Interview with local resident Colin Bisset – First time digital novelist, ABC radio broadcaster and Feng Shui Consultant

Recently one of my more mature clients (75yrs plus) rang me and was telling me about how he had just checked his iPad and was most impressed with his property ad online, but maybe could we tweak something just so the Google ranking was even better. Impressed and slightly shocked I asked him what tablet he was using and he said the latest mini iPad which his 3yr old granddaughter had taught him how to use…

Thus meeting Colin Bisset to discuss his new novel, Not Always to Plan, I had as many questions about the book as to how he was marketing his novel which he has launched purely as an e-book! Colin Bisset, a resident of the Sutherland Shire since 1996, has always had budding ambitions to write a novel.This year, in April, his dream was realised when his first book was released through Momentum Books.

“Not Always to Plan” is a book about death, family, marriage and finding your own way while being a parent, child, sister, daughter, son. A well-to-do, but not obscenely wealthy family living in a leafy beachside suburb of the Sutherland Shire, Ruth, Tom, Natasha and Ryan all have issues to deal with.  The novel has the background setting of a relaxed beachside suburb which we can all relate to. References to the local theatre and the café by the beach where certain characters go, make you feel like you are reading a book about a family you might know in a town you do know.

How long did it take to write Not Always to Plan?
I wrote about 16 chapters about 5 years ago and then left it, wrote another book but then came back to Not Always to Plan two years ago. So it was definitely a work in progress. My agent gave both books to the publisher and they decided to go with Not Always to Plan as my first novel.

What would you say the book is about in one sentence?
It’s about a family and 4 individuals in particular and how they are disconnected from their feelings and letting life pass them by before something happens which gives them the wake-up call/ opportunity to change direction.

How did you come up with the storyline?
Sometimes I start writing and the characters take on a life of their own and send me down a path. I am always jotting down ideas and I really wanted to explore the idea of how people find their purpose in life. So often we let life drift along without really knowing where we’re heading. How do we arrive at that point where we feel we’re on the right track? That’s what I wanted to write about while enjoying the chaotic way we go about it!

What made you set it in this area?
Write about what you know, they say, and I’ve lived here long enough now. I also wanted to write about a normal family – the father’s a dentist, the son has just left uni, the daughter works in a shop and the mother looks after an elderly parent. So they’re pretty normal. And I could just see them pottering around Cronulla, going to the beach, walking to the post office, taking the train up to Central. I’ve changed some things, obviously, but I think people from this area will definitely recognise places I’m writing about.

How are you marketing your 1st novel?
It’s a real journey! Especially as this novel was not an easy genre to classify so as a print book it might have get lost on the bookshelves. The book went “live” so to speak on Easter Monday, there was no fanfare, no book “launch” in the traditional sense, it really was a bit of an anti climax. But it was released to the world not just to Australia and that’s pretty exciting. Like most authors nowadays I have a website, a facebook page and a twitter account with a daily marketing strategy. At least this way I don’t have to go to every bookshop I know and re-arrange my book to the front window when no one is looking!

How did you choose the publisher?
They chose me! But I’m really happy as Momentum Books is the digital publishing arm of Pan Macmillan so they have loads of experience and handled the ebook exactly as they would a print version – same editting and design processes. This is a new area for all the big publishing houses so I’m pleased to be part of that.

Well I couldn’t put my e-book down, I became endeared to your characters very quickly and found myself saying cheering on a certain female in certain chapters without giving anything away. What genre would you classify the book and where do you recommend we purchase from?
I suppose it falls into general or family fiction – it’s not all sex’n’shopping so it’s not chicklit but there are elements of that in it. It’s meant to be a page-turner and the characters are all ages so I think there’s someone for everyone to identify with. It’s on Amazon, of course, but probably the best place to check it out is on Momentum’s own website.

Colin, I know you are already so busy with your radio work and your Feng Shui consulting but do you think you will write another novel at some stage?
No doubt about it! I can’t wait to get into the next one – I love the whole writing experience. I’m working with several ideas at the moment. And of course my Design Files are popular on ABC Radio National so it’s a fairly safe bet to assume my next novel will have a design slant…We’ll see.

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