Author interview: Louise Walters on publication of A Life Between Us

We’re delighted to be chatting to Louise Walters, author of Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase, about her second novel A Life Between Us, out now from Matador Books.


Louise, what can readers expect from A Life Between Us?

A mystery, a love story, some dark themes… It’s a less “cosy” read than my first novel.

There’s a dark secret at the core of this family’s story, which you handle with great sensitivity – what were your reasons for exploring this theme, and how difficult was it to write about?

This theme was added in later drafts. I had the novel critiqued after it was rejected by my (at the time) publisher, and the wonderful author Sarah Vincent felt there needed to be more of a reason for the elderly Edward’s actions at the end of the story. At that point I decided to bring in this new dimension in the relationship between Edward and his sister Lucia. It was hard to write because it’s not a comfortable situation… taboo, in fact. Thank you for saying I handled it sensitively. I was hoping to do that!

You weave several character threads through the story, of related characters in their youth as well as older, all building intrigue to the denouements in both time periods. Did you plan the structure when you set out writing? Would you say you’re a Plotter or a Pantser?!

I am a pantser at the start of a project, but once I get further into a story I start to plan. I generally have a vague idea of where I’m heading before I start to write. But I let ideas unfold along the way. I tied myself up in knots with this story, it was complicated to get right. There are quite a lot of “speaking parts” and I had to juggle all the ages, dates of birth, school leaving age/year, ages at marriage and so on. Hopefully I got it all to balance in the end!

You achieve a great child’s voice in Tina’s letters to her penfriend in the 1970s. How did you manage to get into her head?

Thank you for saying so. I wrote the letters by inhabiting myself at that age… the letters are very much my own voice, almost like a ghost. I have a lot of strong memories from my childhood and that helped me so much with Tina’s letters. I recall the 1970s as though they were yesterday. I think your formative years stay with you. Very useful for this novel!

What did you enjoy writing most in this novel?

Probably the letters, but I also loved writing the climactic scene, I spent many hours on it. By that point I was totally invested in Edward and Lucia, and of course Tina; I have a great deal of sympathy for all of them, and it was a tough scene to write, but also fun, in an odd way. Writing is fun, let’s be honest, regardless of what we’re writing.

You’ve referred to the ‘difficult second novel’ in terms of the publishing industry – did you also find your second novel difficult in terms of writing? What was different about writing your first and second?

It was difficult to write, as I think I was a tad too ambitious with the multiple, converging timelines. My third novel is just one linear timeline, and maybe I should have gone with that story before attempting A Life Between Us?! The novel took two years to write, followed by the year of work on it leading up to its publication. It was difficult to sustain my belief in the project because of the novel’s fortunes with publishers. But nobody owes me a living, and it was good to be writing for myself and not towards a deadline. There was an advantage to having no publisher and just writing the novel, like I did with my first. Because of the rejections, I found I had to dig deep into my self-belief, and keep going.

What was the difference in your experience of being traditionally and self-published?

I’ve spoken about this quite a lot, but the thing I’ve loved with self-publishing is the creative control. It’s just fantastic! I’m not sure how I would cope with a traditional deal if I’m ever fortunate enough to be offered one in the future. I get the feeling I’d be a right pain in the butt. For instance, there are certain things I would want in a contract that possibly won’t be in it to begin with…! With my first book deal I was over the moon, of course, it was so exciting. But since self-publishing I’ve learned a lot about publishing in general, and how it could be fairer, and more inclusive, for authors. So I think I’m more assertive now. It’s hard for a shy person to be assertive, but I think it’s necessary in publishing. Often, and this has happened to me, the author is the last to hear about important decisions regarding their book. It’s just not good enough. So yes, I would be a pain in the butt. More authors need to be, and then we might see changes.

And finally, do you have a Best Writing Tip for new novelists?

I do. Once you’ve written a first draft, put it away and leave it for as long as you can bear to. Month, years even, if you can. When you read it again, it will be with fresh eyes, and the high level of objectivity needed for the editing process. Also, be honest with yourself at all times. If you know a sentence is bad, delete it. Don’t be scared to delete!



Thank you for chatting with us, Louise – we really enjoyed your intriguing novel, and congratulations on your publication.

Find out more about Louise and her work at


Guest author: Nicky Clifford on Self-Publishing – A Journey in Itself

Welcome to Nicky Clifford today, who I met online through a Facebook book club and then met in person when we discovered we were in the same town. Nicky self-published her debut novel in October 2016 so I asked her to share her experience for all of the writers who are wondering if it’s what they would like to do. So over to Nicky…

From an early age, I penned poems, short stories, letters and articles. Due to a lack of confidence, my dream of publishing a novel took a little longer to be realised. But at the age of 50, I self-published my debut novel, Never Again, and there was nothing like holding my very own book in my hands for the very first time.

But it took a long time to get to that stage. After what felt like 50 rewrites and edits, but was probably more like 15, I breathed a sigh of relief at having finally reached ‘The End’; I had no idea then that I was, in fact, at another beginning entirely.

I spent a considerable amount of time and effort researching and submitting my novel to carefully selected literary agents with, several months on, nothing but a pile of rejections to show for it. Once the crushing disappointment had faded, I dusted myself down and threw myself into self-publishing my novel.

Self-Publishing via Amazon

When you self-publish through Amazon there are two options: Ebook via KDP Publishing and Paperback via CreateSpace (Amazon’s ‘Print on Demand’ sister company).

There are three things that I wish I had known at the start of this process:

  1. Scrivener, the magic writing software, allows you to format your novel for Kindle at the press of one button, or so I’m told – can you hear my strangled scream of wishful thinking echoing around the room?
  2. To format my Word document for Kindle before I started writing.
  3. If you decide to offer a paperback of your book through CreateSpace, you can also, at the push of a button, transform your book into Kindle format – hindsight is a wonderful thing!

As I hadn’t, however, done any of the above, I made use of Kindle’s how to formatting sheet. Whilst it was user-friendly, the time it took me to complete this process had me practically tearing out my hair with frustration! A lesson learned!

You are bombarded with options once you start to work through the Kindle publishing process, including: royalties, pricing, loaning, protecting and many others; there were times when I thought my head would explode into a thousand different shattered pieces. However, one baby step at a time, I managed to work my way through it.

As my artistic ability comes nowhere near quality book cover design, I had the following options:

  • A bespoke book cover – this proved too expensive as writing is, effectively my hobby, not that you would know it given the number of hours it consumes!
  • Choose a book cover ‘off the peg’ from somewhere like: Self Pub Book Covers or The Cover Collection – keep in mind that if you want the spine and back cover designed as well, this will cost you extra. I opted for the front cover and added the text myself. Who knew that getting the perfect font at the ideal size in an appropriate position on a book cover could take so long . . .
  • A free cover design from CreateSpace, although these are not exclusive so you may find your book sitting on a virtual shelf next to the exact same cover.
  • CreateSpace has its own Cover Creator where you can slot in your front and back cover and have a small say in how the spine will appear. I took full advantage of this option.

Becoming a Publisher 

A lot of the hurdles I had to face were not something I had ever considered when I first put fingers to keyboard to write my novel, but I was determined to keep putting one foot in front of the other to get me to Launch Day.

ISBNs are an important consideration. You can publish your book without ISBNs, but if you do,it cannot be put on loan at a library or sold in a shop. So, with optimism as my eternal friend, albeit at times a wavering one, I opted for ISBNs.

The Kindle and paperback versions must have different ISBNs, which was certainly news to me – it does beg the question: Where have I been all my life?

Whilst CreateSpace offered me an ISBN free of charge, Nielsen UK ISBN Agency warned me that if CreateSpace owned the ISBN, they were then the publishers, which would make it hard, if not impossible, to move my book elsewhere.

Everything you need to know in this area can be found on the Nielsen website.

  • Buying ISBNs
  • Setting yourself up as a publisher
  • Registering your ISBNs

Be warned, this process can take weeks and weeks, so give yourself time!

Through Kindle Publishing, you can set your Launch Date and an ‘available for pre-order’ date, which is a great way to build up orders so when you get to launch, your book will hopefully arrive with a splash!

CreateSpace don’t offer either of these options. Instead, you push the ‘Approve’ button and it takes up to five working days to go live. The exact date, therefore, is a bit hit and miss.

When you paste the Amazon Universal Link link to your book into Book Linker this enables anyone, wherever they live, to click on this link and be whisked straight to your book on their own country’s Amazon site – invaluable!

And finally . . .

There is so much more I could add about book bloggers and blog tours, about social media and press releases, about author pages and photos and many other things I have learned on this crazy learning curve called ‘Self-Publishing’. But for now, your mind is probably spinning sufficiently to keep it whirring for a good few days, if not weeks. So, I wish you the very best of luck if you decide to embark on this journey; for me, it has been worth every single step.


Thanks for sharing your experience, Nicky!

Get a copy of Nicky’s debut novel ‘NEVER AGAIN’ here:

And keep up-to-date with her writing news on the following links:




Guest Author: Debi Alper and De Nada Nirvana

I’m delighted to have the lovely Debi Alper here today talking about her decision to self-publish the third book in her Nirvana trilogy, De Nada Nirvana, and re-publish the first two books in the series too. Debi has played an integral part in the success of so many writers that I know so it’s great to finally get to read more of her own writing. I asked her to tell us a bit about her experience of the publishing of her trilogy…


These days, there are more routes to publishing than ever before, from the trade route via an agent and a deal with one of the Big Five, through smaller independent publishers and assisted publishing, to self-publishing. Behind every author there’s a story of how they came to be published. This is mine.

My career began arse-upwards compared to many. I had no files filled with unfinished stories, no collection of rejection slips and, in truth, no idea I would ever write a novel, let alone be published. I started writing Nirvana Bites just so I would have something to read out to my writers’ group each fortnight. And I’d only joined the group because it was something local to do on a Saturday night that wasn’t related to either of my part-time jobs or to my two small children. No one was more surprised than me when I was offered a two-book deal by Orion, in circumstances that I can only describe as magical.

The editing of Nirvana Bites went like a dream, and so did the launch, with the entire directorate of the publishers turning up. Back in those days though, it was hard to create a buzz and unfortunately there were no national reviews. Sales were not spectacular, though they weren’t disastrous either. But Trading Tatiana had a fraught journey before she even got to the published stage. There was a series of events at the publishers – some tragic – that meant she went through four different editors before she was launched. The editorial team must have been in total disarray. And because I had been signed direct by the publishers, I had never bothered to get an agent. There was no one in my corner, championing me.

I wasn’t surprised when I wasn’t offered a subsequent deal by Orion but by that time I had an agent, at least. I had already written De Nada Nirvana and he said it would be impossible to sell the third book in a trilogy to a different publisher. He therefore advised me to keep writing more novels in the Nirvana series. As he said he reckoned they’d make great TV, I wasn’t about to argue with him. Sadly, even though he liked each better than the last, he was unable to sell them. I then wrote a stand-alone novel, Somebody’s Child. He absolutely loved this novel and said the kinds of things every author dreams about – only he couldn’t sell it.

Everything stagnated on the authorial front but, meanwhile, I was more than busy with the new career path I’d embarked on in 2005. I was working hard as a freelance editor, mentor and creative writing tutor and I loved everything about my job. I may not have been able to bring any more of my own novels in front of readers, but it was a joy and a privilege to be a part of so many other authorial journeys. I had no time to feel sad about my own stories gathering dust and, in any case, I would never have been in this position if I hadn’t had that original deal. No regrets.

In 2013, I was approached by an independent American publisher who offered to re-publish Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana as e-books. It soon became clear that being with them offered me no added value whatsoever. I withdrew from the contract and the rights reverted back to me.

And that’s where it all gets exciting again! I saw this as an opportunity to publish the whole Nirvana series. My agent was initially reluctant but had to agree that this was the only way to bring the unpublished novels in front of readers. I’d received the occasional email over the years from people who asked when those books were coming out. I was also lucky enough to be supported and encouraged by many in the writing community whose own journeys I had been involved in. And it also meant that I could create a ‘look’ for the whole series – something that would never otherwise have been possible.

I formed my own imprint, Nirvana Publishing, swapped an edit for professional cover designs and e-conversion, and published De Nada Nirvana on Mayday this year. Next up will be Me, John and a Bomb, followed by the last in the Nirvana series, The Gene Pool. I’ll then turn my attention to Somebody’s Child.

We live in the best of times and the worst of times. Though it’s harder than ever to achieve a trade deal, there are more options than ever before for getting our stories out there. It’s a good time to be alive.


Thanks so much, Debi. Can’t wait to read the rest of the books in the series.  You can get a copy of De Nada Nirvana here, keep up to date with Debi’s publishing news on her website, and connect with her on Twitter.

Debi is also teaching on the Self-Editing Your Novel Retreat in West Bay, Bridport, in November 2016 if you’d like to learn with her.