‘Every major literary work began with a blank page, so all writers begin each story on an equal footing with every great writer who ever lived.’ (I don’t know if that’s mine or if I heard it somewhere!)
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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?
I wish I knew. I was in my late twenties and working in a boring office job when an idea occurred to me for a science fiction story. I quickly wrote it, looked up some magazine addresses and posted it off. It was accepted and I became addicted!
Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?
I was hooked from an early age on CS Forester’s Hornblower novels, which led me on to Dudley Pope, Alexander Kent and Patrick O’Brien, to whom a couple of people have kindly compared my writing style. Their novels certainly had a heavy influence on my published novel, TimeStorm. Other contemporary influences are Stephen King, Bernard Cornwell and Lee Child.
Tell me about your book.
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TimeStorm follows a British convict ship en route to Australia in 1795 as it miraculously survives a strange storm and limps into Sydney, where the convicts rebel and escape. But the year is now 2017…
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have one other finished book, the first of a proposed YA science fiction adventure series, called BLURRED VISION, currently out with an agent, and I am halfway through a crime thriller.
Indie, or traditionally published – and why?
Traditional. I decided I would only publish if someone independent was willing to invest cash in my work. It took many years to sell TimeStorm, but I have no regrets and it was very satisfying when I signed a contract.
It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?
I don’t know if that’s true. For me, I read far more than I write and can’t imagine doing anything else. But, like all generalised statements about writing, I don’t think there are any limits to creativity or how a writer approaches or produces their work.
Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.
The best thing is living in a fictional world while writing. I find it very therapeutic to step outside the real world on a regular basis. The worse thing for me is actually starting to write, as I am a terrible procrastinator.
Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?
I’ve tried both and I’m a ‘kinda’ pantser these days, in that I don’t make any written notes. My ideas form in my mind and I run them through a process similar to watching a movie. It’s as though I see the story broadly from a high aerial shot and as the story comes together I slowly zoom in on the detail. Eventually, I have a completed ‘movie’ version of the story in my head and I write what I ‘see.’ I don’t have an opinion on other methods as the best one is the method that works for you or the particular work at hand.
What are you writing at the moment?
A crime thriller about a serial killer and the human organ trafficking trade.
What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?
Overall, I share that belief, though I have read several excellent self-published novels by authors who went the extra mile to hire highly professional editors, proof readers and cover artists to ensure their work was as good as any novel published by the majors. Traditionally published novels go through a rigorous process before being released and it’s easy to see from the first few pages of any novel if these processes are lacking. I like to read the preview pages of novels on Amazon and I see a lot of work that appears rushed and would have benefitted from additional editing.
If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?
None. If I have any writing ability today it’s because of all the mistakes I made along the way and I wouldn’t want my younger self to avoid any of them. I was quite stubborn and suspicious of writing advice (I still am!) and often tried to prove it wrong, particularly when people said ‘you must’ or ‘you can’t.’
Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?
I try to match music to my writing, so for TimeStorm, an epic and violent adventure, I listened to a lot of music by movie trailer specialists, Two Steps from Hell. Writing my current thriller, I am alternating between the wonderful TV soundtracks for Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale during suspenseful moments and the soulful songs by Cigarettes After Sex in the quieter sections. I become obsessive when I hook into great music.
Tell me three unique things about you.
- I spent 10 years trying to break into screenwriting and almost sold a Pixar-esque animated screenplay to Fox (a very exciting couple of weeks!). The script was also nominated for an Australian Writer’s Guild (Awgie) award.
- I was a movie and extra here in Australia in the late nineties and early noughties and appeared in The Matrix, Moulin Rouge and Mission Impossible II, among many others. My left shoulder is prominent for more than 10 seconds in the racecourse scene in MI2!
- I was partnered with a young Hugh Jackman in the chorus of a 1989 amateur musical production of Paint Your Wagon. It is widely understood among the rest of the cast that I made Hugh look and sound so good he became a major international star…
Steve, thank you for taking part in Galaxy of Authors!