I’m delighted to bring you the first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. I announced the request for interviewees on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn only a couple of days ago and the response has been incredible. Already I have received over 40 replies and so hope to bring you, on average, an interview a day. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. Kicking off the series is fellow Litopian Colin Barnes.
Morgen: Hello, Colin. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Colin: I’m a misanthrope but have an interest in the psychology of people. Writing for me is a way of exploring how humans work without having to socially interact with them. My writing started when I was about 8, I found it easier to get my points of view across with the written word than with speech. It’s stuck around ever since.
Morgen: What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Colin: All my work tends to be in the darker genres (horror, thriller, sci-fi), I’ve tried writing lighter-hearted stuff, but it just doesn’t come naturally to me, and there is something very appealing about exploring the darker side of life.
Morgen: Although my longest pieces of work are light (chick- / lad-lit novels) I often write, and probably enjoy most, finding my dark side. What have you had published to-date, and how much of the marketing do you do?
Colin: I have three short stories coming out in an anthology that I’ve co-written with a American author (I can send more details in the summer when it’s released).
Morgen: That sounds great – short stories are my first love, reacquainted thanks to the
project I undertook in May 2011. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Colin: I don’t have one, but my long-term aim is to have one. I personally think they are very useful, providing a much needed buffer between author and publisher, and (hopefully) provide long-term career advice.
Morgen: It’s said that it’s more difficult to secure an agent than a publisher, but definitely worth persevering. Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Colin: My anthology will be an ebook. I read a lot of ebooks. I read them on my iPhone, and kindle. I like that I can have a vast library of books in such a small space. I still like regular books though, and can see a future for both mediums going forward.
Morgen: That’s what I’ve been hearing. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Colin: My first acceptance was for the upcoming anthology, and it was certainly a big thrill. There’s one thing writing and having friends and family like it, but having a completely unrelated third party accept you work gives you a sense of validation that gives you the confidence to carry on.
Morgen: Absolutely. Novelist Jane Davis (
) and I were talking about this in special episode 25 of my Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast (links in ‘Where to find me’). Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Colin: Loads and loads. I don’t get down about them. It’s a rite of passage for any writer, it’s just a case of getting enough until you reach the ‘yes.’
Morgen: As the saying goes “A successful writer is one who didn’t give up”. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Colin: I have a number of projects I’m working on. I’ve just completed the first draft of a novel. I’m plotting out another that I will be writing as part of the Clarion Writeathon, and in the meantime I’m also writing a Novella that I’ll be self-publishing as an ebook, and finally, I’m writing a serial on my website. So I’m very busy.
Morgen: I’ve heard good things about Clarion from sources such as the ‘I should be writing’ podcast but very intensive and expensive so the Writeathon (
) sounds perfect! Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Colin: I always get something down each day. I usually aim for around 3k, but sometimes I only get 500 depending on my work load (I’m also studying for an English degree, so that takes up some time too.) I have writing binges on my day off where I get the bulk of my writing done. The most I’ve written in a single day was 12.5k.
Morgen: 500 is still a great achievement. 500 words a day = 3500 a week = 175,000 a year = an epic novel or two healthy 90K-worders. You’ve beaten my best by miles (9,337) which was for
November 2010 (the last day!). What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Colin: I don’t believe it exists. It’s simply an excuse not to write. If one is ‘blocked’ it’s because there isn’t a clear path of where to go, or a problem that needs sorting first. If I get this, I simply go back and think of where I’ve gone wrong and restart. Or, if I simply cannot be bothered, I’ll switch to another project. I truly think there is no such thing as writers block (or muses), it’s simply a matter of sitting down and doing the work no matter what.
Morgen: I agree. I’d say if a writer’s stuck, move on (to later in the same piece or something different) and come back to it, by which time, hopefully, you’ll have forgotten why you were stuck in the first place. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Colin: I’m mostly a plotter for long projects. For short stories I tend to construct the story in my head as a series of scenes, and write a few notes before writing it out in full. For novels and novellas I’m an obsessive plotter – I like to know where I’m going so I can keep up the intensity.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Colin: Hundreds. Some that just aren’t up to scratch. Some that approach subjects that would never be seen as acceptable, and others that are just so personal that if I ever released them I would fear for my personal safety.
Morgen: I like that, and oh, how familiar. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Colin: Most favourite has to be creating something out of nothing, and seeing others enjoy my work. Least favourite? That has to be the often insurmountable obstacles one has to get through to get the work out.
Morgen: Walking the dog, housework, the garden, the ping of emails… What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Colin: Shut up, sit down, and write.
Morgen: Because you can’t edit a blank page. What do you like to read?
Colin: So many things. I like short story anthologies, love old stuff like HP Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. I like anything from Ray Bradbury to Albert Camus. Of course there are the standard favourites such as King and Mieville – I love all sorts.
Morgen: I really liked Albert Camus’ ‘The Outsider’ (‘The Stranger’). Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Colin: Not really, I think there are too many websites and books giving advice (often incorrectly). The only one I could recommend would be Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’.
Morgen: I have it, it’s excellent (and highly recommended). In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Colin: I’m in the UK – can’t say it’s been a help or hindrance. I suppose with it being a smaller market might make things harder, but these days it’s a global market so I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s a particular disadvantage.
Morgen: It must help that we speak English. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Colin: Litopia and Twitter – both are very important to me. Mostly for camaraderie, but also for the shared critiquing and workshopping of ideas. Also, it was through social networking that I met my publisher for the summer anthology. It’s a great way of belonging to a community without having the real-life social responsibilities (great for a misanthrope).
Morgen: I use them both and love them both, and miss Litopia’s After Dark and Open House (Sundays) when it’s not on. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Colin: The best place would probably my site: www.colinfbarnes.com and my twitter profile:
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Colin: Thanks for the opportunity, It’s been fun, I always enjoy reading your website, and hope you keep up the fine work.
Morgen: You’re so welcome (and thank you). It’s been a pleasure to ‘meet’ you.
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.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have
on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
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As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. I welcome critique for the four new writing groups listed below and / or flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays. For other opportunities see (see Opportunities on this blog).
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