Some time ago I posted that I was going to do a Q & A to respond to fan questions. Thank you to all the people who asked me questions about my writing. I received several by e-mail, on facebook and verbally. Here are my responses, I've endeavoured to answer them to the best of my ability.
Do you really think you could become a famous and successful writer?
It's incredibly difficult but we can all dream! You need about 5 % inspiration, 45 % hard work and 50% of a thick skin that can accept rejection and properly assess your own work in order to improve it. It's really important not to give up. A short story or a novel might receive 100 rejections and the 101st could be successful...a lot of people would give up before the 50th rejection. J.K Rowling was rejected several times by publishers before her manuscript for the first Harry Potter novel was finally accepted. The importance of networking and knowing the right people and right avenues to go down and who to approach is also important in any industry too.
Writing fiction is a hugely competitive field, and the publishing industry is saturated. You only need look on the self-publishing websites like Lulu, XLibris, Authonomy and Authorhouse to see the vast amount of self-published work out there that has been completed and whose authors are trying to get noticed.
I've only just started and I am still learning. Experimenting and practicing writing is all part of the process. I think it's very important to complete stories and novels and then be self-critical. Unless you're fortunate enough to be a literary genius, or work relentlessly at a first novel you believe in for ten or fifteen years or however long it takes to get it up to scratch, your first book will not be a masterpiece and it will be very difficult for it to be published.
In terms of choosing to do this, I think there are easier ways to become famous and make money. If that's the sole intention for someone trying to write a book, I'd advise that you do something else. It's a very lonely hobby/profession and it is extremely hard work, harder than you might initially think. However, I do it because I enjoy writing and constructing fiction, I enjoy telling stories. And I'll plod on with it, for better or worse.
Is Self-Publishing worthwhile? Is it really the way forward? After all- anyone can do it. It doesn't have the stamp of quality that published, properly marketed, packaged and edited work does. Self-published writers are considered 'hobbyists', rather than serious professional writers and self-published books are therefore erratic in terms of quality.
The principle benefit of self-publishing is that I can have complete control of the material I write and of the editing process. I can even switch genres if I desire to. I don't have to keep to a formulaic approach. Secondly, once I have finished work I can make it available to people and share what I have done. Feedback is always welcome. Being able to make my completed books available in this self-published format also keeps me encouraged. I know that there can be an end product when I finish something after investing a lot of time and energy in it, even if it would be rejected by traditional publishers. Seeing a printed book with my name on the spine at the end is a powerful incentive and a reward for time invested.
The publishing business is changing with advancing technology anyway, and the traditional model is not sustainable.
Do you write poetry?
No, I prefer writing prose. I'm more into storytelling and creating characters and conflicts that need to be resolved rather than experimenting with language in that medium.
Have you published any short stories in magazines yet?
Not yet, but I'm working on it! Submission requirements are quite stringent. Many magazines don't accept work that is over a certain word limit, or has been already published or self-published in some form, or made available online. I'm currently working on more stories. My story 'Staccato House' was shortlisted for the Page Turner Prize Novella competition and I won a prize for that. I've also received interesting feedback from publishers and magazine editors.
I really liked the Pirate Princess but the story seemed to end a bit abruptly. I was hoping that Ayesha would find her parents and who was the mysterious magician at the end? Will there be a sequel?
Time permitting, yes there will be. I will write a sequel eventually. I think it would be a much longer, epic novel and you will find out a lot more about Ayesha and her world. Initially I wasn't planning to write a sequel to that novel but I have a few interesting ideas for Captain Nightshade's next adventures that I plan to work on sometime in the distant future.
Why do you mainly write 'weird' stuff (horror, fantasy and science fiction)? Will you attempt to write stories in other genres?
I don't write with a specific potential audience in mind. I just write fiction to please myself in the first instance, in the genres I like and would read myself. I am writing a romantic historical novel at the moment though, which might surprise a few people. It's set in the period of the 1940s up to the late 1970s. I've had to do a lot of research to make it as authentic as possible.
You said you were going to write a vampire novel on your blog last year. What has happened with that?
I'm planning a trilogy of books about vampires, and I have the structure and plots for them. I'm planning to try and do something original with the vampire myth. I just need to find the time!
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm writing another collection of short stories. It may be some time before they become available though because once I'm happy with them these will be sent to magazines or entered in competitions. After the outcomes with those, I will self-publish them in a book and make them available online if they weren't published in a magazine. I made the mistake of doing it the other way round before but that was because I was eager to show what I had been working on for some time.
I'm also working on four novels, which are all at varying stages of completion. 'Staccato House' is a dark crime thriller set in the present day, and the first third of what will become that novel was the novella shortlisted for the Page Turner Prize. I'm also working on another crime/detective novel (also set in the present), a science fiction novel that I've been attempting to finish for years but is all mapped out, and I've also begun this romantic historical novel set from the 1940s-70s, which is a bit of a departure for me! Really though, it's more a dramatic character study than a romance as such, although a romantic relationship is at the heart of the story.
I'm hoping to complete these five projects (including the short stories) over the course of 2011/2012. Once they're complete, I'll try to get them published and do something with them to make them available: whether they're self-published or free to read online. I've also thought about making 'Staccato House' available in a serialised format here on my blog. I would post a chapter each week, or each month depending on the final length.
Those were all the questions I received this time, but I welcome all comments, replies, feedback, suggestions and criticism!