Pretty much Monday to Friday. I always do about an hour of writing in the mid-morning, as it’s the time best for me: I’m at my most creative, before the life and soul has been sucked from me by my day job.
Sure, it means I don’t get a nice lunch break at mid day with everyone else, but that’s okay: my writing’s done, I’ve had some space to be alone in my head with the characters I’m writing about.
Some weekends I’ll do a bit of plotting or planning or talking about writing, but rarely do I lift the pen — I’ve learned that for me, the creative tank needs a bit of time to recharge itself, to finish decompressing the bits of the story yet to come. Being patient with myself and learning how to pause was an important step towards making a less mangled product.
Do you have an organized process or tips for writing well? Do you have a writing schedule?
Definitely on the schedule — rain or shine, I crank out an hour a day. Sometimes it’s not at the same time of the day because life’s like that. I don’t always get the same number of words down. But I always do it.
I’ve found that continuing the craft of writing on a daily basis really helps to improve the quality of the writing — it’s a craft, a thing that needs to be practiced to improve, and relaxing against that daily regimen can impact the quality of my work overall.
In terms of my process, I do this:
1. Work out the story I want to tell — the basic environment, the crucible of the world.
2. Build the people inside that story. Why are they there? What do they do? Why are they doing it?
3. Write a sketch of where the story starts and a likely finish point (“success looks like Moki saving the world”).
4. Write it in order, from start to finish. Don’t stop and edit until you get to the end.
5. When you get to the end, edit, then edit some more.
Of the entire process, editing’s by far the hardest for me. It feels a lot less fun than it probably should. It’s a multi-part pass for me — but I’m given heart by authors like Gaiman saying their first drafts suck too.
Sometimes it’s so hard to keep at it — What keeps you going?
The hardest bit for me isn’t the writing, but fending off the other assholes in my life who want to consume my writing time. Some people just don’t understand, especially if your writing is around time at work. “Hey — that hour you’ve got in your calendar. Can you cut it down to a half hour so we can meet?”
I probably get that request four or five times a week, or a variant of it.
It’s like having a pet that begs for treats: if you give in just once, you’re going to have trouble for the rest of your life. Or their life.
There’s a thought, but I digress.
I keep at it because the story wants to be told. The story that I’m writing is not a thing I’m trying to push out — it’s the other way around, it’s dragging me along, bubbling at the edges, and won’t be still. I couldn’t not write it down.
Have you met any people in the industry who have really helped you?
I share a few coffees with Stephen Minchin of Steam Press. The man’s a wizard, a genius, and a real friend — gives his time and views without compromise.
He’s helped push my thinking around how publishing works, should work, marketing, and what success might look like. I hope he gets some value from the conversations as well, because I think we view books and publishing in similar ways: that we all do it for the love, not the money, and that it’s a partnership between publisher and writer.
It helps that the stuff Stephen prints is not the stuff I write, so there’s no risk of conflict there. It lends an honesty to our conversations without any tension around whether the relationship becomes a business relationship. I think that kind of thing is startling in its rarity, and I treasure it.
The man is also honest. How many of your friends give it to you straight and to the point?
What do you hope people will take away from your writing? How will your words make them feel?
I want them to have a good time, first and foremost: I’m not trying to change the world, I’m trying to give you a really good experience as you flip those pages.
Nestled in amongst that, I’m hoping to share with you some of the things I think are important — the value of friends, honesty and integrity, about doing things that are hard because they are right.
Some of this mirrors where I am in life. Night’s Favour (http://amzn.com/B00EBNA0MU) is about picking yourself up when you’ve fallen over, and it mirrored me a few years earlier.
Upgrade (current work-in-progress) is about me exploring what it means to be — truly — human. In amongst the things we own, and the work we do, our essential humanity is under assault. How do we keep a hold of that? Can we get it back after we’ve lost it, traded it away? What’s our benchmark for the human condition?
I’d like to think you can ignore that kind of stuff if it’s not your thing, that the story will be a fun ride regardless of what I’m trying to say in amongst the pages. But maybe, just maybe, it’ll make you stop and consider.
What’s your favorite meal?
Ma’s cannelloni, done with a simple salad.
She makes this great dish, takes hours — you know, with all the stuffing of tubes and making of the mixture — but it’s to die for. I wrestled the recipe from her a few years back now, and I attribute the fact that I’m engaged in large part to preparing the same dish for my fiancé the first time she dined at mine.
Ma will normally crank it out with the aforementioned side salad and a desert of some kind, but it’s the cannelloni that’s the cornerstone piece. Haven’t had a better cannelloni anywhere.
What color represents your personality the most?
I don’t really work like this. I don’t think I’ve got a spirit animal, or a colour, or a favourite song, or whatever. I expect that I trend through life like a lot of people — that my colour, or mood, or personality — tries to match an ironically variable true North. It’s variable based on where I am at the moment.
You might think that makes me a sort of muddy brown, I don’t know, but the colour needs to fit the moment.
What movie do you love to watch?
Oh — there’s so many.
My Person and I watch Love Actually every Christmas. It’s great, and happy, and sad, and brilliant.
I’ll watch Iron Man 1 & 2 (not 3), Avengers, Thor 1 & 2, and Captain America until the cows come back to the ranch. I love the stories about superheroes, because I like to think they can be aspirational (around the cheesy edges).
Blade Runner. Alien. Aliens. The Matrix.
How do you feel about social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter? Are they a good thing?
Sort of, and bear with me here.
On the face of it, they’re amazing. They allow the connectedness of people and ideas faster and in better ways than ever before. There’s a catch, though, and that catch is a surrendering of some parts of information, identity, and self out there into the Internet.
I’m kind of okay with that — Facebook and I have a good relationship, where I put things on there that I’m comfortable with people seeing in a thousand years time (because they’ll be stored in the NSA’s data centre until then). I really like that Facebook, Twitter, Google+ if that’s your thing, allow you to be in touch with fans in a more direct manner.
I also get that people choose their platforms, and that means some people will never darken the doors of, say, Twitter. That’s okay too, but it means you need to be aware of that and provide content to people based on their platform of choice. As a content creator, you don’t get to dictate to people how they use the Internet — that’s their call, and you can either be on the same train as them, or be ignored by them.
The things I share on Twitter can be quite different to the things I share on Facebook. I’m hinging this on the assumption that Twitter people want conversations that are more bite-sized, almost asynchronous chats, like text messages that are visible to the world. People on Facebook want slightly deeper, more intimate conversations with context and group awareness. Or they want to post photos of their cats — which isn’t always the same thing.
All of that’s okay — just don’t be an asshole and crosspost everything everywhere. It doesn’t make sense, and I think it makes you look lazy.
If you could do any job in the world what would you do?
I’d write. That’s an easy one.
The idea of making a sustainable living from writing is an interesting one, one I’d like to pursue, but I suspect it’s quite a few years off yet, if realistic at all. So I write because I want to, because I love it, and that I want to tell stories.
Or that the stories want to be told. I’m not quite sure.
That feels the right place to start. If my road ends up with me being a professional writer, some kind of speculative version of Richard Castle, I’m very happy with that. I’m also happy with being a writer because it’s a fun thing to do.
What are you most passionate about? What gets you fired up?
This is a tricky one, but I think it’s the imbalance of power, some of the injustice kicking around the edges of things.
It’d be easy to say that this is a problem for places like Rwanda with warlords after blood diamonds, but the problems are far more local. Is your boss at work a bully? That’s just not fair. What about their boss? What about the people you watch on the train? Does that young guy give up his seat for the obviously pregnant woman?
I’d like the world to be more inherently fair than it seems to be. That might be unrealistic, I’m really not sure, but trying to level the playing field is something that I’d like to do.
Believe in people. Help them succeed. It always comes back tenfold to you, so why wouldn’t you do it?
Valentine’s an ordinary guy with ordinary problems. His boss is an asshole. He’s an alcoholic. And he’s getting that middle age spread just a bit too early. One night — the one night he can’t remember — changes everything. What happened at the popular downtown bar, The Elephant Blues? Why is Biomne, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, so interested in him — and the virus he carries? How is he getting stronger, faster, and more fit? And what’s the connection between Valentine and the criminally insane Russian, Volk?
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Genre – Action, Thriller, Urban Fantasy
Rating – R16
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