I wrote letters to my mother while I was at college, but a once a week habit became once a month as my studies grew; eventually it became half term only as I returned home at the end of each term. My first attempt at writing a short story began for all the wrong reasons. I was away in Belgium on a contract. I was alone in a small bedsit. I was writing to preserve my sanity. A writer needs the desire to write about a subject they believe in. I was writing about whatever came into my mind. It was emotional rubbish but it achieved its objective; sanity was preserved.
What's the story behind your latest book?
At the great risk of annoying religious people, I look at what I might believe to be the philosophy of life. Reincarnation is a subject that fascinates me. I am a lapsed Christian. I was educated by both Roman Catholic and Church of England faiths. I do believe in God; however, I do not believe in all that is written in the Bible. There is too much vanity written in the laws.
I don't believe you can blame God for everything. If I was God then the first thing I would do is to delegate the task of maintaining the Earth; and so, I have proposed that Gaia is the soul of the Earth and it is her responsibility to look after herself.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
It took me two years to write my first book. I submitted it to the traditional literary agents but there are few in the genre of Science Fiction and Fantasy. I gave them six months to pick up my offerings. Perhaps I was too impatient?
Having finished the first draft of my second book, I felt it was time for me to look at electronic publishing.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
The Style Guide was very useful. I have read the guide end-to-end at least twice, but, some things take a long time to sink in. The Marketing Guide was informative. This interview is a valuable addition to my profile.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I guess that comes when I am finished. There are many highs at the end of each section and I get a great deal of pleasure from describing an emotional scene. It is particularly satisfying when someone else gets the feelings that I intended.
What do your fans mean to you?
Everything. I cannot expect to please them all, but I will do my best to listen to them.
What are you working on next?
The next book "Athena's Table" will show Samantha Merlin setting up a new home in Cartagena in Spain. Will this be her dream home or is it Athena's Fortress?
Who are your favorite authors?
As a child, my favourite author was Dennis Wheatley especially the ‘Duke de Richleau’ Satanist series (The devil rides out’, ‘The Satanist’, ‘To the devil, a daughter’ and 'They used Dark Forces').
While at college, I read Tolkien, 'The Lord of the Rings'. I moved on to Ursula K. Le Guin; my favourite was 'Left hand of Darkness'. I loved her concept of ‘Kemmer’. It was so exciting to see a possible future for mankind. I liked Robert Hienlien, especially 'Stranger in a strange land' and 'I will fear no evil'. I was going through a ‘body changing technology’ phase and eventually moved on to Charles Sheffield’s Proteus series.
I am a fan of J.K.Rowling and the Harry Potter series. I loved the TV series True Blood but I am yet to read the 'Suzie Stackhouse Mysteries' by Charlaine Harris.
The last book I read was 'Fifty Shades of Grey' by E.L.James.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My writing is top of the list with music and TV a close second. I usually know what I want to do for the next day and sometimes well beyond that. Staying in bed was never an attraction for me.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
For the most part, I watch TV. I like 'people studies' like Big Brother, but, I would never go on the show. I like Star Trek particularly 'the next generation'. I loved 'True Blood' which is an adaptation of the stories about 'Suzy Stackhouse' by Charlaine Harris. I try to spend some time with my family making a point of turning off my laptop at 9pm. I am an early-bird so I am usually in bed by midnight.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
1. emails from author subscriptions. 2. suggestions from GoodReads based on my reading list.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
My school class was challenged to write an essay about a major event in our lives; it was supposed to be anonymous. My essay was read out last and declared the winner. I never did believe that the teacher did not recognize the handwriting. My essay was about the day my first, and only, sister died in a cot-death. I expressed my emotions through the frost patterns written on the window.
What is your writing process?
I start with an idea and then list everything I know about that idea. I try to define the birth and death of that idea; if I can see lots of little steps between the two events then I know the idea is viable. This string of steps is the backbone of the book and of each individual chapter. Each character has a diary and, in the magic world, a list of changes.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I didn't learn to read until I was seven years old. I was deemed to be a late reader. Like most people I read Enid Blyton, but that was under duress at school. I had no real interest in reading. My first serious read was 'Le Morte D'Arthur' better known as 'King Arthur and the Knights of the round table'. It was given to me by my grandmother; perhaps that was the incentive to read it. I was initially attracted to the character Merlin and the possibilities of magic. I found my empathy drifting towards 'Morgana le Fey'.
How do you approach cover design?
This was a nightmare for me. A book is judged by its cover.
I wasn't confident that I could describe to a third party what I wanted on the cover and I was almost certain that I would end up changing it; so I decided to do it myself. I use 'DAZ 3D' to compose my 3D scenes that are eventually saved in 2D. ‘DAZ Studio’ is free but you do have to pay for the characters and clothing. I use Gimp to add the Title to the final 2D image. Gimp is another free product with a large user community.
I try to choose scenes with blank areas to the top and bottom of the scene. I like to put the title at the top and the author name at the bottom.
I try to choose an image that represents the story content. I will keep drafting images until the killer emerges. I can spend several weeks on a single cover.
What do you read for pleasure?
I prefer novels that look to the future. I like the 'Fantasy' genre because I like to see how other authors have tackled the 'what if ....?' scenario. I like to see people expand ideas in new situations. I read a lot of 'Erotica' based on transgender scenarios. I am particularly interested in how people are treated in these difficult situations where the average person is totally ignorant or less than considerate.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Adobe Digital Editions.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Ah, the publishing question. I have tried Facebook 'boost' which looks very expensive to reach a small market. I have tried to make announcements on GoodReads, usually in the wrong place and got flamed.
I am currently trying to use Hootsuite with Twitter to reach people I know are interested in Science Fiction or Fantasy. It is a long haul to build the relevant fan base. Trying to make announcements at the right time is critical.
Describe your desk
It’s an organized mess. Bottom right is my laptop. Top right is usually clear so that I can look over my laptop straight at my 32" TV which is on for the greater part of the day. If I am writing an intense scene with a rapid flow of words, the TV is turned off. Back to my desk, bottom left is a large pile of papers, bank and utility statements and so forth; it is usually archived every 6 months. Top left is a pile of documents that I like to keep handy.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a small village near Bath in the west country of England. My parents had a camper van and we did a lot of travelling. Both my parents were born in the Home Counties near London. They considered themselves to be townies and preferred village life in the countryside. I was more attracted to the nightlife in Bath and took every opportunity to escape on the local bus.
I went to college in the North of England where I spent 8 years in a town steeped in the traditions of the Steel and Chemical industries. Life was good in the pubs and clubs with plentiful talents in country, folk and jazz music. I kept short notes about the best events but still hadn’t been bitten by the writing bug.
Do you work with any other authors?
Yes. I became a fan of one author who had been frequently criticised for typos and wrong words. I discovered that English is not her first language and that she dictated her work. I offered to provide a basic editing service, free of charge, as I am convinced that her books will eventually reach film status. I have been improving my own skills by studying her technique.
What are you future plans?
I am working very closely with “Honeysuckle Pear”. Honey will take her books, ”The Science of Magic” and “New Horizons”, back to the Erotica genre. Honey will stay with the Erotica genre for the foreseeable future.
I will take her book “Merlin’s First Millennia” and reissue it as several novelettes suitable for a general audience in the Fantasy adventure and romance genres.
What can you say about your next book?
I am an author writing ‘Fantasy’ novels for a general audience. I am not a person who habitually swears and so my characters will only use profanities in extreme states or where it is expected of the character.
I write stories that are set in the world of “real magic”. Imagine just how you would feel if you suddenly became caught up in a spell. Of course, it depends on the type of spell and where you are. They say it is a fine line between genius and insanity; a similar distinction can be made about your feelings for magic. At what point does curiosity overcome your fear? Just like any science, real magic has its limitations. These limitations lead to frustration, desperation and death; none can cheat death.
How do you react to criticism?
I think I have a thick skin.
The worst situation is getting no feedback at all. You just don't know if your book is reaching its target audience. You blame yourself for the failure in the publishing. Bad book? Bad cover? Bad advertising? You just don't know, and it's easy to get depressed.
It's a luxury if you can ignore the worst destructive criticism because that is what you should do. It's just too easy for your critics to be totally destructive and say you’re talentless and your books are crap. If there is no explanation as to how you can improve then ignore it. Do what I have done and change from 'I' to 'you'. It helps to step back and visualise yourself talking to a student. Now look at the problem again. Is there any truth in that criticism?
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