Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Interview with author Alex Marshall

Today, my guest is author Alex Marshall. Mr. Marshall has agreed to answer some questions about his work.

1. How long have you been writing and what prompted you to become a writer?
I started writing stories at school but mostly just copying things that I’d read elsewhere or plagiarizing my favorite films. I only started writing seriously in my late teens. I was bored at work and I had an idea for a novel… it just went from there. My writing began very sporadically with months or more when not much was getting done, but as the book began to develop and I realized that I could finish it – and I realized how important writing was becoming to me – I found more time to dedicate to it. I’ve always loved reading fantasy so it was natural to emulate the authors that I’ve grown up with like Howard and Moorcock and Leiber and Lovecraft and the rest…
2. Are you a full-time or part-time writer and how do you organize your time to be most productive?
I’m part-time. I have to work to pay the bills and I have two young children so I have a lot of trouble finding time. I write when I can, I snatch time here and there…. I try to make the most of the times when I feel inspired and I suppose I’m a bit selfish at those times. I think one has to be.
3. What is your writing process?
Seize the moment - shut everything out - write! Sometimes I put on a CD that matches my mood or the mood of the piece, sometimes that’s too distracting. For me it’s a question of having the time and using it before something else comes along to claim it. I write on my laptop or my PC depending and email stuff back and forth to myself.
4. What is your world-building process?
I ‘research’ thoroughly and make extensive notes. All writers know that just because a story is ‘made up’ it’s not a case of anything goes - there have to be clearly defined parameters or rules, if you prefer. The only way I can get these clear in my head is by writing them down – with maps, illustrations etc. where appropriate. I write out questions that are pertinent to the world or the plot or the characters and make sure that I can answer them satisfactorily. This process also links certain aspects of environment, character, and plot that help build authenticity. I try not to get too bogged down in detail because this can become a barrier to writing the story. So I often switch between ‘writing’ and ‘plotting’ and let the two areas feed into each other.
5. How do you develop your characters?
The plotting process sketches out the basic motivations and some of the character details but then I let them develop as I write. Things occur to me as I go along and the situations that the characters find themselves in and the interactions with other characters bring out more from the protagonists. Often whole sections of dialogue and narrative develop organically in this way. Often these are the best bits as the writing seems to flow more naturally at these times and I let them play out- resisting the temptation to self-edit until the passage has run its course. I think that characters who develop naturally also appear more natural to the reader.
6. What draws you to fantasy and science fiction?
My father read Tolkien aloud to me when I was very young. When I was about nine he gave me a copy of F.Herbert’s Dune to read… You can’t get a better start than that!
7. This is your first published work. What other types of writing do you do?
I have written several short stories for magazines and competitions and I’ve just finished my first novel. All of my work is fantasy fiction of the distant past or distant future. I’m fascinated by worlds and societies far removed from our own. I wonder what these societies might reveal about the big questions that have always puzzled mankind.
8. How did you choose Damnation Books as a publisher for your story?
I found them on Duotrope which is where I’ve been hunting for markets for all of my work. I find their search facility very useful. I visit the individual websites of the publishers to check on their submission requirements. I have to say that Damnation has been fantastic. Kim is clearly very experienced and established in the business and a highly professional operator. They do everything that they tell you they’re going to do.
9. What is your marketing strategy?
Tell as many people as possible about my book! Get reviews and interviews on blogs and fantasy sites and spread the word as much as I can. I’m learning about the marketing side of things as I go along. I wish I had more time to dedicate to it.
10. Where can people learn more about Alex Marshall and your work?
My website is under construction but people can contact me via Damnation Books or email me at ajaymarsh@rocketmail.com. I’m happy to talk about any aspect of fantasy fiction.
11. Any tips for writers hoping to break into the science fiction or fantasy genre?
Read a lot and read the best! Write a lot and hone your skills. Think about what you’re writing and why you’re writing it. Think about what you as an individual - having led the sort of life you have and had the experiences that you’ve along the way - has to say that another writer won’t. I also recommend finding a person (or persons) whose opinion and intellect you respect and asking them to read your work. Listen to what they say and take their comments on board - however hard it is to do! Keep sending your stories out to publishers, magazines etc. Absorb any comments that come back and be prepared to make some changes. Keep sending them out there, never be discouraged by rejection. If the stories are good, sooner or later you will get a bite!

Alex, thanks for sharing your thoughts today. It's been a pleasure having you.

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