Interview With Author Declan Conner

First, tell us a little about your writing journey.

Where to begin? I guess the journey spans many years. From early childhood, we always had books around the house, so I picked up the habit of reading, which I think is critical for anyone going on to write. I read most of the classics, but my first love was the Famous Five Stories. Of course, as you go through life, interests and reading habits change and I gravitated towards the thriller genre.

I have always had a fertile imagination as a child and used to love English lessons when we were given short essays to write. I hope my sister doesn’t mind me saying, but when I was thirteen and she was at Grammar school, she couldn’t craft stories to save her life. When she was given homework, I used to make up her stories for her and she would write them out in her own hand to correct the Grammar. As a team, we always achieved top marks. Trust me, that experience taught me the value of editorial input. Even now, I wouldn’t publish anything that had not been through the hands of an editor and without my sister casting an eye over it for a final proof reading.

Like many authors, I came to serious writing late in life. The joys of bringing up a family and earning a living to put money on the table made it difficult to chase my dream of writing stories. I still managed to write a full length book, but it took many years. Fortunately, I am now in a position that I can write full time.

What sparked my interest in short stories was a competition held by Harper Collins for one of their clients. I made the finals with a short 3,000 word story, The End or a New Dawn, a disaster thriller. To think it made it to the final with a panel of judges made up of some of their editors’ and authors’ gave me the idea to continue writing short stories. I was pleased when their client chose a poem and a rehashed nursery rhyme for the publication as I would have had to give up copyright. It also meant that what was an original 5,000 word story, could be published in full.

Would you consider yourself to be a "short story author" rather than a "novelist"?

I consider myself a bit of both, but maybe my readers have other ideas, when I consider my sales statistics. I have one full length book out, Survival Instinct (The dark side of dating) a serial killer thriller. I am currently 50,000 words in to the follow up, with the provisional title of Russian Brides.

As for short stories, I just can’t stop writing them. Ideas for for full length thriller stories pop in to my head whilst I am completing my full length novels, that if I didn’t outline the stories, they would be lost forever and before I know it I have so many plotted, that I couldn’t possibly make them all in to full length books.

I published twelve of them at an average of 5,000 words each story as a compilation with the title of Lunch Break Thrillers. I was staggered when on the day I published it as an eBook; it went straight to number 4 in the UK Amazon kindle charts for, Crime/ mystery thriller/shorts. I was even more amazed that it spent 7 seven months of this year in the top ten and rubbing shoulders in the rankings with the likes of Stephen King and Agatha Christie.

Following exchanges of emails from readers, I have since published all the shorts individually to give readers a choice of package.

When Amazon kindle Germany opened its doors, I didn’t expect to sell any and so I had two of the shorts translated to German and hoped for the best. I was taken aback when not only did the German translations sell, but all the individual English ones hit top ten rankings for their category.

At the moment I am working on a series of paranormal thrillers at anywhere between 7,500 and 10,000 words. I have just completed the first story, Amnesia of the Heart, a paranormal romance thriller, which I am quite excited about. The verdict is out on whether or not I should publish it now, or to wait until I have enough for a compilation. For now I have published it for a limited period at 9,500 words so it can be read for FREE, unedited and in full on the Authonomy writers’ site, for beta readers to critique.

Any successes? Failures? What has worked for you when trying to find an audience?

I think what I have outlined could be considered my successes. As for failures, it is all down to expectations. If I only ever have one reader enjoy one of my works, I would consider that a success, so I don’t like to think in terms of failures.

Finding an audience is the tricky part. I have a page on my blog which is dedicated to short story writing that attracts quite a number of hits. Most of my blog is dedicated to providing information on free guides to how to format eBooks, POD and other advice, so most of the people who visit are authors, Although saying that, authors still read books and many will have written, or have an interest in short stories. I only use twitter if I publish something new, or I have achieved something, I consider being a milestone. Other than that, I post on the various territory Amazon forums and Nook Boards.

Making one of the shorts, Where there’s a will, there’s a war, FREE has helped me to find an audience, which may have otherwise, not considered buying a short story. The story is published individually and as part of the Lunch Break Thriller compilation. What I am finding is a correlation of free downloads to an increased sale of Lunch Break Thrillers.

I also publish the individual shorts with both an American English version and a UK English punctuated version in the one eBook, with internal links for the customer to make the choice. I always add “short story” in brackets to the title and state the approximate page count in the description. I think this is so important in making sure you don’t find the wrong audience, who have the potential to write a bad review because they were not expecting a short story. 

Do you think eBooks will change the way short stories are viewed by the general public?

I think they already have changed readers’ views. Before Amazon came along, publishers would only consider compilations of short stories if you were already famous and individual shorts would have been out of the equation as uneconomical to print. Just as the book market has seen changes, I feel that readers’ habits are changing. In these busy times we live in, short stories are an ideal medium to read a story to its conclusion in a lunch break, or on the Beach, or during a short commute. Hand held devices such as iPhones and the like have made this possibility even more accessible. 

What do you think is the biggest obstacle in introducing someone to a short story? As in, is it the length? The price? Not knowing what to expect?

All of those are obstacles that we face and they can only be overcome by honesty. Short stories are part of a small but growing niche market. I personally think that perceived value for money is the biggest obstacle. The lowest price you can charge on Amazon is 99 cents for any work, unless you are lucky enough to have one made free by them. So basically, you can be competing against full length books. That situation doesn’t worry me, as just as readers have price points, they also have preferences for genre and story length. Where I think some short story writers go wrong, is in setting their work against full length books and feeling self-conscious about the price. A short story can be worth its weight in gold for reader enjoyment. I personally think that 99 cents is reasonable price for a short, of around 2,000 words upwards, and anything less should be a bundle of stories.

The problem seems to me is in what people think constitutes a short story, when you have flash fiction from 500 words, to say a novelette at up to say 25,000 words. I think the first thing is to ensure you clearly state what it is you are offering the reader. I also think that if you have a compilation, you should also publish the stories individually, if for no other reason than they can sample all the stories in the compilation.

This brings me on to the price of compilations. If you are to publish individually, then it gives you the opportunity to represent the compilation as value for money at a higher price.

Check out all of Declan's work:


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