Ever wish you could sit down with a cup o’ joe with a writer and ask all those pesky questions?
Well, you don’t have to because I did! Sort of.
This week is one of my newer writer friends, Colin, who is probably one of the most generous people I have the pleasure of knowing over the internet. He is always willing to critique (sometimes up to 5 or 6 times on one story!). He’s encouraging, but honest, knowledgeable and fair. He forces writers to think about the two sides to every story and asks really great questions.
When I have something I NEED looked at, I know I can always depend on Colin and I hope he knows he can depend on me to (eventually) get to his stuff.
He has some great advice in here and I love how his personality really shines through in this interview.
And now, I give you Colin.
Where did you grow up and do you live around there still? What drew you to where you live now?
I grew up all over the place, my father was in the Royal Australian Air Force and we seemed to move every few years. But, after he left the Air Force, my formative teenage years were spent in Northern New South Wales, the most populous state of Australia. Pretty cool place to grow up, beautiful beaches, big rivers. After that I travelled extensively around Australia myself, mainly with my work, and got in quite a few international trips too, which was a real experience.
Dogs or cats?
Both, but at the moment only a beautiful, fat, feline named Donald!
Morning person or night owl?
I’ve been a morning person all of my life, except I’ve recently come out of semi-retirement exactly two months ago as I write this, and it’s killing me, working late hours and sleeping in the mornings has really thrown my head out of whack!
Coffee or apple cider or hot chocolate?
Coffee. And more coffee.
City or country or ‘burbs?
Favorite music to write to? (or silence?)
Favorite movie? (It’s okay if there’s a few… I’m not sure I could narrow down to less than 10, haha!)
Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption, Up!, Kingsmen, Flying High (I think in the States it was called Airplane), ET, The Chronicles of Narnia, 47 Ronin, The Last Samurai, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Shane, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Predator, The Last Starfighter, The Shining, The Bullet Proof Monk, True Lies, Underworld series, Blade series. Interview with a Vampire, Django Unchained, Sleepless in Seattle, Forest Gump, The (Jason) Bourne series, Most Bruce Willis films especially Unbreakable, Someone Like You . . . damn it, that’s enough!
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Talk on the damn telephone!
Top 3 MUST READ books?
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson (better than Lord of the Rings in my opinion, Tolkien is sooo so hard to read sometimes, so verbose). Almost anything Stephen King, I love the Dark Tower series but also Insomnia, Doctor Sleep, From a Buick 8, 11.22.63, Liseys’ Story, The Dark Half, oh damn it just read all of them! Then probably The Passage Trilogy by Justin Cronin.
When did you first know you were a writer? Was there a specific moment when you thought “yes, I want to be a writer” or has it always been part of you?
Always been there, but I really wish someone had pointed out to me when I was younger that I had a certain “gift for words” (written by my English Teacher in first form highschool which I never actually read until about 9 years ago after my mother passed.)
When did you decide to pursue writing as a career? How did those closest to you respond?
I learnt I was more productive in a dark place, with less distractions.
What is your general writing process?
Pantser, I just sit and write, no process other than that. I write anything and everything and most times I am working on a multitude of projects at one time with at least 2 or 3 main WIPs.
What is your general editing process? How long do you wait between finishing the first draft and starting to edit?
I used to wait a long time (by accident, that means I used to forget they were there, for years) but when I got back to them I usually hated them, loved the ideas, the plot, the characters, but hated my writing. Now I like to let them mature at least a month but no more than 2 or 3 because, for me, after that I tend to lose interest in fixing them unless the whole plot is incredible in my mind.
Do you use alpha/beta readers? How do you find them?
No and No. I tried them. They kept rejecting me! Writers today are too focused on what they are taught at school or college, there doesn’t appear to be any ‘freestyle’ anymore, everything must fit some set rules or procedure and that plain sucks!
How many times do you edit your manuscript before sending it off to your editor/publisher?
Usually anywhere between 3 and 22 million, then I still find errors anyway (but usually minor ones but still annoying).
What is your character development method?
I’m a pantser, there is no method, it’s what comes out of my head! During the editing process, I end up changing around chapters to put in backstory and have less of a chronological order.
How do you work your writing/research? Do you write a bit first and then research? Research and then write? Some other combination?
I have an enormous background knowledge of so many things without being an expert in anything. And because I’m a pantser (have I mentioned that yet?) I just write it and go back and research where the holes are after. For me, the research is part of the editing process and I’ve NEVER, yet, found a situation in anything I’ve written where the lack of research laid open great plot holes or completely unrealistic descriptions. A benefit of writing fiction is we can make up absolutely anything and if we’re good enough, make it believable!
What is the best piece of writing advice someone gave you?
Write, a lot. Read, a lot. Then keep on doing both. It’s the old adage, practice, practice, practice.
Do you have a writing mentor? How did you find this person?
No, tried that too but nobody likes me!
What does your personal writing community look like?
It’s fairly restricted now, moreso since I started work again, literally only 2 groups on FB.
What are your go-to ways to overcome writer’s block?
Writer’s block? Wtf is that? I have a very strong opinion and have written a couple of scathing articles about it. I have no patience for people who keep complaining about it especially when they are spending 2-4 hours a day on social networks etc. There is only ONE method to fix writer’s block. Write anything. Start off with a blank page and just type one word, any damn word. If you can, straight away, write another word, go away, get coffee or whisky, kiss the cat and put the wife out, come back and write another word, whatever, just write, one word at a time because I guarantee you that every single thing EVER written by anybody, was written exactly the same way, one word at a time. You want to be a writer, it’s simple . . . write!
If you could give starting out writers a piece of advice, what would you most want to tell them?
Same advice I got given: read a lot, anything and everything, and write a lot. Bad writing is probably a better teacher than a great story or novel because when it’s bad, you tend to remember it and that will help you not to make the same mistakes in your own writing. Good writing, a good story tends to absorb you as a reader and it’s difficult to understand how that happened afterward. The more you read, the more you write, the better writer you will be, no doubt. BUT, if you start off as a bad writer, there is probably a pretty good chance after lots of practice that you will still be a better bad writer, just not as bad as before!
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