Hey Space Cadets, how’s everyone doing today? I’m doing fantastic, with some exciting news to come. Since I’ve recently posted an update on my last blog, let’s get right to the point of my latest blog posting! Yes, I’ve gotten bit by the interview bug! I host the Warrior Weekend Series, whenever I find a veteran to interview and the ‘SciFy Shenanigans’ interviews that morphed into a podcast. I’ll send out the interview form to any author that fits those niche categories. If you know anyone you want me to interview, contact me through my blog and I’ll give it a shot! I love giving everyone a chance to get personal with the names behind the books they love, so here goes nothing!
I wanted to help you get to know these wordsmiths, so I created a platform for the authors to talk about their latest book and their creative process. They’ll be able to pitch the other stuff too, of course, but many authors have deep backlists. It’s hard to get into the weeds with those prolific literary giants, so I took a weed whacker to the mess. Here are the final results! The questions are in no particular order, so grab your seat while your minion makes your popcorn and enjoy the ride!
Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Children of All Ages……
First, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
In ‘real life’, I’m a middle-aged Brit with a family and a job (had quite a few of them!), nothing out of the ordinary. I used to write quite a bit when I was younger, but got out of the habit until a few years ago. Initially, this was something to take my mind of a stressful time at work. In hindsight, it’s pretty obvious that, because I struggled to gain any control over the work situation, I turned to writing stories because that was something I could control.
Thankfully, that work situation resolved itself a few years ago, but I’d caught the writing bug by then, and it’s grown to be very important to me. In mid-2016 I put out my first book, Dark Glass, the start of a series of dark Dystopian thrillers. I now have six novels spread over two series, along with a number of short stories and novellas.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
TW Iain is a pen-name, but it came about through a family joke. Our family name starts with a ‘T’, and my dad always said that he wanted me to be called Timothy William Ian, so that my initials would be TWIT.
This could explain a lot!
I’ll go out on a limb and assume that if you write books, then you also enjoy reading them. What other genres do you enjoy, and how have they affected your writing?
I write predominantly sci-fi, with a smattering of horror, and these are the genres I read as a teenager (along with fantasy). But now, I read just about anything. I’ve got a soft-spot for authors who push things to extremes, like Chuck Pahlniuk and Bret Easton Ellis, but I also read thrillers, literary fiction, some urban fantasy, comedy — anything that takes my fancy. I think I’m drawn to interesting stories well told rather than a particular genre, although I do have a soft spot for ‘speculative fiction’.
Being an omnivorous reader has resulted in my writing pulling in different directions, so I find it hard to drill down exactly what genre each book is. This makes marketing a problem, but I wouldn’t be happy trying to fit stories into too rigid a structure.
Who are your biggest writing influences?
Can I cheat and say ‘every author whose books I’ve read’?
One strong influence is the Sterling and Stone team. For those who are unaware of them, this is a group of three authors (Johnny B Truant, Sean Platt and David W Wright) who have moved from being just (just?) writers to building their own story studio company. They write across all kinds of genres and sub-genres, and also document much of what they do in a podcast (The Story Studio, previously The Self-Publishing Podcast).
This was one of the first podcasts I listened to when I was getting serious about my writing, and it showed me that there are no rules — tell the story you want to tell, and be prepared to take chances. Not everything will work, but ‘failures’ are only learning experiences — and the more you learn, the better your success rate will be.
Who are your favorite authors and books?
Another hard question. Probably best to just give you a list:
Terry Pratchett — even his not-quite-as-good books are fun to read, and he was a master at letting the reader fill in the blanks with their imagination.
Douglas Adams — Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is the only book I remember not wanting to pick up, because I knew that if I picked it up I’d start reading, and I wouldn’t stop until the book was finished, and I didn’t want the book to end.
Iain Banks — initially I preferred his ‘literary’ books, but now I see his sci-fi books as his best work.
Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance — one of those books that I always take something new from with every re-read.
How did that love of reading lead you deep into the trenches of the writer’s life?
Along with reading, I’ve always enjoyed music, and I started playing guitar as a kid. The more music I listened to, the more I wanted to learn on guitar, and the more I played guitar, the more cool music I wanted to check out.
It’s similar with reading and writing. The more I read, the more I’m inspired and encouraged to write — and the more I write, the more I want to read. Stephen King put it best (and I’m not looking this up, so apologies if I’m butchering the quote) — if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the skills — to write.
What is your preferred writing style? Do you have a favorite point of view; first person, third person, etc.? Feel free to answer as both a reader and as an author!
I like third person, and its definitely been useful as my Dominions series has grown — the first book sticks with one character’s viewpoint, but later ones introduce scenes from other characters. But I have experimented with other styles. It’s one of the reasons I write short stories (I put one up on my website every couple of weeks, each one under 1000 words). I’ve tried first person, past and present tense, stories that consist only of dialogue, there’s one that reads like a report. I’d love to write something in second person, but that’s going to be a tough challenge.
When did you get serious about your writing as a career, instead of writing as a hobby?
The start of 2015. That was when I decided I’d get up early each morning to write, and also when I started seriously planning the novel that would become Dark Glass. I listened to more and more podcasts, and read books on both writing craft and the business side of things (publishing and marketing).
It isn’t a ‘proper career’ yet, but I’m continually working on approaching my writing with a professional attitude, and I view these last few years as laying the groundwork. Now, along with keeping on writing, I need to focus on the business side of things. Initially, I was put off this, because it often sounds commercial or mercenary, but I’m looking at it in a different way now. I’ve written these stories, I believe they’re good, and I want to share them with others. Marketing is simply reaching out to people who I think might enjoy them.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
When I had a proper ‘day’ job, I’d fit a couple of hours in before leaving the house, but my ‘day job’ now entails me getting up at 2am (yes, you read that right — two in the morning), so now I make the most of having the house to myself during the daytime. But I’ve also trained myself to find patches of time wherever I can. When I take my kids to their various activities, I’ll sit in the car with my laptop, or use a cafe. I’ve got a folding bluetooth keyboard that connects to my phone, so even without my laptop I can still work on stuff. If I’m in town, I might pop into a cafe, have a drink, and use that time to work on a few ideas.
I’m seriously considering getting into dictation, because that could open up more opportunities to write.
Do you aim for a set number of words/pages per day?
I aim to do something related to writing every single day, be that writing, editing, planning, or some related activity (like writing product descriptions/blurbs or mailing list e-mails). When I’m first-drafting, I aim for 1500 words per hour. In this stage, I’m not concerned with getting the words perfect — it’s more about getting the story down. Editing comes later.
What do you listen to while you write? Or do you prefer the sound of silence?
I prefer quiet, but I will sometimes put headphones on if there are aural distractions. I went through a stage of shutting everything else out with noise (I’ve got a great three-hour recording of airplane engine noise), but I can write to music as long as the vocals aren’t too prominent. Stuff like Merzbow, Sunn O))) and Godspeed You Black Emperor work well for me.
Okay, time for another random question. What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve looked up in the name of research – or what do you think landed you on the government watch list for?
Not sure it’s that embarrassing, but I did recently find myself Googling sexual euphemisms for a story I’m working on. For someone who finds words fascinating, it was very interesting — so many playful and inventive phrases!
What is your current novel? Can you tell us a little bit about the premise?
I’ve got a few things on the go at the moment. I’m putting the finishing touches to Shadowstrike, the third book in my Shadows trilogy of sci-fi/horrors, and I’m about to dive into the fifth novel in my dark Dystopian series, Dominions. But the one that I’m most excited about at the moment is The Power Of Words.
This is an anthology inspired by the First Amendment and the ways words hold power, and I’m thrilled to have my story Ghost Stream included in it. The story’s set in a Dystopian world, where the main character, Cass, monitors the interactions between people and Voices (kind of like social media influencers). When she starts questioning the status quo and thinking for herself, things grow increasingly sinister and dangerous.
There’s three other stories in this anthology, and they’re all fantastic (and I’m not just saying that — I’ve read them, and I loved each one). M.L.S. Weech has a sci-fi heist story in a world where it literally costs to speak, Heidi Angell has one of the last survivors of a zombie apocalypse using a diary to preserve what he can, and fantasy author Richard T Drake shows how even the lowest of the low can use words to defeat an opponent.
The Power Of Words out on 1st October, and for 99c you can’t go wrong.
Where did you find the inspiration for Ghost Stream?
I received an e-mail from Matt (M.L.S. Weech), where he asked for submissions to an anthology he was putting together, and at first I wasn’t sure. Being a Brit, I wasn’t totally clear on what the First Amendment was. I knew it involved freedom of speech, but I had to Google to find out more.
When I read that it also extends to peaceful protest, I started to see an image of a robed figure standing motionless in front of a building. This made me think of the lone figure in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and I knew my robed figure was protesting about something. The image stuck with me, and my mind started mulling over all kinds of questions — what was he opposing? What would those in charge do? Was he truly on his own, or would more join him? How would his actions affect others?
I always find the best stories start from questions.
The characters from Ghost Stream are sent into a gladiatorial death match. Who wins?
In the story we have Cass and Paxton. We never find out how physically strong either of them are, but we do know that she can be very determined. She wouldn’t give up easily. But he plays his cards close to his chest, and I’m sure he’d pull some dirty tricks. In a gladiatorial death match, Paxton would probably defeat Cass.
But considering one of the themes of the story is silent protest, the victory might not be so clear. It would probably be a ‘Darth Vader/Obi-Wan Kenobi’ situation where the one who is ‘defeated’ is the real winner.
What was your favorite part of writing Ghost Stream?
I’d have to say the editing. Matt wanted high-quality stories, and he gave very thorough feedback that pushed me hard to develop Ghost Stream. He definitely gave me a lot to think about. It was tough, but also very satisfying.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing your main characters from Ghost Stream?
I have no idea. I’m out of the habit of watching TV or films — I’d rather read a book.
When you develop your characters, do you already have an idea of who they are, or do you let them develop as you go? The age-old plotter versus pantser, character edition.
I’m definitely a plotter, but I tend to discover my characters as I’m writing. This can cause problems when they do or say something that takes the story off on a tangent. Sometimes I reign them in, but stories only come alive through the characters, so I have to be open to changes.
How did writing Ghost Stream differ from your previous novels and stories?
Rather than having the luxury of going wherever I wanted, Ghost Stream was written to a specific theme. Normally, I start with the story and the characters, and only discover themes as I write, but for this story I had to keep a tight focus on ‘the power of words’. But I think this helped me produce a tighter story, and I’ll definitely consider writing within self-imposed restrictions in the future.
If Ghost Stream had a theme song, what would it be?
The protester is silent, so maybe The Sound Of Silence (it would have to be the version by Disturbed, though)
Ghost Stream is full of many amazingly talented characters and I imagine it was really fun to create some of them, but which one was your favorite and why?
Villains are always fun to write, so I’d have to say Paxton. His scenes revolve around dialogue, and he’s one of those characters who manipulates words. He might not outright lie, but he still manages to obscure the truth. He’s not a one-dimensional ‘mustache-twirling’ villain, either — but I can’t say too much about that. Don’t want to spoil the story.
And to bring us home, what advice do you have for writers who are just starting out?
One of the best pieces of advice I ever read was ‘you can’t edit a blank page’. If you’re struggling, just write. Get that first draft finished. Some writers refer to this as the ‘vomit draft’, which is a great term — it’s something you throw up to get your ideas onto the page, and it’s going to stink. And that’s fine. Cleaning things up is what the whole editing process is for.
Finally, where can readers and future stalkers find you?
- Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/TW-Iain/e/B01LFSUQB8
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/TW_Iain
- Blog: https://www.twiain.com (I put something up each week, either a blog post or a short story. There are about fifty stories up there now)
- GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15864700.T_W_Iain
- Facebook: Search for TW Iain
I hope you enjoy this little conversation, and if you want to find out more about TW Iain then follow the rabbit trail to their den of insanity! If they don’t like it, beat ‘em with a carrot and keep on truckin’!
Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!
–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen shots taken by JR Handley and used under the Fair Use Doctrine.
–> Some of these interview questions were inspired by my good friend TeacherofYA, and are used with her permission. If you have kids who love to read, she’s the girl who’ll make the literary introductions! You should check her out, after a lifetime of reading, your kids will thank you.