Laura Howard: Six Questions with Cally Jackson


Six Questions with Cally Jackson

One thing you always see social media experts preaching is to engage with your audience. Today's guest is one of the first blog visitors I started to recognize as she became a regular commentor. It's been great following Cally Jackson from my blog to Facebook and Twitter. And now she's released her first novel, The Big Smoke and I'm thrilled to have her on Six Question Saturday!

1.  What was your inspiration to become a writer?  

Writing has always been a big part of my life. I wrote stories and poems when I was a child and even created an illustrated joke book, complete with terrible jokes and really bad pictures. I wish I could track that joke book down!

The inspiration for The Big Smoke was a lesson I was trying to teach myself. I was 18 when I had my first ideas for what became The Big Smoke, and it centered around the concept of happiness - specifically, that your happiness and life journey is your own responsibility, nobody else’s. That became one of the main themes of the novel.  

2.  What are your top 3 favorite books and why?

Ooh, this is really hard. Like, unbelievably hard. I have a feeling if you asked me this question next week (or any other week), you might get a completely different answer. I couldn't say these three books are my “top favourites” because I have too many, but they’re definitely in the bunch.

The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I adore this quirky twist on the traditional time travel tale, the narrative made me laugh and also made my heart ache, and Henry and Clare’s love story is touching.

Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude Get a Life by Maureen McCarthy
I first read this book when I was in high school and have read it many times since. It’s one of the best examples of New Adult fiction I’ve seen as it beautifully captures the journey of three girls as they transition from high school to university and try to find their places in the world. This book was one of the biggest literary influences for The Big Smoke.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
The voice and character arc of the main character, Sam, had me in awe when I first read this book. The premise is fascinating and I found the whole cast of characters incredibly well crafted.

3.  When did you decide you would have your writing published? 

I've always hoped to be a published author one day, and I considered publishing independently for a few years before I made the decision to take the plunge with The Big Smoke earlier this year.

I didn't query agents or publishers with The Big Smoke because I knew it wasn't easily labeled, which is a turn-off for traditional marketers. It’s also longer than their desired word count for a first time author (about 130,000 words). Plus, the idea of being in complete control of the publishing process really appealed to me. You can read more about this in my post why I’ve decided to go indie, if you’re interested.

4. What is your editing process and have you hired a professional editor?

My editing process for The Big Smoke was: 

*Review the manuscript from start to finish, focusing only on macros issues - plot, characterization, pace etc
*Edit the manuscript from start to finish, focusing on micro issues – awkward phrasing, word choice, redundant words etc.

*Provide the manuscript in ‘chunks’ to beta readers for feedback on anything and everything (this meant I could still be editing the latter part of the book while they were reading the beginning).

*Consider my beta readers’ feedback and edit again.

*Provide the whole manuscript to a new group of beta readers and consider their feedback.

*Have the manuscript professionally copy edited. (This is definitely worth the investment if you want your work to be as polished as possible.)

*Consider my copy editor’s feedback and apply (almost all of) his recommendations.

*Have the manuscript read aloud to me by text-to-voice software. This helped to identify the last remaining typos/missing words as the software doesn’t correct them for you like your eye does while reading.  

5. What are the most important things you've done to market your books?

Considering I've only just launched my debut novel, it’s a little too early to judge. My guess is that providing ARCs to prominent book reviewers will be the most effective in generating interest in my book. That, and developing my social media platform early on – because now, when it comes to touring the blogosphere, I have blog buddies who genuinely want to help me out. I love the writing blogosphere!

6. What lesson have you learned along the way that you would hope others could avoid?

When it comes to editing, focus on the macro issues first – look at the forest rather than the trees. With earlier iterations of The Big Smoke (then Entwined, before I decided to completely re-write it), I spent countless hours perfecting the prose of certain scenes, only to decide later that the entire chapter needed to go.

Nothing hurts more than deleting pages of polished writing, especially when you think of all the time you wasted by not focusing on the big issues first. I’m a lot more comfortable dealing with the nitty gritty, but it definitely pays to look at the bigger picture before delving into the detail.

Thanks so much for interviewing me, Laura. I've really enjoyed spending some time here at Finding Bliss!

Now it's your turn, have you met somebody who started off commenting on your blog or Facebook page and gotten to know them better?


  1. Yes, having commenters is fun! I'm honored that anyone would take the time out of their day to read my posts, and I love meeting new people. So far, since my blog is still new, I'm able to reply to everyone. This is a wonderful community, and I look forward to meeting many more wonderful people. And I've gone to her site and checked out the summary. Sounds really interesting. Thanks for the advice and good luck with the new adventure, Cally!

  2. I agree - being able to connect with bloggers, reviewers and readers through social networking platforms is amazing. I feel really lucky to be part of this community and find it invaluable to speak to other authors and read about their experiences. Go, Cally - good luck! And lovely to meet you, and Megan and Christina!

  3. I have so many people that I now think of as actual friends who I met through the writing blogosphere. Even if it didn't lead to any sales whatsoever, it's still so worth it for the sense of community. Non-writerly types usually don't understand the high and lows of writing a novel. They try, but it's difficult to know unless you've experienced it. Thanks for your comments, Megan, Christina and Polly, and thanks again for having me, Laura! :-)

  4. This community is awesome! And I've made so many good friends here online.


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