Welcome to this week’s guest, we are here with author Imogen Clark. Imogen’s first novel Postcards from a Stranger reached the top of the Amazon Kindle charts in both the UK and Australia this year and we also happen to have grown up in the same town so I can’t wait to hear how Imogen finds breaking out of the bubble too.
How do you describe yourself to people, are you comfortable now saying you are a full-time author?
Ooh that’s a difficult one to start with. No, I’ve really struggled with that I’ve found it really difficult. I think particularly because I started with self-publishing and I didn’t have anyone behind me saying my book was good. It was only when I got picked up by a publisher because they must think it’s alright as well, so then it was like okay deep breath. I’m getting better, my second book has now been in the best sellers list this week too so I should really be much braver.
It’s that imposter syndrome isn’t it, I’m the same. Sometimes I feel really uncomfortable saying I’m a model, I say it then want to run away and hide in a corner.
Yes absolutely. Or I can say it but then I don’t want anyone to ask me questions about it, so I’ll gloss over it and move on. It’s not that I’m not proud of what I’m doing because I really am, but yes, it’s that imposter syndrome.
I’m really interested in how you got started because your background is in law, you went to university, qualified in Law, raised four children so at what point did you think about going back to university and studying?
It was when my fourth child started school and suddenly thought I’m going to have some time here, I thought about going back to work but I’d taken all this time out of work it was going to be quite difficult to get back in. So, I started writing blog, I was writing a blog about what it was like having four children at home, it was good fun and it released a level of creativity in me that I’d forgotten I had. That led me to do an Open University course on creative writing and then an English degree and by that point I had moved on from just writing my blog to full length novels. I really enjoyed, I’d get to the end of the novel and think well that’s not good enough and start again. I think I wrote 6, Postcards was my 6th and I thought that one actually isn’t that bad, you know that one might be the one.
I think being a lawyer you're taught to think in a very precise way and it knocks the creativity out of you but it’s astounding the number of lawyers that go on to be authors.
The 6 books that you’d started writing, did you show them to anyone?
Imogen laughs out loud at this thought, no I think my mum read one. I think the very first one I let the girls in my book group read and they were very kind and I was terrified obviously. It was interesting, once they forgot it was my book we were discussing we clicked in to talking about the book and I just sat back at listened. The second one I was slightly braver and put it out a chapter at a time but only to a small group of people and then I just kept practising, you have to learn your craft really.
You self-published Postcards from a Stranger, how did you find that process because you were stepping into unknown territory?
Completely. Since the invention of the kindle there’s been this huge breakout of people self- publishing, it used to be called vanity press or books not deemed good enough to be picked up by publishers but that’s all changed now. Once I decided that was the route I was going down I just did courses, learnt how to get an editor, choosing a front cover, marketing, Facebook ads all the things I needed to know and then one day bravely pressed the button.
You quickly gained a great response to the book though.
I did, people started leaving comments and sharing it. I would ask them to leave a review because once you get reviews it’s got some credence and people then take a risk on it, it wasn’t expensive, I think it was £1.99. After it had been out for about 6 weeks, I got an email, it was from an editor from a publishing company and I thought it was a joke. It was from an editor who had read it, liked it and was working for Amazon publishing, Lake Union which is the women’s fiction arm. From that they offered me a 3 book deal. Dream come true stuff. I went from having this little book that I just published myself to being part of this huge machine which is so exciting, and they are a great publisher to be part of. It’s a huge learning curve and I’ve had to ask a lot of stupid questions and I’ve made a few mistakes but I’m learning every day.
At 52 you have found yourself with a whole new career, now dealing with Amazon, having meetings in London. Where we live is quite a small town, it’s the kind of place where people either stay all their lives or leave and then come back when they have a family. That’s one of the reasons I called the podcast ‘Out of the Bubble’ because we really do live in a bubble here. How did you find stepping out of that bubble?
I’ve gone out of my comfort zone. It’s very exciting and it’s very terrifying. I think it’s helped that all the people have met have been really lovely, mostly women, and they’ve been so supportive and encouraging. I did do 15 years in the corporate world so I can pretend. If I was really out of my comfort zone I could just pretend that I knew what I was doing until I had a better idea. The publicity for my new book 'The Thing About Clare' has got all sorts of things in place like radio interviews and a blog tour, all kinds of things and each of those things makes me do something I’ve never done before but I’m having a ball.
How do you juggle family life with four busy kids, how do you discipline yourself to sit down and write?
It’s really hard. When I was just doing the degree it was something that I was doing for myself to stop myself to stop me from going crazy at home with the kids so I didn’t want it to impeach on my time with them. Now I get up very early, it’s a lot easier when the house is quiet before it all kicks off. I’m not much good in the evenings so they’re a bit of a write off really. Just these last few days I’ve been away because I had to the editing for the third book and I just can’t concentrate enough, so I took myself off. My husband is fantastic, he just steps up and takes over which makes everything so much easier. If this had all happened ten years earlier I’m not sure how we could have made all this happen.
How do you find the inspiration for your books, have you got pages and pages of ideas ready to roll or do you get flashes of inspiration?
I’ve got various ideas some of which may turn into books. Some days I’ll have a great idea then the next I’ll think it’s not so good. One day I was walking to the cinema and between less than half an hour I’d had an idea, had the whole thing delivered to me in less than the time it took me to get there, which is bonkers. I was writing it all down really quickly before the lights went down in the cinema. But most of the time it starts with a question. For instance Postcards is about a mother who is not with her children as they grow up. It came from a really challenging day with my four children when I just thought I could just leave, go to Leeds Bradford and jump on a plane and they wouldn't miss me, which of course isn't true but it got me thinking well what kind of a woman would do that.
How do you deal with critique? You put your books out there and we all know in any line of work you can't please everybody.
I find it really difficult, it was hard enough when it was my friends, you know they said they liked it but are they just being polite? I see the reviews coming up on Amazon and Good Reads and look at them through my fingers trying to work out if I dare look. It's better for my mental health not to read them, not to know what people say. I just look at the average ratings.
What tips would you give to step out of your comfort zone?
I think you just have to be brave. You know we're a long time dead. I really can't bare the idea of regretting anything so what have I got to lose. If it doesn't work it really doesn't matter. You just have to seize the day, it's a bit of a cliche but it's so true.
So what's next?
So next I want another book deal, (which Imogen did go on to achieve a few months after our chat so is busy writing again). I just need to keep learning really and keep writing. I'm really enjoying doing what I'm doing and if it all stopped tomorrow no one can take it away from me.
Final 3 questions I ask all my guests. What book has inspired you?
Playing Big by Tara Mohr
Song/music that's inspired you?
Who inspires you?
J.K Rowling. Obviously because she is a phenomenal writer but it's her resilience, you know she had all those rejections and she just kept going.
If you'd like to follow Imogen you can find her at https://imogenclark.com/
Have you always wanted to write a book, maybe now is the time to get started, what have you got to lose? I'd love to hear from anyone whose taken up writing later in life or has a burning desire to tell their story one day. What would you write if you weren't afraid?
What's Stopping You?
You can also listen to the full podcast https://anchor.fm/outofthebubble/episodes/Episode-4-with-Author-Imogen-Clark-Imogenclarkathome-e2j0hb