Friday, 1 February 2013


Interview with Amy Elliott-Smith

A warm welcome to novelist, Amy Elliott-Smith whose very funny book is published today by Crooked Cat Publishing  

A Guide to Becoming Distinctly Average is available in PAPERBACK and on KINDLE

What gave you the idea for A Guide To Becoming Distinctly Average?
Ten years ago I was diagnosed with acute anxiety and depression. At some points I struggled more with the stigma of the diagnosis than with the illness itself. Luckily, it was caught in time to treat and, looking back, I saw the humour in some of the thoughts which ran through my confused brain at that time, particularly during my worst moments. As I am now able to function as a ‘normal’ person again, I felt it would be a shame to let my mental-ness pass others by! Also, I felt detached, unprepared for and persecuted by my depression and would like to think that anyone who may be feeling the same as I during those dark days may garner some comfort knowing they are not alone and that recovery is possible.
What are your writing strengths and weaknesses?
My grammar and punctuation isn’t the best – thank the Lord for editors! I get bored quite easily so I tend to finish chapters with a bang, though that’s not necessarily a weakness. I think that makes the reader reflect more. My main strength is the ability to write anywhere. Nothing distracts me once I’m ‘in the zone’. I can block out the world and happily tap away on my keyboard for hours.

Do you have a writing routine or any odd writing quirks?
I tend to write a lot in short bursts which can be tiring, so I can’t write every day. I find that I work more productively if I limit myself to three days a week. There are some days when I can’t write fast enough to keep up with the stuff that’s clogging my mind, and then there are others when I find myself staring at the screen, frustrated that inspiration isn’t hitting me. Those are the days I’ll go back to what I’ve already written and edit.

Is there a special place you like to write?
I write at my dining room table. Not because it’s particularly inspiring, just because it’s the most comfortable place to sit at a laptop for hours.

Who is your favourite author and why?
I love David Sedaris. His stories are quick to read and very funny, for the most part. They’re like stand-up comedy in book form.

How do you handle rejections?
I kill again. No, I don’t take rejections very well. I take them very personally, especially when it comes to my writing. It’s like giving someone a piece of my soul and, if they don’t want it, they’re basically telling me I’m a worthless human being. Maybe I need to work on that!

What qualities do you think writers should have?
Of course, it depends what someone is writing. In my opinion, you need to be observant of people’s actions and emotions to be able to convey them realistically. I think empathy is a useful quality, too, if you want to tug at the old heartstrings.

What three words best describe you?
Tenacious, obsessive, stubborn.

What are you working on at the moment?
A follow up to A Guide to Becoming Distinctly Average.

Amy began a career as a stand-up comic, performing across the UK. She worked at BBC Manchester for two years hosting and writing sketches for her radio show I Should CoCo. A Guide to Becoming Distinctly Average is her first novel.


Tuesday, 29 January 2013

 The end is nigh?

Well, this Friday 1st February marks the launch of my debut novel, A Guide to Becoming Distinctly Average.

I am reliably informed that most, if not all, authors feel nervous before the launch of their novel. By the strength and frequency of my recent panic attacks, it would appear that I am absolutely and without doubt one of them.

I spent almost six months in a hell designated to new authors. A hell where the manuscript we put heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into is sent to publishers and promptly rejected.

I did not find the characters engaging, they’ll say.
I just didn’t ‘get it’, others will admit.
The subject matter is too risky, one whined.
Is this supposed to be funny? Cheeky bastard replied.
It’s best not to place a swear word in the opening line of a novel, another lectured. Fuck off, I wanted to say.

Elated, I finally received some feedback from those who had actually enjoyed the manuscript. I put the knife down and, for the first time in a while, managed a smile.

As of Friday, thanks to Crooked Cat Publishing, I will officially be a published author. So, is it the start of something wonderful, or will my new career come to an abrupt end with zero sales?

You’ll be the judge of that.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

To breed, or not to breed..?

I am thirty three years old, single and childless.

To some that sentence is gloomy, conjuring up images of a lonely spinster desperate for company and love. That is not how I feel.

Though content without either, I have noticed some people’s response to be of abject pity upon discovering my lack of husband or child in tow. After all, it’s what we are meant to do, is it not, to seek out a suitable candidate and breed? It’s one of our most basic instincts and vital to keeping our species on the planet. So, why don’t I crave either a partner or a child?

Recently, I began wondering why I apparently lack these very primal urges. 
Are there thirty three year old men in my shoes feeling similarly, or is this an internal debate nature demands only us women need negotiate in a bid to overturn our reluctance to increase the population?

There is no pressure from my family to marry or have children, but the vast majority of friends and family of similar age are ‘settled down’.

At this juncture some may think me bitter. Not the case. I'm frequently touched by the love a couple can have for one another and would never begrudge anyone this. I do understand the longing for romantic love and closeness, but simply do not see it as a necessity in my future. Though I’ll admit to sometimes crying over love stories, films and even the odd heart wrenching advert, I simply do not have the urge to invite it into my life. My thinking may alter given time; I'm not quite ‘over the hill’ just yet.

The huge pressure for women to ‘have it all’ is depicted in almost every film, novel, magazine and TV advert I encounter. We must be wives, mothers, loyal friends and financially viable, all whilst looking young, slim, beautiful and feeling fabulous. What a load of old shit.

Certainly, I do want some of the attributes on that list but not, it would seem, the ‘most important’. Of course, I cannot blame everything on society. The very reason these stories and visual treats exist is that they harvest results.

Is my biological clock broken? If so, does that make me obsolete as a human being?

So many questions with, it would appear, no obvious answers. Please excuse me while I call a therapist!

Monday, 12 November 2012

The Next Big Thing: Authors Tagging Authors

The lovely and very talented Sarah Louise Smith has kindly tagged me to answer the following questions about my current work in progress due to be published by Crooked Cat Publishing in February 2013.

1) What is the Working Title of your Book?

I originally wanted to call it My Shit Life So Far but Frankie Boyle has nabbed that title. Standing behind Pillars was the next option which relates to a Winston Churchill quote at the start of the book. However, my sister pointed out that it sounded like the preferred pastime of stalkers and paedophiles so it was back to the drawing board. Fetch with Cerberus had a relevant and intelligent ring to it, I thought. The publisher vetoed that. It’s currently titleless.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Ten years ago I was diagnosed with acute anxiety and depression. At some points I struggled more with the stigma of the diagnosis than with the illness itself. Luckily it was caught in time to treat and, looking back, I saw the humour in some of the thoughts which ran through my confused brain, particularly during my worst moments. As I am now able to function as a ‘normal’ person again, I felt it would be a shame to let my mentalness pass others by. Also, I felt detached, unprepared for and persecuted by my depression and would like to think that people who may be feeling the same as I during those dark days could garner some comfort knowing that they are not alone.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

That’s a tricky one.  I don’t think any book is entirely one genre but they do have to be categorised in some way. Mine is comedy peppered with sadness. Is there a category for that? Predominantly, I think it falls under comedy. Contemporary comedy. Women’s Comedy. Women’s contemporary comedy (though it’s also for men). Men and women’s contemporary comedy. Oh, I don’t know! Comedy.

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

In my case, this question is essentially, ‘Who would play you in a film?’.  I love Cate Blanchett, she does a good sad face. She’d need to eat a few more pies before she plays me. My love interest would have to be Bradley Cooper. I’m considering stalking him at the moment; it’s finding the time though.

5) What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Life is a bitch. Depression is a bitch. Spending your life with depression working with bitches is the worst of the worst. (If I take out the punctuation that’s one sentence)

6) Will your book be Self Published or represented by an agency?

It will be published by Crooked Cat Publishing

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I came up with the first line in Jan 2012. Once I got going, it took about 4 months from start to finish.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I love, love, love David Sedaris and would like to think it could be compared with his work, especially Me Talk Pretty One Day.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

One has a lot of ‘down time’ during a truly horrendous mental crisis. I found writing soothed me somewhat in the early days. Now that I’m a seasoned depressive in recovery, I find it easier to laugh at myself. That inspired me to share my bonkers reasoning.

10) What else about your book might pique the readers’ interest?

Though the subject matter is heavy, I have never read anything which ‘takes the piss’ out of depression. It’s either death or doom. My book provides a genuine insight into the mind of someone with a mental illness. There’s such a stigma attached to it. It’s almost taboo and seen (mistakenly) as a weakness, yet one in four people will suffer from it. Statistically, we all know someone who has struggled with mental illness, it may even be ourselves. We can’t all be weaklings and we certainly aren't all as alone as we feel at times.

So, over to my author nominations for the same questions:

Thursday, 8 November 2012


Well, I thought it may be time to have a go at this blogging lark ten years after everyone else has had a go.

I'm not very good at keeping 'on trend'. The new and exciting often passes me by. It was much the same with lattes, Sat Nav and thongs. Most others had known about their delights many years before I stumbled across them. 

Some trends will last and some will not. For me, thongs went by the wayside quite early on. I realised fairly quickly that I don't appreciate the feeling of cheese wire up my crack and would rather risk a VPL than the possibility of a nasty bout of thrush. I'm still hanging in there with lattes and Sat Nav though. Some call me edgy but, hey, I like them.

As I will officially be a published author in 2013, the advice has been to get my arse in gear and raise my public profile. So, having signed up to Facebook and Twitter, behold my blog!

Thank you for visiting, I know there's a lot to do in this world and that TV won't watch itself. I appreciate your time and hope you enjoy my random reflections. 

I will try to post as much as possible.