Carla Acheson

Author

Tag: historical fiction (Page 1 of 2)

The Novel Path To Success – How I became a best-selling author on KDP.

The Novel Path to Success

How I became a bestselling author on KDP.

by Carla Acheson

Having recently completed the popular 2017 NaNoWriMo competition, I was subsequently handed a few serious questions by Sarah, a writer from Seattle, (and a fellow Nanowrimo writing buddy.)

Sarah wanted to know all about my publishing success on KDP, as well as how it all began. I answered all of her questions with honesty. I also thought that by offering them here on my site they might inspire some creative flap to unfold for others, perhaps those who might be starting along the very same writing journey of their own.

Thanks Sarah for giving me a chance to look back… and forward!

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SARAH:  When you first started writing books, did you take writing classes? Or did you study some books on plot structure, character development etc?

I wanted to set off properly. I looked up a British college and took on a comprehensive writing course. I was living on the top of a hill in a valley in Andalusia, Spain, at the time. I had zero chance of being near any physical location that was appropriate for a writing course, let alone one in English, so it was a correspondence course all the way.

I also lurked in online writing forums and scoured articles on the internet. It all seemed a bit dull – those poopy elements of construction kept me awake, worrying, and procrastinating over my grammar-worthiness and story ability. These things can truly kill the buzz. I digested the elements but really wanted to get to the nitty-gritty, to see what sort of thing I could come up with. I didn’t buy books on writing, I just read piles of books on subjects and authors which interested me.

SARAH: How refreshing! So you totally went the journey on your own, then. No writing critique groups, writers’ conferences, or hiring an agent?

I absorbed everything I could in the publishing/writing world. I mean I spent literally hours every day. I read works which writers posted online, then studied the critiques that they were given. I made notes of what they did or didn’t do correctly. When I felt I had acquired a bit of knowledge, I produced a few short stories and articles about my singing/performing days. I wrote articles on the music industry, firstly. It wasn’t fiction, but it got me writing on a subject that I knew about.

Some articles were printed on music websites, then later musicians contacted me with questions. So people were reading! I also contacted book blog sites and churned out a lot of reviews. Then I got working with Books you love, conducting interviews with authors. I pestered publishers for the chance to interview any of their new successful authors. I asked the authors questions. I made friends with them. I learned from them. I had no idea what I wanted to write about even if I did write a book of fiction. I knew that everything would happen in time. I had to learn to walk before I could run. A person can’t just wake up and say, ‘Hey, I’m a good writer.’

Also around this time, I set up my own writing group and somewhat successfully organised weekly sessions so that I didn’t feel like the lonely, stranded writer, out there on a limb.

SARAH: What was the most helpful to you in learning how to take your writing from good to excellent?

My writing isn’t excellent, I just express myself directly from my heart. I want my words to be like a finely tuned violin playing a melody that catches in your throat. It forces you to drop the outside world and pulls you in and I think that if you are an avid reader and have been touched by words like that, well then you already possess it. So I read a lot of books to steal techniques, but not copy. Any great writer will say… ‘you steal the method/art/quality of expression from other writers which you love,’ the other kind of copying is plagiarism. We avoid that. Just steal a bit of their brilliance.

My favourite book, (one that spurred me on to write my first novel,) was called, The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber, which famously went on to become a very good TV period drama about the downtrodden prostitutes in London’s backstreets during the Victorian era.

It was filthy and fascinating all at once. The author tormented me. He used phrases, words and scenes that made me cry, laugh and scream with horror and pity. And, God, would there be no end to such clever, refined, delectable sentences? Sentences which he somehow carved around such irreputable subjects. It was like swallowing life like some great big stone, yet still wanting more…

I wanted to write like THAT!

But it had to be my story and my style. I figured that my English was decent, I had a chance and I love a challenge. When I closed the final page of that book I wanted a taste of that authorship. (Even just a small slice!) . To provoke emotion like that had to be possible because he did it to me, and to get there I had to fully believe I could and that I would! I didn’t choose historical fiction, I think it more or less chose me.

SARAH : If you had to guess, how long do you typically spend in the planning phase?

I’m not a big planner now. The first novel had to be planned down to every last detail because I’d never done it before. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out. Being methodical and thorough made a whole lot of sense. I think I had several hundred drafts before reaching the final one. I got into each of my character’s heads and sculpted their personalities, the plot and my style and voice. I wrote for a year (not until it was perfect because nothing can be,) but until I was satisfied that it would make people FEEL. I would not stop until I did that.

Now I have a more simple preparation for writing up character profiles, ideas on the storyline and working out a point of perspective. For this recent novel, I have basic notes with questions such as: Who is the narrator(s)? What is the theme? What are the struggles they must overcome? Just the bones of the story. I then write a sort of blurb (not a full outline) which gives me a basic, skeletal idea of the plot. I might then write a test chapter or two and give the characters a bunch of flaws and inner or outer issues, then the rest starts to come to you. I get an idea of where it’s heading and so on.

SARAH: What originally interested you in the lives of impoverished people in Victorian England?

The period fascinates me. Never in British history has the class division been so great; the treatment of citizens by their very own citizens, so vulgar. The wealthy attended church, punctually, every Sunday. They liked to believe they were Godly and charitable, but they would rather not be seen within an inch of a pauper or diseased waif.

I particularly focused on the lives of young women. I wanted to emphasise how important chastity and obedience was as a female back then, and particularly, how devastating it was to become an unwed mother. The father was often let ‘off the hook,’ and more especially, if he was of a higher class. Many of these central issues of the time were included in my story.

The heroine in my novel gives up her baby under the typically hardened glare of iron-fisted nuns. Society scorned unwed mothers to the point where they were forced to give up their child for adoption or to baby farmers. The latter often neglected or poisoned them to death and walked away free. Look at that contrast compared to today.

Sarah: I can see that you must have done quite a lot of research about that era for your books?

I did at least six months research of the Victorian era before starting the first draft. It was eye-opening, to say the least, considering most of my research was focused on the lower class and impoverished victims of the slums. Depressing, but essential none-the-less. I discovered a few little-known gems like ‘phossy jaw’ and ‘baby-farming.’ I just knew I had to include them in my story.

One thing I did with my first two novels is weave in quite a few historical events and facts, such as the ill-fated Titanic and Jack the Ripper. This was always going to bring in an interested ‘audience’ of those subjects. Once I had notched up over ten ‘5 star’ reviews I knew that my debut was going to do well. It was such an eye-opening story because it was more about unknown facts and real life than simply a book of fiction, in a huge way.

Sarah: Once you start the first chapter, how long do you spend writing/editing before it’s ready to publish?

It’s extremely random. I tend to go off with a bang, then life or other interests start to drag me away from it. I have to push myself to stay focused because I am so interested in many creative things, music, piano, crafting, digital drawing and I spend a lot of ‘family time’ out too. I just can’t be on top of it all.

My husband recently purchased one of those fancy digital drawing tablets for my birthday, and I thought… that’s it, my next novel will never get finished. A couple of weeks later I stumbled on the Nanowrimo competition link and I entered before I could stop myself. It worked as it got me to the end of the first draft of my fourth novel. I have to say that I always get there in the end, I may be a bit ‘flitty’ but the writing bug never leaves me. Just like the pianist might get tired of playing, but she can’t ever stop for good!

Sarah: Did you originally self-publish on Amazon, and when your book did well, you got contacted by a conventional publisher?

I spent five years as an independently published author on KDP. I plugged away at it by producing three novels for Amazon over that period of time. I used every free promo tool that I could and never used tacky sales talk. Instead, I learned how to direct an audience of traffic to my book pages by blogging about the very Victorian subjects I had written about, and, I always thanked my readers individually.

Suffice to say, I was really proud of myself when my novel reached a classic bestseller status on Amazon with the majority of reviews being amazing. It took a while to get to that point but six months after publication I had a steady flow of sales, a steady income each month and a growing readership that appreciated my dedication. It wasn’t something that just took off but built up gradually. I hit a record number of sales over the Christmas holidays a year ago, something like 2,000 kindle downloads in a week. It was all so unexpected.

John Morris contacted me. He was impressed with my stamina and what I had achieved on my own without having thrown tons of money on marketing or having the media “push” that a publisher can offer. I told him I simply had faith in my work. At the end of the day, I was always more interested in the quality of my work than the financial stats, but you see, one brings in the other. John was able to bring my work into those author ‘elite’ places like Waterstones and National libraries such as Oxford and Cambridge. Though for one minute I don’t doubt my books, even if they had stayed inside KDP.

John and I speak regularly and have developed a strong relationship based on respect for what we both do and how we will go about working together in the future. He has great faith in my work, yet he knows that I am still something of a free spirit and will not do anything that does not suit my own moral compass. He listens and gently encourages me. I cannot be more thankful.

With regard to KDP and the Kindle success, it’s all been a great challenge. I am currently working on the production of a KDP self-publishing audio course focusing on the KDP platform and offering new authors an insight into my own journey. This is a collaborative effort with a friend of mine, Jodie Crook, a pro-blogger at creating content for website and online marketing. The One Hour Audio Course will be available to purchase online in 2018.

But for now, allow me to leave all writers with this…

There is no such thing as a magic formula. Don’t listen to marketing stuff about writing ‘bestsellers in 30 days.’ What they mean is you CAN write a manuscript in 30 days, but a bestseller? Sorry, no. True quality work takes time, effort and passion. Those who jump in for the money will fail time and again. READ what you love and write from your heart. Every time. After all, your books are a big part of you! And believe me when I say that if you have never wanted to quit, or had at least one migraine from start to finish, the passion just isn’t there.

Article Book link:

Imagine life in a damp and squalid room with death and disease lurking at every corner.

The year is 1866. Maggie Tanner is a young girl born to an impoverished family in the slums of London. Pregnant at the age of fifteen years she is plunged into the social stigma of bastardy and shame. As her life unfolds into every Victorian girl’s worst nightmare she does all she can to save her baby from a disease-ridden orphanage and takes drastic decisions to save both the child and herself, but when her pain and loss continues to haunt her for years to come, one unexpected day one last gift changes everything.


 

Girl Forgotten – New Giveaway for UK and USA Readers

A new paperback giveaway for my latest novel Girl Forgotten will run for the month of July.  Simply click on the link below to add your name and mailing address at Goodreads for a chance to win!

Well done to Eugene from Minsk who won the last giveaway which had around 2,000 entries. Thanks to everyone for their continued support and interest.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Girl Forgotten by Carla Acheson

Girl Forgotten

by Carla Acheson

Giveaway ends July 25, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

The Whitechapel Virgin – In the Spotlight with Ripper Experts

Whilst most people have heard of Jack the Ripper, how many truly know his victims? And to what degree are they remembered as humans, mothers, or were they nothing more than just displaced members of London’s 18th century largely critical and class-obsessed society?

In The Whitechapel Virgin, the prostitutes are given a voice, and as can be expected it’s a terribly sad one. But the author’s harrowing portrayal of their downtrodden day-to-day lives is much more evocative and realistic than any other media representation that has ever been cast on Whitechapel’s prostitutes to date.

The ‘fictional’ Jack the Ripper works his way through the entire story, terrifying the ‘ladies of the night,’ and even though he is not cast as the cunning, sly, blood-thirsty gentleman that the media love to portray, he is by many reader’s accounts as good and likely a culprit as any.

mikecovell“Carla Acheson’s story takes you down the dark streets of Whitechapel, to a time when all was not as it seems, and an immense shadow was looming over the metropolis. The book is a real page turner, and one that grips the reader until the very end. An excellent addition to any shelf.” – Mike Covell – Actor, TV Producer

The following review of The WhiteChapel Virgin is  given by award–winning author Brian Porter who has won many book awards such as Preditors & Editors Best Thriller Novel Award, 2008 for A Study in Red – The Secret Journal of Jack the Ripper.

“The Whitechapel Virgin is a thoroughly entertaining fictional rendition of life among Whitechapel’s prostitutes at the time of the Jack the Ripper murders. Great empathy in depicting the women as real human beings with their own hopes, fears and aspirations.” Brian Porter – A Study in Red

While Ripperologists deal with fact, Acheson’s novel delves deep into the emotional and debilitating lives which the women likely led. In her view the victims were not just victims but real people with a heart, a soul, and each led a sad life only to experience a devastatingly painful ending, their deaths being recorded as one of the ‘worst slaughters’ in British history.

Acheson effectively leads you away from the blood and gore for a little while, only to entice you into a warm lodging house where you will find the prostitutes laughing drunkenly by the fireside on a bitter cold night, and if you follow them to their private quarters you can sit and watch them shed their tears.

The ebook is currently available at a discount price at Amazon UK Amazon US

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Further reading and related sources:

Mike Covell – IMDB – TV Production credits

Jack The Ripper Casebook – The Victims and an insight into the murders.

Fifty Shades of Victorian London – An interesting invitation into Whitechapel and the novel by Carla Acheson.

The Whitechapel Virgin – The author discusses her concept and research into the story.

The Victorians and Sex – Yes you may think the Victorians were a particularly prudish bunch – but think again!

 

Review: The Girl in the Photograph – Kate Riordan

The Girl in the Photographby Kate Riordan

When Alice Eveleigh arrives at Fiercombe Manor during the long, languid summer of 1933, she finds a house steeped in mystery and brimming with secrets. Sadness permeates its empty rooms and the isolated valley seems crowded with ghosts, none more alluring than Elizabeth Stanton, whose only trace remains in a few tantalizingly blurred photographs. Why will no-one speak of her? What happened a generation ago to make her vanish?

The storyline centres on motherhood, the shame and disgrace of being an unmarried mother, as well as post-partum depression – something which we rarely get to view in the Victorian era. These elements are weaved into a tale around Stanton house and its buried secrets.

There were some very evocative and poignant descriptions in this 400 page novel. The story was interesting, though the pace a little to slow for my taste, which made the read slightly tedious to complete. The dual narrative introduces you firstly to Alice, a young unmarried lady in the Edwardian era, who is sent to Stanton House to await the birth of a child that she may be forced to give up, and Elizabeth Stanton, an upper class woman suffering multiple miscarriages and post partum depression who had lived at Stanton many years before.

If you are a reader who wishes to savour deeply colourful description and slow building suspense this is a perfect choice. There were instances where the book did feel hauntingly atmospheric, though sometimes I felt the intertwining stories were a little enforced.

‘Gripping’ is not how I would describe this read, but the author’s exploration of the maternal themes mentioned above were interesting enough to hold my attention, and the air of mystery throughout the book prevailed until the very end.

 

 

 

Fifty Shades of Victorian London

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Dear Reader, 

Welcome to Fifty Shades of Victorian London, where philanderers, drunkards and the very dredges of human society reside.

Wrap up well for the air is cold, and follow me as we first step foot inside Whitechapel, where there exist more slums, brothels and pubs than you will find in any other city.

Remember dear reader, when entering here you will need to keep your wits about you, for many an unsavoury fellow will walk alongside you. A filthy urchin may alarm you by grasping your leg in the faint hope you are feeling generous enough to toss a coin.

But proceed fearlessly and look ahead. You will see that the street lanterns are now alight as we follow the hard-knuckled workers making their way through the dingiest cobbled alleyways, seeking only to fill their bellies with ale.

And here begins a tale inside one of Whitechapel’s fireside taverns.

Step inside this tavern awhile to witness the host of complex characters within. You will hear music, shrill laughs, and witness the devious antics of females sitting atop men’s laps at rickety tables. You may even witness a cat fight or two amongst the unwashed whores, as they battle each other for valuable custom from the slurring, inebriated men.

You may too, if she happens to be checking upon her employees, meet Madame Davenport, the savvy yet heartless brothel-mistress who keeps organised her world of social outcasts and misfits.

If you can bear the scene a little longer you will very likely stumble upon fifteen year old Catherine Bell who will arrive at a very late hour, alone and afraid. Like you, she will feel somewhat repulsed to witness this decrepit scene, but whilst you dear reader, may close the pages of this book and return to a life of moderate comfort and social freedoms, she must remain here amongst the disease-infested scourge of society, to be lured upon a pitiful path where many desperate women have trodden before her.

The immoral path of a lower class whore.

Oh pity her if you must, but do not abandon her here, for she is an intelligent girl beneath the innocent gaze and her life choices are few. Watch intently as she is groomed in the ways of seduction, for her very survival will depend on it, and see how she learns the skilled game of pandering to men’s pleasures for a fee. But Catherine’s unblemished youth and beauty, whilst being a blessing, will also serve as her curse inside this popular tavern, for the seasoned old whores within will envy, despise and reject her.

Soon enough you will witness how her fortunes appear to rise tremendously when one middle class gentleman seeks her favours, if only for much darker ambitions than his pleasure alone.

But we shall leave them now to draw out their scenes of vulgarity, drama and misery in peace. Yes, come… let us step well away from these deliciously flawed and well-drawn characters inside the tavern, and return to the crusty fettering gutters outside.

But wait…

Be mindful that this is the year 1888. The year Jack the Ripper made famous his dark reign of slaughter. And yes, dear reader, I promise that if you trawl these streets with me long enough, you will undoubtedly discover him lurking in and around the stinking mire of Whitechapel’s labrynthine alleyways, weaving his way behind the shadows of thieves, whores, gang lords and many other irreputable sorts.

Take a gamble though if you will, and walk on with me to witness an empowering tale of jealousy, desperation, desire, fear, abortion, sexual debauchery and of course murder.

Do not flinch near the end of our journey however, for five women will soon be slaughtered and the man responsible will name himself Jack The Ripper. He will embark on a bloody spree that will bury a gut-wrenching fear deep inside the bellies of every living whore.

He too might leave you pale and afraid.

You may wish to stop here, for the imagery he leaves behind is candid, brutal and all too strikingly real. But no, I urge you to continue, for The Whitechapel Virgin is a powerful complex journey, evocative and gritty in its realism.

A journey which hauls the past back to the present, for you to discover and enjoy from your own safe distance. Your patience and courage will be rewarded, for no other souls but ours will discover his identity, none other than you and I will unveil the truth, for the world will always marvel and wonder who he is.

So take the journey and see.

 

Historical Fiction Published 2014

Get the Amazon Kindle Book

“Carla Acheson’s story takes you down the dark streets of Whitechapel, to a time when all was not as it seems, and an immense shadow was looming over the metropolis. The book is a real page turner, and one that grips the reader until the very end. An excellent addition to any shelf.”Mike Covell – Actor, TV Producer

“ACHESON HAS A GIFT FOR BEING ABLE TO BRING THE GRIT OF POVERTY TO LIFE…” – Rachel Malone, (Historical Novel Society.)

“A TREMENDOUSLY compelling story woven around the time of Jack the Ripper’s reign. The author has effectively raised from the dead the bitter voices of downtrodden prostitutes.” – (Metro MANIA)

“DARK, sensationally gripping read… true voyeurism into the Victorian seedy underworld.”  A N Hoyle – British Historian

“I could not put this book down. The characters are truly believable. It lifts your heart one minute and your in tears the next. It is not slutty despite the subject matter. How accurate? I don’t know but that doesn’t matter the story carries it throughout. Sad it ended.” – Suzy Q

 

 

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