Interview with Cole Rautenbach

Describe your desk
My desk resembles an old-style school desk, with a slanted top that opens up, and even a circular cut-out where my ink pot is supposed to go (although that's where I hide all of my laptop cabling). My desk also has 2 shelves attached to it where I keep my writing reference books and my binder. That binder keeps me productive - if I don't write, I have nothing to bind ;)
When did you first start writing?
I first started "writing" when I was about four years old. Since I was teaching myself the mechanics of writing, I wrote everything in capital letters, and because I had no idea that I should just separate words with spaces, I drew forward slashes between the words to indicate spaces. Crafty.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Busy as I am, I try to glean inspiration from Chuck Wendig's blog at terribleminds.com. In January 2014, he had a flash fiction challenge that consisted of rolling the dice (or a random number generator) on two columns of words to make up the title of a new flash fiction story. I rolled a 12 and 11 and got "Jackdaw's Birdhouse". I allowed the ideas to simmer for a while and decided to start writing in February. The flash fiction (500 to 1,000 words) got left behind when my micro-novella reached 6,000 words, and when I'd been through three drafts, beta reader reviews, and a final draft, it ended up on the 7,650-word "The Jackdaw Birdhouse" you see today.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I don't want to be limited by what I am and am not allowed to publish. For the time being, I want to control the process and the content I choose to put out there. I want to know how to do it - I have the kind of curiosity that always ensures the cat is dead, dead, dead. I would also like to connect directly with my readers so that if/when I eventually do get published, that reader base is already there, and isn't determined by the publisher. But yes, I'm a control freak, so that's the over-arching motivation.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Can I answer this in a few months' time? ;)
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Giving life to the imagination, which is unlimited in its capacity for creativity. The Internet has given us infinite content to consume, and it's easy to be consumers; to read stories, to look at pictures, to watch videos, etc. It's not to so easy to be creators, especially of discerning quality content. I accept that challenge and it gives me immense pleasure to create worlds, lives, situations, and to bring the chaos and then the resolution to those worlds, lives, and situations. Out of all of this, taking what's in my imagination and installing it into someone else's, and thereby bringing them joy or any form of thought-provocation is my ultimate goal. If I can achieve this, then I'm at my happiest.
What are you working on next?
Not being a one-genre kind of writer, my next project is a funny, sexy story with which I'm hoping to find the holy grail of humour in writing. After that, I've got a psychological thriller series lined up. New characters continue to knock on the door of my creativity asking if they can be part of that series. How can I say no? As the plotting goes, I have four books planned for that series already. And hopefully somewhere in between all of this long fiction, I will bring out an anthology of shorter stories collected from the last 10 years of writing.
Who are your favorite authors?
Margaret Atwood, Paul Auster, Martin Amis (ooh, look at all those "A" surnames...). Um, Patrick McCabe (GREAT Irish writer), CS Lewis, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Lauren Beukes and Sarah Lotz (two brilliant South African writers), Deon Meyer and John van der Ruit (the author of the "Spud" series - also from my country), Faulkner, Miller, Melville, Sue Townsend... shall I continue?

I'll throw Chaucer in here for good measure - the master of narrative orders of discourse... even if it was the 1400's.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm a fairly good artist. I paint for myself, but do commissioned work when people ask me for it (which has been with a modest regularity in the last couple of years). I took piano lessons when I was young, then very stupidly stopped for a few years after high school. I picked it up again recently. Music is my meditation - I can play for three hours and it will only feel like half an hour. My blog represents this trifecta: words, pictures, and music.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
It wasn't my first story, but the most impactful book I read in my early teens was Ken Follet's "The Pillars of the Earth". It's more than 1000 pages long, but it took me about four days to get through because I just couldn't put it down. For MONTHS afterwards I dreamed about living during the medieval times; had the clearest dreams of cathedrals and decapitations (I know, right); and remember making the concrete decision that I wanted to be THAT writer whose work had such enduring impact on the minds of readers.
What is your writing process?
I am half plotter, half pantser. I use a sketchy combination of Dan Harmon's plotting circle and James Scott Bell's LOCK technique to frame my plots in major detail before sitting down to write. However, if my characters decide they'd rather go off on a different tangent, I won't try to force them to fit the mould I've set. At the first sign of deviation, I'll stop, adjust my plot to include their meanderings, then continue.

In brief, it's draft 1 > wait a few weeks (write something else in the meantime > draft 2 > beta reader critique and input > draft 3 > wait a few more weeks > edit, edit, edit > draft 4, etc. It's difficult to tell when a story is finished... it tells me when it's ready. I'm just the writer...
Published 2014-06-22.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.