Interview with Paul Du Preez

Published 2020-09-10.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
A few things.
At the top of the list, I’m not a genre writer. Not really. I write about things in ways that defy commercial expectations of how these subjects should be treated. Off-beat, I suppose. I don’t do it to as a grand-standing kind of thing – to get attention – but because I feel I have go beyond the stereotypes of ‘correct’ attitudes: I’ve lived through too much, seen too much to accept or give pat answers.
So, being an indie gives me the freedom to say what I really want to say (that’s not an excuse for poor craftsmanship though – I’m always trying to improve my story-telling).
I also think that publishing is changing continuously. Ways of delivering content to consumers are proliferating as mediums and formats diversify. (We now have blogs, audiobooks, VR platforms – and what will happen when it becomes possible to embed AI in the creative process?) While the basics of story-telling remain the same, methods are evolving – rapidly. This means that there are new niches for ‘publishers’ opening up. In the past, conventional publishers were brokers who provided a service that facilitated printing and delivery of an author's content to the public but, as the world has changed, they have had to evolve too. So, I have to ask, “What is an indie author, and what is a publisher?” It’s changing as new business models develop.
I haven’t found that business model yet. For now, I enjoy being able to set my own prices and do my own marketing – I get to connect with interesting people that way. And I’m happy to use Smashwords and Findaway Voices to sell and distribute platforms for my ebooks and audiobooks – they’re great distribution and sales platforms. But who knows how things will develop? Maybe in the future, if I see a workable return on investment, I might hire someone to do my marketing for me. Or, if a successfully evolving publisher offers me a sweet deal, I might take that.
What do you read for pleasure?
Humph! I only read for pleasure.
…Seeing as I have a very low boredom threshold.
But what?
I find myself reading all kinds of things. I love beautiful prose and keenly observed emotion. At the moment it’s H.G. Wells’ short stories, many of which are gems. Last week it was G.K. Chesterton’s 'Father Brown' stories (beautiful prose there!). Before that, it was 'Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter' by Tom Franklin, a haunting detective mystery that explores racial reconciliation in the southern states of the US of A.
I also like science-fiction: Greg Bear and Alastair Reynolds are two of my favourite authors. (Reynolds’ 'The Prefect' takes first place for best villain – the Clockmaker!)
And I like action. Andy McNab in measured doses (for my testosterone fix). Also, recently I found myself re-reading Robert E. Howard’s Conan tales, puckering my lips over his purple prose and prehistoric gender stereotypes, but loving it.
And Tolkien.
And Anthony Bevor’s history: 'Stalingrad'.
(And sometimes, maybe, a romance – 'Forever Amber' by Kathleen Winsor, for example – prescribed reading if a boy wants to cosy up to the other half.)
There’s too much.
Describe your desk
My desk is littered with pens, and pencils, an eraser, a ruler, papers, a leather bookmark, and books I haven’t got round to shelving yet. And antacid tablets, a bottle of paracetamol, hand-sanitizer, spare spectacles, headphones, power-chargers, a torch, a vagrant soft-toy, an unwashed coffee mug… No wonder I often write stretched out on the living-room couch.
What is your writing process?
Hmm… Actually, now that I think about it, it’s quite complex. My starting points tend to be a combination of ‘what if’ ideas – like, ‘what if electricity were sentient’, as in 'Shikara', a short story of mine; and relationships between characters – for example the interaction of the ‘sensual sister’ and ‘ascetic’ brother’ in 'Syblings', my serial. (And this persists through the writing process: for me, the essential elements of a story are the physical world in which it takes place, and the emotional logic that drives plot development.)
As I mull over the initial ideas, additional scenarios spontaneously present themselves (I suppose I have to call it inspiration; – I can’t tell you where they come from) and before long I find myself typing out lists of ‘must have’ plot-events and sketching out rough action outlines. Working from these I schedule research tasks, so that when I eventually write the scenes, they will be will be plausibly detailed.
Then, I take a deep breath, say a prayer, and begin to write…
Atmosphere, tone and pace are important to me. I can’t say how I get them right (assuming I do). I know I fret about the exact meaning of words quite a lot. Not always productively.
I find it’s best if I leave a chapter for a few days before coming back to refine it. Somehow I’m able to spot deficiencies more clearly. For that reason the process of proofing is best stretched out over months, a little at a time (I can’t afford an editor, for the present). I construct quite elaborate time-tables to help me manage the process of multiple proof-reads (including audio-proofing) and control my anxiety about keeping to schedule.
I do use beta-readers. I always find their input useful. Especially when they are bloody-minded and opinionated (it’s very affirming to have a sympathetic soul tell me how awesome my prose is, but it doesn’t help me improve). But – abrasive, or sympathetic – the time comes when I thank them for their insight (I always do) and just write it my way.
What do your fans mean to you?
Well, as I said, it’s very affirming to have someone tell you that they like your work. It gives me great pleasure to give them pleasure. But there is more to it. My fans’ responses shape my future work – in a way, they continue the process that beta-readers initiate.
Not that I make myself subservient to their suggestions. It’s more of an inspirational process. I can best liken it to the experience playing jazz saxophone, where an appreciative audience would spur me (and my sidemen) to greater feats of improvisation, and intensity of expression. Except that when writing, the feedback process is slowed down. To a geological time-frame.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
A proper answer to that deserves a whole book to itself. Because I grew up in South Africa under the pall of apartheid.
But let me fast forward to today’s ‘Rainbow Nation’. South Africa is an effing incredible place – I should know: I resigned my job as a London school-teacher to return to it. The colours seem brighter, the air headier; the soil whispers secret knowledge! Etcetera, etcetera.
But seriously, I almost feel a duty to write about SA and it’s vibrant people. (Actually, that should be capitalized – Vibrant.)
(Or maybe even, VIBRANT!).
Many of my stories are set in Cape Town…
Listen, it’s hard to explain; easy to misunderstand.
Best if you just read the stories.
‘Syblings the Syrial’ is a good one.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.

Books by This Author

Syblings the Syrial, Season One: Episodes 1-22
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 22,050. Language: English. Published: November 9, 2020. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Urban, Fiction » Christian » General
It’s the near-future: angelic and demonic forces are trying to influence the destiny of siblings Darren and Leandré. But Darren and Leandré are not controllable. Not easily – they are individualistic, unruly, passionate, each in their own way. Different and real.
Will & Jordan: Cyberhunt - The Will to Live
Price: $1.49 USD. Words: 21,840. Language: English. Published: October 1, 2020. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Science Fiction, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
Jordan is a loser. Until his computer is infected by Will, a rogue artificial intelligence. After that, things start to change. But will Jordan be able to save his new digital friend from being destroyed by the Initializers that patrol the internet? Written with gentle humour as well as seat-edge thrills, this novella will suit older as well as younger readers.