Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Author Interview - Damon L Wakes



What's your name? 

Damon L. Wakes

What's the title of your most recent/forthcoming book? 

Ten Little Astronauts.

Describe the book in under 100 words. 

Ten astronauts are awoken from suspended animation – chosen from a crew of thousands to repair their steadily freezing ship – only to discover that one of their number has been killed, and that the murderer is now amongst them. They are trapped with no lights, no gravity, and no life support. In order to survive and restore the ship to working condition, they must work out who is responsible, because if the impostor doesn’t kill them, the cold will.

 Describe the book in under 10 words

And Then There Were None set in interstellar space.

What is your favourite book and why? 

Rumo and his Miraculous Adventures by Walter Moers. The book is the size of two or three house bricks and its storyline follows all the conventions of the classical epic. However, it takes place in the most alien fantasy setting I’ve ever come across. There are no orcs or elves: every single character is utterly bizarre and completely original. The protagonist, for example, is an intelligent bipedal horned dog wielding a sword that has multiple personalities. Despite the abundance of unusual creatures with outrageous abilities, though, nothing ever feels like it’s pulled out of thin air when the plot demands it. Any detail that proves significant is always set up well in advance, and the overall story feels totally airtight.

Who is your favourite author and why?

It’s a tough choice, but probably Douglas Adams. I really enjoyed The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well as the snippets of his work collected in The Salmon of Doubt, and he had the rare ability to tackle serious topics in an absolutely hilarious way. I also admire his text adventures: an early example of what great writing can add to games.

Name a book that you wish you'd written and why? 

It would be easy to say The Count of Monte Cristo because it’s extremely long and complicated and writing that would immediately make people think I’m super smart. Honestly, though, I don’t especially wish I’d written any book that currently exists. If the deal is that I get to go back in time and stick my name on the front of a great work of literature that otherwise stays word-for-word the same, I’d rather use my time machine to buy a bunch of winning lottery tickets. It seems marginally more honest and marginally less likely to tear apart the space-time continuum. If the deal is that I get to rewrite that book myself, then I can just go ahead and do it without the time machine. Ten Little Astronauts was largely an exercise in producing a more tense, faster-paced version of And Then There Were None. Fewer dinners, more axe murders. The books I really wish I’d written are the ones I haven’t yet.

Describe a typical writing day for you.

A typical writing day almost always starts with me sitting down at my desk and putting off something else I really should be doing. It usually finishes with me carrying on way longer than I intended. Occasionally I’ll open up a document last thing at night because I haven’t written anything for ages and feel as though I should at least get just a paragraph down. Often that leads to hours more work. Sometimes the hours of work are just a paragraph. I also take part in a lot of events—Flash Fiction Month, Flash Fiction Day, NaNoWriMo, Global Game Jams—that give me an excuse to dedicate some time to writing and offer a set deadline for getting it done. I like to listen to music while I work but it could be pretty much anything: at the moment it’s Gregorian chant covers of well known songs. I hesitate to describe coffee as an “aid” because it makes it sound like I’m liable to be disqualified from writing for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, but that’s probably the main one. My secret is drugs.

What's your biggest frustration as a writer? 

Digital Rights Management (DRM). It’s a kind of copy-protection applied to ebooks (among other things) ostensibly to prevent people making pirate copies. There are two problems with this. The first is that anybody with the most basic level of computer literacy can defeat DRM and make copies regardless. This doesn’t involve scrolling torrents of green ones and zeroes: it involves the ability to search for instructions on Google and follow those instructions. The second problem is that although DRM does nothing to hinder pirates, it can cause quite a headache for readers who actually paid for these books and don’t understand why they can’t simply copy them from one device to another for totally legitimate personal use.

How do people find out more about you? 

Website: www.damonwakes.wordpress.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DamonWakes 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authordamonwakes

And if you’d like to read the opening of Ten Little Astronauts, you can do so here: https://unbound.com/books/ten-little-astronauts



Monday, 13 March 2017

The Writer's Day

8.30am - Tea, granola, enter office. Start researching/writing/editing.

10am - Tea. More research/writing/editing.

11am - Elevenses. More tea. A Brief check of emails, social media etc. Then more research/writing/editing.

12pm - Meet a writer chum for a snifter at the Red Lion in Penn Village. Enjoy a well kept pint of ale, chat about author-ish things, admire ducks in pond, fawn over a chap's vintage Bugatti.



1pm - Raid Penn Cottage Bookshop for goodies.




2pm - Take dogs for yomp o'er fields and woodlands behind the house. Enjoy sunshine and watch the chemtrails poisoning the angels (one for the conspiracy nuts there).






3pm - Tea and a return to researching/writing/editing.

4pm - Tiffin. More tea and a hot cross bun obscenely buttered. Make stock from yesterday's chicken carcase. Return to researching/writing/editing.

6.30pm - Finish for the day. Exit office.

7pm - Cook evening meal (chicken, chorizo and asparagus risotto using fresh stock) and be sociable. Tea.

Amount earned: £0.00

Quality of life improved: Immeasurably.

Happiness levels: Medium to high.



Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Cover Story - Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blogpost describing how one of my book covers came about (see here).

The artwork for that cover was by the brilliant Tom Gauld.

I'm now delighted to reveal that the artist who will be tackling the cover for my next book (and first novel) A Murder To Die For is ... Neil Gower.

Even if you don't know the name, you'll know his work. Here's a sample:









Oh my.

How excited am I?

A lot. :)


Author Interview - Tabatha Stirling

What's your full name? 

Are you sure? Okay … Charlotte Alexandra Tabatha Hallewell Stirling. But you can call me ‘Tabster’ *bats eyelashes*



What's the title of your most recent/forthcoming book?

Blood On The Banana Leaf - which I regret now because I’m fairly sure I should stick ‘A Girl’ in there somewhere.

Describe the book in under 100 words.

Here are the stories of Lucilla, a maid from the Philippines, Ma'am Leslie, from England, Shammi, a young village girl from Myanmar and Madame Eunice, a Singaporean-Chinese employer as they strive to exist in a country that harbours darkness below its pristine exterior. As the narrative weaves its candid and often brutal way through the lives of each woman, it also examines the effects of loss, madness, abuse and hope during a woman's life and in society as a whole.

Describe your book in under 10 words.

Welcome to the black heart of Singapore.

What is your favourite book and why?

This is a beastly question. I refuse to be boxed in so I’m naming two: Of Human Bondage’by Somerset Maugham and Absolutely Anything by Simone de Beauvoir. Of Human Bondage was the first ‘adult’ fiction I read. I remember it so well; my parents had given me an account at the local bookshop and I went mad and ordered over fifty books. I hated boarding school and felt incredibly lonely until I discovered Maugham and his visceral characterisations that made me feel at home. I realised that these toxic behavioural patterns were part of other families and I had found my adolescent tribe. De Beauvoir is one of the greatest writers of the last two centuries. She knocked the spots off Satre when it came down to understanding the berserker dance of the white blood cells and the intimate fire-pin waltz danced by a synaptic transmission. In other words, she understood the relationship between the body and the mind and how, when in cahoots, could build empires, yet when fighting, could bring one so low you could feel the weight of a thousand centuries above you. Her understanding & courage when speaking about her own insecurities, her searing honesty that she was in a shitty relationship with a shitty man who received accolades in his lifetime that she deserved so much more. And frankly, entering into an open relationship because you want to be seen as cool and unbothered by something as bourgeois as infidelity when really you want to go at them both with a chainsaw, pliers and some boiling tar. Oh! And her glorious language.

Name a book you wish you'd written and why?

(From 2016) The Bees by Laline Paul. It is an astonishing work – a fictional account of the workings of a hive beset by misogyny, murder, death, horror & some particularly nasty wasps. She makes the environment completely credible, her language is vital, unafraid & mesmerising and I now have to go and read it again.

Describe a typical writing day.

It goes like this: I have a toddler.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< tiny bit of writing. It’s like having an angry drunk perpetually causing mayhem.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< wee bit of designing She is beautiful & likes cuddles.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< half-hearted attempt at editing It is like having an angry drunk perpetually causing mayhem.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< frantic poem writing She is beautiful & likes cuddles.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< sings, ‘Come into the garden, Maud, for the black bat night has ….’
Pass out.
Wake & repeat.

What's you biggest frustration as a writer?

I started taking myself seriously as a writer much too late to write all the books I want to.

You can go here www.unbound.com/books/blood-on-the-banana-leaf and pledge for my book. Not only are there some spankingly good rewards, you are also the recipient of eternal Tabby love.

Www.volequeen.com for my shorts & playsuits.

Tabathadesign.tumblr.com for my design portfolio.

 I’m very Twitter friendly at @volequeen. Come and make out!


Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Author Interview - Paul Holbrook

What is your name?

Paul Holbrook. I am a writer from North Yorkshire.



What's the title of your most recent/forthcoming book?

Domini Mortum, which is being crowdfunded by those lovely people at Unbound at the moment. 

Describe the book in under 100 words: 

Domini Mortum is a murderous tale set in London and York towards the end of the nineteenth century. It concerns an artist and journalist for the Illustrated Police News, the most sensationalist tabloid of the day, and his investigations into a series of murders of servant girls in the Paddington area. His journey brings him into contact with a haunted village, an asylum, a secret society, a brothel, a vicious crime lord oh and maybe the odd ghost. It's everything you want really from a Hammer Films style Victorian murder mystery, all wrapped up in a beautifully written novel.

Describe the book in under 10 words: 

Bad people do bad things in Victorian times. Cue thrills.



What is your favourite book and why? 

I think it would have to be Legend by David Gemmell. It's a heroic fantasy novel which was first bought for me by my Dad when I was about fourteen. I’ve read it a lot of times, probably too many to be cool, but, because of the time that I have invested in it over the years, it holds a great many personal memories for me as I can remember reading it at lots of different and important times in my life. As a novel. I still love it, the storytelling can be a bit clunky and the character development a little flawed but overall to me it’s a precious thing.

Who is your favourite author and why? 

Tough one that, because I go through phases and obsessions with writers, be it Stephen King, David Gemmell, Clive Barker or JRR Tolkein. My current favourite though is Neil Gaiman. I used to read the Sandman comics when I was a lot younger and when he moved into novel writing, initially I was very worried. I don’t love all his work, there are a few misses amongst the hits for me, but I love The Graveyard Book and I was totally entranced by ‘The ocean at the end of the lane’, which is just a beautiful piece of work.

Name a book you wish you'd written and why: 

Probably Swan Song by Robert R MacCammon. It's a lovely book made up of well written characters, short punchy chapters and overall an epic story. It's a post nuclear apocalypse tale, which I know has been done by a lot of writers before. For me though it’s the best of the breed I couldn’t recommend it highly enough and I just wish I could one day create something so expansive, engrossing and well written.

Describe a typical writing day for you:

When I have a day that I can put aside for writing I like to be up and at it early. I find that often the best stuff I write is first thing in the morning. There have been days when I have got straight out of bed and got on the computer and suddenly find that four hours have gone. I also like to have a good dog walk before I write anything of any substance. I live on the edge of the North York Moors, it’s a stunningly beautiful and inspiring place and often a dog walk in the fresh air, sometimes with stirring music playing in my earphones is enough to get the ideas flowing. In terms of musical styles, for Domini Mortum and its predecessor Memento Mori, I solely listened to Finlandia by Jean Sibelius. The music is based on the Finnish folk tales which feature heavily in the novels. I don’t tend to use any aids apart form my own addled mind. When I’m novel writing my brain is a box full of hummingbirds, ideas, narratives, dialogue and twisty turny bits flying in from all angles. The result is always highly pleasing though.

What's your biggest frustration as a writer? 

Time. If I could freeze time for about two hours a day I would be knocking out novels left, right and centre. I have so many fully formed ideas in my head that I thin I would need about three lifetimes just to get it all out there. I often work seven days a week also as I do two jobs, one in a school supporting children with learning needs and a second providing days out and respite for young people with disabilities and long term medical conditions. Sometimes I will only get one full day off a month, and when I do get a day off its nice to actually spend it with my wife and kids rather than shackling myself to a laptop. And so I snatch and steal time where I can, twenty minutes here an hour there. I get there in the end but its often a slow process.

How do people find out more about you? 

My most important contact point is my Unbound page www.unbound.co.uk/books/domini-mortum There you can find out more about Domini Mortum, read a synopsis, and extract and most importantly pledge your support for my lovely creation.

I am often on Twitter @cpholbrook
 I have a blog at http://doloriantales.blogspot.co.uk/ which I try to add to when time permits.
 I am on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/paul.holbrook1


Friday, 17 February 2017

Cover Story

I thought I might spend a short blogpost talking about how a book cover gets designed. It's particularly of interest to me at the moment as I'm just going through the design and discussion stage for the cover of my next book A Murder To Die For.

Perhaps the best way to look at the process - or at least how I engage with it - is to look at one of my previous books. In 2013 Constable Colgan's Connectoscope was published by Unbound in hardback and paperback editions.The book is a collection of fascinating facts all interconnected and gathered into 'Rounds'. Each Round (or chapter) starts with a fact which links to the next and to the next and to the next and so on until the last fact comes full circle and joins up with the first. It means that each chapter is a single circular journey. The fact that I used to be a police officer was latched upon by the publisher who suggested the book title (it had been called Connect-O-Rama) and that I write a new foreword describing how my mind works - finding facts, checking them, collating them, connecting them - and how that had been useful in both my career as a cop and as a writer for the TV show QI.

When discussions began about cover design, I had the idea of depicting the Connectoscope as some kind of machine. By coincidence, the art director also liked the idea. I brought sketches I'd done. And, just for the crack, I knocked up a painting too.




 None of them were quite right for the book of course - just me doodling ideas. But once we had a concept and the talk turned to artists, one name jumped out at us: Tom Gauld. I'd been a big fan of his work for years. I love his cartoons in The Guardian and I had his books Goliath and The Gigantic Robot. Here's some of his work.





There's a delicious business to his work that we loved (you can see more of his book covers here). Plus, he's really good at robots and steampunkish machines. So, off went the brief from the art director:


And what came back was just glorious. 


And, barring a few small tweaks - the green light was given. The final cover was as good as anything I'd dared hope for.



So there you go! It may well be a very different process for some authors but, for me, as someone who has a strong sense for the visual, it was a case of discussion, concession and ideas sharing. And what I got from it was a beautiful, fantastic cover. And I got to thank Tom personally when we went up at Gosh! Comics in London for the launch of his (then) new book You're All Just Jealous Of My Jetpack.


Now I'm looking forward to the next book and a whole new cover to love.



Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Author Interview - David Roche

What's your name? 

David Roche

What's the title of your most recent/forthcoming book?

Just Where You Left It – Family Rhymes for Modern Times 



Describe the book in under 100 words. 

A book of humorous poems written about things that are relevant to families now. I wrote the first one in response to my eldest child’s request for something different to perform at a school poetry competition. It took the p*ss while being full of relevant references and from then on we were on a roll: exams, school meals, bullying, sports days, holidays, wi-fi, embarrassing Dads and nagging, know-all Mums were fair game. If you grew up on poems by the likes of Ogden Nash – ones which are more Pam Ayres than Alexander Pope - then this could be for you.

Describe the book in under 10 words.

Family Rhymes for Modern Times – relevant, amusing poems for all

What is your favourite book and why? 

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. Hilarious, true and made me realize that others were making it up as they go along.

Who is your favourite author and why?

Kazuo Ishiguro – makes it look so simple.

Name a book that you wish you'd written and why?

One Day by David Nichols or Q&A by Vikas Swarup. I would love to land on the clever premise that provides the perfect structure for the story.

Describe a typical writing day for you.

Hopefully a miserable day, preferably raining. No-one else around and ideally in a cabin in the woods. I listen to classical or soundtrack music – anything without lyrics, at least not in any language that I can understand! I am a huge John Barry fan and his non-score albums Beyondness of Things and Eternal Echoes are perfect.

What's your biggest frustration as a writer?

There is never enough time.

How do we find out more about you and your work?

To date I have been concentrating on successfully raising the required financing for Unbound to publish my book, so while I have been using Facebook and Twitter, email has been the most effective method. Now that this phase is complete (though you can still see sample poems and pledge at https://unbound.com/books/just-where-you-left-it) I hope to extend the net through word of mouth, recommendations, advocacy and events as the final book starts to come together with its illustrations etc.

You can find out more about the book here: https://unbound.com/books/just-where-you-left-it and here: https://www.facebook.com/DavidRochebook/.

You can find out more about me (personal stuff) here: @davidlrroche (Twitter) and https://www.facebook.com/david.roche.90, and (work stuff) here: http://davidroche.co.uk/about and here: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/davidroche