As of right now, fabulous new sci-fi comedy HOUSEWIFE WITH A HALF-LIFE by A.B. Wells is out on paperback and today Alison Wells has kindly dropped in to talk about the book, and to tell us why she chose the self-publishing route for this book but traditional publishing for her other novel.
‘…Things couldn’t be better. I have 2.5 children,’ she said, patting her belly, ‘well two children and half a mind to have another, a four bedroomed semi-detached home in a lovely well-manicured estate. I even have a washer dryer.’
‘Yes,’ he said gloomily. ‘I was going to warn you about that.’
“Of course, experimental physics is my hobby…”
Susan Strong is the housewife with a half-life, about to be sucked into the adventure of a lifetime, but when we meet her, her days (and months) are blending into one another, barely changing except for a little meal-time chaos here and there. Too busy to style her hair, she’s the person who looks after everyone while time flies and she disintegrates… but she can’t be allowed to disintegrate because, it turns out, she’s holding the universe together. I love how terrifying this is because, experimental physics aside, she’s us, a ‘normal mum’, isn’t she? I have to ask, how autobiographical…?
Oh, it’s completely autobiographical! A spaceman really did come through the showerhead and then help me find my way around alternate universes, I’ve just had to keep it secret until now! Actually I wasn’t meant to… hang on why are there some men in white coats coming out of a van and walking up the driveway, I can see them through the net curtains…
It doesn’t matter about the details does it? Let’s pretend hypothetically of course that all that happened but as a mother yourself you’ll know that what is True, what is absolutely Real and at the heart of things is that mothers are the task jugglers, the minders, the sticky plaster toting hug-mums who have to keep a million things from socks, to sports days and how junior likes his sandwiches in her head or his world will come crashing down. As the mother of four young children, saving the universe is something I do every day!
Our hero, Fairly Dave (let’s all give it up for the best character name ever) is tall, has Status Quo hair, wears a kilt, and glows with luminescent emotions – please, tell me he’s based on somebody real?
Again, it’s all a bit awkward. He’s been sent by a special space agency – The Higher Powers and that’s really all I’m allowed to tell you about his job. He’s got luminescent emotions and is utterly endearing. Is he based on someone real? He’s an amalgam of people I’ve known in the past, he’s a nod to the people who are no longer with us, that sense of loved ones travelling in some other universe, he’s also a part of me, the kid who used to tie her hair under her chin and round her face and pretend to be a man with a beard and a moustache. He’s also a tribute to the innocent spacemen of my childhood TV, Jeff Bridges’ Starman and of course Mork from Mork and Mindy.
Susan Strong has twin 4y/o sons, Rufus and Pluto, with clearly different personalities. What made you write about twins – is there any significance in relation to ‘parallel lives’, or did they just appear by chance?
Making them twins wasn’t done consciously but I think you’ve put your finger on it when you talk about the parallel lives. The theme of alternate selves and parallel universes is one I think about a lot. I like exploring the idea of ‘same but different’. My two eldest boys are close in age (19 months apart) and it’s fascinating to see their different personalities as well as strong related genetic traits.
HWAHL was first drafted as a NaNoWriMo novel (writing the first 50,000 words between 1st and 30th November) — looking back now, would you advise writers to use NaNoWriMo as a starting point for writing a novel? (I’m asking with some trepidation as I edit my own NaNo draft.)
I ask myself this every year. Yes and No is the answer. Doing NaNoWriMo as an exercise is wonderful because you gain the confidence that you can write 1667 words per day under any circumstances, you hone your writing muscle. With Housewife with a Half-Life it worked very well and I think that was because as a quest, the story is very episodic, I didn’t have to think so much about layers and complex plotting. It was still a challenge though and my brain felt like it would explode at times. When I did my literary novel through NaNoWriMo the following year I had an awful time afterwards extricating the story from the splurge of words that was the result of NaNoWriMo. On my third NaNoWriMo I also worked on a literary novel which I’m now coming back to. This one worked okay because it was based on short story I’d written and it had a strong clear storyline. So in summary, NaNoWriMo, works best if you have a good idea where your story is going and you’ve thought extensively about the project before you begin. To my mind 1000 words a day is probably a better target with thinking time built in as you go. But for the busy writer NaNoWriMo is the perfect way to produce material. Two of my novels would probably not exist if it wasn’t for the writing challenge.
What part of the process do you like best – writing, editing or publishing?
Ah! I like having written best, when I’m reading over something I’ve just done and thinking it’s not too bad. I like having produced something as well as there are often periods where I don’t produce anything and I feel wound up. However I really love editing material down to sharpen it, perhaps that’s still part of the writing process. It’s my favourite bit, finding the right word, cutting out the superfluous. Structural editing is a headache and copy editing practical. As for publishing it’s very involved and very hard work. I like that it turns me outward to readers. However working on material and finding the right shape of a paragraph is where the creativity really kicks in and the part I like best.
This year has seen you complete two books; one literary novel submitted to ‘traditional’ publishers, and HWAHL which you have self-published as both an e-book and a paperback. We’re all going to be watching your progress with interest as we make publishing decisions for our own manuscripts. How have you found the self-publishing route so far? Has it been nerve-wracking and hard work, or exciting and easy – and has anything surprised you?
I made my self-publishing decision from a very positive place. I was watching a programme on punk music last night and what was coming across was that the focus was not on the selling side of the music but on the message, what they wanted to say and how they wanted to say it. I wanted to take the opportunity to release a book whose message and philosophy I believed in & to engage with readers and give them value. It’s been a very intensive learning experience, from the practical side of the product, editing, formatting, uploading to the practicalities of finding your audience, blogging, advertising, having to put myself forward in the public eye when that’s not my natural inclination. It has been nerve wracking and hard work, particularly since it’s all new. What I can see as an advantage of traditional publishing is finding an agent who is willing to be a champion, someone who loves books, reading and gets to know you as a writer and can offer guidance & encouragement. Writing and publishing can be an emotionally vulnerable journey and a good, dedicated agent might be able to help there. The most difficult thing I find is having to make all the decisions myself on my publishing strategy, marketing etc. I say that but of course there are many resources that I can draw on. Associations like the Alliance of Independent Authors, Inkwell Writers. What has surprised me is the willingness of other’s to embrace a self-publishing project. The Irish booksellers Hughes and Hughes contacted me themselves to offer to hold a launch for my book and they’ve put so much effort behind the promotion. This is exciting and uplifting. One thing I really want to say is that I think you have to be so clear why you are taking either the self-publishing or traditional route and remind yourself of your reasons once on that route. There are sacrifices to be made both ways and there are positives in either situation and choosing one does not always rule out the other.
Will we be hearing more about your parallel journeys to publication?
I’ve talked around it on Mariam Kobras’ blog where Alison Wells chats to A.B. Wells and here where I explain why I’m Alison Wells and A.B. Wells. I’m still figuring out my way and I’ve said in other posts it may just materialize that A.B. Wells becomes not just my sci-fi persona but my sci-fi, literary sci-fi, literary, children’s, everything identity. My self-publishing endeavours may contribute to traditional success or the momentum of my positive self-publishing philosophy may lead me in other directions. I’m certainly going to post very soon on my own blog (www.alisonwells.wordpress.com) and others on the traditional versus self-publishing decision and the whole area of how writers connect with and reach readers, and what publishing means nowadays. There’s so much to be explored. In terms of my own self-publishing venture, it will take some months to see how it’s shaping up and what opportunities present themselves. For now, it’s an outward gesture of optimism that I’m happy to take.
Alison, I’ve read the book and I think it’s well founded optimism (actually, I think it would make a fabulous film, any directors out there?) Thank you very much for dropping by during this busy time, and good luck!
And more goodies here —
About the author
A.B.Wells is the mother of four children age 11 and under. London born, Kerry raised, she has lived in Bray, Co. Wicklow for many years. She’s a graduate of both Psychology and Communication studies and worked as a H.R. Manager and technical writer. As Alison Wells her more literary writing has been shortlisted in the prestigious Bridport, Fish and Hennessy Awards and she’s been published or is about to be in a wide variety of anthologies and e-zines, including the Higgs Boson Anthology by Year Zero, Metazen, The View from Here, Voices of Angels by Bridgehouse and National Flash Fiction day’s Jawbreakers. She recently won the fiction category of the Big Book of Hope ebook with a flash fiction medley and has a litfic novel The Book of Remembered Possibilities on submission. She blogs for the popular Irish writing website, writing.ie. and on www.alisonwells.wordpress.com
[Images provided by interviewee.
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