Jerome Parisse, author of Body Swap, discusses his book, his plays, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Body Swap?
JEROME PARISSE: Body Swap is a young adult novel. I like to call it "The world’s first text message adventure romance with the other side!"
It is the story of a thirteen-year-old William and of his friend Pat, who out of the blue receive a text message plea from cyberspace from a girl called Stephanie. She pretends to have exited her body during a coma and says she needs their help to return to her body.The two friends’ initial solution misfires and a disastrous mix up occurs. William ends up trapped in Stephanie’s body and shut out of his own! In Stephanie’s body, William experiences things girls have to live with, from unwelcome approaches, to bras and high heels. The situation becomes even more desperate when Pat falls in love with Stephanie. But time is running out. To coordinate and apply the required body swap reversal therapy tests the three friends’ formidable skills and energies to the limit. Will William stay in Stephanie’s body forever? And who the hell is the evil creature now inhabiting his own body?
The novel is a mixture of adventure, romance, paranormal and humour. Beware, there are no vampires involved! Although it is a young adult novel, it can be read by older readers. I won a manuscript development award from Varuna - The Writer's House, who helped me polish the story and make it what it is today. I had enormous fun writing this story, which is a bonus for any writer. The plot uses cell phones in an interesting way, as the two protagonists manage to communicate with the spirit of the girl in the coma via text-messages. The novel also touches on some deeper issues, such as the issues of identity and afterlife.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
JEROME PARISSE: I always start with spending a lot of time on my main character. I try to think the way he or she thinks, I try to put myself in their shoes. At the beginning, I write their life story. Then, once they are well defined, I let my other characters take shape. I write their life story, even if their role is quite minor. It really helps to create a real person, not just a cartoon-like character. It is then that I start to write the story, and as it unfolds, I find the characters continue developing, until I reach the point where I need to revise their initial life stories. The end result is characters that are different from those I had initially envisioned, but who are more real (and usually more fun too!). Writing dialogues helps me to find ways of differentiating my protagonists. I also make ample use of the people around me, from family members to friends, work colleagues, and even neigbours. There is a bit of all of them in each of my character. Last, I use my theatre experience to create characters who do not look or sound like each other.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
JEROME PARISSE: My ideal reader is someone who is interested in a story that will take him or her to another world, someone who wants to escape their daily life for a little while. It is someone with an open mind, someone who likes to think outside the box. Body Swap is primarily for young adults, but they are not my only readers. My previous novel, The Wings of Leo Spencer, was also a young adult book, but it was read more by adults than by teenagers, and they loved it. I like to think that my readers come from all walks of life, from a variety of backgrounds and experience, but they have one thing in common: they want to read a good story.
DAVID WISEHART: How did your theatre experience help you as a novelist?
JEROME PARISSE: I started writing plays before novels. I worked as an actor for a while and it made writing plays sound like a natural extension to acting. When you write a play, you have to focus on action. I mean by that that you need to focus on the present moment. Everything that happens on stage happens now, in front of the audience, and you cannot lie. As a consequence, it has to be interesting, the audience needs to be drawn into the scene, otherwise they'll start leaving. Writing plays has really helped me to write dialogues that sound real, advance the plot and help develop characters. As a consequence, the dialogues in my novels are very direct, straight to the point. When I write them, I imagine myself "acting" them on stage, and I visualise the environement, the props, the other characters etc... I read them aloud to make sure they sound natural and not forced.
Writing plays has also helped me to be prepared for marketing and promoting my work. I knew it wasn't going to be easy. The world of theatre is very tough, with numerous playwrights, and you have to actively promote your writing if you want to be performed. I have also had plays published before novels, and it was a first step in the publishing process.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
JEROME PARISSE: As I have just mentioned before, I started writing plays when working as an actor. It was fun and I enjoyed the process. I was lucky enough to see some of my plays produced, and this encouraged me tremendously to continue writing. However, it was novels I was more interested in, so after writing a few plays, I decided to start working on my first novel. It was The Wings of Leo Spencer, which was published by Sidharta Publishers in May this year, in Australia. I sought help from a professional editor to have it assessed and polished. While I was trying to publish it, I continued writing plays (which were produced and kept me happy) and started working on Body Swap, which has just been published by Amazon in paperback format and on Kindle. I have now written a third novel, Metaphore du rapide (in French) which has been picked by a French pubisher and will come out next year. It has taken me eight years from the moment I started working on my first novel to today. It has been a long process but worth it. I'm still writing plays (have had some of them published) and have a fourth novel in mind. I write my plays in English; my first two novels were written in English and my third one in French. The fourth one will probably also be in French, although I have not entirely made up my mind.
I write for pleasure mostly, but sharing my writing with others is my ultimate goal. For me, writing is all about communication.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
JEROME PARISSE: It varies. I have a full-time job as a business consultant, so writing has to be done during my free time! I usually spend a lot of time thinking about my story, and only when it has taken shape do I sit down to write a high-level structure of the plot. At the same time the main characters develop in my head. When I reach the stage when I think I know enough (and I have done enough research if needed), I sit down and start writing, which for me is the easiest part in the process. I work in the evenings mostly, and on weekends. I only write when I feel like it. Writing has to be fun, I don't want to force myself to do it if I don't feel like it. Fortunately, I am disciplined enough. I usually give my first draft to a few selected readers and I start revising until I am as satisfied as possible with the final result.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
JEROME PARISSE: Many! I am particularly inspired by Irene Nemirovsky, a Russian, Jewish writer who wrote in French and was murdered by the Nazis during the second world war. She was an amazing writer and had a fascinating life. Her life ended tragically fifty years ago, but most of her writing is still as fresh as if it had been written last year. Other authors who inspire me include Philip Pullman, Amelie Nothomb, Eoin Colfer, Minette Walters, and Harper Lee. As you can see, I have varied sources of inspiration!
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
JEROME PARISSE: It's actually a trilogy: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. I love these books. I find the story amazing and the writing excellent. I could read them over and over again, and my dream is to write something similar.
DAVID WISEHART: How did you create your cover?
JEROME PARISSE: For the cover of Body Swap, I used the services of a graphic designer, whom I found on www.authorsden.com. I was lucky, because she was excellent and we worked well together. I gave her a few ideas and she came back with a few draft covers, all of which were very good, but the one I chose was really outstanding. The process was insightful and not very costly.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
JEROME PARISSE: Promotion is for me the hardest and less pleasant part of the work, not really because of its nature, but more so because of the time it requires. There is no quick and easy promotion, and nowadays authors are expected to fully participate in the promotion of their books, even if they are published by a large publisher. I don't spend as much time promoting my books as I should, but I still try to do a few things. For the books published with a publisher, I work closely with them to develop a promotion campaign and organise signing sessions in bookstores. For Body Swap, which I have recently published on Kindle, here are the various actions that I have taken or am in the proces of taking:
- Issue a press release
- Develop a book page on my own website
- Publicise the book on my blog
- Publish author interviews, such as this one
- Links in email signatures
- Publicise the book on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
- Create a book trailer, posted everywhere, including on YouTube
- Participate in forum discussions, such as those on Amazon and KindleForum
- Publicise my books on book sites such as goodreads.com, authorsden.com
- Organise a giveaway campaign for a few books (Goodreads does this, and recipients post reviews online)
- Use personal contacts in the industry to
- Use events/actions relating to my other writing (produced plays, new book etc) to mention Body Swap
I believe that promotion is a long term activity, not something you can do intensely for a few days and then forget about it. More than anything else, I believe that as a writer you need to continue writing and build up the list of your novels/writings before it can really take off (unless you are one of the very few megastars/lucky ones)
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
JEROME PARISSE: I strongly believe in ebooks. Their market share is constantly increasing and they are cheaper and faster to buy than paper books. I am myself an avid Kindle reader. I find the Kindle device excellent, easy to use and cheap. I travel a lot around the world for work and pleasure and read a lot. The Kindle was the answer to my prayers! Now I can travel with 200 books in my luggage. Amazon is a powerful platform for marketing and distributing books worldwide, so it was the natural publishing medium for me. Having said that, Body Swap is also available in paperback format. Both formats complement each other nicely.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
JEROME PARISSE: I would tell them to:
- Make sure the book content is of the highest quality, in terms of the story and of the formatting. Spend time working on the formatting so that it is perfect. There is nothing worse than a poorly formatted book. Use the services of a professional editor if needed.
- Unless you are a designer yourself, spend a few dollars working with a graphic designer to create the best cover for your book. Even if the book is sold electronically, it is the cover that will attract potential readers first. Make sure it is eye catching.
- Finally, don't think that once your book is up for sale, you've done your work. The hardest is still to be done: promotion.
- Whatever happens, if you really believe in your book, don't give up!
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerome Parisse writes, "I was born and grew up in France, where I developed a love for language, literature, and good food. In my early thirties I moved to Australia where I am based now.
"I am an agricultural economist and a linguist by education, and a management consultant by trade. However, my passion for writing and literature led me to more creative endeavours...
"I started by writing short plays. Having studied acting in Sydney and in Paris, it just seemed a natural extension of performing on stage. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to continue. The rest is history, as we say... I write in both English and French. One of my plays, My Sister's Choice, also makes extensive use of sign language.
"I have published two novels, The Wings of Leo Spencer and Body Swap, and three plays, My Sister's Choice, The Birthday Knife, and Guys, Only Guys! I have written two full-length plays and a large number of short plays, which have been produced in America, Australia, the UK, Singapore and Malaysia. Some of them have won prizes. I have also written and published (mostly online) a large number of articles related to the issue of rare diseases, research and patients, translated in many languages throughout Europe. My writing credits also include an award-winning short story and a radio play.
"I’m currently working on a thriller which will take place in Hong Kong. My next novel (in French), Metaphore du Rapide, will be published in February 2011."