Thursday, September 8, 2011
Author Interview with Stuart Wakefield
I’m thrilled to have author Stuart Wakefield here to talk a little about writing and his debut release, BODY OF WATER.
LC: Thanks so much for dropping by, Stuart.
SW: Thank you for having me, LC. *snuggles into chair* I’m very flattered that you asked me along.
LC: To kick it off, tell us a little about your first release, BODY OF WATER. What was your inspiration?
SW: It all started with a person who became my ‘friend’ on the Internet who turned out not to be who they said they were. I thought to myself, OK, if you can take someone else’s photo and make up a story around it then so can I. I’ve always loved the water, so started researching water-based myths and legends in the UK, and it snowballed from there.
LC: What was your favorite chapter, or part, to write, and why?
SW: For me, it was Leven meeting Beth. I really liked the way she developed on the page when she was originally intended to be a simple conduit to his second meeting with Shaun. I felt very free writing her and looked for excuses to bring her to Orkney later but nothing felt right. I even constructed a Beth-clone on Orkney but, again, it felt wrong. She’ll be back in the sequel, MEMORY OF WATER. Beth embodies all the charming things about being young.
LC: I look forward to meeting up with Beth again in the sequel.
What do you think your protagonist thinks about you? Would he want to hang out with you, his creator?
SW: Oh boy! I doubt Leven and I would ever have occasion to meet, let alone hang out. He’s very cautious with other people and rarely left his London home. We’re very different guys so I doubt we’d get along well. I’m caring up to a degree but I think I’d get impatient with him. I help people who help themselves and it takes Leven quite a while to get going...
LC: If I came to your house and looked in your refrigerator, what would I find?
SW: Cans of Coke Zero, tonic water, a bottle of sparkling Pinot Noir, and stacks of pre-cooked chicken. I bought the Pinot Noir to celebrate the release of BODY OF WATER but haven’t seen anyone yet to drink it with!
LC: I will join you for a virtual toast! Salud.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
SW: I’ve always scribbled dialogue and scenes here and there. As an actor I was always too busy learning lines to bother writing new ones but it was always fun improvising. I entered National Novel Writing Month in 2009, and drafted BODY OF WATER but I didn’t pick it up again until January 2011. I’d co-founded a writing group called Writebulb by then and during our first meeting I said that I’d finish BODY OF WATER by September. I never looked back.
LC: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you, either growing up or as an adult?
SW: When I was younger, I devoured anything by Jilly Cooper before shifting over to Carrie Fisher. I love both their senses of humour. Jilly’s is very British and Carrie’s is painfully self-deprecating. My first M/M book was Apprenticed to Pleasure by Brandon Fox but I didn’t pick up another one until I read Death’s Head by Mel Keegan. They both taught me that fantasy, sci fi, and gay men mix perfectly well. I’ll read anything that takes my fancy now. I read all all the Harry Potter in six weeks in case someone spoiled the end of the last book for me. I’m currently reading Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear (speculative fiction) and Demon Day by Penelope Fletcher (YA fantasy).
LC: What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in creating your books?
SW: I always knew it was going to be a long-term commitment (also known as a bloody hard slog) but I had no idea it would get easier the more I wrote. I was also surprised that when my circumstances changed, and I didn’t write for a month, the urge to write became overwhelming. It hadn’t gripped me like that before. Now, if someone asks me to do something, I weigh it up against the time that would be better spent writing. That’s a very new feeling. I like it.
LC: What was the best thing before sliced bread?
SW: Unsliced bread! You could cut the thickest wedges of bread, smother them in butter, and load them up with happy, happy, crispy bacon. Sliced bread killed that for me. My mouth is watering now and I’ve already wolfed down toast and tea. I might have to go back for more. *looks around* Where’s your kitchen?
LC: LOL. I’m afraid you’d be sadly disappointed. There is rarely any bread in my kitchen.
What do you find to be the hardest part of writing?
SW: Tapping into the places where I don’t want to go. I found it hard as an actor and I find it hard now. Back in 2003, I was coming out of an eleven-year relationship and I started rehearsing for Closer, a play about four people who keep going out and then breaking up. I just couldn’t do it and dropped out. Facing regrets in life, mistakes made, and how I feel about them, is tough for me. I am harder on myself than anyone will ever know. I’m going to have to go there in my next book and I know I’m putting those scenes off. At least I’ll be able to sob at home instead of on the stage. Also, spotting typos - I’m rubbish! - I read my work on the screen, on paper, and then have my iMac read it out to me and still I miss stuff. Makes me madder than a bag of cats. Thankfully I have a cast of readers that I can rely on to spot them before I go to print.
LC: Yes, going to the dark places is hard and scary, but at the same time, I think its cleansing. We learn and we grow. And I can’t say I’ve ever heard the phrase “madder than a bag of cats” before. LOL
Why did you decide to start out going the self-publishing route?
SW: The YA Fantasy and Paranormal Romance author Penelope Fletcher convinced me it was worth a shot. I was way too scared to send BODY OF WATER out to a publisher and her own story was such an inspiration (she came along to talk to us at Writebulb in the Spring of this year and had shifted 75k copies by then). I thought, why not? Some established authors told me that M/M Romance publishing houses were much less picky but I’d made my mind up by then. I didn’t want anyone interfering with my story or my cover. The romance hits you when you least expect it and I consider my cover to be more reflective of the content than the naked-torso covers that seem prevalent. Yes, I know they sell, but I’m not about the money. BODY OF WATER topped Amazon UK’s Gay Fiction chart on August 27th and *goes to check* it’s still there!
LC: Congratulations on your chart standings! That is fantastic, but then, I happen to think BODY OF WATER is pretty fantastic. Naked torso or not. ;-)
Have you come across any drawbacks to self-publishing, as you wear all the hats?
SW: It’s a bit daunting not having an editor but, then again, no one is telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing. It’s my work and I take it where I want to. I don’t feel that I have to stick to the romance angle, the fantasy angle, or the action angle. I can mix them up and give readers something they can’t find anywhere else. I might use an editing service next time, but I’m still mulling it over. I directed in the theatre as well as acted so I feel I have a lot of tools to help me consider each scene. I think about the staging, the costumes, the set, and the lighting as well as the motivation and dialogue. As a creative, I have full control over every aspect of the work from cover, to trailer, to the finished work. It’s not self-indulgent though and I think that has been reflected in the positive reviews and feedback I’ve had so far. From a marketing perspective, the more I talk to traditionally published authors, the more I see how similar the amount of work that we have to put in is. I don’t feel like I’m having to put in hours more marketing time than anyone else.
LC: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Commit. Make a public declaration of what you’re going to do and DO IT. That’s what National Novel Writing Month gave me, and Writebulb - a self-imposed deadline that my pride wouldn’t let me miss.
Start calling yourself a writer. When I did that my life changed. I got web copy work, a screenplay, I’ve been offered a musical and the chance to ghost-write a three book autobiography.
Enjoy the work. It is work but it’s also tremendously rewarding. I also think that it’s jolly good for one’s soul.
LC: Excellent points. Especially point three.
What can we expect to see next for you?
SW: I’ve written a screenplay for a short film called Life After Death that’s in pre-production now, I’ve completed a short story with an established M/M Romance writer that is with Dreamspinner for consideration, and I’m about 50% way through the edit for MEMORY OF WATER (the trailer for which is out now).
LC: Wow! A lot going on. Good luck with the Dreamspinner submission. You know I’m dying to know who you co-authored with. ;-) All right, one last question—and probably the most important. In a battle between a ninja and a pirate, who would win?
SW: I know the ninja would win but I’d much rather it was the pirate. I think that unskilled brawling is so much more impressive than all that dancing about and showing off. A good fist to the jaw looks so much more exciting than a shuriken to the forehead. I like my fighting up close and personal.
LC: LOL A real down in the mud kind of guy, eh. Thanks again for taking time out of your very busy schedule to hang out, Stuart. I’ve enjoyed chatting with you. Good luck with BODY OF WATER, and all your upcoming releases.
SW: My pleasure, LC. Can I also thank you for challenging us writer’s on the Goodreads M/M Romance group Hot Summer Days project? The great response I had to the story I wrote for your photo, THE ELEMENTS OF LOVE, gave me the extra confidence to get BODY OF WATER finished early! Now, about that toast... Oh, and do you mind if I put the kettle on?
LC: All thanks go to you, Stuart. You wrote a fabulous story, well deserving of the wonderful responses it received. Enjoy your toast!
BODY OF WATER is available now on Smashwords and Amazon.
Body of Water Trailer
Memory of Water Trailer
Get the latest happenings and exclusive excerpts at Stuart’s blog.