Proper Job is the second, professional novel I wrote. I’ve always been a fan of comedy and, to be honest, I’m a little surprised that my science fiction is my most notable genre. I still feel fraudulent writing science fiction because I don’t read much of it (compared to fans, anyway). Comedy fiction is something I feel I’m naturally good at.
Most readers will know you as a science fiction writer, from the bestselling Saskia Brandt books. What made you make the jump to Proper Job, a humorous semi-biographical novel?
Partly, it was to make use of a massive, life experience injection I received as a student while trying to pay my way through university. Partly, I thought it would make a good book. I think it has!
Do you think you will switch genres again, and if so, what genre will you consider tackling next? Are there any genres you wouldn’t do?
I don’t believe I’ll switch genres again. However, my short fiction is probably best described as ‘literary’, so that’s three already. The later Saskia Brandt books have strong elements of historical fiction in them. For this, my model is Patrick O’Brian.
Your successes and disappointments have been well documented on your blog, This Writing Life, showing aspiring writers how difficult it can be to get published and even then to get publicity. Can you provide a summary of your publishing experience so far?
I sold my first short story when I was seventeen; the magazine folded – ah-thankyaw – before it could see print. I went to university and wrote a fairly awful novel during my second year. Then I wrote the novel that would become Deja Vu during my PhD. I sold this to the UKA Press, where I was edited by Aliya Whiteley. The overall experience wasn’t a happy one (apart from working with Aliya). Following some interest from a mainstream publisher, I hooked up with John Jarrold as my agent, but we had no luck over several years of submitting manuscripts around theUK. During that time I had been writing two sequels to Deja Vu, as well as the book Proper Job. Then, the year before last, I decided to give up on writing as a bad job. I was really fed up. I discontinued my association with John Jarrold and put Deja Vu out as an ebook. It became a best-seller and now I’m back. I signed with theUSagency Kneerim & Williams earlier this year.
Where do you think the future of self-publishing lies?
Self-publishing is enjoying a golden age. Because Amazon got behind the Kindle reader – which is a marvellous and affordable bit of hardware – we now have an expanded readership. We’re starting to appreciate how much traditional publishing wasn’t serving the needs of the market: getting hold of a book was effortful, and your choices were limited by a small number of people. Fortunately for self publishers, it is still the case – somewhat extraordinarily – that traditional publishers are keeping their prices high. That means that self-publishers can put out their wares for a relatively low cost and still receive a good return on their sales. More authors are making real money on their words than every before. That’s down to Amazon.
What can we expect from the author, Ian Hocking, in the next couple of years?
I have several projects in the pipeline. Right now, I’m working on a new draft of Deja Vu, which, fingers crossed, will be sold by myUSagent. I’m also finalising a book called The Amber Rooms, which is the third Saskia Brandt novel. I have plans for a second comedy set in the same universe as Proper Job. Other than that, I’m excited by the possibilities opening up. Thirst Editions is one of them. We’re doing it because we can; it’s a brave new world. Up the workers.