Social Media for Humans

Self publishing and social media with E L Williams

March 11, 2022 Alexis Bushnell Season 2 Episode 2
Social Media for Humans
Self publishing and social media with E L Williams
Show Notes Transcript

From the highs and lows of self publishing to how her passion for the planet and animals on it permeates her work, I'm thrilled to kick off season 2's interviews with indie author E L Williams.

E L Williams grew up in the Welsh Valleys in a tiny house full of books and stories of magic. She’s passionate about animals, nature and all things spiritual and frequently combines all three in her writing.

As a sustainability specialist by profession, her writing is influenced by her desire to protect and cherish the natural world. The First Ethereal is her first novel.

Emma lives in Berkshire with her husband and her elderly Miniature Schnauzer. When she’s not working, writing or pandering to the needs of her demanding pooch, she’s usually to be found gardening or coddling her dozens of house plants.

Emma's links.
Website: www.elwilliamsauthor.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/el_williamsyoung/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ELWilliamsAuthor
TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@elwilliamsauthor

Alexis' links.
I hang out on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alexisbushnell/​
Find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SocialMediaForHumans
Join the club to learn more about ethical and effective social media marketing: https://socialmediaforhumans.club/

Voice over by Hawke Wood: https://www.spotlight.com/3490-9081-8844

Support the show
Hawke:

Hello and welcome to Social Media for Humans, the podcast that empowers you to do social differently. Your host, Alexis Bushnell, and her guests discuss their experience of social media as businessowners, users and ultimately humans. With insights and advice to help you find an effective and ethical strategy that works for you. Grab yourself a drink and join the conversation.

Alexis:

hello hello! I am here with wonderful Emma, whose book I love, just by the way! Which kind [indistinct] her intro but do introduce yourself and tell us who you are and what you do.

Emma:

Hello, so I'm Emma Young. My pronouns are she and her. By day I'm asustainability advisor and I help companies with their communication around social environmental issues but more interestingly potentially, by night I'm a new author and I've written two books, The First Ethereal andthe forthcoming sequel to that book, The Cold Of Summer. A: Which I am beyond excited for!

E:

thank you! A: So did you always want to be a writer? hmm yesand no I guess. So I loved writing when I wasa kid. I actually wanted to be a geologist and then I wanted to be a chemical engineer as you do when you're, you know, 10 or 12 or whatever! But then when I left school I kind of realised after I did a stint in a genetics lab for work experience and it became really clear, I think, that my kind of my animal kind of affinity and love for animals was always going to kind of bump up against my scientific, you know, career even before it began. So from, I think, about 18 I kind of switched and decided to go back into more the kind of art side of things and yeah I kind of switched into, degree wise I ended up doing a business degree and kind of left my science career behind. So writing was always something I loved to do but it didn't really kind of appear as "oh I wonder if I could write a book" until probably my mid-twenties.

A:

oh interesting, interesting! So when did you first start writing your first book?

E:

it was probably, Iwent to a night class in Windsor and I rememberthe tutor just hated everything I wrote He wasreally complimentary but he was into a really dark kind of gritty fantasy, and my comments would come back and he'd be like you know, I'd write kind of quite light and kind of emotional kind of you know typically kind of female, young female stuff, at the time and he'd be like through gritted teeth "it's nice but have you thought about a little tension in here? You know, maybe a death?" [chuckles] So yeah, so Ethereal really started as I think it was a short story called The Late Comer and it was when I first met Storm, who was this character who at the time was like a medium who had lost her powers, her connection. And she just fascinated me. I didn't know why she'd lost the connection or anything but it was just one of those things that kind of stayed with me. And weirdly, like probably halfway through drafting I decided to make her a witch as well because it kind of dawned on me that this is my book, this is my world, like I can have dragons if I want, you know? And up until then I'd been playing in this little safe box as like, well you know, these are the rules and then I realised I could make them up. It was quite liberating! So yeah, so that would have been 2009 that I started.

A:

Wow! Wow! That is a long time ago! Why has it taken you. Because you published it last year? The year before? E: 2020, the only good things about the pandemic for me was hey, I did a book! I think the typical answer is you know, I was in a corporate job, I was in quite a demanding corporate job. I was going to London kind of three days a week. I loved my work and I ended up writing not even like on, you know, in the evenings or anything. I know loads of people talk about writing on the train. I was working on a train, you know, there and on theway back and so I don't really get to write the weekend or on holiday. And then I spent more time reading what I'd written in the last session than actually adding to it, so it kind of like creptalong. And I didn't know what I was doing, you know. Who does when you start doing something brand new? But so that's the kind of, you know, official answer but I think the bigger issue is just fear you know. I was terrified that I'd put this book into the world and people would go "hey, who is she to think she can write a book?" or B that it would be so bad that people would just like point and laugh. And I think that held me back for a long time and it was just convenient to say "oh I haven't got time. I'm so busy." But you know, life marches on and before you know it a decade has gone by and you haven't done the thing that you think you really want to do. yeah yeah I think that is that is a fear that a lot of people come up against in in different ways and especially like with social media, I see it a lot. This sort of fear of "I don't want to put myself out there, because then what will people think? What will people say? How will people react?" So yeah, I think a lot of people can relate to that. E: Definitely. There's a lovely quote by ElizabethGilbert and she said "procrastination is fear and fancy shoes" and I think that is so perfect because, yeah, sums it up beautifully. A: yeah that's definitely that is that is bang on. So you published independently rather than sort of shopping around for a publisher, why?

E:

I think when when you begin anything like this you kind of, there is a bit of a formula or an unexpected path, and I started kind of looking into it and it was, right okay well, you know, A finish the book, that was like really key and when it became clear that, you know, I was actually going to finish it, I kind of started looking for agents and publishers. So you know the whole querying agents process. But at the same time I knew a couple of people who had literally just landed publishing deals and I was like, you know, super super impressed and, you know, slightly like in awe and then after that all kind of calmed down a bit they were telling me like horror stories that hadn't even occurred to me like, "yeah well I've got this two, three, book deal or whatever but I have to change my title, and I have to change my characters, and I've had to rewrite three quarters of the book." And I was just like, why would you do that? You know, this is your book, this is your baby. And they were like "that's how it works." And you know, obviously traditional publishers and the whole machine around it, these are super smart people, they know what they're doing, they know how to sell a book. But, to me, like control freak that I am, you know. I'm independent in every other area of my life, the thought of giving this kind of baby of 10 years gestation over to a third party and going "okay, over to you then" and having no real control over it it just felt a bit horrifying. And I think that there was a big kind of turning point in that I went to a writer's conference. And I only went because I go to like a little writer's group every week and our teacher, Rebecca Fernley, she's an author herself and she's brilliant, she's always like if any of us say "I'm not really a writer," you know, she's on you. She's just like "no, you absolutely, youare! You write, therefore you're a writer. Just stop being coy about it!" So she's great and she kind of persuaded quite a few of us to go. And I did a like publishing 101 workshop with a guy called Scott Pack, I think. He's been around publishing for a long time, he's written books on, you know traditional and indie, and I did this one on one course and he did the pros and cons of traditional and indie, and I sat there thinking "oh my god, why would anybody go traditional?" You know, I get it I completely do, but for book one, especially when you realise that, you know, as an indie author you get you know typically between 30 and 70 percent royalty on your books, when you're traditional that could be like 7 percent, and if you're really top end you might get like 20 25. I just looked at the numbers and thought that, you know, does that balance up in terms of my desire for control and not having to do all the hard work myself? So after that it became clear that what I really was looking for, which everybody's looking for right, is validation. You know, I wanted somebody to go "yeah, it's good enough. Yeah, yeah, you know, we know what we're talking about and we think it's good enough." But ultimately your readers are gonna do that. They're either gonna buy the book and love it and leave a good review and validate the whole thing or they're not. So after that, you know, I think I sent out four agent query letters in two years So I certainly wasn't putting my shoulder into it anyway.

A:

I think one of the reasons, the other reasons, people think about going sort of the traditional route is also because they feel like they're going to get a lot of support in all of the other stuff like marketing, and just everything. That they're not going to have to do all of those things. Of course if you go independent, that it, it's all you. You are 100 percent of the book creation, marketing, everything machine. E: oh yeah! So I will say, the few authors I know who have been published in the traditional way all of them say they get nextto no support like for marketing especially. That it's very much like "well it's in your contract to post X amount of times on social media" and so they post and that's that's the extent of the support; you need to post on social media. So you're having to do it all. How has social media sort of helped with the marketing? Hasit made it easier? Has it made it harder [laughter]

E:

I think that there's a bit of a, there's a bit of a kind of Marmite thing in the indie author world about social media. So people who are quite well established are kind of sometimes they feel like they've kind of moved beyond it and are a little bit dismissive about it. And there's a lot of opportunity for, you know, for people to relieve you of large sums of money to teach you how to do things like, you know, social media advertising, so you know, Facebook ads or or even things like Amazon ads and all the other kind of fun author-related platforms. And I think, you know, really early on I realized that you know from a point of view of advertising unless you've got a big back catalogue, you haven't got enough places for people to go. So you know, you get a cost of acquisition from an ad and, you know, if you've got one book then you can only ever make one sale and it. Whereas if you've got 10 books and people will kind of become a fan and they'll, you know, read all ten, then your cost per acquisition is is far more, you know, far more doable for for a small indie publisher. So but then on the flip side I think it then leaves social media as almost being the poor man's advertising and it's taken me a while to kind of, you know, play all of this out in my own brain, you know, as I juggle various things. And at the moment I'm taking the view that this is a really long game, you know. Ideally I will get to the point in a few years where I've got four, five, six, however many books. And you know, in in the meantime I don't want to use social media as my marketing vehicle. You know, the books need to be the marketing vehicle. I want to see them as an opportunity. A wise woman not a million miles away from here virtually, told me, you know, it is an opportunity to connect with people and to build an audience and to build relationships, and I think when that clicked in my brain it became a lot easier to say, you know, this is about making connections with the right people. It's not just about building followers or, you know, getting people kind of looking at your books and, you know, making the prettiest kind of Instagramgrid. You know, that was never going to beme. I'm never going to be like pink and pastels and everything branded, because what you see is what you get, you know. In a nice way I would say I'm eclectic! But you know, you're gonna get a book picture and then a dog picture and then oh look at this parsnip I grew, or look squirrel. So you know, and I'd rather have that as my online presence than something that's overly curated because that just wouldn't be me. So yeah, social media is important but not as a kind of handle to drive sales

A:

It's interesting you say it's sort of the poor man's advertising because I think that kind of, it pitches it as sort of a cheap and nasty way, I guess, to market but for me I kind of feel like it is, it's the poor man's advertising because it is, you can do it for free at the cost of yourtime. But the power and kind of the magic of it is that connection. It is that like, as an author you can have direct conversations with the people reading your books, you know. You can see what they're loving as they're reading it even, you know. They can, you can see their reviews immediately. And you can reply to them and say "thank you so much, and you know you mentioned this, why didn't you like that? What would you have preferred? What would you have made the ending?" And you can build that sort of community around it and get that feedback that then, if you want to, you can incorporate into future books. So you can have a bit of a bit of fan service, if you will! Or you can not and you can, but you've built that community. And I do think especially like the bookstagram, booktube communities and the book groups on Facebook, like people who are into books are so passionate about books. E: yeah definitely. likethey are really invested and they love to talk to authors, and they love to talk to each other. So the community is so strong, and being able to get into that community on social media and make those connections is so so powerful if you then want to launch a book. Because people like the bookstagram and booktube communities, like they really want to support people. It doesn't seem to be, certainly the readers, it doesn't seem to be like "oh no, this book is trash, that book is trash!" It's much more like "have you heard of this amazing indie author? I've just read their first book it's so incredible, you have to read it here's why." And that is a really, really powerful place to be. So as much as it might not be, you know, reaching millions of people or billboard ads in the middle of London or whatever or prime time TV even, it is, in my mind, a much more powerful way to market because you have that direct connection with the actual people who are invested in you, and what you want to do. a conversation and a relationship builder, and that is way more valuable. And I think a lot of this kind of, I don't want to say snootiness but you know, we in marketing, we talk about the marketing mix, you know, and the fact that you need a different mix of of channels to achieve a communication objective. And you know, maybe I will get to advertising one day, but it's not the be all and end all. I would much rather have that early connection and that community of people because also you know, what feedback do you get from ads?! You know, you might get a dashboard and that's it. And you know, I think personality wise I'm far more interested in people than I am in data. You know, data is my day job, and I'm all over that day by day, but ultimately you know, you can't really tell but from a sales figure or a click through what people thought or felt. And you know, books are about creating that connection, that feeling with people. So yeah I think that's why, for the moment, I'm just kind of staying away from the the advertising piece. So do you have a favourite social media platform?

E:

I think Instagram probably because I've got my head around it more having I can't remember when I did your course actually, that first kind of Instagram 101course. And that was the first like little. A: must have been a couple of years ago now. Yeah must be. So feel like I've had a better grounding in Instagram under your tutelage, so that's probably my go-to. I've got a Facebook page as well. I've got a TikTok page but do not expect me to be doing you know, face videos and hell will freeze over before I dance with my book! You know, all credit to those people who are out there doing all of that but it was never going to be me. I've got Twitter as well but I find writing Twitter like really random and I don't know why, because I love dog Twitter, you know, for my dog blogs and, you know, general entertainment. Dog Twitter is like awesome and then writing Twitter just seems to be full of people going "if you had to eat popcorn or ice cream every day for the rest of your life, which one do you choose?" And I'm like "how is this relevant to writing books?" I don't get it. It's not even like a "I'm having a difficult plot dilemma." You know, what do you think, it's completely mental! So I kind of check in every now and again have a look and then walk away. I'm not quite sure but maybe, you know, maybe I just haven't put the time into following the right people, but they all seemed very sensible when I followed them.

A:

It can be difficult on a new platform to find sort of the right people, your people.

E:

Yeah. A: And I think it is and I noticed that when people start on any platform there is this tendency to lean towards people who do what they do. So like other authors, or other marketers, or other Pilates instructors, or, you know, people who do the same thing. And it's really interesting to me that people seem to just naturally go that way, because if you're using it for business it's kind of like but the people you want to be speaking to, or people who you want to work with, or in your case who you want to read your book, like it's not other writers. I do think there's something to be said, like I use Twitter less for marketing and more for just connecting with the marketing community on there and seeing, like, what they're talking about, what's coming up, all that kind of thing. And there is something to be said for using platforms differently, and if you found that sort of writing Twitter was full of inspiration and motivation, potentially it is not, [laughing] I couldn't make up my mind, right. Popcorn or ice cream, I love them both!

A:

But yeah it can be difficult to initially sort of build that community, or find the one that's already there, yeah yeah. E: And I thinkthere's a tendency as well to kind of have like you know, school disco mode, in that you're like clinging to the wall and you're not quite sure you know the rules of the game so you kind of like look for a little bit until you can kind of, you know, get a sense for. Because it's a community, you know, it's online but it's still a community with social norms and all of that that you need to get your head around. So I probably will go back at some point because there are a couple of authors and, you know, people I admire that are really prominent on Twitter, and I kind of miss some of the things that they're doing. So I think get book two out the way and maybe I'll have another look at it properly but for now I'm gonna stick with the two. A: Yeah yeah, very good. So do you use social media for your day job as well, or is it just for the book? E: It's funny, I did, I use LinkedIn obviously, I think most people do from a business perspective, but I'm not hugely active on it and I think that's because I'm in a lovely position of not having to be in a way, you know. A lot of my work will just find me. It's quite a weird niche that I'm in in terms of sustainability and communications and I'm proper old now so I've been doing it for a long time so I know quite a lot of people, which is, you know, wrinkles have their benefits in terms ofmarketability! So it's really nice that I canwork with people and work or find me. So I made a decision quite a while ago that I wasn't going to go out there and overly kind of brand myself and kind of go out searching for work. And I haven't needed to, which I'm eternally gratefulfor. So you know, I try and keep my profile vaguely up to date and I go in and I, you know, I look at what my peers are doing and keep up to date that way, but I'm not massively active on LinkedIn. I was on Twitter for work and a few years ago I was a judge on an award, a sustainability award and kind of stupidly Tweeted that, you know, it was I felt guilty because I couldn't go to the awards ceremony and so I Tweeted, you know, good luck to everybody and I got horribly trolled and it kind of put me off Twitter as well. And it was something just really random, connected to the awards but you know, I stuck my hand up first to mention it and that. I've kind of backed away off Twitter. I haven't got the time for trolls but yeah it's it's mainly the book that I use social media for. And then the dog blog and random personal photos of which people will probably be sick to the back teeth but tough! A: No! We are never sick of dog photos!

E:

Yeah exactly. [Chuckling]

A:

It is a shame you got trolled on Twitter. I do think Twitter is definitely the worst for that. They are, I will give them credit, they are trying to bring out things that are improvements to try and reduce that and give people control over, like, what kind of replies they receive and stuff, so hopefully things will be a little bit less like that over there. But yeah, that is a shame but it is it is understandable that you have sort of backed off from that a little bit. E: Yeah and ultimately, you know, I think with any of these platforms, theyhave to serve you and because you know, they're a massive time suck and if you're not getting out of it what you expect to get out of it, you know we've all got better things to do with our time, so. Yeah, yeah. I'm interested as well, like, do you think maybe part of the reason you started to step away from it, from your sort of daytime job, was because you wanted to shift towards your identity as an author, if you will? Do you think that was part of it? Or was that just sort of happen stance?

E:

I think that was probably a happenstance. I'm a bit weird on identity. I mean, I'm Welsh by birth but I've never been, like, overly nationalistic, you know. I don't yeah, it's not that kind of a sticky an issue for me, you know, it's like I'm a person and that's all that matters kind of thing, So it did take me a long time though to put author, and that's why my website, I made myself choose a URL with author in it because A, it felt utterly pretentious and I needed to push myself and, but I'm a writer by day you know, so I write sustainability reports for a living. So yeah, I'm a writer, you know, that's 20 years. I'm a writer, it's fine. So that thing about making the leap from writer to author felt like a deliberate, like a step that I needed to take. So yeah, maybe I've just undone what I said about identity because it did feel really uncomfortable but necessary to go "yes I'm going to pretend to be an author," put my hand up to that.

A:

What other marketing do you do outside of social media for the book?

E:

I probably don't do enough. I've got a newsletter so, you know, back to that kind of independent mindset you know. I'm always a little bit cautious about putting all my eggs in one basket for anything so, you know, really early on I decided that you know, heaven forbid one of those social media platforms goes down, I wanted to be able to connect with with readers in a different way so I've got a mailing list that I'm building up and you know people can like get free short stories and that kind of thing, and I send out one email once a month and update people on different things. I do interviews with with interesting people and yeah. That's mainly the other form of marketing. I've done one event, I'm looking at another in-person event but of course I launched the book right in the middle of lockdown so things like signings and, you know, all the other things that would have been ideal to get to my target audience kind of went out the window. So I'm hoping now that, you know, with restrictions easing, that will ease up and I can get out and about a little bit more and do a bit more kind of in-person marketing as well.

A:

Is that side of things more difficult to organise as an independent author? In my head I imagine that that is the kind of thing that a publisher has, can help more with. That they have potentially the contacts and know how to organise signings and events and stuff like that.

E:

Yeah definitely. You know, I think if you've got the the weight, or even just the name of a publisher behind you. it's a lot easier. It is one of those nice to dothings that you'd like to be able to point at as a milestone on your kind of, you know,your author journey. So yeah, I think there are definite advantages with people who actually know what they're doing. Other than people who like me, making it up as they go along! Taking a problem a day at a time. [laughter]

A:

So it would appear marketing is quite difficult for you then, but is is writing difficult as well? Or does that come easy toyou and the rest of it is is the hard work?

E:

Yeah, I mean, I hate to say this because you know, my background is marketing, my post grad is marketing, you know, I am technically a marketeer, but it's really difficult marketing yourself. And you know, I can be very sensible when it comes to marketing other people and you know, you turn that spotlight on me and I'm like "oh right, I'm off!" so I'mgetting my head around the marketing. The writing is probably the most joyful part of all of it and, you know, I love that because when I'm writing, you know, I'm in my happy place and time kind of melts away and I'm like "oh my go, I've been here all day! Wow!" So that bit is is really easy. The hard bit is, because you've got the writing, you've got the publishing, and by publishing I mean like all the admin, you know, for the new book launch. I'm actually trying to make it like one list of everything. It's on a Trello board at the moment so there's probably about, you know, 50 different cards, but there must be about 250 different actions because it's everything from, you know, sizing to uploading to different platforms to sorting covers. You know, yesterday, I don't know how I did it but I managed to... I format all my own books as welland I managed to delete all of my formatted books And I couldn't then retrieve them out of my bin. I have no idea how I did it. And I just sat heregoing "right, there's nobody coming to save you, you're gonna have to figure this out for yourself, or you're gonna have to reformat, you know, three different versions of Ethereal, three different versions of the sequel, and all the short stories that we've written ever." And all of that is just a major major time commitment and you know, it's not all the time but at the moment it's a seven day a week job and it has been for about three weeks, and yeah. And then you add the marketing on top so that can be difficult and that's probably why I'm not terribly consistent with my social because I get to the end of the day and I'm like "don't even show me Canva! I can't do it!" [Laughter]

A:

Oh dear. Oh dear. What's the hardest part of writing for you?

E:

Time I think. You know, I've got my work in progress, or my ideas file, I've probably got five different books. I've got a cozy romance half-written, and then, I know a bit random. It was in lockdown, I think I just needed comfort so I wrote this really schmaltzy, lovely little thing that I will go back to one day but probably not yet. And yeah there's, you know, five books in the pipeline waiting patiently. So there's lots of ideas and now I've got a better idea of the the process, you know, I think that is easier to start with a blank page and, you know, have a have an idea of what I'm going to be doing and get on and write. The difficulty at the moment is finding that chunk of creative time so I'm trying to, you know, get up earlier and just, because I'm at my best in the morning that's my kind of creative time. You know, by the evening after a day of client work and report writing and you know, business admin, you know I can barely say my own name! So yeah, trying to fit it in in the morning, the key bit and I'm trying to keep that up. It'sgone out the window last three weeks so because all about launch and admin on my Trello board!

A:

So that kind of leads me on to the next question, how are you managing to juggle like marketing the new book, potentially writing other books, daytime work, having a life, being a pet parent?

E:

I'm glad you mentioned that! Yeah, that is hard work. I think sometimes I don't. I don't manage to do the juggle. My red line is client work because if I've committed to a client, I'm going to do something then, you know, nothing can get in the way. I would not let them down. so I organise my time around my client commitments and, you know, sometimes being a pet parent to a very elderly poorly dog, you know, means I have to keep that that under review because he's a demanding little toad! Lovable that he is so yeah i think it's just about knowing that you can't do it all. So that bit about having life, you know, sometimes that is I'm just gonna go and you know, have a walk on my own, or I'm just gonna say "well I get to watch, you know, an hour of tv." But I get frustrated when people talk about, you know, being able to to do everything because we can't. I think, you know, having an expectation like that, that you can just keep juggling all the time it just sets people up for poor mental health really, and you know, I just set my expectation to say, right, client work, I've got to look after Bear, you know I've got to make sure that the basics are looked after but it might mean that I don't get to go out for a few weeks, or you know I don't get a lie in on a weekend, and that's just the price you you have to pay if you want to achieve something. And yeah even having that clarity helps take the pressure off I think.

A:

Yeah yeah, I do, I agree and I think it's lovely when people say like "you can do everything you can have it all" and I think yeah, but you can't have it all at the same time. Like you can have everything but it's not all going to be happening at the same time all the time. and I think that's something we all need to sort of learn to like lean into. Like right now is for you launch, marketing the book, getting the book out there, and client work, and Bear. And that there have to be, like your priorities will shift and I would hope that once the book is out there and you have lots of amazing reviews, that your priority will shift slightly to more sort of self-care, and rest, and looking after yourself, and doing some sort of fun things, catching up with people, that kind of thing. And I think we have this sort of false understanding that what having it all looks like is being on top of absolutely everything, every single day, 365 days a year, and nobody is doing that. And I think, you know, yesterday's kind of accidental file delete issue, you know, I said to my husband, it was like remember we went on holiday to Greece and they had that kind of, they were recreating a Greek wedding with like, you know, smashing plates. It was like, this is what happened! I feel like I'm back there because suddenly all the plates I've been spinning are like on the floor in bits. And I think, you know, I need to remind myself that you know there will be peaks and troughs and you have to take that, you know, you have to take whatever is kind of thrown at you. and I like something you said about, you know, taking a step at a time because I think that's a lovely analogy as well for figuring things out. And I think, you know, the beginning of this process I wanted to see like every step, and I wanted to be really clear about where I was going And now I'm like, okay, well I just need to know the next thing I need to do, and when I get to that I'll figure out the next bit. And again, I think that takes the pressure off and helps with that idea of juggling because I don't need every plate spinning all the time, you know. Maybe I can leave a couple drop and then, you know, I can focus and come back to them when I've got a little bit more brain space. So I think ultimately it's just being kind to yourself and, you know, managing your own expectations, which invariably for me are like way higher than I'm actually capable of achieving. "I should be able to do 19 hours a day, why am I failing at this?" [Laughter] Yeah, I think that's pretty relatable for a lot of people.

E:

yeah big time!

A:

And I think one of the one of the reasons I enjoyed the book is because one of the things that, one of the plates that I am spinning is like, how do I live more sustainably? How do I sortof lessen my impact on the planet? And that's like a really strong theme through the first book is that sort of environmental responsibility, and what is happening to the planet. Why is that in the book? Where did that come from?

E:

I think they they say like that you know your first book is the book of your heart, and it would have been impossible for me to write a book without an environmental theme because it's something that I've cared about, you know, ever since I can remember, you know. A little hippie kid, and you know, I was into saving the whales and, you know, wanted to be a veggie apparentlywhen I was four and you know all these things just like were naturally there. And then I went, youknow, I got really lucky in my 20s and got a job I was working for BT at the time, in marketing, and didn't really feel like I was contributing and I was looking to go and work for a charity because I really wanted to do something I felt like I was making more contribution and while I was looking, this job came up in the in the group team looking at sustainability communications. So I got to kind of live my passion for sustainability and bring my communications and marketing skills, you know, to bear to help move the agenda forward. And I had 10 years there and it was amazing. And I got to do some really amazing things. And it was at that time I started writing Ethereal and I think part of it was like therapy, because we, you know, we were really privileged, we got to talk to real experts that came in, we hosted Al Gore when he came before the film, when he came in to London to do the the slideshow you know, with a little laser pointer that appears in the film. When he did that in London, we hostedhim. And it was incredible but it was also really, really hard work. So I'd be writing these briefings for senior leaders talking about, you know, horrific kind of public predictions and projections around, you know, rising sea levels and flooding and mass migration and water shortages and pandemics, and all of these things that are, you know, have been known for going back like 20 years. And a couple of times, you know, people now talk about eco grief and eco guilt and you know, eco-related depression, and I think all of us and the team went through these periods and I remember reading one UN report and that was it, I had like I think I had like three weeks off of all news, I just like hibernated. Writing fiction where I could be in control of the world and say, "No no, it will be okay!" No spoilers! This is really cathartic because I felt like I was doing something. But I find it really weird now when people, you know, a couple of reviews, people are lovely and people are going "this is so of our time," and like it is, but it's been of our time for 20, 30, 40 years, and I'm so glad that it's finally landed with people. But you know working in this field for 20 years now you know, sometimes you just felt like you were shouting into a void and nobody was listening. And I think that's where fiction, for me, kind of jumped in and offered me a little bit of a lifeboat.

A:

Yeah that's really interesting, yeah. And I think it is it's interesting you say that a lot of the feedback is like "this is so relevant right now," but like you say, it has been relevant for a very long time, just many many people didn't realise it. Forpeople who have not read the book, you're missingout! I'm gonna just read the blurb for you. Super empath Lily is almost relieved to be living her last human life. With only her spirit guide, Jack, for company and the world collapsing around them she longs for the peace of the eternal forest. When, by chance, Lily meets Storm, a widowed ex-witch who has lost her magic. Both women discover that sometimes a life can turn on a sixth pence. As Lily falls in love with life, Storm joins her old friend, retired vicar Henry, on a desperate quest to find the one being on earth capable of stopping the apocalypse. Only the first ethereal can decide whether there is enough good left in humanity to save us, but will the friends find it in time. Also hunting the ethereal but with murderous intent, is a group determined to hang on to their wealth and power and ride out the apocalypse in luxury. The race is on and the stakes couldn't be any higher.

E:

I think you know the other thing I'd say as well is you know, I think anybody who's creating in the world almost, if they care about this stuff, they have a. I shouldn't be really judgmental. I feel I've got a duty to kind of bring this up in, you know, art. because we we need to talk, about it we need to find different ways of talking about it, and I think people, you know. We've always learned through story and the idea that, you know, we can change culture through corporate responsibility, or through government policy, or through news items, you know. It was things like Blue Planet that really started to move the needle because there was a story about what was happening with plastic pollution that was brought into consciousness. So I really feel that anybody that's putting creative content into the world should be thinking of these things, because we can't get away with being casually destructive in that in the same way that like. I had to stop listening to the news quiz back last year because every gag seemed to be an animal abuse gag, or they were laughing at an animal that was killed or maimed or hurt or injured. And I'm like, "why are we putting up with that? Why why is this humour?" You know. That shouldn't have a place in humour and I think, as creators, we need to we need to take responsibility for that and not create that norm, that narrative around it's okay to abuse animals, or it's okay to be, you know, environmentally destructive, just because we're creating characters that do that. So yeah, that's what I'm trying to do and, hopefully in a subtle way

A:

No and I think, especially fiction, but art generally, it's a safe place for people to figure out their feelingsaround stuff. E: Yeah, good point. And I thinkbecause, when I think about sort of, the content of The First Ethereal, I felt really deeply that like, this is what we're going through, you know? Like this is life. But because it's fictional there was enough distance for me to be able to look at it more objectively, if you like, and figure out like, well okay, which of these is the biggest priority for me? Which of these is making me feel the most? What are some things I think I can do to to change those things? because that distance feels less judgmental, I think. If you're reading a story and you're going, "oh yeah, okay, this kind of rings true, I see this happening around me," it's much. You have more space to consider your feelings than if you're say, watching the news and seeing like this is happening, and this is happening, and these activists are doing this. And you feel that, the immediacy and the judgment of if you're not doing anything, or you feel you're not doing enough. And I think that shuts people down, whereas art allows people to to come into it wherever they are, you know? Like it opens the discussion for everybody to take whatever it is they need and go, "okay, well this is where I'm at now, what can I learn from this? Where do I want to start?" Rather than like, "you need to be doing all the things right now!"

E:

Yeah andthat's a such a lovely way of explaining that because I think you know, we know wilful blindness is a thing and people are capable of literally ignoring or not seeing atrocities you know, if the cognitive impact is too high for people they will switch off and you cannot get through to them. And I think this is where we're getting a lot of entrenchment in different areas of life at the moment. So yeah I think that's a beautiful way of putting it, and just a gentle way into the issues without beating people over the head, or making them feel bad. You know, nobody needs to feel bad about being alive, we can all do something. So yeah, it's definitely an important tool in the toolbox.

A:

And coming back, you were talking about animals and animal abuse, and they're another sort of big feature in the book, which is another reason, definitely an animal lover! So was there sort of a reason that you chose to make animals sort of characters themselves in the book?

E:

I think it goes back to that point of, you know, if anybody who knows me had to kind of pick a load of things that was going to go into a book that I'd written then, you know, up there with environment would would be animals, you know, it's just impossible not for me to write that. But I think it. They're definitely characters in their own right because like, I think I was reacting to a little bit of a kind of tendency in the writing world. There was like this famous book it you know, everybody's told about it when they start writing, called Kill The Cat. And I think they've rebranded it now to Save The Cat because it was kill the cats, not a nice title. But it was advocating a way of developing characters and instantly conveying to the reader that they werebad by having them abuse or kill an animal. On the flip side, you know, if Joe Bloggs like saves the puppy then obviously he's a good guy. And I just really kind of, I hate that it's like, you know. Why are animals a vehicle for violence? You know, there have got to be better ways of showing up as a storyteller than, you know, like bluntly kind of killing or abusing or. It just doesn't feel like the right approach for the world we live in. So yeah. I wanted that to be a more deliberate, you know, animals in our lives are parts of the family and therefore why wouldn't they be characters in their own right other than, you know, appendages. We wouldn't, you know, can you imagine somebody writing a Kill The Cat type book and talking about women? You know, if you want a man to be a bad character, or a woman to be a bad character, just have them kill a woman, you know, or a small child. Like, horrific. So he couldn't do that! So yeah, my little stand against cruelty.

A:

Yeah. And I do, I think as well like it's easy to use that shorthand because people

E:

Lazy. A: people understand that like, yeah, if somebody walks down the street and kicks a cat, most people will make a lot of judgments that are not great about that person. But I think it's interesting to sort of challenge yourself by questioning those things and taking that option away, because it can make you so much more creative and make you think differently as well about about good and evil, and about what those things actually mean, and how they look in real life. Because if you take away that shorthand, it's suddenly like well what else is there? What else shows that somebody is a bad person? Or that you should be wary of them, or whatever. And I think that's true of sort of, all stereotypes really. If you're creating art or something, and you take away those options for yourself and say "I'm not going to lead into these, what am I actually trying to say? Right, how do I say that more directly but still in an artistic manner?" It can create much more interesting art. Definitely yeah 100 percent agree. They call it something like enabling constraints or something. There was somebody who wrote a book wasn't there, without any vowels? Without the letter I or something. I mean that goes to an extreme, but completely see what you mean. Yeah, you've got to kind of give yourself some boundaries to work within.

A:

So what is. That's my bit of writing advice! What is the best bit of, sort of, writing advice that somebody's given you? I think there would be a few bits. One was just write and don't edit it, because I think, you know, coming from a point of fear and judgment and oh it's all gonna be perfect can be really debilitating with like a first draft and you end up rewriting. Draft, you know, chapter one of Ethereal probably was rewritten 30 times, 40 times. And it's ridiculous because you know, that shouldn't be the way you do it in the beginning. And, you know, with later chapters I just decided the first draft was going to be a hot mess and it had to be because it was me telling myself the story, I was going to get it all out and then I pick it all up in editing. And I think that that's just something you learn if you, you know, do it once and you go "Okay, I don't need to worry about that, I'm going to come back to that." So that was really good advice. And then the other bit of advice I think, that I think I credit with actually having the courage to publish Ethereal, because I had a massive wobble before I did it And I started to kind of sit myself down and go "why don't you just give it another few months? Write the next book, see if you can do it again, and then." And I was listening to, funny enough, a podcast and the guy, I can't even remember who he was. Might have been somebody on Joanna Penn's podcast. And whoever it was they just said "look, you always have to have book number one. You can't have book two, three, four, ten, a hundred, unless there's book one, so stop worrying about it and just get it out." And that was probably like the day before my launch and I thought "Ah! I needed to hear that today." So whether this is like an absolute you know flop or whether, you know, I'm quite pleased with it when it comes out, it's got to be book one because I can't have a book two, three, or four unless I publish it. So yeah, that was a bit of advice that really kind of sat with me and was so timely. I'm just really grateful for it. Yeah. I am very glad that you took that advice on board and published book one! And now here we are, book two is coming out, so tell me about the new book.

E:

So the new book is calledThe Cold Of Summer. I can't say too much actually because it's probably going to give a bitof a spoiler for Ethereal but it picks up where Ethereal left off but 10 years in the future. And this was my opportunity to get really creative and imagine a better world. And I feel like I've spent my career talking about a better world and what that might look like, and yeah. I hope people will like it. If they liked Ethereal I hope they will, but it obviously you know has scenes of mild peril as things start to unravel and, you know, it pulls the the main protagonist into some really hell-like conditions. So yes. And it'll be out on the 1st of March, St David's day. A: Very exciting! So when this goes out it will already be out! Go and buy it! I pre-ordered it, I am waiting for it to appear, at my Kindle waiting! awww, thank you! [Laughter]

A:

So what is coming next? Two books. Is there gonna be three, four, five?

E:

yeah well hopefully! So I've got my, I got really excited in January because I had this like big gap where The Cold Of Summer was with my editor. So I was sitting there waiting for all his red pen to come back and I've written a synopsis for book three. This one is gonna be a standalone so it won't be in Pont Nethered with my other characters, although I'm sure I'm going to come back to them because I love them too much to leave them alone! But it's going to be more of a witchy book. And I've probably got about 10 research books sitting on my shelf because I got a bit over excited with the "oh and I could read about that, oh and I can read about this!" So yes, that will be my project once I've taken a bit of R&R time to recover from launch and everything else that's going on, I will be straight back into writing.

A:

Very exciting! Very good. E: Can't wait! Well thank you so much for being here, it's been an absolute pleasure to chat to you.

E:

Thank you for having me! My very first podcast and you've made it an absolute joy, so thank you very much.

A:

I am honoured. When you are a famous best-selling author I will be changing all of the podcast information to like "New York times bestseller, Emma, on my podcast."

E:

If I had ruby slippers I'd be clicking my heels making that wish!

A:

So tell people where can they find you on the interwebs?

E:

So my website is probably the hub so that's e l williams author dot com and you can get a free short story prequel to Ethereal from that site. On Facebook I'm E L Williams Author, on Instagram I'm E L Williams Young, randomly so that's where you can find me and I love a natter, so if anybody wants to kind of have a chat then I'm all up for that. A: Very good verygood and do go and download, buy The FirstEthereal. Get the first book, get the second book as well, The Cold Of Summer because they will be out now. You can buy them both, bingeread them, they're amazing. Thank you so much! Thank you!

Hawke:

If you want more regular reminders to find your own way to use social media, follow Alexis on your social platform of choice, all the links will be in the show notes. Until next time, be a human.