It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to Sal Thomas, author of The Accidental Housemate.
About Sal Thomas:
Sal Thomas likes to string words together, hopefully in an amusing order. BBC Comedy once described her as ‘that woman who keeps on sending us scripts’. She has performed as a stand-up, starred in an Edinburgh sketch show, tried her hand at film writing and sitcoms (all to zero financial acclaim) and finally settled on romcom novels as her genre of choice. She lives in Manchester, UK, with her husband and son – the two loves of her life. Her side hustle is managing her rampant anxiety.
Cath Beckinsale is in a jam. She’s a single mum of three, with her 40th birthday in sight and a precarious hold on employment. And she can’t quite let go of her late husband Gaz, whose ashes are still in an urn on the kitchen table.To make ends meet a student lodger seems like the perfect solution – after all, what’s one more child in the house? But when Dan flies in from the US with guitar and chest hair on display, it’s immediately clear that he’s no teenager, but someone who quickly sends life in an unexpected direction.
Author Interview with Sal Thomas:
This post contains affiliate links which means, at no cost to you,
I’ll receive a small commission if you purchase using those links.
- What is the first book that made you cry?
My memory isn’t what it once was (thank you menopause) so this almost certainly isn’t the first book that made me cry, but the one that has stayed with me the longest was Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. It is so hauntingly devastating and raises important questions about the treatment of ‘difference’ and how we value intelligence in our society. I was a mess of snot and tears by the end. Even reading the Wikipedia page just now to remind me of how to spell the author’s name made me snivel.
- Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I did. The idea of putting something into the public sphere that you know some people will like, but others will detest, brings me out in hives! But then my ego got the better of me, because why else would you slog your guts out writing a book if not to be able to have the bragging rights of saying you’ve done so?!
- Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
This is only my first book, but the thing I’ve realised very quickly is that mainstream publishing is an industry like any other. It exists to satisfy a market, and that market is a merciless beast with slavering jaws that demands to be fed. Outside of literary fiction, I think there is only so much wiggle room when it comes to ‘experimentation’ within genres. Books get pigeonholed because many readers want to know exactly what they are getting when they buy it. It is therefore, generally speaking, a question of giving the audience what it wants within the genre, but finding a way to do so in a manner that allows you enough creative freedom to feel satisfied you’re not just churning something out according to a formula.
- How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I wrote my first book over the space of about four years – dipping in here and there. Then I landed a deal. Within the space of twelve months I had to deliver a second book, edit the first, lay the foundations for promoting both, all whilst getting to grips with a new job and studying for a Mini MBA. I had to get more disciplined than a politician in an S&M dungeon!
- What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Ostrich by Matt Greene. It is the story of a neurodiverse teenage boy going through adolescence whilst battling a brain tumour. It manages to combine quantum physics, Tricolore French, exams, divorce, fate, a hamster mystery, puberty, and the most magnificent parents dealing with unbearably tough times. You’ll joy snort, you’ll ugly sob, and you’ll wonder why the hell this absolute gem of a book only has 3.5 stars on Amazon.
- Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers?
Don’t put yourself under too much pressure. Publishing is a capricious mistress, and there are so many factors outside of your control as to whether you will succeed within it (and ‘success’ in reality may well mean earning less than minimum age for the work you have done). Do it because you enjoy it. Calculate what sunk costs (time-wise) you are prepared to invest with absolutely no potential payoff, and stick to it. The stakes will be lower and the joy higher. Everything in life is a trade-off (‘do I write that chapter or spend time with friends?’) Will your future self be glad with the choices you made? But mostly, be gentle with yourself. Any act of creation is a glorious thing, and you have chosen to play your part. Good on you.
- What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?
Charles Dickens. Solid comedy chops. Insightful social commentary. Pin point characterisation. I think he’d have made an excellent RomCom writer (mind you, some argue that Great Expectations was one).
- Do you listen to audiobooks? If so, are there any you’d recommend?
I really do love audiobooks. They seem to shine more brightly in the theatre of the mind. I don’t listen to as many as I used to because my commute changed. But particular standout recentish listens are ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr (ye gods, such a brilliant adaptation), ‘Three Women’ by Lisa Taddeo (the casting was perfect), and ‘Digging Up Mother: A Love Story’ by comic Doug Stanhope. As blisteringly raw true stories of helping your mom commit suicide go, this one is surprisingly uplifting.