Interview with Steven Ferry

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I live life, which includes writing as just one of the activities. When I write, it is not a tortuous affair with countless re-writes that consume my entire day. I just write, which can be for anywhere from an hour to three weeks, with nothing else intruding—usually 5,000 words a day. And then one review, because these days, between my own typing errors and the auto-spelling inanities in response to my deviations from proper spelling, and my leaving out words I am sure I typed, I need to double check what I have written.

And so what do I do when not writing? Run my three businesses, including spending a lot of time traveling around the world teaching and consulting; chop wood and everything else involved with maintaining a small property in the mountains; listen to music, sing (bel canto), watch movies, study philosophy, photograph, spend time with friends and neighbors, and cook for my wife and I. That's probably not all of it, but some!
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, "How the Beginning Began by Professor Moribund Wobblecheek." It was early enough in my life to be confronted by existential/philosophical questions such as, "Who am I?" "Why am I," "What Would Happen/I Be if I Weren't?" etc. And so I set out to answer those questions, tongue in wobble cheek. And the funny thing is, having lived a decade or two, then another decade or two, and then even one more decade or two, I find myself to be a Professor Wobblecheek of sorts, but not moribund*, I am happy to say.

*At the point of death, lacking vitality.
What is your writing process?
I simply write. One does not have to think too much about what one says when communicating verbally (at least I don't), so why should it be any different when writing on paper/keyboard?

There used to be a time when I would work out what I wanted to write first in an outline, but after writing enough, I found I could just write spontaneously and stream my own life/energy into the paper/keyboard. Writing is not like a military exercise. Or it could be, but the result tends to be too flat or contrived. I suppose one could say I found my own style, a muse that added clear expression of my concepts, rhythm and poetry, to my prose.

And how did I come upon this style? Partly from the grunt work of looking up the meanings of words so that I can track with what I am reading—I do not read strings of words but formulate concepts as I read. Where the concept is not forthcoming, I backtrack and either establish that the writer was confused in concept or its expression, or that he or she had used a word that I did not understand: and so I look it up in a dictionary and continue to increase my vocabulary—which enriches my own writing and ability to communicate.

But mainly the style came from writing in many different genres, fiction and non-fiction, and after a few hundred thousand words, most of them published, I found my style. It is fast moving, dynamic, no redundancies, finding the right words that have a ring to them and which, conceptually, are bang on target.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Yes: "The Red Balloon," a 1956 French movie that was made later into a book. I felt very sad, because the world of wonder and fantasy was deflated by the real world of materialism and ignorance, just like the punctured balloon at the end of the book.
How do you approach cover design?
Well, using InDesign is easiest: they have a monthly plan one can purchase if design work is not a frequent part of one's work.

I look for an image that tells the story that I can use as a backdrop,and then fit in minimal text, using complementary colors so the text pops out. I have done quite a lot of graphic work, but it is pretty meat and potatoes and I am not sure I can offer any real words of wisdom to this question.
What do you read for pleasure?
Usually detective works, such as by Michael Connelly, and especially ones set in New Mexico, such as by Tony Hillerman and my neighbor, Steve Havill.
Otherwise, I find studying non-fiction very pleasurable.
And when it comes to relaxing, you are more likely to be finding me in front of a good (usually detective or historical) movie :-)
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
The books we market ourselves have sold best when supported by a web site that provides much useful information to those interested
Describe your desk
My desk has a desktop on it, keyboard, and mouse, and in one corner, a pen and scratch paper. I am almost never at my desk, but working on my laptop somewhere else :-)
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Southern England and went to boarding schools that bored the heck out of me with, among other things, grammar (so much so that I was prompted to write a book on grammar that actually could be understood—my first book and never published—and I am actually quite proud of it, as decades later, understanding grammar well, I saw that the only element the book lacked was the subjunctive. Perhaps not such a big sin, as most people do not use the subjunctive now, or when they do, they do not recognize it as such. More is the pity, though, as the subjunctive is actually a vital element in communicating ideas accurately). I also studied English Literature for "A" levels (High School graduation equivalent). None of which helped me to write, but did give me a fairly well-sized vocabulary and grasp and appreciation of the English language.
When did you first start writing?
When I was 13, I wrote an epic poem at school that quite stunned the English master: His validation surprised but pleased me, and no doubt, encouraged me to explore writing further. The two other points that surprised me about my experience in writing this poem was that I had a) tapped into a deeply passionate vein that I was not aware I had and almost felt embarrassed about, being in a stiff-upper-lip British boarding school where emotions were somehow not to be countenanced; and b), a poetic bent that also seemed to come out of nowhere, but was definitely "home turf" for me.
What's the story behind your latest book?
It is a two-volume non-fiction work that I have wanted to provide for a while to those in my profession (butling) as a tool to empower. I won't be around forever, and even if I am, I need to move ahead with other projects. One's responsibility in any endeavor in which one has something of use to share, is to do so. Even though these 800 pages are quite extensive, and a definite expansion on the earlier one-volume book, they are not the definitive work—which given the breadth of a butler's duties, would require an encyclopedia to communicate. I have too many other projects to be able to produce such an extensive work, and to do so would require significant resources for videos, etc. that I do not have.

The plus side of not having that encyclopedia is that it will probably encourage further research and seeking by my colleagues and successors, and thus prevent the profession from becoming stuck in its ways—something we managed to do for hundreds of years!

So, with this two-volume edition finally done, I consider my main work done in opening up the profession to anyone who would like to understand the power of superior service.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Three realities motivated me to become an indie author:

1) Realizing that bricks-and-mortar publishers were being somewhat stingy in their royalties; would not do much to promote or distribute a book, leaving it to me; and were prone to allow books to fall out of print—so the self-publishing route made sense;

2) The freedom of choice and expression that comes with being an independent author, not constricted by the agendas and visions of others;

3) The fact that my writing is often targeted to small, niche markets, and therefore not likely to be seen as sufficiently profitable by a publishing house.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I am hopeful that Smashwords will contribute to my success—having just joined yesterday and needing to upload several books—by opening up readership channels beyond the Amazon/Kindle channel.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Wow—great question: the creative juices flowing is the reward for writing. I create a universe and it is totally mine to change and mold as I will. And when I move into "the zone," I am reinforcing one elemental truth that is not generally recognized: that we each have our own universe for which we are the kings and queens, what we say goes. Humanity as a whole has become so mired into the physical universe and materialism, that we have lost our own universe and wander around, disenfranchised and struggling in the "real world."

So what do we do when we write, sing, dance, paint, etc? We create new universes and dreams for others that helps them rise above the material and celebrate the spiritual.

The biggest buzz in life, for me, is creating—and the most intensely, when I write. Novels particularly, but even an article is a creation from my universe into others' universes via physical-universe books or virtual-physical-universe ebooks.
What do your fans mean to you?
We are on the same wavelength, we have bonded, we have shared and agreed with ideas. What would anyone like that mean to anyone? Everything! They tell me that I have helped another. That I have not written in vain. That I have succeeded in the fundamental purpose we all share in living—the creation of an effect on another.
What are you working on next?
Apart from PR, editorial, educational, and marketing materials for an agricultural company we are helping launch that will feed the world, a very large project designed to bring new points of view to areas of contention and trouble in the world, where perhaps we can raise the levels of understanding, rationality, and brotherly love, and improve conditions.
What is your philosophy in life?
My philosophy is that we are all basically good, yet some amongst us have lost their way, creating strife for others in the mistaken belief that others doing worse or being weakened will make them, the lost beings, do better by comparison.

That something can be done about this state of affairs, and the many non-optimum situations that these lost beings are so busy creating.

That life is a game, to be enjoyed as such—not some really serious endeavor that must be suffered until death relieves us.

And that the greatest joy there is in life is creating, bringing things into being—and high on that list is helping others.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The ideas about what I will create and accomplish that day, in whatever realm of life I plan to act. I love variety and demonstrating competence in whatever I do—even if it be as simple as making the perfect poached egg.
Published 2016-11-14.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.