Interview with Cally Jackson, author of THE BIG SMOKE

Today I am so excited to have Cally Jackson on the blog to talk about her debut novel, The Big Smoke. The Big Smoke is about Caera and Seb, two Australian teens moving to the big city to attend uni. (Uni! I wish we called it that here in America!) Like any book I’m excited to feature on the blog, though, this novel is about so much more than the one sentence plot line. So pick up a copy & read it. The Big Smoke is commercially available right now from several retailers (Amazon for Kindle, Smashwords for all e-editions).

But first, perhaps you should read my interview with Cally Jackson!

First, tell us a little about The Big Smoke in 35 words or fewer.

Ceara’s desperate for love; Seb’s desperate to get laid. Two strangers, both moving from small country towns to Brisbane for uni. Will they survive life in the big smoke or crumble under the pressure?

What’s your weekly writing schedule look like?

Writing schedule, what’s that? I’m very sporadic with my writing, which is probably why it’s taken me ten years to finish this novel! I’m planning to be much more structured with my second novel, but time will tell if I actually follow through with that.

Are you a panster or a plotter? Either way, what was your pre-planning like before you really began drafting The Big Smoke?

I’m a plotter, through and through. Before I started drafting The Big Smoke (initially called Entwined, then later Tangled), I did a great deal of research on several topics that I planned to include in the book but hadn’t had personal experience with (I’d name some of them but that would give too much away!).

I then mapped out all of the major plot points and ‘interviewed’ my characters to get to know them better. Before starting each scene, I’d outline the key actions that needed to happen within it. Then, finally, I’d write the scene.

I wrote almost the entire book in sequence, from ‘once upon a time’ all the way through until ‘The End’. Only rarely did I skip around. I guess my mind works quite linearly!

If you had to pick the best lesson you learned from writing The Big Smoke, what would that lesson be?

Ooh, this is a tough question, mainly because writing The Big Smoke taught me SO MANY lessons. Okay, I think the best lesson was that other people will be able to spot issues with your work that you can’t.

When I finished the first polished version, I thought it was awesome. Award winning, even. Then I got it professionally appraised and was totally shocked by the constructive criticism I received. It took me a while to digest the feedback, but I ended up completely re-writing the book based on the advice, and I’m so glad I did. The feedback I received on the new version proved that it was worth the effort.

You’re indie publishing The Big Smoke, and you’ve talked about that decision here (“Why I’ve Decided To Go Indie”) on your blog. How did that decision to indie publish affect the editing process for your book?

It meant that I was in charge of the editing process, rather than a traditional publishing house. Many self-published books are let down by a lack of editing, and I didn’t want The Big Smoke to fall into the category. To avoid that, I had seven beta readers provide feedback on both macro and micro levels, and made a raft of changes based on their suggestions.

Once I was happy with the novel, I sought out a professional copy editor. I received quotes and sample edits from a few different editors and found one that I was really happy with. His edits helped to tighten the prose and ensured everything was as realistic and plausible as possible at the micro level. Obviously, publishing independently also meant I had bear the cost of editing myself, but there’s no doubt that it was a worthwhile investment.

Answer this question from the perspective of one of your characters: “My most irrational fear is…”

Seb: My most irrational fear is… I’ll never make anything of my life and I’ll end up back in Mildah selling tractors like my dad.

Ceara: My most irrational fear is… no one will ever fall in love with me.

Now, answer the same question from your perspective: “My most irrational fear is…”

Cally: My most irrational fear is… my characters will come to life and make me pay for what I’ve put them through! 😉

So there it is, straight from Cally’s mouth — what it was like to write, edit, and self-publish her debut novel The Big Smoke. This is a remarkable novel, and I purchased my copy today! You should too — remember, you can get it at these online retailers for just $2.99: Amazon for Kindle, Smashwords for all e-editions.

Stay up on all things Cally Jackson and The Big Smoke by reading her blog and by following her on Twitter, finding her on GoodReads, and liking her author page on Facebook.

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