Monday, June 9, 2014
Interview: Demelza Carlton, Author of See You in Hell
What was your inspiration for See You In Hell?
Are you sure you want me to answer that? It started on a train ride that was far worse than anything
you might encounter on the London Tube – said a commuter who didn't even make it into the
sardine tin of a train carriage. Now, I did manage to squeeze in…and so did a man carrying a
briefcase with hard, sharp corners.
Why the precise description of a briefcase?
Well, for the identikit photo after the assault…
The train came to a sudden stop and then started again, so that we all came close to falling over like
dominoes but managed to straighten up in time. My problems started when that briefcase went
straight up my skirt and wedged between my cheeks. Oh yes, those cheeks.
My first response was to kill the case's owner, but a quick glance at the man told me he was as
weary as I was and that he was completely unaware of where his bag was…and if I told him, the
hundred other commuters would know that I had a badly-behaved briefcase up my bum.
So…it was either endure the discomfort only I knew about…or feel equally uncomfortable,
knowing a hundred other people (who I catch the train with every day) also knew I'd had a
stranger's luggage up my backside.
Ten painful minutes later, I left the train – walking very stiffly, admittedly – telling myself only an
angel would be able to put up with this sort of Hell every day without screaming or killing
So when I made it home…I wrote a short story about an angel, working in a corporate Hell. Further
short stories followed…until, a year later, I decided to write it into a book. Or three.
As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?
The day I realised I had to publish Ocean's Gift. I'd mentioned in passing to a friend that I'd written
the book and he expressed a wish to read it. I honestly just thought he was being polite, but I (very
nervously) gave him a copy. I never expected him to read it or speak of it again.
I wrote Ocean's Gift, my first novel, in the space of three weeks, before deciding what I wanted to
do with it. I figured it'd be worth a shot to try and publish it, but there was the question of how.
Whether to try and find an agent, submit to traditional and small press publishers, go vanity
publishing or take the enormous step and self-publish it.
So, evening came and my friend rang me, saying he'd started reading it soon after I gave it to him
and he couldn't stop. I think he read the whole book that day and he was full of compliments that I
could write something he enjoyed so much. This is a guy who'll send back a whole case of wine
because he doesn't like the taste of the first sip – and I was stunned to discover that I'd given him his
preferred literary vintage on my first attempt.
That day made the decision for me – I HAD to publish Ocean's Gift.
It took a further three months with beta readers and editors before I self-published the book, but it
Where do you get your best ideas?
In bed. Oh, hang on, that sounds really bad. At about 5 in the morning, when I've just woken up and
can't get back to sleep because an idea's taken hold I just have to play with it…no, I think that
sounds even worse. It's true, though. My best ideas come in bed, in the shower, or during some form
of heart-pumping exercise. I don't think there's any clean way I can say this.
Incidentally, I don't write erotica.
What is a typical writing day like for you? How many hours do you write per week?
There's no such thing as a typical writing day! For example, this week I allocated three full days to
writing a new book and I've written less than five thousand words of the book (when I can usually
write that in a day), but the amount of research I've done for it is huge. Classic motorcycles, 1920s
shipwrecks and tales of real-life rescue and survival, coroner's reports from the time…down to the
newspaper articles and photos of a very real shipwreck in the Indian Ocean. Oddly enough, this
particular disaster occurred over ninety years ago, in the same area where they're currently
searching for MH370.
Can you describe the feeling you get when you see your published book for the first time?
Thrilled, elated, proud…actually, I think it was the first time I saw the paperback proof for Ocean's
Gift. The ebook was cool, but it was absolutely something else to be able to hold a book with my
name on the front…and my photographs on the cover, too, which made it even more remarkable.
What surprised me is that it doesn't go away for future books, either. Every time I hold the first
paperback copy of one of my books for the first time…it's just as thrilling. I think my local parcel
delivery guy thinks I have a crush on him, I'm always so happy to see him arrive with one of those
If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
It's a product and not a baby. It's perfectly legal and acceptable to pimp it out, offer it for an insanely
bargain price online and give it away to people. You won't be up on child abuse charges for making
your book available and accessible to people.
What is your greatest challenge when writing a book? Do you have any tips that you could
pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?
When I get so involved in the story that it breaks my heart to write a particular scene. There's one
scene in See You in Hell that made me tear up every time and there's a couple in the sequel, Mel
Goes to Hell, that leave me absolutely bawling. Oh, and not just when I write them, either – even
when I go back to proofread those scenes. I don't give spoilers, so I'll have to leave it a mystery as
to which scenes those were.
As for tips on how to make the journey easier…keep a box of tissues handy on the desk, write those
scenes when there's plenty of time for your red, swollen eyes to shrink back to normal and listen to
Except if the character is Lucifer and he's telling you it's a good idea for him not to wear any pantsfor this scene. My advice is to tell him to go to Hell.