It gives me great pleasure in welcoming Cathy Bramley back to Jera’s Jamboree.
After growing up in Birmingham, Cathy went to Nottingham Trent University at the ripe old age of eighteen and five days to study European Business. Upon graduating she spent the next few years in the corporate world of marketing working on high-powered projects such as testing the firing range of SuperSoaker waterguns, adding hair extensions to Girls’ World styling heads and perfecting the weeing action of Tiny Tears. After making it onto Timmy Mallet’s Christmas card list, she realised it was time to move on and so in 1995 set up her own agency, Apples & Pears Marketing.
Avid fans of the TV series, Cathy and her husband realised their Grand Designs’ dream of building their own house in 2011. They now live in rural Nottinghamshire with their two daughters and a cockerpoo called Pearl.
This project provided the inspiration for Cathy’s debut novel Conditional Love, although it is by no means autobiographical, apart from the unfortunate incident in the boardroom! She shares her time between her marketing agency, writing and taxiing the girls endlessly from one activity to the next.
Cathy is a fan of Masterchef, strong coffee, chocolate brazils and Marian Keyes books. She is addicted to her Kindle and has an irrational fear of bananas.
Hi Cathy, welcome back to JJ!
What has worked well for you with Conditional Love?
The one thing that I am complimented on for Conditional Love is the cover. I can’t stress enough how intrinsic to a book’s success a good cover is. I often read other self-pubbed authors’ comments that they have tried everything but their books aren’t selling. Often you only have to look at their covers to realise why.
I found a book cover I liked, contacted the author and found out who the designer was. I then commissioned them to design my cover – Design For Writers. Their design process is amazing, but be warned; you are responsible for briefing them on what you want. So you have to know what it is that you want!
How did you launch Conditional Love?
I knew that I needed to use all the tools in my marketing box to get Conditional Love out there! I booked a fifteen blog hop with Fiction Addiction. For me, this was the best way of getting my self-published book to be reviewed by well-respected book bloggers. I can’t praise Sharon Goodwin (That’s YOU!!) enough for all the hard work she put in to make my blog tour a success and I found my book reviewed all over the world!
I contacted my local newspaper, The Nottingham Post and so far have been featured three times and I was interviewed on BBC Radio Nottingham too as well as our Parish magazine.
In October, I held the World’s Smallest Book Launch and turned our village red phone box into a mini-bookshop for the day. The Mayor of the Borough came and cut the ribbon, we had a prize draw, lots of cake and I did a book signing from inside the phone box. It was one of the best days of my life and my friends and family came to support me as well as fifty people from the village.
Now that the initial launch is over, I am still busy maintaining the book’s presence in the Amazon charts. As I write this, Conditional Love is in the top ten in three different Kindle categories and I’m very proud of its success. I mainly use social media for promotion and love the opportunity to appear on blogs such as this 🙂
Being a writer can be lonely. Do you have a support network?
Yes, I have a wonderful group of fellow writers, some I have met on courses that I have done (see below!) and others I have met through Facebook and Twitter. I have found the world of books, both writers and readers to be a very generous and friendly environment.
Have you done any creative writing/writing courses that you would recommend to others?
I highly recommend The Writers’ Workshop. I first came into contact with them when I went to my first writing event in September 2012 which was the Festival of Writing, an annual conference full of workshops, discussions, Q&A panels and a lot of socialising. I think I learned more in those 48 hours than I learned in the previous year! As well as the festival, they hold writing courses, offer all sorts of services to writers and host a huge free online community via their website. I joined the online self-editing course last year and it was fantastic!
Do you make use of local resources for promoting your book?
Oh yes – absolutely, I can’t thank my local supporters enough!
There is an excellent independent bookshop in the next village to me called The Bookcase. It’s a lovely shop and they run an annual literary festival called the Lowdham Book Festival in the summer. I approached them very nervously to help me launch my debut, Conditional Love. They instantly placed an order, made Conditional Love ‘Book of the Month’ and emailed the blurb around to their mailing list! I couldn’t believe it. The owner has also hinted that I might be invited to speak at the festival next year!
Even the big boys have been friendly! I was, frankly, amazed when Waterstones offered me a Saturday book signing slot on their ground floor sales area just in front of the romance department in my local store in Nottingham. I felt a bit like a celeb until customers started asking me questions. My favourite was ‘Can you tell me where I can find the Joyce Grenfell Monologues, please?’
The libraries have been very supportive too. I contacted the County library, they ordered several copies and when I next went into my local branch in Arnold, I heard that the weekly reading group had been discussing my book! I have been asked to go in and give a talk next year – can’t wait!
What has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
Please can I choose three?!
It took me quite some time to get Conditional Love right, but when I had finally finished it and written the words ‘The End’ the feeling of achievement was amazing. I’ve just finished drafting a second book and it was just the same. In fact, I can’t wait to start on my third…
One of the best things that has happened to me was on November 1st. I tweeted a message of congratulations to best-selling author Miranda Dickinson, her latest novel Take a Look at Me Now was doing really well, plus she is expecting her first baby. She tweeted ME straight back and congratulated me on the success of Conditional Love and said that she had heard great things about it. I don’t think I stopped grinning for five days!
Thirdly, one of my best friends, whose opinion I value greatly, (but you wouldn’t want to mess with her!!) came to the Conditional Love launch, not having read any of the book previously. She read the book in one great long sitting and absolutely loved it. That meant a lot to me.
What has been the worst part of your writing journey so far?
I approached writing a novel pretty much like I approach everything; I charged ahead not taking the time to learn how to do it! (You wouldn’t like to see any of my DIY!) I thought the first version of my novel (called hard Hat and Heels at the time) was absolutely brilliant, so I sent it off to the Writers’ Workshop for a critique. Well, let’s just say they didn’t share my enthusiasm for the book! They suggested a total rewrite. I was devastated.
After crying for twenty four hours (I kid you not) during which I managed to convince myself that I should never be allowed to write another word, I gave myself a good talking to, started with a blank page and wrote it again.
What tips do you have for new writers?
It is better to write something than nothing. I realise now that the first draft of my book is more or less a massive synopsis! It is only when I sit back and read what I have written that I see the potential in the story. I spot the recurring themes and symbols and notice the important characteristics in my characters and then in my second draft, I bring these things to the fore a bit more.
If your writing is going very slowly, it may be that you aren’t sure about the scene you are writing. When I start writing I always jot a couple of key words or phrases down and think about what the scene has to do for the book: for example, ‘this scene needs to show that despite sibling rivalry between the two sisters, blood is thicker than water and they will always support each other when the chips are down.’
Use free writing to get to know your characters. Sometimes I write how conversations between characters which never will get used in the book. IN Conditional Love, the main character Sophie’s parents have a major falling out at a party before she is born. This was so important to the book, that I wrote the whole scene to give me a greater understanding of the situation even though it would never make the book.
I have seen Conditional Love go from strength to strength.
Congratulations on your success to date Cathy. July is on the calendar 🙂
Meet Sophie Stone, a thirty-something, serial procrastinator. Tesco knickers, Take That, and tea with two sugars is about as exciting as it gets. But when her boyfriend dumps her on Valentine’s Day and a mysterious benefactor leaves her an inheritance, even Sophie has to accept that change is afoot.
There is a catch: a condition in the will that threatens the very foundations of Sophie’s world. What did the old lady want her to discover? Was there more to her parents’ break up than she was led to believe?
With an evil boss, bickering flat mates, manipulative mother and sexy ex-boyfriend, Sophie has plenty to contend with without the brooding architect who puts his foot in it every time he opens his mouth.
She will have to face the past and learn some shocking home truths before she can finally get her own happy-ever-after.
Conditional Love by Cathy Bramley is available as a paperback or e-book from Amazon, published by Apples and Pears Marketing ISBN-13: 978-1490923765