By antonyrattigan, Mar 1 2012 12:26PM
I was very kindly asked recently by a friend (and fellow Fantasy author) at Goodreads.com, Georgina Taylor, if I would be prepared to do an Author Interview for her blog. Being my first such request I was immensely flattered. What you see here is my unedited ramblings (I swear, I hadn’t had a drink) but you can read the final version at:
‘Who, what, when, how, why and where?’, and ‘Do you own a dog?’ ‘Do you think that owning at least one dog is a prerequisite to being a fantasy writer?’
These are the questions that Georgina Taylor asks her Fantasy Authors when she is interviewing them.
The short answers are: Me, write books, over the past ten years, in my spare time and on a computer, I just had to, in my spare bedroom. No, I don’t own a dog. No, I am capable of being smelly, making a mess and attacking the postman perfectly well by myself, thank you. But I guess you want more than that, don’t you?
I’ve always been a reader. My mother taught me and my siblings how to read before we even went to school. Although she says that when we got there we immediately denied being able to. (I think this was my first experience of the rules, ‘Admit nothing and don’t volunteer for anything. Don’t stand out from the crowd.’ Attitudes that would stand me in good stead years later in my Air Force career.)
So I was always in a library when I was growing up, taking out as many books as I was allowed. I was reading Sherlock Holmes books, George Orwell, Damon Runyon and Lord of the Rings even in my teens, as well as thriller writers such as Mickey Spillane and Dashiell Hammett. Not to mention comic books as well, of course, I wasn’t snobbish, I was an avid reader of anything.
I never really considered writing anything myself until years later, in my thirties. I tried my hand at a book and a pilot for a TV series but they only deserved to be shoved to the back of the draw and forgotten. Then I thought I’d have a go at writing poetry, or more properly, ‘songs without music’ which I did for a few years. I just wanted to be creative, it didn’t really matter about the genre, but as I can run off at the mouth given the encouragement, I guess anything to do with words was my forte, rather than painting or drawing. Eventually I gave that up too, after yet one more ode to a failed relationship. I decided enough was enough and moved on.
It was in my mid forties that I decided I should finally write a book. If for no other reason than that time when you are sitting in a pub with your mates, shooting the breeze about what we wanted to do with our lives, and someone invariably says, ‘I always wanted to write a book.’ I wanted to be able to say, ‘Well, I did once.’
I started writing a book I’d had in mind, it was a cop story with a fantasy element. It was going okay but I realised that it wasn’t any ‘fun’. I wanted to write something that would make people laugh. I’m a big Terry Pratchett fan and I was reading one of his at the time and I thought, I want to write something like that!
So, influenced by him, I ditched the first book and went back to the drawing board. And that is how I came up with the characters of Rufus Cobb and his friends, set in an alternate Universe. I’ve always been a fan of the Victorian Era and I was looking for a period in history when it could be dangerous to walk the streets. (Although if you read the newspapers, it was yesterday.) Times when there was real poverty, and no such things as cars and telephones, for example, so no one could ‘ring the bad guy’ and warn him the hero was on the way. So the Victorian period seemed to fit the bill. And setting it in an alternate Universe allowed me the leeway to paint on a broader canvas and include anything that took my fancy, like witches, werewolves, the Loch Ness Monster! All things that are talked about in this world but in mine, they are just natural parts of that world and taken for granted. This book, Split Infinity, was the first in what became The Londum Series.
Of course after Split Infinity was written, I tried to get an agent and sell it. No luck. So I stopped trying and wrote the next book, Hair of the Dog. Had another go at getting an agent, still no luck. Same with the third book, the Speed of Dark. The agents and publishers were queuing up to ignore me!
This all happened over a period of about seven years as I was writing in my spare time and only when I was in the mood, and many work and life things kept getting in the way. Eventually I decided that if I was going to seriously attempt to make a living as a writer, I was going to have to do something positive. I was bored with my job in IT and I had some money in the bank, so I decided to take a leap of faith by taking early retirement from my job and work on writing and selling my books. As I said to my friends and colleagues at the time, ‘Sometimes you have to jump off a cliff before you can find out if you can fly!’
So I retired and the first thing I did was to enter a Terry Pratchett writing competition about ... guess what? ... alternate Universes! Thought I must be in with a chance there. Not a hope, didn’t even get shortlisted. Anyway, after waiting for months to find out I hadn’t been selected, I seriously thought about shelving my books, never to be seen again, and going back to work.
Then one day as I was considering my options, I read an article in my PC magazine that explained how easy it was to self-publish on the Kindle. I read the article and thought, I can do that! With my background in IT that should be ‘do-able’ for me.
So I did it. Converted all my books, bought a Desktop publishing program and designed my own covers (that’s why they’re crap) and published them on Amazon. It wasn’t as easy as the article said it would be and I ended up using different software from what they suggested, but it was them that gave me the incentive to try it in the first place. Eventually, I finished the fourth book that I had in the draw, Snake Eyes, and wrote a book of short stories which I published as A Londum Yuletide and bought out a compendium volume of the first three novels, The Londum Omnibus Volume One. All I can say is ‘God bless Amazon’ for the opportunity.
Since Amazon, I have published at Smashwords.com and even had my books for sale as Print On Demand paperbacks from Createspace. (And this could have all been done without spending a single penny but I opted to fork out for the Extended Distribution Channels which placed my paperbacks in Amazons around the world, as well as places like Barnes & Noble.)
And now the money is rolling in. I make so much in royalties that I can afford to pay my own bus fare to the Job Centre! No, I don’t make enough to live on so I guess I will have to go out and find another job, but none of us writers are really in it for the money, are we? Are we?
So the moral of this story is ... ‘Do unto others as you would ...’ no, wait a minute. ‘Never take sweets from strangers,’ no that’s not right either. I suppose it’s ... if you want to be a published author, then do it! Now we have the freedom to stick two fingers (I’m English) up to all the agents and publishers that ever turned us down and say ... ‘We don’t need you anymore, you Dead Tree Publishers, your time has passed. Sayonara, Arrivederci, So Long and Thanks For All the Fish!’
I guess that’s my message to you all. Oh yeah, and don’t do drugs!
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