Paula Johnston – “I still wanted people to read it so I put it out there regardless!”

Hi book lovers, how is your weekend going? Can we take a moment to acknowledge that Christmas is in less than four weeks – how exciting is that? I put my tree up yesterday and it’s got me in the festive spirit. What is everyone’s plan over the Christmas period? Since I work in hospitality/retail, I’ll be sadly working. I still have a lot of presents to get yet too, so no doubt I’ll be rushing around last minute trying to get them all. Truthfully, I just can not wait until this year is over. Though I suppose it hasn’t been the worse year of my life – this blog has been the biggest highlight. I suppose I have you, and the many fantastic authors to thank for that. I love reviewing books and interviewing you all, so thank you so much to everyone involved. Is it cliche when I say without you, this blog wouldn’t happen? It’s been amazing seeing how far everything has come, and I am so excited to see what next year will bring. What new stuff would you like to see next year? Let me know! Before we all start getting emotional let me introduce you to my interviewee today. And guys, this is powerful.

Today I interview Paula Johnston, a Scottish self-published writer who won’t let anyone stand in the way of her dreams. She published her new book, ‘The Lies She Told’ n September this year and today, she talks about the dedications and self-belief she had to get it there. The interview is all about honing your craft and loving your work, even when others might not. Paula talks all about the self publishing process, and how being self-published doesn’t make you any less of a writer. This interview is perfect for any writer looking to self-publish their first book, or someone who just needs a little pick me up from the writing blues.

Interview with an Author – Paula Johnston, author of The Lies She Told.

I: Hi Paula! I was wondering if you’re still interested in having a chat about you and your book?

P: Hey love! Of course, absolutely.

I: Thank you! First, tell me a little about you. Why did you want to write a book, and what inspired you to write this one?

P: I’m 29 (fast approaching 30), from a town outside of Glasgow. Until now, I jumped between retail management and administration work. I started writing my book about a year and a half before I was diagnosed with a chronic illness and had to give up work. I spent all my free time then fine tuning my book and was able to self publish last month! This book is one that pushes the boundaries on what’s acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to infatuation. I wanted to show what that might look like when we decide we are going to go after whatever we want, despite consequence. I’ve always written, whether it be blogging or writing short stories from a young age, but the story line had aspects that I felt I had experienced in my life and could be relatable to loads of other people!

I: I’ve already bought it through kindle unlimited! And sorry to hear about your illness. Hope all is well! But congratulations on self publishing, that’s an amazing achievement! What made you self publish? Did you seek an agent or publisher beforehand, or did you jump straight into it?

P: So I started out with the idea I would seek an agent and if I didn’t get an offer within three months, I would self publish. I know it is so difficult to bag an agent, there is so much talent out there, but I also knew that if I didn’t get one with this book, I still wanted people to read it so I would put it out there, regardless!

I: That’s a good mindset to have! It’s nice to know that even though you didn’t get an agent, you were still determined to publish your book! Did it make you feel demotivated or push you more towards improving your book when you didn’t get any offers? And what did you go through to make sure it was good enough to self publish? I know if I ever self publish ill keep doubting myself and putting it off.

P: To begin with the rejections were a brutal blow because you feel you’ve worked so hard on something that you believe others will enjoy, but I’m very self critical anyway, so it was tough. It made me doubt whether it was good enough at points, but at the end of the day, I believe it is a good story and I believe other people (not everyone) will too. I would say to train yourself to believe that just because you’ve self-published doesn’t make you any less of an author! Plenty big writers self publish or have done at some point. I had proof readers and first readers and also someone to edit it before I published. It won’t be perfect, I don’t have access to everything big publishers do but I’ve had great reviews so far.

I: They always the worst critic is yourself and I hear the term beta readers a lot. Do you think they are important, especially in terms of self publishing? Who did you use? Family, friends, or someone else?

P: Yes, I had beta readers. So first I only let two people read it as I went along and they were close friends just so I could get a grip on their thoughts and feelings, etc. Then when the book was finished, I put out an ad on Instagram asking for five people, that enjoy reading the same genre, if they could provide feedback after each chapter. It was like a mini book club. I loved it because they didn’t know me well so they had no reason to hold back on anything negative that might need changing.

I: Oh gosh, I bet that must have been nerve-wracking just waiting for their feedback!

P: Haha yeah it was! In your head you want them to think a certain way so you hope that’s transferred through your writing. I was always dying to know what they thought.

I: regarding the writing process, what is yours? Did you have a daily goal of words to write a day? What kept you motivated to keep writing it? Were there any struggles along the way?

P: I tend not to plan as much and more roll with the feeling. When I’m in the mood to write I can go for hours and hours and that’s when I’m really tuned in. I struggle to dip in and out so I end up doing it in chunks. I hit a blip towards the end because I started doubting myself and asking if I was just wasting time and would it even be any good. Again, that’s the self critic in me. Having other people read my work as I wrote it boosted me though and incentivised me to keep going! I wrote the majority of the book on my hour lunch break (and sneakily when I shouldn’t have been) in an admin office. That ended up being my writing zone.

I: I love when the words just flow and you can write for hours. It’s the best feeling! For people who are looking to self-publish, in terms of marketing, what do you recommend doing after you’ve published your book? Is there anything you did to get it out there?

P: Absolutely! I targeted friends and family and connections of those to begin with. Created all my social pages, dropped dates and timelines of release and post people’s reviews etc. It’s also a good idea to speak to book reviewers and see who would be willing to read it. I’ve gifted a few to several people. I also signed up to a marketing program, and they sent out a press release for me. Now that I’ve introduced it to people locally I’m going to do a price promo to entice people from all over the UK to give it a shot! I also took part in a couple of podcasts.

I: That’s amazing! You’ve really pushed to get your book out there! You must send me some links, especially to those podcasts, so I can listen to them! Your debut novel is a thriller. Did you know you wanted to write in that genre? Or did you try others?

P: Of course. I’ll send you them soon! I cringe every time I watch myself. It’s suspense thriller. I read about two books a week in the same genre. Nothing else, really. It’s just my preference of book and I always like to try to play detective to guess the ending, which commonly happens so when I find one I don’t, I’m blown away. That was always my goal too, to write a story that you never seen coming. I will stick to this genre for the most part, but eventually I’d like to branch out into self-help books for both adults and children with mental health issues.

I: Wow, two books a week! I only manage to get through one a month. It’s great you read books that make you better your own writing. And mental health books? What makes you want to branch into them?

P: Not at all! I just am a power reader! I’ve experienced depression and anxiety all throughout my life and really want to Chanel it into a book that’s raw and honest but also incorporate my dry sense of humour into it too. As for children’s books, I’d like to create one that explains to children that sometimes we feel sad and that’s ok! Think it would really benefit a lot of young kids growing up with so many emotions and pressure of social media.

I: Oh, that sounds incredible. Definitely something we need in terms of children’s books (or more of).

P: Yeah, I think so too. Early thoughts, but you’ve gotta start somewhere.

I: For people looking to self publish? What would you say they should do before they do? I know editing is a big deal. Did you use a proofreader/freelance editor?

P: Editing is a big deal. If I had a bigger budget, I would have sought professional editing. On this occasion my friend has a degree in journalism and I trusted her to edit it with a fine-tooth comb. Of course there will be errors but again, without funding from big publishers, sometimes things just need a place to start and grow!

I: Yeah that’s great you had someone you could trust to edit your work though! Finding professional editors can be really expensive otherwise. What advice would you give to authors who are thinking about self publishing?

 P: Yeah it can, and they should be, I guess because it’s their time we’re asking for, but not everyone has the money starting out. My advice to others would be if you believe your story is good enough, and it needs to be read then go for it. Don’t wait for someone else to give your work permission to be seen. It doesn’t make you any less of an author if you self publish, and that’s a massive thing that people need to overcome thinking that way.

I: I think self-publishing is going to become the norm, anyway. After speaking to so many people, they say that self-publishing has been better. Harder, but more worth it because they get more reins on their story. That’s excellent advice. Thank you! 

P: It is harder, and it takes a lot of effort lol, but fortunately right now I had a lot of time to play with and could give it proper attention.

I: Yeah, that’s true! I just have a few more questions. Did you use any software such as scrivener for your work? Or did you just use google word/docs?

P: Wrote it all on word and google docs! Nothing high tech lol!

I: Thank you. Last question. What is your favourite book? And are you working on any other project right now? If not, are you thinking about one?

P: I’m glad! I’ve enjoyed speaking with you and I hope you enjoy reading the book itself! My favourite book is pretty girls by Karin slaughter. I flew through it, unable to put it down. It’s grim and not always easy to read, but I was hooked and it’s hard to find that with every book you read. I am in the very early stages of book 2, so not much to disclose yet, but there will absolutely be more to come from me.

I: Ooh might have to give that a read! And Thank you! I look forward to reading it. Good luck on book 2!

I hope you all enjoyed this interview guys! Some answers just blow you away, don’t they? It’s a glorious reminder to believe in yourself. Remember, just because you haven’t bagged yourself as an agent doesn’t mean your work is not any good! If you’ve read any other of my author interviews, you’ll notice most of them are self-published. I have also read all of my interviewees’ books and they are incredible. I hardly notice that there is a difference. If you work hard enough for it, you will get to where you want to go.

You can buy and read Paula’s book here, and if you want to learn more, her social media are

Twitter – @PaulaJohnston_ or Instagram @ paulajohnstonbooks

I have a couple more interviews lined up over the last month. If anyone wants to get involved for next year, then contact me! I have a very exciting author who is has just published a festive novel so keeps your eyes peeled for that! I am so excited to read it nearer Christmas! If anyone has any other festive book recommendations, then please send them my way.

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