Almost a year ago exactly, in my second Creative Times, I linked to a fabulous, if slightly perturbing, post by writer Ian Hocking. In it, he talked about giving up writing. All too often I find that online writing sites focus on (somewhat forced) upbeat information to keep us going, while gracefully glissing over the less spectacular aspects of being a writer. I always see cheerful posts of all sorts or even rigidly prescriptive ones which, in one way or other, invariably scream LOOK AT ME! I AM SO GREAT! I think it's a miracle that less experienced writers don't shoot for the hills wielding an open razor and their wrists aloft. Coming across Ian's post was so remarkably refreshing and striking in this Pollyanna-esque landscape that I had to share it via my ezine, even though I know well that an ezine is anathema to less than thrillingly happy news.
Fast-forward by a year though, and Ian is at Scott Pack's digs, giving us the low-down on how writing life progressed since then, and proving that, among a plethora of crap, there's plenty of space at the top of the quality ladder. I urge you to have a look at the numbers that Ian shares so readily with us all and at his Kindle-related news. Not many writers are forthcoming in talking money and I do have to wonder why writing earnings represent such a taboo subject. Would you be shocked/happy/sad/revolted/uninterested to know that, this year so far, my writing has pocketed me precisely zero quid while I've cut a vein open in getting the anthology printed? Does that make me any less of a writer? Does that make me a bad writer or not a writer at all?
What is your idea of perfect writing?
I'll start off by subverting the question a little. There is no perfect writing, just the potential for perfection. It is the graceful overshooting of the target, and the chance you might strike it next time, that makes a new project worthwhile. With each of my novels, I've got a little bit closer, but still no cigar.
Now I’ll answer the question straight: perfect replication of both the conscious and unconscious impressions in the head of the writer as these impressions condense to text.
What is your greatest writing fear?
I don't think I have a writing fear per se. Recently, I decided to give up writing, and that was quite a release from fear. Prior to that, my number one fear would have been giving up. I care less about what people think, now. I don't, for instance, care about agency representation. Writing is now something I control, rather than the other way around. I used to be very polite and accommodating about the pressures that publishers are under. Not so much any more. My own renaissance, if you can call it that, is all thanks to Amazon. They provided a great e-reading device, the Kindle. They put self-published authors in the driving seat with excellent, constantly evolving publication tools, and a marketplace.
What do you consider your greatest writing achievement?
I might say it's getting my first two books read by people other than myself, my girlfriend, and my agent. Almost five thousand people have read Déjà Vu and Flashback since March, when I decided to try Kindle publishing. That's something I wasn't able to do with a small publisher in 2005 or with a good agent since then.
What is the writing tendency you most deplore in yourself?
I haven’t learned to fully switch off the Evil Editor on the shoulder. This is probably because I spent so long switching him on.
Which living writer do you most admire?
I can answer this very quickly: Stephen King. He is a hard working, excellent writer with a didactic turn. He writes straight, too.
What is your greatest writing extravagance?
Paying for the cover and the editing of Flashback. In combination, that was well over one thousand pounds.
What is the quality you most admire in somebody else's writing?
Without getting too Statler and Waldorf, English blooms on toilet walls, Facebook comments and conversations between good friends.
What or who is your greatest writing love?
I’ll interpret this broadly. The number one love is English. I got the hots for it when I was ten years old or so. At the time, I was monopolising the family computer and typing in BASIC programs from magazines to make the machine produce awful poetry, and so on. English and BASIC became mixed up in my head and I thought of English as way to write the most elegant simulations of reality, all running on other minds.
English is no longer a love in the romantic sense. English is like an old friend of the family and never lets me down.
When and where were you happiest with your writing?
Never during the writing process itself. I find it difficult and frustrating; but the evening of a solid writing day is a good one. I know I’m exercising my talent. When I’m not writing, there is a certain sadness and waste. It’s like looking at an instrument you used to play.
I’m less happy about my writing in the general sense nowadays. As a younger man, I was optimistic about a writing career because I knew I was good enough. I worked hard to maintain that optimism. The cynicism that has, in part, replaced it, did not come naturally.
If you could easily modify one of your writing tendencies, what would it be?
What is the most marked characteristic of your writing?
Who are your writing heroes?
Stephen King, Hemingway, Patrick O’Brian, Norman Mailer, Raymond Chandler, Cormac McCarthy, and Stephen King. (I’m reading On Writing this evening. Blast, it’s good.) [Steph says: what took you so long?!]
How do you hope your writing will be referred to as after you've gone?
I hope it still works as a program to run my mind on yours.
What is your writing motto?
Write to be read.