Category Archives: Author Interviews

Interview with Christopher Zoukis, Author of Federal Prison Handbook

Interview with Christopher Zoukis, prison rights advocate and author of Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?

When it comes to those new to professional writing, I would say that you need to read what you want to write and also read a lot about how to refine your craft and market yourself. It’s hard to get going in this industry. But with a lot of time and effort, it is certainly possible to make a name for yourself. The key is in understanding the type of writing that you want to write and how to market your brand within that arena.

As for those who have been in the industry for a while, the game is changing. It used to be that if a book wasn’t published by one of the Big Six that it didn’t stand much of a chance. Now, even if a book is published by a large publishing house, it still might not stand much of a chance. New technologies and avenues of connecting with readers are the wave of the future. Harness these tools, think outside the box, and figure out how to get your expertise (or flavor of fiction) to the end user in a manner that they want. The current era is that of the hybrid author — an author both traditionally published and self-published. There is a strong argument for pursuing the hybrid path in today’s market.

When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?

As a writer I feel that I’m an odd sort. I’m all on or all off. So, when I’m all on, I write like my life depends on it. I outline, create a self-imposed quota system, and muscle to the finish line. I’ve found that when working this way it is important to take time off. This is why I try to vary my tasks, and to cycle whenever I can. I go from books to articles to book reviews to interviews and so forth. I also try to build in projects that aren’t writing-related. I work out, play Ultimate Frisbee, and try to schedule a little time each evening to hang out with a friend to decompress.

One word of wisdom that I would offer aspiring book writers (and those who have already published their works) is to really think about what type of book the world really needs. I always have five books in the back of my head. They are all worthy, at least in my not-so-humble opinion. But when it comes to devoting a year of my life to something, I need to select a project that is going to succeed. So, when deciding what to do next, a writer should really think about the reader and the industry. What is missing? What do readers crave? And is there a book that readers don’t even know that they want, but won’t be able to live without once they have it? This is the book that you need to write next.

From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

Making money as a writer is a challenge. Most of us will never be New York Times bestselling authors. That’s the truth of it. So, we need to find a way to make our writing work for us and pay the bills. As a nonfiction author, one way to do this is to use your book as a business calling card, which draws attention to your primary product — which may not be your book. Writers who want to live a comfortable life need to plan on not making a whole ton of money on their books, but to structure their books and businesses in such a way that a revenue channel can be capitalized upon.

What books are you currently reading?

I tend to read a lot of school books these days due to being a graduate student at Adams State University. So, typically I’m reading a lot of business textbooks. I just finished a book on organizational behavior last week and am about to start a book on managerial finance shortly.

I also engage in a healthy amount of non-school reading. Right now I’m reading the Magisterium series of novels by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. These are phenomenal books. They remind me a lot of Harry Potter. I’m also reading Journalistic Writing by Robert M. Knight to help hone my craft a bit and Bigger Leaner Stronger by Michael Matthews to upgrade my fitness knowledge.

Finding the discipline to keep writing can be tough. Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you?

I try very hard to cycle my projects, because I find that I get burned out very easily. So, the best “get writing” technique that I have is to vary my projects. A close second is to outline and implement a self-imposed quota system. If I’ve outlined a 20 chapter book, then I might push myself to complete a chapter every week or two. Then, after the rough draft is down on paper, I might set a quota of polishing one chapter every week. This quota-based system helps me push myself to project completion. In this respect, I’m very business-like with my writing projects. I like to think of myself as a project manager who needs to ensure that the writing project is done on time, at an appropriate level of quality, and that it fulfills my readers’ needs.

Can you give us a sneak peek into your current project?

Sure. If you swing by PrisonerResource.com you can check out my Federal Prison Handbook. In this book I’ve tried to answer all of the questions that a new or seasoned federal prisoner, as well as their loved ones, may have. You can also use the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon.com. This provides readers with a sample of the book prior to purchase.

Author Interview: Cory Groshek

This author interview arrives in time to help with the new year and all those new projects you want to tackle. Cory Groshek has written the first book in a series that teaches readers young and old how to create abundance.

Breaking Away is a ton of fun with warmth that you’ll feel every time you read and reread this book. Here’s what Cory has to say.

What was your motivation to write this series?

It was the fact that our public schools are not teaching our children what they really need to know to be successful later in life—how to dream big, why risk-taking is necessary, the importance of trusting their gut, and why they should always make decisions based on faith (or on what they do want) and not out of fear (or on what they don’t want).

Growing up, I wasn’t taught any of this, and I really wish I had been, because had I been, I believe I wouldn’t have taken 33 years to release my first book, or to achieve the success I’ve achieved in the last couple years in general. My hope with the Rabylon Series is that it will inspire children (and their parents) to not only dream bigger, but to act on their dreams and thereby see them become reality, as mine have.

When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?

I am constantly engaged in deep thought, so while I may take a break from writing to focus on, say, marketing or promoting my work, I never take a break from creativity. I couldn’t shut my mind off or stop its gears from turning even if I wanted to (which I don’t), and I am always brainstorming new ideas for stories, books, blog posts, etc. As such, I keep my smart phone or a notebook handy at all times, just in case I need to write down or text some of my ideas to myself.

Being bombarded with so many ideas all day, every day can leave me feeling overwhelmed at times, but overall I find it exhilarating. I love the warm, fuzzy “rush” I feel when a strange, new thought pops into my head, and I feel very blessed that so many such thoughts dawn upon me, because I know a lot of people who struggle very hard with writer’s block and/or who try (in my opinion) too hard to force ideas, instead of just letting them come to them (as I do).

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone out there struggling with coming up with new ideas (or “fodder”, if you will) for books, stories, etc., it would be this: Be not only open-minded, but openhearted as well, when it comes to the thoughts and ideas that come to you. Don’t worry about whether they are “good” or “bad”—just let them come to you. And when they do, your job is not to judge them, but to simply absorb them (like a sponge), so that you can use them later as the raw material from which you may craft your next story, book, etc. That’s what I do, and it’s worked out great for me, not only in terms of book- and blog-writing, but in terms of general, all-purpose brainstorming as well.

From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

The biggest challenge is getting noticed—in “separating ourselves from the pack” or “rising above the noise”, so to say, that surrounds us in this busy world we live in. In Robert Greene’s brilliant book (and one of my personal favorites) ‘The 48 Laws of Power’, one of the laws is ‘Court attention at all costs’—which basically means “do whatever you have to do to get everybody to look at you instead of someone else”—but judging from what I’ve seen, that is far easier said than done.

Today, we are drowning in any ocean of Tweets and ten-second sound bites, and it is much more difficult to “cut through the clutter” and get peoples’ attention than it used to be, especially if you are an introverted author, and especially whereas Amazon.com is filled with millions of self-published books that are really nothing more than glorified blog posts written not for the sake of enriching the lives of others, but for the sake of making a “quick buck.”

The way to solve this challenge—in my opinion—is to stop thinking like an author and start thinking like a shameless self-promoter (as “bad” as that may sound); to start thinking like, dare I say it, a Kardashian. As much as we as authors don’t want to make “it” (this whole “selling books” thing) about us, we have to if we want to be successful. You see, people don’t just buy books these days—they buy the author, just like how people go to see movies because, say, Matt Damon (or whichever actor or actress they love the most) is in them, regardless of what the movie is about.

We as authors need to stop thinking of ourselves as authors and to start thinking of ourselves as brands, like the Kardashians do. While this doesn’t necessarily mean putting out sex tapes to generate publicity for ourselves (although it worked for Kim Kardashian), it does mean thinking outside the box, doing things that other authors wouldn’t even consider doing, and being just as creative with our marketing and promotion of ourselves as we are with the stories we tell in our books.

If you think you’re simply going to throw your new book into the Amazonian Sea of Mediocrity that surrounds us, like it’s some sort of message in a bottle, and have this lead to millions of dollars in book sales, a movie deal, and a billion-dollar net worth like J.K. Rowling’s, then I’m sorry, my friend, but you are sorely mistaken. If you want to be like J.K., you can’t just be a “writer” or an “author” , and you can’t just leave your success up to luck or random chance (which don’t exist, by the way)—you must become a brand (like McDonald’s, Starbucks, or Apple) that people know and love, like they love their cheeseburgers, lattes, and laptops. As for how you can go about becoming such a brand, well, I guess you’ll have to visit my blog, ManifestationMachine.com, for help with that!

WR Note: Anyone who signs up for the blog is going to get freebies!

Finding the discipline to keep writing can be tough. Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you? 

For me, finding the motivation to write is not about discipline—it’s about knowing, first of all, what I want to write and, second, why I want to write it. If I don’t know the what or the why, then I don’t even bother trying to write, because without the what and the why, then the how (the actual process by which the writing physically happens, or by which the story or book we have in mind comes to fruition) cannot manifest itself. I find that once I’ve got the what and the why down, then the how (the sitting down and actually writing) takes care of itself.

When I hear other writers complain that they don’t have “enough time” to write, it’s not that they don’t have the time; it’s that they haven’t created the time. And if I hear them complain that they find it very difficult to force themselves to just sit down and write, the problem isn’t a lack of discipline—the problem is that they either don’t know what they want to write, or they simply don’t care enough about what they claim they want to write to actually write it (or both). Simply put, if you have clarity on what you want to write and conviction to get the writing done, it will get done—if not, then it won’t. End of story (no pun intended).

Can you give us a sneak peek into your current project?

My next project is a book I’ve had in mind for the last year or so, which is a self-help book for adults named after my personal growth and development and brand, Manifestation Machine. It will focus upon a metaphysical process (involving what I’ve labeled “The Four C’s”) for achieving our dreams and creating what I call “a life worth dying for” that I’ve personally used to go from a working part-time in a dead-end job, living at home with my father, and being in debt up to my eyeballs to self-employed (doing what I love), living in a fully paid-off house of my own, and having a net worth of over $300,000.

Guest Post by Author Herta Feely

Today we hear directly from Herta Feely, author of Saving Phoebe Murrow. 

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It’s September. Crickets and cicadas screech in full chorus as I sit on a small third-story balcony overlooking a forest of oak trees, trying to imagine what readers might like to know about the writing of Saving Phoebe Murrow.

1) Are you wondering how I chose Phoebe’s name or Isabel’s?

2) Because Phoebe was bullied, do you wonder if, perhaps, I was ever bullied, or if I was a bully?

3) Do you want to know why the story is set in DC in 2008?

4) Do you ask: What are you working on next?

So, question one. The characters’ names. I’ve always liked the name Phoebe. It contains a kind of vulnerability and softness that I wanted for the eponymous 13-year-old character. As for Isabel, her character actually began with the name Susan in a short story, which then became part of this novel. In that story, which you’ll recognize in Saving Phoebe Murrow, a woman is getting a manicure and while there experiences anxieties about her teen daughter, from whom she feels estranged yet is dying to understand.  After changing Susan to Isabel, I also changed the last name from Winslow to Winthrop, which helps reflect Isabel’s rigid upbringing (as in the Puritanical Winthrops of Massachusetts), hence her rigid father, John Winthrop.

#2: Yes, in fact, I was bullied as a young girl when fresh “off the boat” from Germany and new to the U.S. It was quite painful and stayed with me for many years. I only remembered this after writing the novel when someone asked me about bullying. I imagine that experience allowed me to tap into emotional truths for 13-year-old Phoebe in the novel. (I don’t recall being a bully. Bossy, yes. Bully, no!)

#3: The story is set in DC , where I’ve lived since 1982. Though this novel reflects certain peculiarities of DC culture, perhaps even exaggerates them for dramatic effect, the essential aspects of the story could take place anywhere. I chose 2008 because teens still heavily used Facebook then and it was an interesting election year, which allowed me to bring certain aspects of the city to the fore.

#4: I’m working on All Fall Down, a novel about Charlotte Cooper, a woman about to reach the pinnacle of her career, until everything falls out from under her. It’s also a love story between a London-raised Nigerian sculptor and Charlotte, the human rights activist.

 

To hear more from Feely, check out her website. Be sure to come back tomorrow for the giveaway!

For another novel that features a strong female protagonist in a unique setting, try Beloved: A Senual Noir Thriller

Author Interview: Pamela King Cable

Today we’re joined by Pamela King Cable, author of the chilling Televenge and the heartwarming Southern Fried Women. Her latest, The Sanctum, is a moving coming-of-age story dealing with one of America’s most pressing issues: racism. The novel features King’s usual blend of supernatural elements, mysteries in society and secrets of the heart to create evocative, heart-piercing stories.

How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?

I could get myself in trouble, answering this question. If somebody tells you they’re not writing to make money, they are lying to you. We all want paid for our work. If a painter gets paid for his masterpieces, if a landscaper pockets cash for the curb appeal he adds to his client’s homes, and if a caterer makes a living on the weddings and parties she slaves over, then a writer should get paid for her books that took years to complete and publish.

But if you think the money comes easy, think again. You’re not going to get rich. In fact, keep your job. Writing will not pay your bills. Not for a long time. There’s a balance, and unfortunately it’ll take blood, sweat, and tears to find it. The writing and publishing industry is in desperate need of a major overhaul. Know that up front.

Realize the length of time it takes from finishing the novel to publication is painfully long. Some hip, cool publisher needs to find a way to shorten that time period and pass it on to a few of the old goats in the business. Know that the industry has set itself up as a God to the writer. Twenty-three-year-old New York City editors should not be allowed to judge a writer’s work.

Another warning to the newbie—be aware of the old, worn-out process of retailers returning your unsold books. It’s still the most ridiculous part of this business. Total nonsense. If the Gap can’t return its unsold blue jeans to the Levi Company, why should Barnes & Noble be allowed to return its unsold books to the publisher? This is an antiquated process that needs to stop. Now.

Newbies in this business—get your heads out of the clouds and see the writing world for what it truly is. If after you’ve done that, and you still want to write and publish … then do it with your eyes wide open to one final realization. It takes no less than ten years of writing, rewriting, and learning your craft before you are actually ready to publish.

Now, with all that said … there is no greater sense of accomplishment than leaving a legacy of a hard-earned published book. Nothing greater than that …

From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

I will refer you to my answer in question one. All of the above are big challenges. But instead of fancy/schmancy writing conferences that charge an arm and a leg, and teach you the same worn-out topics they taught you last year and the year before, let’s stop the madness of empty promises. Promises of editor and literary agent contacts. Do you realize how slim your chances are that those editors and literary agents will even remember your name? We need a Writer’s Convention where round table discussions result in finding real solutions to the serious issues at hand.

The problem is that writing is a solitary business.  We all work alone. And we like it that way. But until we confront the current issues and make strides to change them, the publishing world will continue to be run by the big dogs … the Mahogany Row Executives who really don’t give a damn about our issues. Their bottom line is all that matters. In the case of traditional publishing, they got us over a barrel and they know it.

What has inspired you to become a writer?

I write about religion and spirituality with paranormal twists unearthed from my family’s history. I write about my passions, what moves me, what shoots out of me like a rocket. My key inspirational force is my spirituality.

I was born in the South, a coal miner’s granddaughter, but my father escaped the mines, went to college and moved his family to Ohio to work for the rubber companies in 1959. I spent every weekend as a little girl traveling back to the Appalachian Mountains. My memories of my childhood run as strong as a steel-belted radial tire and as deep as an Appalachian swimming hole. As a little girl, I was a transplanted hick in a Yankee schoolroom. I grew up in the North. So my influence comes naturally from both regions. But the dusty roads in the coal towns of the ‘sixties are where my career as a writer was born.

How do you come up with your characters, and how do you make them interesting?

For me, it is within sanctuaries of brick and mortar; places of clapboard and canvas that characters hang ripe for picking. From the primitive church services of the mountain clans to the baptisms and sacraments in cathedrals and synagogues all over the world. From the hardworking men and women who testify in every run-down house of God in America to the charismatic high-dollar high-tech evangelicals televised in today’s megachurches, therein lie stories of unspeakable conflict, the forbidden, and often, the unexplained.

Do you plan on writing any other genres?

Not at all. There’s a mountain of material to cover in Historical Fiction. It’s like a black hole, drawing me in with no end in sight. I have stories in my head that may never see the light of day. There’s so little time allotted to any of us. It would take two lifetimes to get these stories from my head onto the page.

What inspired your new novel, The Sanctum?

Late in 2008, and for the next two years, I labored over a new story to give myself a break from the heat and intensity of Televenge. Little did I know of the fierce obsession and passion that would overtake me in writing The Sanctum. Wanting to include the possibility of the paranormal and spirituality from different points of view, I focused on a young girl with fuzzy, red hair who called herself Neeley, and the story began.

This skinny, parentless thirteen-year-old who wore thick eyeglasses and hand-me-down dresses captivated me from page one. Placing my little redheaded girl on a tobacco farm in 1959, and in the caring hands of an elderly African-American male, a rugged individual who wasn’t afraid of his gentle side, I quickly fell in love with them. The novel slowly wrote itself, dragging my heart behind it.

Many of my stories are based on people I’ve known and places I’ve been. History also plays a great part in my work. As a writer it is my desire to transport a reader’s mind—but my ultimate joy is to pierce your heart. When I was a little girl someone in my family taught me respect for all people. He said we were related to the great Martin Luther King since after all, my maiden name is King. I soon realized it wasn’t true, but I never forgot what he said. Later, I discovered blatant prejudice had incubated for decades within my family. My southern grandparents believed wholeheartedly in segregation.

For over a decade I lived near Summerfield, North Carolina, located northwest of Greensboro. This area is historically saturated with horse and tobacco farms, which today still dot the landscape. By chance I discovered James W. Cole (1924-1967) was ordained into the ministry in Summerfield at the Wayside Baptist Church in 1958. He toured as a tent evangelist and broadcast a Sunday morning radio program, becoming an active member of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and eventually the Grand Dragon of North and South Carolina. The man intrigued and appalled me, and since the first part of the book takes place in Summerfield during that time period, I wrote him into the story.

The International Civil Rights Center and Museum is located in the recently restored Woolworth’s building in downtown Greensboro, a Woolworth’s that also found its way into my story. As I further studied the Civil Rights Movement, I thought of it in terms of rights for all people. My great grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee, according to our family’s historian. So I then researched the Trail of Tears.

And finally the wolf appeared. An animal that has fascinated me all my life, the wolf is about family and order. It is a subtle character, but a voice to be reckoned with. I studied wolves carefully, and found people who loved the animal enough to create wolf sanctuaries. I spent time on a sanctuary near the town of Bakersville in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a five-hour drive from my home. When I arrived a sign read, The Wolf Sanctum. From that moment I called my novel, The Sanctum.

 Have you written other books that have been published?

 Southern Fried Women, Satya House Publications, 2010. Beth Hoffman, New York Times Bestselling Author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and Looking For Me, said:

“With a clear Southern voice and a remarkable gift of storytelling, Pamela King Cable has crafted a masterful collection of short stories. In themes ranging from flea markets to coal mine strikes, Southern Fried Women speaks of the wounds, joys, and sacrifices experienced by women who held strong in the winds of adversity and emerged bruised but miraculously unbroken. Each story is as thought provoking as it is beautifully written.”

Televenge, Satya House Publications,  2012. A review in Publisher’s Weekly notes:

“Cable’s unflinching fictional exposé of the dark side of televangelism has a human victim in the person of Andie Oliver. … Cable, a former member of a megachurch, places Andie’s desperate struggle against the oppression of (Reverend) Artury’s church, its brutal inner circle, murderous practices, financial fraud, and (husband) Joe’s abuse. This powerful story, skillfully written and with well-drawn characters, reveals the classic entrapment of vulnerable people in the name of a vengeful god …”

Library Journal wrote:

Televenge is “ … an emotional rollercoaster that ends as intensely as it begins . . . those who commit to Cable’s tome will find themselves captivated and deeply devoted to Andie. Fans of Fannie Flagg and Janet Evanovich will be hooked on this saga of religion, romance, and crime.” Library Journal Editor’s Pick BookExpo America 2012

Do you have a website and a blog? If so where can we find it?

You can find my blog on my website: www.pamelakingcable.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/southernfriedwomen/

Twitter: https://Twitter.com/pamelakingcable / @pamelakingcable

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2935883.Pamela_King_Cable

To purchase The Sanctum: http://www.amazon.com/Sanctum-Pamela-King-Cable/dp/1938499034/

The Gratitude Messenger

This post introduces you to Deborah Krueger, who is working in the field of gratitude. Her middle grade novel is a fantastic read, and helps kids recognize what they have and face challenges in a positive way. Here, in her own words, is more information.

Deborah Krueger

The Gratitude Messenger

Children Need Us Too!

Greetings,

I’m so excited to tell you about my latest project, “The Red Pencil, a Dragon’s Tooth, and the Lost Treasure: A Gratitude Gang Adventure” book.

My first book is focused on empowering adults. But kids face “Life’s Sticky Issues” too. From school shootings and gang violence to broken families and poverty, daily stressors can place undue burden on our children, and can send them on a dark path.

I’ve always wanted to help others, but I didn’t know how. It wasn’t until I realized just how much the power of gratitude was helping me — and what it could do for others — that I found my purpose. Out of that passion, I wrote the book, LET’S PLAY GRATITUDE! With Life’s Sticky Issues, and the response was overwhelming. People reading my book passed it on to their kids, and I knew that I had to get this concept into the hands of our youth.

Learn more about the book and how you can help here!

The Red Pencil, a Dragon’s Tooth, and the Lost Treasure: A Gratitude Gang Adventure is both empowering and transformative. Aimed at middle graders, kids learn the power of gratitude, discovering how to handle “sticky issues” in their own lives. They can then turn around and teach these principles to their parents, creating a positive force in their family.

Here’s what Anna Unkovich, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul in the Classroom, had to say:

“We live in an era when our youngsters experience high levels of stress — the effects of bullying, depression, suicide attempts and completions — more than ever before. As adults, we have a responsibility to provide children with viable options … and hope.

Deborah Krueger has provided this perfect story to do just that. “The Red Pencil, a Dragon’s Tooth, and the Lost Treasure” will delight and encourage youngsters to choose positive options in difficult times.”

I would be so grateful if you would consider partnering with me on this project. Head toGoFundMe.com to find out how you can help. Any donation, big or small, will assist in getting this book into the hands of children everywhere. Together, we can create a joyful future!

Blessings of Gratitude,
Deborah Krueger

 
www.letsplaygratitude.com

Author Interview: Kate Harrad

Kate Harrad has noted that, “In 2002,” when she began writing All Lies and Jest, “the idea of a fundamentalist theocratic United States that was trying to impose theocracy on the UK was definitely in the realm of speculative fiction. Now, while I hope it’s still unlikely, it’s a lot closer to the real world than it used to be.”

Her debute novel addresses fundamentalism, “the dangers of being so open-minded that your brain falls out,” vampires, bisexuality and alternative subcultures in a whirlwind of fun. The book will be reviewed here tomorrow; for now, Ms. Harrod offers the following tidbits from her sharp mind and sharper wit.

​–How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?

Mostly they’d differ in the sense that I wouldn’t dare offer advice to writers who’ve been writing for a while! I’m not even sure I’d have the confidence to advise new writers.

But if I were put on the spot? I’d tell new writers that as well as being able to write, they’ll need to be prepared to read their work in public, to promote it endlessly and yet subtly on social media, and to learn when it’s OK to write for free and when it isn’t.

I’d also send them to Tim Clare’s blog on writing, Death of 1000 Cuts, whis has some funny and devastatingly accurate advice on writing techniques. 

–When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder?

I’m only writing a minority of the time, because I also have a job and two children. So the only way to manage that is to always be slightly ‘on’ – to let my mind wander when I’m on public transport or when I’m walking round London, and see what comes to me. Sometimes that’s to do with observing what’s going on around me, and sometimes it’s more about things I’ve read online or conversations I’ve had. It’s often not a conscious process.

–From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

Everything has changed. When I first wanted to be a writer I was five, it was 1980, and books were something you bought at WH Smiths and had to save up for. Now I can read a million books on my Kindle, for free or for almost nothing. How do you stand out in that market? Is it true that good writing will still be recognised? Was it ever true?

That’s the challenge for publishers and for writers – how to get the good stuff seen. But it’s always been the challenge. Maybe now it’s actually easier, because there are more ways to be published. My novel All Lies and Jest was published as an e-book and print-on-demand by Ghostwoods, which is a small press run by people who’ve become my friends. The book I’m currently working on, Purple Prose, is a guide to bisexuality in Britain, and it’s being published by another small press, Thorntree, via crowdfunding. It’ll be in shops by August.

Could I have got either of those books published 20 years ago? I doubt it. But can I make a living out of writing? No – that’s the disconnect. Probably in another 20 years things will have changed again and settled down a bit. Right now I don’t know the answer to my own questions.

–What books are you currently reading?

I’ve just finished Jeff Noon’s Falling Out Of Cars, which is an even stranger book than I was expecting. It takes the concepts of plot and character development and basically sets fire to them. Wonderful.

I’m also reading The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony by Roberto Calasso, which is another very strange and wonderful book, about classical myths. I’m reading it very slowly. Here’s a quote:

“Alpheus and Arethusa: water with water, the spring that gushes from the earth, the current that rises from the depths of the sea, the meeting of two lymphs that have traveled far, the ultimate erotic convergence, perennial happiness, no bastions against the world, gurgling speech. Between the waves of the Ionion and those of the Alpheus, the difference lies in the taste, and perhaps a slight variation of color. Between the water of Arethusa and the water of Alpheus, the only difference is in the foam on Alpheus’s crest as he rises from the sea. But the taste is much the same: both come from Olympia.”
–Which authors do you think are underappreciated in the current market, and why? 

It’s not so much specific authors for me as types of author. BME (Black and minority ethnic) writers are underpublished, underpromoted, and underappreciated – for example, according to the upcoming Bare Lit Festival, 96% of the writers featured in the UK’s biggest literary festivals are white. I’ve heard numerous accounts of writers told to make main characters white, or having their book covers given images of white people even when the characters aren’t white.  I’m not BME myself but everyone should be fighting this. [Ed. note: check out this Patreon page dedicated to this issue where you can get involved.]

–Which new writers do you find most interesting, and why?

I haven’t read many new writers recently and I’m not sure why not – I reread a lot, and I’m always trying to catch up with writers I haven’t read enough of. I did love Marion Grace Woolley’s Those Rosy Hours At Mazandaran [Ed. note: reviewed on this blog here, author interview on this blog here] – she’s a fellow Ghostwoods writer and I was given a pre-publication copy of the book, and was gripped completely.

I’ve got lists of books I want to get round to reading this year – this for example [a list of 2015 books from diverse authors].

–Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you?

I do find it very hard, especially with childcare – when I wrote All Lies and Jest I didn’t have children. Now even short stories take ages, because I can’t write unless I’m uninterrupted.

Sometimes I take my laptop to the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank and write there. Or shut myself in my bedroom. Knowing my time is limited can make me more productive, because I know I have to get started with something. Deadlines help too – it’s a lot harder to write something on spec.

Also, to be honest, occasional selfishness is essential. If I’m writing then I’m not spending time with my children or helping with housework, and I need to accept I’ve made that choice and not spend my writing time overcome with guilt, because then nothing useful happens at all.

–Can you give us a sneak peek into your current project?​

I’ve just finished my first collaboration, writing a short story with American SF author Greg Stolze, which was exciting. Now I’m trying to write a story for an anthology, about a mysterious voice that orders people to travel to a Cornish island to have their lives judged.

But my main project is Purple Prose (purple-prose.co.uk), which is in the copy editing stage now. There’s no contemporary, accessible book about British bisexuality, and I’m very pleased to have been part of creating one.

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Author Interview: Alex Taylor

Alex Taylor, whose debut novel will be reviewed in a raving 5-star writeup tomorrow, gives us a slice or two of his brain. Hang on! Like his novel, this interview will blow your mind!

–How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?

I wouldn’t presume to give advice to writers who are already publishing unless they asked for it. As for novitiates, I hope they are aware that there are so many other and more productive ways to spend a life than writing. If they understand this and still feel compelled to write, then I am afraid they are terminal and nothing I say will cure them. All I can do is possibly put a tourniquet on the bleeding so that they suffer less.

Once a writer is diagnosed, the best avenue of treatment is that they recuse themselves, as much as possible, from the contemporary world, particularly contemporary literature. It is a swamp of dross. Occasionally, a work of genius glimmers forth, but this is the exception, not the rule. They should immerse themselves in the classics. Because they are difficult, in every sense of the word. Because they have endured. Because they will continue to endure, if there is any justice, which I have my doubts about.

Secondly, I would advise them to be prepared to live in obscurity. Writing helps no one but the writer. It will not save Syrian refugees, but it may help you to survive and somehow transcend certain problems endemic to 21st Century life and modernity. One must not be adverse to monkritude. One must be able to love a few and hate many.

–When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?

I rarely take a break from writing. When I do, I feel my muscles weakening, my soul diminishing. Lord, the horrors a man may encounter when he is away from the page. But, being chained to the flesh, I must eat and occasionally see other people. When I do, my ear is always open to original and refreshing turns of phrase. I have no qualms about such thievery. The populace is degenerate. Should one break the mold, it is my duty to record their words, lest they be tossed upon the midden of history. As for being a human being, the only moral stance here is one of constant disgust. I know of no other path to salvation. To those ignorant of what I mean, I will refer them to the words of a Jewish carpenter who was crucified by the Romans some two thousand years ago. But the carpenter wasn’t always disgusted, some might say. True. But I am not the carpenter. I am unworthy to tie the laces of his sandals. So I must remain disgusted. Particularly by myself.

 

–From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

The biggest problem with the publishing industry is to be found in the phrase ‘publishing industry’. Bestsellers are manufactured, major prizes awarded to hackneyed books because they espouse correct politics. Implicit therein is much evil. Not that commerce is bereft of virtue. But it diminishes the artist. His soul is compromised, and thereby so is his ability to speak the truth. The writer can’t concern himself with such. He must write and hope that he will be given bread.

–What books are you currently reading?

I just finished John Fowles‘ The Magus, a tremendous and tremendously erudite book that is ghostly and haunting. I am currently reading Njal’s Saga, an Icelandic Saga from, I believe, the fourteenth century. Plenty of ruptured skulls in this one. A delight.

–Which authors do you think are underappreciated in the current market, and why? 

Robert Penn Warren and James Dickey are shamefully neglected. They should be canonized. We no longer have great men of letters such as Mr. Warren and the result has been a glut of sophomoric drivel. No one is willing to declare the age inept. Sadly, my sense is that these two writers are neglected for political reasons. This is the height of absurdity. It matters not one iota what a writer’s prejudices are. The art is all. And Dickey and Warren were geniuses by any definition of the term.

–Which new writers do you find most interesting, and why?

I don’t have time to read many new writers. I’m stilly catching up on those who have gone before me. Donna Tartt is good, though not new. She deserves every award she gets. Likewise, Jeffrey Lent.

–Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you?

The only ‘get writing’ technique I have is to wake up. That and guilt. If I do not write, I know the angels of my agony will demand an answer. I rarely have an adequate one.

–Can you give us a sneak peek into your current project?

I have completed a novel set between 1799 and 1830. It involves a duo of murderous brothers and their wives (they are polygamists), all of whom happen to be sisters. I am fifty pages into a second novel that is also historical. It centers around a bear, a dog, a woman and a widower.

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