Not necessarily frequently asked, but definitely questions I’ve received over time. I hope you find a few of the answers interesting. I’ll place links to any online interviews at the bottom of this page.
What do you do with your spare time?
What spare time? Once you’re a writer there truly is no such thing as ‘spare’ time in your life…ever! That’s because you can always fill any time with writing. Most of us all have time that we choose to do what we like with. I mostly choose to write, but I wish there was enough time available for many other things. I love to read. I’ve always tried to read at least an hour a day since I was a child. I don’t always manage it now, but I try.
I like art but mostly as a hobby. If I can manage to find some spare time for that it relaxes the mind. Many artists refer to drawing as a meditative state and I can understand why. You can be so absorbed in what you are doing that you forget the rest of the world and its troubles, and truly relax for a short time. Writing does that for me to a certain extent, but I find the mind is still active when writing in a way it isn’t when drawing or painting. I’m not saying it’s the same for everyone, but that’s how it is for me. Alas, I’m seriously out of drawing practice owing to ‘not enough’ time. I used to do some cross-stitch, but it’s taking longer to complete a project because other things draw my attention. Good for long trips, though. When the dog was alive taking her for walks took up a great deal of time although I wouldn’t change that for the world. I like holidays — who doesn’t — but I like exploring whether it’s in my own country or abroad. I seldom just sit on a beach unless it’s to read a book.
Does someone else take care of your website?
No. Somehow, I’ve managed by trial, error, and necessity, although a friend helped set up the basic files for me so don’t ask me how to do it. I’ve recently (2015) split my site up into ‘sites’. It’s a marketing suggestion for multi-genre writers to try to make their work more accessible, more easily found by readers so they can find the genre that most interests them readily. Here’s hoping it works and makes the upkeep easier in time.
What influenced the design?
I was asked this question some time ago when my site was much more elaborate than it is now. My answer then was that I was thinking of one of those shops you come across in places such as Devon or Cornwall, sort of small, sometimes dark, a treasure trove. My site has changed with me over time and I hope developed into something more streamline and user-friendly.
What are you working on now or next?
Difficult to answer. It changes constantly, obviously. I’ll write a short story if I’m struck by an idea, or if I am struggling with something I may take a break and turn to a short idea, a writing exercise, anything to get my mind working again.
For longer work, I try to complete the draft then take a break from it before revising it with a fresh eye. There’s no set duration for this, whatever the length of work. This ‘dormant’ time after a draft may even last a few months if I can afford to wait, or if I happen to be caught up in other things with more immediate deadlines. Then, of course, the delay is largely owing to the necessity. The important thing is to get the story down. If I’ve some kind of deadline on a work then obviously I simply cannot put it aside for months. Even then, I like to take a week or two off from a project to refresh my mind between my personal drafts, which isn’t always possible between edits with a publisher.
In the past, I’ve been called on to write an article at short notice. I’ve been asked to fill a space or cover a specific subject. The shortest notice I’ve had was a request for a medium length article with a polite but blunt, ‘Could you do this today?’ And yes, I managed, but that doesn’t mean I want to make a habit of it.
What do you write? Why do you write in more than one genre?
The simple answer to both these questions is I write as I read. My reading taste is varied and therefore so is my writing. While this has no doubt caused me some problems — I’d probably be more well known and even more successful if I stuck to one genre — it’s given me a rich field to work in. Saying that, I have noticed most of my non-romance work contains dark themes so I think I’ll be increasingly focusing on that.
I don’t like fantasy or any of those things — I prefer reality.
This is more a comment than a question, but one I hear frequently. Although I write in different genres a large proportion of fantasy seems to dominate my work. My simple reply to this is that when an author writes fantasy they are still writing about the real world. The setting is just another tool to explore the human condition, but it’s one that often gives the writer greater scope. If you don’t believe me then look into the background of Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes. The Lord of the Rings has dissertations written concerning its contents, but for many, Tolkien’s work explores self-sacrifice. I’ve done similar things, often with good cause. You can give an argument a unique twist and perspective by altering the setting.
Do you express personal opinions in your writing?
Yes and no. That is to say every writer likely expresses a personal opinion in their work at some time, but I (and I believe this is true of many writers) express other people’s opinions too, even if it contradicts my own. Therefore, whatever the subject, even if the story seems to be championing a certain cause, I wouldn’t advise anyone surmising that is how I necessarily feel.
A writer has to show a protagonist and an antagonist in their work so it’s good to write from viewpoints that aren’t your own. It’s even necessary. If you ask me directly for my opinion, if I didn’t know you then I probably wouldn’t answer. My opinions are between me, my friends, and my family, or I will express them appropriately when they can make a difference.
A writer friend of mine once said he liked to ‘push people’s buttons’ and I understood what he meant. My writing is mainly intended for reader enjoyment, but it’s nice if it makes someone think. Still, it’s not intended to stand as a soapbox. If I want or need to do that I’d take a more active role to stand up for my beliefs.
What was your first published story?
I would say my short story Silver Apples of the Moon. Actually, it was my first acceptance, but it wasn’t the first to see print. That’s just how publishing is. These things take time.
Do you suffer many rejections? Does rejection ever get you down?
I wouldn’t say many to both questions. I’m very choosy about what I send where. I always joke that I had less rejections than Stephen King did before I had a story accepted. In fact, I had just one and that was largely because I sent it to an semi-inappropriate market. They were impressed enough to give me advice and following their guide and through a little market research I found the perfect publication to submit it to.
Every writer feels bad when they have a rejection but it doesn’t last long. I tend to bounce back fast and it usually makes me more determined. It’s part of the process and a rejection doesn’t mean the story is no good. There are so many reasons a publisher will turn down work, none of which necessarily has anything to do with the quality of the writing. If you don’t learn how to handle rejection, the chances are you aren’t going to make it as a writer, and may even give up very early on.
What about criticism?
Criticism as opposed to rejection is another matter. I don’t mind constructive ‘critique’ — I even approve of it — but there are plenty of groups for that. If an editor is kind enough to explain a rejection it can mean they saw something good in the work that was worth taking the time over, as they are very busy. I listen to all comments and then temper that with my own judgement.
Often, if a remark or the advice is good, you’ll know instantly. This isn’t the same thing as someone yelling they really hated that story, it was horrible. Fine, but explain why you found it horrible. It’s also not the same as someone missing the point of your story. I’ve had that happen. I’ve had someone complain about some aspect of a story and then less than two days later a reader gush over the book for that very reason. That’s just part of writing. It does happen that you’ll get one person complain over a certain point that a hundred people have loved. It’s all personal opinion at the end of the day, personal likes and dislikes. You can’t please everyone. And the thing I most admire J.K.Rowling for was she said she’s not taking dictation.
There are two ways I handle this: if I have an ‘answer’ for the point raised then I don’t worry too much. If I don’t, then I pay attention to it and apply it to future work or a if a rewrite occurs.
In June 2009 I was interviewed by Barbara Custer of Blood Red Shadows and Night to Dawn Magazine:
Read the interview HERE.