What are your greatest challenges in your writing career?
In my mind there are two ways to view this question, so I will offer my perspective on both. The first is the challenge in actually getting the words down on the page. I work a busy office job, normally between the 50-60 hour mark, with phone calls and emails being exchanged between 4.30 am and midnight most days. I travel at times for my job also. I have four young children, aged 7, 5, 3, and 18 months, and often finding a few peaceful moments to get some substantial writing done can be tricky to say the lease. Normally I get up at 4.30 and write before they all wake up, but still sometimes that can be hard to do.
The other perspective is the challenge after you have written the book. The art of promotion, especially for an indie / small-press writer is something that must be mastered if we hope to make a success of ourselves. This has been the single biggest challenge. I live in Holland, it is an expensive country, very expensive, and with gas at nearly $9 a gallon and a car that seems to drink it, financially investing in writing promotion is not possible, which certainly makes the climb a lot steeper. I don’t let it deter me at all, but it has been the biggest hurdle to overcome. Mastering it will be fun though!
When did you find out that you wanted to be a writer? What inspired you to put pen to paper?
For as long as I can recall, I have always loved words. I read at an early age, and wrote stories from the moment I could hold and pen, and constructively do so. I can even remember the first story I wrote. I cannot remember how old, but my years were still in the single digits. It was about a pilot in the war, whose plane crashed. He was rescued and left severely injured and disfigured as a result. I even illustrated it with crayon.
I was on holiday in Spain when the idea first dawned on me. I had been writing more and more, just fun things. Scenes rather than anything else, one I kept repeating was of someone watching other people. Sometimes it was sinister, other times vaguely comic, and often tragic. We were sitting in the rental property in Spain, my friend’s parents were out getting some bits, and the park where we were would always shut down for a ‘siesta’. I hated doing nothing, so I grabbed a pen and wrote a 60k novel. I guess you could say it was YA, more an homage to Buffy the Vampire Slayer with its main characters, but the theme was nice. People living underground, the populace above it had been imprisoned, and all had microchips underneath their skin, their every move and thought controlled by those in command. It was dark, it was dystopian, and the end product was shite, but I had done it. I had written a novel. The bug had bitten me and I have written like a demon ever since.
Of your published works, do you have a favorite? Why?
That is a tough one. I have five published titles, six now with Diaries of the Damned, and each one is special in their own way. My short story collections, The Musings of a Hideous Mind have some tales in them that I just loved writing. The Creature in Volume III was a fun one, and A Love Story will always stand out in my mind. My two novels Highway to Hell and its sequel Trials and Tribulations are both also very dear to me. They started off as a small concept and have developed into a trilogy, the third part of which I am writing now, and the story that I stand on the brink of embracing is vast, it is delightful in its enormity, and that alone should make me say that Part III is my favorite. Alas, that is not yet published, so I will have to sit on the fence, and say, just like children, I love each of my books dearly, and equally.
What are your biggest pet peeves for other people’s grammar? Are there any mistakes that you find yourself making regularly?
If I started listing my common grammar mistakes we would be here all night. Suffice to say, I have a very patient editor. The kind of person who speaks to me slowly, and doesn’t mind repeating things, over, and over, and over.
As for my own pet peeves for grammar, I cannot really say that I have any. I know how bad mine is, or rather, can be, so it would be mildly hypocritical of me to bring up anything else. I guess, if push came to shove it would be the standard thing; then and than, and those other comment misspellings. I am not such a Nazi on that, even when reading a book, the mistakes would have to severely disrupt the reading for me to mention it.
Do you ever want to go back and edit an older story?
I have often wondered about re-writing my debut novel, Highway to Hell, making it longer, going into even more detail, but I resist, because that removes my progression.
It is an old title, my first every in fact, it should not be as good as what I produce now, because I am continually learning. We all are. We cannot master this craft, all we can do is get better with each release, and the evidence of this should be there for all to see.
How do you decide on character names?
Normally I just grab a name and start using it. After a while I know if it fits the character or not, so am liable to go back and change it. Picking a name is not something I agonize over. I have, at times researched names, and the meaning of them, to try and pick one that summarizes the character completely, but in a lot of my writing, the characters are everyday people, so they have an everyday name.
In my upcoming vampire novel I called the main character (a female) Alex, and it wasn’t until my editor pointed it out that I realized I had used my own name.
Tell me about your first publication. Who was it with? How did you feel when you got that acceptance?
My first acceptance was with May December Publications. I had already self-published Highway to Hell, and they came along offering to do it for me. I was over the moon, but had nobody to tell. My wife was out for the night, the kids were in bed, and well, besides social media, there is nobody else around me. So I took to Facebook, shouted with delight, then went and made a coffee, and got back to writing.
It was a great feeling to have a publisher willing to publish my writing, something that will never go away. The memory of that moment will never die, but neither will that excitement. Every time I have had a piece of work accepted, be it an anthology piece, or a novel / collection with a publisher, I get that same rush.
What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you that you’ve incorporated into a story?
I can honestly say that until now nothing sufficiently tragic has ever happened to me to warrant a place in my books. I have had bad things happen, and have survived some very tough times, especially when I lost my job at the start of the recession, but nothing that warrants places in the stories I have written. Not to say that it won’t – as I have just now had an interesting idea. Two themes that do seem to recur are police officers and writers. My characters are often one of the two. I always wanted to join the police and was a member of the ‘Special Constabulary’ when I still called England my home.
How much of your life and the people you know end up in your work?
I guess I ran ahead a bit in my previous answer. I think the biggest part of my life that comes into my writing is the police. It was always my goal to join the police force, and for three and a bit years I did just that. I joined the Specials, which is the volunteer police in the UK. We had the same training, and the same powers as the regular officers, but we did it in our free time. I dealt with bodies, crazy people with knives, even got an award! A lot of my writing therefore has a police officer in it. While I am sure I use pieces of all manner of people that I have seen or known over the years to craft my characters, I cannot think of anybody that I expressly captured in words. Locations however, are a different story. I have a few locations, houses and areas that I always fall back on. One example is my old school, which appears in Diaries of the Damned.
What projects are you currently working on? Are you willing to share a small excerpt from a work in progress?
I am currently working on a hardcore horror vampire tale. No lovesick vampires or brooding romantics within those pages. Below are the opening paragraphs
The clock struck nine and the mist that had gathered on the outskirts of Dermouth began to spread, and on it sailed death.
Erica Roberts tugged on Harvey’s lead. The Golden Retriever stood staring down the road in uncharacteristic stubbornness. “Come on, now. We’ll just go round the block and then back home.” She tugged again in an attempt to get the dog moving. It was early spring and the air was crisp and cold. Erica was happy to keep the walk short. She had survived a long day at work, and the last thing she wanted was an hour long fight with the dog just for the sake of giving it the daily quota of exercise. “Good boy,” she remarked as the dog sped ahead of her, tugging on the lead with an urgency that was at the other end of the character scale. “What’s gotten in to you tonight?” Erica asked as she quickened her step to keep pace with the animal.
At the same moment, a blast of artic wind ran down the street, ushering with it a wailing cry and made the temperature drop even further. Erica felt the cold wrap around her, chilling her to the bone. It cut through her clothes making her feel as though she was nude. As the gust died away, Erica was sure she heard someone calling her name; a whisper on the wind. Erica spun around, her skin two sizes too small. The street was empty. Beside her, Harvey sat and gave a whine; a lonely sound that echoed through the street. Movement in the corner of her eye caught Erica’s attention. Squinting, she stared into the distance. The mist floated over the ground like a ghost consuming everything in its knee deep path. It flooded down the street, tendrils rising and licking at the air like albino flames.
What's your writing routine?
My routine is I get up at 4.20 every morning and write until the kids wake up. I get them ready, go to work, write during my lunch break, come home, play with the kids, put them to bed and then write for an hour or so. Of course, writing includes PR, blogging and all those other wonderful things.
Is there a character or story that's stuck in your head and won't leave, from either your work or someone else's?
If we start talking about other people’s work, then there are too many to even start mentioning. In my own writing, there is one demon in the Highway to Hell series, Luther is his name. I loved that character. He comes back in the third book and I cannot wait to let him stretch his legs.
What writers or novels do you consider “must reads”?
For horror fans, Clive Barker is a must read. His Books of Blood influenced my own writing no end, and I am constantly returning to them when I need a literary pick me up. They should be a standard addition to any bookcase.
Tell us three things about you that are interesting.
Interesting…. Um…. I have a crawl space… no, wait, that’s incriminating. Let me try it again.
I don’t like this question. It would appear that I am uninteresting.
- I was the first Horror writer in space. It was boring as heck because I couldn’t hear my character scream.
- I always drive my car on the right hand side of the road, luckily living in Holland means that is ok.
- I have a pet husky called Zombie, and all of the kids in the Neighborhood call his name when they see him coming. It’s a really cool sound.
If you want to see even more of me… no, not like that you dirty minded folk, I mean more of my random musings, brain overflows, or cool images I nab from Google, then come on over to either my blog (http://alexlaybourne.com/) or come stalk me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/alaybourneauthor) or (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alex-Laybourne/212049612180183). I am on Twitter, but loathe it with a passion. However, if you feel so inclined, you can find me there too (https://twitter.com/Vanplank).