GJ Stevens started writing fiction at the age of thirty. Even as an engineer with a large family and a full-time career with plenty of adult responsibilities, he has always had a creative side. After years of self-suppression, the flood gates opened and his novel In The End is the culmination of many years of finding time from nowhere to learn the craft.
Whilst working to independently publish and make a success of his novels, Gareth lays bare his publishing journey through his blog, drawing together advice and knowledge from those already in the industry.
As a lover of the outdoors, every year he spends weekends out in the desolate countryside of the UK hiking and camping with his long-time friends which he uses as inspiration for both his creative fiction works and the subject of many a blog post. GJ Stevens is on the beginning of his publishing journey and wants to share the highs and lows with anyone who will listen.
Your second novel, Before The End, is out today. Congratulations! Can you tell us a little bit about the book?
After receiving a call from someone she shouldn’t still care about, Jessica Carmichael, TV news reporter and investigative journalist, heads to Cornwall with her camera crew a week before the events of IN THE END take place. She quickly becomes embroiled in the crisis, finding out who and what is behind the unnatural events taking place and makes it her mission to tell the world so those yet unaffected can have a chance at life. But at what cost to herself?
Did you know you were going to write Before the End as a sequel already when you were working on In The End, or did the inspiration come later?
Inspiration hit me as a wrote the last chapter of IN THE END. Although BEFORE THE END starts a week before IN THE END began, they have a common ending, albeit from a different perspective. I can’t really say too much more!
Has the experience of writing Before The End been different with one published novel under your belt?
I wrote the dirty draft for BEFORE THE END before I published IN THE END so it’s a novel that’s been sitting around for a little while and was written much in the same way.
How about publishing it?
Publishing for a second time was a little less arduous as I had already gone through the movie before and knew what to expect, plus I had fewer decisions to make and was mindful of the mistakes I’d made when working on IN THE END.
What has been the most challenging part about bringing out your second novel? (Hopefully not my comments on the manuscript, but feel free to be honest!)
Writing in a female voice was by far the greatest challenge, but luckily I made a key decision despite having thought I’d wrapped the manuscript. Having you read the novel and tear my preconceptions of women’s motivations and thought processes up meant it hopefully won’t be hated by the wide female audience I already have for the series. Your detailed commentary was certainly an eye-opener into another world! Whilst I wrote this answer I received an email from one of my female ARC readers telling me how much she enjoyed the book!
Was having a female narrator in the second book a conscious choice or did it come about as a result of the initial idea?
It wasn’t a conscious choice, it just happened that way. The character came to life at the end of IN THE END and I went with it. If I’d have realised how difficult it would have been to get the voice right or how much work had to go into thinking outside my man-brain, I’m not sure I would have made the same decision. That said, I have an entire series already penned which is told from the perspective of a woman. Hopefully you’re up for some more beta reading in the future!
How much research did you have to do for the science in Before The End?
I thought quite hard about the balance of the science for the book. Zombies are clearly fantastical / fictional entities but there are examples in science and some of the concepts are rooted in real life. Plus I’m an engineer so I need to have a bit more of an explanation than just that they rise from the dead. This is an area again where you helped me to hopefully get the balance right.
How many more books will there be in the series?
There will definitely be three at least. I’m currently supposed to be writing the third book, called AFTER THE END (this is the first time the title has been mentioned). It’s been planned out (also a first for me) and I’ve written a quarter of it. However other projects seem to keep getting in the way! The third book will bring the story to a conclusion, but it won’t necessarily be the end of the fast-paced action coming out of that world!
I know you’ve also written several adventure books. Is there a specific genre that you feel is “yours”? Are you planning to try a different genre in the future?
I definitely feel I am an action / adventure / thriller writer. You’ll see that in my 2019-2021 release schedule. The IN THE END series is the same genre but also involves the living dead!
I’d love to try my hand at another genre, but generally I write to the idea rather than the genre, but we’ll just have to see what pops into my head next.
Has your writing process evolved along the way?
I would say no, it’s not evolved as such but I have come to understand it more, so much so I even produced a flow chart to explain how I write and produce a novel. You can check it out via this link.
Is it easy to strike a balance between marketing, publishing and working on new material?
Not really, however I do my best. Working full time I have about four hours a day to cram with everything I want / need to do. In the mornings I’ll maybe put out social media ads on Facebook groups, then write or edit for an hour. At lunchtime, I’ll write or edit, unless there’s some important publishing task. In the evenings I’ll work on the things that don’t quite need so much thought. This could be research or planning / publishing tasks.
During the weekends, when I’m not at an appearance in a bookstore or selling books on a market or fair, then I’ll dive into marketing. My new thing is using flatlay photography to create adverts for my books. I’m getting more and more adventurous with those and you just have to check out my social media if you want to take a peek. It’s very rare that I’ll get much writing or editing done on a weekend.
What’s your preferred social media platform and why?
I like Facebook because of the genre groups bringing together a load of my target audience so I can interact and market to them. I don’t think I have much success with Twitter, but through the use of hashtags it is easier to be discovered on that platform, however it’s one I’ve not spent much time developing. Instagram is good fun, especially with the flatlay. I have to be careful with advertising on Instagram as you can easily get a load of likes but no actual sales or follow on interest, which is not the same for Facebook
How have you found the experience of building your author platform?
It’s been a slow process but it’s growing up nicely. It’s interesting to think that I currently have three segments of exposure or platform, and they rarely interact. There’s the social media side, where I get a lot of sales, then there’s the blogging side, where I get a lot of support and feedback but very few sales, and finally the mailing list. I’ve used that avenue to get ARC readers which hopefully will work well, and recent newsletters have yielded some sales too.
My long-term strategy is to use my mailing list, recruiting through social media advertising, as my primary platform. I already give away a free book to new subscribers, but in March I’ll be releasing a new novel which will also be available free to my new subscribers. This will form the backbone of a new major marketing campaign.
What has been the best book you’ve read this year?
This is easily RR Haywood’s Extracted series of three books. I actually listen to most of my fiction these days as whenever I’m able to use my hands I’m normally doing something relating to my own work. I think the only book I’ve physically read from cover to cover this year would be the debut novel of someone you might know. Fallible something… I guess that means it is the best book I’ve read this year!
What advice would you give to authors looking to go down the self-publishing route (aside from reading your excellent blog on the subject)?
Firstly there’ll need to understand that if they want to do it right then there’s nothing ‘self’ about it. I write the novel, edit it to a level, then pay a professional to evaluate for plot, setting, character and much more. I generally then re-edit and polish. It gets beta-read by others, then copy-edited by an editor and then proof-read by someone else. That’s not even mentioning the professionals who create the cover and generate the blurb.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently undertaking the final edit on FATE’S AMBITION. It’s the first novel I ever wrote but also never thought of publishing. I made a decision in the summer to review and publish all of my previous work. Following on from FA I’m planning to release seven new books before the end of 2021, most have been written but need revision and editing.
Thanks for stopping by my blog today, Gareth. I hope you have a fabulous launch day!
Jess Carmichael longs to break a news feature that will change the world. But the TV reporter never expects a mysterious telephone call from her ex to be the source. Rushing to a shady government facility, Jess struggles to believe the outrageous reports…
With her loyal camera crew by her side, the intrepid journalist arrives in Cornwall at her partner’s last known location. But when Jess pushes for access, she gets more than she bargained for. Still kept in the dark, she’s about to play a starring role in a twisted and grisly exclusive…
Can Jess expose a sinister cover up before millions fall prey to a zombie outbreak?
Before The End is the second and standalone book in the thrilling post-apocalyptic series In The End. If you like dark horror, fast-paced action, and bloodthirsty zombies, then you’ll love GJ Stevens’ high-stakes tale.