Tuesday 12 March 2019

Hang Out With the Author - Questions & Answers

Remember that "Hang out with the author" event I spoke about last month? The one where you could win a R500 Loot voucher? Well, it happened on Sunday, and I thought it was a roaring success.

I got asked a bunch of questions. You might be interested in hearing about them:

I have a question! Any other books in the pipeline?

Yes there is, actually. But it's early days. I'm working on a sword-and-sorcery story, that I'm hoping to get to novel length (but it might end up being long novella instead, like Memoirs of a Guardian Angel).

It doesn't have a title yet, but the world it's set in actually the inside of a giant cylinder.

The question all authors hate...name your top three books of all time!

I have two, right off the top of my head:

The first is The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr Seuss. My mom read and re-read that book to me until it was falling apart, and when I got old enough to read myself, I must have read it ANOTHER couple of thousand times. ;)

The second is IT by Stephen King. It is LONG, but there's just so much depth to the world and characters, that it's one of the few books I've ever read, where I honestly got lost for hours at a time, and forgot I was reading a book.

I honestly can't think of another single book. I really enjoyed all The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton when I was in Primary School, and when I was in High School, I discovered Gamebooks, and my all-time favourites were the Lone Wolf series by Joe Dever.

What made you start writing, and when did you?

I've always loved telling stories. In Primary School I was always the guy who remembered and re-told long-winded jokes (I often got them wrong, but that's beside the point). ;)

Towards the end of High School, I discovered tabletop roleplaying, and went from AmeriCHAOS 1994, to Werewolf, to Dungeons & Dragons (various editions), to GURPS, back to D&D. Although I enjoyed playing as a character, I soon found that, more often than not, I got lumped with the job of being the Game Master, telling the stories that the characters would participate in.

I think I wrote my first actual story down in Standard 7 (1994, if my maths is correct). It was a Gamebook about a spy. I can't remember much about it--and the manuscript has thankfully been lost to eternity--but I do remember one scene quite vividly, where you as the main character had to follow a trail of stompies (yes, I actually did call them that!) to track down your prey. :D

The next time I wrote anything creative was quite late, in 2012. I had recently discovered ebooks, and a friend of mine on Twitter had just self-published his first book on Smashwords. I read it and thought, "Hey, I can DO this!"

And so A Petition to Magic was born. I had a dream one night, clear as anything, about a wizard standing in his lab, surrounded by flasks and vials of various coloured liquids, and a giant spellbook spread out on the table in front of him. And that became the central scene in the story.

Does that answer your question? :P

And how are you enjoying the journey of being an author?

My favourite quote of all time is "I hate writing. I love having written."

That should tell you something. ;)

No, seriously, it can sometimes be stressful and frustrating, when the ideas just aren't coming. Other times, they flow out of me and it's the most amazing feeling in the world. Either way, there's no greater feeling than typing "The End" on a first draft.

And, unlike most authors, I think, I love re-reading and re-writing what I've written. As another quote famously put it, "You can't edit a blank page." ;)

I also really enjoy the business end. Tinkering with different marketing ideas, writing my monthly newsletter, talking with other people about what works and what doesn't... and I run my author business LIKE a business, with a set of books, and I report on my finances every month to my e-mail list. That kind of thing inspires me and keeps me going, and makes me feel like my fans are really a part of my journey... and I hope they feel like that, too. :)

When writing a book... do you have an overall idea of the whole story or do you start with an idea and see how it develops?

It's kind of a combination of the two. I don't do a formal outline, like many other authors, but I do tend to have an overarching idea of what's going to happen.

For A Petition to Magic, for example, the whole thing started with that ONE dream. When I woke up from that dream, I had no idea where that scene would fit. I didn't know the events leading up to it, or where the story would go from there. I didn't even know the wizard's NAME.

The more I thought about it, the more those things started falling into place in my mind. I don't think I started writing the book immediately; It was probably a couple of days before I felt comfortable enough to put the proverbial pen to paper (fingers to keyboard, heh). :)

All my other books have followed a similar process. Memoirs of a Guardian Angel didn't exactly come from a dream, but it DID come from a scene my wife told me, where she imagined a guardian angel sitting on top of a car careering down the highway. :D

Basically, I get an idea, and I pretty much just run with it. Even when I do have a basic idea of what's going to happen, that tends to change several times while I'm writing, so by the time I'm done, the ending is nothing like what I'd first imagined.

I guess that's one of the reasons why I take so long to write a book. I like to take my time, and I change my mind loads of times before I'm done.

So do you have some sort of a notebook to jot down ideas?

Honestly, no. I know everyone says writers should keep a journal, but I've never had the discipline for that.

I remember one time, reading something Stephen King said, and it kind of reminded me of my process. Paraphrased, it was something along the lines of how you shouldn't write down your ideas. The best books come from those ideas that just won't go away, and some of his bestselling books came to him that way: he would get an idea, but either dismiss it as stupid, or stick it in the back of his mind while he was busy with something else.

He'd end up forgetting most of them, but some of them would just keep asserting themselves. Sometimes for years and years, before he actually took the decision to WRITE those stories.

I have a couple of those, too. I've got plenty of ideas that I THOUGHT I probably should've written down, but didn't, and have since forgotten all the details. But there are others that I just keep remembering (the book I'm busy with now is an idea that first occurred to me at LEAST 15 years ago, but I didn't think I was mature enough to tell it back then).

It's weird how this process works. :)

Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated writing space?

I do. I'm really lucky to have a day-job where I work from home, so I have an office set up at home with a dedicated workspace. I also have a dedicated "work notebook", and my home machine is a desktop PC.

When work is done in the afternoon, I switch off my notebook and switch my keyboard, mouse, and monitor to my home PC. And that's when the writing begins! :D

Here's a photo of my writing space:

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I can't remember wanting to be anything other than a computer programmer, and that, since probably Standard 1 (1988 if my maths serves me again ;) ).

Only back then, all I wanted to do was write games. I matured a little over the years, but never lost that overarching goal.

And guess what I am now? Yip, a computer programmer! :D

I love my job. But I love my writing career too. I'd never want to give either of them up.

What do you enjoy doing, aside from writing, reading and IT? Any hobbies?

We watch a lot of series on TV. In fact, we've just finished binging five seasons of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I also still roleplay, and go to a monthly Dungeons & Dragons session.

I can see a new hobby maybe coming up in the near future; we're going on a cruise, and I want to play shuffleboard. I've ALWAYS wanted to play shuffleboard! :D

Got any questions that haven't been covered above? Pop them into the comments below, and I'll do my best to answer them!

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