Please introduce yourself and give an overview of your career.
I’m 37, from Birkenhead originally but now living in Northamptonshire. There’s not much of a career to speak of as yet. I’ve been writing for several years now. I self-published a collection of short stories, “Purge” a couple of years ago, but had struggled to even get my novel read. After years of trying I found Armley Press and they responded really well to it, and it was released at the end of August.
Tell us a little bit about your book The World is Not A Cold Dead Place.
I began writing it about ten years ago. The first draft was written in a frenzied few months during a fairly dark period in my life, and was largely a form of improvised therapy. Then, over the coming years, I gradually improved it, edited and redrafted, submitting to various publishers, possibly when it wasn’t ready at times. Each time I did that, I’d get the rejection, work on it some more, then leave it for a while before eventually coming back to it.
Plot wise, it’s a first-person narrative, told through the eyes of a mentally ill, very angry young man in my home town Birkenhead. He’s a man who’s cut himself off from society, struggling to cope with his illness and OCD, but for reasons beyond his control, he’s forced to re-enter society. It’s very dark at times, but also (I hope) funny. Judging by the feedback I’ve had so far, people have really responded to the dark humour, and found an unlikely empathy with the main character.
Stylistically, the writers I’ve most been compared to since the book was published are Irvine Welsh, Chuck Palahniuk and Kevin Sampson.
What is it that you love about writing in this genre?
I’m not entirely sure what genre I write in, though I suppose literary fiction would be the one I’d pick, though someone recently told me TWINACDP is a picaresque novel. My focus is always, primarily, on the character, and I build everything else around that, which probably does place me in both the picaresque and literary fiction genres. I think that gives me freedom to focus more on the character arc.
How did it come to the attention of Armley Press?
I had almost given up with submitting it. There’s only so many rejections you can take. Then someone or other retweeted a tweet from Mick McCann where he said Armley Press were on the lookout for submission. He described them as “Northern, punk publishers”. Well, I’m Northern, and I’m a punk, so they seemed like they might be a good fit and I got in touch with them. John Lake, the novelist who is Mick’s partner in crime, read it and instantly responded to it.
What value do you feel has been given to your book by being published by an independent publisher?
Mick and John have really made me feel like the book is important to them in a way that I doubt a mainstream publisher would. There were times when I had doubts and anxieties, and I was able to just text or phone Mick or John and they were always available. I think Mick’s main motivation is to give a voice to writers who deserve to be heard, but are simply being ignored by the mainstream because they can’t guarantee huge sales. I had a couple of close calls with the mainstream publishers, but ultimately they weren’t interested, but, by wanting to publish it, Armley Press gave the book value.
What would you say has been your most exciting or satisfying experience about the whole process?
Definitely the feedback I’ve had. Hearing from a complete stranger that they’ve not just read it, but liked it, makes all the years of toil worth it. Although, I have to say that simply holding a copy of the book in my hand was a pretty incredible feeling too.
What have you learned about the author’s role in today’s publishing industry in promoting and marketing their own books?
I understood right from the off that there was no way Armley would have the marketing and promotional weight of the big boys, so I knew I would have to do my bit. That means being very visible online, particularly Twitter, and being willing and available to appear at anywhere that might provide any sort of publicity and promotion. The latter hasn’t really come up yet, but I’ve certainly tried to be active on Twitter, and Armley and myself have shared the workload in terms of trying to get the book into the hands of reviewers, bloggers and influential people.
You can follow Nathan O’Hagan on Twitter at https://twitter.com/NathanOHagan
He also has an author Facebook page here.