most traffic to our site, but people do come.


Self-publishing: A number of people mentioned that they’d find really useful a step by step guide to what needs to be done and by when, when you are self-publishing. 

JJ: Pick up A Pathway to Self-Publishing. You can get it for free by signing up to our newsletter. It covers everything we've learned and is constantly updated. Or poke about on our website and find many useful articles on your particular interest. Or join The Alliance of Independent Authors. Do Joanna Penn's Author 101 or David Gaughran's Let's Get Digital. 
There's so much information but all of it is constantly changing. This is one of the biggest advantages of operating as a collective - five minds watching, testing, learning, writing, reading and communicating.

Team Triskele colours


Final point: When we started publishing as a collective, it was almost unheard of. So we sought out other collectives to interview, compare notes and learn from each other. You can find all our interviews here and we would be so very pleased if you came back to tell us about your successes.

Thanks for the smart questions!
Jill, Gilly, Liza, Jane and Kat


Friday, 9 March 2018

Can You Brexit Without Breaking Britain?

Dave Morris, author of Can You Brexit without Breaking Britain?, talks to JJ Marsh about the book, the concept and the collaboration.


Hi Dave and thanks for talking to us. For those unfamiliar with the format, could you briefly explain how an interactive gamebook works?

The reader takes the role of the prime minister, it’s all told in second person, and the choices you make take you to different numbered sections. “If you want to explore a free trade agreement, turn to 123. If you propose to stay in a customs union, turn to 456,” and so on.

The creative process is really just what any writer does as they construct a story. You imagine the things the characters might do and what the consequences will be, the only difference being that in a gamebook you don’t prune away all the other branches of the story tree.

Of course, the choices you give the reader have to be interesting. Not just “what do you have for breakfast?” Well, actually that is one of the choices in the book, but it’s a subtext for a more important question about international trade. And as the reader picks from all the options, they’re effectively creating their own unique story as they go.

I’m guessing the genesis of this was a combination of passionate views on the handling of Brexit and the right combination of your and Jamie’s skills.

We do both feel very strongly about it, although as a matter of fact we don’t share the same views about either the EU or UK politics. I found I kept getting sucked into arguments on Facebook that were just a waste of time, so one day I logged out of social media and decided, okay, let’s channel all this passion into a book.

Jamie and I both used to write choose-your-own-adventure style gamebooks at the start of our careers, and we’ve also spent a lot of our careers working in the computer games business. I was a mentor in the American Film Institute’s digital content lab, which explored ways to connect emotion, storytelling and interactivity. So pulling all those strands together for this project made perfect sense.

Didn’t it seem like a daunting task?


Fortunately I go into every book with rose-tinted specs and the feeling that I can fly. I thought this one might take four or five months at most. By the time I realized the real scale of the work I was, like Macbeth, stepped so far in blood (or in this case in IMF reports and select committee transcripts) that I figured I may as well keep slogging through to the other shore.

Tell us about how you and Jamie work together.

I started out by designing a modular structure so that each of the ten major topics (trade, defence, the NHS, immigration, etc) could in theory be written by a different author. Jamie took a couple of those modules, but more than shouldering part of the work he came up with the voice of the book. If it had been left to me it would have been accurate and informative, which hopefully it still is, but Jamie has a great sense of humour (he won the Roald Dahl Award a few years back) and he found a way to keep it funny and entertaining at the same time. 

Jamie Thompson

Apart from posing the puzzle of trying to extricate the UK from the EU (or not), this book entertains the reader with acerbic political satire. It looks effortless but the knowledge behind such choices and wit must be considerable.

It maybe says a lot that the first comparison I reached for was Macbeth. Every day I was looking at as many diverse sources on each topic as I could find, loading it all into my head, reading reports and economic models and what politicians had actually said again and again until the pieces of the jigsaw started to fit. They say you really have to understand something to explain it simply. I did the heavy lifting so the reader doesn’t have to.

The humour and insights have quite rightly been compared to The Thick of It and Yes, Minister, both of which place the real power in the hands of ear-whisperers – the civil servants and government advisors. As authors, the information you choose to give the PM casts you in that role, wouldn’t you say?

Where is the real power? Sir Humphrey would be holding his head at the prospect of a government issuing endless mission statements and no plan, but his position these days has been usurped by special advisors whose loyalty is to the party (or more often just to individuals) rather than to the country.

What the reader will soon discover is that you can’t just point yourself at a goal. You have to contend with other elements in the party who will block whatever you try to do unless you can find ways to accommodate or outmanoeuvre them. In order to win, you have to stay in power – which incidentally explains a lot that’s happened since June 2016.

The issue of the referendum has caused much polarity of opinion. What kind of reader is this book aimed at?

Lots of people really want to understand Brexit for themselves but they feel overwhelmed. Who can blame them? One politician says one thing, another is wheeled out to say the opposite. The debate soon becomes abstract and confusing.

Yet there is a truth to be found, and people care about their future, so the point of the book is to give them a way of really getting to grips with the reality of Brexit. Then they can discuss it and make an informed decision. Democracy needs this. We can't just switch off such a vitally important issue because we’re bored.

Is your aim to change minds?


We want to open minds. In the book there are ways to achieve a successful Brexit or to reverse it. But not every goal can be achieved, and you can’t get anywhere without a plan. There are trade-offs. Compromises must be made. That’s how the real world works.

What I hope is that everyone who reads it will discover how to better examine and articulate their views, and to appreciate where they might make common ground with the half of the electorate who went the other way on 23 June. We need more tolerance, and we need everybody to open their eyes about what negotiating Britain’s new relationship with the EU will involve. I want to see an end to all the “enemies of the people” invective and to help restore some of that famous British common sense.

Obviously the advantage of your publishing now is that it’s extremely topical, but with the ground shifting every day, are you concerned the book will date? Or does that not matter?


The book I’m currently reading is Graves’s Goodbye To All That, and I’m getting pretty steamed up about the botched military planning on the Somme a hundred years ago, so I don’t think these things suddenly cease to matter. There are lessons to be learned for the future. People are always going to want to look back and see what we could have done differently.

Added to which, Brexit isn’t going to stop affecting us on 29 March 2019. Even ten years on we’ll still be feeling the effects of decisions being taken now. The generation who by then will have grown up in post-Brexit Britain and Europe will want to understand it for themselves.

Have you sent a copy to Theresa May? Or across the Camden/Islington border to Boris Johnson?


I have a friend who knows Boris Johnson and offered to pass on a copy. I think he really ought to read it, but I see no sign that he’s been too bothered about details or planning up to now. If he changes his mind he can always let me know, and I’ll happily deliver a signed copy to the Commons. I’d like to send one to every MP, actually, as I genuinely do feel it’s a case of, “If you only read one book about Brexit, make it this one.”



About Dave Morris

I'm equally drawn to both stories and equations, to both literature and science. Over the years I've written novels, textbooks, comics, gamebooks and television shows and I've designed videogames, boardgames and role-playing games. And co-authored a paper on the propagation of light delivered to the Institute of Physics. What can I say? I thrive on variety and I'm always looking for a fresh challenge!