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Meet Iceland, Defrosted author, Edward Hancox

Today I’m delighted to welcome travel writer, Edward Hancox, to my blog. Edward lives in the UK with his wife and two small, noisy children but spends as much time as he can in Iceland. Music – especially contemporary Icelandic music – is his other passion. He writes about both subjects for various magazines and websites, including ‘Iceland Review’, ‘Atlantica’, and the ‘Reykjavik Grapevine’, and on his blog, icelanddefrosted.com. Edward published his debut book, Iceland, Defrosted, earlier this year. This is the story of his obsession with the people, places and music of Iceland. 

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Jane: Edward, please tell us how you came to be a writer. 

Edward: By accident, really. I don’t consider myself a writer or author. I had visited Iceland many (too many?!) times, and I needed a way of recording those visits. Photography wasn’t working for me, and an Icelander suggested writing a book. It’s a very Icelandic thing to do – one in ten Icelanders will publish a book during their lifetime. Iceland, Defrosted was born.

Jane: I have been to Iceland twice. The first time was 20 years ago when there really wasn’t a tourist industry. It was the first tour the travel firm Exodus had ever run, so we were their guineapigs. We camped in the interior, and one night all of our tents (held down by rocks) blew away. We went glacier walking with a guide who had never done it before, and we got very lost. It was just as well that there was a doctor on the trip because we used every single item in his medicine bag. Our coach driver was a part-time fireman, part-time teacher, who drove coaches in his spare time. Basically, he was in charge. Out tour guide told us Icelandic fairy tales. You get the picture! I went back with my partner a couple of years ago on a cruise (Matt does not camp). I re-visited many of the same places but there were tarmac paths and fences and health and safety, and Rekjavik had expanded beyond belief. It was very tame by comparison – although they did make us eat shark that had been buried for three months, washed down by ‘Black Death’ vodka. (With the exception of the book cover and the author’s photo, the photgraphs in this post are from my more recent visit.)

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Can I ask, what were the key factors that influenced your decision to become an indie author?

Edward: Well, I submitted my manuscript to traditional publishers, and either got rejected (bad), or not even a reply (worse). I wasn’t going to let 6 years of work, 80,000 words and all the help from kind-hearted Icelanders just sit on my hard drive. It needed to be read. I turned to self publishing, and eventually partnered with SilverWood Books, who have been superb.  

Jane: With the number of self-published books increasing by 59% last year alone, it is really difficult for authors to make their books stand out. How do you go about this?

Edward: I think it’s probably more difficult for fiction writers. I have a fairly unique market – a humorous, not-really-a-guide about a country that hasn’t had that many books written about it. Iceland also has an ever-growing fan base; look at the number of Hollywood films made there last year, or the year on year increase of tourists. I have tried to get my book out to these groups of people, rather than competing with other books. 

Jane: So, you’ve been smart about marketing to your target audience. Do you think the media gives enough coverage to books?

Edward: No, and especially not self published books. There is still some snobbery, I’m afraid. Media outlets are still attuned to the old-fashioned publishing model, and it’s hard work if you fall outside of this. Having my book mentioned in magazines and newspapers (such as The Guardian) has been fantastic, but only as a result of the work put in.

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Jane: Can you remember where you saw your first book on the shelves?

Edward: Yes. I saw it in Eymundsson, in the centre of Reykjavík. Bizarrely, it was placed next to Nobel prize winning author Halldór Laxness. I was very proud!

Jane: Not bad company to be in! Have you ever seen a member of the public reading your book… in any unusual locations?

Edward: I haven’t, but I did do a campaign on my blog (icelanddefrosted.com) where I asked readers to send in photographs of my book from wherever they were in the world. It went really well, with entries coming in from all over the globe, and in the strangest places – a Canadian Baseball game, under the Eiffel Tower, in front of Buckingham Palace and looking for Nessie in Loch Ness!

Jane: Your cover design has won an ebook cover award. Who designed it and  what brief did you give them?

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 Edward: Kit Foster designed my cover, which I absolutely love. It’s a shot of Jökulsárlón, a glacial lake in South Iceland. I used a different designer – Nick Hill – to design the map used in the book. I’m really pleased with both, but I was very specific with my requirements. That, coupled with Kit and Nick’s skills have had fantastic results that I’m proud to use.

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Jane: Which professional services won’t you skimp on? (editor/ professional proofreader? designer for your book interior.) 

Edward: Proofreaders, professional author services, and designers are all really important, but I would never skimp on an editor. I used Lucy Ridout, a very experienced editor in the travel sector. She has worked with Rough Guides, and her input, although sometimes brutal, was essential and has made Iceland, Defrosted into a professional piece of work.

Jane: Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to? 

Edward: My wife, who also accompanied me on some of my travels, and my sister. They don’t mind providing good, honest feedback – if it was ‘sugar-coated’, I wouldn’t bother – it’s worthless.

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Jane: At the beginning of 2013, Smashword’s Mark Coker predicted that ‘Global’ would be the year’s biggest story. Do you have a readership in a country other than your own?

Edward: I have a global audience as well a local one. I sell physical copies through local bookshops and other stores (including Foyles) whilst at the same time selling physical copies and ebooks across the world, particularly in the states. I initially launched the book on crowd-funding website Kickstarter, and found supporters from all over the globe, including as far away as Brazil and Australia. 

Jane: What is your favourite bookshop and why? 

Edward: Oh, this is easy. Wenlock Books, Much Wenlock in Shropshire is my local bookshop and is just wonderful. It’s been voted as one of the best bookshops in the UK several times, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s cosy, has a wide selection of books and has coffee and comfy chairs. Anna, the owner, has been super-supportive too. I held one of my book launches there, and there was barely room for me!

Jane: Where can we find out more about you and your work?

Edward: My website is http://icelanddefrosted.com, or I’m on Facebook (Iceland Defrosted book), Twitter (@EdHancox). I’ve just started experimenting with Vine (again, @EdHancox). My Kickstarter page, where it all started, is www.kickstarter.com/projects/1978797490/iceland-defrosted?ref=search  

In the hope that Edward won’t object, I have hijacked the end of this interview with a few suggestions:

To give to a little more of a taste of Iceland, I have attached a link to my favourite programme of last year, When Bjork Met Attenborough 

Emiliana Torrini sings Sunny Road – live performance

Glosoli from Sigor Ros