* you can find the original interviews and much more on my 'everything writing' blog (http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com), including author spotlights, guest posts, book reviews, flash fiction or poetry - new items posted 6am UK time Monday to Saturday and writing exercises at 6pm very weekday.
Friday, 18 May 2012
Author interview no.51: Kevin Thomas (revisited)
Back in July 2011, I interviewed author Kevin Thomas for my WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to the fifty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today's is with crime novelist Kevin Thomas. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hi Kevin. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Kevin: I’ve written for as long as I can remember. I remember having aspirations of writing a novel as a kid and being frustrated at my inability to achieve the length and detail required (I was only eleven).
Morgen: I remember reading the Hobbit when I was about that age and getting about ten pages in. I’m not sure what I turned to instead then but not long after I started with Stephen King (who I became so hooked on that it was torch under the duvet every night, which (I reckon) is why I wear glasses :)).
Kevin: It wasn’t until I was in my mid-to-late twenties that I became focussed on what I wanted to do. Being a big film fanatic, I wrote a couple of screenplays after learning the format. Maybe one day I’ll revisit them, but for now they’re on the backburner. If they are any good, they should stand the test of time. If not, they’re what gave me the writing bug and set me on my way. It’s taken a few years to write my first novel, ‘The Ellroy Deflection.’ It is a gritty crime thriller, set in a fictional British city, inspired by the many crime thrillers that I’ve read and watched over the years.
Morgen: (The link to it, because Kevin's too modest to add it, is here). I met three agents recently and two of them said they’re short of crime (and one added historical fiction) so you’re doing the right thing. Have you considered other genres?
Kevin: I just write in the crime thriller genre so far, but am open to writing for other genres. I would say that my upcoming second novel is written in a different style, because it is set in 1930’s USA rather than present-day Britain, but it is still a crime thriller at heart.
Morgen: Perfect; historical thriller – just what the agents want. :) How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Kevin: It’s very early days. Following a couple of years writing to agencies and publishers without any success, I stumbled upon the notion of self-publishing my work as an eBook. I’m open to any avenue available for marketing and promoting my work and it has become a bit of an obsession. There doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.
Morgen: Oh how I know that feeling. I’ve been having 4-5 hour sleeps which really are not me, nor are lie-ins although I managed to get one inadvertently today. :) You mentioned your unsuccessful struggle getting an agent (most of my interviewees, and I, can relate to that) do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Kevin: I don’t have an agent, no. If I did, I’d imagine have more time available for writing which is what every author surely craves.
Morgen: Absolutely, although you’re getting all the contact with your potential readers which must be an upside. Is your book available as an eBook? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Kevin: It is only available as an eBook at the moment. I have to admit, what seemed like a daunting task was surprisingly easy.
Morgen: Yay! That’s news to my ears as someone about to embark on that process.
Kevin: I‘m by no means an expert at html, formatting and so on, but the tools and resources are all there to smoothly enable you to make your eBook available on the world-wide stage that is the internet. I haven’t read many eBooks myself because I didn’t appreciate their accessibility until recently. Of course, I have now been converted.
Morgen: Many people have (and new readers). I have a generic eBook (fortunately my editor has a Kindle so we cover both bases) but she uses her MUCH more than I mine. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Kevin: I’m probably half-way through writing my second novel. I won’t reveal the title yet but the synopsis goes something like this:
In the midst of the Great Depression, a man travels east whilst the desperate many travel west in search of the elusive employment that the Promised Land could bring. It is 1934 and Jack Gray, family man and farmer from Nebraska, has embarked upon a compelling trek across the states with New York City being his destination. A drifter looking for work on Jack's farm has mistakenly identified Jack as a gangster from the Big Apple that had mysteriously disappeared years earlier, leaving furious enemies baying for blood. The transient fled before being convinced that his perception was the wrong one. In the wake of the encounter, Jack's father is forced to reveal the startling family secret that means Jack has to depart in an attempt to intercept the stranger intent on leading a pack of vengeance-craving mobsters back to Jack's home. Reluctantly leaving his family during the most desperate of times, Jack must rely on his own resilience and the kindness of strangers along his journey, where the horizon is often as remote as his chances of catching the desperate drifter hungry for redemption salvaged from a life in exile.
Morgen: My goodness lots of tension and I’d say relateability even to those who don’t remember that era. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Kevin: I believe that writer’s block happens to anyone who has high standards. It’s the refusal to accept sub-standard ideas and settle for the shortcut to progress. I usually just acknowledge when I’m stuck and go with it. When I’m writing, the story goes with me in my head wherever I go. An idea will come to me out-of-the-blue and it’ll be extremely satisfying. Often the idea is like a spark and sets me off again. Patience is key.
Morgen: I think few people don’t get to finish their stories because of writer’s block (someone may comment disagreeing) if they leave it for a while then come back as if it’s new. I heard a famous female novelist (I think it might have been PD James) say that if she runs out of steam she leaves a sentence unfinished, goes to bed (assuming it’s night :)) and picks up again in the morning; works every time she says. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Kevin: When I start a story, I have no idea where it is going. Of course, that is why I’m very familiar with writer’s block. I’ll only run with an idea if it excites me, so I like to think that I know what the reader is going to experience. I start off with a basic premise and then writing it becomes a journey into the unknown.
Morgen: If it doesn’t excite you then it won’t excite the reader (ditto boredom). Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Kevin: A lot of my editing gets done when I’m typing my handwritten work onto the computer.
Morgen: That works for me too.
Kevin: Of course, I then proofread it when it’s completed and edit it again, but I find that I can’t believe how much I’ve missed on previous viewings.
Morgen: It drives me nuts; though/thought/through on my fourth edit of my 105K chick lit! The brain sees what the context it (another good reason for a time gap between edits). What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Kevin: To be honest, I don’t have any kind of ritual, routine or regime. I write when I can, but having a full-time day job doesn’t leave me with an abundance of time.
Morgen: Ditto, although I only work part-time. :)
Kevin: Most of my writing tends to take place late at night, which I appreciate may be unusual, but I works for me.
Morgen: I’m probably being very generalist here, I would say over half of writers write late. I think there are more night owls then early birds (I’m the latter, although I’ve been both recently).
Kevin: Maybe that’s why my work sometimes comes out a bit on the dark side.
Morgen: Ah ha, I love the dark side (one of the aforementioned agents looked me in the face and said “You’re a crime writer, you should write crime” – I’m happy to actually because I do read it). Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Kevin: I write on paper and type it up on the computer every few thousand words.
Morgen: Ah yes, you did say that. Good idea, like an unofficial first edit.
Kevin: I don’t want to be restricted to writing when I’m at the computer. I want to write whenever I’m inspired to do so. I like to write things down when they come to me, wherever I am.
Morgen: I have a notebook and two pens (in case one runs out, that would be more annoying) in every dog walking jacket. Apparently writing comes out from a different part of the brain than typing on a computer so it may well be a better method (although I’ve noticed, when I do my writing workshops, that I’m much slower when handwriting). What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Kevin: Marketing and self-promotion seems like it is going to eat away at valuable writing time. But, of course, needs must.
Morgen: Indeed, but see earlier ‘meeting your audience’ comment. :) What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Kevin: Just write. When you start at page one, the end may seem impossibly far away. If you find time every day, even if it seems a ridiculously small amount of time, progress takes care of itself.
Morgen: I love to read and write short stories (they’re must first love which I’m going back to actually) so I think if an author starts thinking it’s a short story and see what happens (so it becomes a novelette, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novelette, novella, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novella, and so on) What do you like to read?
Kevin: I enjoy thrillers, the likes of which Dennis Lehane and John Grisham produce. I’ve been told exciting things about Jo Nesbo and I’m looking forward to reading his series of Harry Hole stories. I’m always on the lookout for an originally high-concept novels and must stress that Michael Crichton is missed for that.
Morgen: My German friend is mad on thrillers; Ken Follett’s her favourite and bigger the better (and in English; the parcels I send her are always rectangular :)) and I know she enjoys John Grisham. One of my Monday nighters, who I met at the Oundle Lit Fest 2010, was given a goodie bag there (as was I) and one of her freebies was a Jo Nesbo. Her son read it and bought everything else he’s ever done. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Kevin: Like I’ve said, it is early days, but I can certainly see the potential. There is so much choice out there, but I think that registering with genre-specific sites may be the way to go. There’s no point alienating yourself on a site where the regulars aren’t going to be interested.
Morgen: And spending a lot of time doing it, although if you have the time, they may have friends who read your genre. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Kevin: I have started a blog, which can be found at http://www.davidkevinthomas.blogspot.com.
Morgen: And don't forget the book itself on Amazon.com) I like your Mauritian picture by the way. Apparently the hammock is the most ergonomic relaxation device (although a book / eBook must come close second :)). What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Kevin: I’ve read a lot about how the print-world is in danger because of the upsurge in eBooks, but I’d have to disagree. Most people are always going to prefer a book in their hands and most authors would be more proud to have their work in print than in electronic form.
Morgen: They are, absolutely. I can’t think of any interviewee who’s said otherwise. I read pBooks (as paperbacks are being called now) at home and take my eReader away with me.
Kevin: I think writers are going to face more competition in the future as the world becomes a smaller place. My wife wrote her thesis at University ten years ago on what impact the internet was going to have on the world of publishing. She wrote about how it was going to make literature more accessible to the masses and about how the Guttenberg project was uploading hundreds of books for free because their copyright had expired.
Morgen: I think most readers are starting with the free eBooks and then buying others when they get hooked!
Kevin: Her University Professor rejected it, saying he was outraged at such an idea and he would allow her to rewrite it. He refused to believe that people would ever want to read from a screen rather than from paper.
Morgen: Who’s laughing now?
Kevin: My wife stuck to her guns and refused to rewrite it. He gave her a fail. I wonder what he would make of the matters today, the miserable old- I’ll stop there.
Morgen: Oh go on, I dare ya. :) We’ll pass her… give her an honorary something or other. Thank you Kevin. I wish you all the best with your blog and of course sales, eBooks are definitely the way to (I’m hoping anyway :)).
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 questions. You complete them, I tweak them where appropriate (if necessary to reflect the blog ‘clean and light’ rating) 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.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) :) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.