Thursday, December 19, 2013

John A. A. Logan - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author John A. A. Logan. He writes novels and short stories. Also, he has been a columnist and film reviewer.

Author Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Short Stories

Website: John A. A. Logan - Author
Author's Blog: John A. A. Logan
Twitter: @JohnAALogan
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Google+: Check Out Google+
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Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Author Description:

He is also the author of eighty-five short stories. His fiction has been published by PICADOR, VINTAGE, EDINBURGH REVIEW, CHAPMAN, NORTHWORDS, NOMAD, SECRETS OF A VIEW, and SCRATCHINGS; with reviews of his work in SCOTTISH STUDIES REVIEW, SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY, THE SPECTATOR, and THE HINDUSTAN TIMES.

His work has been published internationally in anthologies edited by A L Kennedy, John Fowles, Ali Smith, Toby Litt; and he has been invited to read his work at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. He wrote monthly columns and film reviews for the magazine, 57 NORTH, in Aberdeen, where he was also president of Aberdeen University’s Creative Writing Society for three years, while attaining his MA (Hons) English degree there, which included study under the novelist, William McIlvanney.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

First things first. Let’s start with what’s next. Do you have another book or short story collection on the horizon? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Yes, I’m nearing completion on a new novel, Agency Woman, with release planned for early 2014. This is a psychological thriller set in the Highlands of Scotland. A disaffected and damaged man is lured by a young woman into taking part in a nasty job for a powerful international Agency, the kind of work he had intended never to get involved with again. The remote location for the story adds an existential edge; characters are thrown back on their own inner resources and survival instincts. On one level the book is the story of a case of extraordinary rendition; abduction and torture, taking place in the last location you’d expect this to go on, the north of Scotland with its beautiful scenery, mountains and beaches. Old places like that, though, have their own share of horrors and ghosts already, hidden just beneath the surface. The story also takes an ironical look at the fact that, in the modern bureaucratic age of subcontracting, no-one can even really be sure what country or organisation is behind the terrible actions that are taking place. Oh, and there’s a love story in there somewhere too! Otherwise the main character would never have allowed himself to get involved with dirty work like that again, it took an emotional lure to draw him back into the maelstrom.

You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Did you use forums, newsletters and methods like that?

Yes, 54131 followers now on Twitter. It has taken two years to get to that point. I’ve certainly found readers on Twitter, good people, good connections, sometimes leading to friendships and correspondences. Lots of times I’ve had readers of my ebooks contact me there, letting me know their thoughts, so it has been a very important thing.

The first place I started two years ago was following the advice in this document, Ruth Francisco’s Kindle Primer:

It has a list of forums useful in helping authors get in contact with readers: Goodreads Groups/ etc

Do you do book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

I’ve been invited to speak and/or do public readings at various places, including the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and London Book Fair, where I was on an author panel to launch the Alliance of Independent Authors.

For announcements of future events/appearances, please sign up for my blog (lots of other resources/info/tips for authors and readers there on the blog, too):

You have great covers. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

Thanks, James. I spend a lot of time finding a photo/image that I am completely happy with and which I feel represents the spirit of the book. That’s a private, instinctive thing so I don’t show anyone else the cover until the day the book is published/uploaded. I don’t involve anyone else, that way there is no-one to blame but myself if it goes wrong!

You have written many short stories. Can you tell us if they had an impact on the sales of your novels?

I started out by writing short stories. John Fowles and A L Kennedy chose one, which was also an extract from a novel, to be published by the London publisher, Vintage, in a paperback anthology of stories which was sold in most countries of the world. That was back in 2000, and it got me my first newspaper review in Scotland on Sunday. A few years later, another couple of famous British authors, Toby Litt and Ali Smith, chose one of my stories to be published in a Picador anthology called New Writing 13. Other contributors to that anthology included Muriel Spark, Fay Weldon and David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas. The paperback was described as “New writing from established writers and names to watch”. This led to my work being reviewed in The Spectator in London, and The Hindustan Times in India. This was all before the epublishing era came along. When I published my novel, The Survival of Thomas Ford, two years ago on Amazon Kindle, this was like starting from the beginning again, but luckily it became an Amazon bestseller and won an ebook award. Ten months later, I published my short story collection, Storm Damage, so it was the sales of the novel as an ebook which helped the sales of the short story collection, to readers who had been waiting for a second book to come out.

I like the idea of bundling a series of short stories. You have put together a set called STORM DAMAGE. What was the impact on your other sales? What was your main objective in bundling the ten stories?

I’d always been fond of short story collections, and had loved those written by A L Kennedy, Bernard Mac Laverty, James Kelman, Bernard Malamud, Franz Kafka, Richard Brautigan…

But the two literary agents I signed up with over the years had always told me they are impossible to sell, they were only interested in my novels.

With epublishing, though, I wanted to test that negative theory. I had nine unpublished short stories which had been written as a series over two years and formed an organic whole, so I put them together with one story which had previously been published by Picador.

Last month was the first when sales of that short story collection, Storm Damage, exceeded sales of the novel, and this was the result of a Bookbub promotion for Storm Damage at the end of October, which I blogged about here:

What writer support groups do you belong to? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?

I’ve been a member of Authors Electric for nearly 2 years now. The 28 members each blog monthly there, the blog gets about 18000 views a month.

This was my most popular post there, about Amazon including a page from my novel, The Survival of Thomas Ford, in the UK video advert for the Kindle Paperwhite:

The Authors Electric members do support each other, share advice etc.

I’m also very proud to be a member of the League of Extraordinary Authors, where advice on writing/marketing/publishing is exchanged regularly:

And I’m a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors. Appearing on their author panel to launch the organisation at London Book Fair in 2012, with Joni Rodgers, Linda Gillard, and Dan Holloway, was one of the most unexpected and exciting surprises to come out of this epublishing adventure so far:

Between your book writing, marketing, family, large social media following and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do your sort of play it by ear?

I do play it by ear. But the most important rule for me is to work on writing, or editing, or reading, as early in the day as possible, before doing other things.

Living in England creates a unique selling and marketing situation. Where is your biggest audience? Does marketing online help in this situation?

Yes, because I market online and only sell ebooks this means my biggest audience is in the U.S. But then again, that still leaves a large audience in the rest of the world, and in the UK, and in Scotland locally too. But when I pay for a Bookbub advert I know this means that by far most of the downloads will be in the U.S. Sometimes it’s unpredictable though. On a couple of promotions for The Survival of Thomas Ford, UK sales far exceeded US sales. On a couple of other promotions, this was the other way round. Sometimes it’s impossible to know why this happens!

But by focusing exclusively on selling ebooks online, in the end it doesn’t matter where in the world the downloads/sales/reviews are coming from, and that is the great thing, we aren’t limited now by our location, or our nationality, we have a chance of distributing our work to anyone/anywhere, which is incredible really.

When I did my first free promotion of The Survival of Thomas Ford 2 years ago it was amazing to see the copies being downloaded in America, Spain, Italy, Japan…and at all hours of day and night…I still get excited to see this…

What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?

The Survival of Thomas Ford has 132 reviews now on Amazon US, more in the UK, more at Goodreads…Storm Damage is a wee bit behind, but catching up slowly…

As the books have now had 125000 downloads between them, the reviews start to come in then, in larger numbers, from readers, sometimes several reviews a day. A couple of Bookbub promotions in 2013 resulted in more than 100 new reviews in quite a short time period. Sometimes people do find the book on Twitter, and contact me to tell me they will be leaving a review…sometimes a blog for Authors Electric will generate attention and sales, then reviews will come in…sometimes bloggers review a book, and then post their review to Amazon or Goodreads also.

Oh, and I put a little message at the back of the ebook, thanking people for reading, and inviting them to leave a review on Amazon if they would enjoy doing that…maybe that works!

Author's Book List
Storm Damage
STORM DAMAGE is a collection of ten stories by John A. A. Logan, author of THE SURVIVAL OF THOMAS FORD - Length: 167 pages/60000 words

UNICORN ONE - Mission Control in Edinburgh has made a strange choice of astronaut for Scotland’s first ever Independent Space Program

LATE TESTING - Michael survived the trenches of World War One France, but can he survive the English village he returns home to?

NAPOLEON’S CHILD - Has old Frank been alone for too long, or did a young boy really appear from the desert mysteriously one night?

AT THE EDGE OF THE KNOWN WORLD - In a very bizarre circus, a Big Top performance goes horribly wrong

THE MAGENTA TAPESTRY - Calliasta may have to sell the old house to Russian mafiosi, but is it true that the family gardener, Ernest, owns the grounds?

THE AIRMAN - A ghost story about a World War Two bombing raid over Dresden which somehow ends up in modern India

THE POND - An elderly man tries to recreate a lost love but is Nature on his side?

THE ORANGE PIG - A meeting between a pig and a wolf on a moonlit hillside leads to a night of revelations for the pig

STORM DAMAGE - How hard can it really be to make an insurance claim?

SOMETIMES ALL THE WORLD COMES DOWN* - A young man gets his teeth into something at a party

*SOMETIMES ALL THE WORLD COMES DOWN was originally published by PICADOR in NEW WRITING 13 (edited by Ali Smith and Toby Litt)

Order the Book From: Amazon - Amazon UK
The Survival of Thomas Ford
Thomas Ford is the only survivor of the car crash which killed his wife. He is also the only witness who would be willing to identify the young, reckless driver who caused the crash. But the driver has no intention of ever letting himself be identified, not to mention what his father’s intentions are…or those of his girlfriend, Lorna, the hospital cleaner.

The young driver’s father is Jack McCallum, the powerful entrepreneur who has built a housing empire, McCallum Homes, on the high hills surrounding the city. Jack has his own dark secret to protect, as well as his business edifice to hold onto. There is no way in the world that Jack McCallum will ever let anything threaten the future of McCallum Homes.

Robert Ferguson, the passenger who was with the young driver on the day of the crash, curses himself for ever getting into the car. He watches carefully to see what the universe will do about it all, and he thinks he can hear the gears and chambers of the universe’s engine, rolling terribly towards them, out of the future, and he knows he can’t cope with that, not even if he takes his medication.

In the end, destiny will pull them all far out of the city, some of them to the moonlit hillside, where white butterflies and mysterious gas fill the air, and wild cats wrap themselves around cold trees. Jack McCallum’s trusted Polish foreman, Lanski, will recognise the place from the folklore-wilderness of his own childhood, a place where death can come stalking in the form of a white wolf, but perhaps also redemption can appear, for those like Thomas Ford who seek it.

In any case, the young driver has it in mind to take his destiny into his own hands now, which will soon lead to the life of a second young woman hanging in the balance, awaiting salvation or destruction, perhaps only the Fates, or the wind that blows through the trees, know which.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Amazon UK
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
HBS eBook Author’s Corner
HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle

Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.


  1. Thank you, James and to HBSystems Publications for interviewing one of my favorite authors, John A. A. Logan.

  2. Hi John,
    Great interview, lovely to learn a little more about you. Congratulations on your sucess, you deserve it.