To celebrate the imminent launch, Donna kindly agreed to be interviewed. But then she also wanted to interview me about The Genehunter. They're very different books (Donna wins on the magic and lust counts but I figure I'm ahead on high-tech intrigue and swearing). But both books are similar in that they're self-published, plus their covers share a very fetching shade of blue.
The obvious answer was to do a collaborative interview, where we bat questions backwards and forwards...
Simon: Tell us about The Spirit of Nimue.
Donna: THE SPIRIT OF NIMUE concludes my RETURN TO CAMELOT trilogy. Nimue in the Arthurian legend is also known as the Lady of the Lake. As I was researching the original tales, I came to the realisation that Nimue was rather manipulative. After all, she imprisoned her lover, Merlin, for eternity. So in my version, I show what happens after Merlin is released. In book two, he joins forces with my main protagonist, and while he is still Machiavellian, the real threat in this tale is Nimue. She is dangerous and so my heroes plot to remove her from Camelot once and for all.
Donna: You successfully publish with presses and as an indie, are you happy doing all of this without an agent?
Simon: If an agent wanted to talk to me tomorrow I'd certainly consider it. And if the agent was right for me I'd sign up with them. However, my experience of the whole process of finding an agent hasn't been particularly rewarding. Clearly they're busy people trying to pick out gems from a vast pile of submissions, but it seems to me almost impossible for a writer to get anywhere like that. Which was one of the reasons I started submitting novels directly to smaller presses. The sort of people who are less concerned with genres and pigenholes, maybe, and who can consider a book more on its merit. It's worked for me. I have two novels coming out via two different independent presses (Hedge Witch from Morrigan Books and Engn from December House). In addition I've indie-published my Genehunter stories, as well as numerous stories that have previously appeared in magazines etc. Will any of it attract the interests of an agent? Who knows? With publishing as it is, I think you have to try things and see what happens...
Simon: The book follows on from Searching for Arthur and The Fire of Merlin. Is it definitely the last volume of the series?
Donna: It is definitely the last in the series from Natasha's point of view. She has gone on an amazing journey and her story is told now. However, after a long rest (I've spent three years writing this!) I will probably start afresh with a new take on the same world.
Donna: Do you prefer writing novels, shorts, or flash?
Simon: Good question. Can I answer all of the above? I like writing them all, for different reasons. I love the immediacy of shorter fiction and the freedom novels give you to explore something in depth.
Simon: You obviously love Arthurian legends?
Donna: I love myths and legends full stop. I've been obsessed with Greek mythology since I was a little kid, and I am currently researching Norse legends for a new wip. But the Arthurian legends are something special, probably because they appeal to my pride at being English. No one does history/myth/legend better than the Brits!
Donna: Is there an author you particularly admire, especially with regard to career trajectory? Do you think it is better to have enormous success with a first novel, or watch an author brand slowly grow?
Simon: Well, massive success with a first novel would obviously be good. But a slow build-up of a fan base is probably a better long-term strategy, I suspect. I'd be happy with either! A slow-build thing is surely more common. So the authors I really admire as regards career trajectory are those who simply write good books and acquire a legion of fans via word-of-mouth recommendation along the way. That has to be the way to go.
Simon: Your approach to the publishing game is interesting: you've self-published your Return to Camelot trilogy, and that has led to you signing up with an agent. Has the self-published novel taken over from the traditional unpublished-novel-pitched-to-an-agent approach?
Donna: Actually both are kept very separate. My agent reps a four book series I am writing, and we have recently starting sound-boarding for future projects, but THE RETURN TO CAMELOT trilogy is something she supports, but has no involvement in. One thing is interesting, I was talking to an intern the other day, and she said her job now was not to read slush, but was to scout successful independent authors. I think that will absolutely be the next evolution of the the industry. It will get harder to break through via the slush pile, but if you successfully self-publish, then you will get noticed.
Donna: Where do you hope to be as an author in ten years time? Do you have a set number of books you would like to see published?
Simon: After the two novels coming out this year, I have maybe six more planned out or at least sketched in rough terms. So that should keep me going for a while. I think I'd be happy to produce a novel a year. Ten years time? Obviously I'd like to be wildly successful, but I'd settle for moderately successful and well respected.
Simon: And where do you hope to be in ten years time?
Donna: I do have a plan, perhaps not a ten year plan, but a cunning plan all the same! I intend to publish ten novels (paperback and ebook) and then take some time out to finish my degree. Then I will go back to publishing. Ten just seems like a wonderful number of my own books to have on my shelves!
Donna: Name one book you could not live without?
Simon: There's only one book I really can't live without: a good dictionary.
Thanks for the questions and answers, Donna! Find out all about The Return to Camelot on Donna's Amazon page (amazon.com, amazon.co.uk).