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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Heath Samples and Princess Diana

The bio I read on this author caught my attention. It wasn't written in a formal way like you see on jacket flaps. It was an actual bio of who he was as a person with his hobbies and favorite activities. It got me interested in him as a person and a writer. So of course I had to learn more about his book as well. It's also fun to do an interview with someone "across the pond." 

Everyone remembers when Princess Diana died and I'm sure wondered what would her life have turned out like if it wasn't for that fatal crash. Well, today's author took it one step further; he wrote a book about it. 

What made you decide to write a book about Diana as a first book? Didn’t you think that perhaps more established writers would have a better hand at writing a book on a popular icon?
I have been a huge fan of the Royal Family ever since I joined the Royal Air Force at 17. Diana of course was a very big part of that family.  It struck all of us that she died too quickly without ever getting into her prime and I kept looking out for a book such as this that would tell us the “What IF” story. Each year came and went and no one ever did so I decided to write it.

How did the writing of the book evolve?
Evolved is a good word.  I had 11 years of evolving the story in my mind as I first set out the chapters in 2000.  The idea came to me on the New Years Eve of the Millennium but I had simply never gotten around to writing it.

How do you make the transition from a Sales & Marketing Director to a fictional writer? Is writing something that has always been an interest or is this something new?
In my role as Sales & Marketing Director, I am often writing product briefs, presentations and editorial for trade papers and magazines. Writing is something I have always enjoyed and my background in what I do undoubtedly helped me put the story together for this book. 

I also have the biggest imagination possible, which is a positive, and I believe that when any individual puts his or her mind to it, anything can be achieved.  My attitude is to shatter glass ceilings, be different, be confident, be you and above all, be happy.

Since this is a book about a real person, albeit a fictionalized account, what road blocks if any did you run into when you wrote the book? Did anyone from the royal family contact you with concerns or try to limit what was written? 
As a fictional book on how Princess Diana’s life may have been had she survived the car crash I didn’t encounter any roadblocks nor have had any contact from the Royal Household.  The book is written with huge respect to the characters; Diana, Dodi, Prince Charles and Prince William and Harry however, the book hasn’t hit the mainstream just yet so watch this space!

I see the book cover lists a possible trilogy. What feedback have you been getting on the book to continue the story? 
Book and film endings sometimes let you down in terms of the reader/ viewer feeling the story isn’t complete or it could have continued but simply hasn’t been. I wanted to give readers a choice.  If this book proves a huge success and the readers want to see another, I have left enough scope to write two more books, hence the trilogy. Feedback so far is fantastic with requests to do another book but once the book hits the mainstream, then I’ll let that number of readers decide.

Tell me about the collaboration as I see it was written “with Claire Hooper.” How did that come about? Who wrote or edited what? 
Clearly with a book of this magnitude, I didn’t take the challenge of writing it lightly. I had seen some terrible attempts at book writing which made me determined that this book, whilst having a fascinating storyline, would also be one of the best ever written. “Aim for the top and you will get somewhere close” is my modus operandi in life.  Indeed, there was huge potential to make a faux pas in both the writing style and delivery.  I had the story but I needed help writing it. 

Claire Hooper to the rescue! Claire has an MA in Creative Writing and from the three Ghost Writers I interviewed, Claire just got the story.  I supplied all the writing ideas and storyline with Claire helping me craft the writing.  We would write, read, edit and redraft together until I felt it was right.  Claire is a natural talent and if the readers do decide that they want to see the trilogy completed, I would want Claire involved in both of those books.

Is this your first book?
This is my first book and I do sometimes ask why I took on the goliath task of writing about the most famous person in the world!  However, I have had 11 years to put this story together.  Two years ago I found myself in life changing circumstances as I sat on the Yorkshire coast looking out to sea. It was a beautiful day and one of those where you just wonder why oh why. It was the lowest point in my life and as I sat there, the story came flooding back to me like a freight train and that was it, whatever else happened in my life, this book was going to be written.

I see that your book is indie-published. Did you contact any other publishers prior to that to produce your book?
I did write to several publishers in both the UK and USA.   I used the Writers & Artists Yearbook for addresses plus the web.  Some replied. Some didn’t.  Some seemed very interested but almost “constrained” from internal policies or didn’t feel the topic was just write for them etc, etc.  With the word on the street being that unless you get the CEO to sign the book deal you simply don’t get one, I decided to self publish.

What was your process in choosing Grosvenor House to publish your book? Who was the most influential or helpful in getting this book published? 
Initially I was going to choose CreateSpace or Lulu and in the end came down on CreateSpace because of the Amazon connection and speed of turnaround.  A chance meeting with a friend introduced me to Graham Taylor (GP Taylor, New York Times Best Selling Writer) and he then guided me to the path of Grosvenor House. Graham was undoubtedly the most influential person in helping me get the book published and I will always be grateful to him for pointing me towards GHP and for writing the book foreword.

What has been the most frustrating part about writing and publishing this book?
The frustration is when you have to take two steps backwards to go one forward in your writing.  You may have sat there for weeks going down a certain plot line that in the end just doesn’t cut it the way you imagined it.  Unfortunately, the only and best thing you can do is throw it all away and start again. Publishing was a breeze with GHP although the repeated proof reading nearly drove me insane! However, if a major publishing house does take the novel on, at least I won’t have to do it again!

What are some of the most productive ways you’ve had in promoting your book? 
Book promotion is key but I am only still on the tip of the iceberg in terms of coverage.  I am active on Facebook and Twitter which are great tools along with getting reviews.  A blog tour and book signings are due to follow in the next few weeks and then it will be onto local/ national papers & magazines to see if they want to run with the story.  I see the USA market as key to the success of this book as Princess Diana had many fans there so this is an area I am keen to explore next.  Any guidance is welcome.

With what you know now, if you could start all over again in writing and publishing this book, what might you have done differently?
The first thing I would do is concentrate on writing the book, not writing to Literary Agents, publishers or trying to forward plan your marketing campaign, just the book.  Period.

Second.  Don’t waste your time writing to publishers.  They may write you a lovely letter back (I have kept mine) or won’t respond at all but importantly to you, the answer will be no. In fact, don’t waste your money buying the Writers & Artists Yearbook either as there is enough info on the web if you search for it correctly. As I said earlier, the answer will be no.

Get your book published and noticed.  Then and only then will the publishers be interested.  Greet them however with open arms because their contact list and marketing budget will far out strip yours.

Give me an example or two of the best writing advice you have ever been given. 
The best writing advice I have ever been given is write it how you see it.  Do not be influenced with mainstream or what you think people want to hear, write YOUR story how YOU see it.

It is hard to do it this way and there were many times I felt I was doing it wrong but the outcome is something quite incredible when you stick to your story and style.

That ends today’s interview. I do hope you will be interested in learning more about Heath and his writing and here’s the links to do just that…
The Facebook link  
Twitter @authorheathsamp

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