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Interview with Expat author - Jay Artale

11 September, 2013 08:50  Erin Erin

jay The Bodrum Peninsula Travel GuideOriginally from the flatlands and big skies of rural Norfolk in eastern England, Jay Artale (aka Roving Jay) is a British Expat currently living in Los Angeles. She’s a vicarious blogger and has recently published her first Travel Guide Book covering the Bodrum Peninsula in Turkey, which is where she has her 2nd home.    

1. Why did you move abroad?
Like most baby boomers from Britain … I was brought up on a diet of old Hollywood Matinee movies and I still remember my pre-teen yearnings to live in America. I’m not sure if I thought it was possible; it was just an escapism tactic from small-town rural life.

At 20 I traveled to New York to embark on a 6 week Greyhound bus adventure up and down the East Coast of the States. This was the early ‘80s, when 42nd street was still a heaving den of XXX inequity, with drug pushers in every door way, and I stayed at the nearby YMCA, but my mum’s biggest concern was that I would be enlisted into a cult (like the Moonies); shave my head; dress in white robes, never to be seen again.

I survived the Moonies, and vowed to myself I’d return to the States one day. Back home, I met and fell in love with London, and enjoyed a long, fruitful and gloriously eventful relationship with that fabulous city.

But America was always whispering over my shoulder, and I knew I needed to come back. So 7 years after my first visit, I planned a holiday to New York. I intended to stay for 6 weeks; but didn’t leave.

2. How do you make a living? Are you a fulltime writer?

I jumped around many different jobs during my transition from New York to Los Angeles via Phoenix. For the past 15 years I’ve worked at a Major Hollywood Studio as a Project Manager, but I’m a life-long writer.

I still have all the poetry I started writing as a child and I’ve half-written countless children’s stories – all of which lay dormant in a drawer; unpolished and unpublished. It wasn’t until the advent of the internet and blogging that I finally found a place to channel this drive to create, through writing.  

3. How did you start the process of writing a book and get it published? Did you go to a publisher? Self-publish?
The greatest aspect of blogging is the communities you join, and the sharing of expertise and “learning from others mistakes” or successes. I watched others write and publish books, and read vicariously about the different publishing options, but finally made a decision to publish it myself as an eBook. The driving factor for this was that I didn’t want to spent years looking for a publisher for my niche topic.

4. What was the hardest part of taking your writing to a book format?
Blogging is an invaluable stepping stone for writing a book, no matter what the subject.

If you’re planning on running a marathon chances are (unless you’re a masochist) you’ll train and run a lot of shorter races first. Blogging is an ideal training ground for writing a book. It really helps you hone your writing style and find your voice.

I started my Bodrum Travel Guide website as a way to share local information with other local residents and visitors to this area of Turkey. I began with random articles about things to do, transport, sights, getting around, history etc., and then created “welcome” pages summarizing each of the villages and towns in the area.

About a year ago I started publishing a series of free Quick Reference Travel Guides. These 3-panel guides provided a summary of the key destinations in the area, and they helped me conceptualize how to present information in an organized and succinct way.

The next logical step was to write a full-blown Travel Guide.

5. What is your perception of the expat book market? Has it changed throughout the process?
I devour expat books with a vengeance. I love my Kindle, and can’t resist downloading the latest “expat adventures”. There are lots of books on the market, and the trouble with the ease of publishing an eBook is that it allows even the most mediocre writer to become published.

This is where blogging comes in handy. One of the keys to success when publishing an eBook, is to have an established following, and a blog is an excellent way of creating that following.

But just because you’re a blogger, doesn’t mean you can write a book. I’ve followed many expat bloggers avidly and eagerly, only to be disappointed with the books they publish. I think the success of a good blog is all about what you leave in, but a great book is all about what you leave out.

I’ve been working on my own “expat adventures” book about the trials and tribulations of buying and maintaining a house in Turkey. It’s a work in progress, and is on hold while I focus on publishing a couple of travel guides.

6. What is your favorite part of the book?

It’s the layout of content.

One of the biggest hurdles I struggled with was how to organize the content within the guide. No two locations were the same, but I wanted to devise a consistent approach across all of them because it’s such a large Guide Book (70,000+ words) and I wanted to make it easy to navigate.

I tried many different iterations of content layout, until I settled on the final version, and because this was my biggest challenge it’s also my greatest sense of achievement – and default my favorite part.

7. What was the most difficult part to write?
Apart from the content layout, the biggest challenge was how to keep descriptions fresh. Nearly every location in the book has a local beach, so how many ways are there to describe the water and beach area without sounding repetitive?

I took evening classes to complete a Travel Writing class, and I’ve just enrolled in MatadorU, an online travel writing course. Even though I write multiple travel blogs, and have published a book, it’s still really important to keep working on developing my writing skills, so that my next Guide Book reads as fresh as the first.

8. Besides your book, what book should everyone read?
If you’re interested in the Bodrum Peninsula, you should definitely read “Perking the Pansies” – it’s about Jack and Liam’s move to Turkey, and their adventures in Yalikavak and Bodrum. It’s well written, funny and poignant.

If you’re interested in travel writing, there’s two Lonely Planet writing books I’d recommend; “Travel Writing” and “The Best of Lonely Plant Travel Writing”. I spent months back-packing around SE Asia and my Lonely Plant guide became my bible. When I was looking for books to inspire me to write – these two jumped off the shelf, and provide on-going inspiration to keep me motivated.

9. What advice would you give to other expats that want to write a book?
Read: There are so many different writing styles and ways of presenting visual images from the written word. You may not know what you like, but the more you read, the more you’ll discover what you don’t like. This will help set you on your own track to creating your unique and individual masterpiece.

Also, after you’ve read more than your fair share of really bad expat books – you may realize you could do better, and will be inspired to write your own Expat Adventure.

Write: Create a blog; write guest posts; write pages that will never be published. Write anything. Set yourself small, attainable goals and just keep creating.

Set a Publish Date: There’s nothing like a deadline to keep you on track. I could have tinkered with my Travel Guide for literally years … but at some point you have to just pull the trigger and publish.

This was the best piece of guidance Jack Scott Author of Perking the Pansies gave me. There’s always going to be some improvements you can make to your book, but at some point you have to say “enough is enough”; stop editing and tweaking, and hit the PUBLISH button.

10. What are you working on now? Do you have plans to publish another book?

I’m continuing to publish updates to my Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide eBook throughout the summer. That’s the beauty of an eBook – you can edit your manuscript and upload a new version as many times as you want.

I’m also about 2/3rds of the way through my next travel guide. It covers Gumusluk, which is a small fishing village close to our house, and is a popular tourist and cultural destination. I wrote about it in my Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide, but I’m expanding out the level of detail, and including a lot more photographs.

I love researching my travel guide content, and I discovered that I’ve become mildly addicted to writing these guides, so I know this is just the beginning of a series.   

Of course I have all of my different blogs I need to continually create content for (2 blogs for the Bodrum Peninsula, my Expat Adventures Blog and my House Sitters Blog … oh, and let’s not forget to mention my Author Website!)  And lest we forget, there’s no point blogging unless it’s supported with a continual stream of social media support. Collaboration and community is the key.

I write because I love it, and I think this is the secret to any author’s success.

If you’re not enjoying writing it – how can you expect others to enjoy reading it?

  The Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide
Jay Artale recently published her first Travel Guide “The Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide: Turkey’s Aegean Gem” which is available exclusively at Amazon up until the end of August, at which point it’ll be available at all other eBook retailers as well as Amazon. She writes about her expat adventures on her Roving Jay: Expat Adventures website, and also maintains two travel information websites for Turkey covering the Bodrum Peninsula and Yalikavak.

Jay Artale recently published her first Travel Guide “The Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide: Turkey’s Aegean Gem”. She writes about her expat adventures on her Roving Jay: Expat Adventures website, and also maintains two travel information websites for Turkey covering the Bodrum Peninsula and Yalikavak.

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