TINSLEY COLLINS: I HAVE CHURNED OUT SOME OF MY BEST WORK WRAPPED IN A BLANKET
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Tinsley Collins is a British author with two published books Séance and The Guru Game. Both novels received very nice feedback. Our next guest has interesting adventures with publishers and was kind to share them with us.
– Tinsley, what is your book Séance about?
– In a way it’s best for me to start with the blurb on the back of the book:
Two séances, two love stories and two killers linked across time by a single journal. In 1890s Shoreditch, Mary typesets her journal hoping that one day someone will read it and discover the terrifying truth behind the facade of her marriage and her fears as to who her husband might be. In 1990’s Notting Hill, Theo, the painfully shy owner of a London bookshop discovers it just before attending a séance with a girl with whom he is secretly in love. Neither Mary nor Theo are prepared for the events that follow or the ties that will bind then across a hundred years. Set in modern Notting Hill against the backdrop of a John Christie copy cat murder, Séance is both an intriguing murder mystery and a haunting love story.
I’m always embarrassed to say to people that Séance is a ghost story as that conjures up so many pre-conceived images of wailing spectres and poltergeists. Overwhelmingly that is not what it is about. Most certainly it is not a horror story in any sense of the word. What I have tried to do is to take some of the elements of a traditional ghost story and create an intelligent book for adults which happens to include a man being visited by an unquiet spirit. Central to the plot is that painfully shy Theo is falling in love with one of his customers, Lucy, and that the connection he is forming with Mary’s ghost is inhibiting such chances he might have in forming anything like a proper relationship with Lucy.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– Séance might not have happened at all had it not been for a passing remark made by Janette Winterson in what used to be the books pages of the Times. She said that most people like nothing more than to curl up round the fire on a cold evening and read an old fashioned ghost story, and the idea came to my mind almost fully formed. It is not typical of anything else I have written, but nothing is. Over the years I have written both plays and novels, and none of my books bear any resemblance to any other. I have written romances comedies and thrillers and the book that I had just completed before starting Seance was The Guru Game which borders on the farcical.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– The plot is quite complex and holding it together took a lot of discipline. Also, two narratives run in tandem so I had to make sure that I kept the two in balance.
– Tell us something more about your main character? Is it close to someone from your real life?
– Most of us accept that most books are autobiographical in some way, and certainly in all my books I can identify facts or personality traits or aspects of myself at different stages of my life. Séance is largely an exception. Theo is painfully shy whereas I come across as garrulous and extrovert, though my closest friends know that this is a device to cover the shyness that is lurking underneath. I have however borrowed from two people in real life. The first is a voluble and eccentric female from my past who was the inspiration for Cristobel, and a friend who was considered to be God’s gift to education in his primary school only to find himself just average when he moved on to a prestigious grammar school helped me flesh out Theo.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– In fact the whole process took a good couple of years. Having made a proper start on it, another writing project got in the way and I had to leave it for some time and then come back to it. That gap might have helped me take a more objective view of it.
I will talk about the publishing side of it when answering another of your questions.
– Give us some insight about your novel The Guru Game?
– The Guru Game is much longer than Séance but I wrote it in a shorter space of time as so much of it was very close to home. Over the years I had known a lot of people, mostly women, who had chosen to follow a spiritual or New Age path and who in the process had surrendered all of their important decision making to a guru/avatar figure, all of whom I regarded as bogus and self serving. I saw the comedic possibilities of a man who, to cure his wife of such dependency and to save his marriage, sets up a bogus guru for his wife to follow. The Guru Game is a book for which I have enormous affection. It is an out an out comedy but with a latent message about the importance of self reliance. Unfortunately it is currently out of print, as the publishers went bankrupt but I am working on getting it taken up by others.
– Who are you?
– This question has to be a trap! Is a person what he does, or is he something else entirely which is all about what goes on inside his head? What I will say is that I am something of a walking contradiction as my background is the law and property development suggesting, quite correctly, that I am a practical feet on the ground sort of person, but counterbalancing that I have always been an arts freak into garden design, sculpting, creative carpentry, amateur acting and of course writing. (I am also an opera buff, and a congenial drunk in the right company.)
I will leave it to you to reach a conclusion.
– What are your writing habits?
– This is easier. I tend to spend my days dealing with life’s practical challenges and making some attempt to keep the financial pot if not boiling, at least simmering. I write in the evenings for anything between one and three hours. I write in an out-building in my garden which is fine most of the time but bitter cold in the winter. For what it’s worth, I have churned out some of my best work wrapped in a blanket.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of the book and do you plan another one?
– I am overwhelmingly not satisfied by the sales of my book, but then who is? I cannot stress enough how hard it is for a new and unknown writer to get the publicity needed to generate the sort of sales that lead to him or her becoming part of the national conversation. The book is selling pleasantly, but I am desperate to move sales up to another level.
– Do I plan another one?
– Of course yes, and I am working on the next one right now. I have something like seven plays and five novels behind me and it is inconceivable that I would ever stop writing.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– This is a subject where I am open to suggestions from any quarter. My principal methods are tweeting and distributing posters and leaflets as far and wide as I can. I have been lucky in having a few articles printed in the local newspaper about me and my books, and I have also been invited on to local radio a few times. For a writer though a bit of local interest is not enough. One needs to break into the national consciousness.
– Please share your publishing experience. How many try outs did you have before you’ve been approved?
– This is quite complex. After the usual snowstorm of rejection slips for various books in the past I had nearly lost interest. Then a few years back I decided to make more of an effort. I came across new American publisher who was very excited about both The Guru Game and Séance and agreed to publish both. In the mean time I had also sent Séance to Carina Press, the digital arm of Harlequin who also accepted it. Somewhat overwhelmed I decided to go with the American publisher and had to turn down Carina. The Guru Game was in print for about a year but before Séance was published they went bust. With my tail between my legs I went back to Carina who said that currently they were not accepting any new work. Out in the wilderness yet again I went back to the market and sent Séance to Belvedere Publishing in Taunton. I am delighted to say that they accepted it and it is currently in print with them.
– What are you working and how your job affects the themes of your writings?
– Before moving into property I had a long career in the law. Knowing that world so well, I made Jim, the main character in The Guru Game a solicitor, and the entire plot of Dot.Con, my newest book which is being considered by publishers right now, is centered on the world of legal London .
– Your favorite Top 3 places in London?
– Before moving to Somerset I lived a very full life in London and knew all of its haunts and back ways intimately. Favorite places have to include The Kings Road in Chelsea where I spent so much pleasurable time falling in and out of love and enjoying the company of a whole series of inappropriate companions.
Entirely different, The Columbia Road flower market on Sunday morning is a complete joy, stall after stall of plant sellers and the pavements lined with artisan shops and cafes.
Finally, a bit of discreet and hidden luxe in central London. If you wend your way behind the shops in the Brompton Road (The side opposite Harrods) you’ll find a secret warren of small streets with some of the most beautiful and desirable house in London. Well worth a quiet wander.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be? (Don’t forget to answer)
– Why are you a writer? Why does a dog bark? Because that’s what is does.
Check out more about Tinsley at Twitter