Interview with Paul Barron author of The Bodhisattva of Carraigmore.
Paul A. Barron lives in Co Wexford, the sunny south east of Ireland. He has recently completed a Creative Writing diploma with the Open University and as a result decided to publish his work on Amazon. He is currently studying music and flits between classical pieces and traditional Irish and French tunes. One of his short stories Render Unto Caesar won second prize in The Writers Village competition and was short listed for the Fine Line Short Story Competition.
Why are you taking part in the author blog challenge and what do you hope to achieve?
I am relatively new to writing and e publishing and am exploring all aspects of marketing. I’m building up a network of people not necessarily to sell my book but to share thoughts ideas and best practices.
How long have you been writing for?
I have always been an avid reader and had an interest in observing the unusual in everyday life, almost a prerequisite for any author. I started to write seriously about five years ago after completing an Open University Creative Writing course. The course gave me a road map of the way forward a framework and structure for my thoughts and ideas.
What would you say is the most difficult part of writing a book?
I think the most difficult part is sitting down and trying to get the words down. I find I have many ideas, can manage to find time but it’s more a question of being in the right frame of mind to write. I find writing is like a snowball going downhill, once you start to write, the process gains a momentum of its own. Characters come to life and usually the story deviates from the original idea and expands into something completely different. I find this a fascinating part of the whole process.
What genre do you generally write?
I write short stories, fiction based on my experiences, environment and everyday people in unusual situations. I like short stories because you have to focus, you have to make every word count. I’ve always enjoyed those tales stories with a twist and T.V. programmes such as Tales of the Unexpected, The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone.
Do you have a favourite author and why?
No. I like to read works by many different authors and have favourite books in different genres. I tend to read a book on a subject which usually sends me off on a tangent to read more about a peripheral character or sub plot of the main story. For example the story of the Bounty mutineers on Pitcairn Island is fascinating and reads like a work of fiction. Likewise the story of Cherry Garrard one of the explorers who discovered Captain Scott’s body.
The idea of peripheral characters influenced my short story Render Unto Caesar I wanted to look at other people involved in carrying out the death sentence, the chaplain, the reporter and the people who physically strap the prisoner down.
What is your book called and how did you choose this title?
The Bodhisattva of Carraigmore
As writers we are all fascinated by words and the word and whole concept of a ‘Bodhisattva’ really intrigued me. ‘The Bodhisattva’ is a compassionate figure common in Eastern mythology and Buddhism. She foregoes Nirvana in order to help people in this life acting as a bridge to carry people across from this world to the next.
The concept of the Bodhisattva is relatively unknown certainly in the Western world so this gave me the opportunity to create something different.
Three people are converging on the rural Irish village of Carraigmore, an ancient village steeped in the traditions of Celtic folklore and mysticism.
Eddie Doyle has reached that time of life, going nowhere in his job, mounting debts an indolent wife and for Eddie time is running out.
Henry J. O’ Farrell a successful but ruthless American businessman is coming to Carraigmore to finally settle a long standing family injustice.
And then there is Tara.
In writing this piece I wanted to cut across the traditional genres of legend and mythology to ‘modernise the myth’ if you will. The inspiration came from a visit to the British Museum and a statue of Tara. I wanted to introduce her within a modern day setting, Celtic Ireland, yet a world still very much influenced by old traditions and superstitions. I chose rural Ireland for the setting as it gave me the opportunity to fuse together Celtic mythology, legend and folklore with less familiar but exotic and mystical Eastern elements, a tale of East meets West.
Has your book been published and how did you go about this?
I won an award for one of my short stories so that encouraged me to publish on Amazon in March 2012. This involved a great deal of research on the web on formatting, covers and blurbs. I found that advice on forums, and blogs will only take you so far and taken as a whole is rather a complicated process. The true learning for me was to dive in, take a small step, make the mistake, correct and move on to the next step. The old saying about eating a whole elephant couldn’t be more appropriate for e publishing.
Approximately how long did it take you to finish your book?
I would say nine months from start to published version but after countless changes I now subscribe to the view that a book is never ever finished just published.
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
There are so many individual pieces of advice carry a notebook and observe the world around you and the people in it, write regularly do not worry too much about the content.
The main thing is to write, as humans we are all too self critical some good advice given to me was to ‘tie up your inner editor to a tree’.
I liken writing to exercise and physical fitness the more you write the better you become, like going to the gym you need to build layers upon layers and progress can only be measured over time.
Once you think you have finished a piece leave it and come back to it after a period of time. You will see your writing from a new and different perspective. Kaplan an author who has produced works on writing uses the analogy as your book being a house you have constructed, he says.
‘Do not be afraid to ‘tear the walls of the house down and build again’. He doesn’t see revision as spelling, changing the odd word or comma but his advice is to look again ‘Until you have explored all other options for your settings, plots, characters etc. To re – view, to see your story again with new eyes, make your story the very best you can’.
Put superglue in your internet modem socket.
Do you use social media to promote your book, if yes then which social networks do you like the most?
I use Facebook, Twitter and have joined a few forums such as Kindle Books and KDP and have recently created a blog. I enjoy using them all but as yet haven’t really quantified their value to me as an author.
Have you enrolled your book onto Amazon’s KDP Select and how have you found it?
I have enrolled my book onto Amazon KDP and as a new author find it invaluable. My strategy is to build readership by reviews and exposure I recognise that in the short term commercial success is an aspiration.
If you had to do it all over again what would you do differently?
I would have started keeping a diary a lot sooner it’s amazing how many thoughts and ideas slip away because we didn’t write them down. The catalyst for me was taking an Open University course in Creative Writing aside from the tools and feedback it gave me the confidence to showcase my work in public so I wish I had done this sooner.
What books do you like to read in your spare time?
I enjoy short stories, history, historical fiction and the classics however the Kindle free books have opened up a whole new world of reading for me. On reflection there probably aren’t any genres I wouldn’t read as I feel we do need to get away from our usual genre every now and again.
What do you feel is the most important stage of writing a book?
Obviously we can’t do anything until we have that first draft but after that I think the editing and review process is critical. The best advice I received on editing was from Kaplan. In his book he details the whole process of writing, notebooks, encouraging that first draft and of course revision. I like his use of analogies for example he says that the first draft is like building Everest. But he goes on to say ‘finish it no matter what. The goal is to achieve something tangible and then once you have built the mountain, climb it.’ (The editing and revision process).
How did you go about designing the cover for your book?
I had an image in my mind for my cover but experience has shown that you end up with something very different from your original concept but hopefully much better. Originally I looked at sites selling stock photographs but due to my limitations as a graphic designer I used a designer recommended on the KDP forum. He gave me various options and came at the project from very different angles than I had.
Are you writing or considering writing a follow-up to your book?
The advice I have received is that the more books you have out there the better. I intend to write a few more short stories, enough for an anthology and then publish that long awaited novel.
Do you have a day job (if so, what do you do?) or do you write full-time?
Yes I run my own business and also study the piano, so finding the time and the right mood to write is the most difficult. Like most others it would be great if we could just concentrate on getting those words down.
Where is your book available to buy?