Spotlight 46: Michelle Medhat
Mark Dawson: I’m Mark Dawson from the Self-Publishing Show and this is Self-Publishing Spotlight where we shine a light on the indie authors who are changing the world of publishing one book at a time.
Tom Ashford: Hello and welcome to the Self-Publishing Spotlight. We meet indie authors at all stages of their careers and ask them a series of five questions. Five questions about their process, their mistakes and their successes. Five answers that will help you level up your own author career.
My name is Tom Ashford and I’m part of the Self-Publishing Formula. Don’t forget that you can get yourself publishing resource kit at selfpublishingformula.com/starterkit.
This week’s guest is Michelle Medhat. She’s written four books in the political espionage/scifi genre and she lives in the UK.
Michelle Medhat: Thank you very much Tom.
Tom Ashford: Do you want to start by elaborating on the political espionage/scifi?
Michelle Medhat: My books are in that genre that is quite interesting because you’ve got the kind of twisty politics of a political espionage-type story, but you’ve also got this interconnecting element of interdimensional worlds as well.
It’s very fast moving, it’s packed full of action, there is a lot of steamy sex in it as well as quite a lot of violence as well. Lots of people are calling it your next guilty pleasure. So I think that gives you an idea as to the kind of things that are included in it.
The first book of the series and it’s the Trusted thriller series is called The Trusted. You essentially meet two characters, husband and wife, Sam and Ellie Noor, and they are the main protagonists throughout the series. And what they go through will literally have your eyes on stalks by the end of it.
They have to address a global threat called Al Nadir. Al Nadir are a collective terrorism outfit, but they’re actually more like a global corporation. They’re headed up by Salim Al Douri, who is a trillionaire. He’s done a lot of very, very bad things and he’s basically harnessed 70% of the world’s terrorism under the Al Nadir kind of banner.
He’s essentially made terrorism like Coca-Cola. You’ve also got a lot of double-crossing, you have a lot of double agents, you have a lot of people within the cabinet in the UK and the cabinet in the US who are spies as well.
And as you go through the series, you realize that more and more people are involved in Al Nadir and that it is becoming more and more of a threat. I don’t want to give any kind of spoilers away Tom, but it really is, as somebody said, a roller coaster on steroids.
By the time you hit The Refracted, which is book four, you suddenly realize quite how devastating everything has actually become despite the fact that everything seems to be okay. So in the very beginning of The Refracted, and I’m not giving away any spoilers, but it basically says, “Everybody thought the world is in that nice rosy place, how wrong by all lot.”
Tom Ashford: Cool. Sounds great. It sounds like a lot but it sounds great.
Michelle Medhat: Very much. I was just going to say Tom, very much kind of Richard, Kay Gibson/Dean Koontz type of writing, if you want to draw comparisons to. A bit Sanborn also Dan Brown, Glenn Cooper, these are the kind of people that have been kind of spoken about in reviews and things, but I do have my own signature and it’s a very, very short chapters, very fast moving.
You feel like you’re literally under the bullet all the time. And it is an adrenaline rush that is quite unbelievable if you actually have the time to read it, basically.
Tom Ashford: If we dive into the questions, the first one is, why do you write?
Michelle Medhat: I write because it’s in my heart. I write not through any kind of commercial reason.
The first thing I ever wrote in my life, I was four and a half and it was a poem and I wrote it after having a dream about my grandfather. I didn’t realize that he had died overnight. I had a dream about him touching my hand and I essentially got up the next morning and wrote this poem. My parents were completely knocked out by it because in the poem, it actually says essentially I knew that my grandfather had died and he was saying goodbye to me in the dream.
So they were pretty astonished by that. I haven’t stopped writing since that point and it became quite an interesting thing because I was always writing on anything as a child.
I also used to write on the walls sometimes, which annoyed my parents a little bit, but sometimes I used to get inspiration and just write. And if I didn’t have any pens or any kind of paper, I would just do that. So DIY in our house and painting and decorating became quite a staple.
But I write Tom, because I have a feeling I need to get things out. I need to get things out.
I’ve always written. I wrote a book when I was 14 and a half and I was really, really keen to get it out. Unfortunately various things took over, my grandmother died and various things happened during my life and it’s really didn’t transpire.
But writing poetry, writing short stories, it is something that’s part of me. It’s in my cells, it’s in my DNA and it’s in my heart and I don’t feel that I’m a true person to myself unless I write.
Tom Ashford: In terms of your publishing history, are you an indie author or have you considered going the traditional route?
Michelle Medhat: I am an indie, I have my own little publishing imprint called Mindblowing Books, so that’s what I imprint under. I have thought about going the traditional route, however, I am not that keen to go down that route at the moment.
I do go down that route with my audio books. I’m with Blackstone on my audio books. However, on my normal books on the printed and on the eBooks, I’m keeping indie at the moment because it keeps all my options open. It doesn’t mean to say that in the future, when I start another series or something, I won’t go towards try it, but we’ll see.
Tom Ashford: Question number two is, how do you write? Do you tend to plot your stories out first or just see where they take you?
Michelle Medhat: The Trusted started under another name a few years ago and I wrote it out, I wrote the plot line straight out and then I started to weave other aspects in. So what I tend to do is if I have the inspiration around a plot, I will write the plot straight and then I will mind map. Are you au fait with that?
Tom Ashford: Yeah.
Michelle Medhat: I mind map essentially the key characters, what they could be doing, what they should be doing, what their personality traits are. I don’t use anything like Scrivener or anything like that at all. I just do it all on paper and I get down as much information into my mind maps and then I start to write the chapters.
And that’s essentially how I plot everything. I decide what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, the kind of things they could be doing and I let the characters almost write themselves after that. And it just flows.
I tend to write long hand first of all, in a notebook or in a book. I mean, people say to me because I’m also in a full time work as well, “How do you write?” And I always have a notebook actually by my side which means I’m always able to grab something whether I’m on a train, on a plane, as a passenger in a car. That’s how I tend to write and then I’ll bring everything together.
I will look at what I’ve written in long hand and then type it up. And as I type it up, more things come through and the whole kind of chapter gets embellished with other things that actually crop up. That’s how I write.
Tom Ashford: Question number three is, are you a full time author? If you are, how did you get there and if you aren’t, what steps are you taking to make it happen?
Michelle Medhat: I would love to be but at the moment I’m not. And this is primarily because I’m also an Operations and Strategy Development Director in the Innovation Institute, IKE Institute, which is the professional institute for innovation in the UK and it’s my job along with others within the institute to actually drive innovation throughout all forms of business and industry, particularly around science, engineering and technology. Those are the key sectors.
And obviously with the virus at the moment, this is actually one of the most important things within people’s lives at the moment, is to innovate their own lives and innovate trying to find cures or ways or new machines to actually support people who have got Covid.
I’ve been hearing this morning about a new form of respirital which is incredible. So it’s these kinds of breakthroughs that my institute, through their various techniques and methodologies and actually professionalizing innovation through accreditation and certification, actually drives.
Tom Ashford: Wow, that’s quite impressive. Just for the listeners to point out that we’re recording this March 30th. So at the moment, coronavirus is still quite heavy hitting I guess. So in six weeks or whatever, when this comes out, maybe things will have changed, maybe they won’t have. We’ll see.
Michelle Medhat: Let’s hope so. I keep on saying Tom, stay positive, stay safe. That is my kind of mantra that I’ve been pushing throughout and I think if everybody does what they’re supposed to be doing and keeps positive, stays indoors, that will be fine. Everything will go well.
Tom Ashford: Question number four is, what mistakes do you think you’ve made and what have you got right?
Michelle Medhat: I think one of the big mistakes that I made was releasing … Because The Trusted, as I inferred to you earlier, was not the first name of the book. I don’t want to say the first name of the book, but I did release it earlier. It was back in 2013-14. And it was at a time, unfortunately, there was a lot going on in my life.
I lost my brother, I lost my father and then I lost my mother within a very, very short period of time. And I just did not have the energies to actually put to it. It was not the product it was supposed to be.
I didn’t understand anything about book marketing, which is quite ironic because quite a number of my years in various companies have been spent in strategic marketing communications, but I didn’t think I needed to market my book. Don’t ask me. That’s a big mistake that I made. I think it was actually driven by the fact that I had too much on my mind at the time.
I think that was probably my biggest mistake, not marketing my book when it first come out and also producing something that I didn’t actually have an editor for. So there were quite a few errors and things like that.
And to be quite honest, around 2013-14, the kind of marketplace in terms of actually understanding what needs to be done, the likes of Mark Dawson’s 101, Advertising for Authors, all that kind of information about how to professionalize your writing and how to write as a product was not actually around at all. So I didn’t really give much thought about it. I just put it up.
I did get a lot of responses. I did have quite a number of interviews in the US, in the UK. Quite a lot of people were talking about it as well because of the nature of the things that it had in it. But it wasn’t the complete book that I really wanted to write.
So I have subsequently de-published it. I shelved everything completely and then rewrote everything. So The Trusted thriller series is a shadow of the book that I put out in 2013-14 but it’s far, far, far stronger. I have a full team of people doing formatting, editing, graphics, et cetera, who I work with. And they have been unbelievable. And they have really helped me.
I think in terms of what I’ve got right, I think first and foremost it has to be the cover. The cover gives that kind of element of espionage or spy thriller, but because of the concentric elements around the sort of main outline of the woman on the steps, it kind of like gives another worldly element to it as well. So you know this is not just a straight thriller, there is something else going on as well. And I think the embodiment of that really, really helped incredibly.
I think also understanding what my characters were really up to because I actually deconstructed the whole book. I re-mind mapped it and I rewrote it. That helped me no end and I think people have now got a story that is unputdownable, very, very fast-paced, full of technology, there’s nano tech, there’s biotech, there’s quantum.
And even the technologies that I bring from the interdimensional world and this is important, are all invested in actual science to a point where for the last few weeks I’ve been coming up with various articles, various articles have actually been popping up that have identified the fact that one of my … Things that happen in the book around quantum entanglement and how to actually handle a qubit computer in the way in which I’ve done it was exactly the same as what Honeywell have only just done a few weeks ago.
I wrote this in 2018, so we’re talking about something that Honeywell’s only just done. Also, I found out that one of the Nano cream disguises that I’ve purported Al Nadir, the kind of baddies use all the time to hide who they are, has actually started development at University of Cambridge.
It’s getting like that Tom, everything I write suddenly springs up because the stuff that I write, I extrapolate it into what potentially could be science and I’m doing it all the time now. And certain author friends are calling me the next H.G. Wells. I don’t know.
Tom Ashford: Question number five is, what’s your final piece of advice for authors starting out in indie publishing?
Michelle Medhat: The one thing I would say is to really get your cover right. I would say get a good editor and get a good proofreader. Understand exactly who your readers are, understand what they’re reading, go through and identify who those authors are so that you can target that on AMS or on Facebook.
And understand what your readers are also interested in. So what kind of TV series they actually may be watching, for example. So get as much understanding of what your archetype customer is, get a good editor, get a good proofreader, get a good cover designer, but most of all, write a damn good book.
Tom Ashford: That’s good advice and those were your five questions. Thank you very much for coming on Michelle.
Michelle Medhat: No problem at all, Tom. That’s absolutely fantastic. I hope I’ve handled all those questions okay.
And all I would say to all the listeners out there is if you’ve got a story inside you, don’t pontificate, just grab a pen and start writing.
Tom Ashford: That’s it for this week’s Self Publishing Spotlight. Don’t forget that you can get your free self publishing resource kit at selfpublishingformula.com/starterkit.
And if you want to appear as a guest on the show, send us brief details about yourself and your writing at selfpublishingformula.com/spotlight-guest.
I’m Tom Ashford and I’ll see you again next week.
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