Feb 28, 2013 Posted by: Daniel

Sarah Maddox agreed to an interview. We covered many things concerning writing during the talk.

The talented Sarah Maddox kindly agreed to talk to me about writing and publishing books. For those of you who do not know Sarah, she is one of the most influential technical writers in the world, and also a friend and colleague of mine at Atlassian. Sarah has published two books. Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate is considered the missing manual for Confluence, and was published through a small publishing house.

The other which was the reason I wanted to talk to Sarah, is a self published fiction. Things Unseen, available on Amazon and Smash words. Since I write fiction myself I was keen to talk to someone who uses words as her craft.

How many revision did you go through?

Oh, I don't know, it is hard to say as I tend to write a bit and go back and edit. I would say that I probably did about five revisions in total.

Did you use any paid for services, such as copy editing, story structure or e-book formatting?

No, I did it all myself. Ryan Maddox, my son, did the cover for me. What I can say is that the cover is really important.

D. I would like to inject a little of my own reflection here. While the old adage is that you can not "judge a book by its cover", I agree with Sarah here, the cover is really important. If you consider self publishing make sure that you get a cover that speaks for your book. I often browse books and bring books up that has covers that look interesting.

What sort of promotion have you done for your book?

I have blogged about the book on my two blogs (ffeathers and Mark Wordsworm). I also signed up for Good Reads, Books Live, created a Facebook page and tweeted about the book. I have also submitted the book to reviewers. I took a chance and submitted it to a movie house, but I have not heard anything from them.

 What worked and what did not work?

It is too soon to say, the facebook page is starting to get some visitors. The post by Mark Woodsworm attracted more traffic than I expected which was a nice surprise. I have heard from a few of the reviewers that have said they will review it, but I have not seen a review yet, but they are busy.

Did being a technical writer help or hinder when you wrote fiction?

Oh, I think it helped. Since I write daily and have documents reviewed I am used to getting critique. Also when you write every day you get a handle of the language which I think helped me when I wrote fiction.


Are you a plotter or pantser

A bit of both. I tend to plot the characters but I tend to leave the plot a bit open as I like the freedom to take the story to where it wants to go.

D. It is interesting isnt it when the story comes alive. Things happen that you did not plan, nor had any idea about.
S. Yes, I quite enjoy that aspect of writing.
D. A little self promotion here, I have a post I've been working on that talks about the plotter vs pantser, do check my blog sometime next week and it should be avaiable.
Have you considered doing NaNoWriMo?

Oh, no, I don't think I would want the stress of producing so many words in such a short time. I may consider it in the future, but I do not really think NaNoWriMo suits me.

D. It is true, that nano is a crazy venture, but I have a strong feeling for it, since it kindled my love of writing. Also it changes the focus from quality to quantity which can be very liberating. Many well known books started as Nano novel. Water for elephants is one such book.
S. I had not really thought about that aspect of it.
D. I also (desperately trying to sell nano here) would like to point out that if you win, as in reaching 50 000 words, you get many interesting prices. You get 5 print copies of your book.
S. Yeah that feeling when you open the box and there is your work is great is't it?
Did you try your book on beta readers before publishing it?

Yes, but only family.

What is your favourite genre?

Oh, this is a hard one, it changes. I think I will have to say Science Fiction as one of the long lasting ones and Horror.

Will you publish more books?

Yes, I have a few that I am working on right now. Nothing is ready yet though.

What this your first work of fiction?

Yes, this was actually the first book I wrote and the first (work of fiction) I published.

Did you talk to an editor or publisher before you decided to self publish?

I did send it to a few publishers. I got some positive feedback but no publisher took the book on. Having read about how some publishers work, what with partial submissions, constant editing I decided that I did not want to go through that right now. I may consider using a publisher or agent in the future.

Will you publish more books?

Yes, I really think I will.

What would you do differently for your next book?

Haha, I don't know, I think I would pick a new genre, probably write a true drama.

It is common to put lots of references to oneself in the first book, does  Things Unseen contain many references to you and your life?

No, not really, not to me, but since I grew up in South Africa and the book is set there many of the locations were inspired by locations I've been to.

I end with the blurb for Things Unseen and encourage you to check it out. For only $2.99 it is a bargain!

Things Unseen is a combination of sizzling romance, eerie horror, and tense psychological drama.

Elise is a beautiful young woman with a pretty daughter and a loving husband. She seems to have the perfect life. Then Sam, her husband, is killed in a climbing accident and Elise's life falls apart. She has to cope with her grief and the loss of Sam. On top of that, strange things keep happening in her house. Soon, Elise begins to wonder if she is going mad.

Dirk is a tall, dark Dutchman who notices Elise at her work in a café. He knows nothing about her, but he is attracted by her pert figure and her cheery energy. Then she stays away from work for a while, and when she returns she is pale and withdrawn. Dirk does not know it, but this is the time of her husband's death. Concerned, Dirk offers comfort. Alone and desperate for warmth, Elise agrees to go out with him.

Elise and Dirk are put through a tortuous course of tension, emotion, and sheer fear. Can their love survive it? Indeed, can their sanity survive it?

Elise and Dirk find a uniquely South African resolution of their problems. In their search, they recognize the parallels between Western and African psychology, as represented by Jung's theories on the one hand, and by a Xhosa healer and African (folktales) on the other hand.

Weird dreams, strange occurrences, things that go bump in the night. The mysteries of Africa, the variety of Cape Town, the deadly beauty of Table Mountain. Add an amateur ghost-buster, a professional witch doctor, and other flamboyant characters. Laughter, horror, romance and an interesting resolution make this book a “must read”!

Category: Writing | Inspiration


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