An interview with romantic thriller novelist, SR Garrae

Welcome to my latest author interview in the series. This afternoon I am delighted to welcome the outstanding novelist, SR Garrae, author of the romantic thriller; Death in focus. It has been fascinating to discover her journey to publication and I look forward to hearing more from her in the future.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in a smallish village in Scotland, but spent all my working life based in London, with a year in Russia, dealing with international finance. I read for work, I read for a hobby: basically my life revolved around reading. Then one day I was diagnosed with an incurable, but manageable, eye condition, and I re-evaluated my life and started to write. I wrote fanfiction (and still do); then I was asked to write a screenplay for a major international sector conference, which was professionally filmed, and after that and a couple of bouts of eye surgery I retired to write original works full time.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
Now, I’m retired. I go to the gym, I still read a lot, I do cross-stitch and embroidery, jigsaw puzzles, travel, and deal with my small family. I have a lot of friends all over the world and I write to them, too. I have a garden, which has more weeds than flowers, so I’m trying to tidy it up a bit.

3. Do you have a day job as well?
Not now. I did have, when I began my book. It was pretty full on, but I retired in March 2018.

4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I started writing (fanfiction) about 5 or 6 years ago. I finished my first original book in January 2018.

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
It was a natural choice, as I’d been writing romantic crime fiction in fanfiction for a while. However, I wanted to use my own characters, not someone else’s. The case ideas in Death in Focus came from my own experience when doing a science degree – I didn’t personally see scientific fraud, but we all knew that it existed – and in finance, where I did see fraud and the significant temptation of lots of money. The first character who came to me was O’Leary, who simply dropped wholesale into my head on a business trip. The others took longer to develop. None of them are taken from real life, though Casey Clement has taken elements from every successful professional woman I’ve known, myself included.

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes. But when my original work is blocked, I go back to fanfiction, which generally clears my head.

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
When I start, I only have a very broad outline – key plot points of character, relationships, and the case. Then I start to write the story, and as I go along I expand the outline so that it’s a summary of all the key points, colour coded for case, each relationship, and team. That way I can pick up plot holes and knit them back together by using the outline to find where they should have begun, and I can make sure that I don’t leave case issues hanging. The outline is as dynamic as the full manuscript.

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
No. I’ve read pretty much every genre from slush romance to outright horror; classics to very modern. I reread many authors, and I’d say that you can’t be any sort of a decent author if you haven’t taken time to read widely as well.

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (self-published or traditional)?
I tried to find an agent, and failed. Self-publishing with Amazon was surprisingly easy: the biggest challenge was formatting the cover for the paperback.

10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I would edit harder, and make sure that there was more dialogue.

11. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I mainly market through Twitter and Amazon advertising, and there’s a certain amount of word of mouth. I could do a lot more, but I’m taking it fairly slowly.

12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
No, but that’s the benefit of self-publishing.

13. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
Death in Focus is a romantic police procedural set in Manhattan. Casey Clement, a driven detective, leads a team of misfits: giant, gay O’Leary; ex-Army Tyler; technogeek Andy. All of them have secrets in their past, and none of them play nice with others outside the team. When obsessive photographer Jamie Carval, searching for a new theme, stumbles across the team and their latest corpse, he’s found his new exhibition – and he’s found Casey. As he tries to follow the team, the team are more interested in solving the murder of a top-class scientist, and following the multimillion dollar trail of motives to the door of billion-dollar business. However, Carval won’t give up his exhibition no matter how much Casey pushes him away, and as he begins to discover why she hates photographs he also begins to be accepted.

14. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
The science and the financial elements are all based on real life, though the shenanigans in the lab are not. The fraud isn’t directly taken from real life, but is a composite. The setting is real (there was a lot of wandering around Manhattan using Google Street View) as are such things as the police Academy and the CSU lab. The story is all imagination, as are all of the characters.

15. What project are you working on now?
I’m working on a sequel to Death in Focus, which will feature the same team as they delve into the ugly underbelly behind the modelling world. Past history will return to haunt the team and Carval.

16. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
I’m about 2/3 through the first draft, so it’s unlikely that my next book will be ready before March/April 2019. I’ll need to edit it and get it independently read once I’ve actually finished and done my editing.

17. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I want to stay with Carval, Casey and her team. They’ve got a lot of issues to explore and interesting cases to be solved. I’m especially fond of O’Leary, as my first really big original character.

18. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest criticism was that my writing was naïve. The best compliment, though, was that the reader couldn’t stop turning the pages.

19. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Read everything you can get your hands on – even if you think you’ll hate the author and the genre.
Get a good spelling and grammar check.
Two things I learned from writing the screenplay which translate to novels: (1) have a bio for each of your notable characters – not just your main character but the subsidiaries as well. It really helps with visualisation and continuity; (2) read your dialogue aloud to ensure it’s what people would say, not a “novelised” version of speech. Real people rarely use names in conversation, for example, and they almost always use contractions (isn’t, don’t). It really, really helps.

20. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you! I hope you enjoy reading Death in Focus and I’d love you to join me on the next one. I take questions and comments on Goodreads and Twitter, and they will be answered.

Please join me in thanking SR Garrae for engaging with me and opining up with some revealing insights into the life of an author. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact her via the following links.

Social media contacts:
Twitter: @Garrae_writes
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/srgarrae

Please show your appreciation by checking out SR Garrae’s work on Amazon:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07D5DPKNK
Death in Focus on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07D59T9VV

 

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An interview with the multi genre author, Ellington Norris

Welcome to the latest in my series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am pleased to introduce, Ellington Norris, multi genre author of number of novels including, “Killer’s Forest” and “Immortal Curse.” Ellington has opted to take the self-published route with his novels and has offered some cogent advice for anyone planning to undertake a similar journey.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My pen name is Ellington Norris, I’m in my 30s, and I’m married with four kids. I decided to write under a pen name because my wife was concerned that my co-workers and other acquaintances would read my writing and feel perturbed by the intensity of it all.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
Outside of my day job, I enjoy reading, I just read “The Maltese Falcon” and I’m reading “Watership Down” right now. Having four kids also keeps me very busy taking time with them. Other than that, I enjoy movies, TV shows, and a few other odds and ends here and there.

3. Do you have a day job as well?
Yes! I’m a lawyer for a mid-size law firm. I primarily do litigation and court-room work, but also help with contract drafting and negotiating. It has helped in my writing career because I can represent myself.

4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I have wanted to be a writer since I was about 9-10 years old, and I wrote all sorts of things all the time from that age on. My first book I wrote was a collection of short stories I wrote with my brother about our experience selling alarm systems door to door in Kansas City. Killer’s Forest is my first novella, and it took me about 3 months to write my first draft, followed by about 2 years of editing!

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
I’m not tied to one specific genre. My next book after Killer’s Forest will likely be a detective-noire, meanwhile I have a spy novel and a sci-fi novel idea I’m working on as well. Many of my ideas come from long contemplation where I adapt little experiences in my own life into bigger, grander events. I also get quite a few ideas from dreams, as well, and adapt those into actual stories.

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Of course, who doesn’t! My biggest struggle is getting through the middle-part of a book. I usually have a great beginning and an idea of where it will end, but bridging the middle-part is toughest.

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I usually know where things are going, so I just write. Sometimes I’ll put an outline together for more complex stories with lots of characters to make sure I don’t forget anyone in the story.

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Novels by Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton really spurred me forward in reading and writing in my teens. Those books were what kept me interested in reading for years, and really helped me get a good sense of what a book should feel like.

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
My biggest hurdle was editing my story into a stronger piece. Between the family, the day job, moving, selling my house, changing jobs, starting the new job, moving to the new job; all of that took time and energy and editing my novel just took a back-seat to all of that. Once I had it edited and in final form, I knew that if I took the time to shop around to agents and publishers, it’d be another year before it hit shelves due to my limited time, so I opted to self-publish.

10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I would do it the same. I love the writing process and love seeing a story come together, and Killer’s Forest came together so well in so many ways that it just felt right every step along the way. I don’t mind being self-published, so I have no qualms there, either.

11. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I enjoy marketing to “writer twitter” because there are great folks online who are happy to retweet or help you promote your work. I also am considering a small run of ads on amazon, but I haven’t taken the dive, yet.

12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
While Killer’s Forest is my first novella, I have a few other short stories and works that will likely never get widely published because of the limited market for short stories and the limited time I have to market my work.

13. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
Yes! Killer’s Forest is a dark psychological thriller set in colonial Pennsylvania. It is about Al, Will, and Johnny. After Al and Will witness a murder in the forest near their small village, Al starts to feel himself drawn towards the idea of death. His friendships with Will and Johnny are tested, and when the new girl moving to the village takes an interest in Al, Al spins a web of lies to keep his dark desires a secret. It twists and turns several times before a great ending. I really enjoyed writing it and really feel like it is a book driven by the main character’s interactions with all of the side-characters. Killer’s Forest comes out August 26.

14. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
When I had the original idea for the book, it was actually supposed to be based upon four young boys who spur the Salem Witch Trials–telling lies and staging events so that another “witch” would get burned/hung. I thought that was too predictable and campy and moved it forward 50-100 years to 1750s Pennsylvania, instead, and that’s where the first paragraph of the book opens.

15. What project are you working on now?
Next up is my detective noire, set in modern day. The book opens on a suicide note that reads “this is not a suicide note.” The detective assigned to the case is a once-famous, turned lazy detective who has to dig deep and resolve his own demons to solve this one. I’m still not sure how it will end but its going to have a similar psychological feel as Killer’s Forest, but with many more side characters and a bit of a “whodunit” feel as it all comes together in the end.

16. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
So Killer’s Forest comes out August 26, then the detective-noire book will hopefully drop late spring of next year. My hope is to keep the releases around 9 months apart for all future books.

17. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I know that series are all the rage, but I have a hard time bringing myself to draft a series. I feel like character development is just so much fun to do, and having a series you really have to stall that character development in order to break up the book, and I hate to do that to my characters. I’d rather see them start, grow, and end (or die, in many case) instead of pause the growth for 25 chapters so that I can get a 2nd book out of it.
That said, I do have a few books that I think could work as a series, but they are much more story-driven than character driven…or they have so many deaths that the characters change a lot from book to book.

18. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
As far as criticism, I have had a few of those “1-star” amazon reviews that are not helpful, just something along the lines of “you have bad grammar your the worst writer” (ironically with poor grammar, itself) or people who just say “I just don’t like this kind of book.” The worst criticism to receive is the criticism that you don’t understand or that you cannot work on because its either vague or is based upon something you can’t change, like the genre of your work.
As for the best compliment? People saying they couldn’t put the book down is an amazing one. I’m the type of reader that, when I pick up a good book, I will not put it down for anything. I love knowing that someone felt the same about my book.

19. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
There’s the basic ones like “never stop writing” and “believe in yourself,” but here’s something else: write something real. Every story will have something real, whether that’s real emotion or real situations. Even if your story features space pirates or medieval dragons, you can write some real emotion from your own experience to make that book real to your readers. As an example, Killer’s Forest is a dark psychological thriller, but I put something of myself in each and every character to make sure that readers will find someone to connect with, and I’ve had numerous people say they either liked Al, Will, or Johnny the best of the three, which tells me I did something right. You can do the same. Make your characters real people with real feelings and your readers will accurately respond.

20. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
To my fan(s), thank you for reading my work and sharing it with friends. To readers who aren’t fans yet, please keep reading! I write the kind of books and stories that my mind has had trapped inside for years, and I’m sure I’ll tap into something you’ll love.

Please join me in thanking Ellington Norris for his candid and insightful responses regarding the publishing industry and for sharing his journey as a writer. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Ellington direct via the below social media links.

Twitter: @ellington.norris

Please show your appreciation by checking out Ellington’s work on Amazon.com.

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&field-author=Ellington+Norris&search-alias=digital-text&text=Ellington+Norris&sort=relevancerank

An interview with thriller writer, Eldon Farrell

I apologise for the brief gap in my author interviews. The summer holidays with the kids and a lack of computer time put pay to my interviews. I am pleased to say I’m back at the keyboard, perhaps a little pinker (burnt) around the edges and with my nerves shot to pieces, but I’m back!

Today I am pleased to introduce the talented American writer, Eldon Farrell, author of number of thriller novels including his latest blockbuster, Singularity. Eldon has opted to take the self-published route with his novels and has offered some cogent advice for anyone planning to undertake a similar journey.

KINDLE Singularity 11 May 2018

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
So we’re starting with the tough questions right off the top, huh? LOL. Let’s see, I was born and raised in Southwestern Ontario, married to the love of my life going on a handful of years now, have one amazing son, and love to write. I’m an avid reader of anything from non-fiction to fiction to comic books. Marvel and DC – no discrimination here. Favourite would still be DC though 😉

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing I’m trying to find time to write. Any parents out there know what I’m talking about when I say time is a precious commodity with a toddler underfoot! I love to watch movies or television (though I don’t see much of it anymore), and as mentioned before, read. I’ll read almost any genre, but tend to stick close to thrillers.

3. Do you have a day job as well?
Like a lot of authors out there, I do have a day job. My formal training is in accounting, and I work as a Certified Professional Accountant for a large multi-national corporation. I love numbers and am something of an Excel junkie, so my career choice has worked out perfectly for me.

4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
So long ago now. I started writing short stories over thirty years ago, which is a number that both blows my mind and makes me feel old. Back then, it was all about a love for creating. No publishing or marketing, just a boy, an imagination, and a blank page. The stories weren’t the greatest, but the value of the lessons learned cannot be replaced.
I finished my first book in College, around 2001 if memory serves. It has never seen the light of day. What those who aren’t in the craft fail to realize, is that writing is a process and often times the only way we learn how to do it is by doing it wrong. I made so many mistakes crafting that story. But, if I hadn’t made those mistakes, I never would’ve had the skill to write Stillness and everything since.

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
The famous advice given to all writers is to write what you know. There’s truth to that. For me, because I’ve read so many thrillers, it was just natural to write them as well. I write the kind of suspenseful stories I like to read. As to where I get my ideas from . . . after more than thirty years writing I’ve learned that ideas rarely come to you fully formed. The first draft of anything is so different from the final draft. As an example, the first idea for Singularity had aliens in the story. The concept didn’t work for me, and the story evolved to the harsher realism present in the final draft.

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
What if I said I’m experiencing it with this interview, haha 🙂 Seriously though, I don’t know a single writer who hasn’t spent time on the block. I believe at least some of it stems from the self-doubt all good writer’s experience. It can be hard to create something and then wonder for months on end if it will be well received. In the back of your mind you always wonder if it’s good enough. Spend too much time wondering on such things, and you’ll find your creativity takes a hit.
But you’ll notice, I said good writers. It was once said to me that only good writers wonder if they can be better, bad writers know they can’t 😉 There’s wisdom in those words, I think.

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I’ve done both actually. Early in my career, I wrote from the seat of my pants believing it would curb my creativity to have an outline. Sometimes this worked out, and other times it didn’t. Without an outline it’s easier to back yourself into a corner, or just have the plot unravel on you. These days, I avoid those issues by plotting out an outline before I sit down to write. It changes as I write and new ideas crop up, but it keeps me on track.

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I’ve been influenced by the works of many authors. In particular, the late, great Michael Crichton and the amazing Patrick Redmond. Reading Crichton’s fantastic novels (Jurassic Park, Congo, Sphere, the list goes on) taught me the value of truly original ideas. And from Redmond, I gained something to shoot for. I often remark that he could write about grass growing and keep you on the edge of your seat, such is his ability with the written word. One day, I hope to write a book in his league and will continue to reach for that star.

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
My first book went the self-published route, and as such, held a steep learning curve. When you publish yourself you have to consider everything. I did learn this the hard way. If you’re reading this, and considering doing it yourself, there are three key areas you need to focus your energies on. First, find an editor you can trust and work well with. To be taken seriously, your work needs to be professionally edited. Second, don’t design the cover yourself. Just don’t do it. Whatever you save in money by doing it yourself, you will lose in sales because you did it yourself. And third, unless you’ve committed to learning HTML programming, pay to have your ebook interior formatted. The common thread with all this is the reader experience is paramount and our challenge as authors is to make sure nothing stands in the way of that.

10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I love this question. If I could do it all over again, there’s a few things I would change. Starting out as an author, most everyone makes some mistakes as we learn the craft. For me, the biggest regret I have is publishing my first book, Stillness, without having it edited first. I was younger, and foolish enough to think I could “edit” it myself. I’ve since wised up and am in the process of having each of my first three books professionally edited. But you only get one chance to make an impression on readers and I regret I didn’t put my best foot forward. For any new author reading this, invest in an editor. We all want to make sales, but your money will be far better spent on an editor than on marketing if your book is not up to par. It’s a competitive market out there, and you need to project professionalism in everything you do.
The other thing I would change is the release schedule of my second and third books. I listened to some bad advice regarding series and rushed them both out concurrently when I should’ve taken my time and spaced out the releases. Live and learn.

11. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Marketing is always tough. There’s never a lack of suggestions or advice out there on what works and what doesn’t work, almost to the point of being too much. I will say this much, for me, I found sites like ENT and Book Gorilla to provide the best return on investment. If you’re lucky enough to snag a BookBub, that’s worth its weight in gold too. Aside from promo sites, building an email list is key. Just don’t succumb to the temptation to offer rewards for signing up. Remember, what you desire is not a large number of subscribers, but a list of engaged readers.

12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Not yet, and honestly, I can’t see this happening. In this age of print-on-demand and ebook publishing, there’s really no reason why any book you write can’t be published. The old barriers to entry are gone. The gatekeepers were put out to pasture and ushered in a brave new world.

13. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
August 14 was the big day for me. Release day for Singularity, a gritty, dystopian vision of the future and the start of a brand new series. Nothing says it better than the back copy:
Nathan Miller owns the streets of Union City. A rogue detective protected by a corrupt establishment—his rule is absolute. But nothing lasts forever.
Someone has betrayed him and now blog sensation Alexis King knows things she shouldn’t. Coming after Nathan she threatens his authority, giving the elite cause to question his worth.
To protect his reign, Nathan must silence his betrayer before Alexis learns enough to topple him. But he’s no longer the only thing to fear in the rotten underbelly of 2035. His search uncovers an evil preying upon the displaced beyond the city wall—making Nathan the next target.
Except of course, maybe the tagline: It takes a certain kind of evil to save this city.

14. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Well . . . 😉 No, seriously most of what I write is pure imagination. Even more so for this story set in 2035. I’ll say I had so much fun writing this one, maybe because of the near future setting. An author friend of mine pointed out to me that it’s not so far in the future, but it’s far enough to be able to have some fun speculating with technological advances.

15. What project are you working on now?
Right now, I’m returning to my roots and expanding upon my world all at the same time. As mentioned previously, I got my start with short stories. But once I moved on to novels, I haven’t written many short stories. Because it can take a while for me to write a full length novel, I decided to keep the momentum of Singularity going with a collection of short stories set in that world. Dawn will hopefully hit digital shelves by May of next year. A collection of five stories that will give further insight into chosen characters and set up the second book in the series—Horde Protocol—before it’s 2019 release.

16. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Singularity was published on August 14. Dawn: Singularity Stories out by May of 2019. And then Horde Protocol in November 2019. Keeping busy!

17. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I’ve never been one for looking back. The characters I want to work with are all ahead of me. With that being said, I did have an idea before I started Singularity for a psychological thriller revolving around the disappearance of a little boy that I would love to return to one day, when I have the requisite skill to do the idea justice.

18. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest criticism came from a fellow author who pointed out my grammatical blind spot in a review of Stillness. It was her sage words that transformed me into a champion of editing, something for which I’ll always be grateful.
The best compliment had to be a comparison by a reviewer to Robin Cook. Undeserved, but appreciated.

19. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Same advice I’ve been giving for years now, be humble. The only way—and I do mean the only way—you can improve as a writer is to admit to yourself that you need to improve. And you know what, we all need to improve. None of us are perfect, so we all have things we can do better. Be open to those who have gone before, and listen when they offer you advice. The indie community is one of the most helpful I’ve ever found, and aspiring writers can learn a lot more by listening to them then by assuming they already know everything there is to know.

20. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Keep reading. Never be afraid to try something different, or give a new author a shot. After all, as Haruki Murakami said, “If you only read the books everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

Please join me in thanking Eldon Farrell for his candid and insightful responses regarding the publishing industry and for sharing his journey as a writer. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Eldon direct via the below social media links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out Eldon’s work on Amazon.com.

Stillness: https://www.amazon.com/Stillness-Descent-Book-Eldon-Farrell-ebook/dp/B01DRBVBOW
Taken: https://www.amazon.com/Taken-Descent-Book-Eldon-Farrell-ebook/dp/B01L85U1OK
Realm of Shadows: https://www.amazon.com/Realm-Shadows-Descent-Book-3-ebook/dp/B01LA4S7Z4
Singularity: http://netgal.ly/rYgSBT (For a limited time, you can grab an ARC copy here for free!)

Social media contacts:
Website: http://www.eldonfarrellauthor.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15147838.Eldon_Farrell
Twitter: @eldon_farrell

An interview with the thriller author, Gary Stark

A FREE DIGITAL COPY of, Gary Stark’s, In The Shadow of Lust, is available to anyone signing up to my blog and messaging me the name of the catalyst who inspired Gary’s writing career.

NOTE – THERE IS A PARENTAL ADVISORY ON THE BOOK and the author suggests 18+ only.

Welcome to the latest in my series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am pleased to introduce the extraordinary talent that is, Gary Stark, author of the thriller, In The Shadow of Lust. Gary is published by BookLocker.com. I’ve really enjoyed this interview and Gary’s unique take on responding to my questions. Please be aware he has asked me to place a parental advisory on some of his answers.

Cover Pic

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks, Mark. Okay, straight up, I can’t play guitar. Or sing. And I’m profoundly in love with an entity that doesn’t exist. Forever and ever, you know it? She’s here with me now. Lucille. We both like pizza and winter mornings and oral but you can talk to her later. This is about me, not my muse, right?
So, I lie about my sex life at the pub and I’m a hopeless gambler. I love the taste of bourbon but because I’m an alcoholic I can only sniff other people’s drinks when they’re not looking. I could take this opportunity to tell kids that drugs are bad but I’m not a hypocrite and this ain’t a pulpit. What else? I like gardening and think most politicians are dickheads. And I adore faded purple. I was a failure at school, but so what. School teaches you how to earn enough money to do the things they don’t teach you in school.
Like how to play guitar. Which I can’t do. Not yet, anyway.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
I read. And think about writing. And construct abstract sentences in my head – I assume they’re what some people call thoughts – and then scrabble around cursing for a pen and paper to make notes. I suppose all writers do this – wake up and before their dreams even fragment they begin working on yesterday’s chapter. With that shit of a thing sitting fat and contented between your ears, saying, “Really? You gonna end with a preposition?” and suggesting edits to your grocery list even though you’ve only written ‘milk’.
Other times I eat and occasionally I bathe, nothing unusual. Same as you but somewhere else.

3. Do you have a day job as well?
Hell yeah. I earn nothing from writing, it’s a hobby. Like some people watch television, you know? Only writing is a cerebral skill and you gotta concentrate.
I used to work in hospitality but that industry has a use-by date. Working nights, weekends, holidays, eventually you gotta leave the night-owls and boozehounds and try going to work at dawn rather than watching the sunrise thinking about maybe one more beer.
So these days I’m learning construction, like how to renovate a house. Lotsa work painting houses too, cos nobody enjoys boring shit. Moving heavy things around on building sites, stuff like that, jobs so I can write in my head without concentrating on what the rest of me is doing. Anything that’s different from yesterday, I suppose. I don’t understand how people get one shot at life and decide to do the same job every single day for years. Madness.

4. I understand this is your first book? And you recently celebrated turning 50, so tell me, what was the catalyst for writing at this stage of life?
Stephen bloody King. You may have heard the name? Christmas day, I was given his manual – ‘On Writing’ – cos I was never without a book in my hand. But I’d never even considered writing one. I took his advice, read Strunk and White’s ‘Elements of Style’ and on New Year’s Day, sat down to describe my literary masterpiece. And wrote a bunch of unreadable shit. You know how other people make something look easy? And then you try it? Like that. I found out right there and then that it was actually painful to read my own prose. Anyway, I kept going, wrote a dozen short stories, dragged my illiteracy outta the mud and washed it off. One of those stories wouldn’t go away, and that’s when I met Lucy. She was the voice behind the words, my muse. And that’s when we wrote the prologue. Incarcerated in this ancient cathedral, surrounded by the occupants of Perdition, being judged by Death. Always a nice way to start the day, you know? So, not knowing why we were dead, or what we’d done wrong, Lucy took me back to the beginning. And for the next six months, she recounted our life together. Hard to imagine that I’d forgotten such debauched abasement, but there you go. Selective memory, I suppose, or too many drugs.

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
That was easy cos I wasn’t aware there was a choice. Your first sentence will probably tell you your genre. I wrote ‘Spread-eagled in chains against the wall of this monolithic cathedral, my spine tight against a marble statue of the Holy Father, I observe my unbreakable shadow.’ Then sat back for weeks wondering what the hell that meant. No shit, the thousand word prologue took a month to write. I didn’t know what I was talking about.
‘My shadow has a name and her name is Lucille’.
‘She is my Poet, Priestess, Lover and Muse.’
Excuse me? My shadow is female? Okay. Tell me more. And she did and has never left. Lucy is Ancient, and just then, or whenever I talk about her, I get cold shivers prickle my skin. Maybe you’ve met her too. They say she walks on graves, but I’ve never seen her do that. Anyway, if your shadow narrates the story it’s fair to say that’s where the idea came from. All those voices in your head, telling you their version of the truth, wanting to be the narrator of the next idea.
That, and has anyone with an imagination not wondered if a bunch of flowers is drowning when we put the stems in a vase of water?

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
That’s never happened. Probably the complete opposite – Writer’s Diarrhoea. And the only natural cure for pathological verbosity is the wholesale slaughter of innocent words. I culled about ten thousand by the third edit and it made me wonder why I bothered initiating such an extensive breeding program if I’m gunna choose my favourites and only keep the ones I like.
I shouldn’t get emotional and it’s not personal. But you look at some sentences and just know they don’t belong. So you kill them and put them back in storage for later.
But no, I cannot admit to writer’s block. Sometimes I don’t know the next sentence, but usually if I throw a few words at the page they already know what to do, where they wanna go. We like to pretend the arrangement of language is ours to command but that’s just so much bullshit – this sentence was simply waiting patiently for me to write it. And it’ll still be here when I’m gone.

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
Just write. I don’t know enough about writing to plan ahead. It might sound weird, but I had absolutely no idea, at any stage, where the story was going. That should’ve been a bit disconcerting, but it was the complete opposite – it was almost as good as getting high.
Each chapter, I found myself writing the opening paragraph, then walking away and thinking about it, wondering at the intent. Usually, those few opening sentences were all I needed to know what came next. I’ve seen musicians do it in jam sessions – someone introduces a riff, maybe a backbeat, whatever. It builds on itself, one instrument at a time, everyone intuiting when to add another layer. Remember this is the first attempt at writing, so everything was unfamiliar and interesting. Like I watched myself build a house made of words.

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Too many to name, but I admit to having favourites, those authors who write with ridiculous clarity – Barker, King, Dostoevsky, Straub, Leonard, Nietzsche, Wells, Lovecraft. They’ve all got something different that fascinates me. Style, structure, syntax, the rhythm of honest dialogue. There’s an individual precision in their prose, something unique that makes their writing identifiable without actually knowing the author’s name. Every writer is restricted by the same dictionary, the same finite choice of words, but by their subtle arrangement on the page, some writers step inside the shell of your mind and draw pictures on the walls. That’s the story I want to read again and again, the one that leaves graffiti or scars on your imagination. Like the author has gifted you something personal, something priceless only the two of you share.

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Sure. As per usual, I was utterly clueless. The book was done, now comes the easy part, parading my efforts before a gobsmacked publisher. Strut and preen, bask in the glory, listen to the thunderous applause and watch the street parades in my honour. Toss bouquets from balconies, right?
Wrong. On every account. Shit, I almost felt sorry for myself. Such an idiot.
Seriously, imagine finding yourself not only on another planet, but in another dimension. Where they speak a different language. Then assume the species inhabiting this alien environment wants your soul, cos that’s all you brought with you (you might have your book, but these creatures read it BEFORE you even wrote it, such is their elegant sophistry). You agree to sell your soul but what’s lost in translation is they actually want your virginity. And you’re a man who has forfeit his chastity years ago. It’s fascinating, but also quite disturbing when you recognise how much you don’t know about somebody else’s job. I still don’t know how it works.

10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
Easy. I would start off rich, and only then would I write a book. And afterwards, employ people who knew what they were doing to compensate my ignorance. Kind of like the world works anyway, but without me having any wealth. And after writing the first and second draft, I would engage someone to do the third, so I never had to read the bloody thing ever again. That’s yet another thing I didn’t see coming – you come to hate your own words with a passion. Not just simply dislike them, but would rather chew broken glass than Read Them One More Time. And you can’t see your mistakes. Says much about how we lie to ourselves, huh? Ten times I read the same sentence and refuse to see any errors.
So, to avoid the struggling artist syndrome, sell your soul, get rich, write a book, pay someone to do everything else. You’re not doing it for money, so you also keep your integrity. If you have any. I think it’s probably unnecessary to a writer. Kind of limiting.

11. Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences or purely all imagination?
Hmm, maybe I should get a lawyer before answering that one.
Seriously, I’d have to confess to a combination of both. I wanted to address the line between reality and delusion. There’s domestic violence, which I’ve never suffered but happens every bloody day. Drug abuse, with which I’m intimate. Social segregation, the outcasts on the fringe and those dispossessed. Homelessness and poverty. Shit that happens everywhere, constantly, but we, in the general context, feel either unable to change it or worse, are inclined to indifference.
This is no secret – I’ve slept on the street and been a junkie. I’m prone to excess. In everything.
I spent three months in rehab, been clean now for a decade. So, having been an outsider, the story is told from an insider’s perspective.
Everybody knows or has seen someone living rough or with a problem, be it booze or drugs or mental issues. Do you ever put yourself in their shoes? Imagine what it’s like to be so fucked up you don’t know what year it is? Or what town you’re in? Or when you last ate?
And that’s not patronising or preaching. It’s our disconnect that I find interesting – you read the newspaper and it’s all bad news. Then you throw the paper in the bin and go back to work. Even for those with empathy, it’s background noise. For a junkie, EVERYTHING is background noise.
Okay, now I’m sounding preachy. Suffice to say, there’s truth behind the story and I’ve never tried to have sex with my shadow so I probably don’t need a lawyer. Yet.

12. What project are you working on now?
Book Two of the Trilogy. I thought I was writing a stand-alone novel and I was wrong. Confirmation, if needed, of my own lack of awareness. The story has an epilogue, for crying out loud, and I pretended that was it, done. No conclusion, no wrapping the loose ends and walking away. Instead, I left the door wide open. The difference is this one I’m taking my time. The first book was approached as a challenge in both creativity and skill – could I invent a coherent story, and more importantly, was it even worth telling? Outside the walls of psychology, does anyone want to contemplate having sex with their shadow? Should you tell someone, ANYONE, if one day in the sunshine you heard your shadow speak, and found it arousing? I’ll leave that to the individual’s kink. It’s none of my business. But one book wasn’t enough.
It’s human nature to feel slighted, whether manifest or imagined, so I thought about revenge, and keep writing. And wonder why people are strangely obsessed with pointless shit.

13. Will you have the new book coming out soon?
With luck and grace, the second book will be out next year. The third, probably the year after that. Bit presumptuous of me to predict the future, and those deadlines could NOT get any looser, but as the weeks and months go by I feel a certain panic settling in – I’m the type of person whose mind finds distraction in everything. Give me a task and I’ll either do it immediately or never. No middle ground, another endearing characteristic of bipolarity. And there’s that charming parasite we call Doubt, asking me why I think anyone would read the crap I write. I comfort myself with the idea that if I was confident in my ability, I probably shouldn’t be. The parade of lies I afford my delicate ego is endless.

14. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
I mentioned earlier that Lucy was here? Okay, I’m gunna let her take this one.
“Salve hominibus. Fiat mihi incipere . . .”
Lucy? In English, sweetheart. Nobody speaks Latin anymore, remember?
“Really, babe? Huh. Okay.
You wanna know about critics, right? Fuck that, and fuck them.
Writers don’t need critics. You think they live in ivory towers? Bullshit. They live in basements and make shit up. None of the stuff they talk about ever happened, you know it? In any other universe they’d be locked up and medicated. You don’t let kids drive cars or drink beer but you let writers do it? They spend hours alone playing with their imagination and pretend it’s hard. We tell kids to grow up, spoil the whole Santa Claus routine but ignore it when these lunatics grow into adult bodies and keep believing that if they’re good, they’ll be rewarded. You can’t criticise children and expect them to pay attention. They sulk. And go to their ‘writing room’. With their ‘friends’. Shit. It’s insane. But some people give them money. And smile at them. Tell them to keep going. You don’t encourage that sort of behaviour. Well, you don’t, but I do. See, if I don’t keep my man writing, I don’t exist. I’m his muse, amongst other things. You really think we need some smug self-satisfied prick telling us what they think? We. Don’t. Care. And another    thing . . .”
Umm. Thanks, babe. I think that’ll do.
It’s enough to say we appreciate criticism. It makes us a better person.
Let’s move on, hey?

15. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
No. I’ve written one book. I still know less than nothing about literature.
But I do have one suggestion – practice the Vacant Stare. Introduce it to social settings or family gatherings. Look thoughtful when you’re bored by inane conversation.
Focus on the horizon and empty your mind, pretend to be writing in your head (you probably are) and encourage people to leave you alone. That way, rather than think you rude, people assume you to be in the throes of creativity. They might even provide food and drink so as not to interrupt the Artistic Process.
Doesn’t always work, but it might save you a shout at the bar.

16. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers?
Don’t believe anything an author says – they have no grip on reality.

Please join me in thanking Gary for his open and imaginative responses regarding the publishing industry and for sharing his journey as a writer. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Gary direct via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by signing up to my blog and obtaining a free copy of Gary’s first novel, In the Shadow of Lust.

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