The dark fiction webzine Inner Sins selected me as their featured writer in the Issue 18, Fall 2014 edition which went live on 1st October. They asked me to do an interview, which you can read here: Steven Mace- Featured Writer- Inner Sins interview
Inner Sins is an American webzine, and my answers were edited for their readers. Additionally, I thought I'd share the transcript of my original replies to their questions here on my blog:
What prompted you to become a writer?
Before wanting to become a writer myself, firstly I was an avid reader. Imagination comes in handy, and sometimes a fantasy world is more vivid and attractive than the mundane aspects of real life. I would like to think I still possess a child's sense of wonderment and pleasure in 'making stuff up' even though I am in my 30s now. I never idolised any particular writers, but in my teens I hit a moment of self-realisation that I wanted to create worlds of characters, conflicts and plot, similar to my favourite authors in horror, speculative fiction and fantasy genres. When I started trying to write, I realised that I got a buzz from it and I enjoyed the feel of crafting a story, making images with words, searching for my own style. I simply thought I had struck upon something that I might be good at. It's nothing to do with finding a way to make money or trying to be famous.
Who were the authors you read in your youth?
The writers I read as a kid evolved from children's authors like Enid Blyton - who wrote excellent adventure stories that would be classed as YA today- to my horror/SF/fantasy favourites such as Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean R Koontz (the Big Three). I also liked, in no particular order, J.R.R Tolkien, Raymond Feist, Tanith Lee, Ursula Le Guin, Dan Simmons, Peter Straub, Brian Lumley, and Philip K.Dick. Too many to mention. I also loved comics, particularly 2000AD. I also enjoyed the graphic novels of Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore.
Favourite authors now?
In recent years I've discovered a lot of fascinating writers that I didn't read in my youth. A good example is Thomas Pynchon. I picked up Gravity's Rainbow as a teenager and tried to read it, and couldn't make head nor tail of it. I tried reading it again a few years ago, and finally I 'got' Pynchon and the weird, baroque, humorous, and garish cartoon-ish style he'd perfected in that novel. I've discovered different SF authors, such as older classic material by H.G Wells, Aldous Huxley, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. I enjoyed reading Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. I really liked Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. Everyone has discovered George R R Martin's writing now, through watching the Game of Thrones series. I just hope he can stay ahead of the TV adaptation.
Where do your ideas come from?
For horror fiction, I think a writer has to reach deep into their subconscious and early memories to tap into their childhood fears: it might be the sound of the wind shrieking in the chimney, the ominous creaking of the floorboards, a weird rustling in the attic. The way the dim light from outside the bedroom window is distorted by the curtains; creating weird shadows, maybe a curious shape in the corner. Is something going to reach out and grab our foot if we leave it outside the covers? What might that thing be? It's from these kind of impressions that ideas for creating weird fiction are formed. Every writer strives, or hopes for, originality in their work. It can be difficult to achieve that as we're inevitably influenced and shaped by what we already read and see, and the culture that exists around us. We have to get in touch with our primal selves.
What time of day do you do most of your writing?
I am a night owl by nature. My imagination seems most rich and powerful in the late evening. I like to write from 9pm right into the early hours of the morning, if I have good flow. However, I'm probably most efficient and analytical, first thing in the morning. I'd say late night is the best time for me, for plotting and putting down a first draft. Early morning to noon is good for editing, proof-reading and refining the work. Afternoon and early evening is the best period for a break!
Do you have any peculiar habits or idiosyncrasies concerning your writing?
I have certain needs which I require for a good environment for writing. I appreciate Jonathan Franzen's comments about killing the Internet connection and wearing sound-proof headphones to get totally into the creative process. I need peace and quiet to be fully focused on writing. Noise of any kind isn't really helpful at all, particularly any kind of music which I find incredibly distracting.
What genre would you say most of your writing falls into?
It's all horror, fantasy and SF- however I would use the term "speculative fiction" rather than "science fiction". If I had to pick one, that would be the genre.
Can you remember the first thing you wrote?
There was a Fantasy thing, it was a miniature hybrid imitation of Stephen King's Dark Tower 3: The Waste Lands and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I tried to write it in the early 1990s, but never finished it. I can't remember too much about it, except there was a group of characters who inevitably ended up going on the inevitable quest and there was a dwarf called 'Flatbit' in it. It's long since been destroyed!
Writers have many names for themselves; screenwriter, novelist, playwright, journalist, poet. What do you consider yourself?
Author. An author of novels and short stories.
What would you say to someone thinking of becoming a writer?
There's a difference between being a writer of fiction, and a writer of non-fiction, which isn't always acknowledged. Both require writing skill, but to write fiction requires extra qualities of imagination and inspiration. If you possess those, then it's all about hard work and perseverance. Keep working hard and improving your stories. Both writers of fiction and non-fiction need to find their style, or their ideal approach to writing. The fiction writer needs to have the inner desire that they have stories worth telling, and they have to passionately believe in their work. I also think it's about finding out what you're good at in life, and what skills you naturally possess. Some of the best writers had no choice, they felt compelled to write. I also think the best writers write for themselves at the beginning, not for a projected readership or 'market'. Success arrives for the lucky few as a by-product from that.