Author Interview; Keith Gillison

Welcome to another indie author interview! If you missed the last interview I posted, it was with indie author Joel Dennstedt,  during which he told me all about the inspiration behind his novels, and how manages to keep writing alongside his constant travels. Next up is Keith Gillison, a British author I discovered recently. His debut novel The Boss Killers is a dark and twisted satire about one man’s desire to dispose of his vile boss. Intrigued? You should be, it’s a hell of a story!
1) Your novel, The Boss Killers is a dark satire about one man’s desire to kill his terrible boss. Could you tell us where you got the idea from? 

I’d love to say I did lots of research, spotted a niche area ripe for exploiting and then painstakingly plotted the novel out. However, I was walking through the splendid grounds of a public school in Dorset when this scene played out in my head of a man having his annual appraisal and in his mind he’s saying all the things he really wants to say to his jobsworth boss. I just liked the idea and wanted to know what would happen next so took the idea from there as a starting point and ran with it. The hammer came from an actual former boss who, on my first day, showed me a hammer he kept in his desk, which I’m pretty sure was intended as a threat.

2)Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was at school for some reason I actually enjoyed writing essays. In my career in marketing I wrote a lot of business copy for promotional materials and websites. I liked writing but never tried my hand at creative writing, I was one of those people who thought ‘one day I’ll write a book’ while secretly knowing that it was a pipe dream and I’d never do anything about it. Nine years ago that changed when I lost my sister to cancer. I thought I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I didn’t at least try my best to write that book.

3)What has your journey as a writer been like so far? How would you describe the experience?

It’s been a tough journey. At the same time my sister was dying of cancer I was very ill. My energy levels were getting worse and then one day I was out in Dorchester, I sat down at a bench and couldn’t move any part of my body. I was eventually diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also known as ME) and nearly ended up in a wheelchair. I’ve battled back but have still had frequent bouts of chronic illness for the last 10 years. During this time I also had two children, moved home and wrote a novel. It took me a long time to write it because I was ill so much so there were long periods when I couldn’t write. Also, I wrote the entire novel before I attended my first writing class, which probably isn’t the wisest way of doing things. At first I really struggled writing the novel, as I’d never even written a short story before but I persevered and then one weekend I wrote this scene, what would become The House of Lard chapter, and I thought ‘Woah, where did that come from?’ It was like I’d opened this door into my imagination and suddenly I felt like I might actually be able to do this.

I’ve had ups and downs, I’ve won a writing competition and had short stories published in magazines and anthologies, and been broadcast on local radio, as well as plenty of rejections along the way. I’d say I’m more confident in my own ability now and have learnt some of my blind spots and areas I need to work on but I’m still learning.

4) What made you decide to take the self-publishing route?
I contacted a number of agents initially and was rejected by some, others didn’t even bother to reply. I had some nice rejections but I found the process of waiting an interminable amount of time (always longer than their guaranteed reply period!) very frustrating. I found myself in the position of having a decision to make – did I want to spend the next however many years sending my novel off to publishers and agents or did I genuinely want people to be able to read it. I was impatient to start working on other writing projects as well and I didn’t spend all that time and effort writing my novel to sit on my computer forever so I went for self-publishing. I think people need to ask themselves that question – do you want people to read your work? If the answer is yes then there is nothing stopping you doing it yourself through self-publishing.

5) What would you say is the best thing about being an indie writer?
You can do whatever you want. Nobody is telling you what to do or when to do it, you have the freedom to just go ahead and publish and while the process is a lot of hard work, you also learn a lot and gain valuable skills. It’s a feeling of freedom to not be dependent on other people, knowing you can just do it all yourself. You don’t have to be one of those people who says ‘I wrote a novel but couldn’t get it published so I gave up.’ Self-publishing means when you are rejected by publishers it’s not the end of the road. It’s better that some people read your work than nobody.

6)What would you say are the worst things about being an indie writer?
It would still be good to not have to do everything yourself. As a self-published author you have to do all the promotion of the book yourself and there are times when I’d rather have someone do that for me so I could just concentrate on writing. It’s also irritating that sometimes the self-published tag is perceived as meaning lower quality which is an unfair generalisation. I’m sure there are some poor self-published novels, but I’ve also read plenty of traditionally published novels that were utter tripe.

7) Do you have any top tips for indie survival?

In the words of a well-known sports clothing brand; just do it. It’s an amazing feeling to have your work published and out there for everyone to read. The biggest piece of advice I can give is – believe in your work. As an indie author you have to fight to get attention for your work and you’ll get disappointments along the way but if you truly believe in your work then you’ll know that people just need to read it. Don’t expect it to be easy though, there are millions of books and authors out there but you know something they don’t – your book is awesome! And keep going, it might take you longer to get where you want to be but you can still get there

8)What are you working on at the moment?

I injured my arm in December and typing is still painful now so at the moment I’m mostly writing short stories and flash fiction, with a view to an anthology later this year. I’m about 40,000 words into another novel and I have plans for several others as well. I’ll get back to the novel when I can write more intensively again without the severity of pain.

9) How would you describe your genre and style?
Humour tends to be my natural style of writing, with a leaning towards dark and surreal or ridiculous humour. I love taking an idea and stretching it way beyond what anybody would consider normal. I’d like to think of my writing as very original and different from everything else out there.

10) Who are your influences/fave authors?

Terry Pratchett is a huge hero of mine. I love the humour in his writing and he has some of the greatest fictional characters of all time. Lord Vetinari is a particular favourite, as are Granny Weatherwax and Cut-my-own-throat-Dibbler. Pratchett takes you on amazing journeys of the imagination and he combines great humour with brilliant storytelling.

11) what are your dreams/hopes for the future?

The ultimate dream would be to be able to make a decent living out of writing novels, be a bestselling novelist. I’m sure all authors would want that. I’d just like to write more novels and feel that I’d told the stories in my head as I wanted to and that people enjoyed them. I don’t want to be accused of literature but it would be nice to be recognised as a writer that readers regard as entertaining and original.

12) Tell us about your writing routine/process – how does it work?

I write the old fashioned way – pen and paper and then I type it up later. It adds to the time but I just can’t get any creative juices flowing staring at a screen. There is something special about just a pen and paper and your imagination, you can go anywhere, be anyone and do anything. Pen and paper also means being able to write anywhere without the need for technology. I’m continually scribbling bits at the side and adding arrows so the page is organised chaos. Ideally I like to be alone and somewhere quiet and then just write for a few hours. I have found it difficult to find a quiet place, even libraries aren’t quiet anymore, sometimes I’ve written in my car and bits of the novel were written at kids soft play places but I wouldn’t recommend that. I don’t edit as I go, just write it all out, including the rubbish bits, it’s important to keep the flow and once I’m on a roll I’ll keep writing until I’ve either got to the end of a story for a short story or the end of a scene or chapter for a novel. I don’t like to leave a scene or story half-finished, I’d rather wait until next time. I usually write a few notes at the top of the page, pointers of things I want to include but I don’t plan anything out in detail, I like to just picture the scene in my mind and then write it.

13) Tell us three interesting things about you

1/ I’m a decent table tennis player. I’ve played for my county at both junior and senior level. I spent my youth travelling around the country playing in table tennis tournaments.
2/ I suffer from acute anxiety and have frequent panic attacks.
3/ My background is in marketing. I have a management degree from Aston University and a postgrad diploma from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I once worked for a woodland burial ground and funeral directors, selling burial plots to the general public and steel mortuary trays to funeral directors. That was a conversation stopper; ‘So what do you do?’ ‘I work for a funeral director’. Many a tumbleweed moment was had.
 Keith Gillison is 40 years old and lives in Dorset, but is originally from Birkenhead on Merseyside. He is married with two children. A graduate of Aston University and the Chartered Institute of Marketing, he spent 17 years working in marketing. He published his first novel, The Boss Killers, in 2015. He also writes short stories and flash fiction and has been published in magazines, anthologies and online.
Find out more at thebosskillers.com or follow Keith on Facebook and Twitter
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