Wednesday, August 27, 2008

[Interview] Tristi Pinkston

Tristi Pinkston writes historical and contemporary fiction.

So far she has published three novels: Nothing to Regret (Granite Publishing, 2002); Strength to Endure (Granite Publishing, 2004) and Season of Sacrifice (Golden Wings Enterprises, 2008).

In this email interview, Tristi Pinkston talks about her writing.

When did decide you wanted to be a published writer?

I don't know if I decided it or if it decided me.

I started writing when I was five years old. If you want to know when I started writing anything good, that would be much later than five. I was 23 when I wrote my first novel.

I've always wanted to be a published writer -- I can't remember a time in my whole life when this was not my goal. I sent out a whole ton of magazine articles while writing my first novel, thinking that would help get my name out there, but none of them ever were published. My novel, actually, was the first thing to get published, and then came two more after that.

It took a lot of submitting and rewriting before I found the publisher who fell in love with the story.

How would you describe your writing?

I've been compared to Corrie Ten Boom, Gerald Lund and Jan Karon. All very complimentary.

I write mainly historical fiction but I've recently started writing contemporary, as well.

My main target [audience] is the people of the LDS (Mormon) faith, but my books have a broader appeal. They've been read and enjoyed by people of every religion and every nationality.

Who influenced you most?

My parents, and also my grandparents and great-grandparents, who I believe have become my guardian angels.

I believe that we should take the things we learn from our personal experiences and use them to enrich our writing. There's a bit of me in every one of my books, no doubt about it.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My main concerns are telling the story in such a way that the reader can see what I'm seeing while I write.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

I deal with the challenges of balancing motherhood and being a writer, trying to keep my house clean, and trying not to lose my mind, all at the same time.

I deal with it by realizing that things aren't as important as I thought they were.

If all the dishes didn't get done today, so what? The important thing is that everyone's needs were met, including my own.

Do you write everyday?

When I'm working on a project, I write every day but Sunday. It usually starts with me putting the kids at the table with their lunch.

I proceed by checking my e-mail, and then I pull up the manuscript. It usually ends with a grumble and a sigh, because I was interrupted.

I can generally get anywhere from 500-3000 words done in a day.

How many books have you written so far?

My first book is about the Japanese internment camps during World War II, and is entitled Nothing to Regret. It was published in 2002 by Granite.

My second book is also about World War II, but from the German perspective. It was also published by Granite, in 2004.

How long did it take you to write your latest book?

My latest book is by far my most personal. It's called Season of Sacrifice, and it's the true story of my great-great-grandfather who engineered the passage that would become the famous Utah landmark, "The Hole in the Rock."

It took me 80 hours to research and another 80 to write, which is a record for me, but I did have all the materials at my fingertips.

It was published in 2008 by Golden Wings.

How did you choose a publisher for the book?

I chose to have Golden Wings produce it for me because my great-great-grandfather was a polygamist, and the LDS market isn't currently publishing stories about polygamy.

Going with Golden Wings gave me more control over the project than I would have in any other way.

It does present the disadvantage that I'll have to work a little harder to sell it. So I'm doing this virtual book tour, promoting it in personal appearances, and doing whatever else I have to do.

Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult?

I don't tend to write about easy subjects, and it was hard for me to try to imagine the lives these people led and how they so willingly submitted to their trials.

I loved the idea of telling this true story and honoring my ancestors by sharing their experiences, which are amazing.

What sets the book apart from other things you've written?

It's different in that my other books are largely based on history but there's a whole lot of fiction in there as well.

Season of Sacrifice is mostly historical, with very little fiction. It's written in novel form, but everything in the book is based on fact.

It's similar [to the others] in that I put my heart and soul into it. It's well-researched, historically accurate, and well-written.

What will your next book be about?

It's a contemporary mystery with some comedy thrown in.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Helping others to realize that they have the seeds of greatness within them and learning how to unlock them.

I teach writing classes throughout the year and I love seeing someone allow their talents to shine.

This article was first published on OhmyNews International.

Possibly related books:

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Monday, August 25, 2008

[Interview] Gabriela Folgar de Shea

Gabriela Folgar de Shea was born in El Progreso Guastatoya, a small town in Guatemala. When she was 26 years old, she moved to Canada and settled in the city of Edmonton, Alberta.

Her first book, Angels Along My Path Of Thorns (Trafford Publishing, 2007), came second place in the best biography category in the 2008 International Latino Book Awards.

In this email interview, Gabriela Shea talks about her writing.

Who would you say has influenced you most?

Definitely, my husband. He knew about my story soon after we met, and for over a period of twenty-five years he every-so-often would mention that this is a great story that has to be written.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

Everything in my book is related to my personal experiences.

I decided that it was best to be direct and write in the first person. I also decided to dispense with pseudonyms and to use the correct names of all of the personalities in the book.

When did you start writing?

I started in July 2004. My husband had convinced me that my story would interest many people.

We started with a lot of research about the different options available in the publishing business and decided to use a POD (publish-on-demand) service for various reasons: First, to save time and energy, for we both hold down full-time jobs, leaving not too much time to write query letters and to search for agents; second, we live in a remote area as far as the literature scene is concerned and did not have connections that could advocate and connect us with a mainline publisher (in Canada, the popular press mostly resides in Toronto, more than three thousand kilometres from Edmonton); and third, we had to consider our ages, for we felt that we did not have time to wait years for answers to query letters and manuscript submissions, which we had heard quite often happens for new authors.

Who is your target audience?

I did not focus on a particular target audience and judging from the content of the e-mails I have received, my book has been read by people from many different walks of life. At this precise time I am translating the book into Spanish for the Latin American market.

Do you write everyday?

I find it very hard with my full time job to be consistent with taking the time and do some writing everyday. However, during the weekends I try to make up for lost time, trying to balance my weekend time with other commitments such as family and friends.

How many books have you written so far?

Angels Along My Path of Thorns is my first book.

My story takes place in Guatemala, Central America and describes the events of my childhood; the finding of my first love; the happy times while attending college; the suffering; the horrible events that happened to me when I was fifteen years old; the meeting of the angels who saved and guided me; and finally, my return to normal life with a career, and a wedding to the father of my two sons.

The story is written in a style with lots of dialogue.

How long did it take you to write the book?

It took me over three years to write the book and to have it edited. However, during those three years much research was being done: the maps were drawn, many of the photographs were taken, the design for the cover was made, and the interior design of the book was accomplished.

My book was published in May 2007 by Trafford Publishing. My husband and I decided to do go with the self-publishing idea after reading about the struggles and disappointments of many writers who had tried to get published through mainline publishing companies.

The advantages we have with the POD method is that we own the rights to the book and we got the book out on the market.

The disadvantage is that a self-published book does not get the same media attention as do the books published by mainline publishing companies; in fact, it is nearly impossible to be reviewed in the book sections of the established press. We think, this is sad, for the quality of writing and story are not taken into consideration and the world of literature is poorer as a result.

It is also very difficult to have one's self-published book placed in bookstores, mainly because one cannot meet the return policies that have become traditional in the publishing world. But thankfully, the advent of the Internet book stores and Internet publicity sites have dramatically changed the book industry and have allowed authors to choose a different route. The consumer is now better off too, because he has direct access to to all available books.
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Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult?

Having to put into words the negative aspect/actions of my family and going back to relive the tragic events of my ordeal.

In relation to my family, it was hard because we do not like to admit or to disclose that our family was dysfunctional.

In relation to the events of my ordeal at the age of fifteen, that was very difficult to describe because the actions committed against me were horrible, barbaric, and traumatic.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

To reminisce about the good times of my adolescence when I attended college and where I met my first love. It was a happy time.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

It has made the relationship with my husband and children much stronger.

I have received much feedback from readers about how my story has made an impact in their lives. When I hear this, I feel that the time and effort have all been worthwhile.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

I have not found a real big challenge. However, trying to find the best ways to sell and promote my book is time consuming, but I have not let that become an overwhelming challenge. My husband and I are finding ways to deal with it.

This interview was first published on OhmyNews International.

Related article:

"Gabriela Shea: About Angels Along My Path of Thorns and Her Experience", AllTheseBooks.com, April 23, 2008.

Possibly related books:

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

[Interview] Winnie J. Panicker

Winnie J. Panicker lives in Kerala, India.

She published her first poetry collection, Loveliness of Dawn (MaluBen Publications, 2004), when she was 17 years old.

She followed this up with Flowers on the Violin which is due out shortly from Bluemango Books.

In this email interview, Winnie Panicker talks about her concerns as a writer.

When did you start writing?

I started writing when I was in my 7th grade. I was 13 then.

It was my dad who introduced me the site poetry.com and in the beginning I used to just write for fun. Later, I realized that poetry was a medium through which I could express myself freely. Then I started writing for that website often.

When I started writing, I never had the plan to be a published writer. I just wrote what I felt like writing.

When I was in my 10th grade, I had a set of poems in my hands and I thought of publishing them. I talked to my dad and he helped me contact the publishers.

My first book, Loveliness of Dawn, was published in 2004 when I was in my 11th grade. The book is a collection with 33 of my poems. The foreword was written by Shri Ayyappa Paniker.

How would you describe your writing?

I write about all topics. War, love, old age, childhood, nature, colors... all have become my topics.

I don't usually use rhymes or a pattern. Most of my poems are in the style of prose. I try to mix emotions with color, nature and so on. I also try to portray the ills of society through my poems. When I feel there is no other way for me to respond to what is happening around me, I write about it and in that way respond.

Who would influenced you most?

Well… I personally don't have a favorite writer or author. I like Sylvia Plath and Robert Frost.

There is no particular person who has influenced me, but my parents have inspired me and have encouraged me to write a lot. I would, right now, say that they are the people who have given me the urge to write.

Right now my publishers, BlueMango Books, are also giving me a lot of encouragement.

My friends and teachers, too, have played a big part. I have friends who critique my poems and who comment on how I can improve it.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

I believe it's the obligation of every writer to defend the common man, their rights and freedom.

I have written some poems on social issues such as prostitution, war, corruption and so on. For example, my poem, "Filthy Roads" is about the tragic lives of some unfortunate women in the Red streets. "Broken Dreams and Hopes", on the other hand, is about war. It is about the despair of a father and mother who lost their only child in a war.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

Till my 10th grade, I was in Saudi Arabia. There, I used to miss my home. I never got the opportunity to stay with my grandparents. I used to miss that part of my life and have written some poems about that. Poems like "one day even you will be".

After leaving Saudi, I experienced hostel life and there, too, I used to write about the loneliness. Being in my teens, infatuations have also found a way into my poetry.

I love being in Kerala. At first, the rituals around death, marriage and so on, all, were alien to me. Everything was a new experience for me. Kerala has given me more experiences than Saudi.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Being recognized as a writer is not an easy task. If there is anything in my poems that readers find worthy, then I consider it my blessing.

Right now, the biggest challenge that I am facing is to match my readers' expectation. I believe there is a standard to which readers expect me to write. I have to reach that.

I have a dream to write something really different. This is a time of fusion. There is fusion coming in dance, music and so on. I would like to do something like that in writing. It is a challenge for me. I am trying to write something like that with a mix of colors, love, passion, music, thoughts…

Do you write everyday?

No, I don't write everyday. I write when I get the urge to do so.

Usually, I keep the points that I want to write collected in my mind and jot them down when I get time. I usually like to write when it is evening and it is quiet.

Once I start writing, I never leave my poem incomplete or for a later time. Once I sit to write, I get up only after completing it.

When I start writing, I might not have a clear idea as to how the poem might end. But, when I write, the end just comes and I end the poem that way.

What is your latest book about?

My latest book has been named Flowers on the Violin. I didn't write with an aim to publishing the book. It was just that I keep writing.

This book contains some of the poems that I have written from the time I was in my 10th grade till now. Later, I contacted Bluemango Books to see if they would publish the poems.

Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult?

Actually, I start writing a poem only when I am fully confident about it. So when I write I don't find it very difficult. I sometimes find a difficulty in finding the correct words. But, if I sit for a while, I get the right word or at least a similarly satisfying line.

In the book, the poem "red" was written because I felt like mixing the color red with the emotions, love and anger. I was in a totally confused state while writing it. That is one poem which I found difficult to write.

One topic which I still cannot put into words is rain. It is a very common topic among all writers, but all my attempts to write on rain have failed.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

I enjoy everything that I write. To pick out a few, I enjoyed writing "Flowers on the Violin". I felt there was some music in that poem. Then I enjoyed "Silence'. That was a poem that gave me some emotional satisfaction. There are other poems too, like "Axe Across my Heart" and 'The Call".

I feel extremely happy after writing. It happens to me after I write anything. Joy always follows my writing.

What sets the book apart from other things you've written?

My previous book was published when I was around 15. And that book contained the thoughts of a child. My new book focuses on current issues, love, war, nature, colors, music, personal experiences... and the poems that I am more attached to.

Writing from experiences gives one's work more fullness.

As a person grows, his or her way of thinking will also grow. And maybe I also grew that way.

I believe, however, that it is the readers who should analyze the differences between the two book.

In what way is it similar?

There will surely be similarities in the way I write.

I have written on things like nature, old age and parents in my first book -- and these topics have found a place in the second book as well. I wrote about them from a different angle.

What will your next book be about?

I find pleasure in writing poetry and feel that it's the easiest medium for me to communicate. I will continue writing poems and, if possible, publish them .

As of now, I haven't started to think about my next book. If at all I am doing another book, it will surely be another collection of poems.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

At the age of 19, being recognized as a writer is an achievement. I consider this recognition a blessing and will try to live up to the responsibility. This is my first stepping stone. Quoting Frost, "Miles to go before I Sleep… Miles to go before I Sleep".

This article was first published by OhmyNews International.

Possibly related books:

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

[Interview] P. T. Harris

P. T. Harris is an MBA and Citizen’s Police Academy graduate.

Her books include the Detective Priscilla Taylor novels, ASSISTdead and REGRETdead. Currently, she is working on a third detective novel, DICTATEdead.

In this email interview, P. T. Harris talks about her concerns as a writer.

When did you start writing?

Like many, I wrote poems and short stories as a kid and I've always read voraciously, dreaming -- with each "The End" -- of someday penning my own stories.

Three years ago, after corporate America and I got sideways one too many times, I decided that my talent for "too long emails" might be better utilized. So, instead of crafting another resume, I began my Priscilla Taylor detective series.

How did you decide you wanted to be a published author?

The idea always burned in me, but the monthly nut called louder. When the epiphany hit that job security is an oxymoron and trying to fit into someone else's suit had worn me out, I did the most irresponsible of all things. I chose writing as a career. This, mind you, is not a sane decision, so perhaps I had progressed beyond "worn out..."

As an MBA with thirty years of corporate experience, I tackled the project as I would any new product launch.

I designed a product, my character, Priscilla Taylor. I decided on her "features and benefits." The spreadsheet began. Peripheral characters joined her on the sheet -- a partner, the M.E., the department shrink, a best friend. Never would I forget who had blue eyes or how tall I might have made them. She needed a "hook" so I developed one. Every title would end with "dead" in place of the "ed." With forty-plus Priscilla Taylor titles and corresponding mental issues on my spreadsheet, I began writing.

How would you describe your writing?

My genre is crime/detective, but I'm focused on the psychological aspects of crime; what I call "scintillating psychological suspense". I address the scientific aspects minimally -- you won't find a CSI type education in my work. Instead, I prefer to engage the audience in the why versus the how or who.

Do I want to make people think? I suppose to some degree I do. Not too much, though. My work is definitely entertainment, with maybe just a tad bit of thought-provoking thrown in.

Who is your target audience?

Anyone who loves to think, solve mysteries, root for a flawed character, revel in humanity's imperfections.

I couldn't write anything else. I love mysteries, law and order, crime, psychological thriller pieces. They've kept me company on countless flights and entertained me through many sun tanning summers.

What separates us from the rest of the species is our minds. Nothing could be more fascinating to me than stories which delve into our motivations, reactions, and their resultant outcomes.

Who influenced you most?

I'm a Kellerman fan, Jonathan and Faye. I love Patricia Cornwell, John Sandford, Richard North Patterson, David Baldacci, Robert K. Tannenbaum. Did I mention, I'm a law and order mystery buff?

I love the mind; how it works, the challenges it overcomes, the disastrous situations it (often) leads us into. It's the why, always the why that fascinates me.

If life had do-overs, I'd probably have chosen a career in psychiatry or law. Now, I fulfill both of those fantasies in my writing. I can play arm-chair psychologist or put away the bad guys with my keyboard.

As a writer, what are your main concerns?

Evoking emotion. Keeping the reader engaged. Not crossing the line between making them think and making them uncomfortable.

I write, with my voice, and accept the reality every author faces. Fiction is like food and everyone has different tastes. My work won't please every palate.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Eating. Paying the mortgage. I thought I understood the business end of writing; that I'd done my research like grad school taught me. I hadn't.

I didn't realize agents/publishers see 1.3 million submission annually for a publishing schedule of maybe 200,000 books. I didn't realize the average author makes about $4,000 a year, or that almost 80% of books sell less than a hundred copies.

I didn't realize that writing the book was the easy part. The true challenge is selling it.

Would that have changed my direction? No.

I've loved every minute of writing; every critique class that's made me go home and cry; every rejection letter I've received. Why? Because I love my work. I love when I get it right, love when I'm eating out and a couple walks in that I can't wait to write into a scene, love when I'm researching. I love the process. You can't write for wealth and fame. You have to write for your soul.

How many books have you written so far?

I've completed two novels, ASSISTdead and REGRETdead, both self-published in 2007 as ebooks.

ASSISTdead introduces Detective Priscilla Taylor, who takes every murder personally. As she struggles to find the killer, more than a few of her most private failures make front page headlines. Can she unravel the case before she unravels, or will she succumb to this most public psychic persecution?

In the sequel, REGRETdead, Detective Priscilla Taylor faces a case that won't go away, a case too vile for words, and a personal onslaught that just might destroy her as she addresses the toughest of questions: Everyone has regrets. What if yours killed?

Do you write everyday?

Lately, I haven't been writing, except in my head. I'm not suffering writer's block; in fact my notes list is growing daily. Other things have simply kept me from organizing all those notes.

One of the things I love about writing is I'm always working, whether it's while I'm pulling weeds or cleaning the bathroom. Some people use storyboards to capture their plot. I don't. I free-write sequentially. The notes I make help me throw in a unique character, some line I found funny or compelling, or toss in some fact I stumbled across.

I always carry a 3x5 notepad with me and jot down ideas as they come, then transfer them to a word document.

When I sit down to write, I review my notes list first, then reread the last couple of chapters to refresh myself on where I am in the storyline. The storyline itself has a begining and an end. The part in between? I rely on my characters to lead me there.

How did you chose a publisher for the books you've written so far?

I completed my first two books in about a year and a half. It was important to me, before I sought publication, that I proved I had more than one book in me.

Secondly, I thought demonstrating my ability to deliver more than one manuscript would make be more marketable. Once "The End" hit the page for REGRETdead, (after numerous editing and rewriting) I began the query letter process.

Six months later, I had 67 rejection letters, one agent who agreed to represent me, an "I really thought about it, but no," agent response, and a contract from a new publisher. The agent had a poor reputation and the new publisher wouldn't be able to deliver my book for two years.

The question had to be asked. Would that publisher survive two years? I researched self-publishing, and in the end, I chose ebooks. My capital outlay for the software was low and, no matter who published me, it would still be up to me to sell my work.

What advantages or disadvantages has this presented?

The challenges are many. Ebooks are in their infancy as far as acceptance, with a few major sites dominating ebook sales. A stand alone website in the Internet universe is tough to generate a presence for. Without a tangible product, readings don't result in sales.

The advantages? I set the sales price. This is the key reason I didn't go with another ebook site. I couldn't get my head around the idea that I, no-brand-name P. T. Harris, could sell tons of books at the same price or higher than say, Kellerman or Sandford.

Since most authors make little on the first couple of books, I sought to use the ebook format as a venue to build my own brand by delivering great fiction at just $3.99 per book. Then, two or three books later, my major publisher (she dreams) can reissue ASSISTdead and REGRETdead.

Time will tell whether the strategy pays off.

Like writing itself, success as an author seldom arrives in one moment. It's a series of moments that work toward the end result.

Which aspect of the work you put into REGRETdead did you find most difficult?

Editing! I hate the process, but it's necessary, and I use the following quote to remind me why: " "You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke" -- Arthur Polotnik.

Editing is boring, redundant, takes time away from creating new words, and never ending. I can't stop tweaking. Thank God! I'd probably edited REGRETdead five or six times before I realized a major plot gap. This is where free-writing can kill you.

Now, to make it easier, I edit as I go along. When I reread a chapter, I'm also editing. Second, I build the chapter by chapter synopsis as I go along. Some agents require them and it helps me keep the plot in line.

What did you enjoy most?

I love dialogue. In fact, writing description is work. (Maybe I should try screenplays?) I love humor, which can be dangerous, and I love inner thoughts.

I write first person and Priscilla is always in her head. Well, sometimes those thoughts that should remain unspoken pop out, but most of her sarcasm and distaste for others rambles in her brain while she smiles sweetly.

Again, it's the psychological aspects of human beings that I find fascinating -- their self-doubts, their humor, their concerns, their convictions. Dialogue and inner thoughts let me express those ideas.

What sets REGRETdead apart from other things you've written?

In the corporate world I wrote proposals and programs. In my youth I wrote about teenage angst. (Didn't most of us?)

Now, I've written two almost four hundred page novels.

The accomplishment of weaving together plotlines and characters and ideas, twice, is what sets these works apart.

In what way is it all similar?

Grammar counts. Punctuation counts (and, oh, do I struggle with commas -- like using them way too often.) Spelling counts. You need a beginning, middle and end.

You are trying to compel people to read on; you have to use "the word." You need continuity of thought, a logical progression, understandable and believable situations.

Anytime you put words to paper you are asking someone to accept your voice, whether it's a sales proposal, a love letter, or a fiction novel.

Honor your reader by presenting your absolute best.

What will your next book be about?

The third novel in my series, DICTATEdead, finds Detective Taylor facing the police chief's retribution for some of her questionable actions during REGRETdead.

Now, as punishment, the highly successful homicide detective isn't working a heinous murder; she's investigating a series of dummy dissections left in city parks. Under the guise of having an opportunity to stop a potential murderer, and with the Chief's nephew as her new partner, she again finds herself under the media's microscope. Can she figure out what rage drives her perpetrator before she faces an actual corpse, or will this case be the embarrassing end to her career?

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

I have a one minute monologue due for publication in an actor's handbook this fall, and a piece in an anthology that is still seeking a publisher, but my greatest achievement is that I have completed two novels.

Many start out with the same goal I did.

I actually achieved it.

This article was first published by OhmyNews International.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

[Interview] Geoff Nelder

Geoff Nelder has worked as a teacher, a freelance writer and a magazine editor.

His books include the novels, Escaping Reality (Brambling Books, 2005) and Hot Air, which is due to be published by a Dutch Arts academy in a few months' time.

An extract from his latest novel, Exit, Pursued by a Bee (Double Dragon Publishing, 2008) is available at New Writing International.

In this interview, Geoff Nelder talks about his concerns as a writer.

When did you start writing?

As a student, decades ago, I wrote articles for the college magazine, comedy sketches for end-of-term shows, and I edited a university rag magazine. From the latter I still discover my awful gags in rag mags on sale today!

How and why I decided [to write] are inseparable. I didn’t wait to be old to be fascinated by the meaning of life and its demise. Right or wrong, I’d decided there was no supreme supernatural being and hence no afterlife. This meant it was what we left behind that signified our lives after its end. Art is immortal. Writing is a form of art and since I’d discovered early that readers liked my work, then my stories would carry on being my spirit after I’d stopped living. The when for that non-religious epiphany was my teen years. Since then I learnt that the Earth is doomed to be swallowed by our sun in five billion years, give or take a week, and so my writing isn’t immortal after all.

To achieve my supposed immortality, I submitted short stories and non-fiction articles to student magazines and they published them. More non-fiction books followed after graduation, but my first fiction book had to wait because teaching took so much time.

How would you describe your writing?

The key word for my writing is humour, followed by science fiction, fantasy, thriller and horror depending on my mood.

Most of my short stories and the three novels are aimed at adult science fiction and fantasy readers. Although I enjoyed children’s novels as a child, my main reading and aspirations have always been for adult SF. I can blame my mother because she signed me up for the children’s science fiction book club when I was four! In the 50s most science fiction such as Arthur C. Clark, [John] Wyndham and [Isaac] Asimov had no rude words so I was allowed to read them, and I wanted to write rollicking amazing stories like them. I still do, but now with a sprinkling of rudeness.

Who would you say influenced you most?

Even though he doesn’t write science fiction, Tibor Fischer inspired me most to love words, play with them in our writing, and to be subtle with humour.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

I’ve not been captured by aliens but as said above my childhood was scifi driven. I cycle a lot and so I write cycling articles for cycling mags. My father has rib-tickling humour so I can accuse his influence on me to account for my hilarity in writing.

Do you write everyday?

I rise at 6.30 a.m. every day. Weekdays I push my wife out of the door to go and earn real money while I settle to respond to emails and knock out 1,000 fresh words on my novel in progress. I aim for 2,000 fresh words daily but rarely achieve it –- because I also have editing of other folk’s novel to do, write short stories and critique others’ novels and shorts in the two critique groups I belong to.

I am tempted to rent an office because working from home is distracting. There are always workmen to let in and make tea for, neighbours need parcels signed for because they know I am home, and if I look up from the computer I see the disorder and a twinge of conscience urges me to unchaos it. Nevertheless, it is a more productive space than a log cabin. I tried that but I could see Cadir Idris mountain out of the window and spent every dry day wandering over it.

How did you choose a publisher for your latest novel?

My latest book is Exit, Pursued by a Bee, a science fiction. It took a year to research and write. It is not technical in that non-scientists are enjoying it, but I had to revise my quantum mechanics to ensure the science wasn’t going to be laughed at by those knowing better. My first draft travelled through the British Science Fiction Association critique group so that several science writers and fiction editors had already lacerated it before I tried publishers.

A friend had had success with small press Double Dragon Publishing and after reading Exit urged me to submit it with her endorsement. Perhaps I should have tried a mainstream publisher first, but I admire the pluck of small press and I liked the authors already there. Piers Anthonyspeaks highly of DDP so in I went.

I have been working as an editor for another small press, Adventure Books of Seattle, and knew Exit could be published there but it would feel rather like vanity press to have my book published and promoted by a company I was embedded within so closely. Nevertheless, that might be an option for Left Luggage if no mainstream picks it up.

What advantage or disadvantage has this presented?

The main disadvantage of using DDP is the lack of resources for promotion. It isn’t vanity press and we receive royalties, but the author is expected to do virtually all the selling and submitting to competitions and award bodies.

Also, DDP bring the book out as an ebook for the first year. Yes, it is at Lulu, too, but too costly to be able to print in bulk and sell to bookshops at a profit. If sufficient ebooks are sold then DDP will bring it out as a trade paperback and then bulk copies can go to stores.

The advantage of being published by DDP is the esprit de corps of the writers and editors. We have a closed forum and exchange ideas for promotion and skills such as making video trailers and audio books of our novels.

Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult?

I find promotion the most difficult.

I have always found selling something out of character for me. With a small press, the author has to inhabit forums, which can be fun but [is] time-consuming and even then only a handful will buy your books. I find it is humiliating being turned away by the buyers of the big chain bookstores. Some, like Borders, do take my books but they only sell at a price which undercuts my wholesale price. This is only sustainable as a promotion for the short term.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

The research, writing and editing is enormously pleasurable even though hard. It is artistically and intellectually satisfying to create new ideas and draw gasps from readers.

What sets the book apart from other things you have written?

I invent a novel method of communication using time, that I’ve not seen anywhere else. Aliens (spheres that may be artefacts) don’t invade Earth, they leave it after being here before humans happened. When the aliens leave they depart at a very slow speed. In other stories of mine and other writers, communication is usually by radio, aliens come to Earth, and their spaceships zoom away at vast speeds.

I tried to use less humour by not using quips and cutting hilarious situations. Nevertheless, readers say they find themselves laughing out loud in places. Doh.

In what way is it similar?

The protagonist is a feisty woman -- as she is in my Hot Air thriller (to be published later 2008 or 2009 by a Dutch Arts academy).

What will your next book be about?

Xaghra’s Revengeis a magic realism fantasy based on the mass abduction of the population of Gozo in 1551. Those poor souls cry out for revenge, and I’m giving them their chance.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My main concern is that writing, even commercial non-fiction, doesn’t pay enough to stop my wife being unconvinced that standing at the window, staring, is work. I deal with it by selling my editing services. Apparently I have skills as a content editor/critiquer especially for beginners’ novels. I can see where 2D characters can become 3D, turn around dead-end plots, convert Tell to Show and for that I am paid.

The other main concern is that I am not famous. I neglected to be born into a publishing or published family, forgot to marry a millionaires, and have yet to carry out a plot to kidnap someone else who is famous.

The solution is to keep plugging away, continue to improve my writing and submit, submit, submit.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

For the last six months my biggest challenge has been to persuade a wise mainstream publisher to accept my science fiction trilogy, Left Luggage, which has an original premise. I have a U.S. agent for it and he is correctly submitting my oeuvre to only three publishers at a time.

I might need that immortality before an acquisition editor sees the commercial and artistic merit in Left Luggage. There are a couple of small press I could go with, and I might do anyway, but although they are terrific –- the writers’ friends -- it would be the promotion costs that would be lacking, resulting in low volume sales. To deal with this I write short stories to get my name in magazines and ezines; I belong to the British Science Fiction Association critique group to gain experience and their skills. I write short novels for small press and grab the attention of famous authors to endorse them.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

I am most proud of not so much a writing publication but of pulling together a large group of writers into a support group.

We had been duped by a sham literary agent in 2006. Most had been convinced they were within weeks of securing a five-figure advance from a major publisher. A couple of us discovered that our publisher’s reports were identical and that the publisher had not received our books.

The debacle devastated many of the writers. Many became ill, or gave up writing altogether. One, who has since died, even moved continents on the news that his advance was about to be paid to him. I researched and brought most of the former clients of Hill & Hill Literary Agency into a forum where we used our multifarious talents to support each other, report on other agents and publishers and read each others' work. Many of us have achieved publication since. The forum, two years on, is still strong and there is a strong comradeship and warmth in there.

This article was first published by OhmyNews International.

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