I first met J M Leitch when I reviewed her book, The Zul Enigma. She contacted me on Goodreads and asked if I would review her book. After checking out her book, I was thrilled and said yes. I reviewed her book in August, and you can read the review here. We have stayed in touch since through email. Here is a little about her:
When Mum picked me up after my first day of primary school I was in tears. ‘Whatever’s the matter?’ she asked. I spat out my words between heaving staccato sobs. They were an accusing finger. ‘YOU said they’d teach me to read!’ It took much longer than I expected… but they did teach me and I’ve not stopped since. They also taught me to write and I published my first novel in 2011, The Zul Enigma (www.thezulenigma.com). As to my background? Well, I was born just outside London, England, and moved to Asia where I’ve lived half my life. I now spend my time between Singapore, Assam in North East India, Bali in Indonesia and the UK.
Now, let’s start the interview.
Christine: How, and when, did you decide to become a novelist?
J M: I have enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember. I used to love writing essays at school and when I was 17, in my GCSE ‘O’ Level exam for Greek Literature in Translation, I wrote about Orpheus visiting the Underworld when he tried to bring his beloved wife, Eurydice, back from the dead. I described how Orpheus, after using his beautiful music to soften the heart of Hades, King of the Underworld, persuaded him to agree to let Eurydice leave, and how Hades insisted on one condition: that Orpheus must walk in front of her and not look back until they both had re-entered the world of the living. But Orpheus, scared that Hades would break the agreement, on reaching the upper world turned to check that Eurydice was still behind him. She was, but because she hadn’t yet entered the world of the living Orpheus was the one who broke the agreement. Anyhow, by the time I got to describing the agony Orpheus experienced at loosing his wife a second time… this time forever… I was crying and my tears dropped onto the paper splodging the ink. Fortunately, they didn’t make the paper illegible and I ended up getting an ‘A’!
So I always thought I’d end up writing. In fact, I’ve started three books over the years, the first in my mid twenties, but I never got any further than the first few chapters because I either ran out of steam or I let other things get in the way.
Christine: What types of writing do you do?
J M: Throughout my working life I’ve done many different types of writing including reports, technical manuals, training proposals, training courses, business profiles, resumes, articles for magazines, content for websites – all kinds of things. But until The Zul Enigma, I’d never before written anything creative. Now I also write a blog, which I enjoy.
Christine: What is a typical day like for you as a writer?
J M: When I wrote my novel I spent every free moment sitting at my computer writing – usually eating breakfast and lunch there, too. For a while I used a laptop, which was good, because it meant I could move around the house and garden as I fancied.
I don’t have a set routine like some people, to write for so many hours, to finish so many words in a day, or to work from this time to that time. I just stick at it for as long as I’ve got. I don’t need a special place or surroundings or music. My special place is in my head and I can get there anywhere, any time.
Christine: Where did you get the inspiration for The Zul Enigma?
J M: I was in Bali lying on a deckchair watching my daughter swim while thinking about a recent BBC documentary a friend had told me about. It was about several reports from different scientific disciplines – ice core samples, marine temperature studies, marine life studies, climate change studies – to name a few – and how the data quoted in all of them showed our planet’s oceans were cooling. The result of this phenomenon is the slowing down or, in the future, the possible stopping of the conveyor or North Atlantic Drift that traditionally brings warm water from the south to the north Atlantic, keeping the east coast of North America and the west coast of Europe warm. In other words it’s feasible that North America and Europe are heading for a mini Ice Age.
Oh no! I thought. My poor Mum… she lives in England.
Then I started fantasising how wonderful it would be if a bunch of friendly aliens appeared and relocated us onto an identical planet with a stable climate! And that’s where the original idea came from, although it’s now changed beyond recognition.
Christine: Why did you choose to self-publish and not go down the conventional publishing track?
J M: When I first started writing I planned that the main action would take place in 2020. Then I began reading about the end of the Mayan calendar on 21 December 2012 and how different groups of people believed this would be a special time for many different reasons – the occurrence of cataclysmic events perhaps, or a time of spiritual enlightenment. It piqued my interest and I thought it would be fun to build my book’s plot around that date.
The problem was I hadn’t taken into consideration how long it would take me to finish the book. I thought a couple of years, tops… then 3… then 4… until last year I realised that if I didn’t publish it soon I’d miss the boat completely! I knew it could take years to find a traditional publisher, so I decided, oh well… I’ll have to go ahead and do it myself.
Christine: What marketing techniques do you use to promote yourself as a novelist and your novels?
J M: The most effective marketing tool for me has been the KDP Select programme that allows authors to offer their eBooks free on Amazon for 5 days every 3 months as long as the title is exclusively available there. In addition, I have a website for the book, book and author Facebook pages, I write a blog once every couple of weeks or so, and I also Tweet. I am learning that successful marketing is the combination of many different initiatives and I would love more exposure in the way of interviews on the Internet or in print and press. The key is to get your name and the name of your books out there. It sounds so easy, but the reality is that it takes a huge amount of work.
Christine: If people want to purchase your book, how do they go about it?
J M: It’s probably easiest to buy the paperback from Amazon or The Book Depository. It costs a couple of US Dollars more at The Book Depository but they will ship it anywhere in the world for free.
Amazon UK Paperback Edition – www.amazon.co.uk/dp/9810703252
Amazon UK Kindle Edition – www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0073M876M
Amazon US Paperback Edition – www.amazon.com/dp/9810703252
Amazon US Kindle Edition – www.amazon.com/dp/B0073M876M
Waterstones UK – http://bit.ly/WcJOIM