Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Charles Harris. He is the author of best-selling dark satire THE BREAKING OF LIAM GLASS. Also, Charles is an award-winning writer-director.
Crime, Contemporary, Satire, Non-fiction
Charles Harris Author Film-maker
Charles Harris Author Film-maker
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Best-selling author and award-winning writer-director, Charles Harris is also one of Britain's most respected script consultants, having co-founded the first screenwriters workshop in the world, London Screenwriters Workshop. Now Euroscript, it has become one of Europe's most valued script training and consultancy organisations for film and TV.
His debut novel The Breaking of Liam Glass, was published by Marble City, June 2017.
He has won international awards for his documentaries, dramatised documentaries and his debut feature film, Paradise Grove. He has had short stories nominated for awards and his non-fiction work includes the best-selling Teach Yourself: Complete Screenwriting Course (John Murray) and Jaws in Space (Creative Essentials). Both are recommended reading on MA screenwriting courses.
Over the years, he has trained writers from all over the world, showing a special expertise in working with new and emerging talents, helping them to develop and market their work. He has provided classes for universities, film schools and festivals in many countries, including London University, London Film School, Copenhagen Screenwriting School and the International Filmschule, Cologne, and created Pitching Thursday at The London Screenwriters' Festival, the world largest screenwriters' festival, where his morning 'Hour of Power' sessions for writers quickly became a legend.
He has also trained extensively in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) which he uses to help writers, directors, actors and other artists find their creative "Mental Game" - dealing with issues from procrastination to fear of failure - and is a sixth dan in the martial art of Aikido.
He is married with two sons and lives in North London with his wife and two cats.
SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
Congratulations on your book: The Breaking of Liam Glass. What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
Thank you. I'm working on two other novels in the same series, under the series title Camden Noir. The first will be a psychological thriller about a policeman with amnesia. Then there's another satirical thriller - about a charity rock concert, set in the Caribbean.
You have a good following on twitter. Since you started writing before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How did you build your following in your niche? How much has it changed your book launch process?
It's difficult to say what impact social media has had, as it's all still very new. There's so much hot air about social media and I feel a great deal of it is Emperor's New Clothes. But I have met some very interesting people (we ourselves met on Twitter, of course!). If nothing else, it's a good way to avoid getting down to writing in the morning. On the other hand, when the writing is going slowly, there's a kind of warm feeling to having a good following.
However, I'm not sure it's changed my book launch process very much. I make contact with readers mostly through my mailing list. I offer them exclusive articles, a free short story collection, and so forth. When we launched The Breaking of Liam Glass last summer, they were remarkably supportive and have remained so ever since.
You do a lot of book signings, writing workshops, interviews, speaking and personal appearances. When and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?
I'm going to be in Leeds, Yorkshire, UK, at the Leeds Literary Festival on March 7th. I'm running a workshop at Southampton Solent University on March 14th and then, thankfully, a breather before I'm up at Newcastle Noir on Saturday May 5th, which happens to be my birthday. So that should be fun.
You have written several short stories. Can you tell us if they had an impact on the sales of your novels? Are shorty’s one of your styles of writing or are they created to give readers a sample of your work?
It's strange. My short story style is not so different from my novel writing, but the genres are. There's a certain dark humour in both, but the short stories explore completely different genres. One is a rather odd-beat mystery. Another a fantasy. Yet another is an ultra-short spy story.
I have no idea where they come from, but they are fun to write. If I was clever, I'd write a load of short stories in exactly the same style and genre as "Liam Glass" but my mind simply doesn't work that way. It's always been like that. If I try giving it precise orders, it just ignores me and does its own thing. So I've learned to give in and accept what comes.
I'm also not savvy enough to know how they've affected sales of the novel. There's probably some high-tech algorithm but even if I had it I doubt I'd know how to use it.
What has been your experience in giving your short stories away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?
They have been extraordinary successful. Every time I look more and more copies of book (The Cupboard) have been downloaded.
Aside from The Cupboard, the only other giveaways I tried was to offer some free stories and articles with the launch of Liam Glass. The result wasn't madly impressive. I came to the conclusion that giveaways work with non-fiction and possibly if you offer the first of a long fiction series or if you're a big genre name like Stephen King, but not with my kind of fiction.
Nobody really wants to read free character notes or essays on the theme of a book they don't know. People either want to read the novel or they don't - and you can't bribe them!
The Cupboard – seven free short stories
What is your primary genre? What has been your best marketing approach to this group?
I seem to write variations of thrillers. I mention this hesitantly as we never called Liam Glass a thriller - but if you look at the reviews on Amazon, that's the word that keeps cropping up. I certainly like to write stories that keep you turning the pages ("page-turner" was another phrase that came up in reviews).
However, I find many thrillers sacrifice character and ideas. I like to develop interesting, conflicted characters who have to grapple with real dilemmas. Such as fake news, ambition, truth, how much you really know yourself. In many ways, Liam Glass is a love-letter to tabloid newspapers, which are so important to our society, and which can be both great and deeply flawed. And it asks how far an ambitious man will go to achieve his aims - even to the extent of risking people's lives in the process.
As for marketing, I feel like the ad exec who said "50% of our adverts work. Unfortunately we don't know which". I suspect that my readers tend to go on reviews and word of mouth. They probably read a lot of blogs and online or physical newspapers and magazines. But I can't prove it.
I like your approach to developing a reader list using free short stories. What other methods do you use to find your readers and create the list and the relationship? Do you use social media, forums, newsletters and/or support groups to build your list?
I tweet a bit - though I always worry that my style of satirical comment could put off as many readers who don't agree with me as attract those who so. Forums and other groups would doubtless be a good idea if I had time. I like being interviewed though - and that's not me being polite.
You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing useful information to other writers. What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels, take care of the social media and maintain your blog?
Thank you. My goal is to have fun, to talk about things that interest me, review books you may have missed or give tips on writing. Maybe also attract a people who might try one or other of my books. As you hint, there are limits to my time, so I do what comes naturally - as that seems quickest. As I tend to be rather opinionated, that tends to mean reviews, advice and sounding off about stuff.
I try to make my mornings sacrosanct. That's when I write my books - or stare at the ceiling pretending to do so. I'm not much use for creative writing after lunch, so everything else gets crammed into the space between my early afternoon walk and rushing off to pilates or to run my Aikido class. Or remind my wife who I am.
Living in England creates a unique selling and marketing situation. Where is your biggest audience? Does marketing online help in this situation?
Up until recently, I'd have said my biggest audience was here in the UK. Everyone said that Liam Glass was very London, and wouldn't sell much abroad. But just before Christmas, the publisher had an on-line promotion and it shot up the Amazon charts in the States, indeed got to #8 in its genre, better than the UK. So, I don't know anything anymore. Which is confusing, but probably a very good Zen place to be.
You have written both fiction and writer/screenwriting based non-fiction. Does changing hats create any problems? Any tricks you can share with us? Which version did you enjoy writing the most?
I rarely do the two at the same time. Non-fiction can be easier - as long as you have a good marketable idea and know your stuff. Fiction is a tougher sell. You can't rely so much on the premise. But more fun IMHO. The danger of course with writing about writing is that you can start to believe you actually know it all. In my books, I tried hard to say that I didn't. I've just picked up some good techniques that help me and help others move up to the next level.
As for tricks - one main one: be honest. For both fiction and non-fiction. Of course, this is easy to say, but very hard to do. Maybe the hardest thing of all.
Most problems come from trying to force the material to do something it isn't supposed to do. Look at what you've got and just be truthful to it. If it all goes pear-shaped, at least you did your best.
Author's Book List
THE BREAKING OF LIAM GLASS
The Breaking of Liam Glass is not so much a Whodunnit as a fast-moving comedy noir What-they-did-after-it, that resonates in a timely way.
White teenage footballer Liam Glass is stabbed on a mixed-race estate next to London's Regents Park and,with an eye to the main chance, journalist Jason Crowthorne sees him as his ticket to saving his job and getting to tabloid heaven.
In the following 24 hours, Jason is drawn into a web of increasingly fake news as he tries desperately to build his story, hide it from rival journalists and avoid arrest. But other powerful figures are determined to exploit the boy too, and they have even fewer scruples than Jason!
Liam Glass is a pacy black comedy that looks at the deep splits in modern communities, asking deep moral questions with sympathy and sharp humour.
The novel has been nominated as Finalist for a Wishing Shelf Book Award.
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