Author Interview; Robin Gregory

Today I am so excited to share my interview with award winning author Robin Gregory. Robin was born in Florida but grew up in California. She has worked as a journalist, a lay minister and an infant massage instructor for mothers and babies at risk. Her debut novel The Improbable Wonders Of Moojie Littleman is a beautiful and unique coming-of-age story, a mystical adventure, and quite simply one of the best books I have read in some time. Robin’s book has won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book of the Year Award 2015, the IPPY Gold Medal – Best Cover Design – 2015, and is currently a finalist in Foreword Reviews – Indiefab Best Books of the Year and a finalist in the International Book Awards- Fiction – Young Adult 2016. Read on to find out more about Moojie Littleman and the inspiration behind it!

1-  The  Improbable  Wonders  of  Moojie  Littleman  is  a  unique  blend  of  magical   realism  and  coming  of  age.  Can  you  tell  us  how  the  book  came  about?  Where  did   the  idea  come  from?

Mostly,  my  son  inspired  the  book.  But  so  much  of  my  own  childhood  went  into  the   mix.  I  was  one  of  eight  kids  growing  up  in  a  pretty  messed  up  Catholic  family.  This   led  to  a  lot  of  heartache,  loneliness  and  feelings  of  “not  belonging.”  I  buried  most   of  those  feelings  for  a  long  time,  then  spent  twenty  years  trying  to  figure  out  why  I   was  so  unhappy.  The  healing  of  these  early  wounds  really  began  when  my   husband  and  I  adopted  a  baby  with  special  needs.  The  “not  belonging”  feelings   surfaced  when  I  witnessed  how  others  excluded  him.  His  daily  struggles  have  been   ongoing,  and  yet,  he  is  the  most  kindhearted,  courageous,  and  bright  boy  I  have   ever  known.  He  has  taught  me  to  forgive  the  past,  and  to  look  for  the  good  in   everyone  I  meet,  starting  with  those  who  exclude  him  or  look  down  at  him.

2-­How  would  you  best  describe  your  genre?  Was  there  an  intention  to  blend   genres,  or  did  the  story  just  evolve  that  way?

Oh  boy.  This  was  a  hard  one  for  me.  I  cringe  at  labels—any  kind  of  labels.  The   human  mind  wants  to  label  everything,  doesn’t  it?  It  wants  to  name,  package,  box   and  brand.  I  have  learned  that  one  of  the  best  ways  to  find  inner  peace  and   happiness  is  to  abstain  from  doing  this.  Our  opinions  are  vastly  limiting  and   troublesome.  MOOJIE  LITTLEMAN  is  about  coming  of  age,  but  also  about  spiritual   awakening.  The  book  would  probably  fall  best  into  the  “Visionary”  category,  but   few  bookstores  have  a  shelf  for  that.  Magical  Realism  works  better  as  a  category   than  Fantasy  since  the  story  is  grounded  in  physical  reality  while  encompassing   mystical  themes.  And  Magical  Realism  gave  me  a  way  to  climb  into  Moojie’s  skin,   and  live  from  a  soulful  point  of  view,  not  just  physical.  I  wrote  the  story  for  fluent   readers  of  all  ages,  but  my  publisher,  editors  and  agent  convinced  me  to  market  it   as  Young  Adult.  They  were  looking  at  Moojie’s  age,  the  PG  rating,  and  the  allusions   to  The  Odyssey,  which  students  in  the  US  study  from  age  12  to  18.  It  pleases  me  to   no  end  that  the  book  has  won  awards  in  Young  Adult  and  Adult  categories.

3-­ Do  you  have  any  personal  beliefs  or  passions  that  influenced  the  book?

To  expand  a  little  on  the  first  question,  my  spiritual  practice  has  been  key  to   shaping  the  story.  I  believe  we  are  all  coming  of  age  spiritually;  that  is  why  we  are   attending  what  a  friend  of  mind  calls  “Earth  School.”  In  the  past  twenty-­one  years,   I  have  seen  all  kinds  of  healing,  and  have  come  to  the  realization  that  nothing  is   incurable.  Several  of  the  so-­called  miracles  in  the  story  actually  did  occur  in  my   life.  A  part  of  me  has  been  wanting  to  teach  others  that  what  they  consider  to  be   miracles  are  perfectly  natural  events.  The  key  to  accessing  miracles  lies  in  our   ability  to  give  up  limiting  beliefs,  judgments  and  labels—to  stop  naming  things,   conditions  and  people  as  “good  or  bad.”  Even  Shakespeare  knew  way  back  that  we   evaluate  others  according  to  our  own  self-­image.  It  is  important  to  remember  that   messed  up  folks  are  doing  the  best  they  can.  Those  who  have  been  mistreated,   mistreat  others.  We  begin  to  stop  the  crazy  cycle  of  fear  and  hatred  by  knowing   and  living  this.  I  am  not  suggesting  that  people  should  not  be  imprisoned  for  their   crimes.  I  am  saying  that  if  we  fear  and  hate  them,  we  are  part  of  the  ongoing   problem.  People  who  fail  to  love  do  so  because  they  do  not  know  how  to  love.   MOOJIE’s  story  is  a  parable  to  help  others  examine  their  actions  and  beliefs.  To   help  stop  the  cycle  of  hatred  toward  oneself  and  others.  Compassion  is  a  mighty   healing  balm.

4-­ Tell  us  about  your  writing  process.  Are  you  a  plotter  or  someone  who  starts   writing,  and  waits  to  see  where  it  will  go?

It  may  have  been  a  great  disadvantage  to  write  MOOJIE  by  the  seat  of  my  pants.  I   had  about  500  pages  before  I  took  a  serious  look  at  story  structure.  Blake  Snyder’s   SAVE  THE  CAT,  a  book  on  scriptwriting,  and  John  Truby’s  THE  ANATOMY  OF  A   STORY,  helped  me  revise  pacing,  action  and  character  arcs.  Would  I  have  saved   myself  years  of  rewriting  had  I  had  a  clearer  vision  of  plotting  in  the  beginning?  Oh   yeah.    But,  what  can  you  do?  Sometimes  you  sit  down  to  write  and  the  bloody     characters  just  take  over.  They  just  do  not  behave  at  all.  Not  very  decent  of  them,   is  it?

5-­ All  the  characters  in  Moojie  Littleman  were  memorable  and  well  drawn  -­  tell  us   how  you  managed  to  create  such  realistic  and  believable  characters?  Are  any   based  on  people  in  real  life?

Thank  you  so  much.  You  know,  from  the  time  I  started  imagining  the  story,  I  was   taking  mental  notes  on  people.  What  was  it  that  made  them  interesting?  What   are  they  pretending  not  to  know?  How  do  language  and  appearance  reveal  their   deeper  beliefs?  And  mostly,  how  are  they  shaping  their  world  through  choices?   Almost  every  character  in  the  book  is  a  composite  of  those  observations,  warts   and  all.  Life  is  not  easy  for  anyone.  I  did  not  want  to  present  characters  as  good  or   bad  as  much  as  being  in  differing  stages  of  awakening.  Each  has  their  own  inner-­ outer  struggle;  each  has  their  limitations  to  overcome.  Like  many  of  us,  they  fail  to   live  up  to  their  own  expectations.  I  ended  up  loving  them  all  for  who  they  are,  and   who  they  are  not.

6-­ Moojie  himself  was  incredibly  endearing.  Is  his  story  over?  Or  will  there  be  any   further  stories?  

I  am  so  glad  you  feel  that  way  about  Moojie!  When  I  set  out  to  write  the  story,  I   knew  that  fictional  characters  with  physical  or  mental  challenges  are  rarely  given   front  and  center  stage.  They  are  usually  confined  to  secondary  roles.  I  felt  it  was   absolutely  imperative  that  Moojie  steal  the  readers’  hearts.  My  son,  who  has  been   blessed  with  amazing  charisma,  helped  a  lot  with  this.  I  would  love  for  Moojie’s   story  to  continue.  Now  that  I  am  acquainted  with  the  characters,  I  know  how  to   take  better  charge  of  them.  I  will  insist  that  they  go  play  elsewhere  while  I  rough­out  the  plot.  Ha!

7-­When  did  you  first  know  you  wanted  to  be  a  writer?

This  question  always  makes  me  smile.  I  often  hear  about  writers  who  knew  of   their  calling  before  they  cut  their  first  teeth.  Not  in  my  case.  I  had  a  tough  time   learning  to  read,  and  a  mother  of  eight  children  has  no  time  to  read  to  her  litter.   My  father  was  a  pilot  in  the  Korean  and  Vietnam  Wars,  and  mostly  gone.  I  didn’t   start  reading  fluently  till  high  school.  My  life  changed  when  I  discovered  Kana  and   Hemingway.  As  a  teenager  living  in  a  perpetual  state  of  underwater,  I  turned  to   journaling  to  save  me  from  the  emotional  tsunamis.  That  led  to  short  stories,   poetry,  and  eventually  longer  fiction.  I  never  thought  of  myself  as  a  writer.  Writing   was  just  something  I  did.

I  love  what  Robertson  Davies,  the  Canadian  novelist,  once  said:  “There  is   absolutely  no  point  in  sitting  down  to  write  a  book  unless  you  feel  that  you  must   write  that  book,  or  else  go  mad,  or  die.”

8-­ Tell  us  about  your  writing  and  publishing  journey  so  far  -­  which  paths  you  have   followed  and  why?

When  I  graduated  from  college,  I  took  an  internship  at  a  local  newspaper.  It  was   fantastic!  I  learned  to  get  that  first  draft  down—and  fast.  That  led  to  writing   freelance  articles,  and  book  and  movie  reviews.  Then  I  wrote  my  first  screenplay   and  novel.  They  were  pretty  awful.  But  they  taught  me  a  lot-­mostly  humility.   Writng  is  like  being  in  the  circus.  You  have  to  jump  though  hurdles  the  same  way   acrobats  jump  through  burning  hoops  in  order  to  learn  how  not  to  make  mistakes   that  get  you  burned.
It  took  thirteen  years  to  write  MOOJIE.  Thirteen  years  because  I  had  to  evolve  in   order  to  deliver  the  story  in  the  manner  it  deserved.  During  that  time,  the  book   has  been  workshopped,  shared  with  a  number  of  alpha  and  beta  readers,  put   through  2  manuscript  consultations  and  edited  by  five  pros.  After  submitting  to   agents  and  getting  nowhere,  I  contacted  publishers  directly.  Three  publishers   offered  me  sub-­standard  contracts,  which  I  turned  down.  (Thank  heavens  SCBWI,   a  writer’s  org  that  I  belong  to,  provided  a  manual  with  standard  publishing   contracts.  Holy  moly!  Publishers  will    take  your  skivvies  if  you  let  them!)  I  wanted   to  keep  my  rights,  to  choose  my  cover,  and  be  the  one  to  decide  when  the  book   was  ready  to  print,  among  other  things.  While  researching  my  options,  I   discovered  Wyatt MacKenzie  Publishing,  Inc.  (h=p:// http://www.wymacpublishing.com/),  a  traditional  publishing  house  that,  for  20  years  has   offered  consultation  and  assistance  to  indie  authors.  I  contacted  some  of  their   authors,  and  they  gave  stellar  reviews.  After  an  hour  consultation  with  Nancy   Cleary,  the  publisher,  I  knew  the  indie  consulting  program  was  right  for  me.  And  it   has  been  fantastic!  I  can’t  say  enough  about  Nancy’s  guidance,  respect,  support,   and  expertise.

9-­ What  advice  would  you  give  to  a  new  author  who  is  about  to  launch  their  new   book?

I  am  assuming  that  the  author  wants  to  be  a  pro.  In  this,  she  has  already  had  her   book  read/reviewed  by  at  least  10  people—beyond  buddies  or  family  members,   who  will  love  every  word  you  write  no  ma=er  what.  I  am  assuming  she  values   brutally  honest  feedback  because  that  is  the  way  the  public  is.  I  am  assuming  that   she  has  listened  to  the  feedback,  and  revised  for  clarity  and  tightness.  I  am   assuming  that  she  has  given  the  book  plenty  of  time  to  ripen.  Right  down  to  the   last  day  before  I  sent  my  book  to  the  presses,  I  was  deleting  or  rewriting  passages   if  they  didn’t  sparkle.  The  editor  had  to  practically  tie  me  down  to  get  me  to  let  go   of  the  manuscript.
That  said:
—  If  you  want  your  book  to  make  a  dent  in  sales,  your  manuscript  must  be   professionally  edited  and  proofed.  The  cover  (front  and  back)  needs  to  be  equally   polished  and  interesting.  Yes,  this  costs  money.  But  if  you  do  not  include  this  in   your  budget,  you  might  as  well  not  spend  the  money  to  publish  (unless  you  are   merely  doing  it  for  family  &  friends).  As  most  of  us  know  by  now,  the  key  to   marketing  rests  upon  getting  reviews.  If  your  cover  isn’t  delicious,  and  your  editing   is  sloppy,  people  won’t  even  sign  up  for  free  copies.  There  are  simply  too  many   other  professional  books  to  choose  from.  A  cover  created  by  your  amazingly   talented  brother  who  won  a  ribbon  in  the  high  school  art  fair,  might  be  beautiful,   but  can  it  stand  up  to  the  covers  on  booksellers’  shelves?  If  not,  your  book  will   probably  disappear  into  cyber  space  with  millions  of  others  whose  authors  were  a   little  too  anxious  to  go  to  press.
—  Start  marketing  your  book  four  months  before  the  release  date.  Yep.  Four   months!  Send  it  to  pro  reviewers  (Kirkus,  Foreword,  Publisher’s  Weekly).  Enter  it   in  contests.  Do  a  few  giveaways.  Create  an  audience  on  social  networks  by  posting   samples,  sharing  news  and  reviewing  similar  books.  This  will  give  you  a  chance  to   build  up  a  pre-­order  list  on  Amazon.  It  is  only  the  beginning.  And  it  is  crucial.

10-­Tell  us  a  bit  about  your  next  release. What are you working on right now?

While  playing  with  a  MOOJIE  sequel,  I  am  also  writing  a  collection  of  inspirational   prayer-­poems  and  a  guide  to  spiritual  healing.  There’s  also  the  audio  book  project   of  MOOJIE,  through  ACX.com.  It’s  an  amazing  process.  I  have  to  give  Amazon   kudos  for  providing  such  a  user-­friendly  service.  However,  my  reader  has  stepped   away  from  the  project  to  sort  out  personal  problems,  so  the  release  is  delayed.

11-­ What  would  you  like  readers  to  take  away  from  The  Improbable  Wonders  of   Moojie  Littleman?

I  would  love  for  my  dear  readers  to  realize  that  freedom  is  a  choice.  No  ma=er   what  difficulties  we  face,  be  it  loneliness,  physical  or  mental  problems,  lack  of   opportunity,  not  enough  money,  lousy  parents,  even  homelessness,  there  is  a   Source  of  unconditional  love  available  to  each  of  us.  We  can  grow  through  joy   rather  than  pain  and  suffering.    It  takes  effort  and  trust  to  rewire  our  thinking,  but   we  can  open  ourselves  to  receive  miracles  that  freely  and  gladly  offered.  When   this  Immaculate  Heart  is  felt  in  the  still,  deep  pool  of  our  being,  we  can  begin  to   experience  joy  and  freedom  beyond  your  wildest  dreams.  I  know  this  is  true.  I   have  lived  it.

Robin, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview!

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Author Interview; Mark Gillespie

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Indie author Mark Gillespie currently lives in Melbourne, Australia, although he originally hails from Glasgow, Scotland. Mark is the author of two alternative history novels; FAB (FAB Trilogy Book 1) which examines what would have happened if John Lennon had not been killed, and recently released L-2011 (Future of London Series #1) which asks what if the 2011 London riots had gone on, and on? Mark has also penned a unique collection of short stories The Outsider Tales. Here he talks to me about his favoured alternative history genre, the idea behind L-2011, his journey so far as an indie author and his future projects. Enjoy!
1 – How would you describe your work? What genres do you feel comfortable in?
I tend to go with ‘Speculative Fiction’.  I know that’s a huge umbrella term that covers many things like sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and other sub-genres.  Narrowing it down, I’d say my own preferences – both for reading and writing – are alternate history, apocalyptic and horror.  But anything dark and imaginative is good.
2 – L-2011 is set during the London riots of 2011, and explores what might have happened next…Can you tell us where you got the idea for this novel from? How did it evolve?
The idea to write about the London riots was inspired by a friend of mine.  She lived in Croydon during the riots and her flat was burned down, taking everything with it – her two cats, her musical instruments which she used to earn a living.  And God knows what else she lost.  Up until then, the London riots had just been something on the news for me.  After that, it was real and I couldn’t let go.  Not long after that, I wrote a post-apocalyptic short story, which drastically evolved over the course of five years, eventually morphing into L-2011.
3 – I understand L-2011 is going to be part of a series – when will the next books be out and can you tell us anything about them?
Yep sure, it’s a series called ‘Future of London’ about errr, the future of London 🙂 Or at least the one in my head.  I hope to have the second book out by late September/early October.  I write fairly short books – novella/short novel sized, so fingers crossed it’ll be done by then.  I can tell you that the next one is set nine years after the events depicted in L-2011.
4 – Tell us how you write your novels. Do you get the characters first, or does it all come from a plot idea?
I start with an interesting situation and run with it.  After that, it’s all systems go and I’m absorbed in the idea.  Regarding work techniques, I’m neither exclusively a plotter or a pantser  – I’m a ‘plontser’.  
5 – What is your writing process like? ie how much time do you dedicate to writing, how do you stay focused etc
On average, I’d say 6 days a week for an average of about 4-6 hours a day of writing.  First draft it’s 1000-2000 words a day, then with further drafts it’s 2-3 chapters editing per day.  Past failures, disappointments and frustrations spur me on.  That’s how I stay focused.  It’s also how I get out of bed and go to the desk at 6am on a freezing winter’s morning, and still be there at 10pm (with a couple of breaks in between of course!)  You’ve got to be a little bit mad to be a writer.
6 – When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Early 2011.  I’d just ended another creative career and was drifting in No-Man’s Land for a while.  I wasn’t sure where I was going and then, as I was preparing to embark on an English degree, I got the writing bug when we studied short stories by the likes of Raymond Carver and John Cheever.  It was always there a little bit though, the bug – I’d dabbled with writing in the past and I was an avid reader.
7 – What made you decide to take the indie route into publishing?
I attended an intensive two day publishing course in Melbourne.  This wasn’t long after I’d moved to Australia from Scotland.  Both trad publishing and indie publishing were covered in the course and the indie session was head and shoulders above the rest.  To sum it up, it was all about what writers could do for themselves rather than begging the gatekeepers and God knows who else for a break.  I actually wrote a blog post about the decision to go indie – (link to post)
8 – What would you say are the best and the worst things about being an indie writer?
The best thing is the absolute freedom to do what you want.  You’re the star, director, and producer of your own movie.  But it’s kind of the worst thing too in terms of workload.  And at the start, it’s tough because nobody who isn’t a friend or is related to you cares about your book.  That’s where oodles of stubbornness and perseverance come in handy.  Play the long game, just keep reminding yourself of that.
9 – What advice would you give to anyone who has finished their first novel and is about to embark on the indie path?
Write another book.  And do it quickly, but don’t skimp on the quality or the editing and all the things you need to do well.  As indies, we have to produce good work and we need to do it consistently to remain visible.  None of this one book a year crap for the likes of us – not unless your book genuinely takes a year to write of course!  But I feel most writers are capable of a greater output than that.
10 – Where would you like to be five years from now with your writing?
Ha-ha, that’s funny you should ask.  I’ve been reminding myself to write a five-year plan for a while now, but it’s taking me five years to getting around to writing my five-year plan.  Five years from now, when I’m finished, I’ll let you know 😉
11 – What are you currently working on? What other projects are on the go?
I’m on the brink of completing the first draft of the second book in my FAB trilogy.  This is another alternate history series which asks ‘What If John Lennon Had Lived?’  In between drafts, I’ll be outlining the second book in the London series too.
12 – Tell us three interesting things about yourself
I was a professional musician (bass player) for 10 years.  I toured around the UK and Ireland a lot, and got into some hilarious situations (that’s a book in itself)  Also, I got married on a mountain top in New Zealand in 2014 – that’s two interesting things – jeez, there must be something else interesting.  Oh yeah – I used to work as a bouncer in Glasgow.  There’s a book in that too 🙂   
You can find out more about Mark by following him on social media;
Facebook  Twitter and his  website

Interview with Indie Author Anthony Morgan-Clark

Anthony Morgan-Clark is an indie author I have followed online for some time. Anthony has spent over a decade working in and managing children’s homes. Since 2014 Anthony has published a sci-fi short story collection, ‘Reformed’, and the Tor horror series.  He has also been published on the QuarterReads website, and has had short stories published in several magazines. Anthony grew up in Brighton and Wales before moving to the Wye valley, and currently lives in the Forest of Dean. Having read and enjoyed part one of his horror trilogy The Tor, Part One; Whiteshill and the prequel to the seriesThe Cauldron I recently went on to read The Complete Tor, which is available in paperback and ebook. This epic edition contains the prequel, the three parts of the series, and another short story related to The Tor, Symeon’s Tor. I’ve always been a fan of horror, so it’s been a pleasure to discover Anthony’s work. I’ve been well and truly pulled into the creepy world of The Tor and I am looking forward to reading more from this author. Enjoy the interview!

Q1- Can you tell us a bit about where the idea for The Tor came from?

My original idea was to have the Tor at the centre of five villages, with the Batsford being one of the five villages. Whiteshill was to be another. Weird stuff would happen in each of the villages, the kids at the local comprehensive school would map out the disappearances, they’d notice the Tor being at the geographical centre and they’d investigate. Then, after some more horror, everything would be okay. Stephen King meets the Famous Five. Anyway, after I realised this was far more in terms of settings and characters than I needed to tell a story, I cut it all back to one village and a handful of characters, and started again.

With regard to the Tor itself, I was walking to work -I used to work and live in the village upon which Batsford is based- and on the hill in front of me I saw, through the mist, a cottage and smaller buildings. The shape and layout of those buildings looked very much like a circle of standing stones. That image became The Tor; the trees came from Mayhill, a local landmark.

Q2 Was it originally written as one book, which was then divided up for the ebook series? Or did you write it with serialisation in mind?

Originally I’d planned one book. I thought at first about telling the story of Whiteshill from Martin’s perspective, then from Eddie’s, then from Constable Donnell’s. But as I worked through it I realised that there was a narrative bigger than that which eventually became Part One, especially after introducing Symeon into the story.

Coupled with that was the story of Rebecca. In 2004 I was living on my own and had the idea for the story that became Rest. I wrote it in one draft and, naively, sent it to a publishing house for appraisal. They wrote back, praised my writing, but struggled with the question of why the protagonist would suddenly fall for Rachael (as she was known then) after a single meeting. It was a plot issue that had concerned me also. So I shut the story away and moved on to other things, and didn’t think of the story again until after I’d written Whiteshill and begun work on The Cauldron. As I wrote, the character of Rebecca felt familiar, and it was whilst walking home from work one evening (a good walk does wonders. It gives the mind time to wander and explore and make all these little links of its own accord) that I realised both the character from The Cauldron and the character from The Tor were one and the same.

Q3 Is the story of The Tor over? Or are there other stories connected to it that might arise?

After abandoning Rest in 2004 I started a fantasy piece based around a young, excluded boy who moves to a new town. There he befriends and old, bearded man who is of mysterious origin, and lives to collect stories. The story did not turn out as I had planned, but it was the genesis of the characters Martin and Mr Symeon. Symeon is Symmonds in that story (named after Symonds Yat if

you’re interested). I’d love to rewrite and finish that one. I’ve also just completed writing two short stories based around the red man from Rest’s white tower. I’ve thought about writing more of Rebecca’s history too. In Rest she goes through an apparent drug addiction, but this is the longest we see her away from the Tor. Is she suffering withdrawal from the Tor? Is she taking substances to escape it? Does she go back willingly? There’s a lot to explore there, but to reveal too much would, I think, spoil the story.

Q4 I could really imagine it as a creepy TV series, X-Files or Twin Peaks style, stretching over the decades. Have you ever thought about developing it into a screenplay?

Not seriously enough to dedicate such a big amount of novel-writing time into doing so. Like novels, the writing is only half of the work at most. To generate interest, pitch it, sell it, etc – I have no idea how much work that would involve. I’d be really interested in a graphic novel adaptation though.

Q5 When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

As a kid I figured I had the perfect career planned out. I was obsessed with Jeff Capes (who I was convinced came from Llanelli, like I did), Spiderman, Nigel Mansell and Roald Dahl. I figured being a strongman would help my superhero career; the travelling involved would be the perfect cover for it; and since F1 drivers only work every other weekend and superheroes work at night, I’d have plenty of time during the week to write.

Aside from a few speeding points, writing was the only thing I stuck with. I remember writing Star Wars and Transformers stories with stationery sets I received as a kid, and amassing a collection of notebooks filled with fantasy and scifi tales as a teen. I used to relish English lessons in school. It’s something I’ve always done. Some people play sport, some people paint, some people keep animals. I write.

Q6. Can you tell us about your writing journey so far? Ups and downs?

This is a tricky one. I’m not one of those eternally optimistic people who see every problem as a challenge in disguise, but I do believe there is something to learn (and therefore something to be gained) from every situation. Publishing my first book to Kindle, seeing my first short story in print, and having a short story selected for a collection have all been ups, as have the strong reviews my work consistently receives. The only real down is the fact that my writing does not yet bring me enough of an income to write full time. But I’m sure that’s a matter of time (the TV rights for the Tor are up for grabs if anyone wants to throw me some money…) and effort.

Q7 What made you decide to take the indie route?

Impatience. I can finish a book on Monday, and readers can buy it on Tuesday. I love that. Also the flexibility being an indie author affords me. If I want to drop the price, I can. If I want to try another genre, I can. I’m in control of my writing. Publishing houses are like record labels. It’s not about quality, it’s about what sells. That’s why we have a million boy bands for every Nirvana. Publishers chase the market, but being an indie author allows you to carve out your own niche. Kindle and Createspace have broken the market up in the same way, if not to the same degree, that the plummeting price of home recording equipment has done for the recording industry. Who needs a record deal when you can promote on YouTube and sell your MP3s via your website? Who needs a publishing deal when you can promote and sell your own books?

Q8 What would you say are the hardest things about being an indie? And what would you say are the best?

The best things about being an indie author are those I mentioned above. As a writer I’m not beholden to any publishing company’s notion of what I should be. The worst things I think are the fact that, when it comes to self-published indie authors, there is an incredible amount of dross out there tarnishing what we do. Some readers equate “indie author” with “couldn’t get a publishing deal”, and for a lot of writers that’s true – not that I’m suggesting publishing houses don’t put out poor books, because they do. I read The Da Vinci Code at work a few years back, and was amazed that such a thing could get published. But being an indie author means battling against people’s expectations and stereotypical views of an author who is not traditionally published.

Being an indie also means you have responsibility for every aspect of the book, from the first draft to the marketing plan. It’s an opportunity to learn many new skills, but it can also be incredibly tiring. Then there are the issues of drumming up sales, chasing reviews… being an indie author is hard, time-consuming work if you want it to be anything more than a hobby.

Q9 What advice would you give to a writer about to embark on their own indie journey?

It’s a hell of a lot more work than you’ll expect. Work hard, but don’t burn out. And leave ample time between drafting, editing, proofing and releasing your work to ensure it’s the best it can be. Once you hit ‘publish’, all your mistakes are public.

Read lots of books, good ones and mediocre ones. Work out what methods the author uses to make them so good (or not). Deconstruct the work of different authors, you’ll learn a hell of a lot this way.

Spend time reading around the subjects of writing and editing. I’d always advise hiring a good quality editor to go through your novel, but for many people this just isn’t realistic. Read and re-read Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, and Browne & King’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Even if you can afford an editor you’ll save a ton of cash by giving them the best manuscript you can. The Tor was the hardest thing I’ve edited, particularly the second section Rest. I learned a hell of a lot from doing so and now I’m tempted to re-edit Reformed. Editing is a skill like any other, and the more you do it and the more you read about the techniques involved, the better you’ll be.

Q10 What are you working on right now?

A short horror story collection that will include stories relating to The Tor; a collection of new and previously released short stories covering a variety of non-horror genres; and a stand-alone horror tentatively titled The Swarm. I also have a notebook full of short stories that will one day make up a sequel to Reformed.

Q11 Who are your favourite authors?

As a kid Roald Dahl and CS Lewis were my favourites. I also devoured comics, particularly Batman. The late eighties Batman comics had some complex characters. That version of Batman was a really complex character, and Jason Todd (Robin) had a real dark side. All the characters in Roald Dahl and CS Lewis’ books were black-and-white good guys or bad guys, but when you read of Batman beating information out of goons, or Robin allowing a bad guy to fall to his death instead of rescuing him (or possibly even pushing the guy off – it all happened off-panel)… as a kid it was a real eye-opener for how complex fictional characters could be. And to have read it in a comic, as well! Before that I’d been obsessed with Stan Lee’s Marvel creations, all day-glo spandex and good-guys-beating-bad-guys.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Philip K Dick’s novels and short stories, and I love the hallucinatory, paranoid nature of his work. Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker both have a depth and breadth of imagination that always leaves me exhilarated. Steven King is underrated as a literary author; I find his writing to be better than a lot of people give him credit for, and the horror elements to be overrated. For example, the characters and depiction of the town and residents in Needful Things were far more powerful than the horror and weak resolution; in the same way the final section of It was nowhere near as vivid or moving as what preceded.

Terry Pratchett is another writer who took a long time to be recognised for the strength of his characterisations and his writing as a whole, rather than as ‘just’ a good fantasy author. I think it’s a problem common to all genre authors. People see you as a horror/scifi/fantasy/whatever writer, rather than as simply an author.

Alan Moore’s comics (Watchmen in particular, but also From Hell, V for Vendetta and The Killing Joke) always reward being read again.

With regard to ‘literary’ authors, I’ve read 1984 countless times. I love Of Mice and Men too. Oryx and Crake is another favourite, as is American Psycho.

Q12 Tell us three interesting facts about yourself

Three interesting facts? Hmm… As a teen I had insomnia and, when I did sleep, a recurring dream. I decided one day to write the dream down. Once I’d done so still had a recurring dream, but

a different one. This happened four or five times. And yes, those dreams have made it into my writing.

I have a phobia of spiders falling down into my collar when I’m in sheds or garages. This is a really specific phobia and I don’t think it has a name. I can’t enter a shed or garage without pulling my top tight around the back of my neck.

I can’t tell the difference between certain shades of purple and certain shades of grey. I know that’s not especially interesting, but I’m running out of ideas here – you’re asking a man who has 450 CD’s alphabetised by band name and then album title…

You can connect with Anthony on social media and via his website;

https://anthonymorganclark.wordpress.com/ (blog/website)

https://www.facebook.com/MorganClarkAuthor/ (Facebook)

@AMorganClark  (Twitter)

 

Interview with indie author Joel Dennstedt

Almost a year ago I interviewed two great author’s about their experiences of writing and publishing, Kate Rigby and Alec John Belle. You can find the interviews here. I’ve been meaning to interview more author’s since then, and just have not had the chance to get around to it. Anyway, that’s all about to change! Joel Dennstedt is a very diverse indie author, and I have enjoyed all three of his novels. Here he chats to me about his indie journey so far, his books, his on-going travels, and his plans for the future.

 

1) You and your brother are currently travelling through South America. Could you tell us a bit about what made you decide to do this? And was there a conscious decision to write and blog about it as you went?

Everything was Steve’s idea. As of 2010, I was working for the same evil corporation as he, a criminal organization known as the largest bank in the United States. He couldn’t take it anymore and decided to retire. His wife could not take that, so they divorced. He said he was off to see the world. I had to ask him twice – he did not believe me the first time – if I could tag along. So, in April of 2012 we packed everything we owned into our backpacks and duffels and went off to see the world …. slowly. Four years later, we have made it to Peru. He began his blog a year before we left, and once we hit our first stop in Merida, Yucatan, MX he said: you should publish your novel Orange Cappuccino. So I did. Because he has really great ideas.

2) Your novels are all quite different. Could you tell us what inspired you to write each one? Where did each idea come from?

Orange Cappuccino is true. I wrote it as a novel for the style. It tells the story of my life with my second wife and our trials and tribulations in Alaska. I had to write that story to make way for other things. And yet, the first book I wrote was Hermit – A Novella. I wrote that during my breaks at work, and though the main character is a lot like me, the story was simply a fantasy to help me get through my days in the real world. I published Orange Cappuccino first, and Hermit only after a hundred hours of editing while ensconced in a hostel/brewery in the jungles of Honduras. Guanjo is my science fiction novel, a promise to myself when I was young. The idea came from two photographs I had collected along the way: one of a huge longhouse situated in the canopy of a rainforest; the other of a little native girl with her pet frog.

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

I have never wanted or intended to be anything else. I considered myself an abject failure for 60 years of my life because I caved to the necessities of the real world.

4) What has been your journey so far as a writer? How would you describe the experiences you’ve had?

Mostly, I have felt rather lost. The writing is not fun. There has been little appreciation for my work. And yet, when I compare now to four years ago, that is not true at all. I have had a lot of fun. The appreciation has been immense. Now put those two feelings into one and shake them up every single day, and you know something of the rollercoaster ride that you and I are on. The experience of writing has called on every reserve of wisdom that I possess, and made me practice the path I follow with an intensity far beyond what I had known

before. The best things come unexpectedly. The worst come from my own expectations. The lesson: stop expecting and start accepting. And all I can say to that is when I do, things seem to progress perfectly.

5) What would you say are the best things about being an indie writer?

This is pretty easy. The creative control is great. The ability to immediately respond to any new idea, whether in the writing itself or in the marketing and sales keeps everything alive and fresh. The rebelliousness of it all. The interactions with other indie writers, their support and commiserations.

6) What would you say are the worst things about being an indie writer?

Only one thing that I know of: lack of exposure. The challenge to locate your audience, when mainstream authors seem to find their audience ready-made.

7) What are your personal top tips for indie survival?

Be prepared to do it all. Create, Write, Proofread, Edit, Produce, Promote, Market & Sell. If you don’t understand the essential elements of business, then enjoy the vanity of it all, but don’t expect success. And one personal tip for Indie Authors in general: if you don’t start learning to edit and correct your mistakes, you are going to fail. I read a lot of Indie works now, and I am nauseated by the typo’s, grammatical errors, misspellings, and simple format errors that permeate their books. It has given and will continue to give Indie Authors a bad reputation.

8) What are you working on at the moment?

I am supposed to be working on my literary novel: In the Church of the Blue-Eyed Prophets. Instead, I work most consistently on my blog, my collection of horror short stories, and my book reviews.

9) Who are your favourite authors?

My top 5 favorite authors are British: Barry Unsworth, Jean LeCarre, William Golding, Charles Dickens, and Graham Greene.

10) What are your dreams/hopes for the future in terms of your writing?

My biggest dream is to be accepted by the industry professionals and regarded as a writer of great literary merit. I know I ought to be seeking popular approval, but mostly I just want affirmation from those who know good writing.

11) Tell us about your writing routine/process

I guess that you’re assuming I have a routine. Not so much, really. I write what I want, when I want, at the pace I want. In this regard I pretty much go against all the advice of others. I do not write a certain number of words a day. I do not challenge myself to write so many pages. I do not even make myself write each day. It does not work for me. And even if it did, I would not do it. When I have experimented with such a program, what I wrote was trash, and I had to go back and rewrite every word. Sometimes I write a single paragraph in a day. Sometimes a page. Much more than that, and once again it turns to trash. I also ignore the trusted advice to just get the first draft out. Doesn’t work for me. I edit as I write. A lot. I cannot proceed until the writing is almost at the standard I maintain. And when I’m done, I go back and edit, edit, edit all over again. You see, writing does not come easily to me. And if I don’t take long breaks between, the writing suffers … a lot!

12) Tell us three interesting things about you

I am the son of a dwarf.

I believe that I am high-functioning autistic, enough not to be diagnosed.

I believe that animals can talk.

http://www.amazon.com/Joel-R.-Dennstedt/e/B008VJZ6RE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1456438558&sr=1-1

https://www.facebook.com/JoelRDennstedt/

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