I am happy to announce that as part of his Blog Book Tour, S. N. Weddle, author of “It Starts With A Kiss”, has generously given his time to answer my questions about his journey from idea to publication, and the lack of middle-age female protagonists in modern novels. He also gives advice to those seeking publication. Please find my interview below the summary of his book.
Summary of “It Starts With A Kiss” provided by Elite Book Promotions:
How many women wish they could be 21 again but knowing what they know now? How many women wish they had great looks, fabulous clothes, an amazing job and the choice of any man they fancy? Be careful what you wish for …….
Rapidly approaching 50, Jennifer Green is living a life of quiet despair following her husband’s confession of an affair. She is contemplating suicide when she encounters a mysterious, half-crazed tramp who appears to know more about her than she does herself. Thanks to the tramp’s magical powers, Jennifer suddenly finds herself 21 again, but this time with the figure and face of a goddess – and, what’s more, every millionaire in New York is trying to date her. “Beauty is the strongest currency in the world.” Even her own daughter doesn’t recognise the new-look Jennifer. She and her unsuspecting daughter become flatmates.
To earn a living, Jennifer takes up ‘honey trapping’ to catch cheating husbands, even checking out her daughter’s dodgy boyfriend along the way. Eventually, Jennifer’s killer combination of stunning beauty and mature wisdom make her a star on prime-time TV but, by then she is also beginning to wonder if there is sme bizarre connection between the tramp, a handsome stranger who nearly hijacked her wedding 25 years earlier and the rich, successful and impossibly gorgeous media tycoon who is currently sweeping her off her feet.
On one level, It starts with a KISS is a romantic, funny and sexy modern-day fairy-tale with a surprising ending – a great summer read! On a deeper level, this is also a complex novel, beautifully written, and exploring themes that will touch every woman: lost youth, beauty and image, marriage, female friendships, loyalty and envy, mother-daughter relationships and society’s attitude to sex. This is a book for any woman who wonders if others see her the way she sees herself – and it is remarkable that this intimate portrait of female insecurities has been penned (from a woman’s point of view) by a man.
IT STARTS WITH A KISS: An Interview with author, S N Weddle
- What was the inspiration behind It Starts With A Kiss
I’d just hit 50 having recently left my long term career as a TV Producer and was beginning to reflect on what I’d achieved so far, plus what might lie ahead of me in the years to come. And so I began to imagine what it would be like to live my life again, and whether I could avoid making the same mistakes second time around. And then it struck me how it would be even more amazing if I could be young again in the here and now, rather than going back in time, and be twenty one again in the 21st Century. So either I was having a nervous breakdown, or I had the basis for a great book – same thing really!!!
2.You chose the self-publishing route for your first novel. Can you tell us what led to this decision? What was the journey to self-publishing like for you?
I went through all the traditional publishing outlets but I just couldn’t seem to get anybody interested, even with my thirty years worth of media contacts. It felt like I was on the outside looking in at some charmed circle of wonder that was never going to allow the likes of me in. There must be a way, so firstly I paid to get my Book edited by a professional. One of the drawbacks of so many self-published books is that they haven’t been through the editing process, and suffer as a result. And I didn’t want to inflict a poorly thought out and badly executed story on any potential readers. In fact, my book has had four separate edits, ensuring that it’s about as professional as it gets.
Then I stumbled upon a great little outfit called Mereo Books, who are a proper publisher in every sense of the word, except that the author pays towards his or her costs. In every other respect Mereo have ensured that my book has been beautifully presented, properly copy edited and expertly distributed throughout the world. So although it might loosely be called self-publishing It Starts With A Kiss is a quality product that would compare favorably with any of the more traditionally published books on sale today.
3.What advice would you give to first time authors seeking to publish their novel?
First ensure that your book is as good as it can possibly be. Don’t submit something which you know in your heart of hearts isn’t really good enough. If it’s no good leaving you, then it won’t get any better when it arrives on the desks of publishers or literary agents. By all means try the traditional publishing houses first, and if you can get a literary agent to represent you, even better, as they will know exactly who to approach, and will be listened to by many of the top names in the industry. You might just get lucky, but if you shouldn’t, don’t despair as there’s a whole world of so called self-publishing out there. And don’t forget, one of the best- selling books of recent years, Fifty Shades of Grey, began life on the internet, and just look what happened to that. Publishing is no longer the preserve of a privileged elite, and it’s all the better for it.
- A romance novel from a female perspective seems an unusual choice for a male writer. Why did you make this choice?
I’ve always loved romantic stories, right from the time I first saw Cinderella in the theater when I was about seven years old. And when you think of it, most of the great works of fiction are love stories at heart, whether it’s Jane Eyre, Gone With The Wind or Great Expectations. So after I hit upon the idea for my story it slowly began to dawn on me that it might work better if the protagonist was female. It was a tale about somebody who gets to re-invent themselves, and as I began to look around me I started to notice that it was mostly my female friends who were getting out there and doing extraordinary things like starting businesses, organizing book clubs, learning foreign languages or running off with men half their age. Meanwhile my male friends were slipping comfortably into late middle age by taking it easy, happy to go down the sports bar to watch the big game on TV. And besides, women have a much greater emotional range than men and are more relaxed about expressing their feelings, which makes them so much more interesting to write about.
However, although I now had a female protagonist, I still wrote the first draft of Kiss in the third person as a kind of disembodied narrator, simply observing the story in a Jennifer did this Jennifer did that kind of way. It was only after sending my manuscript to a professionally qualified Book Editor that I even considered writing the story in the first person as the woman herself. The female Editor thought I was too distant from the main character, and believed I could become more connected if I wrote as Jennifer. So it took a woman to make me a woman, at least in a literary sense!
Strangely, once I started writing as Jennifer it really began to flow, and so far readers in the UK seem to agree that I have passed the being a woman test. I’ve always had female Editors ever since to keep my femininity intact, just occasionally highlighting what they considered to be some far too masculine words – men and women do speak very differently in their choice of language – or changes to a couple of sex scenes too, when mostly they wanted me to spice things up!
I do appreciate that it could have been a bit creepy, a male author pretending to be a woman – but I truly believe that hasn’t been the case, as I have genuinely tried to approach the task with a real sense of respect for my subject. You see, I do genuinely like and relate positively to women, and believe that comes over loud and clear in the book. Funnily enough, I was once told by a fortune teller that I’d always been a woman in all of my previous lives, and this was my first outing as a male. Maybe that’s the real reason why I’ve been driven to write as a woman after all! Who knows?
- At its heart, It Starts With A Kiss is a Romance. Is that a genre you most often read? What are some of your favorite books?
I try and read as widely as possibly when it comes to genres, and having been a member of a Book Club has really helped me to read outside my comfort zone. I’ve just completed The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan, a harrowing tale of Prisoners Of War captured by Japanese Forces in World War Two. And yet even within this grueling story set in the Burmese jungle, is a tale of love between the Australian soldier and the two women he has left behind him which lies at the heart of the Book.
Romance is definitely my preferred genre as a reader though, drawn towards stories about feisty women who step outside what were the perceived norms of their time and then wrongly punished for their so called misdeeds. My all time number one book in this tradition is the classic French novel Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. I am also a great admirer of Anne Tyler’s clever, funny and insightful novels, my favorite being, The Amateur Marriage, which I try and read every year. And it just seems to get better every time. Plus, more recently, I loved the truly twisted love story of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and Lionel Shriver’s Big Brother. And when I want something a little less strident I do love a spot of chick lit too. I have even been known to read the amazingly prolific Danielle Steel, plus I’ve loved all of the Bridget Jones Diary Books by Helen Fielding, which I thought were both funny and touching.
- According to your author biography, you live in England. It Starts With A Kiss takes place in the United States. Why did you choose this setting?
My book is all about getting a second chance, and in my mind, if you want to go and reinvent yourself there’s only one place to do it, and that’s New York. Also, I do love American Literature, and there’s something about the snap crackle and pop of American style dialogue that I really enjoy writing. Weirdly, I now find it much easier to write as an American female than as a middle- aged Englishman. Plus I do love visiting the States. Also there’s something incredibly optimistic at the core of my story, and much as I love my country, I wonder whether It Starts With A Kiss would sit comfortably in the slightly cynical and pessimistic culture we have here in the UK. It’s part of our charm that the English always expect the worst, and it’s part of yours that you always expect the best. So that’s another reason why it had to be the States.
‘It’s never too late to be who you might have been,’ is the quote I use from George Eliot to preface my story, and that’s a sentiment more easily understood by Americans than most Brits, even though an English author first wrote it.
- Lisa Genova was quoted as saying that Still Alice was initially rejected from traditional publishing because ‘no one wants to read about a middle-aged woman…’ Yet, the majority of the readership today is women in this age bracket. Do you feel that there is a gap in the market for female protagonists in this age range? What has been the reception to your ‘middle aged’ female protagonist, Jennifer Green been like?
Definitely! Middle-aged women are the biggest single group buying books yet are shamefully neglected by the publishing industry when it comes to featuring them as major characters in novels. It is so incredibly dumb, especially when you consider the number of sexy, sassy and smart older women who inhabit our world and have fantastic stories to tell, yet are nowhere to be seen on the printed page, although maybe things are beginning to change. In my case, Jennifer represents what so many middle aged women are doing in the real world by reinventing and creating a more exciting life for herself, and if that should include an erotic encounter along the way with a gorgeous young man or two who is drawn to her allure, then why not.
- Are you a pantser or a plotter? That is, did you create an outline for It Starts With A Kiss, or did you start with a premise and begin to write?
A bit of both really, but more premise then beginning to write. I had certain key incidents already mapped out in my head but then I came up with the thought while writing of Jennifer unexpectedly meeting her daughter in a New York bar, which gave me my mother/daughter relationship sub plot. Plus there’s an additional twist late on which only came to me right at the very end of writing, yet it had been staring me right in the face from day one, only I hadn’t recognized it. I better not reveal any more, in case I give too much away!
- How long did it take you to complete It Starts With A Kiss?
Far too long! I first had the idea back in the year 2000, then did nothing about it, although it was probably bubbling away somewhere in my subconscious in between doing other stuff. I actually wrote the first draft just over five years ago and now four drafts later I’ve finally got an end product to all this dreaming. Did I mention it’s a fairy tale for grown-ups, because that’s exactly what it is.
- What are you working on now?
I’m just completing a book of lightly erotic short stories, to be called either Bedtime Stories or Bedside Stories, about such diverse subjects as flirting, fantasies, fidelity, toy boys and does size matter, all from a female perspective again. Then talking of size, there’s my next full length book, a romantic adventure in the style of Romancing The Stone – if you’re old enough to remember it! – about a sassy middle aged woman who enlists the help of a dashing young man after they accidentally discover a state secret, and are forced to go on the run. Plus I have also mapped out a sequel to Kiss, as I’m certain there is at least one more story to tell about Jennifer Green, if not more.
About the author:
S N Weddle worked as a daytime TV producer for the BBC. For much of his career he produced numerous make-over shows – and this gave him a fascination with questions concerning image, identity, beauty and the fashion industry. He remains intrigued by the insecurities that many women (and some men) feel about the way they look – and his first novel, It starts with a Kiss, explores the potential barriers of appearance and age that may prevent a person from following their dreams.
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