In today's guest author interview we welcome Andrew Lawston, read what he has to say below:
Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
Hello, I'm Andrew Lawston. I'm a 30 something writer and amateur actor with a day job as a publishing manager, and I live and work in London with a little black cat. I'm a huge fan of Doctor Who, I cook a mean curry, and I'm a fluent French speaker.
What first inspired you to start writing?
I've been writing since I was very young - my Mum suggested I write a story when I was bored one wet Sunday afternoon in the 1980s, and it snowballed from there. I've been writing solidly for over 20 years, though at least a decade of that has been Doctor Who fan fiction which no one will ever see again.
Are you a planner? Or do you prefer to dive straight in to writing?
Somewhere in the middle. I'll have an idea for a short story, and it will often just be a single scene or concept. I may or may not write that down, but then I'll spend anything from a week to a few months thinking about it before it goes any further (the record is four years). But I'm not a paper planner, and at some stage, usually in a pub with a nice cold beer on the table, I'll dive in and start scribbling without a clear idea of how it's all going to pan out.
What is your favourite book and why?
Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It's very funny, obviously, with all the cute stuff about cassettes in cars always turning into Queen compilations, but it also achieves a real sense of breadth. Good Omens conveys the sense that it really is the whole world coming to an end, which is amazing when you consider how many pages are devoted to a Just William pastiche. All the characters are fully developed, though some appear for less than a page, and it's a marvellous early hit from two brilliantly talented writers.
Do you like to listen to music when writing? If so, what do you listen to?
It depends. If I'm writing in the pub, then often there's music, and I can take it or leave it as it's part of the background noise. I tend not to have music on while I'm writing or editing at home, but if I'm dug in for a long session then I'll put on Danny Elfman film scores and things like that - I find songs distract me too much. Having said that I'll sometimes put on some classics like REM, Radiohead and Manic Street Preachers that I know inside out.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
That moment when you finish a piece (or 'abandon' it, as some would say), and take a proud little moment to realise that with nothing more than a pen and paper (and in my case, quite a lot of beer), you've created something that didn't exist in the world before.
And the least?
I hate the marketing and promotion aspect. To the point where I don't really do it. I just wander around forums and social media channels being silly just as I always have done, but now there's a link to my book somewhere at the bottom. As with absolutely everything about my approach to writing from the heavy drinking onwards, I don't recommend this.
What advice would you give new and aspiring authors?
I think the only serious advice I could give would be to write as much as you can, polish it yourself before showing it to anyone (even an editor), and to get into the habit of submitting your work to publishers. There's a delusion at the moment that the traditional publishing industry is suddenly going to collapse, so that self-pub types can take over with tales of freely-punctuated forbidden vampire love. Publishing is a multi-billion industry that's endured centuries of war, famine and disease. It's not going to go away, despite that typo you once found in a Harper Collins paperback. At the very least, attempting the traditional publishing route first will give you invaluable feedback, teach you humility and cost you nothing.
What are you working on at the moment?
I always have a few works in progress at any one time. They each tend to bubble along slowly until I decide that one of them has got to the stage where I can finish it, and then I'll focus my energy a bit. My two main projects at the moment are a translation of a Casanova book that's never been widely available in the UK before, which is exciting, and a second collection of short stories. Casanova was meant to come out first, but I have one last hope of it being taken on by a publisher, so the second anthology might well beat it.
Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
My book Something Nice - 10 Short Stories is a collection of my best original fiction written between 2000 and 2011. Most of the stories had won competitions or been published in small press magazines, and as the rights had all reverted back to me, I thought 'why not'? There's a mix of genres, including science-fiction, magical realism, fantasy, horror, supernatural and literary fiction elements. People sometimes find the stories quirky, sometimes horrible, and sometimes funny. But they're never dull! Something Nice is available from in Kindle format from Amazon for 77p.
Thanks to Andrew for sharing his thoughts with us, on Friday we welcome Jom Webster to the hot seat.