Welcome back! Last week, we spoke to Glyn Iliffe, author of The Adventures of Odysseus, about his fascination for Greek mythology and the tremendous role it plays it his writing. In this second part of our interview, we learn more about his struggle to get published, as well as his own adventures in the foreign lands of social media, and we discuss his view of his future as an author.
The Adventures of Odysseus-series has proven to be very popular and has attracted a growing number of devoted fans. Yet Iliffe has had some difficulty in getting his books printed and published. Glyn shares his experiences in today’s fast changing world of publishing:
Glyn Iliffe: As any would-be author will know, trying to get a publishing contract is a near impossibility. Fortunately, e-books and print-on-demand married with effective use of social media and the internet have given today’s authors much more scope for getting their work out into the marketplace. As for me, my experiences of publishing have been very rocky indeed. King of Ithaca was rejected thirty-eight times before my break came with Pan Macmillan. That enjoyed some success, being translated into seven other languages and being reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement. Perhaps because I didn’t have an agent, the publishers then seemed to lose a bit of interest and after the third book, The Armour of Achilles, they declined to continue the series because supermarket sales weren’t what they had hoped for. A sign of the times, I think! Because I’d sold around sixty thousand books in English I was approached by an agent who tried to sell the rights to the next three, but it seems publishers aren’t interested in picking books halfway through a series so nothing more came of it.
Luckily, it was that same fast-changing world that afforded him the chance to find new ways of reaching an audience:
Glyn Iliffe: So I was left to my own devices and have since published the fourth novel, The Oracles of Troy, as an e-book. However, quite a few people have been asking after a print version, so I’ve been considering my options. A friend introduced me to the idea of crowdfunding. This is another new wonder of the modern age that essentially allows authors (among others) to pitch their idea for a book on a website – Kickstarter is the most popular – and invite anyone who’s interested to pledge some money toward the campaign. In return backers can choose from a range of rewards – in my case I’m offering copies of Oracles in paperback and hardback, signed or unsigned, as well as invites to the book launch, a mention in the Acknowledgements page or even a chance to own the original manuscript for King of Ithaca. One of the great things about crowdfunding is that it allows people to engage with creative projects, and as well as earning rewards it gives them the satisfaction of having helped good ideas to become reality.
[Since we last spoke to Glyn, the Kickstarter campaign for The Oracles of Troy has run its course, leaving him just short of his original target. Here, you can find out what options the writer is considering now, so that fans can finally see his book in print.]
Engaging with his readership through social media, Iliffe has discovered how well his work has actually been received, giving him new motivation to press on. While being a bit out of his territory as a writer, the author has found the interactive experience very gratifying:
Glyn Iliffe: One of my greatest regrets is not having engaged with the world of the internet and social media much earlier in my career. I’ve always been slow to appreciate modern technology – I still don’t own a mobile phone. So I didn’t set up a website until around six months ago, whilst joining Facebook at around the same time and Twitter only recently. However, I’m slowly starting to engage with readers of my books and am enjoying it very much. Before I set up my website I’d only ever heard from two readers that I didn’t know personally – a chap in Australia and an old lady in Dorset, both letters forwarded by my publisher. Now I’ve had contact with hundreds of different people from all over the world and for the first time have begun to get an idea from personal feedback of what readers think of my books. It’s been a very encouraging experience, hence my regret at not doing something sooner. I also suspect that most readers of the books think I’ve died in a car crash, because for three years since the publication of The Armour Of Achilles I’ve been totally silent. Hopefully with a bit of time and effort I can rectify any such misunderstandings.
Finally, we asked Glyn whether he can offer us any insights into the future of the series. Will he be covering the stories of any of the other characters as they return home, such as Menelaus or Agamemnon – as the latter has a date with destiny involving a bath and a knife? Also, would he consider writing a series about the Roman Empire at a certain point?
Glyn Iliffe: I’m around one fifth of the way through book five in the series, which is currently titled The Voyage of Odysseus (though that may change). As you might have guessed, this retells Odysseus’s trials as he returns home to Ithaca after the end of the war. Regrettably, this won’t include any first-hand accounts of the journeys of Menelaus and Agamemnon, although we will hear about both during the course of this book and the next. And yes, I am planning a sixth and final instalment, divulging the events that take place when Odysseus finally makes it back to his home.
That’ll keep me busy for a couple of years at least, as I only write on a part-time basis. After that I’m not sure what I’ll focus on. I’ve been desperate to pen a couple of teenage novels for some time – indeed, I’ve written them but they need some loving care and attention before I do anything with them. As for Rome, it’s always been tempting but I think there are lots of excellent authors out there who already cover the subject very well – I don’t think I would have much to bring to the party! I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a trilogy about Heracles, though.
More versions of the Trojan War myth are appearing now than at any other time in history, especially with new types of media ranging from film to the graphic novel. What I would most love to see, though, is a high quality television series added to the mix. The Americans have made an art of this, producing season after season of addictive programming that explores narrative and character to a much greater degree than is possible with film. Perhaps a new series about Odysseus…?
It seems fans have exciting times ahead of them. If you want to know more about the ongoing series and Glyn Iliffe himself, visit www.glyniliffe.com. Also, be sure to check out Edinburgh Book Review’s review of Odysseus latest adventure, The Oracles of Troy.