Interview with Stuart F. Dodds

What motivated you to become an indie author?
A few months ago I spent hours preparing a novel synopsis which I sent off to an editor with the first three chapters and a covering letter - only to receive no reply, not even a rejection letter. I'm not prepared to continually go through that process.
I prefer to get on with it, create my own stories, and make my own decisions and mistakes. By writing and publishing I am pushing myself forward, rather than not doing it at all.
What is your writing process?
It varies and I am still settling on this. I recently outlined a whole novel using Excel. Using text boxes and a time line, I completed a series of scenes and events from start to finish. I use separately coloured text boxes containing - the main story episodes, location, characters in scene and the tension points (it is an action storyline). I've seen behind the scene footage of films where scriptwriters place cards on a wall showing main scenes from start to end - so I borrowed that concept.
I then break the story down into suggested chapters with characters and using OneNote I copy images via a search engine onto a chapter page which help me visualise the scene. For example, I needed to write a scene involving trucks full of mineral ore, so I researched images of coal mines and coal trucks and came up with a description to use in the story.
I am currently working on my next book and I wrote most of the action scenes first. They appear throughout the novel, but I needed to gain an understanding of them and work the story forwards and backwards to those key action points. For another chapter I started writing a meandering story where the characters went shopping. I re-visited my bullet points for the chapter and cut to the quick. I wrote the main thrust of the chapter first, then added a beginning and an end. I saved a lot of time and daydreaming that way.
Next time I may write in chronological order! It's what works for you.
How do you decide on the level of sex or violence to include in your story?
I give this a lot of consideration and often re-write these segments the most. I write action/adventure science fiction stories for adults, so I tend to set my level of sex and violence in terms of what is allowed in a UK Certificate 15 or 18 film at the cinema. I think it may be easier to write explicit scenes but this does not suit the tone or rhythm of my books. Conversely, too little violence or sexual innuendo in a world of adults fighting for their lives seems to be too lightweight. I prefer being more suggestive, rather than graphic. For example in one scene I have a sexual predator rubbing his hands over a womans body and pulling down her trousers and underwear. It would be very easy to make it more graphic and sexualised, so I wrote it from the victims point of view because I wanted the reader to feel her discomfort, rather than the attackers power. With violent scenes you can throw in buckets of blood and gore, but should you also consider the motivations behind the attack? It depends upon the character and I think this aspect is more challenging to write.
I ask my wife to read the segments involving sex and violence. As she enjoys reading fairly violent/gory police investigation novels, she provides me with good feedback which I have acted upon. It is important as well, I believe, to gain a female perspective.
How do you deal with good or bad reviews?
For my first novel I received some four out of five star reviews and a two star one. It is encouraging and satisfying to gain good reviews, particularly when the readers enjoyed the storyline and characters. My two star review was disappointing but - that's what the person felt. Considering the months I spent writing it, let alone the time involved formatting the thing for self publishing, it is difficult not to feel a bit deflated. Also that one review could have stopped people from reading the book, even though it is free.
My view is that there isn't one piece of art, music or story that everyone likes, so basically you have to take it on the chin. In fact it spurred me when writing my second novel, and like many first time authors, I could re-write the first novel and do a better job.
I do not have the luxury of an editor or publishing house to steer me in the right direction. Apparently JRR Tolkein wanted to write the Silmarillion, but his editor said readers wanted more hobbits and elves. I don't know how true that is, but Lords of the Rings did pretty well.
Ultimately, I am a solo writer and self publisher, still working on my writing skills, so decisions regarding the unfolding story are down to me. On my second novel, I used a professional copy editor to check grammar and story consistency. I learnt a lot from that experience.
So yes I like good reviews, worry about poor ones, but just have to shrug my shoulders and keep writing.
How do you approach cover design?
I write out single key words to describe the thrust of the story taken from the main character or chapters. I then spend what seems like hours viewing images on websites such as Pixababy and Shutterstock. I mock up titles on Word and print off a few examples as they appear different in print. Since building up to publishing my second novel Search for Locardum, I changed the cover of my first novel (Deep Yellow) so that both books have a consistent style and design. The book cover for my third book has also been created, though the text is far from published. Once I am happy with the design, I send it off to a designer with an outline idea. As I'm not particularly good with colours and fonts, she uses her designer eye and arranges the cover using my selected image and creates it in the correct format for publishing. This time around I went for free public domain images without any restrictions, so I can create badges or T shirts etc. without falling foul of copyright restrictions, which do apply to many 'paid for' images.
Describe your desk
A laptop tray or the kitchen table - with a cup of tea.
Published 2017-04-07.
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Books by This Author

The Search for Locardum (A Brell Sturlach Adventure)
Price: Free! Words: 104,090. Language: English. Published: April 7, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
Brell Sturlach, cargo pilot, is told she must assist Police Corps in searching for a rare deposit of Locardum ore used in deadly weapons. The person who may hold vital information is a challenger on a life or death game show on which Brell is a consultant. Assisted by a robot, she must battle with others, including a psychotic criminal, also intent on finding the ore.
Deep Yellow (A Brell Sturlach Adventure)
Price: Free! Words: 87,460. Language: English. Published: January 14, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
(2.00)
Disgraced former Police Corps officer Brell Sturlach is serving life imprisonment when informed she will be a contestant on Convict Challenge, a game show, set within a series of holographic studio sets. Pitched into a life or death contest, still battling addictions to intoxicants and Deep Yellow, a nano psychotic drug, she must act decisively to survive.