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Virtual Book Club: Meet A M Cridland, author of Nathan and Alex

Today, I’m delighted to welcome A M Cridland to Virtual Book Club, a series in which I put questions to authors about their latest releases and their writing lives. Don’t forget that if there’s anything you would like to know, you’ll have the opportunity at the end.

Antonia is a keen artist with a love of baking, having completed her foundation year in Cambridge and her English Literature degree in Southampton. She grew up in Oxfordshire and went to boarding school in Gloucestershire.

Having spent many a summer horse riding and running with her brother and dogs through the fields behind her house, she first became inspired to write by the same rolling views that so captivated the poet Mathew Arnold that he wrote the famous poem, The Scholar Gypsy.

Antonia travelled extensively during her childhood and teens and got bitten by the cycling and running bugs. Consequently in her spare time she raises money for charities by taking part in short runs, long bike rides, and last year completed both her 30th event so far, and her first full marathon, a whole 26.2 miles!

Nathan and Alex is her debut novel and the first chapter in the fulfillment of a lifelong writing dream.

Q: Please tell us how you came to be a writer?

A: I started writing because I found that I could do a rather wonderful thing called lucid dreaming, where you can alter the path of your dreams to make them do what you want. I then began to wonder if I could do the same with horse stories as they were all that I read at the time, being only eleven years old. I was obsessed!

So while away with my family on our next holiday to Portugal, as everybody else frolicked outside in the sunshine and splashed about in the pool, I lay on my bed with a notepad getting completely and fantastically absorbed in creating my first story. I haven’t stopped since.

Q: Have you always felt driven by the writing process?

A: Driven is absolutely the right word. When a story idea gets hold of me I can’t not write it down, its a compulsion.

Q: Who gave you your first encouragement as a writer?

A: Mrs Millard, my English teacher at school. When my best friend and I were struggling in class to describe a violent storm, she suggested we write with vehement clash of lightning sharp across the leaden sky. I’ve never forgotten her wisdom and kindness.

Nathan and Alex Book Cover reduced

Q: And what was your first success?

A: I received an email from Paul Burston, formerly of Time Out magazine who had knowledge of my book and invited me to do a reading from it at his literary salon, Polari, at the Royal Festival Hall. That felt really pretty special. Burt Bacharach singing in one room and me reading an excerpt from my first novel in the next.

Q: The protagonist in your novel is Nathan Henderson. What five words best describe him?

A: Kind, attractive, empathetic, talented, gay.

Q: At what point in writing the book did you come up with your characters’ names?

A: My protagonists’ names leapt to mind at the very creation of the story. It came to me all at once, every detail in a tremendously exciting rush.

Me with John and Tobias reduced

Antonia with John and Tobias

Q: The making of your book trailer is an amazing story in its own right. How did it come about?

As a first time, self-published author, I knew I would need to do something a little bit different to raise the profile of my book so it occurred to me that producing a cinema-like trailer would be a great idea. How often do you hear people talk about having seen a fantastic book trailer? Not often enough if at all is the answer, so I thought I’d give it a whirl and see what happened.

It wasn’t easy. It took a year of asking around, contacting local stage schools, acting classes and Universities before a chance conversation among authors and booksellers at Barton’s, Leatherhead, came up with the answer. Through my new literary circle, a friend of a friend knew of a student/professional production company called LOWKEY Films run by the talented Connor O’Hara, based in Surrey. I got in contact and they were only too pleased to get involved. I was thrilled.

At the same time another fabulous part of the jigsaw fell into place. I had advertised for two actors on Prowler’s Facebook page, to play the parts of Nathan and Alex and low and behold, the sweetest real life couple rang me, John and Tobias. Having bought a copy of my book in Brighton’s branch of Prowler, they got in touch and became breathlessly excited at once at both the prospect of starring in the trailer and also very sweetly, talking to the actual author, – me. How wonderful. They so loved the book they told me, that it had travelled on their holiday to Greece and Turkey with them that summer, being read, cover to cover, and then immediately begun again.

When they came to meet me they brought their incredibly well-thumbed copy, stuffed with post it notes on their favourite pages. I couldn’t have picked a couple who more closely embody the characters of Nathan and Alex if I tried. John and Tobias are them, as far as that’s possible.

When it came to the day of the shoot, we all gathered in a beautiful part of the Surrey countryside, of course – for shooting outside most of the time, the weather was absolutely freezing!

Everyone was nervous, – on the creative side that is, Connor’s professional team knew exactly what they were doing and made it so effortless to get right, that the boys soon got into their roles, the nerves dissipating at every moment.

By lunchtime we were a relaxed and happy team, all laughing, actors, writer, crew and supporting friends/ extras, sitting around in a cosy and by now, close knit group. I believe in visualising exactly what you want in life and before the shoot I went over and over in my mind for days and days, the few scenes and ambiance that I wanted to capture. It worked! The trailer is exactly as I visualised. It was undoubtedly one of the best day’s of my life, seeing what I created come to life and I can’t thank John, Tobias and all at LOWKEY Films enough.

Next step? A feature length version while I work on book two.

Q: Writing in a niche market, how difficult (or otherwise) have you found it to market Nathan and Alex?

A: Since launching Nathan and Alex, I’ve got it into Prowler Soho and Prowler Brighton, Barton’s Bookshop, Clone Zone Soho and Manchester, and for sale on Kindle and Amazon.

I’ve exhibited it at the New Titles Showcase at the London Book Fair, read at Polari Literary Salon, been interviewed on Gaydio’s breakfast show, done two signings at Kazbar in Clapham and Legends in Brighton and only a month ago, and of course I’ve added a YouTube trailer to promote it which feels like the icing on the cake.

There’s so much more I want to do to spread the word not only because I’m proud to have written Nathan and Alex, but also because there is still a great lack of happy gay love stories available even today, and in the meantime I’m just beginning book two, so please keep a little eye open and watch this space.

John and Tobias with their well thumbed copy reduced

John and Tobias with their well-thumbed copy of Nathan and Alex 

Q: How does your home and its environment influence your writing?

A: It has a profound affect on me. I can’t be in the wrong environment to write. I’ll feel distracted and put upon. It’s rare that I write outside my home but if I do it has to be somewhere with a lot of light and with people going by. I may have to block my ears but I need to see life going on about me.

Q: Do you think the media gives enough coverage to books?

A: Not at all, we are bombarded with movie release news, star interviews, production sneak previews, etc. on a constant basis but it isn’t the same for books. I do feel that most breakfast television interviews with writers try and stay rather old school in how they interview the writers as well. Some books are incredibly serious or sad true life tales and need careful handling but a lot of fiction is scintillating, scandalous, glorious revelry and escapism. Why aren’t these elements emphasised so that everyone, young and old, wants to hurtle out and snap up their copy! Why? MUCH more needs to be done to boost knowledge of every new book. They all deserve an equal chance of success.

A: One of the key stories of 2013 was the revelation that The Cuckoo’s Calling had been penned by J K Rowling. Do you write under a pseudonym? Do you think they make a difference to an author’s profile?

A: I don’t personally like pseudonyms, I think a writer should be proud of their work and changing your name seems as if you’re embarrassed or unsure of your creation. I know Ronnie Barker of The Two Ronnies fame sent in comedy manuscripts to his own production team under a different name to see how well his efforts would be judged, and I do understand that some people want to try the same experiment, but I’d rather put my name to everything I create, however it is received. I tend not to read works written under pseudonyms, it just puts me off.

Q: What do you think the greatest advantage of self-publishing is?

A: To me, self-publishing is essential to preserve the chance of being able to read some of the most incredibly creative, innovative stories. It’s like going into a lovely rustic café and choosing the brownie or shortbread slab that looks the most delicious. It’s not usually the one that has the most regular shape, but perhaps is the crumbliest, most sumptuously sugary bumpy surfaced piece that makes you want to sink your teeth straight into it. That’s always the piece I desire the most, and self publishing allows the same joy in reading. There may be some imperfections, sometimes there may even be rather more than we’d like, but the intensely fresh, creative and personal zing has not been lost to uniformity. That’s why we need self-publishing. It’s the eccentric Englishman among a sea of obedience that is sometimes traditional publishing.

Cheeky sheep close up (2) reduced

Antonia’s award-winning sheep cupcakes

Find out more about A M Cridland at her Nathan and Alex website (listen to her Gaydio breakfast radio interview, go to the website and click the play button under the Gaydio icon), Like the Nathan and Alex Facebook page or follow her on Twitter @AMCridland.

The book is available at Prowler Soho and Brighton, Barton’s Books in Leatherhead, CloneZone Soho and Manchester, Kindle and Amazon.

A big thank you to Jane Davis for inviting me to take part in this great blog interview. Being a self-published author can be quite hard work and nerve-racking at the beginning. You have no idea how to get started, even if you’re doing the right thing. However, you learn so much as you go along and get to meet a fantastic array of other authors and booksellers, that I’m sure you would not if you were simply following the traditional publishing route.

The right of A M Cridland to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.

You’re very welcome, Antonia! And if you have any questions you’d like to put to Antonia, please use the comments box.


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