Tuesday, November 29, 2011

UK Goodreads live chat for those who missed it.

For those who missed it, here's a condensed version of the live chat I did on the UK Amazon Kindle forum.

You ready Shaun?
OK, thanks for turning up everyone. Some great questions. Hope you enjoyed it, and I'll see you next time. Night.
Lol. OK. I'm here.

Hi and welcome everyone, thank you all for being here. Some of you will already know Shaun, but for those among us who haven't met you yet, please, Shaun, would you mind introducing yourself?
OK, I’m 46 years old, and I’ve been writing books and stories for probably half that time. I grew up in a house in a cemetery, so I guess I was never going to be writing romance novels. In that respect I’ve had five novels published and one collection. I was also lucky enough that my novel, The Kult was filmed last year by an independent production company. No release details yet, but there is a trailer up on Youtube. I work full time on the railway as a signalling telecommunications engineer. And in my spare time I go jogging, work out at the gym and do Tae Kwon Do.

You seem to always be on the go, how many hours do you sleep on an average night?
Nowhere near enough. If I'm lucky I'll get about 6 hours kip. That's why I look like a zombie most of the time.

Didn't you know a wise man only needs 4 hours sleep a night? You're OD-ing! LOL.
I don't feel like a wise man. Lol

Have you ever had nightmares/were scared as a kid living by a graveyard?
Not really. I was very young at the time, but to be honest, a graveyard is a very serene and quiet place. And if there's any such thing as ghosts and ghouls they'll probably inhabit the area where they died rather than where they're buried!

They do say about weird things going on in graveyards... ever witnessed anything unexplainable?
I have had a couple of weird experiences, and seen a couple of strange things, but not in a graveyard.

Did you ever read the names on the gravestones & then make up little stories of who you thought that person may have been?
I find the epitaphs very sad. It makes you wonder about the person interred beneath, but I've never made up any stories about them.

Did you always want to be a writer? If not what had you planned on doing?
Writing is something I just enjoyed doing. As it's not my full time profession I can just enjoy doing it for fun. If I had to do it for a living I'm not sure whether I'd enjoy it as much, mainly because then I would know how important it was, and that my living would depend on it! That would be quite scary I think.

What made you start writing or is it something you have always done?
I suppose I started writing because I just thought it was something I could do. How wrong was I!!! At first you think everything you write is fantastic. The truth is it's not. But I persevered. And here I am, 20 odd years later. I'm not famous and I don't make a living from it, but I still enjoy making stuff up :)

Did your early experiences at school inspire you to write?
To be frank, I hated school. They certainly weren't the best times of my life, and that probably manifests in some of my characters, such as Prosper Snow!

When given the choice, what would you rather do? Read a book or watch a movie? Or do something else...
I guess I’d rather read. It’s harder than watching something on the box as it takes more effort, but you get far more out of it as you're more immersed in the story and the characters. At least I think so anyway. If it was something else, it would stray into adult themes ;)

Have you finished the 'ink' yet?
No. My second full tattoo sleeve is still in progress. Next appointment in December. More pain to look forwards to.

Which genre do you prefer?
I used to read primarily horror, but now I lean more towards thriller, so my own fiction is leaning that way more too.

Which of your books is your personal favourite and why?
The Kult. It took me so long to write that novel, and it went through so many changes, but when it all fell into place it just felt ‘right’ if that makes sense.

Which was easiest to write and why?
I don’t find writing any of them easy. I struggle to find the right words.

Which was most difficult?
See above answer. They were all difficult. Writing doesn’t come naturally to me, and I’ll take ages to write a couple of pages.

Which of your characters do you truly dislike? Which would you like to share a pint with?
To be honest I don’t truly dislike any of them. I mean strange as it seems, I created them, so they’re all my children in a way, faults and all. In that respect, I’d share a pint with any of them. Although I may have to watch some of them very carefully, if you know what I mean?

Who is your favourite character of your books and why?
Tough one. I like most of the characters I create. In a strange way they are like my children as I gave birth to them - without all the pain of course. But I guess my two favourites are Prosper and Wolfe as those two characters are based on me more than any others.

Which of your books should I read first and why?
That would depend on what you like. Evilution, Deadfall and Fangtooth are more horror orientated, whereas The Kult and Killers are more psychological thriller.

Have you ever been part of a "Kult"?
I’m not at liberty to answer that one.

Can you tell us how Prosper Snow's name came about? It is most unusual to me…
To be honest, the name just popped into my head. I never know where my character's names come from. They just are who they are. It's pretty hard to explain really. Strange even!

When you started writing about Prosper Snow did you start the story with him already named? Or did his name pop into your head later as the book progressed?
His name popped into my head.
Do you remember the first idea that started the writing of the Kult?
Yes, it was about a deformed family seeking retribution for their treatment by others! So as you can see, the original novel was nothing like the published book. I had an agent trying to sell that original novel though before we parted ways and I rewrote the novel from scratch.

Before the movie based on The Kult was made, did you ever have in mind any actors you would have liked to play Prosper?
I hadn't thought about it really. I never imagined the book would ever be filmed. Even when it was optioned (which means the company bought the rights to film it) I still didn't think it would progress beyond that. Then when it was filmed, I didn't think the actor asked to play Prosper looked anything like my character, but having seen him in action he was perfect for the role.

Did you write the screenplay for The Kult for the film people?
No, I didn't write the screenplay. I read it and made some suggestions, but that was the only involvement I had.

How does it feel to see your characters on screen? Do you think you will watch the movie with a critical eye, or will you just sit back and enjoy?
I haven’t seen the complete film yet, only the trailer, but as you can imagine I’m looking forwards to seeing it. Who wouldn’t be eager to see a film based on one of their books? I guess I will watch it many times. First time I hope I can just sit back and enjoy the experience. The times after that I’ll probably be more critical. But to be honest, even if the film sucked I am still proud that my novel was turned into a film. Not many people can say that.

How did it all start? Did you have to submit your novel or were you "discovered"?
I submitted. I'm still waiting to be discovered. I'm like an old fossil. Lol
However, Dark Regions Press is an invitation only publisher, and they contacted me to submit to them.

How did Dark regions come across your books then Shaun? Do you know?
No idea really. I guess they'd just heard about me on the grapevine.

You released Killers last month, and it's had excellent reviews, with lots of readers saying it was better than The Kult. Did you expect the novel to be such a hit among your readers?
I was nervous releasing it, mainly because lots of people liked The Kult, so to write another book with the same characters I only hoped that I did them justice. When the reviews started appearing, it seemed that people liked it more than The Kult, which did surprise me, but in a good way.

Were you set on looking for another plot or did you come across and idea and thought it'd be good for novel 2?
I had an idea that I wanted to write about, and it just made sense to use Prosper in the role of the police officer. I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to pull it off though...

I really like the Obituary Man character. So how much of his 'techniques' was based on your research, or was it all your own ideas? It certainly made me have another look at my house on Google Maps!
I can’t recall whether I read about people committing crimes in this way or not, but if I did I probably pieced together various angles. Then I imagined what I would do if I wanted to rob somewhere. And in this day and age, many of the things I’d need during the planning stage are at my disposal from the comfort of my own home.

I've told you several times that I feel very drawn toward Wolfe's character. How do you feel about him?
Of course he's popular. He’s based on me ;)

Did you expect him to be so popular among the ladies? Will he come back in number 3?
I expect he'll make a return. But I won't say any more.

Was Killers self-published and are you looking for another publisher?
I had sold it to a publisher, but I withdrew it. So yes, it was self-published, partly because due to numerous reasons I’m disillusioned with conventional publishing. But it has gone through numerous edits and an editor before being published, so I hope it’s the best that it can be.

Kult#3: any teasers and when will this be available in 2012?
I’ve made a start, but I don’t like to talk too much about a work in progress because it takes away some of the magic of writing it if I discuss it. It can also make me talk myself out of writing it if people say ‘that sounds rubbish’.

Have you planned how many novels Prosper will appear in?
No. I never expected to write another novel with him in. But I had this idea, and it just made sense that if I was using a police officer in the story, that I resurrected Prosper. I think it worked well.
However there were lots of problems that I had to resolve, as he obviously has some baggage from his first story, so it was hard to write about him without giving too much away for those who've never read The Kult.

I like to follow characters through multiple books eg.Rebus, Lincoln Rhyme, Alex Cross; does this make it easier or more difficult for the author working with a well-established character?
It's nice to continue with a character you've used before, as you know all about him so it makes it easier to create the character, but it's also hard as you have to remember everything that's happened to said character so that timelines etc. don't cross, or that one minute he's 35 years old, and then in the next book he's 34 etc.

I can’t wait for the next novel, there will be one won't there?"
I'm working on it, but it's slow going until I get in the groove, so to speak. Hopefully it will all come together soon.

So you'll be doing a straight series, or will you be trying to do other things in between as well?
Well I had started another novel that's unrelated, and I've written a screenplay that I want to turn into a novel. As with most things, it's finding the time to do everything I want!

I loved the female lead in Deadfall. At what point did you decide this and will you be writing another strong female character?
I just liked the concept of a female mercenary pitted against both antagonistic men and zombies. I assumed people were used to male leads in a mercenary sort of role, so I thought it might be different to make it a woman. As for writing another female lead, it depends on the story. Some protagonists suit being female, while others work best with a male lead.

Why the two different endings? How did they come about?"
The book was previously published, but I had rewritten the ending for the original book, so I thought people might be interested in reading the original ending. I’ve seen it done with films before, so I thought why not. I also tweaked parts of the story from the original novel, so hopefully this version is far better.

You have worked on a screenplay, is it much different to writing books?
They both have the same structure, but with a novel you often have internal dialogue and you have to describe each scene, which you don’t have to do with a screenplay. Screenwriting is far more concerned with visuals, movement and speech than with the art of language.

Who was the most supportive about your writing?
My better half, Deb. She is the one who has had to put up with me locking myself away and writing. She also puts up with all the other stuff that comes from the writing, such as me spending time on the computer on message boards etc., promoting. So yes, Deb is my number one fan and my rock.

I'm plotting at the moment and I was just wondering whether you like to plot a story first or just have a rough idea and go with the flow. Some writers have to have it all worked out beforehand and others prefers the character to lead the way as it were.
Which kind are you?
I have worked both ways. Sometimes if I'm stuck I like to plot to know where it's going. But other times I like the free writing approach so that the story surprises me as I write it as I don't know what's going to happen next.

Do you ever write in any other genres? If so which ones?
My main genres are horror and thriller. But if I had an idea that was in a genre that I don't write in then it wouldn't stop me writing it. Ideas are too precious to waste, especially if they are good ones.

Have you ever based a character on anyone you know?
The main person that my characters are based on is me. I only have my own experiences to work from, so many of them probably come out in my writing.

Do you base any of your characters on friends, relatives or colleagues and if so do they know?
No. I wouldn't want to offend anyone I know. That's my answer and I'm sticking to it ;)

Do you carry a note book and jot down mad antics of Railway Engineers?
If I wrote about my real job, the truth is people would never believe it. I couldn't make up some of the characters I work with! There was a drama on the TV about 10 years ago based on the railway. It doesn't come half way to the truth!

Have you written any stories based on your job?
I once wrote a short story based on a factory that I worked in that involved a man being hypnotised by a machine, and then going on a killing spree. Aside from that, I don’t think I’ve written anything else based around my job(s).

I was wondering if the area that you live in has ever influenced your wonderful books? :)
My first novel, Evilution was based around a village I used to drive past on the way to work, but I've never based a novel in a real place. I never actually say where they're based, that way I can make it all up without someone saying that place doesn't exist or you can't reach that road by going down there.

Do you prefer to write by hand and then transfer to computer, or straight to computer?
I always write straight to a computer. I'm lazy and it's easier that way.

Do you keep notebooks in various rooms so you can jot down ideas as you think of them?
I used to, but I don't seem to do that as much now. If an idea strikes I just have to use any medium at hand to make a note of it.

How long does it take you to write a book on average? How many hours a night do u lock yourself away writing?
On average it takes me about six months to write a first draft. I'm not the fastest writer in the world. But I suppose if I put my nose to the grind stone, aside from having a sore nose, I could write a novel in a couple of months. After the original draft, I revise it over numerous rewrites. So probably a year from start to finish.
As for how much I write a day, it depends. When I'm in the zone, I try for a minimum of 1k words a day, but I can get anywhere up to 5k if I had all day to work on it.

When do you do most of your writing?
I work shifts, 24/7 so I have to fit in any time I can. I don't have a routine in that respect.

Where do your ideas come from and how do you create them to paper?
My ideas arise from anything that sparks my interest. It might be a news report, a picture, a snippet of conversation. Anything that conjures a 'what if' scenario. Then when I have an idea, I just expand upon it to create a story.

Have any conversations with fans given you a 'eureka' moment?
Not that I recall. Sorry :(

How do you build a story from scratch and create characters.
As I said above, I start with the seed of an idea, and then expand upon it. For example, say I have an idea of a man pulling a suitcase through an airport. Now this is a pretty general scene. But 'what if' there's blood seeping from the case? From that I have to come up with something to explain it. Of course it could be a chopped up body, but then there's the who, what, why and where? Of course it might not be a body. If not, then I would have to imagine something else is in there. Perhaps a dead animal. Again though, why?
For characters, they just arrive on the scene as and when they're needed. It's hard to explain, but if I need a protagonist, I just start writing and they appear as if by magic!

Do you start off knowing what the title of your book is going to be, or do you decide later on or even after you've finished the book???
I know authors who start off with the title and people who wait until the book is finished.
Sometimes the title will come to me as I prepare the story, other times I have to read through after and see if something stands out that I think would make an apt title. Titles are important though, as it's what your book's going to be known by herein after!

Have you ever felt the need to act out scenes from your books?
Lol. I don't think I'd be out in public if I acted them out as I'd be in a prison cell somewhere. But I can't say I've never thought about it...

Do you find that researching is a bit of a chore, or do you enjoy the process?
I always find research interesting as I'm looking into subjects that I know nothing about. It's also hard though because you have to make it seem that you do know what you're talking about when it comes to writing without it seeming like an information dump.

When doing your research for books, what mediums do you use? Do you think the internet has made it easier for writers to research stuff?
My research is basically sourced from books and the internet. But I do ask people in certain professions for advice. For example I have a friends and family in the police force, so I quiz them about certain things. But any inaccuracies or liberties taken with the truth are purely my mistakes or choices.

Do you write from start to finish or sort out the end and work backwards?
I start at the beginning, but sometimes an ending or plot development might arise as I'm writing (if I haven't plotted the story that is), so I make notes and then continue where I was.

Do you prefer writing with men (the Kult) or women (Deadfall) as the main characters?
I don't really have a preference. I guess it's easier for me to write from a male perspective, but I hope I can open up to my feminine side too :)

Do you find it easy to write the gory scenes, or do you really have to think about it?
I don't have any problem writing gory scenes. Is that as wrong as it sounds? Lol

You kill one of your main characters. How does that make you feel? Is it easier or worse depending on whether the character is a good person or a baddie?
Just like the reader, I would hope that if I had to kill a good character it would be a little upsetting. When you’ve spent ages creating a character, you can start to believe they are real in a way. So to kill them can be hard. Even killing a baddie can be hard, especially if it’s a character that in some way you like.

Good vs. Evil: who wins according to you?
Neither. Everyone is a loser to some extent.

Which authors do you look up to? Who inspired you?
My favourite authors are Graham Masterton, Stephen King and Richard Laymon. When I started reading books, I read a lot of the Pan Books of Horror, which were short story anthologies. They probably warped my mind. Lol

You said you were a fan of Richard Laymon. I read some of his books (not all, but most of them) about 12-15 years ago. I've only met 2 other people who were fans of his work. He had a very warped and twisted mind, don't you think?
I think he wrote easily readable stories that flow well. Yes, he was a little gruesome and warped in places, but for the good. My favourites are The Stake and The Travelling Vampire Show.

Do you use character profiles to keep all the information on your characters together in one place for reference or do you just 'wing it'?
I really should, but I don't. I'm my own worst enemy in this respect as I have to keep reading things to check what colour their eyes are etc. I really am going to have to make a profile though, if only to make it easier for me to keep track.

I think Kindles will make it even more difficult for authors re continuity issues as readers can use the search facility to check. Do you have a Kindle Shaun?
Would having one help authors with this problem?
Yes, I have a Kindle. I don't think it would help authors any more than the 'find' facility on my word processor though.

Would you say that the Kindle has opened up new doors for you as an author or if it hadn't been invented would you have been in much the same place as you are now?
I think the Kindle has changed everything. Some people have become bestselling authors in a short period of time. Some of them had tried to be traditionally published but failed, so yes, it's opened more doors. If it hadn't been invented, I'd still be a struggling author I guess. So not much change there.

How do you handle the proof-reading problem Shaun? We hear so many horror stories about Indie authors being torn apart because of the bad proofing.
I have some beta readers who read my work first, then for Killers I hired an editor to go through it. But even my previous edited books have errors, some of them quite jarring/annoying. I only worry about it if someone points it out, but I do try to make it the best it can be. But I do think some people want to find fault for faults sake.

Do you like readers pointing out spelling mistakes / missing words / bad apostrophes?
I appreciate the time someone takes to point things out.

How mean is too mean and how sweet does a writer have to be to their readers? How much PR (online vs. real world) is effective for you?
I respect the thoughts and opinions of all my readers. You have to take the rough with the smooth. Not everyone is going to like what you write, because they don't all have good taste (lol). As for PR, one never knows what's effective and what isn't. I just hope it all has a cumulative effect.

I'm interested that you self-published even when you'd got a publisher. I imagine that's a nervous-making decision. Do you think you'll continue with the self-publishing?
Yes, I had sold Killers, but I withdrew it. I know there's still a stigma about self-publishing, but lots of people are making a success of it. What I like is that all the work I do promoting etc., is purely for my benefit. I put a lot of hard work into it, and I sometimes think that publishers who don't always reciprocate don't appreciate it. As for whether I'll continue to self-publish, I don't see why not - unless I was offered a good deal of course.

I saw that some of your books were printed with luxury cover and trimmings, have you ever sold any? Why did you opt for this kind of books?
I don't sell them myself. They are published by Dark Regions, and yes, they do sell them. There was a very limited deluxe edition of Fangtooth, which had 13 copies printed. They all sold out.

Awesome! So you don't actually get to know how much of your books they sell, do you?
I will when they send me a sales report. Again though, by self-publishing I know instantly when something sells!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become an author?
Don't do it. Lol. Seriously though it's hard work with little reward for the most part. You have to really enjoy writing in and of itself above all else, because if you don't then it's going to make it harder. Also read a lot. Then write a lot. Then read some more. Also read books on writing. Then put it all aside and just start writing. Everyone starts somewhere. And don't worry, after the first million or so words, your writing will hopefully improve.
I think I wrote four novels before Evilution, which was my first published one. They will never see the light of day.

Would you not think about maybe re-writing them one day?
In a word, no. There's maybe one that's salvageable, but whether I ever will look at it again I don't know.

Have you ever thought about not writing anymore?
I don't really think about it. Sometimes I don't write for weeks or even months though, but I always start again. When I was commuting to work, a round trip of 110 miles a day, I didn't write a word for five years!

Do you think people thrive on thrill and gore because they are weird? Or do you think we all have a bit of a sick side in ourselves?
Lol. Well I must be weird then. I don’t really know why people like such things. Perhaps it’s as you said, for the thrill. And it’s by far the easiest way to experience such things without getting arrested.

So... writing... is it really sex, drugs and rock'n roll??
No. It's hard work, but meeting great people like those in this forum makes it all worthwhile :)

Well, I guess I'll wrap it up here as I have to go to bed ready for work in the morning. A big thank you to everyone who took time out to turn up and ask me questions. Hope you found my replies worth hanging around for. And thanks to Lorraine for arranging it, and Patti and Simon for such a great forum populated by such great people. XXX

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