In her own words, Avis lives in Suffolk, England with her husband, one son and two cats. She gained a BSc. in Environmental Chemistry more years ago than she cares to admit, and worked in the fledgling computer industry whilst still a babe-in-arms. She has been a story–teller for as long as she can remember. She discovered a talent for Chemistry in her second year of senior school and went on to read Environmental Chemistry at Salford University. She put this to good use in the Information Technology industry, working for several manufacturers, eventually specialising in Stockbroking and Fund Management software in The City of London. She retired from the fray to raise a family. Avis can be contacted here: http://avishickmangibb.blogspot.co.uk/
Avis Hickman Gibb
But she still loves to tell stories!A few weeks ago she published her flash fiction collection in an e-book. Entitled A Plate of Bits it’s available from Amazon. But before you scurry your fingers off to get her book, here is a bit part of her interview which will be up in October in Flash Fiction Chronicles:
Me: How did A Plate of Bits happen?
Avis: A Plate of Bits is a collection of short, and short-short, of my work from 2007 until mid 2011. For as long as I can remember, I have been a teller of tales – but only for my consumption. Then in late 2006 I decided my New Year’s resolution for 2007 would be to do something about my writing – kind of put-up or shut-up, call my bluff. After all there’s only so long you can tell yourself ‘I could have been a contender’.
I joined the online writers’ community WriteWords and joined a group there called Flash Fiction I. I was hooked from the first week. I found the concept so immediate, so accessible – take a prompt and write to a set word target – what could be simpler? I added, as I think a lot of Flash writers do, a time limit to produce a piece. I like to belt out the first draft in about an hour. But the tweaking – ah that can take days! When I find myself deliberating for half an hour at a time the merits of using that word there, or deleting that word, I realise the piece is ‘cooked’!
When I started my writing was not disciplined. The experience I gained from writing flash has taught me a lot about structure, about saying what I want to say in a direct and (I think) clear manner. Of course with flash the reader may be called upon to work a little more than a reader of a novel, or a short story. The more words in a piece, the more colour and details of the story can be filled in for the reader. Flash is stripped down fiction, and sometimes the story seems to start in mid action. But a good flash will have the start and perhaps the end implied within it. It will be up to each reader to decode and interpret.
Me: What is a typical writing day like?
Avis: My writing day recently has been filled with too much boring, technical stuff. I have just finished (using a new venture a couple of tech-savvy friends and I set up called Hawkmoth Press) converting my word processed file of collected bits into the shiny new eBook A Plate of Bits. I am only just now looking at cleared schedule where I can plan to actually write each day.
So this will be settling down late morning to put in four hours before a late lunch. The earlier morning is taken up with walking. Then later in the day after a couple of hours off doing boring stuff like laundry, I’ll probably have another bash at the keyboard – but probably editing. And that will hold true for five-ish days of the week.
I do have my own spot in our study, but at the moment I am camped out in the dining room as my desk has had to be shifted due to a damp patch making an appearance after a drain pipe overflowed thanks to a leaf blockage. The joys of owning an old house!
Hawkmoth Press Logo
Me: Tell us about Hawkmoth Press.
Avis: Well, basically when I first decided I wanted to dip my toe into the electronic publishing sea. I thought – how hard can it be? I am more than technically competent – after all I worked all those years in, on, beside and with computers for heaven’s sake!
But the more I delved into the “what was involved”, the more befuddled I became. And there I was one day with a friend, pouring my woes out over a cup of tea. Long story short, we set up Hawkmoth Press to aid authors convert their word processed book into an eBook. There is only one conversion process at the moment – to Kindle. But as Amazon is the market leader, and as the Kindle Select Programme is a very good way to dip a toe in for a new author, this is no bad thing.
Now my book is converted I’m back to doing what I love – writing. But I feel relieved that when I have another book to sell, Hawkmoth Press will be available to me for the conversion. They’ll work with an author to produce the best version of a work that’s possible. The author is involved at all stages, and is responsible for all copy editing choices. But the great bonus they offer is a second bite at the conversion cherry. They convert what an author sends and return a fully functioning MOBI compiled eBook for that author to check.
Something I have found during converting A Plate of Bits is the very small screen of an eReader sometimes does funny things to line layouts. And sometimes you want to rearrange the prose so it sits better on the reader’s screen. Hawkmoth’s second bite allows an author to check through this first stage book and change all these little niggles, and a mass of others – like hanging full-stops, premature line wraparound, and other stuff – and then they will for no extra cost produce the final fully uploaded Kindle book. If you’re good enough, there’s also the possibility of an author page home at Hawkmoth Press, if you have no web-site of your own. I’m there, along with a kernel of other authors. Go check me out @ http://www/hawkmothpress.wordpress.com .
Avis: I am a complete Kindle convert! I resisted buying one of the readers – I like paper books, I said. I like to hold them in my hands and feel the rustle of the pages, I said. Then I figured if I was going to sell on Kindle I should see what the fuss was about. I now have over 160 books on my Kindle. I carry it around in my handbag, I can read at the drop of a hat and it doesn’t weigh anymore with all those books in it!
Forms of fiction best for Kindle? I can see, as for with any eReader, that if the book had lots of pictures in it that might not… sit well on the small screens of the eReaders. But in my humble opinion just about any form of fiction or creative writing will be just as well represented on an eReader screen as on a dead-wood book! (Dead-wood – paper, get it?)
And the trends? Phew! That’s a trickier one than I think you realise! The access Amazon, and all the eBook seller sites, allows to a reader is tremendous. I think this is the real revolution that is talked about. No longer are the books and stories available to the reading public only those that a literary agent, publishing house editor or retail shop decide are the ones that will be sold this year. The choice of e-Reader reading matter is truly astonishing – trawling through just Amazon’s lists to see the choice will show you that.
Okay, write some, perhaps a lot, of these are rubbish; but those eBooks that are badly written, have too many errors in them, are badly formatted, or just plain boring will fall to the bottom of the heap – thus allowing the good stuff to float. But it’s definitely not a case of publish and leave your little masterpiece to get on to the legendary Amazon lists all by itself. As the author, you have to do stuff to help.
Only look at the Fifty Shades phenomena and you should appreciate the power of the common readership. How, if enough people hear about – and buy – a book, it will be a success. Without the assistance of agents, publishers, editors and all.
Remember Avis Hickman Gibb’s complete interview will be up in October 2012 in Flash Fiction Chronicles
A Plate of Bits