I don’t know the answers to life’s bigger questions, but here are 35 Questions and Answer about my writing, day job and family. If you have more, let me know in the comments.
- Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?
It’s impossible for me to speak for all the other authors out there, but for me personally, I wouldn’t call myself a die-hard grammar corrector; or understander at times. Grammar, I find, can be a very personal attribute of your writing style. It’s certainly possible to give your writing an ‘era’ by applying different grammar techniques. Eventually you seem to develop a signature of your own, using grammar in a way that identifies your work almost instantly to the reader.
- How important is research to you when writing a book?
Extremely. From non-fiction, where incorrect knowledge and advise can not only find you earning negative reviews and a bad reputation; but in some cases, even a law suit! Telling a reader how to incorrectly carry out a procedure that leads to the object in question (or worse still, the individual) being damaged or broken, is not a position you’d want to find yourself in. Even in fiction, I take research very seriously. Though my Ruins of Rytus series is set in a fictional world, I wanted it to carry credibility and realism. Even as I continue to write books in the series, I make sure to keep expanding my knowledge. For the series, I spent a great deal of time studying ancient Roman life, weapons, clothing and terminology. From learning which vegetables would be available at harvest time, to the construction and fixing of the cloaks worn by both men and women; I wanted familiar to march hand in hand with the new and unusual. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy learning new swear words in Latin?
- Did you ever think you would be unable to finish your first novel?
Oh yes! I cried about it too. Didn’t help much mind, just ruined a perfectly good notepad.
- How much of yourself do you put into your books?
Everything, physically and mentally. I wake up tired because I can’t turn my brain off for hours after writing. After sneezing so hard that I broke the mouse pad off my desk, then had to move my mouse up onto the top level, I get an almost constant shoulder ache from stretching my right arm out. I get cramp in my hands from typing too much, my legs fall asleep due to poor circulation – and don’t get me started about all those extra pounds I’m now packing from sitting down constantly.
- Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Yes. My mom doesn’t know I once spent a night in a police cell (wrong place, wrong time, bad choice of company deal), which gave me a brilliant opportunity to subject Max from the Ruins of Rytus series to a night in her majesty’s care. Psychologically as well, when people try to hurt me with their lies and pettiness, I just use it to flesh out my antagonists.
- How realistic are your books?
My non-fiction, automotive books are, I hope, very realistic. My stories of a fictional world called Rytus where people are defined by the colour of their blood? Possibly more so! I love to people watch, listening rather than talking and observing people as they buzz around; I then incorporate ‘normal behaviour’ into the background of my books.
- If given the opportunity to do it all over again, would you change anything in your books?
Definitely. Like the project car we never give up on, it’s never truly finished. When you’re thinking about your fictional worlds 24/7 (especially when you’re meant to be asleep/working), it’s hard not to think of something new, something you’d just like to tweak a little.
- Poets and writers in general, have a reputation of committing suicide; in your opinion, why is that the case?
This is a subject very close to my heart. I wasn’t going to answer this question initially due to opening old wounds, but I decided to try. When I was 18 I tried to take my own life and in 2008 the man who raised me, my grandfather, succeeded in taking his own. He was a brilliant man. Kind, caring and very compassionate. I was devastated. I plunged back into depression like I’d never seen it before. It wasn’t until very late September 2016, after visiting a Buddhist temple, that I began to get a handle on it again. The reason? “Why?” I believe, asking why is the cause. As a writer, you must justify the actions of your characters, even the antagonists. Eventually it spirals out of control until you begin to question your own reason for existing. It’s a horrible place to be, and if anyone reading this even suspects they or a loved one is depressed, please, PLEASE, seek help. It’s not easy, I know. I know what hitting rock bottom and still falling, feels like. You are not alone. Talk to your GP, or a professional. There are millions of people out there who want to help you. Don’t give up finding your solution, it is out there, I promise.
- Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?
I love my day job! I am extremely lucky (and I know it). By day I am a chassis engineer, working for a British automotive manufacturer. I get to spend all day talking about cars, engineering cars and occasionally driving sports cars and luxury SUVs on the public roads and test tracks. I get to surround myself with likeminded people who don’t think I’m weird for talking about cars all day!
- Does your day job ever get in the way of your writing?
I live 50 miles away from the office, which means a 1hr commute in the morning, and more often than not, a 1.5hr commute home. As well as the 8.5hrs I spend in the office, that’s 11 hours a day. Eating, sleeping and caring for my many animals takes another 10-11 hours of my day; so, that leaves me with about 4 hours on a week night to write. That being said though, the company I work for offer an employee learning scheme. It funds courses for employees to gain qualifications in subjects unrelated to their job. Last year I chose to do a short story writing course. It kick started my non-fiction writing and got me where I am today.
- From all that we have been hearing and seeing in the movies, most writers are alcoholics. Your views on that?
In my case, that certainly isn’t true. I think the last time I drank alcohol was a small flute of champagne on my honeymoon in July 2015. I’ve never been drunk, and the stories I hear about hangovers, waking up in stranger’s beds and getting arrested (oh no wait, forget that last one) don’t really encourage me to give it a shot! I wouldn’t stop anyone else from partaking (unless they intended to drive) but I don’t think it’s for me.
- Is it true that anyone can be a writer?
Absolutely. I think anyone can be a writer; though a little more patience may be required at times. No matter how good you are though, you’ll always need an editor!
- Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?
I certainly do not. Even if (and it’s a big IF) I don’t make any obvious spelling or grammatically mistakes, there are still changes to be made in every case. Editing takes up more of my time than writing does, guaranteed.
- What do you do in your free time?
If I’m not at my day job or writing; you’ll usually find me doing something car related. I’m a big petrol head (you may have guessed by now). I rent a unit on a farm to store my project cars, so sometimes I’ll be there, tinkering. If I’m not at the unit, I’ll likely be on ‘colossus’ (the nickname I gave to the PC I didn’t realise was so big when I ordered the case). I consider myself to be a casual gamer. I like to play simulation games and the occasional FPS if it has a good story line. I also run a car club for micro Japanese cars called ‘Kei Kars in the Park’. I founded it back in 2006 and run it with a great group of people. We have over 1,000 members now and I also run the website. So, if I haven’t broken the PHP coding, I’m probably tinkering with the website’s inner workings.
- Given the chance to live your life again, what would you change about yourself?
Absolutely nothing. No, not because I consider myself to be perfect; far from it. I consider myself to be extremely flawed and broken; but it made me who I am. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, broken as many hearts as I’ve had mine broken; I’ve lied, I’ve got things wrong and I’ve lost friends… but that’s who I am. There’s nothing I regret enough to want to change who I am.
- Did the thought to give up writing ever occur to you?
Many times! One of the reasons I am writing my answers to these questions is because I feel really demoralised at the moment. Writing is hard, but getting your book out there to the right people is even harder. I’ve lost count of the number of reviewers and book bloggers I’ve messaged offering a free copy of my books; only to never hear from them again. When you put everything you’ve got into your work and you can’t even give it away afterwards; that hurts.
- Are you friends with other writers?
I am. I’ve met a few writers through the ALLi group, met another through friends and inspired another to start. We all try and just help each other out as best we can.
- How are your relations with your family? Do you like to stay in touch?
My entire extended family is now 7. I keep in regular touch with my mom, dad and brother. I have an aunty living in the United States, I used to email her a lot, though she’s since had a falling out with her PC, so she’s reverted to letters. I hope to hear from her again soon. My husband’s side of the family is much larger. Christmas comes as a bit of a shock to me; I’m not used to it all yet! They’re all such lovely people, they’ve welcomed me into their family as one of their own.
- Can you tell us about your current projects?
I have two projects at the moment. My first being the continuation of the Ruins of Rytus series; the other is a sci-fi story about a virtual reality theme park with a twist in the tail. I intend to release ‘Novus Promissum’ on the 4th of May 2017 and Autonoma towards Christmas 2017.
- When can the readers expect your next book in print?
The print copy of ‘The Ruins of Rytus: Part II – Novus Promissum’ is due to be released on the 4th May 2017 (which is also my birthday). Autonoma is due nearer to Christmas 2017.
- Fiction or non-fiction? Which is easier?
This is a tough question. They both require a great detail of research as I said earlier, but it’s hard to say which is easier. Non-fiction has to be correct, but that means you also have hard facts (usually) to help you along the way. Equally, in fiction you aren’t tied to a certain series of events or timelines (unless you’re going for historical); you have more freedom to decide for yourself how the story should end.
- Did you ever change sentences more than five times just because it didn’t hit the right notes?
Not just sentences, but whole paragraphs, chapters and books. Sometimes you can just re-arrange the order of the words; other times you must rip the whole thing up and start again. I once binned an entire chapter just because I thought it didn’t interest me enough at the end.
- How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”?
I have a playlist on my phone called ‘Ruins’ (mostly used when I’m working on The Ruins of Rytus series). It has Epic Soundtracks and instrumental music from the likes of ‘Two Steps From Hell’, ‘Really Slow Motion’ and ‘Thomas Bergersen’ to name just a few. Each series I work on has its own ‘theme song’ which I’ll play to get me in the mood to start working. For The Ruins of Rytus series it has to be ‘I will burn your ships’ by Really Slow Motion; for Autonoma it has to be ‘All Is Hell That Ends Well’ by Two Steps From Hell. They’re on YouTube, check them out.
- Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or you can just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?
I suffer greatly from Anxiety, though the CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) has helped me greatly, the thought of working in a room full of people I don’t know terrifies me. Sometimes the guys at my day job joke about me working on my book in work hours, but I just can’t do it. Besides the potential issues of using their equipment for my own personal gain, I can’t concentrate with all that noise. I like to sit in the small bedroom of our little 3 bed semi (semi-detached) house, with my little dachshund called Honey curled up in the dog bed next to my ginormous PC; as I listen to my music (mentioned above).
- Did you specifically plan your studies around your interest of writing?
My day job employer runs a fantastic scheme called the ‘Employee Learning Scheme’ that allows us to learn a new skill not related to our day job. I decided to use that to study ‘short story writing’ which led me to writing my first novel.
- How many children do you have? Do you see any young writers in any of them?
Unfortunately, at this moment in time I am unable to have children. I was diagnosed with PCOS just a few months ago, while there is a small chance I might be able to, it’s highly unlikely given my family history. That being said, I have a wonderful family of fluffy and spikey animals. I have 3 rabbits, 2 dogs (a miniature long haired dachshund and a husky), 2 tenrecs (like hedgehogs but not related in any way) and hopefully some seahorses in the coming months. The dogs have been resistant to my attempts to teach them to write; the tenrecs however seem to be coming along nicely with their short stories.
- How possessive are you about your work?
Like most authors, I’m highly possessive. I can’t help it. I worked out, using the Microsoft Word file details option, that I had done the equivalent of a 40 hours a week job for a whole year just editing Residuum of Ravenstone. It’s hard not to be spikey towards criticism when you’ve spent that long being so hard on yourself. I don’t however dismiss constructive criticism; in fact, I encourage it. Each time I give a free book away to be evaluated, I also send a questionnaire asking for honest and anonymous opinions. If I don’t know it’s broken, I cannot fix it.
- Do any of your family members make occasional cameos in your books?
All of my characters are based on the habits and personalities of every person I’ve ever met; my husband however is also on the back cover of the Residuum of Ravenstone book!
- What are the non-fiction genres you enjoy reading?
Automotive books top the pile in my library. From humorous ones to factual ones from the days of my engineering degree. Occasionally you’ll find one about the various allergies I have, but it’s mostly all cars!
- How liberal are you in term of expressing ideas in your books?
It’s a fine line for sure. You must tread carefully between expressing your own ideas and being preachy. No-one wants to be preached too while they read, but profound thoughts can leave a lasting impression. I don’t know if I’ve got the balance right, I hope so.
- Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece?
My blog has a story or two from my dreams, I don’t usually remember them though. I did remember one though about a burning train, carrying headless bodies across the horizon, I typed that one up and put that on my blog. Another one about a virtual reality theme park grew into the basis of my book Autonoma (due Christmas 2017).
- Do you often project your own habits onto your characters?
Every character has a trait of mine. Some people won’t believe me, but then no-one else knows me better than I know myself!
- How long do you take to write a book?
The writing is fairly quick. If I’m in a good mood, then I can type up chapters in a day or two (I average about 300 words a night). Planning however takes about 6 months, and editing takes another 6.
- Do you blog?
I certainly do, you can find it at www.eReadingAuthor.com
- How active are you on social media? And how do you think it affects the way you write?
I’ve been on the internet for 16 years now. I’ve learnt a lot about trolls, trends and the permanent history it leaves behind. My best tip: If you can fit your character’s speech into the space of a tweet, it’s great for marketing later. It also helps keep your dialogue short, snappy and to the point.
I have a facebook page: www.Facebook.com/eReadingRuthor
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