The Interviews + Guest Posts

Superheroes and blog competitions

9 Comments 15 November 2012

Cadburys Heroes limited edition tin

You’re holding out for one, right? (sorry…couldn’t help myself!)

As promised, the first of my November blog competitions! The theme for this one is heroes.

A fellow American expat, Michael Harling, author of the very funny Postcards From Across the Pond, one of the two who ran the famous Pond Parleys blog (along with Toni Hargis, Expat Mum) has published another book. I’ve just finished my copy and I thought as I have a lot of readers who are also writers, it’d be fun to interview Mike about this crazy, but very entertaining book.

Here’s what it says on the back of the book:

“Rachel Davenport–former child prodigy, world-class gymnast and Miss Teen England–has retired from public life and lives anonymously in a small town, working as a clerk for a travel agency. By night, however, Rachel is a self-styled crime-fighter, seeking to right the wrongs inflicted on people who cannot help themselves.

But when her first mission goes horribly awry she finds herself pursued, not merely by the media, but by the police and an assortment of criminals who want her silenced. To preserve her anonymity, as well as her life, Rachel must prove to the police that she is one of the good guys and keep one step ahead of the bad guys, all the while avoiding nosey neighbours, holding onto her job and juggling two would-be suitors.”

Michelle Garrett: A story about a former Miss Teen England who craves obscurity, yet decides to become a Wonder Woman style superhero as an alter ego… how did you get inspiration for this amazing idea?

Michael Harling: Believe it or not, this entire novel is based on a business card. Some years ago, while booking a holiday, the travel agent handed me her card, which read: “Rachel Davenport, International Travel Consultant.” I thought that sounded like a superhero and proposed to write a book about it. All the rest sprang from that.

Incidentally, the real Rachel Davenport is aware of—and has read—the book and she is thrilled by the whole thing. And she still works at the same travel agency.


MG: As someone who is very familiar with both the UK and the UK, why did you choose to set the story in the UK?

MH: When I got serious about writing novels again, I originally thought I would base them in the US, but I found it was easier to research locations and background details in Britain simply because of proximity. I also felt I might be too steeped in British culture to convincingly set a book in the US, especially if I had a character “take the piss” out of someone, or talk about his “flat.” That said, I did let a few Americanisms slip into Finding Rachel Davenport.


MG: Are you planning a series?

MH: Sort of. Finding Rachel Davenport is not the first novel I have written while living in the UK. I initially wrote The Brighton Virgins, which is still unpublished, and in that novel, I introduced Alex Marsh, who plays a key role in Finding Rachel Davenport. Another, more minor character in Finding Rachel Davenport—PCSO Doyle—is the protagonist in the novel I am currently working on.

I do not yet have full-length books planned for Rachel, but I expect she will appear in the other books as a minor player. These three women—Alexis Marsh, Rachel Davenport and PCSO Ellen Doyle form a sort of trilogy about Horsham. I often say I am attempting to do for Horsham what Peter James has done for Brighton, but what I’m really doing for Horsham is what William Kennedy did for Albany. (I know; that’s why I use the Peter James analogy.)


MG: What did you love the most about writing Finding Rachel Davenport?

MH: This was a fun book to write. It’s a little out of my comfort zone and the plot was so whacky and off-the-wall that I had a great time thinking up ridiculous ways for Rachel to get herself into more trouble.


MG: Any tips for people who would like to self publish their novel?

MH: Yes: DON’T

Unless you are a marketing expert with a lot of time on your hands or an established author with a back list and a ready-made following, you are very unlikely to sell more than a few dozen books as a self-publisher. So go the old fashioned route; send your work to agents and publishers.

As a bonus, dealing with industry professionals will help improve your work, and even a small publisher’s platform will larger than yours.

My first book, Postcards From Across the Pond, was published by a small press and, although it wasn’t on the bestseller lists, it sold fairly well. When the time came to put out another book—the imaginatively titled More Postcards From Across the Pond—the self-publishing craze was in full-swing and I was itching to see what it was all about. So instead of going with my publisher, I did it myself. It was a great learning experience, but it was also a great deal of work and, in the end, the second book (which most reviewers agreed was better than the first one) did not sell very well. By doing it myself, I didn’t give my book the chance it deserved.

To continue the saga, when I returned to my publisher with the final book in the Postcards Trilogy, Postcards From Ireland, I found they had changed owners and were no longer interested. So I self-published that book and moved on. To date, it has sold only a handful of copies.

Learning from this experience, I determined to avoid self-publishing my novels. It took over a year, but Prospera Publishing finally picked up the manuscript and published it under their Opis Imprint as an ebook. And even though they are a small publisher, working with them made Finding Rachel Davenport a much better book.

So submit, revise, repeat. Eventually your work will find a home.

Thank you Michael!


And now for the competition:

To win a signed copy of Finding Rachel Davenport and a cute, limited edition double decker tin of Cadbury Heroes, all you have to do is leave a comment below.

I will post anywhere in the world. If you prefer a Kindle edition of the book, you will receive a voucher for a free download and I will still post your limited edition tin of Heroes anywhere in the world.

All comments must be received by midnight GMT Monday 19 November 2012 (that’s this coming Monday!). The winner will be chosen from the comments on this post by and announced Tuesday 20 November as an edit update on this blogpost. I will email the winner.

That’s it–easy peasy!

Edit: The winner of the book and tin of Heroes is Trish, Mum’s Gone To… Congratulations Trish!! x


Your Comments

9 Comments so far

  1. Louise says:

    I really want to read this book now. So, win or not, I think I’m buying. Some great advice here from Michael…

    The chocolate isn’t really for me though….
    Haha, who am I kidding! EVERYTHING about this competition is amazing!

    Louise xo

  2. Trish says:

    Chocolate and a good book. Perfect combination!

    Interesting to read Michael’s view on self-publishing.

  3. Strictly Jen says:

    Sounds like an interesting book and I always enjoyed Pond Parleys!

  4. Expat Mum says:

    Love this book so I can highly recommend it. It is a really whacky plot and I found myself saying “I cannot believe I can’t put this book down”. (Obviously I’m not entering the competition.)
    Thanks for the shout out BTW.

  5. Kerstin Peterson says:

    I would love to win a copy of the book and try the Heros.

  6. Tammy says:

    Thank you so much for having another competition. The book sounds like so much fun! I hope I win!!!!!

  7. EmmaK says:

    ooh sounds exciting count me in! I’d love to live a double life but I don’t really have the energy but it I did it would be Gourmet Chef by Day and Bond Girl by night!

  8. SusieQ says:

    Might have to put this one on my Christmas list, along with the chocolates:)

  9. The Fool says:

    Well this sounds like a fun book so please put my name in the hat :)

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An American writer in the UK for over 20 years. Lives in Essex. A pretend extrovert.

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