Welcome to the sixty-fifth 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. Today’s is with sci-fi / fantasy / thriller author Lorcan Reilly. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hi Lorcan. Can you tell us what brought you to be an author.
Lorcan: I’ve always wanted to be a writer and have written on and off since I was about eight. I wrote a musical play which was produced in venues around London a while back as well as writing and performing in comedy shows in the UK and Holland (somewhat randomly) and at the Edinburgh festival. For years, though, I focused on playing music, saxophone, guitar and a bit of trombone. Finally I realised if I was serious about writing it had to come first. I’ve always had a day job and in the last 17 years a family too – so time is an issue.
Morgen: My goodness, a multi-talent. 🙂 I know all about writing coming first, sadly it’s usually writing-related rather than the writing itself but having an editor waiting for submissions is a great focus. 🙂 What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Lorcan: I have written a kind of science fiction thriller satire by accident, making it practically impossible to market, I expect.
Morgen: Sadly agents do want specific genres (and at the moment ones I’ve spoken with – at the recent Winchester Writers Conference – want crime and historical) but at least with the likes of Amazon (or so I believe) you can select more than one.
Lorcan: Now I’m writing more of a “realist” story but with elements of fantasy and SF. Next time round I’ll probably write a comedy of manners or a techno thriller or God knows what. If I get a book published that’s likely to dictate the genre of the book that follows, of course.
Morgen: Again, yes. It seems to be with traditional (certainly larger) publishers that once you’ve been published as one genre, you’re pigeon-holed in that (because the readers expect it)… unless you do what some do and write under another name (Barbara Vine = Ruth Rendell, Caroline Harvey = Joanna Trollope, J D Robb = Nora Roberts etc). So I’m guessing you don’t currently have an agent. Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Lorcan: I am trying to get one. Things are changing with digital publishing but self-publishing is still a last resort in reality, although an increasingly attractive one.
Morgen: A lot of authors are going the eBook route, myself included, do you read eBooks?
Lorcan: I’ve never read an eBook but wouldn’t rule it out.
Morgen: I bought an eReader earlier this year and haven’t read much but if I went anywhere (I have too many paperbacks waiting) I’d definitely take it with me. My editor, Rachel, has a Kindle so she can check my work on there when the time comes (we’re hoping in the not too distant future; she’s waiting on me). Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Lorcan: So far I’ve had four rejections, two with no response at all, one with a standard fob-off and one with a few words which told me something about what the agent is looking for (ie something else).
Morgen: Oh dear. I’ve mentioned John Jarrold a couple of times in earlier interviews. He’s been at both Verulam ‘Get Writing’ conferences I’ve been to (Feb 2010 / 11) and takes your genre. His website is http://www.johnjarrold.co.uk but I’ve heard he’s fussy (but then agents are).
Lorcan: What I dislike about the traditional agent-publisher set up is that it is very unscientific – it’s all about personal opinion, chasing what’s been selling lately and trying to stay in line with what’s currently supposed to be hot. Whether the publishing industry is a good thing or not depends on whether you look at it from the point of view of the market (ie maximising profit from book sales) or from the point of view of writing for its own sake (trying to ensure good books find a place on the shelves / websites). As I’m a writer you can probably guess where my sympathies lie.
Morgen: I can. Right next to mine. 🙂 What are you working on at the moment / next?
Lorcan: Another novel. Hard work, isn’t it?
Morgen: It is. For me it’s not the first draft (as three of mine were done during http://nanowrimo.org) but the editing process; ensuring consistency and that all the threads are tied up by / at the end.
Lorcan: We must like this otherwise we wouldn’t put ourselves through it.
Morgen: I love it. Actually my mum said recently that I shouldn’t let it become an obsession but she’s a couple of years too late. 🙂 Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Lorcan: Almost every day. I’ve written for about nine hours in a day over some weekends. How many words? Thousands…
Morgen: 🙂 What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Lorcan: Someone told me that writer’s block is down to two things: lack of research or fear of the subject matter. I’d add “can’t be bothered” to that list. If you’ve got very little time you just don’t have time for writer’s block; you have to write no matter how awful your output seems to be on that day. Nothing is wasted in the end when you’re writing.
Morgen: Exactly. It’s the old ‘you can’t edit a blank page’. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Lorcan: I plot them. Write a bit. Re-plot them. Throw it away if it’s not working and start the process again.
Morgen: Hopefully throw away as it cut / paste to elsewhere in case you can use it again? 🙂 How do you create your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Lorcan: I have a template I fill in systematically in great detail. Then I start writing and ignore most of it.
Morgen: My goodness, how organised. Who’s your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Lorcan: My wife, Sally, who’s a writer too. It can be a bit fraught when we give each other feedback but you know it’s someone who cares about you succeeding.
Morgen: Ooh great, another potential interviewee? 🙂 Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Lorcan: It seems to me that most of the process is editing. You throw some paint on the canvass and then you start to shape it into something. I think I’ve edited some passages at least thirty times.
Morgen: Ouch. I get to about four then need to move on (although the whole thing then gets a once-over before going to Rachel). What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Lorcan: I usually make myself a cup of herbal tea. I look through the last thing I wrote but try not to get too involved in it and I wait until the ideas start to flow.
Morgen: Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Lorcan: Mainly on a computer but I feel I should use paper more as it makes you think differently.
Morgen: It does! Weird isn’t it. Different part of the brain apparently (something to do with artistic / practical?).
Lorcan: The best stuff pours out into the notebook when I’m walking down the road after I’ve been writing.
Morgen: Because you’ve warmed up. 🙂 What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Lorcan: I like all points of view. They offer different possibilities. However the third person can be written from either a single point of view or from more so it’s not a point of view in itself (?).
Morgen: It can. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_of_view_(literature)#Third-person_voices explains this well. Within your larger pieces of work, do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Lorcan: Yes. I like anything like that as long as it’s not too gimmicky.
Morgen: I used to avoid them but my second novel needed a prologue (in that instance to introduce a character who was then talked about through the rest of the book). Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Lorcan: God, yes.
Morgen: Short and sweet. 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Lorcan: Doing the writing. When it’s going well there’s nothing better. Well, almost nothing.
Morgen: Ah, I guessed (hoped) that was a ‘favourite’ answer. 🙂 If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Lorcan: That I could actually manage to finish anything.
Morgen: Of a certain surprise presumably. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Lorcan: I am an aspiring writer myself. But the advice is this: READ OTHER PEOPLE’S BOOKS. A lot of writers seem to view reading other people’s books as like being forced to eat your greens when you’re a child.
Morgen: My trouble is finding the time to read. I’ve started taking a book with me when I walk the dog (easier than editing or writing on the move).
Lorcan: But all the answers to the problems you have as a writer have been solved by other writers. And if you don’t enjoy reading then what makes you think anyone would want to read your work?
Morgen: That’s an interesting way of looking at it. Thank you. 🙂 What do you like to read?
Lorcan: Books with strong characters that seem to reveal the truth. Books that grab me by the throat and won’t let go.
Morgen: The sign of a great book. Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Lorcan: I use Google Reader and keep them all there. And I use Delicious to bookmark things. They’re public so other people can look for them. Almost every time I go on Twitter I find a useful link to something.
Morgen: I’ve retweeted some but will definitely keep an eye out. 🙂 In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Lorcan: I live in the UK. It’s always hard letting people know about your work, even after you’re published, unless you’ve got a massive marketing budget, and sometimes even then a book fails to sell.
Morgen: Which is why the publishers are leaving it more to the author, because we’re free. 🙂 Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Lorcan: I’m on writerscompass and probably a few others but have only just got my toe in the water so haven’t found any use. The danger with the web is that it favours people who know how to manipulate it rather than those who produce the best books.
Morgen: That’s sad. 😦
Lorcan: Like the agents-publishers traditional model it has both advantages and disadvantages.
Morgen: That’s true. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Lorcan: When I’m published I’ll use Twitter (https://twitter.com/lorcanreilly) and Facebook and I’ll start my own blog too. Fingers crossed.
Morgen: Oh yes, a blog. Do. I’d recommend setting one up a.s.a.p. People like to read about your struggles (and successes) of being an author. As long as you have something (that you think is) interesting to say, you can’t start one too early. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Lorcan: If you’re pretty good, disciplined, tenacious, emotionally resilient and you want to write more than anything else then carry on.
Morgen: That’s me (well, ‘the want to write’ bit).
Lorcan: Ultimately, though, unless you enjoy writing for its own sake I wouldn’t recommend it. The odds are stacked against writers so you should go into this with your eyes open.
Morgen: It’s a warm afternoon so they’re a bit droopy but yes… 🙂 Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Lorcan: No, these are good questions, Morgen.
Morgen: Ah, thanks. To finish would you like to provide an example of your writing…
The night was opaque as squid’s ink, and only a part of the pool was visible in the rectangle of light released by the doors of the house. I couldn’t see her at first, then I noticed the red tip of a cigarette in the darkness forming an arc between her waist and her mouth and I made out her vague form standing at the other end of the pool. I passed from the area of light where I’d been standing into the darkness where she stood and my eyes took a while to adjust.
‘Not thinking of holding my head under the water, are you?’ she said.
She stood just inches from the edge of the pool. I immediately noticed the presence of something on the stone just inches from her ankles, like a thick piece of black hose lying by the pool’s edge with one end dangling into the water. I saw it move, the round form flexing slowly.
‘Don’t move. Stay exactly where you are,’ I said, quietly. ‘There’s a snake right by your foot.’
‘Can you see what sort it is?’
‘I don’t know, it’s big.’
‘That’s not good. Oh my God, I see it now. It’s that viper, isn’t it? The one that likes to drink in the pool. You have to take the antidote within an hour.’
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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