What motivated you to write a "how to" book about wedding speeches?
It all started when I had a hectic year in which I got married and then (less than three months later) was best man at another wedding. I remember talking to the other speechmakers and comparing notes - about being nervous, not knowing what to say or how to say it...
I've always been a sucker for "how to" books and I set about trying to find one that would help us all, but couldn't find one which did what I was looking for - something practical, covering all of the concerns we had, and not just a glorified joke book. Having wasted forever scouring the bookshops and websites, I finally admitted defeat - there was a book in my head which didn't seem to exist! The final straw was when I read the foreword to one book where the author spoke about how it's not unusual to feel nervous before doing a speech and that he'd been so nervous that he'd not done a speech at his own wedding! If someone like that can write a book, I thought, then I certainly can - and The Wedding Speech Manual was born!
I've always enjoyed helping people and this has been a great way for me to do so - when I get feedback from people saying how the book has helped them (as I did the other day, on Twitter), it really does make my day!
What's your worst public speaking experience?
I remember it well - too well! It was at High School and I'd agreed to go into a class to talk to them about Equal Opps. I was incredibly nervous and it showed - and during the course of those ten minutes or so (which felt like about ten hours) I committed every public speaking sin there is. Looking down, not making eye contact, telling them that I'd understand if they were bored because (gulp) it was all a bit boring...!
My initial response to that experience was to run and hide from any other opportunities to speak in front of people, but a few years later I was sent on a presentation skills course, which finally boosted up my confidence - and I've not looked back since!
Surely you don't really enjoy public speaking??
I'm afraid I do - it took a while, but after learning the techniques and doing the practise, I've found myself enjoying and seeking out opportunities to speak in front of others. Some people think I'm a bit strange because of that, but there you go... :)
What I really do enjoy, though, is helping other people to get over their fears or lack of understanding when it comes to wedding speeches and other public speaking. There's nothing more rewarding than helping someone to speak with confidence, and seeing the look on their face when they finish their speech and realise what an amazing job they've just done!
What's your one top tip for would-be wedding speakers?
In a word: practise. Put in as much time as you can before the big day - going over and over your speech, getting yourself as familiarised as possible with it - really will pay huge dividends on the day. Not just in terms of knowing the speech, but also your confidence and abilities to deliver the best speech that you can.
If anyone tells you that they did a speech without any preparation or practise, ignore them - they're either lying or they did a terrible job! Practise, practise and practise some more and then you'll be able to stand up on the day full of confidence and able to do the best you possibly can.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I ever had the courage to inflict on the wider world was a gothic fantasy story about a rather belligerent demon who went round Victorian London, righting wrongs in spite of his lack of sympathy for humanity. This was the story which became, after lots of twists, turns, late nights and alcohol, The Infernal Aether.
However, the first story I EVER wrote... That's a tough one! I've been making up stories since as long as I can remember, but the one which sticks in the memory is a sci-fi short story I wrote when I was at Primary School, about a hoverboarding competition gone wrong. I remember submitting it to our local rag, the Wrexham Leader, and being beyond ecstatically happy when it won me a Lego spaceship set!
What is your writing process?
The short answer is that it's a rollercoaster ride! I tend to come up with the initial germ of the idea and get incredibly excited by the potentials. There then follows laborious plotting, developing, researching - during which time I'll usually throw the whole thing away as a bad idea at least a dozen times... Finally I'll end up with something which I think I can work with, in the form of a fully plotted outline, which I'll stick religiously to for around the first two or three pages before my imagination and lack of discipline gets the better of me...
I envy those writers who can churn out a perfect first draft (if they even exist?). It's not uncommon for me to go through two, three, four drafts before I end up with something which I'm half-way happy with. Hal Duncan has a great phrase which sums up my writing method - "word vomit". That's in a nutshell what happens, with a lot of cleaning and polishing afterwards...!
What are your five favorite books, and why?
So difficult... But here goes, and in no particular order (and apologies to all the others I've left out!)
Imajica by Clive Barker - I first read this fantasy / horror novel when I was a teenager and it blew my young mind, pretty much influencing everything I've done since (on the fiction side - not much call for that sort of thing in wedding speeches and presentations!). A sweeping epic of a tale, with some shockingly grisly elements interspersed with sheer beauty - my favourite book of all time, and one which I'll happily bore people by telling them all about until they agree to read it!
Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - an absolute classic, and one which makes me laugh out loud every time I read it, but also incredibly well written. Anyone who can describe warships as "hanging in the air, exactly the way that bricks don't" wins my vote every time!
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman - the perfect mix of astrophysics and human interest + war - what's not to like?!
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch - a brilliantly cocky page-turner of a story with an lovable rogue protagonist, all set in the sort of fantasy/steampunky world which I love to read about...
The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien - a story I've only recently been introduced to, but one which I can't stop thinking about. It's a surreal ride, but well worth it - not only for the mind-blowing concepts and characters, but also some really beautiful descriptions...
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I've always enjoyed reading - I grew up in a house where books were everywhere and we were encouraged to read. As a result, my early heroes were from books - not just the characters in them, but the authors who created those worlds - the likes of HG Wells, Harry Harrison, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke to name just four...
So it was kind of inevitable that I'd grow up wanting to be an author myself, and I've been fortunate to live in a time when the internet has revolutionised the publishing industry. Having collected my fair share of rejection slips, I took the leap and put some of my stuff out there, at first on sites like Wattpad, and was blown away by the reactions from readers. In particular, I love the immediacy of getting reactions from readers and being able to respond and develop that relationship, creating new stuff in response to the ideas they give me. Importantly, as an indie author, I'm in charge of my own career and can follow those flights of fancy, rather than being tied to commercial concerns of agents or publishers...
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Making a difference to others - whether it's by helping them to achieve something they want to do (as in The Wedding Speech Manual) or creating new worlds and stories that people enjoy. There are so many authors whose works have really touched me and affected me, and if I can do the same to just one person, I'll be happy!
What do your fans mean to you?
Everything. Without readers, I'm just shouting out into the abyss - not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's so much more rewarding when someone answers back and tells me they quite like something I've done. I love all types of feedback - yes, even the stuff which is not so positive, as I'm always looking for ways to improve!
What are you working on next?
Now that the 2nd edition of The Wedding Speech Manual is out there, I'm looking to supplement it with some extra resources (including some free videos) - so watch my website (www.perfectweddingspeech.com) for more details! If you want to be the first to hear when things go online, you can sign up for my mailing list: http://eepurl.com/bzgtnb (spam-free, I promise!).
On the writing front, I'm focusing on fiction writing for the time being, with the second novel in my gothic fantasy Infernal Aether series currently in development - if pressed to describe that series I'd say it's the slightly batty lovechild of "Penny Dreadful" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"... Again, check out my website for more details on the first novel (out now!) and all the future instalments...
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.