Self Published / Amazon
Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?
I grew up in a mining town in the desert region of Western Australia, a ferociously hot place that was occasionally decimated by cyclones. It was the kind of place that was so vast, your mind stretched just by living there. From childhood I knew I always wanted to tell stories, and later moved to Melbourne to get involved in the film and TV industry, where I still work.
Genre is such an interesting question. I know writers who get laser-focused on specific sub genre and don’t budge from that, which I think probably helps give readers a reliable expectation of what they’re going to get, but I prefer a slightly wider spectrum. I’m drawn to psychological thrillers, dark fantasy and love, though probably won’t write ‘hard’ science fiction. Undreamed, my first novel is a psychological thriller, whilst the next books on the list are a dark urban fantasy, then a paranormal thriller. What is common to these stories is a sense of reality being challenged, either literally or from the point of view of the protagonist, and how they are forced to change to resolve that.
Tell me about your current book which you are promoting.
Undreamed is my first novel, and tells the story of Alice, a woman caught between waking life and a dream. She leads two lives: when she sleeps in one she wakes in the other. Her problem is that she doesn’t know which of them is real, and not knowing this, struggles through a kind of half-life in both. Then she meets a girl dressed in green, who she realises is the key to her escape.
Undreamed started life as a ‘spec’ screenplay, then after a number of false starts and many re-writes it came to me that the only way I could really tell Alice’s story would be to write it as a novel. The story is dark and verges on surreal at times. It’s told from Alice’s point of view, in the present tense, which turned out to be a huge challenge, but I think well worth while.
You can check out the first two chapters here:
How long have you been writing?
My first paid writing work was fourteen years ago when I was asked to produce a series of short animations for a small health-media company. I wrote some scripts and suddenly a whole bunch of things connected, and I realised that this is what I wanted to do a lot more of. Up to that point, I’d been involved in the technical side of production with a vague intention to move over to the creative side when the time was right. It occurred to me then that the time would only be right when I let it.
Writing is a kind of compulsion. I’ve written all my life. It’s like breathing. Most writers would share this, but the decision to become a capital ‘A’ author was a big step. It meant making the time to finish my first novel, then to take it seriously enough to open up it to criticism, proof it and so on. Coming from a creative background in film/tv this was difficult because I’d always held my personal writing as something separate from that process.
What got you interested in writing, and what inspired you to write your first book?
After the mine closed down my family moved to Geraldton, a small (not so small now) town in mid-west of Western Australia. There, I discovered an amazing second hand book shop called “Look Books”. It was run by a fascinating, bespectacled terror who loved chasing kids and ‘time wasters‘ — his term — out his shop. Except me, for some reason. Maybe he just got that I loved reading, but I spent many, many hours in that place, quietly reading in a corner as the owner ranted about rates and the shocking state of the world. I was literally awash in the scents of binding and pulp, lost in that cool, odd sanctuary. When he wasn’t pricing stock (or insulting customers) we’d talk books, authors, cover art, publishers, you name it. At some point as I worked through rows of pulp-horror, I realised that this was my world.
Now, I love the process, the flow of words, the chiseling away at ideas and characters. Most of all though, it’s the what if questions: what if things were different… What if I went right instead of left… What if I was dreaming and couldn’t wake up…
That last question was the trigger for Undreamed. What if everything your senses told you was a lie? What if you weren’t the person you thought you were? It would drive me insane, and I began to wonder how someone would actually cope in that kind of situation. And of course - what kind of disaster would create that problem in the first place.
Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?
Yes, I outline as much detail as I can. I have four or five novels-in-progress that imploded because I got distracted (plot wise) and they lost direction. Also, outlining is central in script writing, and I’ve carried some of that process with me to my books.
Having said that, the plan usually goes off the rails about two chapters in. I outline as much to explore possibilities of the story as to actually nail things down. It’s a way to scrutinise and define characters, see how they’re traveling. The reality of the process is that the outline usually stays fixed at the big picture level — certainly things like key turning points and the story resolution are locked in, but quite often a character will evolve in an unexpected way and I’ll adjust the story to fit.
I expect as I go on I’ll end up plotting a little less and putting more time into character development, but for now it’s comforting having a sense of structure around the work.
What comes first: the plot or the characters?
They spiral outwards from one another, I think. For me, plot is a consequence of characters in conflict, and once events are in motion, other characters must respond. As I mentioned earlier, the starting point for me is that what if… But it’s never quite that dry - the question will come disguised a flash, almost like watching a small edit from a film. At that point I’ll get a glimpse of something — characters in some sort of crisis — that may evolve into a story.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
There were two choke points for me — the first was actually committing to writing it as a novel in the first place. As I said before, it started life as a screenplay and I hung onto that for a very long time, and multiple re-writes. It was difficult to walk away from all that work and start a fresh format. The second major difficulty was in finding the voice of the story. I originally wrote it 3rd person, past tense but it just didn’t convey the sense of claustrophobia and doubt that I wanted, so after completing the first draft I made the decision to re-write.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to read, and have a reading list as long as my arm. I’m an avid, but definitely amateur photographer and generally annoy my family by sticking lenses in their faces when they’re not looking. Whenever possible, I get to the beach and swim.
What books or authors have influenced your writing?
I’m not sure about influencing my writing, but plenty of writers have changed my life. William Hope Hodgson, weird fiction writer, Raymond E Feist for his Magician series, Jack Vance, John Fowles, Mikhail Bulgakov for that incredible The Master and Magarita, Greg Egan, China Mieville, Cormac McCarthy, Greg Bear...the list goes on.
What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?
Ubiquity, for one thing. Common as mp3s, but that’s obvious.
I wonder about the role of advertising in media, and can see a day where the pages we read (for free) may be sponsored or dynamically linked to cleverly embedded products, all as an automatic overlay on the author’s work. That’s not a future I want, but we can see the shadows of it even now.
What else - discovery? That will be a challenge. As more of us bypass traditional publishers the market will be swamped, and it will become difficult for readers to find new authors in all that content. I think that some reviewers will take over the roles of publishers - or perhaps publishers themselves will skew this way as well - where the role transforms into something more like Curators. It’s already happening in the broader web, and you only have to look at something like the software, flipboard to see where this is going. Readers looking for that ‘social proof’ may come to trust reviewers as much as authors, insofar as they can find new talent and endorse it.
What are your current books out right now, and what are the books coming up for
I have book one of a short-story scifi comedy series released on Amazon — Jan and the Spooky Periscope Incident which is some geeky sci-fi fun. Undreamed, the psychological thriller was released this September. I’m currently working on a dark urban fantasy, The Transcendent which I plan to be the beginnings of a series, targeted for release about this time next year. If I can possibly squeeze it in, I’m plotting a paranormal thriller, Godless, hot on the heels of that.
What is your marketing plan?
It would be generous to call it a plan… I use Twitter as my key social media tool, which links to a blog and from that, things like book teasers on youtube. Twitter really is an excellent way to meet like-minded people. I thought initially that the value of having these things was the ability to showcase work and direct interested readers, but what I’m learning is that the real value is the capacity to build relationships. So the plan is to use those tools to help have conversations with readers and other writers. Right now I’m approaching reviewers for Undreamed, and away from the web, talking to book clubs in my area. I’m not sure it falls under marketing, but starting mid October, I’ll also be running author interviews and guest posts on my blog. Probably the single biggest element of the plan now, is to be conversational.
What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?
Finish it. No matter what, just finish your work. Be it a book, short story, screenplay, comic, whatever — just get it done. Nothing’s perfect so don’t stress about that. Do it as well as you’re able and then do the next thing better. There’s something inside all of us that responds to people with vision, so show yours. Ideas are worthless unless they’re expressed.
Where can people learn more about you and your work?
I blog at: http://cerullean.net
Amazon author page: http://amazon.com/author/paulwesternpittard
— Synopsis —
Alice is trapped in a nightmare. She leads two lives, both real to her, both flawless in their logic and texture, both filled with people that she loves and hates. One of these is a dream. She has no way of knowing which. A borderline junkie heiress in Manhattan, or a recovering psych patient in Sydney, when Alice sleeps in one life, she wakes into the other. Other than her own memory of them, her worlds are separate and seamless. In both her lives she tries to find clues to discover the root of her sickness, but nothing crosses over. She may as well be two completely different people. Caught in this impossible status quo, never able to bring herself to believe that the life she’s leading is true, Alice is trapped. Not believing either, she believes nothing. Then one day, her lives are fractured when something does cross over. First in Sydney then Manhattan, Alice meets a girl dressed in green. She knows this girl for what she is: the key to her escape.
But as she unravels the girl’s secret, the realities of not one but both lives are challenged.
The question becomes: who is it that she’s really waking?