Author Interview: Thomas Bartlett

Thomas Bartlett, author of Americans Bombing Paris, sat down recently to discuss writing and his journey to becoming a published author.

When and why did you begin writing?
As a book-obsessed child, I used to tell people I was going to be a writer, alongside a load of other jobs. I dabbled a bit in my twenties, but I lost whatever I wrote due to my own carelessness. I kept the odd notebook. But it was not until a dear friend of mine passed away around five years ago that I realized with total clarity that “I could die tomorrow.” From then on I have slowly and quickly been maneuvering my life around to writing as a full-time occupation. I am not quite there yet, every now and then I have to surface and get paid. But everything I do now is geared towards writing in some way or another.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Last year, I indie (self) published Americans Bombing Paris and I also had two other books I ghost wrote published in the space of around nine months. So last year is the obvious answer. But deep down, in the furtive corners of my mind, even when I was not writing, even when I was doing the usual wayward wage jobs, I thought I was a writer, a non-writing writer.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

I don’t write in a particular field or genre and because of this I have struggled to market and or sell my books. It is definitely an issue I did not foresee. I had always thought of Americans Bombing Paris as a satirical love story, but readers have informed me that it is a love story, a romantic thriller. I might have had more success hawking it around if I had known this. The market for satirical love stories is not what you would think.

Aside from the insidious but essential marketing angle, I simply sit down and write fiction. Whatever comes out of my fingers goes on the page. I try for the fugue state, so that when I read back over my work I don’t necessarily remember writing certain phrases or bits. And they tend to be my best writing.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer, and how does that affect your writing?

I mostly write full-time hours but the last couple of months my focus has been elsewhere. I try to be at my desk for 0630 in the morning. When I am only writing part time I tend to focus on other things, editing, serious procrastinating, idling away vast swathes of time staring into the afternoon ether.

But when I can devote all my time to it then I can bang it out at a decent enough rate. It usually takes me a week to settle into it and then I am in, inside the hum.

Do you have a special time to write, or how is your day structured to accommodate your writing?

I write best in the morning and the evening. So everything I do is geared towards trying to keep that time free.

What have you written so far?

My first book was Broken Wing. It remains unpublished. I don’t really know what I am going to do with it. The plot is ok I think, but there is a lot of loitering around shouting the odds in it. I wrote it maybe eight years ago and I was more of an idiot then, so I am not sure I want to associate myself with myself. Long term though I am going to wrangle it into something manageable.

Two books ghosted. One an entrepreneurial self-help book and one a biography/memoir. Radically different tasks. I enjoyed doing both and they are great to work outs for language and writing skills in general. Ghostwriting is also good for “be-stilling” my rampant ego. I wrote down some tips for would-be ghost writers out there.

Besides writing your own stuff I’d say ghostwriting is the best alternative. For me listening to people talk about their lives, where they have been, things they have done is generally bliss. So if you like that give it a go.

Americans Bombing Paris
, a romantic thriller(!) was published in June 2015. The best thing I have written so far. A story of love and glory in an alternative Parisian 2002. Yes, the Americans are actually bombing Paris in the book. I tried to fill it with as much food, sex and general carousing as I could muster. I then surrounded it with a sideward glance at the murderous inanity that passes for geopolitics these days, stirred in some sightseeing and boom.

My current book is All Girl Army. There are four main characters, a young female movie star, a vaguely villainous paparazzo, an Irish teenage blogger girl and a male quantum physicist. I have finished the first draft and taken the subsequent month off. I now need to go back at it with a machete and a sander. The ending also needs a good kick in the ass and I may yet change it.

How do you feel about indie/alternative vs. conventional publishing?

Well, I indie published Americans Bombing Paris, and I was closely involved in one of the ghostwritten books that would be published traditionally. If I could break it down like this…
Indie Pros

  • You are your own boss, I loathe having anybody over me, I get cognitive dissonance so strong I start to come apart at a molecular level so I like this aspect immensely. 
  • You get a far far bigger cut of any book sales. The difference is astonishing. So while everybody laments the rise of Amazon and their ilk because of the demise of the local book shop, the local writer perhaps doesn’t. 
  • The book can be published the way you want it, without the invisible but unbelievably powerful hand of the market rewriting it down to a flatter, less unique version. It is no accident there are so many similar books out there. 

Indie Cons

  • You have to do absolutely everything. And when the book is published the really hard work begins. Sales and marketing. So, nobody has ever heard of you, why the hell would they buy your book? Unless you are loaded, then pay someone to do all that stuff for you. 
  • There is no other con for me, but having to sell and market your book is far far less enjoyable than writing a book.

Traditional Pros

  • You have someone to sell and market your book, see above.
  • They might get it into a few book shops.
  • They might invest a few ducats on publicizing your book.
  • They could get you some reviews.

Traditional Cons

  • They are in charge until you are JK Rowling.
  • They act like they are doing you a favour a lot of the time.
  • It is not their book so they are prone to giving up quite quickly.
  • There is no money in it for you.
  • You can still end up having to do it all yourself weirdly.

Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?

My brother-in-law told me to get a business card, which I did. And now when I go to parties and drink with people, they take a card and they often buy the book. So my advice is to get a card and go to parties.

Did you make any marketing mistakes that you would avoid in the future?

My biggest mistake was waiting until I had a book before beginning to build my author platform. That was seriously naïve. I would recommend to anyone looking to indie publish to begin this very minute in creating an online author platform for themselves. Get yourself out there online, review books, meet people and talk to them. Ultimately you need them to buy your book and push, collate or create with your content.

What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer?

I am interested in most anything and I still have a fairly good memory so that helps immensely when it comes to writing. The lesson I have learnt is to pay attention to everything you encounter, let it wash over you. It all turns into words one way or another in the end.

What is one thing you hate about being a writer?

I am not mad for sitting down all day. And now they tell us that sitting down is the new “worst thing ever” “will kill you dead” thing. I don’t like the inactivity, in all my previous jobs I was standing up and moving around, so I miss that a lot. Also sitting down all day makes me cagey. By Friday, I am chomping at the bit to wreck the world.

If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be? 

My greatest life regret is quitting sports so young. I didn’t realise I could be a madman and still play sports. So with that in mind if I could be something else I would be a professional sportsman. Just to be clear, I was never good enough to be one, but since this is my imagination speaking, yeah I would have liked to have been paid for playing football (soccer), basketball or rugby.

Where to connect with Thomas?

Official Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin | Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon Author Page | Instagram

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