Author Interview; Mark Gillespie

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; (blog/website) (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.