This interview is going to be a little different because author and adventurer Tony Slater is the kind of guy who colors outside the lines. I’m not the one who is going to tell him his TPS report has to have a cover sheet. I want you to get as much pure, unadulterated Tony as you can here; so I’ve simply put category labels for his answers. The rest is all him—and I will testify under oath to that effect if called to do so.
—Stephen Hise for Indies Unlimited.
Author Bio: Tony James Slater is a very, very strange man. He believes himself to be indestructible, despite considerable evidence to the contrary. He is often to be found making strange faces whilst pretending to be attacked by inanimate objects. And sometimes – not always, but often enough to be of concern – his testicles hang out of the holes in his trousers.
It is for this reason (amongst others) that he chooses to spend his life far from mainstream civilization, tackling ridiculous challenges and subjecting himself to constant danger. He gets hurt quite a lot.
Writing Style: My style is absolutely ridiculous. It perfectly matches the events of the book, which start out at ‘daft’ and run right the way through to ‘bloody unbelievable!’ I am a user. Of fragmented sentences. And I write like I talk, which makes the book read like a conversation with a close friend – that is, if you have any close friends who spend their weekends being head-butted in the balls by a wild boar.
Source of Inspiration: I look deep, deep inside my… journals. Since I write about all the crazy sh1t that happens to me when I go off on adventures, most of the material is already there – it just needs turning from scribbled notes into witty prose. This is the hardest part though, and I love to watch stand up comedians like Michael Mcintyre and Eddie Izzard to see examples of how to take something quite ordinary and make it funny just by how you describe it. I also read lots of travel writing… and all of it – every little bit of it – is crap. I hate travel writing!
Challenges of Writing: Motivation is what I struggle with most – I find it difficult to persuade myself to sit down and write, when there always seems to be something else I should be doing… writing is like a guilty pleasure that I rarely allow myself to indulge in. Which is a bugger, since I’m trying to make a living out of it… I also struggle with ‘leaving it alone’ – no matter how many times I re-write something I’m never satisfied the next day and usually end up doing it again. And again. And…. yeah. It drives me mad, especially as I do most of it at 4am. Imagine what it does to my wife!
Beta Readers: Used beta readers? Well, they make great foot stools… I had several people read my book, but nothing quite as organized as beta readers. My family and a few friends suffered through the early drafts, spotting mistakes and inconsistencies, but everyone seemed to love it. That didn’t stop me pulling it apart and putting it back together a few more times though! Beta readers is a personal thing – I’d only recommend them if you know someone who is themself quite a skilled reader and user of English – and ideally a fan of your genre. Otherwise you’re likely to get as much bad advice as good, often highly contradictory, and end up screaming, howling and spontaneously combusting. It could happen.
Marketing Strategies: Marketing eh? Well, I dressed up as a bear and ran around town chasing a gigantic pair of cardboard underpants. No, really! My wife gave out flyers, my sister played the part of the underpants and we had a very surreal, very entertaining day out. It would have been even more of a success if I’d sold any books as a result of it, but I did end up in the paper. And almost arrested… I blogged about it here.
Paid adverts – not yet, but I’m considering a ‘sponsorship’ on Kindle Nation Daily, just to raise awareness of my book. I’m sure it’s good value (unlike pay-per-click or magazine ads) because it’s targeted directly at Kindle owners, but so far I haven’t been brave enough (or rich enough!) to part with the cash.
Other Indies: These days they’re all I read. My wife particularly has cottoned on to the fact that she can get books on her kindle for free – and she’s read about a hundred so far! I don’t often find time to read, but she gets through three or four books a week. I’m a big fan of David Gaughran’s blog and have bought and read everything he’s published so far. I’m also loving the classics – Saffina Desforges (and Mark Williams)’s Sugar and Spice is the best indie book I’ve read.
Advice to Aspiring Writers: Hm… well, I’d say this: write something you love. By the time I’d done the 115th edit on ‘That Bear’ I was ready to feed the damn thing into the fire – only the fact that it was written on a MacBook instead of paper stopped me! And I really love that book. If I’d been writing something I felt luke-warm about I’d never have finished it. Edit, edit and edit again – no point sending your work out half-baked, as it will only hang around like a fart in a space-suit, making you look… um, smelly. And also, keep your writing time separate from everything else, otherwise like me you’ll end up spending most of it washing dishes.
Parting Thoughts: Well, I’m a huge believer in fate. I’d love my book to be outrageously successful and I honestly believe it will be – but more than anything I know I had to write it. If it gives other people ideas about doing something they’ve always wanted to do, or even inspires one person to take a trip that changes their life – then I’ve done what I set out to do.
That Bear Ate My Pants:
It’s a crazy travel adventure and an entirely true story – about what happens when you take an idiot (me) and throw him into a job looking after jaguars and crocodiles in a country he can’t even pronounce, let alone find on a map! If Bill Bryson had been chased by bears, shaved, shot at, blinded and electrocuted… no, wait. If Steve Irwin had done exactly what he did – only had no experience (and was, in fact, naturally quite bad at doing it), or… Yes! If Karl Pilkington was asked to run an exotic wildlife refuge in South America… well, you get an idea of what this book is about. Only much, MUCH stranger!
Reviews: It’s doing GREAT! I have a feeling that a lot of Indie books do well with their opening flurry of reviews, as many are provided by fellow indie authors. That said, most of my reviews come from people I don’t know at all – I’m generally quite surprised when I log on to find another one! So far I have all 5 star reviews on Amazon.co.uk, and 5’s with one 4 star at the .com site. The word most commonly used to describe the book is ‘hilarious!’ – which is great, as what I really wanted to contribute to the world was a bit of a laugh. Quite a number of the reviewers also picked up on the deeper message of the book though, something I hope shows through – my passion and excitement for what I was doing, which I really hope will convince other thrill-seekers to do the same. Volunteering, whatever your motivations for doing it, is all good. Rack up some good karma while you still can!
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That Bear Ate My Pants is available through Amazon US and Amazon UK. Learn more about Tony Slater (if you dare) by visiting his website, blog, and Facebook page. Indies Unlimited ran two sneak-peeks of That Bear Ate My Pants. In case you missed it, you can find part 1 here and part 2 here.