The Other Times of Caroline Tangent by Ivan Wainewright
How have you changed as a writer since your last authorinterview?
I’ve learned so much! Writing, marketing, the whole package. I think (I hope!) I write better now, I better understand the elements of a story, I think more commercially than I did – within the confines of what I want to write. i.e. Before I start a new book, I do think about whether I can explain it simply in one or two sentences, what my comp books are, if the protagonist has the right challenge/goal. If I’m going to spend many months writing a novel, then I want to be sure (as much as I can be) that I might at least have a chance of selling more than a few copies.
What lessons have you learned from the publishing industry?
I’ve listened to interviews and read articles by many agents, publishers and authors on the mistakes which many writers make, and I’ve honed my writing appropriately. I’m far more aware now of the structure of my novels, using a developmental editor, the need for every chapter and every paragraph to move the story on. (After I finished my last novel, I even printed it out fully in ‘A5 book format’ and went through it para by para, striking out those sections which weren’t necessary).
I’ve become a complete convert to using a developmental editor: good ones can help us so much as writers. They see things we don’t, they understand what makes a story into a book. Yes, it costs money to use their services but I think it’s one of the best investments you can make as an indie author.
What is it about your genre that drew you to it?
I’ve always loved stories which are set in our world but where something is just shifted slightly to one side. i.e. Speculative Fiction – although I never knew it was called that when I was younger! Even many of the books I read as a child by E Nesbit were of that ilk. So when I thought of the core plot for my novel – a time travel story – I wanted to set it (or at least start it…) in a North London suburb which could be quite normal for much of the time, but where the speculative content would then take over.
What tools do you favour while writing?
I often write in Google Docs. It means I can access my writing anywhere, it’s all backed-up automatically and I can even write off-line on my Chromebook. Plus, it’s a simpler word processor than Word, so I don’t get distracted by multiple fonts and functions.
That said, when it comes to copy-editing, I download it into a Word doc so that my editor can use Word’s Track-Changes feature.
I also did the typesetting myself on my last novel, using Vellum. But as I’m a Windows user, I access Vellum through MacInCloud, which is an excellent way of paying by the hour to have access to a virtual Mac. I love it!
Are you a Seat-of-your-pantser or an Outliner?
I’ve gone from being a full Pantser some years ago to being far more structured now, much more of an Outliner than I was. I’ve realised that the time I spend considering at least the core outline of the book upfront, and how I need to treat and manage the key characters saves me huge amounts of time later in terms of editing, changing, improving etc.
I’m a massive fan of Lisa Cron, who wrote Story Genius. I don’t follow her recommended structure religiously, but I do believe in her principle that a bad first edit is not what we should aim for. I realise that goes against the grain of many writing coaches who say, ‘Just write the first draft, it doesn’t matter how bad it is, you can fix it later.’ But I agree with Lisa when she says that if it’s bad, then you simply won’t or can’t fix it to the level you want it to be, and you’re far better off planning the plot up-front. Although as I say, I only do some planning – I still like the idea of being able to change and move the plot as I write!
What is the least writer thing you do in your life?
My day job is still an IT consultant working with charities. Working with CRM systems and doing project management has nothing to do with “making up stories” – honestly!
Tell us about your journey finding your “voice”
I think this is one of the hardest things to express. What is my voice? I guess that all my writing, even the failed books I wrote before my first novel was published, have helped me hone my style so that I now recognise myself in my words. I’ve never tried to be ‘someone else’, I don’t know how you can write as another author; you have to be yourself. That doesn’t mean you can’t change, grow and improve your writing, and I do think I have a flow and writing characteristics now which I never used to.
What are some of your most important literary influences? (This can be as wide-ranging as you like, including various genres and films.)
There are so many authors I’ve been influenced by: David Nicholls, Nick Hornby, Claire North, Scarlett Thomas, David Mitchell (of Cloud Atlas, not the comedian!), Matt Haig. I could go on. I’ve taken something from all of them.
What are some of the real world places, cultures or people that inspired your work
For my last novel, much of it takes place in New York, which I love. And because it’s all about travelling back in time to see famous and less-famous concerts, then all of the gigs I’ve been to over so many years, the music in my life and the musicians I’ve seen, all come flooding into the story. My editor told me to “let go and write” about the scenes where my characters attend the gigs, and I loved doing that.
What’s your favourite scene in the book you are promoting today?
There’s a scene when Caroline is lying in bed in a women’s hostel in 1970s New York, the window open and the sounds of Paul Simon’s America drifting in. She’s in dire straits at that time, but I can just imagine doing that, being there, hearing a song as it was so many years ago. And it inspires her to her next action!
Tell us about the book you’re promoting.
The Other Times of Caroline Tangent. The catchphrase is, “If you could travel back in time to see any concert, who would you go to see?”
Caroline Tangent’s husband, Jon has invented a time machine so they can visit iconic gigs in history: Woodstock ’69, David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, Edith Piaf in 1930’s Paris – an inexhaustible bucket-list. But they can’t tell anyone they’re doing so. As their trips to the past continue, they begin to realise how it could change a devastating moment from their own past. But for Caroline, it’s clear they don’t want the same outcome. Until, on one trip, one of them does something unthinkable which will change both their lives forever.
What led you to self publishing?
I published my first novel through a hybrid-publisher, but I learned so much from them and others, and I wanted a little more control. So I felt I could do it myself this time. Once I knew the sort of editors I needed, how to find a cover artist, how to plan the release etc, independent publishing appealed to me. I still had to learn so much about printing the book, using Nielsen, Facebook Ads, BookBub and so on and so on, but I loved doing all that.
It was so wonderful and so gratifying that everything I’ve done was recognised when I won the 2022 Selfies Book Award for independently published fiction last month, because those awards are judged not just on the quality of the writing, but also on the success of the author’s PR and marketing campaign, sales success and overall production values, including cover design.
Do you have any advice for hopeful authors trying to write or publish a book?
Just to re-iterate two things I said above: (i) Read Lisa Cron’s “Story Genius”; it may give you ideas for your writing that you’ve never thought about before. (ii) If you have a budget, use a Developmental Editor.
What non-writing element of your life effects your writing the most?
My mood. If I’m feeling good, I write well. But if I’m down, then it reflects subsequently in my writing; or I can’t write at all.
If you could give yourself 10 years ago a piece of advice what would you say?
Stop writing all those chapter ones and then moving onto something else! Pick one story you like and write that. Finish it.
Other interviews with Ivan Wainewright
👋 Hi! I run Author Interviews
As a new writer I found myself itching to contribute to a thriving, creative community, so I made Author Interviews and I've met loads of wonderful people in the process. You can buy my debut fantasy RINGLANDER: THE PATH AND THE WAY from Amazon.