Recently, I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them for guest-spots on my blog. (If you are interested in participating, please contact me.) I asked everyone thirty-five questions — some were basic, and others were multi-part inquiries — and I asked them to answer only what they wanted to or what was applicable. My friend and fellow-blogger, Darren Stapleton, had some very captivating responses which I’m sure will delight you, as well. After you read his interview, please be sure to hop on over to his blog and follow him for a regular dose of his charm. And now, heeeeere’s Darren…
1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:
Darren Stapleton. I’m 44 years old (getting on a bit), I live in Nottingham, UK. I like running, watcing films and spending time with my daughter and sometimes all three at the same time. I once pretended I had broccoli florets for fists to break up the monotony of a dull call centre job I did many moons ago. But now I stick to smaller, less threatening root vegetables (not literally.)
I hope people visit and follow my blog more after reading this. I am trying to develop my skills and network and this could help me get published. Thanks for reading.
2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):
3 .How many books have you written?
4. Has any of your work been published yet? If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:
No, though I haven’t submitted any officially yet. I’m just sharpening up the editing on book 2 before giving it the big heave ho into the outside world.
5. How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I started writing short stories when I was about 14 and realised it was a good way to spend time between girls and football.
5. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?
Having something to say. Wanting to leave something tangible and enjoyable behind for my family. Guilt for not doing it when I have the chance to.
6. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?
I’m reading Sebastian Faulks at the moment (Birdsong). I like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Lee Burke, Matthew Reilly, Richard Morgan, Cormac Macarthy to name a few.
7. What is your preferred reading method? (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.) Why?
I like old fashioned paper copies, easier on the eye and to lend out. I have never had the battery run out on my paperback yet- though I must admit, my book mark frequently takes a nosedive when I am not looking.
8. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?
Bizarrely for my latest novel I alternated the viewpoint between first and third. A chapter from the protagonist’s point of view then a chapter from third person re other characters and plot. I think it works but not sure how many conventions I have sullied. It was challenging. I found it difficult. He found it difficult. They found it difficult. We all found it difficult.
9. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books?
I try not to read too much when I am writing – I kind of see it as – if I have time to read, then I have time to write. I love reading but it can get be an obstacle when trying to tell my own story in my own way. There are great authors out there. I find it hard to not let what I am reading influence my style and content. If I’m honest (and I suppose that is the point of these Q & A’s) the skill and talent of the people I sometimes read can be counterproductive. It can make me think I am never going to be that good. It can be stultifying as well as something to aspire to.
10. How many books would you say you read in a year? How many at any one time?
Between 10-20 a year. Used to be three times that but the joys of parenting take priority now. I read two books at a time. One comedy dip in dip out kind of thing, and one that I choose.
ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::
11. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?
It’s called Blood On Borrowed Wings.
12. What is your novel’s genre? Would you say there is a sub-genre? What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?
It’s cross genre, and I am struggling with that at the moment during the editing process. I would say it is sci-fi with slight fantasy elements. It’s different because I have concentrated on character and plot rather than fantastical setting. I have tried to give it the feel of film noir with twists and turns, but ultimately it is a story about human nature and one man’s selfishness.
13. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?
The death of my mother and father. To look at death as a catalyst for events and how that can influence a character.
14. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?
No idea. Any age that would read it. It’s adult. But I was reading ‘grown up’ books from around 8/9 years old.
15. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?
No. I want you to buy my book. Ha ha. I think I have given away all I want to. If anyone is more interested they can contact me on my blog and I will send them a sample. There are also lines from the book that I have previously used on my blog. Check my blog history to have a read. I would welcome comments and feedback. It’s how I improve.
ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::
16. How often do you write?
A minimum of 2,000 words a week. Though plenty more if I have the time.
17. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?
As many as I can. But will do 2,000 in a sitting on Sundays if I have not written for the rest of the week.
18. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?
I send it to an amazing lady who is pedantic, clever, insightful and has an annoyingly good memory so all inconsistencies are flagged and dealt with. I never understood what a massive collaboration editing is, and how much someone neutral can improve your work (if you let them.)
19. What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters? Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)
I start with the idea, then write the final chapter then write a synopsis of each chapter that needs to happen to get from start to finish. It has to be fluid and changes often as the book progresses. Three quarters of the way through I index card every chapter I have written, to see if there are any plot gaps or character problems.
20. Do you have a muse? If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?
I am inspired by the need to tell the story well that is inside my head, that and Single Malt Whisky.
21. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?
About 18 months though I wrote the last half of Blood On Borrowed Wings in about 2 months.
22. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel? If so, please elaborate.
No, I just keep plodding with the 2,000 words. I am like a snow plough, only not as seasonal. Or heavy.
23. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?
Graveyards and film credits for names (you can mix and match first and last so you do not get sued). Geography should reference places you know, would like to know or can imagine well.
24. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?
I summarise in short one line the essence of chapters and characters. Plots need more elaboration and detail. I have a hardback book I scribble in.
25. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write? (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)
Solitude and quiet, though I find it can help putting specific music on that helps evoke a certain mood if I’m writing a tricky scene. I don’t care what I am writing on, as long as I can easily transfer to my master document. I use a combination of laptop, desktop, ipad and scribble pad.
26. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location? If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?
It’s normally in the evening, or as late as needed until I hit my 2.
28. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing? If so, how do you feel about that?
I sometimes escape to a place somewhere quiet to write for a few days. I miss my daughter desperately but, it galvanises my resolve to actually get something productive done. I also run marathons and that can involve training time demands also. Life is about balance, compromise and enjoying it. It’s difficult but if you want something enough, you make time to fit it in. It’s great to have the support of a partner who gives me the room to do that.
29.What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?
I sometimes read the dialogue out loud to assess if it sounds natural. Not sure what that would sound like to any passerby.
‘Where did you hide the body?’
‘I am sure you will grow another one.’
I am coming to getchoooo!’
(Please note, these lines are not actually from my novel, they were meant to only be used as an amusing example and in in no way reflect the quality or integrity of my actual work. Any offence to anyone living or dead is entirely intended and see you in court.)
ABOUT YOUR WORK::
30. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?
Blood On Borrowed Wings- because I genuinely think I have a chance at getting this published. I have had good feedback off people who have read it (not all friends either.) I have also had encouraging feedback from agents I have submitted it to. My editor also thinks it has a chance.
I also like the characters within it. They have taken on their own life and style now. Book two (which I have started) is writing itself. It’s very odd to see the keys on my laptop going up and down without me there.
31. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?
It would be Vedett. Bad guys have more fun!
32. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?
If one of my books became a movie I would demand a bit part and try not to grin on camera the whole time. The others….I dunno. I want the reader to build their idea of them and so would not want to be too prescriptive here (though if Fred Flintstone was real, he would have to make the short list.)
33. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?
The architecture and gas use of a Zeppelin.
34. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?
I fired a number of firearms, pistols, shotguns, assault rifles etc in the USA so I knew what that felt like. The noise. The smell. The recoil (Magnum Ow!)
The thing I got most from it was the horror at what it did to the target I was firing at. I imagined what would happen to a person there. Shocking. And great for adding depth to my writing.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to answer these questions on your blog. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Darren, for allowing me to interview you. I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.