Rachel Abbott and Mel Sherratt – in conversation

photo 2I was excited to have an opportunity to chat with Mel Sherratt this week. I’ve been following Mel’s success for the last two years, since her first book Taunting the Dead was doing so well in the UK Kindle chart. Now, though, she has even more to celebrate, as this week her new book was launched in paperback too – and she had an exciting launch party. I think you will be able to tell from the photos how much she enjoyed it! But I wanted to know how things have changed for her in the past two years.

RA:      Hi Mel – It’s great to have an opportunity to chat to you on the blog – particularly as you must be snowed under at the moment since the launch of Watching Over You on the 14th January. That must have been really exciting.

What format did the launch take, where was it, who was there? I’m dying to hear all about it (and would love to see some pics too).

MS:      Hi Rachel. My launch was amazing, everything I could have wished for. It was in a cocktail bar, The Fellow, in Kings Cross, London. It was laid out like a huge living room (or den) with lots of comfy settees and a log fire. It was a get together of all my writer and author friends, and all the contacts I’d made in publishing over the past couple of years.

photo 1My agent and editor were there too and some of the guys from Amazon Publishing. Also Elizabeth Haynes, author of Into the Darkest Corner, came. She gave me an awesome quote for Watching over You. I was blessed that so many people came to see me and the champagne flowed. And I signed lots of books – a first for me!

I came back to over 600 messages on Twitter, Facebook, emails etc. Watching over You went straight into the top 30 on its publication day and has been rising steadily. It’s great to see it at number one in psychological thrillers since.

RA:      600 messages? Wow. I think that’s a sign of how incredibly popular you are.

MS:      Thanks. I think it shows too that people have followed my journey over the years, the ups and downs, and are genuinely pleased that I reached my goal.

RA:      What’s Watching Over You about, and where did you get your inspiration?

Watching over You New coverMS:      Watching over You is the story of a woman falling apart as another woman falls in love with someone else. I created a psychotic character, Ella, who has had a disturbing childhood, and because of it always finds her friendships with other people turn into obsessions. She just wants to be loved.

The other character, Charley, a support worker for a domestic violence charity, recently lost her husband and is starting again. She moves into a new property that she rents from Ella. When Ella becomes a little too obsessed, Charley starts to read the signs but is it too late…

My inspiration for it came from watching old eighties movies such as Single White Female, Fatal Attraction, Sleeping with the Enemy and The Hand That Rocked the Cradle. And as stalkers are often men stalking women in fiction, I thought why not do something different and have a woman stalking a woman? But the main idea was to create a sense of fear as well as an emotional tie to a character who maybe you don’t really want to like.

RA:      What made you decide you wanted to go for a publishing deal, rather than staying as a self-published author, and what have you found to be different – both better and worse?

MS:      I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have always wanted a publishing deal. Self-publishing was, and still is, great for me. It was good to be my own boss and in control of what I did and when, but I also wanted to see if I could get a sales record that would tempt a publisher.

Watching over You has only just been released so it’s difficult to say how sales will compare, but working with a publisher has been brilliant with regard to getting the books ready for launch – editing, copy editing, proofreading and cover design etc. I’ve been totally involved with every step and even though I now hand control over to someone else for these books, I can still continue to self-publish my other books alongside the deal. I feel very lucky.

I remember watching your book – Only the Innocent – fly up the charts at a phenomenal rate at the beginning of 2012. Have you ever wanted to go the traditional way (although not so traditional nowadays) or are you happy as you are self-publishing?

RA:      Only the Innocent did really well – but it did take three months to get noticed. Watching Over You entered the top 10 within a couple of days – which is absolutely fantastic. Well done.

But to answer your question, although I self-published in the UK, my first two books were published by Thomas and Mercer in the US – and I was very impressed with the way the whole process went. The editors at each stage were terrific, and it was good to feel that somebody else was looking after the marketing.

In the UK, though, I feel that KDP Amazon have been very good to me, and really helped me to gain recognition as an author. I like the fact that I can finish my book, organise the editing, and as soon as the book is ready, I can launch it. I think traditional publishers do a terrific job, though, and my ultimate goal would be to see my books on the front table in Waterstones! But for now, my third book will be self-published, and then we’ll see where we go from there.

How many books have you written, Mel, and how many are self-published? Do you have a deal for any new books, or just the ones you’ve already written?

Taunting the Dead mediumMS:     Currently I have two books published by Thomas and Mercer:

Watching over You and Taunting the Dead (which was my first self-published book.)

I also have three self-published books in a series, The Estate, on KDP Amazon.

Somewhere to Hide (Book one, The Estate)

Behind a Closed Door (Book two, The Estate)

Fighting for Survival (Book three, The Estate)

I echo your thoughts about KDP as I absolutely love what they do and they are so great to work with. They have been really supportive, and also so innovative, since I started publishing with them. Let’s face it; Taunting the Dead wouldn’t have been a top ten Amazon bestseller of 2012 without that platform.

And the great thing about having a new book out, self-published or traditionally published, is that it means my backlist is more visible again too. Right now, lots of people are finding The Estate series, which is fantastic. As I type this all four of my books are in the top 14 on the Kindle Psychological Thrillers chart in the UK. It’s the stuff of dreams!

After all the excitement of the launch last week, tomorrow I sit down at my desk again. I’m working on my next book and an outline for the following one too – both of which are being discussed with my agent and publisher at the moment… Where are you up to with your next book, Rachel?

RA:      I’m just waiting to get the final edits back from the copy editor. I never really understood what editing was all about – I don’t know about you. I originally thought it was just proof reading. And then when I had my first book edited and it came back with comments about point of view, requests for descriptions of locations, suggestions to move things from one place to the other, I was blown away. But I actually LOVE responding to edits, because each time the book seems to get better.

The copy edit, though, is the bit that should be straightforward. Hopefully it will just be comments about the odd repetition, consistency of use of italics, that kind of thing. So – in theory at least – it’s almost there.

What can you tell me about your next book? Have you worked out what it’s going to be about, yet? Do you have a title?

MS:      I have to agree with you on editing as I really enjoy picking things apart. I also have certain people that read my first draft for me for general feedback and as a kind of reality check. If I’m self-publishing, I pick it apart again after feedback, send it to a different editor, and then I’m on to proofreading etc.

Working with my editor through Thomas and Mercer, however, on Watching over You was completely different and amazing. She brought out so much in my writing, often pointing out tiny little things that made so much difference.

I’m working on my next two books at the moment. I’m writing a follow on from Taunting the Dead, which I am hoping to finish very shortly. It’s called Follow the Leader. I always do three drafts before I feel comfortable showing anyone, so I’m on the last one now, ironing out inconsistencies and polishing it before I ask for feedback. I’m also planning my next psychological thriller, not quite sure of the title for that yet, but I have the idea and characters and am dying to get stuck into that one. Hopefully both will be published this year.

RA:       A busy lady, it seems! On that note, I think I’d better let you get back to your writing – I’m seriously impressed with how far you have come in the last couple of years. You should be very proud!

Thanks for chatting to me, Mel – I really appreciate it.

If you would like to check out Mel’s books, here are some links:

UK links:

Taunting the Dead

Watching over You

Somewhere to Hide

Behind a Closed Door

Fighting for Survival

US links:

Taunting the Dead

Watching over You

Somewhere to Hide

Behind a Closed Door

Fighting for Survival