Interview with Philip E. Batt

What is your writing process?
I'm a planner, without doubt. I'm not one of those writers who can sit down and throw out a chapter or even less without understanding what the chapter, or scene is trying to achieve, where it's going and what the ending might look like. In simple terms I like to know what the point of the scene is before I start it.

I start even before the novel outline and collect thoughts and ideas, even themes, pictures, anything that I think will complement the story. Most of it I don't consciously use, but I'm sure it's all gone in there and gets churned up with the rest. Usually, just going through this part starts to generate a first draft outline for the novel. Each part of the novel is a scene outline, to be honest, create enough scenes and I have the novel.

Then, over a period of several months, I build and build on the outline until I have a complete story - no detail yet, though, unless the detail is so important that it has to go in. When I'm sort of happy that the outline is ok, I let it cook for a while.

I try to aim for a scene a day when I'm writing the draft. The reason for that is that I like to play the scene out in my mind, like watching a film, and then when I have a feeling for what happens I just write what I see in my head. But remember, it's a first draft only, so it's usually rubbish. Then, I keep going until all the scenes are written. I don't review what I've written, just plough on. Review is for later.

When the book is done, I let it sit for a while, at least two to four weeks. Then, I read it from start to finish to get a feel for what needs work and what might be ok. I also take a look at the structure - should this scene be there, or should I move it, or even rip it out. I can usually get a feel for things that are missing or bits that need expanding. I always aim for a minimum of 100,000 words, so at this stage, if I'm way off, I know there is still a lot of work to do in the story itself.

Because I spend a lot of time thinking about the outline before I even write, the number of scenes doesn't change much. Maybe add one or two, maybe take one or two away, maybe move a few. Not much though.

The important thing is that the story is the story. Don't try to beef up the number of scenes, unless there really is some big chunk of story missing, but rather go deeper into the story. In other words, explore the scene you have. Usually, there is more dialogue needed, or more description required, or suchlike.

Once I'm happy with this, I start the second draft and add more detail, correct stuff, sort out dialogue or add more - this usually suggests itself, but sometimes you hear the conversation in your head, often in odd places, like in the shower! The point is that you can always work on the novel even if you aren't actually writing - just remember to take a pad and pen to write down any revelations you get.

When that draft is done, repeat. Repeat as many times as you need to, doesn't matter how many, it needs what it needs. I sort of know when I'm reaching something worthy as the corrections stop, the changes quieten, and it's at that point I know I'm ready for my first readers to take a look.

Once they are done, I listen to what they say. If they all say the same, I change it, if not I take a view. I trust my gut though. The story is the story, so if their changes don't make sense against my vision for the book then I ignore it. Usually.

So, there you have it, that's how I write a novel.
How do you approach cover design?
For me, cover design is about a few different elements.

Firstly, I want a good image that suggests something about what the book means to me. It might be a key scene, a suggestion of a place, maybe even a theme. A good way to explain this would be that if a reader saw the image before they read the book they might think that it was a good image, but after they had read the book they might say - "I know that place," or, "Ha! I know what that means now".

Secondly I think a good strapline helps. It needs to be something that suggests the theme of the book, at least that's what I try to do. For instance, my first book, Angels, is really about betrayal, so the strapline suggests that.

Lastly, you want a good font for the title so that it stands out and people might find it interesting when compared to the rest. The size of the fonts matter, too, and the text needs to look balanced on the cover. I play with the cover a lot before I'm happy.
What do you read for pleasure?
I love Terry Pratchett and have read all the Discworld novels. Absolutely love them and have to read anything that Terry writes.

I also like the writing of Douglas Adams, I think my sense of humour is similar. I now appreciate Stephen King's books more than ever, especially after reading, 'On Writing', which is a great book and I would thoroughly recommend it for anyone who wants to write, or are interested in it.

Someone once told me that a book chooses you, and not the other way around. On some level I think that's true and I love to browse bookstores. Something usually jumps out at me and asks me to take it home.

I have to say that I enjoyed reading Laini Taylor's books, and they are the latest books I've read. Will look forward to reading the next one.
Describe your desk
Messy.

It's not a desk, it's a computer cupboard to be honest, but it's my little world, with my pc, screen, and some books placed next to the screen. The books are dictionaries - I have three, as sometimes one doesn't have the word I'm looking for, and also a thesaurus.

Oh, and there are lots of post it notes (am I allowed to call them them, is it copyrighted?). I use them for thoughts ideas, whatever crosses my mind that I might need for later - I never rely on my memory!

And a lamp, for when I work late, which I do. A lot.
When did you first start writing?
To be honest, it was at school. Not that I enjoyed it most of the time. Although it was called 'creative writing', you weren't really given the scope to be creative. I think when I'm told that I have to write a piece about a given topic, the creative juices just dry up. I find that it's only when I'm not thinking about anything in particular that ideas pop into my mind and I start to think, 'What if?'
What motivated you to become an indie author?
That's a good question.

I think I'm actually a control freak. Being responsible for everything about my novel just makes me excited. Sure, a writer writes, and some say you should just focus on that, but the whole concept of owning everything just excites me.

Maybe not the marketing, though. I'm not good at shouting about myself so that's an area where I need to get better.
What do your fans mean to you?
I'm just starting out in terms of publishing but they are everything. To know that someone wants to read something you have written is just the greatest buzz. Not everying you write will work, but to put a piece of your soul out there, and then find that someone likes it, and wants to spend time with it, is just amazing.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy is getting that feeling you get in your stomach when you just know that what you have written works. Maybe it's a joke, maybe some description, or it could be a passage of dialogue. There's no feeling quite like that.
What are you working on next?
I've been working on the outline for 'The Devil's Children' for a while now. It's the third book in the series and I've started to work on the first draft. For this book I'm experimenting by working with Scrivener. So far, my experience has been good, and it's definitely helped me produce the outline more efficiently than the other two.

I would expect 'The Devil's Children' to be published in 2015.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I don't think about it much, I love life and consider every day to be a gift. Just seize each moment and wring every last possible piece of enjoyment out of it. I think if you do that, life becomes so much smoother, and if you stop fighting and let it flow, then it's more fun.
Published 2014-04-08.
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Books by This Author

Redemption
Series: The Highport Sagas, Book 2. Price: Free! Words: 110,430. Language: British English. Published: April 7, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General
Winterburne's life is falling apart around him...he's lost his job...he's lost his woman...and now war has come to the Empire. What else could possibly go wrong?
Angels
Series: The Highport Sagas, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 107,350. Language: British English. Published: October 14, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General, Fiction » Adventure » General
The Empire is on the brink of war...the City Watch and the Imperial Guard regularly exchange blows...and what did the palace maid hear that meant she had to die?...Welcome to Highport!