Interview with M.E. Austin

Who are your favorite authors?
I love lots of authors. Donna Tartt, Paul Theroux, C.S. Lewis, Audrey Niffenegger, Marisha Pessl, Scarlett Thomas, Charles Dickens, I could go on and on and on but I won't.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My writing mostly. I don't have much else going on right now and I've never been much good at getting up in the morning.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I like to read (well, I love it actually when I can find something good.) I like to watch TV, movies, listen to music. You know, all the usual stuff.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Mostly I find out about them through Twitter and on Amazon's recommendations.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, it was a great long thing about a country that was all dried out because they had no rain, and they kept having earthquakes but they couldn't work out why. That was as far as I got with that one.
What is your writing process?
I don't know really, I have a lot of ideas - usually in little bits and bites - and then, from there, I just sort of think suddenly "Oh that might be quite good for something". Then I have the longer thinking out process of "How is this going to work". Then, when I've got that straight in my head, I write it.

It doesn't always go like that, sometimes it will get a bit muddled. But, ideally, I find it's best to be logical and plot things out in a methodical way.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don't know about the first story I "read" because I'm pretty sure I was looking at books from a really early age (before I could read). I remember I had Ladybird books with little children's stories, and the Mr Men books. But I also had The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which I remember I absolutely loved. Not sure if that made an impact on me though, I don't think it did.

Later on I had Enid Blyton, Judy Blume etc.

The first book that I remember making an impact on me though was Oscar Wilde's "The Happy Prince and Other Stories". It made me cry so much that my mum took the book away from me. I was about seven or eight I think.
How do you approach cover design?
I do it myself, which I'm not sure is altogether wise but it's what I prefer. Book covers are important not just because they draw people to the book but because they are supposed to represent what the book is about. Covers that are misleading or wildly opposed to the book content often just lead to reader disappointment and I suppose I just figured that no one knows better what my book is about than me. Professional designers would come up with something that was technically great I'm sure, but not necessarily personalized. I don't know, I don't think I'm a bad artist really, who knows?
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Donna Tartt's "The Secret History" because I read it when I was 14 and immediately became captivated by the world of it; the graniosity of academia and the F.Scott Fitzgerald-like atmosphere of it. It's very evocative.

Mikhail Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita" just because it's so strange and compelling, and so rich in it's detail and characters.

Susanna Clarke's "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" because I was totally wowed by the scope and maturity of it.

Michel Faber's "The Crimson Petal and the White" because Sugar is just a completely excellent character and it has an almost Dickens-like breadth and pace to it.

and finally . . .

"Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll, if only because I can relate so many things in my life to it, as I believe most people can.
What do you read for pleasure?
Everything. I'll try anything once - like some people are with food - but I often skim things if I'm bored.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Kindle, I don't really use anything else.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I mainly use Twitter and Facebook, but I have a website as well and a page with the Independent Author Network.
Describe your desk
Messy but not to the point where I can't see the top of it any more. It's mostly covered in wires from my computer and other gadgetry.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Leicester, in the UK, which is a pretty industrial, working-class place. I don't know how far this has influenced me but I think a lot of my characters have a tinge of the people I grew up around, ways of speaking, typical behaviours, words and phrases that they use etc. I don't put much of the place in anything I write because I don't see much that is special about it.
When did you first start writing?
When I was a child, I can't remember what age exactly. I never took it seriously as a small child, I just used to copy things out of books or make up things based on what someone told me to write (you know that thing where your teacher tells you to write a story about a tree, so you do). I actually never thought I could write with any flair until I was about 12 and my English teacher told me he thought one of my poems was good. I'd spent so little time and effort writing it (it had just been so easy) that it gave me confidence in myself. I thought I must be quite good at it after all.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I didn't know much about getting published and really I just wanted to write what I write and put it out there without being told too much about what other people thought of it. It wasn't really about making money so I didn't mind if people gave me criticism or just didn't like it. But I'd just come out of a PhD (which I left under something of a cloud) and I was fed up of being told by serious editor people that they thought what I wrote was rubbish and the indie world of publishing just seemed like a nice place to be left alone to get on with it. I think in the end, with fiction, you have to let the readers decide what they like. If they don't like me then they don't, but I think some of them will.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I like to get lost in it. That's all really. When it's good it's really good. You know.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on the sequel to a fantasy novel that I wrote called "Jewel". It's slow going at the moment but it'll hopefully be done some time next year. I'm also working on some more short stories. I have a collection called "Oddities" on Amazon and I've released some of the stories from that as Kindle singles.
Published 2013-11-23.
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