Interview with Clive Gilson

What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest published book is Acts of Faith, which came out electronically at the end of 2012 and in print this summer (2013).

The story is based on a number of memoirs from the eighties - namely those of people like Tom Sutherland, Terry Anderson, John McCarthy and Brian Keenan. Lebanon and the Middle-East in general are fascinating areas of study and in reading both memoirs and journalism by writers such as Con Coughlan and Robert Fisk, I remember sitting in bed with my late wife, Karen, one morning discussing the nature of any human reaction under the circumstances that people lived in and died in in such times and places. I asked her a simple question - would we be any different if we faced the same hardships and dispossession?

And that was the germ of an alternative history where the oil rich Middle Eastern states are what we in the West like to think of as the developed world and poor Northern Europe is the fundamentalist basket case. The story is written as a memoir by a twenty-something Lebanese man who comes to war-torn England as an aid worker... and that's it for now - if you want to know more the eBook is on Smashwords and, even better, is free, so download and read Marwan's story :)
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
As a family we moved around quite a bit when I was young. If memory serves I think we moved about seven times by the time I was twenty (although I'd left for college at eighteen - another move, of course). I guess the key things that I learned then were things like self-reliance and the art of making a life in ever-changing circumstances, all of which have stayed with me throughout my adult life.

As far as influences on my writing are concerned I think this is reflected in the independence of thought and the range of subject areas that I have covered. I don't like to be pigeon-holed or tied down to one particular genre or area of story-telling. You could say that I'm "bloody-minded" about it at times, but the variety keeps me interested and motivated. That said, of course, the very fact that I range over different areas and topics sometimes mean that maybe I miss a trick in establishing a stable audience.
When did you first start writing?
I can remember exactly. Age eleven. Our English teacher at school, one Bruce Ritchie, entered the class into a national competition run by The Daily Mirror here in the UK. I'd been lucky enough to accompany my Dad on a cricket tour to Canada that summer and wrote a long poem about Niagara Falls and The Maid of the Mist, which was commended and included in an anthology.

I'd always loved story-telling, especially during the Monday essay - "What I did at the weekend...". I remember a couple of those stories - going sailing and bumping into a submarine, for example, none of which were ever true but my elementary teachers seemed happy that I was imaginative. Anyway, after the competition entry that was it. I got the bug and, with varying degrees of success and skill, have kept at it ever since, although for many years it was a private, even clandestine, hobby rather than something public... but the advent of opportunity through self-publishing is another story entirely.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
The usual...

As I said in an earlier question I've written all my adult life, working as a journalist at times and as an editor and contributor to magazines, but even with that background and with some good contacts in the industry, getting fiction onto a publisher's radar is still difficult. Added to that is the fact that for some years I entered national and international poetry competitions and was regularly short-listed and anthologized, but always somewhere along the line the fiction break never came. So, a few years ago, emerging from one of those black moods caused by the growing pile of rejection letters, I decided to investigate self-publishing.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Seeing where the story goes.

Obviously I plan and story-board but I love the fact that characters take on their own lives and personalities as you unfold the layers and as situations develop. In my first novel, Songs of Bliss, I was pretty strict with the story-board concept, almost making it filmic in the development of acts and scenes. With Acts of Faith I felt much more free to let the story develop organically, and I think that sense of enjoyment shows in the story-telling.

There is also, of course, that sense of satisfaction that you feel when you put the last full-stop on the first draft. That is a real sense of accomplishment, although the feeling tends to be short-lived once your editor starts passing comments back and you're into the seemingly endless rounds of editing, proofing and re-writing...
What are you working on next?
Right now I'm caught between a rock and a hard place...

Basically, I bought a 200 year old cottage about a year ago and its turned into a real gut-job. Pretty much all of my spare time has been taken up with knocking out walls, re-wiring, painting, plastering etc. Added to that is the jungle of a garden that I'm wading through this late summer in 2013 because of the DIY induced neglect shown earlier in the year.

That said, though, I have written the opening sequences to Arkland and to Cry Havoc and I hope to get into the detail in the next few weeks and months. Arkland is, I guess, science fiction in that it is set in a post global warming England, where what is left of the island after 30m sea rise and climate change is one of James Lovelock's proposed arks - that is a relatively stable eco-system capable of sustaining more than basic life.

The story is in early development, and is based around a love story between a citizen militia border guard and a refugee. There will be a number of sub-plots and themes around survival, about how society might have to function and similar. To put it in context I visited Berlin earlier in the year and the history and story of the Stasi prison in Hohenschonhausen has made a very deep impression on Arkland.

Of course there's always the shorts. I just love short stories so you can expect to see new stories on Smashwords as free downloads before they get collected into a full blown print / eBook title.
Who are your favorite authors?
An impossible question to answer...

Angela Carter, Thomas Hardy, Clifford D Simak, Iain Banks Neil Gaiman, Colin Dexter, Elmore Leonard, Terry Pratchett, Leo Tolstoy, Cormac McCarthy...

...and that's just on one shelf of one book case in my study...
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
The main thing is that Smashwords make it easy; easy to publish, easy to aggregate distribution across some of the biggest networks and channels, and easy to find friends and readers. I love the simplicity of the site and the fact that I can build presence by making offers to readers and so on.

I use a number of other distributors as well, but I have to say that Smashwords is the easiest service to navigate and, to date, has been the largest source of direct downloads and distribution. In the ten months since I started putting up short-stories and new work for free I've had over 10,000 downloads and something like 50% are direct from Smashwords readers.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Family life is, of course, an ever present activity, but beyond that I spend a little "Lovejoy" time trawling auctions for beat up old furniture that I can restore until the dark nights draw in and it's time to go down to the pub. That about sums it up. Partner, kids, aging parents, dogs, French Polish and wine.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
More of an occupational habit. I'm always hunting out sites and services for my own stuff and as a consequence I come across all sorts of things written by some really great independents as well as established writers.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes - it was a "discovered" cache of letters written by King Arthur in contemporary London following a botched experiment by Merlin. I don't have a copy. It was terrible...
Published 2015-12-27.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

In Full Flow
Price: $1.00 USD. Words: 47,060. Language: Commonwealth English. Published: October 8, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author, Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories
Clive Gilson's stories reverberate in the mind, long after they've been read. They connect us in their telling, because we relate to these deep, dark moments of human emotion that make us who we are.
In For A Pound
Price: $1.00 USD. Words: 59,910. Language: English. Published: December 27, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories
This new edition collected together for the first time contains a new selection of Clive Gilson's award winning short stories. Clive's stories mix a love of traditional storytelling with magical realism. There's a lot of reality here, good and bad, but you're never going to be far away from the odd, the horrific and the mysterious...
In For A Penny
Price: $1.00 USD. Words: 68,160. Language: English. Published: December 27, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories
This new edition collected together for the first time contains seventeen of Clive Gilson's award winning short stories. Clive's stories mix a love of traditional storytelling with magical realism. There's a lot of reality here, good and bad, but you're never going to be far away from the odd, the horrific and the mysterious...
Acts of Faith
Price: $1.00 USD. Words: 105,890. Language: English. Published: September 7, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller, Fiction » Alternative history
Acts of Faith is a full length novel - the first story in a new series called Cry 'Freedom' by author Clive Gilson. The European Renaissance never happened. The Ottomans were not stopped at the gates of Vienna. Ferdinand and Isabella failed in their attempt to defeat the Moors. Imagine a world turned upside down.
The Incredible Shrinking Bogey Bear
Price: $1.00 USD. Words: 7,370. Language: English. Published: April 3, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction, Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
When Mrs McGonagall collapses with the biggest nose bleed in the world, inventor Dad & his daughter, Morgan, have to come up with a plan. Dad miniaturizes Morgan's cyber teddy bear, Bogey, pops him in a techno-suit, & programs him so he can wield a laser glue gun. Inserted in Mrs M's nose Bogey has just 5 minutes to fix the nose bleed before he reverts to normal size & explodes Mrs M's Head.
Into the Walled Garden
Price: $1.00 USD. Words: 71,320. Language: English. Published: July 13, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Poetry - single author, Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
This book contains 10 years worth of prize winning poetry…10 years worth of work both published and unpublished, collected together for the very first time (warts and all).
Songs of Bliss
Price: $1.00 USD. Words: 123,570. Language: English. Published: June 24, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Hard-Boiled, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller
Just how far will a father go to protect his daughter, especially when his 'protection' is so fundamentally flawed?