Peter Tarnofsky

About

Peter Tarnofsky

I’ve copied this from my other website. When I get a moment, I’ll write something original…

Author, father, husband.

Occasionally cooks but won’t iron.

Born in London. Still in London.

Older than I look.

Studied Materials Science & Metallurgy at Cambridge University then forgot most of it.

Had conventional jobs for ten years then decided to try something different.

Two three four books for children – paperback copies and author available for school use.

One two books of ten short stories for adults – available for Kindle or as paperback. Ideal for book groups – questions and feedback welcomed and answered; author visits possible (if sufficiently local).

Works in progress – two children’s books, one novel for adults (well, one day maybe but not any time soon).

And if you want to know more about me, I did one of those emailed written interviews in 2012 with a website called indiebookspot.com. Sadly that website no longer exists. But this is what I wrote.

Indiebookspot.com interview, June 2012

Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do? Or is it something that you started fairly recently?

I write because stories occur to me and I want to find out if I can write them. I write for myself because I don’t know how to write for anyone else. They can’t be all bad. People seem to like them.

That was the short answer.

About twelve years ago, and this probably sounds like a cliché, I dreamed a scene for a children’s book. People in scuba gear were diving into a huge bread tin in order to mix dough for a house-sized loaf. I got out of bed, wrote it down (because I knew I would have forgotten it by morning), then went back to sleep.

About two years later, I finished the book – which slightly surprised me but also made me wonder whether I could write another one.

The second book took longer, including an eighteen month period when it sat waiting, less than half-done, before I realised how to get the story out of the ditch I had written it into. The ditch is still there and the book is better for keeping it, instead of taking the easier route.

My book of short stories started with an entry for a short story competition which was inspired by seeing a banana on the dashboard of a car. The story needed another nine to become an anthology. Ideas came to me in the shower (something about the water on skin setting the mind racing), sitting waiting in a foyer while my daughter attended ballet class (something about needing to block out the inane conversations in the room) or seeing a normal human interaction and wondering what it could look like amplified and twisted.

When ideas occur to me, I write them down. Sometimes they come out as short stories, sometimes as novels, sometimes as fragments waiting for a place where they’ll fit. That’s just happened with two fragments – it turned out they belonged together and suddenly the story is taking off.
Tell me a little about your book(s).

Timestand.

Four different classes of 11/12 year-olds at two different schools read it and I spoke to them about it, took any questions and had a great time.

Cynics will say that the kids were just happy to have a different lesson, to have a fresh person to look at rather than the same teacher droning away. I say that those cynics weren’t there. I say that children that age don’t write things like, “jam packed with lots of action, excitement and crafty surprises” and “I found the book really funny” and “it is one of the best books I read because it is something different: nothing like the typical boys’ book with a teenage spy trying and succeeding in dangerous missions” unless they mean it.

It’s a boy-with-superhero-powers story but with a hero who doesn’t know what he’s doing, plenty of bickering, some collapsing furniture and a lot of destruction at the climax. There’s a different attempt to describe the book on its Amazon listing.

They All Die At The End

This anthology of ten short stories for adults might not have any surprises about how the stories will turn out – but any short story that relies on a “ta-dah!” ending often isn’t worth reading anyway. They are dark without being bleak (mostly) and occasionally unexpectedly funny. They are often uncomfortably close to plausible. And one of the stories has Santa Claus.

The reviews on Amazon weren’t written by friends or family. One of them says: “I’m generally not a fan of banana skin jokes (or indeed bananas) but the first story in this collection begins thus `It was the banana that got him in the end.’ For some reason I found this utterly compelling. And seriously funny. I thought a writer would be going some to keep me laughing from this high start point. But this opening certainly set the tone for the whole collection. Tarnofsky is effortless in his humour throughout and his unique angle on the short story – where we `know’ the ending of each story- is very clever and does not in any way detract from the stories he tells.”

Benny Baker

My first novel – the one with the scuba-dough-diving, the one for the youngest audience (perhaps 9/10 year olds), the one crying out for illustrations (any serious offers considered), the one where the boy helps his uncle bake a loaf the size of the bakery. The tricky part was working out why anyone would want so much bread and figuring out how he’d stop the birds from pecking it.
Are there any authors who inspire you?

I’m inspired by any author who can cobble together a book, find an audience and entertain them with a story. I don’t want to name anyone or create a list that I’ll disagree with as soon as I finish it.

How do you write? Do you make yourself write a certain number of words per day?

I write occasionally, erratically and inefficiently. I set myself no targets and yet am still disappointed by my output. I write at a computer – the thought of paper and pencil (or, daringly, ink) frightens me. I need to be able to move and replace words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters without making a mess. I need to be able to put two stories into one novel or tear one book apart without feeling that I’m inflicting permanent damage.

Did you try to get a conventional publisher or agent interested before you opted for self-publishing?

Oh yes. The rejections are crushingly dull and utterly useless. They may not owe me a detailed critique (or even a personal letter) but the form letters are often hideous, the worst being a sticker placed almost straight onto a small piece of green cardboard. It wasn’t even a nice shade of green.

Occasionally a personal reply comes back. Sometimes they get the name of the book wrong. And once I received comments that appeared to relate to someone else’s story.

Conventional publishers generally don’t want to hear from authors they don’t know. They’d rather use literary agents as a filter. I can’t blame them. If I ran a publishing house I’d probably to do the same to dissuade the swivel-eyed nutters from sending their thought-disordered manuscripts.

But I sometimes write to them anyway. I read a story about Random House getting a couple of pop stars to write a children’s book about a defecating dinosaur. No, really, they did: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/17385604

So I sent Random House a pitch for the follow-up about (what else?) a vomiting badger. No, really, I did.

They haven’t responded. I’m deeply offended…

What goals have you set yourself? Do you want to sell a certain number of books in 2012? Is there some way you measure success, on your own terms?

My original goal was to write books that were no worse than a lot of drivel that ends up published. I think I’ve managed it – but then I would say that, wouldn’t I? I have no particular target for sales and am happy every time one of my books goes to a new home. It’s not about the numbers for me – it’s about feeling that the book is as good as I can make it. It’s about not feeling “that’ll do” about anything in the book – but feeling proud that I wrote what I meant, how I meant it, with my own idiosyncransies and phrasing quirks.

In fantasy land, Benny Baker should become an Aardman Animation film, Timestand should be directed by Terry Gilliam and “They All Die At The End” should be a television series in the style of Roald Dahl’s “Tales Of The Unexpected”. I won’t be bitterly disappointed if these goals aren’t met but at least one out of three would be nice.

How have you marketed your book(s)? Have you used social media (Twitter, Facebook etc)? Have you paid for any advertising (Facebook Ads, Google Ads etc)? And how did it go?

My approach to marketing has been unfocused, unskilled and unsuccessful. I have managed to persuade or nag friends and family to buy books but word of mouth has not taken it further. I have not gone viral, nor do I have any idea how that could even be possible.

Two schools have been wonderful in using my book as a set text, inviting me to meet my audience, providing me with feedback and making me feel that it has been worthwhile. But so many others simply ignore me. They might not owe me anything but even a two-word email would be courteous and preferable, even if it said “no, thanks” or something ruder.

For me, Twitter has mostly been a source of short jokes although it has enable me to swap two paperbacks for an album of songs, via a bizarre Twitter-conversation with the singer’s wife. No one of consequence has retweeted me – either because I am not funny enough, not fast enough or not followed enough. And I don’t even begin to see how Facebook could help.

Have you signed up for KDP Select? If you have, how has it gone for you? Do you think free promotions are helping with your paid sales? If you haven’t signed up, why not? Are you worried about the exclusivity clause?

I have just signed up for KDP Select. I see no reason not to. Free downloads can hardly be considered lost sales. If they generate even a handful of word-of-mouth sales after the promotion, it would have been worth doing. For me, it’s all about getting readers. I’m not expecting to get rich.

Away from Amazon, have you had much luck with other outlets? Do you use Smashwords, Barnes & Noble etc?

I use Lulu for paperback publishing but only for distributing the book myself. I don’t use any other ebook-seller.

Do you worry about Amazon gaining a monopoly in the ebook market?

Not even slightly. As a self-published author, I feel they are a force for good. No ‘traditional’ publisher or bookseller had anything to offer me. Amazon have given the means of distribution and sale and a sensible percentage. They are approaching a monopoly position already and, from the viewpoint of this author/reader, I see no troubling signs of evildoing.

What’s next? Are you working on anything at the moment? Do you have anything new coming out in 2012?

When I started writing, I had a full-time office-based job and wanted to see whether I was capable of completing a novel in my spare time. I have now finished three books, look after my young daughter and am, technically, unemployed (ignoring the hard work involved in childcare and writing).

I will not give up writing, but I am ready to give up on the idea of generating much (any?) income from it. But given the current state of the economy, I could definitely have picked a better time to start a job-hunt.

Nevertheless, I have started two books and am dividing my writing time between them. One is for children (7/8 year-olds – unless something drastic happens in the rewrite). The other is the adult novel that I have been putting off for years. I think I’ve got the seed of a story so I’ve started writing it and will find out where it goes. Wish me luck…

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