Well it's Tuesday again and my crazy Monday at my job can be put behind me...right? Right? Well, even if it can't be I have something else to think about right now. And that's an other interview with an indie author! This time, I have Scottish author, Steve Justice. Steve and I met in a book group some time ago and if there's anything I've learned about him in this time, it's that he's very helpful and supportive of fellow authors (both indie and traditionally published alike). So without further adieu, let me introduce you all to Steve!
Steve, why don't you tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Do you have pets or family?
I'm a Scotsman living in South Korea, so I fall into a pretty small percentage of people in the world! My family are all back in Scotland, and I'm unmarried, so it can be a bit lonely out here sometimes. Thank god for Skype!
Tell us a little about your writing. When did you start, and why?
I've been writing since I was a child. I used to write little newspapers with made-up stories when I was around 8 years old and pass them round to classmates. From then on, I never stopped writing. I studied English in university and specialised in Creative Writing for my Master's thesis. As for why I write, I love being able to create a new world. Sometimes you need to escape this one!
What is your favorite genre to write for? Do you write for a particular genre, or do you cross genres?
I write across all genres. I have a lot of respect for those who dedicate themselves to one genre but I want to test myself in many different ways. My first novel is a psychological thriller, my second novel will be dystopian and I'm sure I will want to try other genres after that. One of my favourite authors is George Orwell, who never let himself be tied down to one genre but was excellent in them all.
It’s said the are two types of authors planners and “pantsers” (those who plan out their books meticulously and those who write by the seat of their pants). What are you?
My natural instinct is to write without planning. I've never been much of a planner in most parts of my life but a novel is so overwhelming I think planning is necessary. You have to keep track of every character's history, timeline, every little detail about them and the world they live in. It's too easy to make mistakes if you don't plan it out.
Authors find inspiration in many things. Where do you find yours?
I believe inspiration can come from anywhere, be it nature or a video game. Absolutely anything can provide the spark that gets the imagination going.
Can you name a positive experience from your writing and a negative one?
Writing is a never-ending stream of positive and negative experiences. You receive an unexpected great review, and you feel wonderful. Then you don't sell a book for weeks and feel awful. That's pretty much the lot of a writer, I think.
Some find listening to music or watching TV while writing can help their creative process. Do you do any of these or do anything unusual while your write?
Does drinking count as unusual?
Haha, well played Steve! Now, is there a message conveyed within your writing?
Always, but the message is different in each piece of writing. I believe writing, like any art form, can be more than just entertaining.
Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading?
I've been reading a lot of indie authors lately and reviewing them. I believe it is important to support the indie author scene. Recently I finished “War Remains” by Jeffrey Miller, a moving story about the Korean War and the loss of loved ones.
Can you name your favorite traditionally published author?
Haruki Murakami. He is a genius and, more than any author I know, is able to walk the line between literary fiction and popular fiction. His books contain great depth while still being easy to read.
And what about your favorite indie/self-published author?
Jeffrey Miller, who more recently wrote “A Hard Rain Falls” and “Ice-Cream Headache” amongst others. A gentleman and a great supporter of indie writers.
As most know, starting out as an indie author isn't always easy. You don't have most of the luxuries publishers can offer you. But one of those luxuries that some argue doesn't come with a publisher is marketing. Tells about your experience with it. Did you find marketing difficult? What strategy do you use, if any?
I find marketing to be horrendously difficult. I'm fairly quiet in nature so am not comfortable going onto various websites or social media sites and trying to compete with everyone else who is standing around shouting about their novels. I try to do some marketing, especially if running a promotion, but generally I just hope that over time, the quality of my writing will win out.
There are many things that are important to books. I've taken four of some of the most important for you to sort into order of importance to you (Yes I know they all are important…): Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order?
I think I'd put them in exactly the order you put them in. It doesn't matter how good the world, plot and writing are if the characters come across as one dimensional cartoon characters. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that without good characters, you can't really have a fully developed world or plot.
Now that we've learned a bit about you, why not tell everyone about your books. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
My latest work is a collection of short stories, but I keep going back to it to add more stories. I've now started work on my second novel.
Tell us a little about the world of your latest or favorite book or series.
My first novel is just set in the real world, but my second novel will be set in a dystopian future where democracy has failed and Western civilization has collapsed. The story is set in a new city build to escape the outside world, so it's a totally different experience trying to make a completely new world as opposed to just creating a new story in the real world.
Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
I like to explore the darker side of humans, so most of the characters from my first novel are fairly dislikable! Especially as the narrator is very unreliable. I promise my second novel will have at least someone the reader can like!
Are your characters ever based on real people?
Like most authors, my characters include several characteristics that real people I know have, but no one character is based on one real person.
Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books?
How long is a piece of rope? You need to do as much as makes the world real and believable.
Editing is always important. No one can argue that that. So, the big question some people are unwilling to answer…do you self-edit? If so why is that the case?
Some self-editing has to be done, but...
But? Oh boy, we got a but. I'm guessing it may be cleared up with this next question. Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited?
In my experience, professional editing is simply a necessity. I spent a year editing my own novel and still missed a huge number of typos.
What formats are your book(s) available in (E-book, print, large print, audio)? Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason?
My books are available in e-book and in print. I'm considering audio but it's a new field for me and there seems to be a lot of discussion at the moment about royalties being cut. I'll wait and see.
We've come to the end of the interview but I have two more questions I hope you'll quickly answer for me. Can you give a fun/silly fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book?
I often wonder if I'm a typical author. I'm six foot four, have a black belt in Taekwondo, am the captain of a football (soccer) team, and am crazy about watching any and all sports. Sometimes it feels like my personality is split between the quiet author and the raucous sports fan!
Is there any advice you would pass on to those authors who are still just starting out? Do's and don'ts?
The only one piece of advice I would give is to make sure you get a professional editor. I avoided it the first time around because I thought it was too much money to spend on something that would probably never make that much, but if you want to try and make a living out of it one day, you need to put out a professional product, and that's impossible from self-editing. You always miss something!
Thanks for the great interview Steve! I'll send luck your way with your future planned releases and (hopefully) some new readers. If anyone is interested in checking out more on Steve, I’ve provided links to his website/blog and his amazon page below. Steve is also running a promotional price of $0.99/99p this week for his book The One starting July 18th through July 21.
Books (click on the image to go to the book's amazon product page)
The One: The Tale of a Lost Romantic in Seoul
Promotion: $0.99/99p July 18th - July 21
Altered Egos: A Collection of Short Stories