Ash Cameron talks to Kathleen Jones about being published by the Friday Project

Once upon a time you wrote something, passed it round your friends/family, edited it, looked up a few agents and/or publishers in the Writers and Artists’ Year Book, sent it off and hoped for some interest.   It was all very simple.  But things aren’t like that any more.  Most new writers workshop their stuff on the internet and many of them will opt to become an ‘indie’ author, publishing their work as an E-book and possibly opting for a paperback with Create Space or Lulu.  They network like mad on the internet and hope for some interest.  That’s also relatively simple.  But .....

The world of independent publishing is becoming ever more complicated as traditional publishing houses realise the potential of this new ocean of talent. Some of them are trying to hoover up would-be authors, offering expensive publishing packages that have attracted a lot of criticism, others are using the E-book world as a slushpile, to cream off the top.  Harper Collins bought up The Friday Project, headed by entrepreneurial Scott Pack with a view to seeking out the best of the indie scene - a kind of bridge-head between the worlds of the e-book and traditional publishing.

Ash Cameron - whose book ‘Confessions of an Undercover Cop’ is due to be published on the 12th of September - was one of my most talented creative writing students, so I was very glad to see that she was one of those plucked out of the cyber-sphere by Scott Pack.  She’s published a lot of short stories and is also bringing out her own non-fiction E-book soon.  I thought I’d like to talk to her about her experiences as a new author in what is now a very confusing business.  It’s interesting that, even though Ash has a traditional publishing contract now, she’s still intending to E-publish some of her work. Like it or loathe it, as Electric Authors, we live in a hybrid world in which both systems co-exist.

It’s the dream of a lot of new Indie authors to be picked up and published by the Friday Project - how did it happen for you?

Twitter. I gradually built up my writing profile and interacted with lots of other writers, wannabes and published, and people connected to the literary world. I promoted my writing successes without being pushy but more importantly, I got to know my peers by networking on a personal level. I built up my genuine online persona with an emphasis on writing. One Sunday morning I was in discussion with Scott Pack and a few others about some scandal in the newspapers. I mentioned something from years ago when I worked undercover and a few days later Scott approached me and asked if I’d like to consider writing Undercover Cop. It wasn’t a done deal. I had to submit a couple of potential chapters and a summary of the book to the panel at Harper Collins so I had a lot of work to do. Thankfully they liked it and offered me a contract. I was very lucky. 

 ‘Confessions of an Undercover Cop’ is a great title!  Can you tell us a little bit about the content?  And how you came to write it?

The Confessions series is the successful model of the Friday Project. The other books are GP, Male Nurse, Taxi Driver, Pc and Showbiz Journalist. Undercover Cop fits in great and I think it’s a sexy title, interesting and intriguing, especially as it’s written from a female perspective. Scott wanted short and snappy interesting stories. I had twenty years experience to draw from so I brainstormed everything I thought I could write about, then sat down and wrote. Some made the cut and others didn’t. Each story ranges from five hundred to two thousand words. There’s an eclectic mix of humour, sadness, realism and experience. They are all based on truths though names have been changed to protect the guilty and the innocent. 

I know you lead a very busy life, with a family and a business to run.  How do you manage to fit writing into your life?

If I stopped to think about when or where I can write, I wouldn’t be able to fit it in. I pinch time from everywhere and try to use it wisely. I carry notebooks and jot down ideas when out of the house. I neglect housework, but not the kids. They always know where to find me - at my desk. I don’t watch much TV and even when I do, I’m still thinking about ideas or stories. I travel by train a lot and that’s a great time to write, to catch up with social media to keep me current, and for editing and reading. I’m fortunate that I can write anywhere, anytime. 

Have you always wanted to be a writer?  What was the first step in trying to realise this ambition?

Ever since I could read I’ve wanted to write. I first said it when I was five years old. I was told people like us read books but didn’t write them. Why not? I used to write stories on little scraps of paper. I stored them in a little battered brown suitcase but when we moved house my parents threw it away. I cried for years! 
I stopped writing fiction in my early twenties when I had a crisis of confidence but I put a lot of energy into writing accurate, relevant, concise reports and case files. I loved statement taking because it really honed my writing skills. I was commended a number of times on the quality and integrity of my files by barristers and judges and my own supervisors. 
When I left the police force the first thing I did was start to write for me again. I took a number of courses with the Open University because I was serious about doing it right. I wanted to understand the techniques and the craft. It isn’t for everyone but it was good for me. Once I built up confidence I started to enter writing competitions and I went from there. 

Has living in Scotland influenced what you write in any way?  I’m thinking about Tartan Noir, Scottish prizes like the Dundee award, and the huge number of successful crime writers (some of them members of Authors Electric) who live there. Is it a more 'nurturing' environment for writers?

I think Scotland is a marvellous place to write and to base fiction. It’s rich in folklore and is full of interesting places and people. There’s a large element of space too. Living here means I can switch off entirely and time is suspended when I write. It’s not necessary to have that but I feel fortunate to live in such an inspiring place. Scotland has produced some amazing writers. I love the influences from Ian Rankin, Val McDermaid, Denise Mina, Stuart McBride … the list goes on, contemporary and historically. I’ve had the opportunity to attend lots of writing festivals and events and that benefits networking and it’s really stimulating. We’ve got the Edinburgh Book Festival, Bloody Scotland in Stirling, Aye Write! in Glasgow, Cromarty Crime and Thriller weekend, Pitlochry Winter Words, and many more. Scotland is a very creative place. A lot of well-known writers take the time to talk to fans and novice writers, perhaps because the venues are smaller and more intimate, whereas festivals in larger cities are often too big and have large crowds. I’ve found it a very supportive experience to be a writer living in Scotland.

You also write short fiction - have you found it tough getting published?

It has taken time to hone the craft and I’m still learning. It’s nine years since I wrote my first short story on a computer, many more since I wrote on a little scrap of paper. Today I’ve had nearly 150 stories published in print and online, many as competition wins. It’s a tough road to travel to be published and there are a lot of knock backs. I could have given up many times. Persistence and striving to write the best you can is key whilst remembering that we are all different with different styles and different things to say. Ultimately, I have always wanted to do it. You just have to keep on keeping on and you will succeed. I’ll soon have that book on the shelves. It doesn’t matter that it’s not my real name. I know it’s mine. 

What do you think of the new Indie Author scene?

I think it’s fascinating and wonderful and a little bit scary. There are many models and greater opportunities for writers so why not try it? It’s risky but I know quite a number of authors who successfully publish on kindle. They work hard, are in charge of their own PR and reap the rewards, but it doesn’t work like that for all. I think quality is the key. If you make it the best you can, work on the editing, and can put the whole package together, there’s a real chance of making it as an Indie and for many, it’s definitely the way forward.

What are your plans now?  Do you have a new book on the go?

I’m working on a crime novel, which I hope could lead to a series. 

I have plans to publish a non-fiction book on kindle. It’s about a little known medical condition and as it’s a niche market, mainstream publishers won’t take it on. I think it would be ideal for e-book publishing and as there are many sufferers world-wide, they will have access to it, too.

AND - if Undercover Cop does well, perhaps they’ll allow me to write more confessions … 

Thanks Ash and the very best of luck for the book launch!
No biographical details about the author - Ash Cameron remains under cover!!  And, if you want to check out the book, it's available from the 12th of September. 

If you like historical fiction, check out my novel, The Sun's Companion, recommended in the Guardian and on Awesome Indies, and currently on offer for only 77p/99c


Chris Longmuir said…
Fascinating, Ash. I wish you well. The book title sounded familiar and when I checked it out I found I'd downloaded the ebook in August. I really must get to grips with my TBR pile!
Kathleen Jones said…
Interesting, Chris, that Ash rates living in Scotland so highly - obviously a creative place to be!
Al said…
It sounds like another case of an "overnight success" after years of hard work.
Thank you both for an interesting interview.
glitter noir said…
All the best, Ash. I warmed to your account of your use of Twitter. When so many use it wrongly--nonstop repeats of the same old shout-outs--you created a presence and interacted with others. The right way to go.
Anonymous said…
Thank you all. I really hope that those who read my book enjoy it. It's real, not sugar coated, and I think it's honest. I know a lot of people think some cops aren't. For me, this book is how it was.
Reb - Twitter - I love it! You can really make it work for you and some people don't get it, and others don't get the hang of it. I really enjoy the 'real-time' it gives over Facebook. Both have their merits and downfalls. For me, they are marvellous tools.

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