Sandra Dean - BACP Registered member

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Author (Amanda Green), Blogger, Life Writing Workshop coach, BACP Counsellor Dip., Aerial Photographer and Orangutan, Animal and Mental Health campaigner in Essex

An interview with Essex Author, Alice Huskisson – all about Alice and her new book, 5* Chick Lit ‘Man in a Haystack’

Alice Huskisson

Alice Huskisson

I was lucky enough to catch up with Alice Huskisson, the lovely and talented, Essex born and bred, author of ‘Man in a Haystack’ – her new chick lit book which is doing really well on Amazon with many 5* reviews!  Read on to find out more about Alice, her book and how you can get your copy! (paperback or kindle)

So here goes…

First, please introduce yourself – you name, age and where you live

Alice Huskisson / 48 years old (49 in February!) / Shoeburyness

Tell me three things you love about Essex most?

I was born in Rochford and have lived in neighbouring towns all my life. I’m a real ‘home girl’ – it’s true what they say, there is no place like home. If I travel, there is a big part of me that misses home and I’m eager to return as soon as possible.

I feel so privileged to live by the sea – how wonderful to have a beach and the longest pier in the world just two minutes down the road – perfect on a hot summer’s day.

TOWIE! It’s like Marmite, people either love it or hate it – I LOVE IT! It’s so bad, it’s hilarious. The cast are actually really genuine, down to earth, lovely people, and I am thrilled that they (and the show) have placed Essex slap bang on the map for a long time to come.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing since I was a little girl, whether it be letters to pen pals, diaries, emails to friends, numerous documents and manuals at work, blogging, and now THE MAN IN A HAYSTACK.

Now down to YOUR book! Can you tell me the book name, publication date and who it is published by.

front cover of man in a haystack

front cover of man in a haystack


Officially 8 November 2012 (although I didn’t begin marketing it until 11 November).

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Is this your first book?


What is the book about?

Mae, a forty-something glamorous Essex girl, has spent most of her adult years waiting for Mr Right to sweep her off her feet. Conscious of time no longer being on her side, her biological clock ticking away and signs of ageing creeping up on her, she decides to take matters in to her own hands and seek out the man of her dreams, blogging about her dating encounters as they unfold. Join Mae on her journey as she searches for love. Feel her frustrations and emotional pain. Laugh, smile and cry with her, and watch as she lays past relationships to rest. The Man in a Haystack is an entertaining story essentially for women, however men may also reap the benefits if they dare to venture in to the realms of its chick lit genre. Women might recognise similarities with their own men, identify with elements of Mae’s personality and empathise with her dating experiences. Men, on the other hand, could become educated in female psychology and find out why their girlfriends react to them the way they do.

What was the idea behind this book?

A friend introduced me to blogging some years ago and I used it as a vehicle to keep my friends and family informed about all sorts going on in my life, including dating. It soon became obvious that people were fascinated and entertained the most by the dating instalments with several friends encouraging me independently of each other to publish them. The rest is history.

How long did it take to write?

I began blogging about my dating experiences in 2006. The story covers approximately 3 years of Mae’s life. By 2009 the story was essentially complete, however it required a massive amount of editing, including the massive task of changing it in to fiction which proved very complicated.

Were you in another job at the time?

Until 2011 I was working full time and had absolutely no opportunity to adapt or edit the manuscript. It was basically a dream which I could not ever see being fulfilled. However, fate played a hand and I was made redundant after 28 years of service which meant that whilst I searched for another job I could keep focussed and mentally alert by putting the wheels of my publishing dream in to motion. I am still unemployed today and now every spare moment is spent marketing the book, attempting to spread the word and turn my dream in to a real success story, not only financially but personally too. It is a great sense of achievement, something to be very proud of.

Did you have other responsibilities to fit in around your writing?

Very few, only searching and applying for other jobs.

So, you self published – did you approach a literary agent or publisher before deciding to self publish? Why did you decide to self publish?

Initially I had no desire to go down the self publishing route and very much wanted to find an agent or publisher. However, at that time my manuscript was 237,000 words. Huge! My research uncovered the fact that no publishers will consider a debut author’s work if the manuscript is more than 80,000 words (a remote few will take a gamble on 120,000 words if they believe they have a best seller sitting on their desk). I faced the massive task of editing down my manuscript and could not condense it any lower than 130,000 words. At that point I knew there was only one option open to me – self publishing. This can be expensive, however I chose not to use any professional author services in an attempt to keep the costs as low as possible, and did everything myself from editing the manuscript several times, to website and book cover design and creation, and not forgetting the formatting for Kindle publication. I had a friend with a keen eye for detail and (in my opinion) an expert in grammar, to proof read the manuscript, and I had some free professional advice from a published author.

What publicity have you had for your book? What else do you do to promote it?

I have had no option but to self promote my book, not having an agent or publisher to help me with this side of things. It is very tough getting the word out there. The obvious free vehicles are social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Goodreads, Google+, Pinterest, etc. Twitter particularly is the most useful where there is a strong author community most of whom constantly retweet each other’s promotional tweets to spread the word globally.

I designed and built my own website. There were costs involved, of course, but they don’t break the bank.

I have paid for mentions and book profiles on various literary websites, although I’m not convinced these reach the right audience.

I have designed flyers, paid for their printing (not cheap!) and asked for volunteers to distribute them in their places of work, clubs, etc. I have trudged the streets on several occasions pushing them through doors. I have also contacted Essex book stores, libraries, salons and boutiques to carry flyers.

Southend Echo interviewed me recently for an article about my book, a photographer took lots of photos, however sadly the article has not yet surfaced – fingers crossed it’s still in the pipeline!

Why is your book different? Unique factors?

My book has been likened to Bridget Jones’ Diary as it is written in blog style and deals with the search for Mr Right and certainly has some very amusing moments. However, The Man in a Haystack is set in Essex (Clacton-on-Sea to be exact) and follows a glamorous woman in her 40s in her desperation not to be left on the shelf gathering dust. There are flashbacks to her past as she remembers serious relationships and men she didn’t quite get over, and some re-enter her life stirring up emotions she thought she’d left behind long ago. There are a few main men who appear in much of the story supplemented by many other random men who Mae chooses to date. You have to remember also that whilst The Man in a Haystack is now fiction it was actually written from the heart (my heart) and touches like-minded women deeply as they empathise with Mae or recognise elements of their own relationships in hers. Some women have told me they loved it because they’d never really dated coming from the ‘old school’, having been married since their late teens, and so for them it offers a window in to the real dating world; some have found it a fascinating insight.

Where can we buy your book?

Amazon is the place! It’s available in paperback and Kindle.  CLICK HERE TO OPEN IT IN A NEW WINDOW

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Have you read any other books by Essex authors?

Not that I’m aware of. Actually, I don’t read a lot and certainly not recently as all my time has been taken up with this wonderful venture. I have read some Cecelia Ahern novels and other chick lit, but mostly I like autobiographies and reality.

Have you been to the Essex Book Fair?

No. I’m new to all this – some things pass me by whilst I’m learning.

Have you read other self published books? Can you recommend any?

No, but that will change now that I have great respect for the authors who take on the tough process and the amount of hard work that goes in to the final product.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors who wish to self publish?

Do not rush, do not cut corners – make sure you are 100% satisfied with your work before you publish it. Ultimately, you want to see your work being appreciated and rated 5 stars in the reviews at Amazon. You don’t want to have regrets once your work is out there as you cannot take it back from those who purchase it. Have pride in your work and be prepared for a very long process especially if you are trying to fit it around a day job. Be prepared to burn a hole in your pocket if you pay for author services, but if you do literally everything yourself expect to pay up to £300 (excluding any paid advertising). My costs so far amount to £400 (including paid advertising). Look at self-publishing websites such as Lulu, Smashwords and CreateSpace and consider carefully what each of them offer. Personally, I chose CreateSpace and for the most part it has been a pleasant experience and their forum is excellent with any questions being answered within minutes. If publishing an ebook (I used Kindle Publishing), be aware that formatting your manuscript is incredibly complex and technical – if you lack patience or technology blows your mind I’d recommend you pay to have someone do it for you. I did it myself eventually. One thing is for sure, if you complete your book project, you will feel on top of the world and as proud as punch, especially the first time you hold your paperback in your hands. The excitement is off the scale and it makes all the hard work worthwhile! Good luck!

Well, I certainly enjoyed learning about Alice and her new book ‘Man in a Haystack’ and I hope you did too!  

Wishing you all the best for Christmas and the New Year of 2013!

Sandra 😀 



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