Hi, everyone. The month of November has been a slow one for Author Interview Corner, and I apologize. I’ve been busy, busy, busy doing this thing we call “real life”! There’s a handful of loyal readers out there who stay tuned for every post. And there have been newcomers, who stumbled upon the blog for the first time and were kind enough to drop an email or post a comment showing their support. Thank you. And then there are people who follow the blog when time permits, because–like me and most people in the world–they stay busy and lose track of time too easily. (I don’t know about you, but months pass like days the older I get!)
For the loyal readers, here is an update: I will soon be unveiling, after MONTHS of delay, my video interview with author Suzi M. Unfortunately, a few of the questions will be missing. I have exhausted my efforts trying to understand the reasons behind the error messages Windows Movie Maker gives me when I try to save these video clips. Nothing works. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a grumpy troll living in my computer, and he likes to eat interview footage.
Even though some of the questions have been eaten by the grumpy computer troll, this video interview will be a nice treat and change of pace for the blog. Coming soon.
And now… onto a new interview with author C.M. Saunders!
When and why did you begin writing?
I have been writing for as long as I can remember, though I didn’t start taking it seriously until my early twenties. At school, I was a terrible student. Most of what the teachers talked about just seemed to wash over me. I just had no interest in most of the subjects we had to take. The only thing I liked was English. I am from rural south Wales, a very working class area. When I told my career’s adviser at school I wanted to be a writer he just laughed, and tried to make me join the army! I ended up leaving school with no qualifications (I even managed to fail the English exam!) and going to work in a factory for nine years. I still wrote in my spare time, purely for my own amusement, but I lacked confidence in my ability. To me, writing stories was like a dirty little secret. I eventually plucked up enough courage to start sending my work away to various people; the small press was flourishing then. One thing led to another, and I ended up going to university to study journalism years later as a mature student.
In addition to fiction writing, you’ve done a lot of journalism, writing articles for newspapers and magazines. Be honest: Which do you prefer? Fiction or nonfiction? What are the pros and cons of each? Do you find one more challenging than the other?
Great question! I have never been asked that before. I love writing both fiction and non-fiction. When I was just starting out, and trying to find my way, I experimented with lots of styles and mediums. To an extent, I am still experimenting, still trying to find my niche. The great thing about journalism is that you can use it as a means to indulge your other interests. I always had a fascination with the supernatural and unsolved mysteries, so I concentrated mainly on those areas. I also love music. Music journalism gave me the chance to see the music industry in a whole new light. On a personal level I have been lucky enough to meet some of my musical heroes, and get a closer look at the creative process.
Practically speaking, there is generally much more money to be made writing for magazines and newspapers than fiction. I don’t want to sound mercenary about it, I am just being realistic. Anyone who knows the game will tell you that it is extremely hard to make any money from fiction. It takes a lot of time and effort, and I think that level of commitment should be rewarded.
Writing for magazines and newspapers is more of an exact science. You do the research, pace the article, and mimic the publication’s style and tone. In a way it can be restrictive, but the thing I like about writing articles most is uncovering information and looking at things from different perspectives. With fiction, you still have to adhere to the publisher’s guidelines (unless you self-publish), but there is much more freedom. Fiction brings a different kind of satisfaction. It is more artistic, I think. You create something from nothing. You start with a germ of an idea, and this eventually grows into a fully-fledged story. Then you can stand back and say to yourself, “Wow, I did that!”
Even though it pays less, my fiction has always caused more of a stir. When people read my work on websites or in magazines and newspapers, they generally just see the title of the publication. With fiction it is just you, standing alone, with nothing to hide behind.
Your latest novella, Devil’s Island, takes place off the coast of Scotland on a secluded chunk of land surrounded by rough seas. This gloomy, mysterious setting serves an important part in the story. It even feels, at times, as if the island itself is a main character in the book. What was the inspiration behind the setting in Devil’s Island?
I wanted to create somewhere menacing, and also wanted to use the idea of being cast away. There you are in a strange, unfamiliar environment. Something is very wrong, you can almost feel it, but you are stuck there, with no means of escape. The concept of ‘fight or flight’ is a recurring theme in the story. It is a primal human instinct. But on an island, you only have one choice.
Davon Rice, the main character in Devil’s Island, is an ex-soldier who is so desperate to find employment that he will agree to almost anything in order to climb out of his rut. When did the idea for this character come to you, and why?
One day I was thinking about our returning heroes. Those that sign up and go to serve in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places. They are invariably young and fit, and could do virtually anything with their lives. Yet they choose to serve their country, and often suffer some physical or psychological damage as a result which they have to learn to live with for the rest of their days. When they leave the forces, they are expected to just slot into this other world and get a job in Walmart or something. I was thinking about that adjustment they would have to make – from trained killing machine, to Ordinary Joe. Is it really so easy to switch from one to the other? I write horror stories, but war is the real horror.
Have you penned very many short stories? If so, where have they appeared and where can we find them?
Yes, I have written probably 40 or 50 short stories over the years, of which around half have been published in various places. My first published work, back in 1997, was a story called Monkeyman in a Welsh fiction magazine called Cambrensis. I drifted away from short stories for a few years while I concentrated mainly on music journalism, but returned with a vengeance a couple of years ago. In 2012, I had seven short stories published, most notably in the magazines Siren’s Call and Wicked Industries, and the anthologies Torn Realities, Denizen’s of the Dark and Fading Light. Recently, I was invited to contribute to an anthology called Urban Legends: A Friend of a Friend Told Me, which will be out in 2013, and have several other things in the pipeline. I am thinking about self-publishing a collection of stories at some point next year. If nothing else, that will enable me to officially ‘retire’ those stories and move on to other things.
Here’s something I discovered after you requested an interview with me, something I don’t think either of us realized beforehand: I was wondering why your name seemed familiar, and after doing a bit of research into your writing career, I recalled that your novella Apartment 14F was reviewed by a magazine for which I served as editor-in-chief, The Monsters Next Door. As I recall, the reviewer truly enjoyed the book and had nice things to say about it. Can you tell us a little about Apartment 14F?
Wow! Small world! Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story is my most successful story to date by far. I have had a lot of good feedback about it, and it is still the publisher’s (Damnation Books) second highest-selling title ever. There is actually an interesting back story to it. I live and work in China. I wrote Apartment 14F soon after I arrived here, when I found everything just damned weird! I wanted to capture that sense of isolation, of being different. Then I started thinking, in a situation where you are the outsider, where would you turn if something happened? The story was inspired in part by some pretty horrific nightmares I had around that time. There is one scene, when the lead character goes to see a fortune teller and she licks his palm, which was lifted straight from a dream. I just knew I had to use that somewhere!
Since we’ve discussed two of your three novellas, it would be silly not to touch on the topic of your other one, Dead Of Night. What is this book about?
In a word… Zombies! A frisky young couple go camping one weekend, and get much more action than they bargained for!
What advice would you give to a new writer, just starting out?
Trust your instincts, and don’t give up! Always be respectful to others, and try to learn from every piece of feedback you receive. Personally, I have learned far more from the negative comments than positive ones. Criticism hurts, but you have to develop a thick skin and not take it personally. You also have a responsibility, both to the craft and your readers. When you are demanding large chunks of their time and money, you have to give them something of value. Finally, remember that writers write!
I am a teacher now, and when my students tell me ‘class is over,’ I always reply, ‘class is NEVER over, because life is a lesson! You should learn something new every day.’
What are you working on right now?
I am in a bit of a purple patch just at the moment, the words are flowing. I have been working on several long-term projects that are just coming to fruition. Next month my first literary novel, Rainbow’s End, is being put out by Flarefont publishing. It is a semi-autobiographical story of a guy working a dead-end job in Wales who dreams of becoming a writer and traveling the world.
Elsewhere, I am just finishing a new novella, No Man’s Land, a horror story set in the trenches of World War I, and also the second volume of my as yet-unpublished YA adventure series about a time-travelling teenager, Joshua Wyrdd. I am also working on a ghost-writing project for a friend of mine who is a recovering stroke victim.
Where can we find you on the web?
All the usual places! I have recently started a blog, where people can contact me and catch up on my latest news:
I also write regular reviews for Morpheus Tales magazine. The reviews are in the supplement which can be downloaded for free here: