I feel so honoured to get to share with you a behind the scenes of Number Eight Crispy Chicken, a novel by Sara Neofield. Here is the book trailer:
What inspired you to write Number Eight Crispy Chicken?
I was inspired to pick up writing again after a long hiatus when I was stranded in an airport due to a cancelled flight. The resultant book – about a hotel inspector – was terrible, but it rekindled my love of writing.
The next time I was stranded in an airport, I wrote about the experience, and wondered what character might benefit from being in that situation. That’s when I hit upon the idea of an immigration minister, trapped in an airport.
For years, the right to seek asylum and the fair, compassionate treatment of asylum seekers has been an interest of mine. But in my conversations with others, I found there were other, competing stories out there, which demonised those seeking refuge. To my dismay, otherwise kind, decent people seemed to believe the narratives peddled by those in power who seek to divide us.
The overall goal of my writing is to use humour to get readers to engage with the kinds of topics that are hugely important, but which we might otherwise ignore. Sometimes the world’s problems can seem insurmountable. Like there’s nothing we can do, so why even bother.
That’s why hearing that someone read my book, and changed their mind even a little about, for example, treating our fellow human beings with compassion, brings me great joy.
You enjoy travelling – which countries have you enjoyed visiting most?
Since leaving my job as a university lecture a few years ago, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit sixty different countries. Every single one has taught me something.
I think every country has its strengths that others could learn from – I especially love visiting unique museums that teach you something about one aspect of a place in depth, like the rainwater ‘theme park’ in India, or the butter museum in Ireland.
Choosing one or two places I’ve enjoyed visiting most is really hard, but Japan always holds a special place in my heart since I spent a year on exchange there when I was growing up, and I love to go back and visit my “second family”.
What genre is Number Eight Crispy Chicken this and do you read similar books?
I would consider Number Eight Crispy Chicken to be a sort of literary, satirical book, or perhaps even a social novel. I can’t say I’ve read any books exactly like it (which is why I had to write it!) but I was inspired by the works of Robert Tressell, Margaret Atwood, Charles Dickens, and Kurt Vonnegut.
One early reader told me Number Eight Crispy Chicken reminded her of 1984, which of course thrilled me! In terms of humour, I love British comedic writing (I’m a big fan of Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and of course, PG Wodehouse!)
How long did this novel take from the first idea to publishing?
From the moment I started tapping out words in the airport hotel which bears a striking semblance to the one Peter enjoys, to the release date of January 2020, three years, almost to the day!
Why did you choose to self publish?
I have wanted to be an author ever since I can remember. When I started school, my class was tasked with creating fabric representations of ourselves in the future for a quilt. I created a rather detailed rendition of myself as an author, painstakingly drawing in all of the individual pages in the stack of books my future self had apparently written. Unfortunately, one of the mums helping the class deemed it ‘too fiddly’ to cut out of cotton, and suggested something easier, like a checkout operator at Target instead.
As things go, I didn’t end up working at Target (which is probably a good thing, considering the only Target in my hometown closed down!). But I did end up writing a book. Several, actually.
After completing my PhD in Linguistics, I wrote and edited a number of academic books, book chapters, and journal articles. While I still love research, my heart was still with fiction, which was why, after a number of years of hard-core saving and investing, when my husband and I finally quit our jobs to travel the world, I returned to my first love, creative writing.
As for why I became an indie author specifically… Like many authors, I began by sending my manuscript out to publishers. I knew I didn’t want to send my work to a large publisher from the start, but I became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of even a small publisher having control over my work as time went on. While I completely respect the work of those in the publishing industry, I wanted to write something a bit different. It was a feeling I’d experienced before, and I knew that I had to be brave and go down the indie path.
Please share a snippet “teaser” of your novel?
Peter shoved his way to the front of the queue, and with a flash of his Priority Clearance card, tossed his luggage onto the belt. As the X-ray machine swallowed his bag, airport security eyed Peter’s cardboard tube. ‘You’ll have to open that up,’ the agent prodded at the sticky-taped plastic lid.
‘It’s just plans.’
Peter peeled off the tape, his stubby fingernails scraping against virgin cardboard. The plastic lid popped, like on a bottle of soda.‘See?’
‘You’ll have to remove the contents.’
‘This is ridiculous!’ The new security measures meant Peter had needed to arrive a full three hours early to be metal detected, swabbed, patted down, and sniffed. Surely his Priority Clearance status should afford him better treatment. He’d have to ask Percy when he got back to the office.
‘Government regulation,’ the agent repeated, bearing his yellowed, broken teeth, rivered with cracks. The sight almost made Peter wish he hadn’t voted against the Dental Care Act.
I’ve got a number of projects on the go (I’ve always been a hopeless multitasker!) but the project I’m most excited about is called Propaganda Wars.
Propaganda Wars is about cousins who, growing up in a city separated by ideology, split into two opposing countries by a formidable wall, one day meet – and how they perceive life on the other side.
It’s inspired in part by my travels through the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and modern-day socialist Asia – countries which, when I was born, were out of reach – and in part by the surreal world of today’s fake news, ‘reality’ shows, ‘social’ media and hyper consumerism, and the firewalls and bubbles of today’s internet landscape.
What is a typical day in the life of author Sarah?
Since leaving my job to travel, my ‘typical day’ is really quite variable, but it usually involves budget accommodation, finding something to cook, learning to speak or at least read a bit of the language around me, and sometimes, a long-distance bus or train trip.
I enjoy reading and writing (of course!) but also exploring in my travels – both usual sightseeing activities, and exploring abandoned places. To date, some of my favourite explorations have been an abandoned theme park, tuberculosis hospital, bobsleigh track, and an airplane graveyard.
Tell us an interesting fact about your novel?
I read over a hundred books, articles and websites in order to research Number Eight Crispy Chicken. While the story is light-hearted, and the characters and institutions depicted are entirely fictitious, the policies and events presented are sadly grounded in real life. (You can find out more at https://www.sarahneofield.com/resources/)
Where can we buy it and find out more about you?
Number Eight Crispy Chicken is available on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, B&N and Apple.
You can find out more about me on my website sarahneofield.com where you’ll find a free sample of the book, reading guide, and resources.
This year, I am going to be publishing my debut novel. I will be blogging about how I’m getting on but the subscribers to my newsletter will often be the first to know big news and get exclusive offers.
I can see me sharing this on Instagram but in my newsletter I plan to share what went into the making of the cover.
After the professional developmental edit (and self-edit), I want a last round of Betas to gauge how readers respond to the new version. These Betas will be the final seal of approval before I send my novel off for a line edit.
If you want to be amongst the first to read Ocean Heart then being a subscriber will tell you how and when you can become a Beta Reader.
Once all is done, I will be looking for readers willing to write an honest review of my novel for release.
I’m hoping to share positive quotes from the reviews to help reach potential buyers once Ocean Heart is released.
I will be preparing a Press Kit for bloggers containing things such as the cover image, blurb and my author pic and bio for them to use.
This will definitely be confirmed in my newsletter. Subscribers will be kept up to date with my publishing timeline. If for any reason there is a delay, subscribers will be the first to know.
Where to buy
Subscribers will know what formats Ocean Heart is available in and where it can be bought. I’m hoping to make it as easy as possible for everyone to access in a format that works for them.
Book Deals and Freebies
Whenever there is a special deal or discount, I will let my subscribers know. I also plan to create some bookish items to go with my books and hope to plan giveaways. Some of which will only be available to newsletter subscribers.
I have ideas to share with subscribers free short stories or poems from time to time. These may later become available to others and may even cost money. But, you, a subscriber, will get it first and for free!
My news letter will often share details about what I have been up to but I hope in the future I will be able to tell my subscribers about what is coming up.
It still feels scary to think about but I want to be brave and do author signings and talks. I also enjoyed doing Facebook Lives last year and would love to let you know if I am hosting any other online events.
Want to know more?
I manage my newsletter using Mail Chimp and currently post towards the end of every other month. My next newsletter is planned for 25 Feb 2020.
The reason I send it out on the last Tuesday of every other month. This is to enable me time to write the letter and to do cool writery or bookish stuff to tell you about.
There is a possibility I will mail you more frequently, for example if there is important news like a discount that cannot wait until my next newsletter.
How to subscribe?
It is simple, just fill in this form to give your details and permission and you will be signed up.
Don’t worry, if you change your mind, you can unsubscribe but I cannot imagine you would want to.
I can’t remember when I downloaded this book. It was just there on my Kindle, unread. It was like finding a hidden treasure. It became the perfect companion to read during the late night feeds with Aria.
The novel quickly sets up the scene of the three main crowds. It is told told from two points of view, Hannah’s and Cody’s.
Hannah attends a private school. She is only able to go due to a scholarship she achieved thanks to her high grades. She works hard to keep her place and never breaks the rules.
Then there is the ‘it’ crowd made up of the rich kids of the most influential families. Cody was once part of this crowd but following the scandal where his pregnant high school sweet heart died in a drink driving accident, he is now an out cast.
Hannah realises she is going to finish school without ever doing anything wild or having a boyfriend. She sets her sights on Harrison, the high school king and famous for his exclusive parties. To get invited you need to be given a key.
Considering that Cody knows the ‘it’ crowd but is no longer part of it, she singles him out to ask for his help. Cody tries to talk her out of her plan. He warns her the clique are not nice people but when Hannah resolves to blackmail him, he decides she might fit right in.
Hannah thinks Cody is a safe perfect practice boyfriend because there is no way she would fall for him. Cody teaches her the rules of the elite and helps her practice her kissing. Cody is rich and even pays for her to have a full makeover and wardrobe upgrade.
Cody pretends to be her boyfriend. To keep up the pretence they have to spend a lot of time together. They have their first kiss and more. Cody continues to help Hannah to get noticed by the ‘it’ crowd and it works.
Now Hannah is being invited to hang out with the girls eager to gossip about Cody. They want her to see the monster he is as they blame him for the death of their friend. Being in the spotlight attracts the attention of Harrison and it looks like Hannah is going to get her wish.
Hannah discovers that money, popularity and wealth isn’t as glamorous as she anticipated. She discovers some ugly truths but is it too late to make things right?
I absolutely loved this book. I wanted Aria to wake up in the night for her milk so I could read some more. It was fast paced. I loved the world building. The twisted ‘it’ crowd reminded me of Cruel Intentions. I love the misunderstandings and conflict between the two and the relationship was believable.
Both characters were well developed and I really liked both of them – which is a tricky thing to do in dual points. I would definitely be interested in reading more by Christina Benjamin,
This post will share my ambition to traditionally publish and why that dream has changed to wanting to be an indie author.
The Traditional Author Dream
For years my dream was to be a published author. From the moment I realised someone wrote the story I was reading, I wanted to be that someone.
Back then, the only way to publish was to look inside a similar book for the contact details of the publisher and send your manuscript to them with a covering letter in the post.
Since then, things have changed. Many publishers won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts so you first need to get a Literary Agent. Most places won’t accept manuscripts by post so you now must send the document by email or using a form on their website. Their websites inform you of everything they want and don’t want. Most places now want:
A polished manuscript
A personalised covering letter (body of email) saying why you choose them
A synopsis (that fits on one page)
A marketing plan
And social media links.
Sounds like a lot! And often you need a good pitch to even get invited to send all that to them in the first place.
That’s not to add that rejection is high.
The Different Publishing Paths
As a result, it is no surprise that people have come up with solutions to this madness. One alternative method is to self publish and another is vanity publishing.
Here is a little info graphic on the basic differences between the different paths for novel publishing (from my interpretation):
Vanity Publishing is not for me. I don’t have the upfront costs and I want more control.
Traditional Publishing is no longer for me. I have a lot of admiration for people that are fortunate enough to get their Literary Agent and publisher. It instantly gives their novel validation that it is good enough to print. And, you know that it will have been processed by a number of industry professionals before going to print. But, I’m bored of querying.
Ready to publish
I have waited long enough and now I realise I don’t need someone else to say yes when I can give myself permission to publish today.
In recent years, the only requests I have had have been from ‘publishers’ I don’t trust. They requested my novel after a pitch event or via Instagram. Their websites were newly created and had no details about authors or books they have worked on/with or even who the agents or editors at the company are. I passed.
It has taken me years to find the money to pay for an editor myself. I need to pay as you go. I also like the idea that the sales will go to me.
After all the time I have put into it, I want my novel to be the way I want it. I want a say over the formatting and the cover. I want control.
I don’t want this to be my only novel. It is important that my novel is a quality product. I want to be confident and proud of my book. I want readers to enjoy it and want more. Once I publish, I don’t want to stop.
Self publishing is scary. But, I’m ready. And, I hope you will enjoy following me in my journey to publication.
I can’t believe it has been 10 years since I first wrote my novel. I’ve written countless other novels but this one I felt had potential. This one, I decided to take seriously.
2009 and 2010
It was Christmas 2009 and I was off work for the holidays when the idea for a novel, about a redhead teen with no idea she is a mermaid discovers she has powers, hit me. I wanted it to be like a modern Little Mermaid.
Once I sat at my PC and started to write I was unable to stop. Without an outline, it was like I was possessed, I struggled to sleep, to eat… I felt anxious if I wasn’t writing Drift.
My fiancé got worried. He saw the sudden change in me and urged me to take a break, to visit family.
But, I couldn’t not write. So I lied to appease him. Pretended to go out, then sneaked back once he had gone to see his own family. It was like having a secret wiring affair. But after an intense week, the first 60k words were written.
I share my novel with anyone willing to read it. My novel was on WeBook where I developed a supportive group of fans. They were a huge confidence boost and we had our own little group to chat about my stories!
It is laughable now but I edited my novel in 2010 and started querying. Surprisingly, I did get some requests. It is surprisingly because now I look back at that early version and see how it wasn’t finished. At the time, I thought it was ready.
My fan had some valuable feedback for me, “You can’t end the story like that!” At first, I saw that as excitement for the next book in the series and began writing Wipeout, but slowly it dawned on me that they were right.
Promise and Deliver
I learnt an important lesson. Readers will develop certain expectations of your story and you must deliver on those.
Version 1 ended with Jace winking at Fern and there being the ‘suggestion’ they were about to get together. But, fans had read for 60k words. They wanted to see Fern achieve her happily ever after and a ‘wink’ was not the grande finale they had invested their time for.
2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
Early 2011, I was distracted by wedding preparations as my June wedding date got nearer. Then, I desperately wanted a baby. We were also trying to move house and the recession meant the value of my home was dropping every month, loosing the equity needed to move.
But 2013, we sold our house, bought a lovely family home and I had my son. With everything falling into place I would like to say I returned to my novel… but my baby boy was the biggest distraction of all.
Stupidly I thought being off work with a baby would free me up to write more but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Noah was not a chilled out baby. I spent his first year keeping up with his hunger, entertaining him and sleeping whenever I could.
Have realistic expectations
Sadly WeBook was no longer the thriving community it once was. All my fans had moved on, possibly grown up, and I had lost them through inactivity. I had to find a new source of feedback. I joined Movella, Figment and Wattpad.
Wattpad became my new favourite. I began editing Drift and Wipeout and shared other novels and created some poetry collections.
For Drift, I changed the ending so Lily (formerly Fern) is asked out by Jace (formerly Sam). I removed the parts by Denny (Jace’s mum) – she gave an outsider perspective of Lily’s unusual upbringing.
Th sequel Wipeout was also told from Lily’s viewpoint and had a few part’s told by Kiara – she was able to show what was going on with Murray. The sequel wasn’t coming to me as easy as Drift had and I was falling in love with Kiara…
2017 and 2018
2017 started with my employer going into administration. I had worked for the company for over 10 years. It scared me, not knowing where my next pay cheque would come from. With bills to pay, I had to find work fast and job hunting became my new priority.
Once I found a job, I felt a little disappointed in myself. I felt I had wasted an opportunity to spend time with my son as I now worked more hours. I realised how I wasn’t prioritising my dream. My profession is a job, not my passion.
Make it a priority
Whilst job hunting, I thought HR and PR work looked appealing but didn’t have the knowledge employers wanted. So in September 2017, I told my employer I was interested in doing the CIPD HR qualification and to my surprise they were willing to support me. I learnt, if you don’t ask the answer will never be yes.
In November 2017, I found out I was pregnant. I was over the moon and in a much better place.
Passing my course, doing well in my job and having a baby were all super important. But, I no longer wanted to treat writing as a hobby. I knew how busy my life would be once Aria was here so I became determined to edit and query before her arrival. My goal was to be signed by an agent by August 2018 (Aria’s due date).
I learnt knew ways to query. I developed my pitch and took part in Twitter events, I found out about Agent 1-2-1s and worked on improving my synopsis. Despite getting requests, I never got offered representation.
In 2018, I edited Drift by removing the parts told by Gwyn (Lily’s mum) – she did some foretelling using her crystal ball. I also decided to scrap Wipeout. I took parts from the sequel and put it into Drift, Glide or cut it out completely.
My goal was to finish editing Drift and Glide. I began by restructure my novel using Save The Cat Writes a Novel. It started off a a way to check my plot and pacing but it soon became apparent that I needed to pull the whole novel a part. It was very intimidating but by the end I had a better novel and a brand new ending. Now there was the highs and lows, romance and I had delivered on the promise of an epic battle. This novel was so different from my original idea of a modern Little Mermaid and I needed a new title, Jewel of the Sea. I also renamed Glide as Diamond in the Sky.
I tried new ways of querying my novel. I pitched on Twitter and in person and got requests but sadly never heard more. Although, I still love the idea of traditional publishing, I have spent the year learning about indie publishing.
I discovered the writing community on Instagram and joined groups like Hustling Writers, Fellow Creative Minds and World Indie Warriors. I also connected with talented authors like Pagan Malcolm and Bethany Atazadeh who share their journey and advice.
Connecting with indie authors gave me insight into their world and processes. No longer did their world scare me, but intrigued me. With their support and encouragement I decided not to spend another decade waiting for someone else to give me permission to publish.
Say yes to yourself!
The problem with querying is you are waiting for someone else to say you can publish. They can say no for countless reasons and rarely have time to explain why. The truth is you don’t need their validation because you can give it to yourself.
You no longer have to traditionally publish. If you are willing to work hard, you can choose your own team and publish yourself. With so many crooks masquerading in the traditional publishing world, it is a mine field to navigate now (I’m sure I had requests from at least three dodgy publishers, I didn’t submit to in 2019 alone).
After ten years writing and querying Jewel of the Sea (formerly Drift), I have decided to Self Publish.
This year is the start of a new era. This year, I am going to publish. It won’t be easy and I have lots still to learn but I’m ready.
Jewel of the Sea is due back this month from a developmental editor. This is my the first step in my big publishing plan.
Celebrate your milestones
To celebrate this new venture, I feel Jewel of the Sea, aka Drift, needs a new name.
I have set myself some strict deadline to keep myself on track but I I won’t rush to publish. I have waited so long for this, I want to be certain my novel is a quality product when I put it out there. I want my readers to love it.
I will blog about my publishing journey, so if you are interested in the process, stay tuned. I would love to hear your thoughts on the new title Ocean Heart.
I love sharing posts on my blog written by other authors. This one was by Fantasy author Andrew McDowell and is the most viewed post of the year! Follow the link to the post to discover more about him and his books.
Please let me know if you would like to write a post for my blog.
I am pleased this post was so popular as it took a long time to create and a lot of research. I basically wanted to help other writers by creating a calendar with useful literary dates. For example it has Twitter pitch events and book festivals.
This now has its own dedicated calendar page. Click here.
I used to always write my stories by hand but since going digital I don’t have as much need for a notebook. I still get an excited feeling when I see one and after an Instagram challenge to write somewhere different I rediscovered my love of notebooks.
This post reflects on how writing by hand can boost your creativity and my own personal experience with this.
This series started in October through to November. The fact it was posted towards the end of the year and still made the list shows how popular it has been.
The most popular in the collection was Part 6 (Insta Hashtags for Writers For Each Month) with 38 views. I felt it would be more meaningful to give you the full collection rather than list all the parts below that made the top 5.
This post is a cautionary tale. I always research who I am querying and spend a lot of time on it. I know how exciting it can be to hear an agent or publisher are interested in your novel. But check out who else they have signed and how their experience was.
There have been a few occasions I have felt the interested party may not be who they say they are and it feels like pop-up publishers are becoming more common. I have spent years on my novel and refuse to sign with someone I don’t feel confident can deliver on their promises. This is one of the reasons I have now chosen to self publish.
My About Me Page
During 2019, I wrote a blog post (About Me – Spring Clear). It was about making sure your About Me page is up-to-date on your website. It is one of the first pages you crate and easy to forget about.
I was shocked how out of date mine was and wrote a post to help prompt other to update theirs too. I’m glad I did. My About My Page has had 79 views!
Guess what? I checked it when writing this post and it needs updating again! If you haven’t checked your About Me page in a while, go check it out. In the meantime, here is mine: About Me (page)
Click my link tree to discover more ways to connect
You may have caught my last post of 2019 where I reflected on how last year went. As I welcome in the new year it’s time to set new goals. Oh my, some of these are big!
I’m always looking for ways to improve myself and to start the year I am changing up how I set goals.
Publishing – Jewel of the Sea
This is the big project of 2020. I have no idea how long things will take me as I have no benchmark to compare it to. I’ve set these deadlines to help keep my on track but I will need to check progress often to adjust deadlines as I figure out what is realistic.
Here is my rough outline of all the different things that need to happen if I want to release my book by June. I have a feeling that these goals are rather ambitious but there is no harm in trying.
General Writing Goals
Here are my everyday writing goals.
Blog (Word Press): Aim to post once or twice a week.
Instagram: Aim to post to feed every other day.
Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr: Continue to share links to my content on these platforms.
News letter: Aim to send out my newsletter at least once every other month.
Jewel of the Sea: Aim to publish my novel by June. See info graphic that breaks down activities required to achieve this.
Diamond in the Sky: Finish writing first draft in full. Start editing.
Festivals: Attend festivals:
London Book Fair
Felixstowe Book Festival
Bradford UK Indie Lit Fest
MK Lit Fest
World Indie Warriors: Continue to be part of this awesome group. I loved making their brochure and if they’d allow me to do this again, I would love to do this.
Crafts: Make time at least once a week:
Planner: try different methods of managing my time and goals to find a method that works for me
Pocket letter: write another pocket letter
Scrapbook: Do at least one page
Crochet: Finish Aria’s blanket… I know, I feel awful that I haven’t finished it yet. I just need to tuck in the loose ends.
Read more: Last year I set the bar low at only 6 books. This year, I am going to double it and aim for 12 books. I know that isn’t many to some people but with everything else I have planned… I have got to be realistic.
Editing course: Complete the Self Editing course provided by Willow Editing
Resource book: Buy and read a book to develop my writing craft.
What are your goals?
I shall review these throughout the year. I will likely need to check in on my big goal every month but the general goals I’ll do once every three months.