What got you into writing? Hmmm, that’s actually a tough one. I don’t remember when I started to write to be honest. I remember writing small stories when I was small. I also wrote a story about a haunted house in secondary school which was voted as the best story by the teacher.
After that I was a little more sporadic in my writing, mostly due to being an angst-y teenager. I do remember writing fan fiction on my Red Dwarf fan site. I suppose that was when my desire to write really started, if I had to pin point a time.
I knew I wanted to write but I never really knew what to do until a friend of mine told me to take part in NaNoWriMo in 2011. It was a wonderful experience and I managed to 50,000 word challenge three days ahead of the deadline. It left me with a huge feeling of accomplishment. True, the manuscript is still gathering dust after numerous attempts to tweak and fine-tune the novel, but hopefully one day I will get it finished and release it.
I then decided to look for a creative writing course which I did when I moved from Manchester to Liverpool in 2012. I loved every minute of that course, it was so challenging. I thrived on the deadlines to write our stories by the following week, each piece had to be different and I wrote a lot of dark stories. I have never thought myself as somebody who would write dark tales, but I did on that course. However, I also managed to write some lighter stuff too, comedy mainly. That is what I enjoy the most.
I was nominated by my tutor for an Adult Learner Award and although I did not reach the final, I still received a certificate which sits proudly in my living room at home.
What’s your favourite book and why? I’m not sure I have one, to be honest. I have favourite authors. If I had to say one book that I just couldn’t put down, I would say The Green Mile by Stephen King. Having already seen the film a million times I thought I’d finally give the book a go. It is virtually word for word the film yet I couldn’t put it down.
Even knowing what was coming, I couldn’t wait to pick it up the next day. A fabulous book. I’ve only read it once but that one has to be up there with one of the most enjoyable books I’ve ever read.
What’s your writing routine? I don’t get a lot of free time. At the moment writing is more of a hobby than a lifestyle. I have lots of interests but I try to write for 3-4 hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Having recently moved into a new flat, my writing routine is almost non-existent. However, I do try and write a little but after work.
I don’t tend to sleep very well if I write in the evenings, though when I do this tends to set my mind racing and it is when I come up with a lot of story ideas. I should try and write in the evening more, but I have to balance that out with also starting a new job and fitting in my other interests. I think as time goes on I will become more focused on my writing and I believe that it will be more prominent and take over some of my other interests.
I’ve only been writing a year and I like to write when I feel like it, but I do try to fix those hours down on weekends to make sure I at least write something at weekends.
Tea, or Coffee? Tea, all the way.
What got you into your particular genre of writing? I write mostly light-hearted fiction. I am a huge fan of Pratchett and Wodehouse so I like to think I take some of the silliness from Wodehouse’s’ Jeeves & Wooster with Pratchett’s Discworld humour. While I could never claim my work should be named alongside these two greats, they are two authors I admire greatly.
I ended up writing these as I was mentally tired on my course after all the darker stories and I just decided to write something light. It has grown from there, really.
Why do you love writing it? I suppose because I love writing them. I really love the characters I have created, even the ones that are nosy-parkers and busy-bodies who you deserve a slap. I have one character that I could write all day and still find more to say about them. I never meant them to be a main character when I wrote the small story in night school but they have become pivotal to the entire series.
As a first time author, how are you finding the publishing process? It can be difficult, at times. Learning how to format my word document to upload correctly to Kindle was difficult and at times baffling. Even now it doesn’t always space correctly and can take some time to fiddle around with to get it right.
I would say that promotion is the hardest thing. Humour is so subjective that it’s not always an easy seller. I have one of my darker stories available and that one has sold more than my series all together. That probably tells me I should be writing psychological stories, but I enjoy what I am doing for now. I have some plans in the pipeline but I have to get around to them yet.
How many books have you written and what are they? I have written five stories, four of them from my ‘Bumpkinton Tales’ series. They are Last Christmas, Bittersweet, The Bachelor and Albert’s Christmas. The Christmas tales are just short story tie-ins, especially Last Christmas. I wrote that in a week as a last-minute festive extra to Bittersweet which I was releasing at Christmas.
Bittersweet and The Bachelor and meatier novella’s and are the main stories in my Bumpkinton series. I tend to think of the Christmas shorts as extra’s rather than main stories from The Bumpkinton Tales.
Bumpkinton, as you will guess, is a fictional village and the stories are sometimes serious but they are littered with silliness, squabbling and a dash of pathos. There’s always laughs mixed in with a bit of sadness. There’s no swearing either. I want to make these stories available to all ages. They are very much something you can pick up after a tough, wordy novel and just relax for an hour or two of light reading before tackling another tough book again.
Last Christmas won the best short story in the Indie Book Bargain Awards 2013 while Bittersweet was voted as Runner-Up in the Best Novelette category. Something I am very proud of.
My other story is a short called ‘Brainstorm’. It’s set in New York and follows the day in the life of Clinical Psychologist, Michael Eriksson. He is pretty messed up. I am thinking of a more action-based sequel and have the beginnings of story, but I don’t quite have all the pieces yet. It proved very popular and during a free giveaway shot to Number #1 on Amazon in its Suspense and Thriller chart.
As a series author, do you find it hard to keep the story fresh? Not really. I have a whole village of characters to choose from. I do take time in picking a storyline. I have a number of characters who appear in every story. One especially is Father Whitworth O’Grady. He was meant to be a bit part player at the start but he has become the main character. I try and veer away from comparisons to Father Ted.
Some people have mentioned I have written him like him, I refute that completely. Father Ted is a selfish and unbelieving priest, while being utterly hilarious. I love that TV show. However, Whitworth, while being a bit impatient is a good priest who always tries to do his best. Okay, things don’t always go to plan but in essence he is a very caring character. He doesn’t poke fun at God and the Church like Father Ted does. To me they’re not even like each other other than that they are Catholic Priests.
I would also say not to worry, my Bumpkinton stories are not about religion. It’s touched upon now and again because Father O’Grady is a priest, but I don’t go into the daily routines of priesthood or anything like that. He’s the moral conscience of the village more than anything.
However, he does do something very Father Ted-ish in my next story, it’s something I’m wary of, but it’s a one off and I think it works well as a gag.
The stories are sedate and take place mainly in Bumpkinton and are about sweetshops and singles nights. Things like that. I have characters I am yet to use and have plans for them further down the line so I have ideas how to keep it fresh, including bringing in external characters. I can always bring in new people to freshen things up.
What tips can you give aspiring authors about writing a series? I would say to actually not worry if a character changes slightly. I think when you write a series people expect a character to be one way all the way through. However, when you start writing your characters change naturally as you write more stories in the series, either through circumstance or sometimes just because you think ‘Wouldn’t it be brilliant if they did or said this?’.
You do need to make sure you don’t contradict yourself though. Always make sure that you don’t mention a character did something in a previous story when it was a completely different character. I did that once but luckily I had a great set of proofreaders who pointed it out. It happens. You think a character said something and then you realise it was somebody else.
Above all else, enjoy them. You’ll find things out about your characters you didn’t expect, they’ll grow and some characters you thought would be peripheral figures suddenly take on more significance. Enjoy the ride. Oh, and never be afraid to kill anyone off!
How do you manage your time? Is it hard balancing your writing life with your working life? Yes, for me anyway. As previously mentioned, I have a lot of interests. I am a huge football fan. I love series and movies and watch things regularly. I read a lot as well as spend time with my fiancée. I would like to write more than I do, but I am happy with the time I do, for now.
Are you self-published or with an agent? Was this an active choice? I am self-published. Brainstorm I had a publisher for, but unfortunately they went under so it was pulled. However, self-publishing means I can get my writing out there. It’s unlikely I would ever have found one. Getting a novel published is so unlikely that self-publishing is only the real means for lots of writers to get their work out there.
I have proofreaders and an editor as well as cover artists (Or I purchase them) so I have a lot of help. It can be expensive and I haven’t made a profit from being an indie author. However, for me it’s not about how much money I can make and how quick. I don’t want to be famous. I’d love my stories to be read and loved by lots of people but it takes time to find the readers. I promote on Twitter and Facebook as much as I possibly can. I post on eBook pages where possible as well as my own website. It is very hard to get noticed but I’ve found some readers who have bought and enjoyed all of my stories (not just friends and family) which is lovely. I speak to them on Facebook and it’s nice to talk to these people who I never knew existed.
To receive a message about how much they loved my story is what I love. My writing tutor always told me to ‘Write for myself. It doesn’t matter if you never write a novel or become world renowned, as long as you write, that’s all that matters’. She was a great tutor. Completely bonkers, but a great tutor all the same.
Do you have a writing space? Tell us what it’s like! Not at the moment, we’ve just started renting a new flat so at the moment it’s all new. However, we have a spare room now with a little writing desk which I would love to write at with a cup of tea. However, there are suitcases and boxes in front and all over it at the moment. If I can get that cleared in the next few weeks it will be a nice quite haven for me.
How do you keep motivated? I just try and enjoy what I’m doing. If I’m not, I walk away. I ask my fiancée, Elaine, for ideas or tell her what I’m writing. She usually comes up with something to spark me back into life and I can get cracking on my writing again. Elaine always has faith in me so she keeps me motivated. All my stories are dedicated to her and always will be. She is my inspiration.
What did you struggle with the most when writing your new book? I think I’ll talk about what I’m currently writing rather than my last work. The last story I wrote was Albert’s Christmas and I found it quick easy to write. My next story in the Bumpkinton Tales series will be called ‘The Fantastical Gregory Shortbread’. I actually started it in the summer of 2013 and since then my ideas have grown.
Suddenly the title characters personality has changed so I have had to re-write him. I had some ideas about his past and the overall storyline in general and it just didn’t fit to how I had written him in that initial rough draft. He works much better now that I have started it from scratch. I’m keeping chunks of the original draft but I have to change vast swathes of his dialogue.
I think leaving it so long between the original start is the story has changed and it’s getting my head around how to make it work. Some aspects I really want to keep, but it’s making them fit the new story. Mostly it’s just a little tweak but some bits need a complete change around and I want to keep a certain one liner or scene without it jarring. I’ll get there. I was hoping to release it in October 2015 but I’ve left it open to a 2016 release. I set myself tight deadlines at times so this time I am taking it at a more relaxed pace until I am completely happy with the end product.
Do you have any hints for my readers about writing? Write. Nobody wrote a book by just wanting to write. Start writing. The first draft won’t be your final product. It can take a long time. It can be boring and frustrating, but when you’re done you’ll feel so happy you managed it all the days of not being able to figure out what to write next will be worth it.
That above will be enough for most people to decide not to bother, but if you want to write enough, you’ll get started, enjoy the days the words flow, get annoyed when you can barely string a sentence together the next and after months of editing be thrilled with the finished book.
Write. Write now!
Is there anything you wish you had known BEFORE you started your latest book? Yep, the change in story and title character! 😀
You’ve got a new book out! What’s it about? My last book was called Albert’s Christmas and is a short story set in Bumpkinton. It’s the inaugural Christmas Market’s in Bumpkinton and all is going well, that is until General Lloyd-Barnes, the man playing Father Christmas calls in sick. Father’s Whitworth O’Grady and Harrison Stalker race around the markets.
Amidst protests, flirty florists and a vindictive journalist, the priests are losing hope that is until one man steps forward to fill some very, big black boots. Somebody they did not expect….
How did you decide on cover art? Did you consult with a designer or is it all you? Luckily on Albert’s Christmas I found a website with the perfect cover. It matched my description of the Christmas Market stalls. However, my covers for Bittersweet and The Bachelor were hand drawn by my artist friend, Becky Ryan. I tell her what I want and she just produces it. She’s a very talented lady indeed. I like the drawings to be quite sketchy and a bit down to earth and simple and she just comes up with what I was thinking of.
Any links or websites you would like my readers to visit?
If anybody is interested in finding out more about my work you can visit the links below:
Thank you for the interview, it has been a joy! J