The greatest joy in writing is also the greatest challenge: the act of pure creation. It's wonderful to see characters, plots and scenes emerging as I write, but I must have that voice in the back of your mind, constantly asking me whether I'm being original and true to my values as a writer. "Hang on," it whines, "that's a bit twee." Or sometimes, "OK, now you're being heavy handed." The joy comes in never being satisfied with my first efforts, only in my best possible efforts. It comes through never settling for a piece of work that's only 'good enough', but in pressing on for a result that is as great as I can possibly make it. Writing is a wonderful craft - I owe it to my readers to be the best craftsman that I can.
What do your readers mean to you?
I feel very privileged when someone takes the time to read my work. And if someone makes the extra effort and leaves a review or contacts me in some way, then I feel honoured by their attention. We all lead busy lives and have many calls on our time, so when someone invests their time in reading my work - I can't tell you how much that means to me. And as for lovely reviews - well, they're better than riches. A nice review or comment on twitter will always make my day. So whilst you're here, reading this interview, please accept my thanks for your time. Basically, you rock.
What are you working on next?
The next Darkeningstone novel of course. I'm currently nearing the end of the first draft of Book Three. Like Trespass, it will be a full-length novel. You'll meet some favourite characters, but there are lots of new ones to encounter, and many unexpected twists and turns. The last thing I'd want to do is trot out a ho-hum book just to fill the series - that would be cheating the readers. The book has to bring new life, new characters and new situations into play. There may be a fourth Darkeningstone book. I originally planned to write a trilogy, but the first book, Breaking Ground, is a novella and I may want to explore the possibilities of the Darkeningstone in greater depth. It's hard to decide when I have so many other great ideas for completely different books rattling around in my head. Watch this space folks.
Who are your favorite authors?
I read very widely so this is difficult. I do have a few books on permanent standby duty by my bed: The Complete Works of Saki, Vintage Thurber by James Thurber, The Complete Sherlock Holmes, and Understanding Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. Those are all books I can dip into when I'm between books. I love a lot of classics, such as Dickens and Thomas Hardy, but I'm also a fan of modern writers, e.g. Hugh Howey's Wool Trilogy. I like Iain Banks for his sheer originality, but I'll happily read children's authors such as Michael Morpurgo and David Almond. Douglas Adams has had a massive affect on my teenage years, so I must mention the Hitch Hikers' books. There, I bet you wish you hadn't asked me now. I could be here all day. Let's get a coffee and a packet of biscuits and talk about books - what could be better?
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My true inspiration is my family. At the risk of going all mushy, I have to be honest and say that my wife and kids are the reason I keep trying to be not just a better writer, but a better father, a better husband, a better person. Gosh, this interview is turning out to be quite deep. What challenging questions I'm asking myself. Ok - onto the next one.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I like to cook and we make an occasion of family meals. I also love the outdoors and I'm lucky enough to live on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon, so we have lots of dramatic walks to enjoy. I live in a rural village so I yomp across the fields every day with our black Labrador Lottie. It helps to blow the cobwebs away, gives me some excellent thinking time and helps to keep me a bit fitter.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I try to do my bit for the Indie Author community by interacting on twitter and such like. I also watch some podcasts such as the Self Publishing Podcast, which I try and watch live when I can so that I can leave comments and interact with the hosts. When I see an author interviewed and they seem like an interesting person, I'm quite likely to try their work.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
When I was quite young I heard Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories and promptly started my own versions in an exercise book. I can still picture that exercise book and the joy I had in filling the pages. I'm sure the stories weren't all that original, but I felt the magic of creating my own stories. I wonder what happened to that exercise book - I'd love to read it now.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in North Yorkshire, near the North York Moors, and that must have had some influence on me. We Yorkshiremen tend to be fairly stubborn and straight talking, and we like to think that we get stuck in and make a good job of things. If there's one thing I've learned about writing, it's that you need a damned good work ethic. I spend a lot of time rewriting, editing and polishing. And then, when that's all done, you pick up a blank sheet of paper and start all over again. That might put some people off writing, but I love it. I also like being an Indie Author. Where I come from we say, "If tha wants owt doin, do it for tha sen." (If you want anything doing, do it for yourself).
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Like most authors, I started out chasing agents and publishers. That system set me back years, and now that I've learned more about the way that traditional publishers operate, I can honestly say that the whole agent-publisher system is broken and outdated. Yes, it's hard to be discovered as an Indie Author, but at least I can get on with doing what I love instead of sending out my work to people who haven't the time to consider it properly. People like Hugh Howey and Lindsay Buroker are a great source of inspiration - not because they sell lots of books, but because they're nice people who contribute to the Indie community. That's a great club to be a member of, and all I have to do is keep writing and try to help other authors when I can.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The Darkeningstone series started when I wondered what it would mean if my mobile phone suddenly went mad and started ringing even though there wasn't anybody there. What would that mean? Would it be a signal or some strange pulse of energy? The thought didn't go away and as I mulled it over, I started scribbling down ideas. For some reason I thought of an abandoned quarry that I'd played in as a child, which was a stupid and dangerous place to play, but in those days, kids were free to explore and get themselves into scrapes. Before long, the Darkeningstone was born and along came a collection of characters. Suddenly, we were on a journey together. I still don't know where that journey will lead, but that doesn't matter when travelling the road together is so much fun. That's it for today. Thank you so much for reading this far. If you have any questions or comments, please do feel free to get in touch. There are lots of links on my Smashwords profile page. Keep Reading, Keep Writing. Keep Smiling.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has given Indie Authors a great way to get their work where it needs to be - in front of readers. It's fantastic that I can come to Smashwords and give my work away if I want to, and it's very hand to have that work converted into all the right formats. To be truly Indie, authors shouldn't be shackled to just one retailer, no matter how good that retailer may be.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.