Interview with R M Gurnhill

Q: How long does it take you to write a book?
Fantastic question! Impossible to answer though. It varies by novel, and has reduced incredibly significantly as my life has become less time-constrained by life, bringing up children and long working hours as a chef. I wrote the first line to Black-eyed in 1985, followed by the next 6 lines. It was 1988 before I wrote anymore of the Corlandian Ballads, where I was basically just writing disparate ideas for action scenes down, with no set purpose or structure. In 1990 and 1991 I decided that my ideas needed some order, and inspired by the intricate worlds that my idols had constructed (Vance, Tolkien, Gemmell etc) I set about creating my own world to base my novels in. From 1994 onwards to 1996, I started to form some kind of structure as the file of world data expanded, and again started writing disparate action scenes on and off for a couple of years, inspired by the music I was in love with. The next time I seriously revisited the novel was in 2003, my life a totally different life to the one of 6 years previous. This time I was determined to finish at least a novel to prove that I could. On Hallowe'en 2003, I finally finished the first draft. And promptly filed it until 2014. 5 Years, my next novel to be released, in June 2015, I began as a film script in 2003 after completing Black-eyed. It quickly fell by the wayside and was shelved for other dabbling on and off as we raised our daughters and got on with life. In 2009, during a long spell in the Coronary Care Unit, I began to think deeply about taking up the writing mantle again; I revisited 5 years and decided to follow the novel route. During 2010 and a long spell recovering from a heart bypass graft, I worked out the characters and plot, and set about writing it. In 2013 the first draft was finished.
In between these episodes, I have planned, plotted and written various snatches and shards of different novel ideas, from horror to post-modern drama, as well as writing an album full of lyrics, over a hundred poems, blogs, training manuals; you name it - I've probably written it.
My aim now though, is to release at least one novel a year in the Corlandian Ballads series, and one other novel a year that is far-removed from this genre. It's gonna get busy peeps!
Q: What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Nowadays, I am ruthlessly driven in achieving the goals I set myself. Goals are a vital component of how I work and are a part of my management technique in my working life (that pays the mortgage until my writing does!). I use various aids to drive me and plan my schedule, from whiteboards above my desk with schedules, weekly workloads, project timelines etc; to reminders and calendars on my devices that remind me of what I should be doing at any given moment. Of course, I can't let my personal life suffer as I have a responsibility to my wife, my family (now including 2 grandchildren), and pooches Abbie & Candie. I have a well-rehearsed work-life balance that I have developed over many years of trial and error, but always (without fail) ensure that when I go to bed at night, I have achieved at least ONE thing during that day. This could be something as small as a poem, researching a topic for my next blog, or going on social media sites to promote myself and keep those important contacts with my audience and potential audience going. Being a writer nowadays is 50% creation, 50% promotion.
Q: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
What an amazing question! I have no answer to this! Writing quirk as in when writing? Perhaps my dependency on word-processing everything direct from my mind to the screen. I never, ever write text out first. Ever. Notes, yes. Research, yes. Ideas, yes. But when writing prose for example, I sit and think, then start typing. And type. That's it. I work the words out as I go and leave the changes and alterations to the editing process. Conversations and interactions between characters could be a major quirk I have. I design my characters before writing, getting to know them inside out before I write them. Then, for example, if a scene requires 2 characters, I just write the introduction and set the scene, and the characters take over - I write nothing. Oh, the words may come from my fingers, but the characters inside my head are writing them, not me. This has taken scenes in some incredibly diverse directions even I couldn't have imagined, believe me!
Q: How do you get your books published?
I self-publish through Smashwords, an E-book publishing site that has all the tools an author needs to self-publish, loads of advice for authors, all for free (unless you choose to purchase extras - which seems to be the culture nowadays), and then Smashwords distribute across virtually all platforms and devices, to so many booksellers that I wouldn't have even known about without them. Their fee (this pretty much replaces the agent's fee you'd pay with a traditional agency) is competitive as well. I like this method so far as I have total creative control over everything to do with my work. I even design my own covers. It works for me.
Q: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
My eyes, ears, other senses and experience. That may sound twee, but absolutely everything and anything can be turned into a poem, song, novel - you name it. Remember the poem about Daffodils? And what the hell was Wonderwall all about? Exactly.
Q: When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I think I answered this one earlier, but to recap, I started writing proper prose at 17, and published it at 47. And they said James Joyce made a long job of it!
Q: What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Spend time with my wonderful (and artistically talented) wife, our dogs and family. I'm usually listening to music (a very wide range) at all times, even when writing, like to watch football (since the cardiologist stopped me playing, damn him!), and research stuff on the internet - most of which is either used to promote my writing, or ends up in my writing!
Q: What does your family think of your writing?
No idea! Seriously, I don't know. I know that they're all incredibly proud of me, but none of them have ever read my work. Although Sharon, my wife, has read some material I've written, I don't think she's ever read one of my novels. You'd be better asking the wife and kids mate!
Q: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Bizarrely enough, it's that my books write themselves. I put all the work into the plot, characters and threads of narrative before I even begin to type. I know the ideas inside out before writing the actual text, so I begin to type and see where the characters and story take me. That's not to say it's all free-form and winging it - it's not. I have a structure and a 'road map' of the chapters before I start, then I follow the route I planned out. Characters take on a life of their own though once out of the imagination and onto the page, and regularly write their own dialogue through me. I suppose you'd have to be a fellow writer to understand what I seem to be waffling about!
Q: How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
2 completed novels, with 13 more plotted and started, at various stages, and at least 6 more in the early planning stages. My writing plan for novels currently sits at 30 titles; at 2 published a year, I'll finish writing them in 2027! Plus I have a stack of shards of narrative ready to mould into further novels. I'm also planning to eventually write a novel based on my Dad's life, and my own autobiography. And they're just the novels. Plenty to keep me busy - and that's without all the other projects I work on in between!
Q: Do you have any suggestions to help anybody become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Not really, apart from the obvious one - NEVER stop believing in yourself, no matter what you're told. From start to finish you're learning, not just your craft, but about yourself. Maybe one important thing I've learnt is that your 'voice' doesn't come instantly. 'Voice' is individual to each writer and is the key element of good writing - it sets you apart from everyone else out there. Read Pratchett then read Tolkien and you'll see the difference. I didn't really find my confidence in my own style and voice until I'd written hundreds of thousands of words. All you can do is write, write and write. Reading widely and well is also a good tool, as are all media forms now - that's where your sparks of inspiration and knowledge come from. Without depth of information and knowledge, stories can appear very 1 dimensional and sparse. Perhaps the greatest tip you could ever give a writer is avoid prevarication at all costs. Sit down, pick up the pen/keyboard, and start typing. Before you know it you'll have passed hours without ever knowing, and regardless of what you've produced, you've produced something. Writers aren't writers unless they write. That's not as stupid as it seems - ask any writer and they'll nod knowingly.
Q: Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
It's a little early into my publishing career for any feedback yet, but when it comes, good or bad, I'll be reading it to see where I need to improve or sharpen my skills. I only hope people enjoy my stories as much as I've enjoyed the writers I admire and return to again and again.
Q: What do you think makes a good story?
Characters and plots that are well thought out and a writer that cares about what they're writing. Lack of effort and detail show instantly. And bad grammar and spelling are big no-nos.
Q: What inspires you to write and create books?
I've always been in love with reading, and then I became obsessed with old-school roleplaying in the '80s. Games-mastering RPGs involves a lot - and I mean a hell of a lot - of imagination and storytelling techniques. It was then a natural progression to start writing these stories down once I stopped roleplaying. Inspiration can come from literally anywhere. Once an idea or a germ of an idea appears in my brain, it kind of sits and germinates until I pay attention to it, at which point I start developing it and it evolves into something. 5 Years, for example, was inspired by an apocalyptic line from a rock song. This inspired the first scene where the camera pans down from a blue sky to 2 soldiers stood on a cliff top talking, with the first line a voice-over as the camera pans. So the novel began life as a film script in 2003. In 2009 I was in the coronary care unit of the hospital and asked my wife to bring the file of notes over to give me something to do. I developed it into the novel it is now, and it was finished in 2013. I put it to one side and then revisited it this year (2015) with fresh eyes ready for publication.
Q: What kind of genre do you enjoy to write about the most & why?
Bearing in mind I have 9 novels in the fantasy genre planned for the Corlandian Ballads series, it may come as a surprise to learn that my fave genre is what could be classed as 'post-modernism', although that's probably a defunct term by now. I love writing about people and their connections, experiences, troubles and so on, but also playing with the construction of the novels. Anachronism, point-of-view shifts, inserting poetry, experimenting with style and form; anything goes, as long as it doesn't deflect from the storytelling. Character and plot are still the most important aspects, whatever I write.
Q: How long have you been writing?
Since I was at school. I still have my first story ever, The Moth-cat, in one of my English books from when I was 11. Mr Lever was a legend of a teacher. Life gets in the way though, and it's only recently that I've had the time and privilege to be able to concentrate on publishing my work, which is something I always planned to do. The internet has made it so much easier now for writers to get their work out there.
Q: How did you get into book writing?
As I said earlier, it was a natural progression from my role-playing days.
Q: Which (if any) Authors do you enjoy the work of?
Too many to name. Tolkien, Pratchett, Ian (M) Banks, Greg Bear, Gemmell, Voltaire, Poe, Lovecraft, Martin Amis, Twain, Hugh Cook, Eddings, Oscar Wilde, Jeremy Clarkson (honest), Stephen Fry.
Genre-wise, my favourite authors of the following are:
• Sci-fi - Asimov - genius. Read him if you haven't already.
• Humour - Douglas Adams - Hitchhiker's is the funniest book ever written (although the 5th instalment was a little disappointing and too dark).
• High Fantasy - Jack Vance - the Lyonesse trilogy is the greatest series ever written bar none. And I thought his Dying Earth series was before I read these!
Q: Fact or Fiction?
Fiction all day long. It is a free-form that allows you to take people anywhere; and I mean anywhere. But it also needs control and attention to detail otherwise you lose people's attention. For instance, the best sci-fi is grounded in 'fact' and reasoning, even if the fact and reasoning is worked out in the writer's mind. Readers don't like to feel cheated. It's like the old A-Team TV series and such like from the '80s - millions of bullets get fired, but none ever hit the good guys. The Big Bang Theory is so funny because so much of the humour comes from scientific fact; the writers have done their homework and research and it shows. Greg Bear's sci-fi is so well thought-out that you believe the tech, however far-fetched and unfamiliar it may seem.
Published 2015-04-10.
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Books by This Author

Street Spirit - free sampler
Price: Free! Words: 10,390. Language: English. Published: September 27, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Action, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Corlandian Ballads Tract Two - Street Spirit free sampler A free download taster of Book 2 in the Corlandian Ballads saga, starring new characters fighting against the machinations of Eldar the Loremaster, as well as characters first introduced in Book 1 - Black-eyed. Battles large & small will be fought by armies and individuals as they struggle for mastery of Slorvad, and the gateway to Staedt.
5 Years
Price: $2.56 USD. Words: 75,180. Language: English. Published: June 30, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Action
Where do you run to when your whole world's blown apart? That's the dilemma facing a rag-tag band of survivors from the nuclear fall-out of World War 3. This disparate group of soldiers must come together if they're going to survive in a world gone mad, and make it to HQ alive. But does HQ even exist anymore? And is there even anyone else out there?
Price: $2.56 USD. Words: 75,300. Language: British English. Published: March 30, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Black-eyed is a murder mystery set in the unique fantasy world of Corlandia, a completely realised pangea of Earth's future. Mixing elements of religion and monarchy in a wide-ranging novel of adventure and subterfuge, it begins the nine novel series Corlandian Ballads, detailing the events and adventures of Corlandian characters across the super-continent.