Hi everyone, and today on the blog I’m delighted to welcome crime writer Chris Aggett.
Chris is the co-host of one of my favourite writing podcasts and I was delighted when he allowed me to pick his brains on how he set up the podcast, his writing and his advice for new and unpublished authors (like me!).
Over to you, Chris…
1) Did you always want to be an author? What were your favourite books from your childhood?
I believe my story of becoming an author is rather unique. Unlike others, I never thought about being an author. That was until the death of my grandfather. I had quite a lot of life experience at that point of my life having served in the British Army and thought I was fairly comfortable with my accomplishments.
However, when I sat there listening to the accomplishments of my grandfather, who was a wonderful man, I suddenly felt the burning desire to do more with my life. This was only a few years ago. I had experience of jotting down dodgy song lyrics as a teen but that is as far as my creativity went. There was a story in my mind that had been growing and it was an alien thought in my mind. It didn’t belong there. I can’t tell you why I wrote it, other than wanting to achieve something, I just wrote it and I completely fell in love with writing during the process. I had no outstanding book that was an inspiration for me as a child. I enjoyed the occasional comic book, but I really loved movies. Aliens and Platoon were two I still love and remember hearing as a child. I couldn’t wait to see them after that.
2) Do you have an agent? What was your route into the publishing industry?
I do not have an agent. My route to publishing is still ongoing. If anyone knows me or has listened to my podcast long term, then they will know that I self-published both of my books completely free. I studied, googled, and YouTube everything. As someone on a budget, I could not afford to pay out for my book and that included editing. I didn’t even expect people to read my book, but they received fantastic reviews.
My message is that you don’t need to spend lots to publish, but it helps to take your time. The only criticism my first book received was that there were odd grammar issues, but to be honest, people see grammar issues in professionally published works.
What I plan to do next is to get my current WIP published through an agent. I want to show the world that you can do it yourself, for free, and can get an agent too. I plan to use all the knowledge I gain to educate the writing community, which is what our podcast tries to do, with a lot of humor thrown in of course.
3) Do you write full time? If so, what was your ‘life’ before turning to writing?
I do not write full time. In fact, the podcast takes up a lot of my time now. That podcast is called The Writing Community Chat Show, and it is something I created to pay back the help that the writing community gave me on my self publishing journey. So since I created that, my writing has really taken a back seat.
It is difficult to juggle both as I prepare two live shows a week, which often involve interviewing authors. I spent a lot of my time prewriting, working and coaching my son’s rugby team for many years.
4) Which perspective/character voice is your favourite to read?
I enjoy reading first person points of view; I think this is why I naturally wrote Deep, The Climb of Truth that way. Although I threw a curve ball in there and opened it up. That was to match the story’s arc. I wouldn’t say that it is my favourite but felt it is a little easier to get in a character’s head that way.
5) Which perspective/character voice is your favourite to write?
As mentioned before, writing first person works well for me. I think life experience matters in writing. You notice that people who have learned to write academically lean on the facts and structure. I, as someone who has military experience, was comfortable using what I know to enhance the first reader perspective. I think it’s best to do both.
6) How do you judge a book? Is it by the cover, or the author’s writing style?
I am not ashamed to say it, I DO judge a book by its cover. I am not entirely sure why some people don’t. When you look at the self-published world in particular, and at the growing industry of independent publishing companies, you can find covers that don’t really draw you in. You can also find exceptional ones too. But on the odd occasion that they aren’t great, it makes me feel that the work quality may not be that good either. But, I will read the first few pages and decide if I will read it based on that. So openings are just as important.
7) How did the Writing Community Chat Show podcast come about? How did you develop the concept?
Just as the author path appeared before me, the podcasting path was also a surprise. After spending a lot of time figuring out how to self publish my first book, I found the #WritingCommunity on Twitter. I found an amazing group of self-published and traditionally published authors that were always there to offer sound advice. I have made some friends there that I engage with on a daily basis. After I had published that book, I continued to engage with that community and try to promote my work. It is a constant learning process. I just couldn’t believe that some tweets in the community were amazing and got little to no exposure, yet others that were silly or poor had lots of comments and retweets. The analytics blew my mind. That caused the imaginary lightbulb to appear above my head and the gods, once again, placed a crazy idea there. A podcast! That would be a brilliant way for the community to gain a voice. For the self-published authors to form a stronger community and have us to lean on. I reached out to Christopher Hooley, who is my co-host, and asked him about forming it with me. He responded quickly and the next thing I knew; the ball was rolling.
8) On the podcast, how do you plan your interview approaches?
Loosely! That’s no joke either. As someone who has a busy life, I knew I couldn’t have something that took over my life, or it wouldn’t last. I once again read up on things. Having an enjoyable, sustainable project is the only way to give it a chance of success. So what began as a chat show/interview podcast grew and develop. All while trying to think of better ways to produce, edit and deliver great content. Not just that, I had to battle with technology that I had no previous experience with. It was a huge gamble. Now we are nearing 2 years in and are a live streaming podcast chat show on YouTube with a brand new panel show concept. We have attended our first literary event for filming and have just passed 600 subscribers on YouTube with 12 thousand podcast listens. It is going well. I had to use my time well. The system I use now relies on good engagement and natural flow. Of course, I research the author and their work, but I let the natural conversation take the lead. This works well and we have never had to take down or delete a show. I strip the audio and tinker with it slightly and upload it into a podcast, with saved intros ready and hit publish. It is that simple now. It results from trial and error.
9) For the unpublished author, do you have any advice on querying agents for publication?
We learn so much from the authors on our show. What I would say is that you need to know what genre you want to be in and where your book fits. There may be an author you love and their work may be similar to yours. If that is the case, then their agent may also be into your work! The other bit of advice would be patience! Everyone gets knocked back and the ones who have debut success, and I mean 7 figure success, often know people in the industry. So you will have to be extremely lucky to get a top agent. But it is possible. Some authors never thought they would get the agent they wanted and have. So, give it a go, find your dream agents and submit, but be prepared to be knocked back. Once that happens, don’t take it personally, ask for feedback, develop, improve and try again.
10) I find that specific pieces of music help me to engage with my characters. Do you listen to music when you write? Do you have a favourite band or artist that you enjoy?
YES, YES, YES! I have announced this many times on the podcast. A Spotify playlist called “Creative Playlist” helped me write my first and second book. In fact, I wrote lyrics from certain songs in the sequel for sure. I believe my characters Daisy and Jade have a romantic dance with one of them. Letley I have found this cool desktop app called Noisil. Google it. It is a free software that gives you option of things to listen to for distraction free writing. I use the same selection each time: rain, thunder, a train on a track, a coffee shop and a fire! It’s a brilliant combination. In real life, I love Mumford and Sons. In fact, I have seen them 3 times and the last time I went was just a few years ago. They had postponed a gig and moved it to a Monday! That sucked! Until, I was sitting in a bar with my wife and outside the window next to me stood Marcus Mumford. We actually met him before the gig and had a nice chat. It was a great day.
Thank you for your time today Chris. It has been a pleasure to interview you. I look forward to listening to the next episode of Writing Community Chat Show! 🙂 Everyone should listen to this – you won’t regret it!
Bio: Christopher Aggett aka Cj Left Chris of The Writing Community Chat Show. Founder and pc host of the writing community chat show. Self published author and supporter of the Writing community.
My ultimate goal for this is to open my own writing/book bar/cafe. A place for readers to drink coffee/beer while browsing published and self published books. A place for students and authors to write and a place for our show to take place and for book launches and parties.
My biggest achievement would be serving in The British Army. Followed by self publishing and creating the podcast. I feel there is a lot more to come.