Wow, it's been three months since our first interview, and I thought, on the eve of The Black Lotus's August 6th release, now would be a great time to catch up with you. So thank you for taking the time to answer some follow-up questions and thanks again for letting me hijack your blog.
I'm trying to get that tricky balance correct: promoting without being annoying. My publisher has set up a lot of interviews with bloggers and reporters for website and newspaper articles, so I'm busy doing that at the moment. I spent last night writing the content for a cool competition my publisher, Chicken House, is running. I'm also busy organising my launch - sending out invitations, making posters, creating origami black lotus flowers (119!), meeting people, organising cake and wine, etc. Today, I got my 'head-in-the-hole' poster back from the printers. I wasn't sure how it'd work, but it turned out well. Basically, people at the launch can take photos of themselves as a Black Lotus ninja. I plan on taking it to events, too. I think kids will like it. In fact, I might just take it everywhere from now on!
Oh, that's so cute. I think kids will love it, too. However, I find it both delightful and shocking to think of a writer ordering cake for his own book launch and folding 119 origami flowers. It really contrasts with the image in my mind of the diligent, slightly underfed writer laboring over the typewriter in total isolation. Are you enjoying the promotional, more social aspects of writerly duties? What have you most enjoyed and what are you most looking forward to as you continue to promote TBL?
Mostly, I'm pretty happy with being a 'diligent, slightly underfed writer labouring over the typewriter in total isolation' (without the underfed part! I like to be fed) but I'm also enjoying the promotional bits. In many ways, it's easier than writing, though I am nervous about the book launch because I'm not a spotlight kind of guy. That's perhaps why the social media promotion is a little easier for me. I possibly also suffer from a typically Irish thing of not wanting to be seen to get too big for his boots, which means I'm often reluctant to talk about my novel, unless someone asks. I really enjoyed making my book trailer, my posters, and the Chicken House competition because that's what I love to do - make stuff. I suppose the thing I'm looking forward to most is meeting kids who have read my book and hearing their thoughts. I've had plenty of reviews from adults but none from kids yet, so that will be fun when it happens.
I agree. I think meeting your young readers will be a blast. But gosh, my concept of a writer kicking back after
his book goes to the publisher is shot! You've taken on a lot of your own promotion. Is this something you, your publisher, and your agent all discussed as your release date neared? What guidance are you receiving from them? Do they have to approve your marketing ideas? What is your publisher doing independently of you? I suppose I just want to understand the division of labor and know whether or not all your hard promotional work is the norm.
In the past, writers were just expected to write, but now promotion is a big part of the job. Chicken House did send me on an author training day to help me prepare for events, so that was really useful. But no, I didn't really sit down and discuss it with my agent and publisher, though I do keep them abreast of what I'm doing/planning. In this day and age, promotion goes with the territory, and I'm happy to do it. I mean, you can't expect others to promote your book if you won't do it yourself. My publisher however, has been hugely supportive and has approved of most my ideas. They've organised book reviews, articles for websites and newspapers, interviews and competitions. But at the end of the day, they have three other books publishing on the same day as mine, so they can't only be plugging The Black Lotus. Is the amount of promo I'm doing the norm? I think so. In fact, a lot of authors do much more!
Your book launch is coming up in four days. I'm embarrassed to say I've never been to a launch. Please tell me about yours.
Well, it's going to be held in a really nice independent bookshop in Temple Bar, in the centre of Dublin. To be honest, I'm not sure what it's going to be like as I haven't been to many launches. But I've invited lots of people - friends, family, pupils from my school, colleagues and lots of bookish people too - writers, editors, booksellers, and generally people with an interest in books. Most excitingly of all, I'll be meeting some people that I've known for a long time online, but have never met in the flesh! That's going to be cool! One of them is Eamon, who is part of the critique group that you and I are members of. I'd love if you and Suja could be there too, but I know you'll be there in spirit.
My publisher is flying over from the UK so I'm hoping he'll speak. The keynote speaker will be Robert Dunbar, a renowned commentator on children's literature. I suppose I'll have to speak too, but this will be short, because public speaking is not my forte. I'll probably do a reading too, and sign some books. Apart from that, I hope people will have a glass of wine, some cake and a good time. I'll be decorating the shop with 'Name That Famous Ninja' posters for people to identify celebrities in ninja attire. I'll also be leaving origami black lotus flowers around the shop for people to take home with them. Each flower comes complete with a unique ninja name and superpower!
But that's it really. I'm keeping it simple, hoping that people are happy to mingle and chat.
That's it really? What do you mean? It sounds fantastic. I have to admit, I did just feel a little twinge of jealousy that Eamon will be there and that he'll be having cake. On your Twitter page last week, you posted a photo of your book on the shelves of a REAL book store. What was that like?
It was pretty cool seeing The Black Lotus on the shelves. What was even cooler was that the book was spotted by my wife and kids. It's not officially published until August 6th so I was really surprised to see it 'in the wild'. My kids were chuffed too. My eldest has read it and said it was 'good, but not as good as Harry Potter'. She was promptly sent to bed without her supper after that remark!
But yes, everyone is pretty excited about the book, often more-so than me! My pupils all wrote books in school this year, and as I was the only one who hadn't, I think some of them will come along to the launch armed with a red pen to get their own back on me!
Nah, you'll be the coolest teacher in school! You've worked for years on The Black Lotus, worked to find an agent, and then a publisher. You've seen your cover develop, seen your book on the shelves, seen some great reviews. It's been quite the process. The official release date of The Black Lotus is in four more days. What are you thinking right now at this very moment?
I'm excited, but worried too. What if people don't like it? What if I get bad reviews? What if it doesn't sell? I think all writers are plagued by the same worries and self doubt. So, nervousness and excitement in equal measure!
I'm incredibly excited too. It's going to be so much fun watching people discover your work. I can't wait. But I do have to ask. When was the last time you read The Black Lotus and when you did, were you still in editing mode? I guess what I want to know is: Does the desire to edit ever end???
The last time I read it was just before it went to print, so I wasn't allowed to make any changes, I was just searching for errors. But yes, you could edit forever. However, once your finished book arrives, there's no more you can do, so you need to move on.
What a relief to know it's possible to put a book to bed and get on with the next one. By the way, what is your next one?
I'm working on a novel I started some time ago, but it's far too early to say any more than it's for 9+ and has two points of views.
Cool. I look forward to reading it soon. Kieran, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. It's been an amazing journey for you, and you've been so wonderful to share it with us. We all wish you the best--lots of good reviews, lots of readers, and lots more books to follow.