Welcome to the twenty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found at here. Today’s is with crime author and fellow Litopian Gary Dobbs… alias western novelist Jack Martin… alias horror writer Vincent Stark.
Morgen: Hi Gary. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Gary: Writing is something I’ve always done – I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision to become a writer, but for as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be published. I kept at that for over twenty years and then when I was finally published with The Tarnished Star in 2009, I realised that there was a lot more to being a writer than just being published. It’s something you’ve constantly got to work at if you want to be the best writer you can be. And I think any serious writer will want to be the best writer they can be. Me – I want to be the best there ever was, but although I know that’ll never happen I do hope to be a pretty darn good writer.
Morgen: Lots of practice. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Gary: I made my first success with the western genre, which is something I’ve always loved and although I do from time to time stray into other genres (at the moment I’m working on a horror novel), it is the western that will always be my first love. My July release, The Ballad of Delta Rose although a western, I think stylistically more resembles the hard-boiled crime genre. I really want to write entertaining books and I think the genre is irrelevant and I just go with wherever the idea takes me. Who knows one day I may write a humorous, YA, horrific, crime-filled western bodice ripper. Then again I may not.
Morgen: Ah yes, we were talking about bodice rippers on last Sunday’s Litopia (http://litopia.com). What have you had published to-date? How much of the marketing do you do?
Gary: I’ve self published a few little things but to stick to the conventionally published; I’ve done three westerns including July’s, The Ballad of Delta Rose and a historical crime, A Policeman’s Lot. However this year I will see my first horror novel, The Dead Walked published. And on the subject of marketing – these days the writer is expected to do more and more, but a lot of it includes social networking which I enjoy, so although there is a lot of marketing it more often comes under play rather than work.
Morgen: It is fun, isn’t it? Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Gary: I had an agent but sacked him for being useless, and today I am my own agent. I’ve got no real opinion on agents and I am sure there are a great many good ones out there…
Morgen: Litopia’s http://twitter.com/agentpete will be glad to hear that.
Gary: …but given the way publishing is going I think they are becoming less and less essential with each bestselling self published eBook. It’s the same with agents for actors – they make their living by operating in a closed-door environment and keep all their little contacts close to their chest, but I think true talent will out regardless of agents.
Morgen: I should also explain that you’re also an actor (‘Dr Who’, ‘Torchwood’, ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ to name just a few) and don’t usually dress as per the picture above (or maybe you do). Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Gary: These days I read more eBooks than conventional ones and actually prefer reading on my Kindle, but I still buy physical books. For instance this week I bought two copies of Jeffrey Deaver’s new Bond novel – a book to keep in pristine condition and the Kindle version to actually read. So far of my books only A Policeman’s Lot is available on eBook, but my horror novel, The Dead Walked will debut as an eBook. It’s amazing how well eBooks are doing – initially I was horrified by them and didn’t think they’d compare to the physical book, but as I say these days I prefer reading on my Kindle. It makes books more versatile – from being able to set the font at whatever size is more comfortable to your eyes, to not losing your bookmark and having to dog ear the pages.
Morgen: A win-win. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Gary: Tarnished Star was my first novel sale and yes it’s a thrill every time.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Gary: A new western to see print next year, the final draft of my horror novel and the script for the movie of Tarnished Star, which will be called LawMaster and should start shooting early next year.
Morgen: I know how busy you are (and we miss you in Litopia’s chatroom). Do you manage to write every day?
Gary: I think you’ve got to write every day, even if only for an hour or so, but I usually write for a minimum of four hours a day and set a target of at least 2000 words.
Morgen: Wow. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Gary: I’m not successful enough to suffer writer’s block.
Morgen: That’s funny. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Gary: I always run with the thing. I start off with the most basic of ideas and develop it from there, but I know this doesn’t work for everyone and some writers have to plot in great detail. Each to their own, I guess.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Gary: The single most important thing to do if you want to be a published writer is to READ. And cover as many genres as possible, read everything you can get your hands on. Because if you don’t read then quite frankly you haven’t got the tools to be a writer. Developing a thick skin is also important because rejections can hurt, and there’ll be a lot of those. Self-belief is also very important – believe in yourself and eventually others will too.
Morgen: Here, here. What do you like to read?
Gary: Westerns, crime, comedies, fantasy on occasions. I’ve even read the odd Mills and Boons. Oh and I’m a sucker for comic books.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Gary: Stephen King’s On Writing is all anyone really needs.
Morgen: That’s the most recommended book in these interviews, and every time I see that I nudge myself to dust it off the bookshelf (hopefully not too much dust) and read it. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Gary: I have two blogs: http://tainted-archive.blogspot.com (western) and http://tiny.cc/2jz6r (horror). I’m also on Twitter (http://twitter.com/jackmartinwest), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/gary.m.dobbs) and have a Jack Martin website (http://jackmartinwesterns.webs.com). In these days of the Internet it is very important to be visible.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Gary: I would like to see everyone start trying genres that they don’t usually read. For instance check out the western genre as I hear that Jack Martin is very good (hint, hint).
Morgen: Yes, please do.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
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