Sam McColl is the author of the recently published Call BILLY 07899 232007, a captivating family drama set in Edinburgh. We’ve asked her a few questions about the concept behind Call Billy and how she has found the self-publishing process.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was orphaned as a child, worked for several years as a fashion model in London before moving to a remote estate on the west coast of Scotland. Although now settled and happily married, reaching this point has not been without its difficulties and has taken me through many unsettling experiences, which I have been able to draw on in my writing.
I have always taken a strong interest in education, becoming a director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council in Edinburgh, a member of the Scottish Schools Ethos Network, and a lay member for the His Majesties Inspectorate of Schools. I continue to do voluntary work with vulnerable adults and children.
Tell us a bit about the genesis of your new novel Call Billy.
I often wonder if the beginnings of Call Billy were conceived when I was locked into the misery of my own family as a child, or when during the course of my therapy, I realised I no longer needed the skills I’d acquired as a child to stay safe. Who knows – we don’t live in a vacuum. I’m not sure Call Billy would have been possible without what went before. But living within a loving family certainly opened my eyes to the world around me, and exploring what it means to be human, in all its complexity, seemed an obvious path.
What have you enjoyed most and what have you enjoyed least about the process of taking your new book to market?
It’s been a long time coming. Choosing to publish myself after years of being with top agents who failed to sell my work was a huge decision. And like most things in life, it’s been a mixture of very stressful and very satisfying. My hugely talented husband designed everything: the covers of both books (Short Cuts and Call Billy), bookmarks, sample pamphlets, everything. Without his input, I’d be on the floor. I have cried trying to work out how to manage my website, typeset my manuscript, load stuff onto distribution sites, send stuff, sell stuff – I’m not good at it, though I’m far better than I was a year ago. I’ve enjoyed the relationship with editors, typesetters, proofreaders and the rest, but all these people can only go so far. It’s essential to put in the hours at every stage, to save disappointment. But watching Call Billy come together, well, there is nothing like it…. And I’ve got it all to look forward to, again, next year, with Call Abi.
How are you making readers aware of the book on release?
I’ve hired Cameron Publicity and Marketing to launch a campaign as the book is released. Other than that, I’m posting on my own Facebook, selling through my website and have joined the Amazon Advantage program, who promote your book for you, and doing as many readings as possible, starting with all the Edinburgh Libraries.
What are your aspirations for the new book, either in terms of sales or critical acclaim?
Aspirations: critical acclaim? That Call Billy is well written, that it makes perfect sense, that no reader gets lost or feels patronised, that no one does or says anything out of character, that it’s absolutely believable. That one or two people think the fictional school, Heels, makes a lot of sense. Sales? A lot.
Apart from Call Billy, what would you recommend we should be reading this summer?
Crow Lake (Mary Lawson), Karoo (Steve Tesich), Solar (Ian McEwan), Revolutionary Road (Richard Yates) and The Examined Life (Stephen Grosz).
‘McColl’s work has intense clarity and compassion – Call Billy is a brave work of social realism.’ – C. M. Taylor, Shed Books.