Everybody Knows This is Nowhere is the first novel from Alice Furse. It centers around a girl, an office, and an impending apocalypse. The novel is geared toward anyone who is wondering what on earth to do with themselves as it reflects that awkward time of finishing university and asking yourself what the hell you’re going to do next.
Authors Welcome had an opportunity to chat with Alice Furse for an Author Spotlight, and get the story behind the story of her book, and what the writing and publishing processes were like for her.
AW: Tell us a little bit about your book.
Alice: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere is primarily about those awkward years after university, when you’ve been taught that the world will open up for you, but it doesn’t quite work out that way. Action centres on a girl who moves to suburbia with her boyfriend and starts working in an office, both of which come with their own problems and mysteries.
AW: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
Alice: My novel targets young women. I wrote it because I felt totally disenfranchised and isolated, and I don’t think for a minute that I’m the only one. I hope it will appeal to other people who might find themselves in a similar position and at the very least, give them an idea that they’re not alone.
AW: How did you come up with the title for your book/series?
Alice: It’s actually the name of a Neil Young song. I tried to think of something original but this was just the perfect title.
AW: Tell us a bit about your cover design? Who designed it and did you have a lot of input into the design?
Alice: I’m self-published so I had total control, which is nice – in fact, I came up with the idea of using hole punch holes and I took the photo myself. I’m lucky too in that I know a graphic designer who helped me choose that idea, tidy it up, and selected the font. I really wanted to make sure it looked like a modern novel, and not something else, like a textbook – it’s not as easy as it sounds!
AW: How long did it take to complete your novel?
Alice: In total, it took about two years to complete.
AW: Did you ever experience writer’s block? If so, what did you do to get out of the funk?
Alice: Honestly, I try not to worry if I’m not writing masses. Contrary to the traditional wisdom of getting through a daily word count, I’m not someone who works well when I force it – I’d rather work when I feel like I have something to say and the energy to say it. If you’re lucky enough to make a living from writing then perhaps you would need that structure, but for the rest of us, life gets in the way – and so it should.
AW: Tell us about the challenges of getting your first novel published? About how long did it take?
Alice: I wrote Everybody Knows a good few years ago, and when I finished it I approached an agent who seemed keen to get it out there. It got reasonably far with a few publishers, but in the end they said although they liked it they couldn’t market it. I left it and got on with other things, but it struck me a little while ago that this was a bit of a waste, and putting it on Amazon myself and keeping it my own seemed more interesting than building up a collection of rejection letters. I also now have a background in PR, so I enjoy marketing it too.
AW: Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
Alice: Is it too horrible and narcissistic to say the narrator? Probably is… but I’m going to say it anyway. Yeah, she’s based on me. I’m proud of how the voice develops throughout the novel – I wanted to write from a perspective that was cynical but not unkind, and I wanted her to be a force that people can identify with, but quirky at the same time. God knows if I’ve achieved it – I’m probably not the person to ask.
AW: Who is your least favorite character and what makes them less appealing to you?
Alice: I don’t dislike any of the characters. People you clash a bit with in real life tend to be the ones that are easiest to write because that’s where the energy is, and there’s always something to be said for that. They’re the most interesting people and relationships to explore. Not to get too deep, but the word ‘personality’ suggests that we’re separate entities. I think it’s closer to the truth to say that our identities are only given shape by the people around us.
AW: If you could change only one thing about your novel, what would it be?
Alice: Nothing. It’s not perfect, but it’s just fine.
AW: Give us an interesting or fun fact about your book/series.
Alice: Everyone in the book was based on someone I know.
AW: What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike? Did they inspire you?
Alice: I’m not sure that there are very many books similar to my own which is part of the reason I wrote it, but I have been inspired but hundreds of writers. I love Magnus Mills’ pared-down style and while I didn’t consciously emulate it, I’m sure I learnt a hack of a lot from reading his books – The Restraint of Beasts in particular. The Bell Jar also really inspired me – I read it for the first time when I was about 14 and I love her voice, her honesty, and her cynicism.
AW: What made you decide to become an author?
Alice: It wasn’t really a decision – it was just something I always did. When I was nine I wrote stories about what my toys said to each other when I left the room. When I was twelve I wrote a lot of stories about a girl with one leg for some reason, and when I was a teenager there was a lot of the usual angsty poetry bollocks, which was all burnt in a dramatic fire – thankfully. When I was in sixth form I wrote some short stories that won competitions, and chose to study English Literature and Creative Writing at university, which properly cracked me open.
AW: What is the toughest criticism that you have received as an author?
Alice: I know how this sounds, and maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I haven’t really received any. I don’t think that’s because I write the best things ever, it’s because when people don’t like something their response tends to be silence. No one’s queued up to tell you you’re shit, and if you dig around for feedback people are usually constructive.
During my first writing workshop at university, a girl told me I used a couple of clichés. She was right.
AW: What is the best compliment?
Alice: My tutor at university was always very good to me. She told me that I was one of her best students, and encouraged me to write a novel in the first place. I took that as a massive compliment.
AW: Do you have another job or are you a full-time author?
Alice: I have another job. I do PR for a sports radio station.
AW: What can we expect from you in the future? Do you have a new novel or project that you are working on?
Alice: I’m focusing on a short stories at the moment with a view to getting them published in magazines, and also working on a second novel, which is about 10,000 words in. I’ve also just started a book site called The Rebel’s Book Guide, which aims to focus on literary self-published authors, as opposed to genre fiction. I’m hoping it’ll be a real resource for people to sift the pile as self-publishing continues to grow in popularity.
AW: Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?
Alice: Don’t be scared of self-publishing – it has a bad reputation for being a vanity thing, but if it actually gets your work out there and being read, it couldn’t matter less. If you do it, do it properly. I don’t think you have to spend tons of money, but put thought and time into editing, formatting, and cover design, because all those things will help. Don’t expect to shoot up the Amazon chart straightaway – and if it’s not fun, you’re doing it wrong.
AW: How do you market your book?
Alice: Twitter is a useful tool, though it has to be used in a canny fashion and can’t just be tweets saying “Buy my book now”. I’ve worked out who my target market is, and approached people that I think will be interested in it – it’s a slow process, but very exciting. My Twitter handle is @alicefurse.
I also have a blog site called The Rebel’s Book Guide. I hope you will check it out and follow me on social media to keep up with what I’m currently working on.
Interested readers can check out Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere through Amazon.com.