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An Author Interview with Colin Short

We talked to Colin Short, who released his book, In the Shadow of the Church, today. His fictional novel was inspired by his travels to Rwanda, where he learned about the political impact on its people.

How would you describe your book?

I’ve always found it hard to define this book. It has elements of a thriller, a romance and a historical novel- so something for everyone! My tutor classed it as commercial literary fiction, but to me, it is just a really good story that hopefully keeps the reader turning the pages.

Who is your reader?

The book has a very strong female lead character (Liliane), so I think it will appeal to women who can identify with her. Liliane’s struggle is, essentially, one of breaking out of a cycle of male domination that has plagued her life and condemned her to much suffering. I think book groups will find it a good, sometimes controversial book that engenders a lot of discussion. Also, many of the characters are late teens/early twenties, so I hope a younger audience might take to it.

Tell me about the story of your story.

The story is about a girl who escapes from the genocide in Rwanda but finds that the shadow of the genocide continues to plague her years later. I have been to Rwanda a few times with a charity that supports reconciliation between the two ethnic groups. I have heard and seen a lot, and when it came to choosing a topic at my writing course and was told to write about what I knew, this seemed the obvious one. I also had some very clear memories and images of the country still in my mind, which helped when it came to describing the fictional town where Liliane lived. I stared at my photographs and then could imagine where Liliane lived.

Photos from Colin’s personal collection showing a town in Rwanda that inspired his fictional town of Kitabuye

Have you always wanted to write?

I loved writing stories as a child and always wanted to write a novel and be published, but then life and work took over. I was lucky enough to be able to leave full-time employment early and took the opportunity to take a six-month writing a novel course at the Faber Academy. This gave me the grounding I needed to get started and meet a group of other writers who have become friends, and we have supported each other ever since.

How long did it take to write?

Well, on and off, it’s taken eight years, but I did set it aside a couple of times for various reasons- part-time work and family life. I had it edited a few years ago, and the editor highlighted a lot of changes and improvements. It took me six months to summon up the energy to go again, but I’m glad I persevered!

Is the book how you imagined it to be?

No! The storyline has changed a lot over the years, partly because the research I did into that period in Rwanda uncovered a lot of things that I didn’t know about, even though I had been there a few times. It was the failure of the United Nations and the role of the Catholic Church that took the novel in a different direction but made it a better novel because I was able to develop a number of subplots.

The real church (taken in Rwanda)…

 

…that inspired the painting…

 

…that became the cover.

 

What do you find the most difficult thing about writing?

It’s a very solitary occupation, although I quite enjoyed locking myself away and indulging myself in my writing. Otherwise, I think it was the realisation that the art of writing is the continual editing and rewriting. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, which is good in that it made me strive for a great end product. But it was bad in that I was never satisfied!

Do you feel like a writer now, or do you have imposter syndrome?

Now that the book is in print, I do. I’ve told so few about my writing because I didn’t want people to know until I could prove I could do it. There’s going to be a lot of surprised people in the next few days!

Are you writing anything else?

I’ve got ideas for a few books, and once the dust has settled on this one, I shall start again.

Was there anything that surprised you about the publishing process?

How brutal the industry is. I approached lots of agents, but many never even acknowledged my submission. Those who did were quite kind, but I got sick of reading, ‘It’s just not for me.’ I think the industry is so risk averse and wants surefire winners. There doesn’t seem to be room for new writers with different ideas and whose books don’t fit into a mould.

If it was on TV, who would you like to cast?

There’s one definite actor whose face I could see every time I wrote about a certain character called Uncle OK. Morgan Freeman would be perfect!

Any advice for a new author?

Start with a better plan than I did and spend time writing up all the characters’ backgrounds and personalities. This isn’t the part of writing I enjoy, but I wish I’d spent more time upfront planning and plotting. It would have saved a lot of time and rewriting later on.

What was the best thing about working with TAUK Publishing?

Estelle really believed in my writing and my story from day one, which was a tremendous boost after so many rejections. Working with her was enjoyable, and her insight was so helpful. The rest of the team did a great job on the cover and formatting. Once I had signed up, I just knew that everything would be done for me. All I had to do was worry about the quality of the writing.

 

Colin’s book, In The Shadow of the Church, is now available on Amazon.

 

 

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