Interview and Spotlight: Sally Cronin with "Tales From the Garden"

Please join me in welcoming one of my favorite author friends, the talented and generous Sally Cronin. Sally writes fiction and non-fiction, and her blog, Smorgasbord, has become an inspiring author hangout. She is the epitome of "authors helping authors," always willing to offer advice and support. Take a look at her interview, and be sure to visit her blog. 

Welcome to Musings, Sally!

1.     *What are some of the best places to find you on the web? (website. Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Amazon Central, Newsletter, etc.) Please give us the complete links.**

2.     When did you know you wanted to be a writer? What were some of your first steps toward making your dream a reality? How would you say most of your books are conceived? Dreams? Research? Experience?

I began writing poetry when I was about ten but I use the term poetry loosely!  I was an obsessive reader however from about the age of six and I was into the classics such as War and Peace consumed when I was 12 and had chicken pox. In 1964 I bought my first Wilbur Smith book and having lived in South Africa was immediately swept up in the family sagas and adventures. I got itchy fingers and began jotting down notes for stories and poems. My mother told me that I had an overactive imagination which used to get me into dreadful scrapes. I blame Wilbur Smith.

Life intruded as it does when you leave school, go to college and then go out to work. I was told to put fanciful stuff on a shelf and get on with earning a living. Which I did until I was 43 years old. I gave up working for other people and retrained as a nutritional therapist. My first book was about me and my struggles with weight (at 43 I had weighed 150kilo or 330lbs).  I designed my own weight loss programme and discarded 150 unnecessary pounds in the process.  It began as a journal and was never meant to be read by anyone else, but as soon as I held my first book in my hands I knew this was something I could do for the rest of my life. I have been an Indie author for the last 15 years and have absolutely no regrets.

3.     I noticed that you write in multiple genres. What are the pros and cons, if any, of writing in more than one genre, particularly fiction and non-fiction?

As you can see from my blog name, which is Smorgasbord, I enjoy variety. It has been a theme throughout my career and my book Just an Odd Job Girl has more than a passing resemblance to my early working life.  I have lived in several different countries from childhood too and that has given me an opportunity to experience the pros and cons of different cultures.

I began with non-fiction but I have written short stories since my early twenties and I found that I enjoyed moving between the two. Health books might be informative but they are not a barrel of laughs and I find it helpful to take a break and roll out a fairy story or a little humour.

Some people say that you should focus on one genre and stick to it so that you build a reputation and credibility. I suppose my main books are health related and then it is humour and short stories across the genres.
I always have two books on the go at the same time and work between the two.. I find the change of pace refreshes the brain cells.

I also find that by writing non-fiction and a variety of fiction I am hitting different markets  rather than having my eggs all in one basket.

4.     In your opinion, what are some of the best, and most challenging aspects of the writing industry?

I believe that the publishing industry is coming to the end of a twenty year cycle and we are just about to enter another.  I had an agent back in the late 1990s who hawked my first book around seven major publishers in the UK over 12 months. They all said they thought the book was well written but they were not prepared to take a risk on an unknown writer.  At that time self-publishing was rare in the UK so I went to a Canadian self-publishing outfit and they actually did my first two books until I took them back and republished under our own label in 2004.

I took a lot of flack at the time from people who sniffed mightily and muttered about vanity publishing. They were a little surprised that I managed to get myself some decent publicity nationally in Ireland and the UK with my first book. I took what the publishers had said about me being an unknown and I set out to build a solid platform to promote myself from.

I began working on radio in 2004 through to 2010 in Spain and then presenting my own shows on local radio in the UK.. I moved into Internet television then for 18 months. First as a news editor and reader and then as a chat show host.

Without building that platform I doubt that I would still be writing today. I am not selling enough books to make a living but then very few authors are. It is not that writers are not good enough as there are many excellent Indie authors, however with the number of books being published in E-version each week it is incredibly hard to stand out from the crowd. Especially if you are in one of the most populated genres.

I mentioned that I thought that we were coming to the end of one cycle before entering another in publishing. We have been publishing other author's work for twelve years now.  The trend at the moment is for Ebooks in various formats and occasionally an author will also want a short run of print.  The requests for print are dwindling unless a book is a very niche market and can be sold locally in stores or events.  The cost of print books is on the rise and here in Ireland you are looking at between 15 to 18 Euro whereas a reader can download the same book often for 3 to 5 Euro.

As our cross over generation fades out, those who have only known Ebooks will probably never hold an adults book in their hands.

For the time being it is children's books which are still being printed and that is an area of publishing I think is going to be worth keeping an eye on.

Going forward I do see an emerging audio market so that people can listen to books in cars and when exercising and an increase in the number of books translated into Spanish and Chinese.

The thirst for anything in the English language in the Far East needs to be satisfied and it will be interesting in the next five years to keep an eye on that.

5.     What are you doing when you’re not writing?
I suppose writing takes up most of my day as I do tend to treat it as my job. The blog is my platform for my own promotion and also the promotion of other authors and it has taken me three years to build to a level where it is useful.  However, my other passion is music and if I am not filling my Kobo with books I am loading my ipod with music to listen to while I drive, cook or walk. 

My husband and I love movies and we are thrilled that there is a cinema on our doorstep..

Once we have finished the refurb of the house we bought earlier in the year we will be adopting a dog... That will complete the day with walks and cuddles.

Tales from the Garden reveals the secrets that are hidden beneath hedges and trees. You will discover what really happens at night as you sleep unaware in your bed. Stone statues and those hidden worlds within the earth are about to share their stories. The guardians who have kept the sanctuary safe for over fifty years will allow you to peek behind the scenes of this magical place. They will take you on a journey through time and expand your horizons as they transport you to the land of fairies, butterflies and lost souls who have found a home here.
Fairy Stories for children of all ages from five to ninety-five that will change the way you look at your garden forever.

6.     Tell us about your books. Genre, titles, any favorite characters? What can we look forward to from you in the near future? WIP’s, upcoming releases?
I am writing a non-fiction book on the blog in chapters. The R's of Life is a personal view of some of the main issues we encounter as we meander through our lives.. Respect, Responsibility, Romance you get the idea.. I will also be writing the sequel to Tales from the Garden which was largely set in the garden in our home in Spain.. This one will be based on our garden here in Ireland.

7.     Is there a common thread in your books? How do your values and beliefs show up in your writing? What do you want readers to receive from your books?

I may come across as a bit of a rebel who perhaps does not conform all the time to what is expected of me... But I do believe very firmly in having a moral compass. I think that does come across in my book as anyone who is not a good person usually gets their just desserts. At the same time I love humour and that plays an enormous part in my writing.

I want people to walk away from my books with a sense of satisfaction, that there has been a good story, with a beginning, middle and an end that has interested, informed or entertained.

8.     What do you look for in a good book? In what ways would you say your books exhibit these qualities? What are some of your favorite books and who are some of your favorite authors of all time?

I need to be engaged in a book within a few pages.   After a compelling beginning, I do enjoy someone who writes smoothly and intelligently with room in the plot for me to use my imagination. I don't need everything spelt out for me and love to be kept guessing to the end of the book.

My tastes run to sweeping sagas such as the early Wilbur Smith books and The Clan of the Cave Bear author Jean M. Auel whose series of books entranced me from day one. My husband has just introduced me to a new author that he has been listening to in audio...Gregg Hurwitz  and he is a New York Times best selling author with 16 thrillers that I am just working my way through.. brilliant...

9.     What lifts your spirits when you’re discouraged?

One of the benefits of blogging is you find after a time, that you have built not just a platform to promote yourself, but a meeting place for other authors and like-minded writers across the spectrum of the written word.  That spills over into other social media and suddenly you are part of a community.

It does not happen overnight and it does not work if the only person you are promoting is you.. But when it is working right it gives you access to people who are going through exactly the same issues as you are.

This might be the (UN) Happiness Engineers on Wordpress who have decided to upgrade the editing software overnight!  Or you are stuck in a rut in a particular book.  You can reach out 24/7 around the world and someone will answer. I have to say that I rarely get down about writing but when I am feeling a little more stressed than usual, I just browse my Wordpress reader and check out other people's posts or head over to Facebook and find another crop of funnies for my weekly FB funny posts.

10.                Any additional comments or thoughts you’d like to offer today?

Writing is like a good relationship and needs time to develop and a great deal of practice to get it right.

I often see posts from authors who are moaning about the processes and the work involved to write, format, publish and market their books. To me it is a privilege and gives me a wonderful sense of independence to be involved in every aspect of my work. Each book is a child that you want the very best for and it is worth every sleepless night and hair-pulling event though its development until you throw it out in the wide world wishing for its success.

And who knows one day I might make a living doing what I love.

In the words of another author friend, “from your lips to God’s ears,” Sally! Thank you for visiting with me and my readers today. You are always an inspiration J


Sally Cronin said…
Thank you so much Dariel for featuring me today.. it was a great honour. And a lovely wedding anniversary present.. I will pop back later in the day.. Sally
MsPatti said…
A wonderful and interesting interview. Well done Daniel. Everything Sally said resonates with me. The one thing I would add is; "It's never to late to start". If it makes you happy, just write. :o)
D.G. Kaye said…
So wonderful to catch Sally here sharing more of her great wisdom and experience. :)
Unknown said…
An enjoyable and still illuminating interview with Sally. What she says she does and vice versa. A most interesting, thoughtful, and kind human being. <3 <3 :-)
Dariel Raye said…
Thank you so much for stopping by, Ms. Patti, Debby, and Teresa! You are all so right. Sally is a rare and wonderful person, and yes, her words are always illuminating. She has accomplished a great deal, and I believe her future is very bright, as good things eventually come to great people :-)
Dariel Raye said…
Ms. Patti, thanks for your wise reminder. It's always heartwarming to have that belief confirmed. In a society obsessed with youth, we all need to be encouraged to continue in pursuit of our dreams. You've just given me a new post to write ;-)
Olga said…
Thanks, Dariel. A pleasure to visit your blog and to read about Sally here. A great writer and a generous blogger. :)
Dariel Raye said…
Very true, Olga. Always a pleasure to see you! You, too, are a great writer and generous blogger. We must chat again soon :-)
Tara said…
A very good interview. Thank you for giving us encouragement .
Dariel Raye said…
And at a time when encouragement is much needed, Tara. You are so right! Sally is really good at that. I consider her a "go-to" author friend :-)
Unknown said…
Love these articles on your musings, they are so thoughtful & entertaining.