Interview with EH Walter

Published 2013-09-13.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love stories and always have. I used to nag my dad into telling me stories from his childhood again and again, so I've always been aware that stories come from all of us and there isn't a special Author badge you get given that means you are now qualified to tell stories. Sometimes I can't find the type of book I want to read - so I write it and that is my greatest joy. I create something I want to read and hopefully other people do too.
When did you first start writing?
I can't remember when I wasn't writing! I've definitely been working on novels ever since Christmas Eve 1992 when I started "Archer's Crest" under the lights of the Christmas tree. I worked on it all through university too, before finally burning it in the back garden. I regret that now - it was all painstakingly written in blue fountain pen in longhand - but I suppose every writer ought to have a 'lost' novel.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I remember writing was about a family of mice facing danger. It was inspired by The Animals of Farthing Wood and Watership Down. I couldn't have been more than nine years old. My parents were my first audience but they had a habit of pointing out plot flaws that made me lose heart in my 'books' - not deliberately may I add!
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Hampshire, just outside Portsmouth. I don't know that this influenced my writing other than I love the sea and being close to the countryside. Where I live now has had more influence because PI is set in Barnet, in the places I see every day and I am trying to make the very ordinary a little less so.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I love to write. I can write in bed, but not nearly as well!
I have never been able to be a full time writer so my job (teaching and now motherhood) gets me out of bed and I do find I write better if I am busy as my mind is constantly working.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I love sitting in coffee shops with a good book, watching the world go by. Most of the time though I am writing and can be seen in the local Starbucks with a laptop or iPad tapping away furiously trying to get more words down before the baby wakes up!
What do your readers mean to you?
It's really important to have people who follow your books and support you. It means so much to me when someone contacts me on Facebook or Twitter and tells me they are enjoying my books. I also find readers a real inspiration as I have to finish the next book for them. I also try and involve them by asking for suggestions for names etc on Facebook or Twitter. Because of the nature of social media I really feel readers are new friends, some of whom I have yet to meet.
Who are your favourite authors?
I love reading Christopher Brookmyre. His plots are amazingly clever. I went to a talk he gave at Foyles this year and he was so intelligent it explained how he manages such intricate plots.
History is a big passion of mine and so I love CJ Sansom's Shardlake series. He evokes the period and people very well. What so many historical authors forget is that people in history are just like us, they just live in another time, and Sansom never forgets this. I have also enjoyed Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth and World Without End for the same reasons.
I must not forget Jim Butcher and his Dresden Files which really were the inspiration for PI as I wanted a British woman battling the paranormal.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Kindle, but tend to use the Kindle app on my iPad and iPhone more than the Kindle these days. If I had the iPad first I probably wouldn't have bought the Kindle, but the screen is definitely easier on the eyes.
What do you read for pleasure?
Anything! I try to read widely. I have noticed now though that I deem my time precious and I won't finish a book that is not good enough or well written. I used to finish everything, but now my time has a price on it!
What are your five favourite books, and why?
The Harry Potter series - a whole world created within our own and utterly compelling.
Pillars of the Earth - just a fantastic story and brilliantly written.
The Sacred Art of Stealing - genius, funny, brilliantly written with fabulous characters.
The Shardlake series - great writing, a great main character and Tudor England cleverly evoked.
Persuasion - this is my ice cream of books. Enough said!
What is your writing process?
I have an image or line that comes into my head and it goes from there. Sometimes I have a dream I think I could turn into a book and so I note it down. Since beginning the Paranormal Investigations series I have become quite organised, I jot down the sequence of things. I try not to over plot though as I find this makes me feel as if I have already written the book and I have no desire to do it again. I then plough through, a chapter at a time - writing 3-4k words per chapter. Nanowrimo is great for me as it motivates me and I can finish a book in November. I failed for the first time in 2012 because I was pregnant and exhausted, I'm not sure 2013 will be any better with a four month old! I'll just have to head out to Starbucks and hope for the best!
Describe your desk
I don't have a desk - I wish! I'd love a little sacred space purely for writing. Wherever I write there will be a hot beverage of some kind, a notepad, a pen in a bright colour and my laptop/iPad.
How do you approach cover design?
Through Nanowrimo I discovered a great designer called Tirz (A Clever Whatever on Blogger) and she has designed most of my covers. A friend did the first PI cover (thanks Michael Farmer) and for Marian I had to find another designer as Tirz was busy at the time so googled premade covers and found Laura Wright De Roche.
With Tirz I give her an idea of what I want but I am always impressed with what she comes up with and more often than not something in the cover will inspire something to go into the text. I won't use a cover I am not happy with as they are so important to give people a taste of the book and your professionalism.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I haven't really marketed my books. I'm on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads but with a limited amount of time and money there is only so much you can do.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
My friend Sean Sweeney I guess. He is a very successful Indie author and it wasn't something I'd considered before meeting him via Nanowrimo and Facebook. He impressed on me the advantages, which to my mind are: complete artistic freedom and just getting your work out there.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has been vital. It seems to good to be true that there is this fantastic resource for selling your books! I think the whole ethos behind Smashwords is laudable too.
What are you working on next?
I have a few projects in various stages of development at the moment. The Reed Bed, a stand alone historical, is awaiting its second edit before publication; Marian, a 125k word historical, needs a few plots rearranged; and I am half way through writing Paranormal Investigations 4: In Limbo. After that I might write another screenplay or launch straight on to PI5: A Faint Whiff of Wet Dog.
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