Author Interview – Is Independent Publishing Right For You?

In this interview, I talk about the writing process, and delve a bit deeper into independent publishing, and why I’m doing what I’m doing 🙂

Debbie Erickson..........Author

Hi everyone! I am so happy to be able to post this interview!

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes to independent publishing, and whether it might be a good fit for you? I asked Z.R. Southcombe to take us behind the scenes on her journey to Indie Publishing with her new eBook The Caretaker of Imagination and what’s involved in the process. It can be a little daunting.

Zee is from New Zealand, and here she is with a copy of a print book:              ZR Southcombe

One of my goals for this year was doing some author interviews. So,I chose my first interview to be with my friend, Z.R. Southcombe. A few weeks ago, I posted an interview with her that appeared on Inger D. Kenobi’s blog site.

This time, I wanted to interview Z.R myself to offer insight into the writing craft/marketing. So, here…

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Z.R. Southcombe – On organizing a book launch

Here’s my guest post on a friend’s blog about organising a book launch. Enjoy 🙂

J.C. Hart

Today we have a guest post from my friend and fellow writer, Z.R. Southcombe, who recently had a physical book launch for her second release. She’s popped over to share her experiences with us all! Thanks Zee 🙂 

I’d read a lot of advice saying not to have a book launch, because indie publishing is a long term game (which it is) and a launch is not worth it. I decided to have a launch anyway, not just to be a rebel, but for celebratory purposes.

And since I decided I was going to do one, I figured I might as well go all out.


Most important thing, obviously, is where the book launch will be held! I had the fortune of meeting Helen at The Pt Chev Bookshop in Auckland, who has held events at her shop before. It’s an awesome little shop with a fantastic range…

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Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the fabulous Z.R. Southcombe

A really wonderful interview that gets deep into my life & writing influences.

So you want to be a writer?


Born in India and raised in New Zealand, Z.R. Southcombe is the author of the GetAttachmentpicture book What Stars Are Made Of. She is also an accomplished illustrator, a teacher, and a passionate promoter of  the New Zealand arts scene. In preparation for the launch of her new children’s book, The Caretaker of Imagination, Zee Southcombe is busy getting ready for a local book signing event, and also touring the web promoting the book and talking about her life as a writer.  Please give her a warm welcome!

Hi Zee, and welcome to this blog interview. Tell us, what inspired you to write for children?

Books were what inspired me most as a child. Stories like The Chronicles of Narnia, Matilda, and Watership Down made me feel empowered and important – I want my stories to do the same for other children. In fact, after I write a story or create a…

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A Writing Retreat & Historical Fiction Giveaway

One of the coolest things about being a writer is making friends with other awesome writers. Recently, I ‘met’ Lizzi Tremayne in an online writing group, and went down to Waihi for her book launch. While down there, I was treated to my own little retreat room (pictured below – isn’t it gorgeous??). It was PERFECT: a wonderful conglomeration of rest, reflection, fresh air, and creative company.20150307_125141I’m also an art journalist for an emerging online magazine called SONZA. It stands for Spotlight On the New Zealand Arts and I’m really excited about playing a part in it. I’ve done a few write ups for SONZA before, but I’ll be writing more frequently for them this year.

The reason I mention this is ’cause I recently published an interview with Lizzi on there, and she’s generously donated a signed copy of her book, A Long Trail Rolling as a prize for a giveaway! It’s a YA historical fiction with a hint of romance and strong female characters. All the details of the comp are on the website, and it’s worth reading the interview as well.

This article was first posted on my author website,

Week that was: Revelling in Reading

After my epiphany of toning down the pressure on myself, I am in a better place with my writing this week. I’ve got the story for my wordless book (aka ‘xmas project’) done, and a few of the pictures are planned.

My aim is to get this all planned by the end of the week, so I can do one image per weekday in November, in line with NaNoWriMo next month. Eek! It’s a lot to do, but I have a feeling I am going to love it!

I also came to realise why I haven’t done much reading lately – except non-fiction. I’ve been finding it hard to ‘turn off’ my brain (a problem that dates back as far as I can remember. In fact, when I was little I complained to my mum about it and she said, “Maybe when you grow up you’ll become a writer.” I thought she was crazy.)

But this week, I finished Christine Campbell‘s book, “Here at the Gate (I’ve linked to the Amazon page). Once I was up to the last quarter or so of the book, I could not put it down. It had been so long since I’ve had that feeling so I revelled in it, and spent the rest of the evening devouring the story. It helped me to get back into reading. Thank you, Christine. It was a fantastic book – readers, watch this space for a review later this week.

Writing Update

-Planning is underway for “The Xmas Project”

The Caretaker of Imagination is with the illustrator, with concept sketches done already! (Sorry guys, no pictures yet.)

-Both The Caretaker of Imagination and Lucy’s Story are back from their respective editors, and waiting for me to dig into them.


Review: In the future… THIS is the reality #YoFuture

Yo Future was an eclectic and emotionally gripping piece. From the flyer to the music to the performance itself, the show asked its audience to examine questions that are more easily swept under the rug.

The two grandstands were opposite each other, with the stage in the middle. This established the idea that, rather than a passive audience, we were part of a greater conversation. I’m not sure if this was purposeful or accidental, but regardless of intent, it was effective.

One by one, the performers enter the room. They’re confused. They line up, alternating between which side they’re facing. A bell rings – a school bell. They move, like they’ve been told they must, or face dire consequences. The bell rings again. They move, again. Each time, the wait time lessens until all that is left is chaos.

Then they’re distracted by the television. Nothing else matters. Sound familiar?

They’ve all left now, bar one girl. She’s struggling against some invisible force. Her sentences are just beginnings, reaching out to us. I find myself wanting to reach back to her; to comfort her, and tell her everything is going to be okay.

But she doesn’t need it. She finds her way through, and grabs hold of an invisible energy. It’s tiny. She holds it in the tips of her thumb and forefinger.

It’s entrancing her and us. Two members of the cast slowly join her and as they interact with this invisible energy, it grows. They’re playing with it like a basketball now. I loved this part. It almost looked like something out of an anime film: magical and surreal and innocent. Even the actress, with her childlike joy and slight confusion, could have been something from a Studio Ghibli film.

But it’s all ruined, by a dominating group of ‘cool kids’. Even the music, once magical and a little bit weird, is taken over by some annoying chart-topper. It’s harsh, and leaves an unpleasant aftertaste.

The confusion, the chaos, and the unmistakable stench of fear permeates for the duration of the performance. The unpleasant aftertaste lasts a little bit longer.

The biggest challenge is that the scenarios presented are all too real, though exaggerated. We’re shown the spoilt rich kids, the giggling drunk girls, the disconnection from the real world through smartphones, and the blindness to climate issues.

We are allowed a brief glimmer of hope, though. In the aftermath of a hashtag-boozing-with-the-girls selfie session, actress / singer Kat Ratcliffe is gifted a guitar, and breaks the rut with her original song, singing, “All I do is fight for acceptance.”

Of course, the guitar, and even the stool she sat on is taken from her. She’s given a cellphone instead, which distracts her endlessly, and communicates not just rejection, but also the destruction of art-making.

The second half of the show centers around a sort of mechanical bull. My first thought is of the Trojan Horse, and in some ways it’s precisely that. It’s a gift, supposedly, from an overly-smiley 50’s couple, and a promise of a bright future with the tagline: “All you have to do is believe!”

It has their attention, at least. Their attitudes change by the second, from fear to desire to jealousy to loathing. No one is allowed to think individually from the group. We are forced to consider: is this what has become of society?

Eventually, the Trojan Horse is revealed to be a time machine, and when the hand-picked time-travellers return, screaming stories of disease and death and destruction, they are branded liars.

“In the future,” says one girl, covered with grey rags and topped with a silver hat, “THIS is the reality.”

We end up with a scene of sombre acceptance that the truth is not as easily faced as the false promise of happiness. It’s conveyed through a haunting a Capella chorus of Ratcliffe’s song. It is fitting that the individual voices can be heard; differentiated from each other.

Individuality is valued, and the millennials are fighting for the same thing. I’m cautiously optimistic that we have a happy ending, though doubtful.

The voice of doubt proves to be right, when one by one, the millennials are picked off to be distracted – once again – by the television. It takes us back to the start of the performance: watching the mindless entertainment offered is the only thing that brings them together and, more importantly, allows them to effectively ignore the potential perils of society, the world, and the future.

This depressing conclusion somehow leaves me more fired up to make art. I think if there is one thing we can take away from this charged performance, it is to connect with each other, and connect with oneself, and making art is one way to do so.

Yo Future was presented by BARBARIAN and SHOW PONY, and directed by Jo Randerson. The Auckland performances were held at TAPAC from 16 – 25 October, 2014.

I attended Yo Future as a representative from RedCarpetNZ, NZ’s online entertainment channel, and a division of SONZA. For film, fashion, and music news, view the channel @

Social Media & the Ego

So after I blogged about (not) putting pressure on myself, writer Amanda Staley and I were talking about the ego on Twitter.

Specifically, how we would send our egos to Antarctica to live with the penguins.

But that conversation led to thinking about how social media and the ego are possibly linked, which, of course, led to a Google research session.

So there were lots. Like, really. LOTS of stuff on the link between social media and the ego, as well as the link to narcissism. Now this all did make me a little uncomfortable. I like social media. I’ve made friends on Twitter and Google+, I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, and I LOVE the photo sharing – viewing and posting – on Instagram. I’m not an avid Pinterest user, but I go through phases where I use it heaps. Not only that, but I help out OTHER companies with their social media, and advise others (sometimes).

My favourite article was Social Media, the Ego, and the Self. It was written from a psycho-analytic point of view, and had this gem: “There must be something very compelling about social networking to achieve such rapid growth and population penetration.”

It’s hard to argue with that kind of logic. The main reasoning for this love of social media is the need for belonging and connectedness with others. From a more cynical perspective, the article says it could be about three things: “recognition, recognition, recognition.”

I think it’s a bit of both. And that’s okay. Recognition is important, but someone has to do the recognising. When I looked at it that way, I realised it’s a two-way street: as much as I seek recognition for my strengths, and help for my weaknesses, I recognise others’ strengths and help them in their times of need.

Suddenly, I am so okay with seeking recognition!

The other article I particularly appreciated was Is your ego what’s really driving your social presence? This one was good because it looked at both sides of social media (the ego-stroking AND the let’s-make-friends-and-help-people), and looked at ways we can ensure we use it in the second way.

Maybe a little of the first. A bit of ego-stroking won’t hurt anyone.

I’m just going to list the ideas of the article, and link straight to it, because I do think it’s worth reading. It covers:

  • How much do you promote yourself or your own content?
  • How much do you preach at your audience?
  • How much do you focus on being a thought leader?
  • How much do you focus on building an audience?
  • Are you building meaningful relationships and actually helping people?

And the article is here: Is your ego what’s really driving your social presence?

Have a think about it and let me know your thoughts on the topic. Is ego a big driver? Or does social media *create* ego? Or, perhaps, does ego have nothing to do with it?

On being taken seriously

On Monday night, I went out for tea & dessert with a couple of friends from highschool. We hadn’t seen much of each other this year (mostly cause I work late nights), so it was wonderful to catch up with them. It was a lovely night.

One thing really got to me, though. One line, said in passing, as such things often are. We were talking about my tutoring work, and I told them I’m enjoying it but would like to cut down the hours a bit. In reply to that, my friend said, “But that’s just to tide you over.”

Yup. My writing career is being taken seriously. Not just by me, not just by my partner, not just by my writer friends. People in my life, even people I don’t see very often, are actually seeing what I do as a serious, realistic career.

I mean, not everyone, obviously. There are those well-meaning folk who comment on how good it is to have a back up plan, to not get my hopes up, and so on. I appreciate it’s coming from a good place, but it is so heartening to know that many of my friends and family believe in me.

I’m blessed to know so many creative people, who enjoy and support the arts, whether or not they are part of the ‘creative’ industry. People who believe we can do what we love and that’s enough. People that support crazy ideas like becoming a writer.

And there’s a lot of us out there. I guess what I’m saying is, do what you know is right for you, and don’t EVER give up xx

Week that Was: Taking off the Pressure

It’s been a while since I realised that, for writing projects, pressure doesn’t work for me. I remember telling Joy that the last time I attempted (and miserably failed) NaNoWriMo.

It’s an interesting one, because pressure always worked for my painting. There’s a Calvin & Hobbs cartoon up at Dornwell Studios, where my illustrator works, which sums up my art-making process perfectly (also essay-writing, project-working etc.)

last minute panicYup, as far as most of my work was concerned, last-minute panic (uh, I mean inspiration) was the way to go.

Apparently, this doesn’t apply to writing. Which is the point of this ramble. In fact, I think I wrote about this realisation the first time I had it. Let me find it… Yup, here it is! Back to the Drawing Board. Actually, I think that’s one of my favourite posts on my blog. By the wise version of me.

So this week, it’s about letting the creative process work without thinking “But what if it’s not ready by Christmas?”

I’m working on a (probably wordless) digital-only book for Christmas. In some ways, it’s because I’ve shifted the release of The Caretaker of Imagination to March 2015, and I’d really like something out this year.

However, it’s also just to give me something a bit different to work on. Both my fiction projects are well and truly in editing phase, so it’s awesome to have something in that creative-anything-goes place. It’s also nice to be working on a non-writing creative outlet. It’s still storytelling, just in a different way.

It’s also meant I’ve made more time for reading, which I’m more glad about than anything!

Writing Update

I’ll be meeting with the illustrator tomorrow night, who’s just finished reading the manuscript (I know – she actually read it. Isn’t she amazing?). We’re going to have a chat about her ideas. So exciting!

The Caretaker manuscript has come back from the editor, Di Povey, and Lucy’ Story is with the assessor, Jeni Chappelle.

The Xmas Project is still in brainstorming phase. I’ll probably be working on it along with those doing NaNoWriMo next month.