What do you do when a story about a place from your past haunts you over continents? What about when it’s icy grasp touches you through decades?
That’s one of the many questions that will be answered during today’s interview with  Christian Saunders, the author of the book Sker House and No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches.
JA= Jeanette Andromeda (That’s me!) CS= Christian Saunders (That’s today’s guest!”

The Interview

JC- First off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your upcoming books?
CM Saunders
C. M. Saunders

CS-I am from Wales, though I live in London now. I spent a long time teaching English in China. Now my day job is writing and editing in the men’s sport and lifestyle sectors. I’m freelance, so basically I’ll write about anything, as long as I get paid. Over the years I’ve written about everything from chilli peppers to martial arts, and everything in between. These days, it’s a lot of ticking boxes and keeping clients happy. Fiction is my release, though I do love my day job. Usually.

I left school at 16 with no qualifications and went to work at a local factory, putting things in boxes. I used to go home after my shift and write in notebooks, always dreaming that one day it would lead somewhere. well, it wasn’t easy, but now I’m proud to say I’m one of the lucky ones who can make a living doing what they love. I was never the smartest kid, any of my teachers will tell you that, but i am living proof that dedication, perseverance, and a good work ethic can take you a long way. 🙂

I had several books traditionally published, before realizing I was getting royally screwed. So then, in 2012, I turned indie. Since then I have put out two novellas and two collections of short stories. Short stories are a big part of what I do. Recently a few pieces have come out, including my first love story!

jessicaYou can find Jessica here: http://liquidimagination.silverpen.org/article/jessica-c-m-saunders/

JA- You’ve had an interesting journey already!

CM-  Well, my life is nothing if not interesting. Anything for a life less ordinary!
JA- What have you learned while getting into the indie publishing side of the world?
CM- My first four of five books were published by traditional publishers, though not through any of the ‘Big 5’ (or 4, whatever it is now). These were mid-list publishing apartment14f1houses at best, and one was a new start-up. The problem there is that most smaller publishing houses don’t have PR or marketing departments, or even a marketing and PR budget. Instead, they ask the writer to do most of their own publicity, which is necessary for selling books. So you have to hunt for your own website and radio interviews, beg for reviews, organize your own blog tours, competitions, anything to get your name out there. Not only is it a lot of hard work, but less experienced writers (like me at the time) don’t have the required contacts or know-how and spend a lot of time banging their heads against walls. The publisher is always telling you, ‘Hey, sell more books!’ And you are thinking, ‘Wait, I’m doing my bit here, what are you doing?’
A big sticking point with me was the pricing of my books. They were just too high. You can’t expect people to pay over the odds for a book by someone they never even heard of. It’s ridiculous. Consequently, you don’t sell that many books. Added to that, the publisher takes the lion’s share of profit on the ones you do sell, and you only ever have their word for how many are sold. I fell out with my last publisher because they claimed one of my titles didn’t sell a single copy in an entire calendar year. Despite the fact that, according to my Amazon figures (which you can track)  the book spent more than a few weeks in the Top 20 of it’s category.
I call bullshit. That doesn’t happen on 0 sales.

Being indie means I have total control over everything from the cover art to the pricing.

51moivxpz-lI don’t have to cater to anyone else’s whims. During the editing process most publisher’s will request changes, sometimes big ones. I always got defensive about it. It’s my story, I’m the one who spent the last nine months writing it. For someone with no emotional attachment to it to come along, spend 30-minutes reading over it and say, ‘Nah, change that bit, do this instead…’ Frankly, I found that hard to deal with.
JA- What’s the biggest challenge?
CM- The biggest challenge is still the marketing. But I was doing it anyway, so it’s nothing new for me now.
It’s a constant struggle to make yourself known amongst all the other indie writers, (and there are a lot of us now.) I relish the competition, bring it on. But to be honest, indie publishing being so easy isn’t always a good thing. There are some great indie writers out there, and some truly awful ones. There’s no quality control and some writers aren’t worthy of the title. They just want to make a buck on the side. I feel sorry for the people who spend money on sub-standard products. All I can do is ensure that my books are of a professional standard.
JA- What’s been the most surprising aspect of it?
CM- The sense of community. through being active you meet some great people, mostly other writers in the same (or a related) genre. Then you can foster a mutually beneficial relationship. Share each other’s links, recommend each other to your readers, etc, and try to encourage some crossover. It’s also good to be able to share writing tips, bounce ideas around, or sometimes just have a good old moan about something.

JA- There’s so much to chew on here.  Thank you for sharing why you left traditional publishing behind.  It does sound like,  other than actually printing the books, you were doing all of the work anyway.

What have you found to be the most powerful marketing tactic or platform for getting the word out there?

I’m still looking for that all-powerful marketing strategy! I think everyone is. I am lucky enough to be part of a collective of writers called the Deviant Dolls  (https://deviantdolls.org/cropped-final-deviant-dolls_doll-1we cross-promote each other and share marketing tips, etc, which keeps me active. Personally, I’m a big believer in the personal touch, connecting with potential readers by doing guest posts, interviews, reviews, etc, for other sites in the same or related genre. For me, it’s the best way to meet like-minded people.
It’s not the easy route by any means, it’s very time-consuming, but with every guest post I do I get a few shares and pick up a few new followers on social media, who i can then threaten and cajole into buying my books. I started the Sker House 2016 Blog Tour back in February, and it just kept on going. I’ve hit around 20 blogs and websites so far. Now it’s morphing into the No Man’s Land 2016 Blog Tour, so I can’t stop now. I’ll have to stop soon though before I run out of things to say!

Let’s Talk about Haunted Houses, well, one in particular

sker house cm saunders cover 1CM- Earlier this year I put out my novel, Sker House. It’s a paranormal historic mystery disguised as a traditional haunted house tale.

As you can see, it fits into many genres!

It’s based on a real place I used to visit with my parents in Wales. I always wanted to write a story about the history of the place, so when I lived in China I started researching the area and found that the truth is stranger than the fiction. I’m surprised at how well the book has been doing, but very glad that people like it.

Here’s the blurb:

Dale and Lucy are two students with a fascination in the supernatural. One weekend, they travel to Sker House, South Wales, a private residence with a macabre history which has recently been converted into a seaside inn. They plan to write an article for their university magazine about a supposed haunting, but when they arrive, they meet a landlord who seems to have a lot to hide. Soon, it becomes apparent that all is not well at Sker House. An air of oppression hangs over it, while misery, tragedy and ill-fortune are commonplace. Gradually, it becomes clear that the true depth of the mystery goes far beyond a mere historical haunting. This is a place where bad things happen, and evil lurks.

Little by little Dale and Lucy fall under Sker’s dark spell, and as they begin to unravel the mysteries of the past, they realize that nothing stays buried forever.

Welcome to Sker House, a place where past and present collide.

JA- How true to your research were you when writing Sker house?
CM- Basically, the main characters and what happens to them are completely made up. But the location, the historical events and figures, and all the myths and legends associated with the area, are real. Or as real as they can be. When you research things that happened centuries ago, it’s very hard to get many stone-cold facts. what you get instead is a lot of stories, hearsay, and second or third-hand accounts which more often than not contradict each other. To me, uncovering all these crazy tales all centered on the same place made the story as a whole even more fascinating, because you are never quite sure how much of it is actually true.
JA- What was the catalyst that took it from being an interesting idea into getting written as a full novel?

CM- I think it was the story of Elizabeth, Maid of Sker, which was a popular local folktale. She was the daughter of the house who lived there in the 18th century. She fell in love with a local harpist but her father, who was apparently a very evil man, forced her to marry someone else instead. The story was that he locked her in her bedroom at Sker House until she agreed. After the marriage she died, some say of a broken heart, and her ghost was later seen at the window of the room where she was kept. It was the definitive gothic ghost story.

I first heard about it when I was a kid, and always remembered it. Visiting the house and looking at the window made it seem somehow believable. I never forgot. Many years later, I did a bit of digging and found that much of the story, or a lot of it, is actually true.
Elizabeth, her father, her lover and the man she married all really existed, and lots of people really did claim to see her ghost after she died. That was the springboard. Researching that led me on to the practice of wrecking, the Mumbles lifeboat disaster, the renegade monks, and the other paranormal activity said to occur at Sker. Somehow, it all linked together. I was toying with the idea of writing a non-fiction book about it but as i said, there was so much superstition, and supposition, it would have been mostly fiction, anyway. So I decided to invent my own characters and insert them into the existing framework.
You can read more about the history of Sker House here: https://americymru.net/welsh_ghosts_and_wrecking_sker_house

Venturing into No Man’s Land

no_mans_land-smallCM- On July 1st my new novella came out. No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches is set in World War I.

July 1st was the 100th anniversary of the battle of the Somme, still one of the bloodiest exchanges (and one of the biggest losses of life) in human history. I wanted to commemorate it somehow, and this is a story I’ve had on the backburner for a few years now. I thought this would be the perfect time to get it out there. People always ask me what inspires me, and I never have an answer. In this case, I wanted to do a little comparison between what we call ‘horror’ and the horror of war.

Visually, when I first discovered music back in the 1980’s. the band Megadeth had a kind of mascot cMegadeth_-_Peace_Sells..._But_Who's_Buying-alled Vic Rattlehead (similar to Iron Maiden’s Eddie), who was this kind of reanimated corpse in soldier’s uniform. For some reason, that imagery struck a chord and stayed with me. I always wondered what his story would be, if he had one.

I’ll be donating the proceeds to charity.

The charity I want to give the proceeds to is Help For Heroes, which looks after the interests of British ex-servicemen and women.

Here’s the blurb:

The Somme Offensive, 1916. Harry Doyle is a young, overawed British infantryman struggling to come to terms with the insanity of war. His main objective is staying alive, and getting back home to his family in one piece. But his hopes begin to diminish as he realizes the full extent of misery and destruction around him. And the German war machine isn’t the only thing he has to worry about. Something else is preying on his friends and comrades in the trenches, picking them off one by one. Something no amount of military training can prepare him for.

JA- Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us here on Horror Made Chris!

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