IAM Guest Feature…A Day in the Life of an Author

To launch our Indie Author Month 2014, we’re pleased to welcome back to the blog author and satirist Michael Cargill. Regular visitors to the blog may well recognise Michael from his previous interviews and features where we’ve reviewed his books (see previous features here) – today he’s back to tell us about being an author.


A day in the life of an author

By Michael Cargill


The other day I received an email from a friend complaining that I spend far too much time writing and not enough time socialising. I found myself surprised by the email, initially because I couldn’t help but notice that the apostrophes were in all the wrong places, but as I read through it a realisation began to dawn on me: my lifestyle has become wholly incompatible with how my friends live.

I’ve been an author for nearly three years now and, although the changes that this has brought to my life are dramatic and overwhelming, they have occurred at such a gradual pace that I hadn’t really noticed them until now. Imagine travelling across Europe, absorbing and immersing yourself in all the sights and local cultures as you go, and before you know it you’re dining on racoon goulash and vodka coffee in the Siberian plains like it’s the most natural thing in the world. It’s as if the Twilight Zone has come to life… and by Jove is it effing marvellous.

This morning my alarm clock went off as it usually does and after splashing my face with cold mineral water I had to shoo Apple, my Siamese cat, off of my yoga mat lest he claw it to bits and spoil my chi. Bear in mind that I get up at midnight so there’s always a few minutes of fumbling around in the dark as I try to get my bearings but once all the lanterns have been lit (why do the matches never seem to be in the same place that I left them?) I’ll spend a few minutes doing leg stretches and finger exercises before stepping into my sun-blushed slippers and unlocking the door to my office. I sit down, make myself comfy, and check with Roald Dahl to see if anyone has sent me any important letters, fan mail, or ideas for future stories, all of which happen with surprising regularity these days. Although he has something of a high pitched voice and an annoying tendency to ramble on a bit, the great man does an important job for me so I patiently wait for him to finish. Just to clarify, Roald Dahl is the name I’ve given to my fax machine and may God bless his noisily efficient soul.

With all the boring admin and paperwork out of the way, I’m free to move onto the more interesting things that the modern world has blessed us with. If it’s a Wednesday I’ll fire up the laptop and connect up to one of those online elearning portals that are all the rage these days. Although Sting and his wife have developed something of a reputation for bad time keeping, their tantric sex meditation sessions are worth their wait in gold so I just sit tight until they’re ready to get things started.

When that palaver (finally) finishes my other alarm clock goes off to remind me that it’s 6am and the local coffee shop will be opening up for the day. After popping down on my scooter I’ll order a strawberry latte and, depending on how hungry I’m feeling, maybe even an apricot croissant.

By the way, does anyone else’s coffee shop sell those overpriced wafer biscuits? £3.50 for a flimsy hazelnut cream snack? No thanks, not when I’ve already got a bag of Melba toast in the kitchen cupboard.

Anyway, the barista is a pretty girl from Romania who pronounces the silent ‘p’ in the word receipt and I’m sure she’d be thrilled to learn that she made a brief appearance in one of my books… and the three year old girl in a pushchair who pulled a blanket over her head when I poked my tongue out at her, she’d be tickled pink to hear that her shyness planted the seed for an unwritten story that has been bouncing around in my head for the past six months or so.

There’s also the teenager in baggy jeans and oversized baseball cap who, even though I only caught sight of him for a few seconds on the London Underground, gave me the idea for the as yet unpublished short story that is currently sitting pretty on my external hard drive. And the woman in black tights who was sat cross-legged in her chair, completely oblivious to the fact that I was staring at her as she casually bounced a loose shoe off the end of her foot… she’d probably think I was an oddball if she knew that her slender thighs were the inspiration for a short scene in a book I published last year.

Once I’ve had my fill of coffee and grown bored of observing the actions of people minding their own business I’ll scoot back home to check my sales ranking. I load up the Amazon page, enter my password, and OHMYGOSHASALE! This is wonderful, it’s been ages since someone expressed an interest in… hold on, they went and got a refund shortly afterwards. How dare they do such a thing, that’s… that’s just plain unfair.


If only I could hold down a regular 9-5 office job.


About the Author: Living in England, Surrey and about to break the 33-years old barrier.  I can honestly say that coming to terms with getting older is worse than puberty.  At 14 every extra hair was greeted with rapturous applause and a desire to show it off at school.  Every time a small breeze blew I would worry that it was going to blow away.

These days whenever I spot a new nasal hair I can hear it laughing at me.  I even have to make use of electronic devices to prune it back.


Want to know more? Check out the links!

Blog – http://michaelcargill.wordpress.com/

Twitter – @MichaelCargill1   Facebook

The Books…

Author Page on Goodreads

 Trailer for Underneath  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUBrxs38Dkc


UK Amazon

IAM Guest Post…Why I Write Indie

Guest Feature

We’re now heading into the final stretch of Indie Author Month – IAM2013. Today, we’re welcoming back author Michael Cargill to the blog; some of you will know the name from previous reviews of his books Underneath, Shades of Grey and our forthcoming review of Jake. Michael featured in our first Indie event in 2012  and being an all-round nice chap, we were very happy to invite him back to join us again this year. Enough from me – let’s find out what Michael has to say on the subject of Indie writing. 


Why I Write Indie, by Michael Cargill

Ah, what a question.  Well, it’s not really a question I don’t think – but when the Aside from Writing peeps sent me a list of things to talk about, this particular option had a question mark at the end of it.

For the moment, let’s assume that the lovely ladies at Aside are correct in everything that they do, and it is actually a question.  Let’s imagine that I’m sat in a coffee shop and Lady Aside is thrusting a pencil up my nostril, demanding an answer to a question that has been bugging her for years.

“Michael Cargill, why do you write indie?  You must tell me before 1st May, otherwise WordPress are shutting me down.”

To be honest, it’s something of an odd question to ask.  It’s a bit like asking me why I get up at six o clock each morning and go to work.  Ultimately it’s because I have to do it, rather than because I have a burning desire to purposefully do things the hard way.  That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy it, because I do (enjoy writing, that is.  Getting up for work is a complete arse), but believe me when I say that it’s not all romance and unlimited goblets of wine.

It’s probably easier to talk about the positive sides of being an indie writer.  First up: I’m my own boss, which means I can do whatever I want (unless I’m at work).  There’s no deadlines for me to concern myself with.  I don’t have a legion of editors, agents, and grape-peelers harassing me about upcoming milestones that need to be hit.  In fact, editors are probably the worst out of that lot.  They smell, they want to shove pencils up your nose, and they never seem to stop talking about apostrophes and continuity errors.

And quite frankly, who the hell needs any of that?  I’m a creative (well, unless I’m at work), yeah?  I need my space, I need to sit down and experience time as it slips through my fingers.  It’s no good shackling me down with all your talk of calendar appointments and contracts.  That’s for Nazis (well, unless it’s me who organised a meeting to discuss a pay rise at work).

Another nifty little thing about being an indie writer is how close you can be to your readers.  Yes, all three of them.

Goodreads is where most of my interaction with readers goes on.  It’s a nifty little place where friends and foes can be made in a matter of minutes (such is life on the Internet), and it’s something of a thrill when someone sends me a message to say how much they enjoyed one of my books.  In fact, even Lady Aside herself went to the trouble of sending me a message by Twitter about one of my books.  I didn’t reply immediately, as I was on the toilet playing Angry Birds at the time, but hey!  That’s just another example of why being an indie writer can be so good – I’m doing my own thing, in my own time.  Does Stephen King have that kind of luxury?  Of course he doesn’t.  He has publicists doing it all for him and no doubt they badger him at all times of the day:

“Ooooh, Steve, what’s your favourite colour?  Amazon want to know.”

“Ooooh, Steve, do you like quail’s eggs?  The Queen is putting together next week’s breakfast menu at Buckingham Palace.”

God, can you imagine it?  What an utter pain in the backside life as a fully-fledged millionaire writer must be.  No doubt he’s got a Dyson Airblade up in his bathroom, but he never gets a chance to play around with it.

So, er, yeah.  Indie writing, then.  It’s good, it’s fun, and it offers a chance of being able to live the writer’s dream.  Every day that I trudge into work, there’s a little ray of hope reminding me that it might just be the very last time I have to do it.

I won’t be giving it up any time soon.

(Note from Lady Aside – Michael is correct, our heading list was not correctly phrased as a question. The person responsible for this administrative error is being suitably punished: they have to locate all the incorrectly positioned apostrophes in every take away and cafe menu in the UK…they may not be back for a long time.)


Want to know more about Michael? Check out his links!

Blog – http://michaelcargill.wordpress.com/

Twitter – @MichaelCargill1   Facebook

The Books…

Author Page on Goodreads

 Trailer for Underneath  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUBrxs38Dkc


UK Amazon

Guest Post…Ebook Piracy

Author Michael Cargill joins us today, with a guest post on Ebook Piracy and why it’s not shivering his timbers (sorry – bad pirate pun – forgive me, it’s Friday!)


Literature is something of a latecomer to the digital revolution.  In some ways, this is quite surprising, as it predates other forms of entertainment like computer games, film, and TV by several thousand years.  Mind you, the older generations are often the slowest to get to grips with anything new.  After all, when was the last time you heard your granddad talk about getting an Xbox?

Some of the growing pains for ebooks, have been the same ones that other forms of digital media have gone through, and still are going through.  Piracy is one such pain.

The mere mention of the word ‘piracy’ generates quite an angry response from many people, whether they are a writer, or a reader.

To those people, I say you should perhaps step back, and rethink things a bit.  I’m an indie author, and I know for a fact that my work is available to download from torrent/pirate websites.  I know this to be a fact, as it was me who put them there in the first place.

Before I go any further, I’ll just mention a few things, to provide some context.  Firstly, you won’t see me on any bestseller lists anywhere, not unless that list is based on an otherwise empty shelf.  Yes, woe is me, get out the violin and all that.

Secondly, years ago, I used to be something of a profligate pirate myself.  My hard drive was chock full of computer games, applications, films, and TV shows.  I knew lots of other people who did the same thing as well.

Lastly, I have no formal legal education, or training.  This puts me at around about the same level as that bloke in the pub, who insists that it’s perfectly legal to shoot a Welshman with a crossbow, so long as you do it outside the city walls, on a Wednesday afternoon.

Just to be clear, I have no intention of getting involved with the tedious, semantic differences between copyright infringement, and theft.  I’m also mainly talking about the financial impact of piracy, rather than the copyright side of things.

So then: why did I upload my own work to some torrent sites?  Well, “Why not?”, is my response.  At the moment, practically no-one knows about me.  My ability to market myself is largely limited to blogs, Twitter, and pinning posters up on the trees along my road.  Now that my work is available by torrents, I have added one more avenue for readers to find me.  I created threads on the torrent site forums, informing them all of what I did.  I got a few replies from people thanking me, and wishing me luck.  In the few days following on from this, I had an increase in the number of hits to my blog, from people searching for terms like “Michael Cargill author” on Google.  Prior to doing this, that had never happened before.

Of course, the usual retort to this is “You don’t get money from pirates!”, to which I say is a load of poppycock.

As I mentioned earlier, I was once a profligate pirate myself.  Yet, despite the fact that my hard drives were heaving with illegally downloaded material, my shelves were also teeming with legally purchased material as well.

And the same goes for many people who pirate things.  There are numerous studies that show that the people who illegally download the most music, are also some of the biggest purchasers of music.  This won’t be true for all of them, of course, but it is a fact that cannot be ignored.

It’s also important to recognise that just because someone illegally downloads a book, or a film, or a song, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the copyright owner has lost a sale.  For a start, pirates will often download stuff that they have no intention of ever using.  They’ll often do it, just because they can.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to download the latest version of AutoCAD if the opportunity is there…?

A quick search on a torrent site reveals that I can download the entire works of Stephen King, in about fifteen minutes.  That’s everything that he has ever published, about sixty five books in total, right there on the Internet.  Ebooks are small in size, so they take no time at all to pirate.  However, to say that anyone who downloads them all has denied Mr King of sixty five books worth of royalty fees, is wrong.

First of all, very few people will ever go out and purchase that many books at once.  Secondly, that pirate simply isn’t going to read all sixty five of those books either.  He or she may read one of them, and enjoy it.  However, they aren’t that likely to immediately read another Stephen King book.  They are more likely to read something from someone else, whether it’s pirated, or legally bought.

The reading habits of a pirate are exactly the same as those of a ‘normal’ reader.  They will talk about it to their friends, and family.  They will join in with the discussions about it on Goodreads.  They leave reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and their blog.  After illegally sampling an author’s work, they may go on and purchase legitimate copies of their work.  This is something I did when I was a pirate.  It’s what I witnessed other people who pirated media do, as well.  It’s what some of the studies into piracy have shown, as well.

Of course, you don’t have to just take this indie’s word for it.  Bestselling author Neil Garman has taken a similar stance to ebook piracy.  He even made a video on YouTube about it, that is still available to watch, though he is someone who made his name (and fortune) long before ebooks ever existed.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that you can’t actually fight piracy, either.  For every anti-piracy method that is put in place, it is easily defeated.  Companies can spend thousands implementing an anti-piracy scheme, only to see it cracked within hours of its release.

An author could spend a huge amount of time, scouring all corners of the Internet, trying to hunt down those elusive illegal links to their work.  Yet, all that time is wasted.  It took me less than five minutes for me to put my own work up on a torrent site, but it might take days for a furious copyright owner to get something removed from a website.

Many people will say “if everyone pirated books, then authors would starve!”  Now, whilst that might be true, it’s also true that if everyone flushed their toilets at once, the sewer system would collapse.  The fact is, that not everyone will pirate books.  At least part of this is down to the fact that it requires a certain level of technical knowledge to pirate, that many people struggle to get over.  Some Kindle owners simply don’t know how to manually copy ebooks onto their device.

To be honest, I probably have more sympathy for the readers, than I do the authors.  They can be understandably annoyed when they see someone stealing books, and getting them for free, rather than paying for them.

In writing this short article, I’m not expecting to drastically change anyone’s mind.  However, the piracy debate has been raging for a long time now, and it really needs a more level-headed approach.  None of the heavy-handed antics employed so far have put so much as a dent in it.

I think we should embrace it, rather than hate it.


Interested in knowing more about this subject? Check out the links!

Study: Piracy Does Not Deter the Production of Music, Films, Books – http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/study_piracy_does_not_deter_the_production_of_music_books_films.php

Study Shows That BitTorrent Piracy Doesn’t Affect U.S. Box Office Profits – http://www.geekosystem.com/bittorrent-box-office-study/

Neil Garman video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Qkyt1wXNlI


Want to know more about Michael? Check out his links!

Blog – http://michaelcargill.wordpress.com/

Twitter – @MichaelCargill1   Facebook

The Books…

Author Page on Goodreads

 Trailer for Underneath  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUBrxs38Dkc


UK Amazon

Author Interview…with Michael Cargill

On Tuesday I reviewed Michael’s latest piece of writing and first novel Underneath – you can read the review here or my previous review of Shades of Grey. Today he’s back with us for an ‘official’ interview, which we’ve been hoping to get from him for a while…so here goes! 


Hi Michael, welcome back to Aside from Writing, thanks for joining us for a ‘proper’ interview. So can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be an author?

I’m a 2-month old bumble bee, and my mother tried to eat me when I was a grub.  It was for this reason that I morphed into a 33-year old bloke, who lives in the UK.

Not really sure how I came to be an author actually.  At school I had no real desire for writing, and instead developed a passion for IT.  Once I joined the rat race, and entered the world of office workers, I was often sending out silly emails to people.  Most people liked them, and asked for more, to which I obliged.  The occasional misery guts asked me to stop, so I slagged them off behind their back.  Anyway, in the middle of 2011, I decided to bite the bullet and publish some of the emails for free, and the beast was unleashed!

This week we’ve read and reviewed your book Underneath. Where did your inspiration for the story come from?

For a while, I had an idea for a story involving a sociopath bouncing around in my head, and it just bloomed from there really.  I also had a separate idea for some characters who were police officers, and they ended up in the story as well.  I did a bit of research into sociopaths, which took me about five minutes on Wikipedia, and realized that my initial idea for the character wasn’t really realistic – originally, I was going to make him very intelligent, and analytical.

In your creative writing you build ‘real world’ settings and characters very convincingly – what aspects of your ‘normal’ life or ‘day job’ do you find have helped you in your writing?

As a bumble bee?  None at all.  To be honest, it’s quite hard to answer this question definitively.  Some of the personality quirks, or minor situations that appear in my stories, are based around people or events that I have experienced personally.

We particularly love the characters you create in your stories; when you’re developing a new character for a story, where do you start?

God knows.  One thing that people are very good at, is compartmentalizing different parts of their lives, which is where the contradictions come from.  It’s how physicists can believe in God, or a boxer can shake hands with an opponent after the fight is over.  Or how I like chocolate, but don’t really like chocolate cake much.  To be honest, that doesn’t really answer the question.  I sometimes think of a basic personality for a character, and then just throw in some contradictory quirks further down the line.

There are some quite particular traits we’ve noticed in several of your characters: are you writing about what you know (i.e. basing them on yourself or people in the ‘real world’)?

It’s a bit of everything really.  Sometimes I won’t even know where some of the traits have come from, whereas other times I have stolen them from someone’s head.

Casting question! Who could you see playing the key roles of Hugh, Clare, Robert and Abigail if Underneath were made into a film?

Ooooh, tricky one.  For Hugh, I reckon Heath Ledger, as he did a good job with The Joker in Batman.  Or maybe Guy Pearce.  For Clare, I would go with… dunno.  Not Liz Hurley, ‘cos she is rubbish.  Geena Davis could do it, I reckon.  Robert would be played by… Christian Bale, maybe.  Or Johnny Depp.  Virginie Ledoyen could be Abigail.

What do you find are the best parts of being a writer?

Being able to make things up, without getting told off by anyone.

And the worst…?

The editing.  My God, the editing.  It’s like having the opportunity to get a bar of gold, but you have to carry it through a disused Somalian sewer, barefoot.

Any advice for people who have an interest in creative writing?

Patience, practice, poverty.  You have to realize that not even the best writer can come up with a perfect story by themselves.  It gets filtered and corrected by hordes of editors, proof readers, and God knows what else, long before it gets anywhere near the shelves.  It’s all about getting the ideas down on paper, and then cleaning it all up afterwards.

Ignore the poverty bit, I just wanted a third ‘p’ word.

So – what else do you have planned for 2012?

Avoiding the rain during this lovely, British summer.  Get my face painted for the Olympics.  Get the book I am working on now, finished.  Oooooh, did I say what you think I said?  I believe I did.

Random Questions:

If you could be a character from any book – who would it be and why?

Batman, ‘cos he is the Batman.  He is a billionaire who does what he wants.  I reckon he would sort this credit crunch nonsense out, once and for all.

Favourite fictional world – where would you live?

Jurassic Park, before it all goes wrong.  Saying ‘coochy coochy coochy coo’ to them raptors would be brill.

Best super-evil baddie?

Jesus.  Seriously, how many fishermen did he put out of work when he fed the five thousand?  It’s the first written record of a recession.


About the Author: Living in England, Surrey and about to break the 33-years old barrier.  I can honestly say that coming to terms with getting older is worse than puberty.  At 14 every extra hair was greeted with rapturous applause and a desire to show it off at school.  Every time a small breeze blew I would worry that it was going to blow away.

These days whenever I spot a new nasal hair I can hear it laughing at me.  I even have to make use of electronic devices to prune it back.


Want to know more? Check out the links!

Blog – http://michaelcargill.wordpress.com/

Twitter – @MichaelCargill1   Facebook

The Books…

Author Page on Goodreads

 Trailer for Underneath  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUBrxs38Dkc


UK Amazon

Just Finished…Underneath by Michael Cargill

To accompany Thursday’s interview with author Michael Cargill, here’s our review of his fantastic new novel Underneath. If you’d like to get your hands on a free copy, simply pop a comment on this post or Thursday’s interview and we’ll select up to ten lucky people to  get Smashwords download codes for your preferred e-book format.



Look at the person sitting just across from you. It doesn’t matter whether they’re a loved one, a friend, or a complete stranger.
Now look at their face. Are they happy? Are they sad? Or are they angry? Can you even tell?
How well do you actually know the people closest to you?
Have you ever seen the real person that lies just underneath what you see…?


Sounds creepy? Well, it should because the main character we follow throughout the book – Hugh – is a scary chap!

Underneath is a relatively short book – more a novella I’d say at circa 50k words – and flits between two worlds: Hugh-land and Copsville. Hugh’s world is an interesting one, as you see a lot of his life from his own confused and skewed perspective: one minute he’s happily shopping and buying garlic, the next he’s freaking out at the automated till and then forgotten where he is or why he’s there. His psycholigical switches and memory lapses quickly show the reader that Hugh is not firing on all cylinders, but as the story progresses, very scarily he also seems to be very aware of his own flaws and a-human responses (particularly in his relationship with a certain young lady).

Very early in the book I started to get an American Psycho feel, with a nice British twist – and it certainly gave you this as things developed. One of my favourite things about Michael’s writing is his ability to ‘be real’ – he gets right into the heads of his characters, making their responses and thoughts very realistic – from the mundane to the outright terrifying, he seems to be able to ‘get people’ when he writes about them.

This style continues in the sections of the book revolving around Claire and Robert – ‘Copsville’ for me. The introduction of these other characters is nicely done in a ‘sliding doors’ type moment and there are several more of these tying the plot together as the story progresses. I think Robert is my favourite character in the book: he is the bacon sandwich king! Again he and Claire are very ‘real’ and I believed in their personal motivations, thoughts and actions as they are presented in the story. The banter and interplay between them feels genuine and – even on mundane subjects – the dialogue works well, all centred in the work-world they inhabit.

Overall Thoughts: 4* I really like Michael’s writing style; it’s clear, concise, often funny and I enjoy the realisim of his characters. As an extended piece – I’ve previously read his short stories – it works well and follows similar themes and ideas to his previous work. I enjoyed Underneath and it works as a thriller, but have to say I think I prefer something with a slightly more supernatural twist, like Borger the Bunny when Michael’s writing. (See my review for Shades of Grey, also my Michael Cargill here). Definitely recommend for a fast-paced, character-driven read with quirky British bits to smile at 🙂


This review was originally posted at Mel Cusick-Jones’ author blog on 18th June 2012.