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Interview with Alberta Ross


When did you decide to become a writer?

Seriously I suppose in  2007 after I retired.  I had, on a whim, joined a writing class in our local town and signed up for a couple of writing workshops held at a local organic farm.   I wasn’t at all sure about either but found both experiences such fun I kept going back for more and the teacher we had, Emily, was a very inspiring young lady.  I had dabbled a bit in writing first as a child, the usual copycat versions of TV shows and books; later, in my 40s, I had tried again but I knew they weren’t good and had put them away.
I still felt a bit of a fraud but early this year I decided I was a ‘writer’, the computer was my tool and time spent writing, researching and networking was ‘my work’.  So maybe 2007 or maybe 2010.

What genre do you write and why?

This was the problem I encountered with the agencies, knowing what genre.  Because it is set in the future people want to label it science fiction or speculative fiction; the last is, I suppose, accurate as both books are romances in that the central themes running through are love stories.  I want my books in general fiction because the books themselves deal with people, their emotions, trials and tribulations, and these are universal concerns. 
    The only science used in Ellen’s Tale, for instance, is a continuation of what is happening now such as GM, alternative power and food sources, so I don’t see it as science fiction.  My books would disappoint a real science fiction fan; I don’t think there’s enough doom and gloom for speculative fiction and certainly if labelled a Romance (which it is) it would disappoint romance readers.  So you see, although publishers and booksellers need to label like this, I would be happier if there was more cross over in what books are about.
    Why this subject? Well many of my of my interests feed into the books, sustainability, social history, anthropology and ethics for instance and I am very concerned with environmental issues and have thought for many decades that we haven’t, as a species, been thoughtful enough. I am, on the whole, though optimistic about the human race and our ability to adapt and have tried to write hopeful books.

Tell us a bit about your latest book?
 
The back story to both books is the effects that extreme climate change has had on the world.  Terrible wars of survival have decimated the world’s populations because of the fight for resources.  Not fuel but basics such as land, food and, most importantly, water.  When war came close to home the populations split, most went into cities and the others barricaded themselves behind circles of landmines, on the promise that when the war was over the mines would be removed.  They were not for various reasons and the struggle for survival for those trapped within the mines has at times been terrible.
My latest book, ‘The Storyteller’s Tale’, is the second in a proposed series of chronicles, on various characters and their experiences of the times and follows  ‘Ellen’s Tale’.  The same central characters from the first book have left the safety of the city and are about to make a life for themselves in the countryside.  However it is a countryside without all our modern conveniences and bereft of most of the population.  To live everyone has to grow their own food, make their own clothes, try and make their own medicines from whatever resources they had at hand when the mines laid. What they do have is the benefit of previous knowledge and books.
My heroes pick up a new companion, Keira, to help them make sense of the world.  She is no Ellen, who was all things good.  She is the complete opposite and will, I think, irritate the readers but if they hang on they will discover why she is as she is, and I hope learn to appreciate her.  The companions start to liberate all the settlements and aid in their recovery.  This is a different type of love story, more complicated than in Ellen’s Tale; Keira is a very prickly heroine.

You chose to self publish.  Why and are you happy with the choice?

I was confined a lot to the house caring for a family member and started writing ‘Ellen’s Tale’ during this time.  I finished it in 2007 and started sending my manuscript to agencies.  Most rejected it, but one wanted to read the rest.  They decided in the end it wasn’t for them but the fact that they had asked gave me confidence in the book.  Then I was diagnosed with a serious illness and thought if I truly believed ‘Ellen’s Tale’ was as good a book as many out there, then maybe life was too uncertain to hang around waiting to persuade agents.  Fortunately an operation has put me right health-wise but I had a great deal of time in my convalescence to start the process of self publishing. 
I have had a tremendous time this last couple of years on the project.  Overall I am very pleased I went this route and would certainly recommend it, if you have the stamina.


What have been the hardest and easiest parts of self publishing your book?

I have to say writing the books is the easiest!  I struggled a lot the first few months with the mechanics of the computer.  I had only used it as a typewriter until then.  Research had shown me I could only afford to self-publish if I did everything. 
I decided on a special signed edition to help me get started and canvassed all my friends.  These pre-orders covered the costs of printing and other extras such the ISBN, website, new software, flyers, packing and posting.  The printers I chose are, for a small handling fee, dealing with internet orders.  I know my limitations and would be in a permanent muddle if I had to deal with the maths of it all!
My friend helped a lot with editing because I am total rubbish at spelling and punctuation.  I also had to work out how to PDF.  I am sure to most people this wouldn’t seem difficult but I was only vaguely aware of what PDF even was.  Designing a cover and coping with the software, kept me up nights.  After printing, designing a website I found horrendous; starting a blog, terrifying.  Facebook and Twitter - didn’t have a clue what to do with them!
I had another illness during this time which slowed up the thought processes.  But this summer I have been on top form and, with the second book out, networking and blogging are beginning to pay off now.  I have more confidence to push the books having received some very positive comments about them on http://www.authorsonthenet.com
 
Any advice for others thinking about self publishing

Be realistic.  It is slow, building up connections and interest can take a great deal of time.  Avoid anyone who wants money up front.  Decide how much you can afford and stick to it.  Base your anticipated returns on a realistic approximation of how many books from unknown author will sell in an overcrowded market place. 
    Start researching and networking before the printing, I did it the wrong way round so the progress has been even slower.  Then enjoy yourself, you’ll meet some interesting and helpful people on the way. 

What other writing projects do you have planned for the future?

Well I have a collection of short stories ‘A Patchwork of Perspectives’ coming out in time for Christmas and there is a third chronicle in the series due out next summer.  In the meantime I am un-formatting ‘Ellen’s Tale’ so that it can be turned into an e-book.  I am quite excited about this and intend all my books will come out in print and in digital formats. 
    I have a couple of new blogs up and running now.  One on Live Journal is going to concentrate more on reading and books and the other on Blogspot will deal more with the influences driving the chronicles, I am starting with blogs on my self publishing journey.  My original blog on Type Pad is a mixture of everything and then of course my website is due for a major overhaul, so it goes on!.    

Anything else you would like to add?

Just that I am enjoying writing so much.  It is not about the rewards, because I suspect they will never be spectacular, it is writing.  So, if anyone wants to have a go, do it, and if just one other person reads what you write and likes it that’s a bonus.  However the internet is home to many who want to rip you off so be careful, check sites, get feed back and do the research.

Alberta Ross:

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