Creative Insight: Oliver Cable

Lon­don has been the home to many famous sto­ry­tellers of lit­er­a­ture, Zadie Smith, George Orwell and Charles Dick­ens to name a few. Those were the days where tra­di­tion­al pub­lish­ing was the norm and to be hon­est the only form of pub­lish­ing. But here we are in 2017, the height of the dig­i­tal era, week­end get­aways are as com­mon as chip and pin and self-pub­lish­ing is at it’s peak.

Authors such as Aman­da Hock­ing, Michael J Sul­li­van and the noto­ri­ous EL James have gained mass­es of suc­cess doing it on their own, that Fringe Fre­quen­cy were intrigued by the world of self-publishing.

Fresh Air and Emp­ty Streets is the debut nov­el by Oliv­er Cable. We fol­low Felix, 15 years after his father, Alexan­der, left he and his moth­er, to pur­sue the life of an artist in Paris. On a jour­ney through smoky jazz bars, artists’ stu­dios and along the banks of the riv­er Seine, Felix meets the father he nev­er knew, and in doing so, comes to ques­tion some life­long assumptions.

We swapped words with Lon­don’s own self-pub­lished author Cable to talk books, inspi­ra­tion and plans for the future.

Hi Oliv­er, how are you?
Very well thanks.

Tell us, what got you start­ed as a writer?
I wrote my first poem aged 14. For years I didn’t real­ly see myself as a writer. Then I start­ed show­ing peo­ple my work. To my sur­prise, they liked it, so I wrote more. Aged 23, I fol­lowed a sum­mer course at UEA, after which I promised my lec­tur­er I’d keep writ­ing. The book was born a few months after that. Now being a writer is part of who I am.

How much has being a writer changed who you are?
I think recog­nis­ing I was half-decent at writ­ing has changed my per­spec­tive and my priorities.

Is it just poet­ry and novels?
So far, yes. I’d like to branch out to do some the­atre or jazz, but that’ll come later.

Who are your favourite writ­ers? Which authors inspire you?
In Eng­lish, Jack Ker­ouac for his flow­ing lan­guage. Ian McE­wan for his plots. Haru­ki Muraka­mi for his sheer weird­ness. Lau­rie Lee for his descrip­tions. In Dutch, Rem­co Campert for his embod­i­ment of the artis­tic life.

Fresh Air and Emp­ty Streets debuted July 2016. What kind of response is it getting?
It was nev­er going to hit the best­seller charts, but then it wasn’t writ­ten for that. I’ve sold the entire ini­tial print-run and upped the num­ber of copies print­ed in the sec­ond run. All the feed­back I’ve got has been pos­i­tive, which is nice. It means you’ve impact­ed their life and their think­ing in your own lit­tle way.

How has the pro­mo­tion been?
Good fun. I’ve had to learn a lot: putting on events, get­ting into book­shops, learn­ing about adver­tis­ing. The pro­mo­tion in itself is a full-time job. I could do more.

How is life as a self-pub­lished author?
It’s a jug­gling act, but I wouldn’t have it any oth­er way. I’ve had to learn about writ­ing, edit­ing, type­set­ting, cov­er design, host­ing events, dis­tri­b­u­tion, con­tracts, dis­ci­pline – the whole thing. Because there is no team, it’s all on me. It’s been a long jour­ney and I’m not even one tenth of the way there yet, I’m sure. There’s plen­ty more learn­ing to be done.

What advice would you give to novices in self-publishing?
Dif­fer­en­ti­ate your­self by being towards the top of the self-pub­lish­ing pyra­mid. Hire a design­er, get it prop­er­ly type­set. Spend a bit more mon­ey to get a prod­uct you can real­ly be proud of.
Remem­ber you’re play­ing the long game. What may at first be a casu­al chat can throw up unex­pect­ed ben­e­fits a long way down the line. Talk to every­one inter­est­ed and inter­est­ing, sow the seeds of those benefits.

What was the inspi­ra­tion behind the story?
In the sum­mer of 2013, I took a trip to Paris with two artist friends, and that formed the back­drop of the city and gave rise to many of the scenes in the nov­el. I was look­ing for a sto­ry­line to hang this rich fab­ric around, and found it in this plot, which is an extrap­o­la­tion and an explo­ration of a fear I had that my writ­ing was being suppressed.

In the future would you ever con­sid­er a tra­di­tion­al pub­lish­ing company?
I would, though I like the cre­ative free­dom that self-pub­lish­ing has offers. Had it been tra­di­tion­al­ly pub­lished, I wouldn’t have had a water­colour paint­ing on the cov­er. But that makes it unique. I’d want too much to do with the edit­ing, type­set­ting, design, launch and mar­ket­ing process.

Do you think there’s more to explore for Fresh Air and Emp­ty Streets? Is book num­ber two on the hori­zon yet?
There’s loads more to explore – the book has huge swathes of char­ac­ters’ lives left for the imag­i­na­tion of the read­er. Hav­ing said that, I’ve writ­ten the most inter­est­ing part of the whole sto­ry, so Fresh Air and Emp­ty Streets won’t spawn a tra­di­tion­al sequel. But I’ll keep writ­ing about art and jazz and human relationships.

I’m 25,000 words into my next book, an explo­ration into what would hap­pen to a soci­ety if art were banned. There’s plen­ty to explore there.

Fresh Air and Emp­ty Streets is avail­able at Ama­zon and Water­stones. Keep up to date with Oliv­er Cable at his web­site.

Image: Em Fitzgerald