Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I think it was a Star Trek comic book. It didn't have any real impact on me because I hated reading at that stage, even comics. My mother had to force it on me. Half-hour each day. I can't thank her enough for it now.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I don't really have any favorites - each novel I read hits me differently. I do have a few favorite authors, though: Dean Koontz, HG Wells, JK Rowling, anything written by Dan Brown (Angels & Demons is by far my favorite,) and Stephen King. Oh, and Tolkien. Can't forget him. I try to read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy at least once a year. I do the same thing with The Great Gatsby, which is weird because I hated it when I was a kid. Probably because I didn't understand half of it.
How do you approach cover design?
You have to go professional. No other way around it. I approached a guy named Gerhard Van Rooyen (introduced to me by a family member,) of Spheratical Productions in Pretoria. We discussed Charlotte's Mist and what I wanted in the cover, and it took all of five minutes to realize that I wasn't going to get any of it. My job is writing - giving the reader a sensory experience through nothing but words. Gerhard's job is visual output. He knows what to look for, what to stay clear of, and - most importantly - what people respond to. He did a great job. I think it's amazing.
Invest in a good cover. It pays off quite well in the end.
What do you read for pleasure?
A lot of fiction. Horrors and thrillers, mostly, but I do like to lean into some fantasy from time to time. I don't really care about genre - if the story is good, then it really doesn't matter. People still refer to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series as Children's Books, but I really don't see it. I just see a good read, a grand imagination, and the absence of disappointment. She just has a gift.
I don't like Romance, though. Just like to get that clear.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My phone. I have an e-reader app on it and it works quite well. I still prefer print to e-book, though. It's a great thing to have, yes - it's certainly kept the boredom of queues and waiting-rooms at a minimum, for the most part - but I don't think it will ever compare to the pleasant sensation of actually turning a page, or that fresh, new-book smell they have. The feel of them is good, too. I know they're on their way out, of course, but I do hope they stick around a little longer.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Word of mouth, mostly. Social media doesn't hurt, either.
Describe your desk
A three-draw, yellow-wood special. Good height and sturdy. Oh, and there's a laptop on it.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Vryheid, South Africa, and stayed there until I was six. We then moved to a small town called Ellisras ('Lephalale' now, and not at all small anymore,) and that's where I stayed until I was eighteen. I can't really say I was influenced by it at all. I dabbled in writing every now and then while I was there, but it never took off until later.
When did you first start writing?
I didn't really get serious about it until a few years ago. I wrote my first short story, The Ledge, while working in South Dakota. The story wasn't all bad, but my writing was terrible; the pace was uneven, my characters weren't believable, and my paragraphs were like Japanese puzzle boxes - I couldn't figure out what I was trying to convey at all. I wrote a few more of them before Charlotte's Mist came along. They certainly helped; I think Charlotte's Mist would have been 'Charlotte's Miss' if I hadn't. Writing takes time, practice, and patience (the last one being the most frustrating for me,) and you can't hope to write a good story until you have all three. Reading is just as essential, I've found out; I'd almost go as far as to say that you need to read at least twenty-thousand good words before you are able to write two-thousand decent ones. That's been my experience so far.
What is your writing process?
I start by reading for at least an hour. It helps with the inspiration, yes, but I mainly do it to relax my thoughts. They can get quite rowdy and wild sometimes, and reading helps to quiet them down a bit. Then I go to my desk and get to it. I'm not really bothered about how much time I spend there (it really flies by!) but I do try to get at least ten to fifteen pages done before I close up shop. Any less than that, and I tend to get irritated with myself. Any more, and it seems like I'm wasting my time; you can't write anything good if writing is all you're doing. You have to follow the story and let your characters do their own thing. I've found that that's how the story gets written in the end; it talks to you, not the other way around.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Charlotte's Mist follows a man called Dillon Wyatt, an experienced cook who made a bad choice just after high school. He's been drifting from odd job to odd job ever since. Fifteen years later, he receives news that his mother has passed away. He stumbles into the town of Charlotte on his way to her funeral. He can't get out, though; there is a dense mist that surrounds the town, cutting off all roads leading to it and blocking out the sun. The town's main street is lined with abandoned vehicles and there are no people to found. But there is something there. Something that wants him to stay. And through the events that follow, Dillon finds himself finally confronted by the bad decision he made so many years ago.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Honestly, just the fact that I get to do what I love everyday. It's hard work sometimes - that blank page can be quite scary - but it's worth it.
What do your fans mean to you?
Everything. You don't write a story for someone else, in my opinion (you're just wasting you're time if you do,) but you want your readers to be happy with what you produce. They are your very lifeblood, and I will always be grateful to each and every person who has bought a work of mine.
What are you working on next?
I never talk about my future projects. I don't think it's wise for any writer (especially us aspiring ones,) to do that; firstly, because there is a touch of doubt in response. "You're writing a novel? Wow!" they might say, but what they're actually thinking is "seriously?" Also, for those that are really excited, a novel isn't a quick thing. You tell them what you're up to, they get excited, and both of you end up frustrated by the weeks and months that follow. It's really not a good idea.
All I will say is that I'm just coming up to the first hundred pages in my new novel. I like what's happening so far.
Who are your favorite authors?
It's a mix, really. H.G. Wells is in there. Dan Brown, Steven King, as well. Very near the top has to be J.R.R Tolkien - that man was a genius! Alan Moore is another favorite, if not for his novels then definitely for his characters. John Constantine is my favorite by far.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The hope that, one day, writing will be sole focus. I'd like that.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Spending time with friends and family. And playing guitar.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Usually by word of mouth. I'm not really taken by advertising that much, and there are so many writers that I follow its hard to find fresh ones. But I always try my best to at least investigate even a small suggestion from a friend or family member. Basically, I don't have time to fish around on the internet these days. The best stories are still putting their weight on wooden shelves that make up the libraries off the world.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Of course. It's called 'The Ledge', and it really was a good lesson in the beginning (mostly on what NOT to do.)
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I wasn't really bothered by the status. It all comes down to the same thing in the end, doesn't it? I wanted to be an Author. I have a few tales to tell and I would like people to read them. Whether it's self-published or traditionally printed, it doesn't matter. That's the delivery system, not the story.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
By making it the easiest way to get my book published on most platforms. The style guide is the best thing about it; you want to deliver a good, professional looking novel, and Smashwords makes the step-by-step process a breeze. Plus - where else will you get an ISBN for FREE? I couldn't ask for better. Mark Coker and Smashwords really make it so easy.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.