This month I am delighted to interview Elizabeth Ducie, an author who like me lives in Devon. I first met Elizabeth when a magazine editor suggested I contact her for some guidance in promoting my books. Elizabeth organised a Zoom meeting and provided me with some sound advice which I was, and am, grateful for. I was impressed with the professional way Elizabeth offered me support, and she was generous with her time. I strongly recommend her services to any new author who needs a helping hand. Since that time, we have remained friends, and I follow her writing career with interest.
My Questions to Elizabeth
What is your favourite genre to read, and why?
I have two really: crime and fantasy.
I read the former because I love a puzzle. I try to work out who the villain is before the author tells me. I tend to veer towards the cosy end of the genre, although my absolute favourites are the books of James Patterson, which can be quite gritty at times. And my writing reflects my reading in this genre.
I have loved fantasy ever since I discovered Alan Garner and JRR Tolkien as a teenager. I’m a real sucker for magic, elves, hidden kingdoms and underdogs who turn out to have hidden powers (especially if they are female). But I’ve never tried to write in this genre.
How do you select the names of your characters?
So much of my writing has featured foreign settings that I frequently have to research a culture or a nationality before I can choose. I try to use names that are easy to read in one’s head (after an aunt told me years ago she didn’t read my stories as the Russian names were too difficult!). I avoid using the same initial for more than one character unless it’s necessary for the plot. But other than that, I just say a few names out loud and see what works. And my characters’ names will often change several times during the writing of the book.
What is the best money you have ever spent as a writer?
The best one-off investment was the $49 for Scrivener. I use it extensively for planning, writing and rewriting. My final edits are all done in Word, but for the early stages, it’s Scrivener all the way.
But I also believe in investing in continuous education, so I take part in one writer’s conference each year. Most year’s it’s the Writers’ Summer School in Swanwick, Derbyshire. This year, however, due to ongoing concerns about covid, I decided to do my learning online. I took part in the Women in Publishing Summit in March 2021, which was terrific and introduced me to a whole new group of writers and readers, mainly in the US. Out of that, I decided to invest in the Women in Publishing School, a four-month programme running from April to July. Despite having been in this business for a decade, and having got the technical side of indie publishing pretty well sorted, I found I learned huge amounts about marketing, and as a result, have just had my best launch to date.
What is your favourite holiday destination and why?
A small Greek island where I can lie around reading all day before strolling to the local taverna for lunch or dinner. I’m not into sight-seeing and a pool, a lounger, sunshine and a full Kindle are all I really need to keep me happy.
What other hobbies do you enjoy besides reading and writing?
Relaxing with friends over a long slow lunch and a glass or three of wine. Or discovering old country houses with excellent chefs, good wine cellars, and real fires to curl up in front of. (There’s a theme here, isn’t there?) But also singing for fun, rather than for performance. And, when circumstances permit, live theatre of any kind, especially musicals.
Incidentally, I don’t consider writing a hobby so much as an occupation (albeit a pro-bono one most of the time).
How many drafts do your books generally go through before publication?
My first novel took 7 years to finish and was on version 21 by the end. But these days, I finish a novel in a year, and I usually manage with four to five drafts in total.
Do you have any writing blogs you recommend?
There are so many, you could spend all your time reading them and never get any writing done. So I try to limit myself. My favourite is David Gaughran, a no-nonsense Irish man with a great sense of humour and loads of marketing experience. He also has some great training material online, which can be accessed for free.
What is your writing schedule like when you’re writing?
I’m a lark rather than an owl, so my writing is usually done in the mornings. For my books, I use NaNoWriMo to produce my first draft each year in November, take December off, and then edit, interspersed with beta reading and proofreading, between January and September, ready for an October launch. But I am always writing articles, blog posts, short stories and the like, and they fit in around everything else, usually right before I reach the deadline.
How many books have you written and which is your favourite?
I’ve written five novels; three collections of short stories (two of which were co-authored) and a series on The Business of Writing. Parts 1-3 are on setting up and running a writing business; Part 4 is about indie publishing. I also have Sunshine and Sausages, my small how-to book about running a summer barbeque party. That’s the apprentice piece I use to try out new technologies. I’ve also got a number of text books out there under another name, from my days in the pharmaceutical industry.
Every one gives me a thrill when I pick it up; but if I had to choose, it would be Gorgito’s Ice Rink, my first novel, which took those 7 years to birth, and which was Runner Up in the Self-Published Book of the Year Awards in 2015.
Why have you chosen to publish independently and would you ever consider switching to traditional publishing?
When I published my first book, back in 2011, indie publishing was looked down on as the route of last resort. I spent a long time apologising for the fact it wasn’t traditionally published. But gradually, things have changed and although we’re still fighting against some barriers, indie publishing, or self-publishing as it is also known, is now accepted as a legitimate option; a positive choice for a growing number of authors. My pharmaceutical textbooks are all traditionally published, so I’ve got experience of both routes and for my fiction, the indie route has some definite advantages.
It’s a much more agile approach; and as the publisher, I have full control over content, title, artwork, marketing strategy and timescales. Plus, I get to keep all the royalties. Of course, with autonomy comes responsibility and I have to make sure the finished product is as good as it would be if traditionally published. That to me is the most important point: there should be no difference between a book published traditionally and one published independently. It still needs professional editing, proof-reading and cover design. The only difference is who bears the responsibility and picks up the tab.
I’m really enjoying being an authorpreneur and don’t see any likelihood of my taking a different approach. But who knows what the future might bring? I never say never.
Elizabeth’s Latest Release
Elizabeth’s most recent work is entitled “Murder at Mountjoy Manor” released in October 2021 and is the first book in a series entitled “The Coombesford Chronicles”.
Simon Mountjoy is the local boy made good. Returning to Coombesford after making his fortune in London, he spends thirteen years renovating his family home. He brings employment and prosperity to the village, but he also has a talent for upsetting people. Lots of people have reason to hate Simon; but who hates him enough to leave him dead at the bottom of the waterfall?
Charlie Jones gives up chasing villains and moves her family to Coombesford in Devon. But there are villains in Devon too!
I have read and enjoyed “Murder at Mountjoy Manor” and look forward to the next book in the series.
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