Interview – Tony Russell, author of Commons People
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Tony Russell, author of Commons People. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Tony. For any of our readers that haven’t come across your work previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself?
Tony Russell: I occasionally experience bouts of severe stress, anxiety and depression, I have no qualms talking about this, as I believe it breaks down barriers and the stigma of mental illness.
I am desperately trying to become an established writer, as I believe a good writer can change things and influence opinion. Hence my first two books, Commons People – MPs are Human Too, and the updated version, Commons People- Your Life in Their Hands, are my efforts to try and persuade people to not only vote, but to use their votes wisely. Only time will tell if I make an impact.
SPS: What are your perfect writing conditions, and how often do you write?
TR: My perfect writing conditions are when there are no other distractions, and I have some piece and quiet.
SPS: Can you put your finger on the moment where you decided that you wanted to publish your work?
TR: it wasn’t one single moment, I had spent years working with Members of Parliament, which had made me become more interested in their role and function, and I wanted to encourage people to take more of an interest in the activities of their MPs, because I believe there is a lot of misunderstanding.
SPS: Why do you think it is that you have found yourself writing in the style that you do?
TR: I am not an academic, and I wanted to write in the way that I hoped would appeal to the ordinary person in the street, and actually it’s a little different, as I am compiling what others are saying through my interviews with them, so I am using their words, which I believe is important to represent them accurately.
SPS: What would you say, if anything, best differentiates you from other authors?
TR: I am not aware of anyone else who write in the same style on the same subject matter.
SPS: Where did your inspiration to delve into the day-to-day life of MPs come from?
TR: Whilst I acknowledge it is a little bit of a lost cause, and contrary to popular opinion, I believe most MPs are thoroughly decent people trying to do their best for their constituents, but that doesn’t mean I am an apologist for the few lazy and insincere career politicians who are lacking in any true conviction, as my Twitter followers would testify.
SPS: What could a reader expect to learn from reading Commons People?
TR: I would like to think that they would learn a lot from reading both editions of Commons People, because I believe these books provide a unique insight into the work of an MP and the people behind the role. These are not books about politics, I have tried hard not to allow political point scoring.
SPS: Did any of the responses you received surprise you?
TR: Yes they did, because when I began writing the books, like much of the general public, I was a little sceptical, but the more I spoke to these politicians it made me want to know more about them, to speak to others, and I genuinely got to like a number of them. It is also important to note that I have no political bias.
SPS: How did you set about gathering all of the information required from the MPs?
TR: Given the parameters of the book, I spoke with their offices to set up interviews. They were a randomly chosen group of MPs from various parties, and I received a positive response from the majority.
SPS: Were there any MPs who turned down your request for insight at all?
TR: Sadly there were a couple, but not many, and now I realise how hard they work, maybe I can understand that a little more. Although I do think they were misguided, as it would have been a great opportunity for them to share what they do more widely.
SPS: Have you received a favourite review of your work?
TR: I have received a number of reviews that I am quite proud of, but I could always do with more.
SPS: What’s next on the self-publishing horizon for yourself?
TR: I believe the subject matter of these first two books, made it very difficult to get a mainstream publisher, I would like to think that my third book, A Comprehensive Guide to Cruising may create more commercial interest, although I wouldn’t hesitate to self publish again, and I admire my fellow authors who do. Sadly it seems that many mainstream publishers are only attracted to celebrities nowadays.
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
TR: Given the subject matter, I suspected this would be the route that I would take.
SPS: Has the experience so far been all that you thought it would be?
TR: it’s been a learning curve, and it’s often been frustrating as you need publicity to attract attention, but you need attention to attract publicity. You have got to have a strong will. It’s not for the faint hearted, but I would encourage people if they have a story to tell or something to say to go for it. But the truest thing I have ever heard is you get out what you put in.
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
TR: Believe in yourself, and be persistent, don’t let the knock backs put you off, if someone rejects your work it is just their opinion, there have been lots of best sellers missed by publishers!
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
TR: It may sound odd, but I try not to read other people’s work as I do not want to be influenced, which I hope does not sound pompous, but I would like to acknowledge and thank David Brindle at The Guardian and Dan Parton at Mental Health Today for encouraging me, and I would especially like to thanks Jacqui Smith, the Former Home Secretary for writing the Foreword for my revised book.
SPS: Thank you for joining us today, Tony, and all the best for the future.
SPS: For more information on Tony Russell and his work, please do visit his Showcase Author page here.