Welcome to Author Talk. Today I have the wonderful privilege interviewing Steve Harrison.
Please tell us a little about yourself and your background Steve
My name is Steve Harrison and I live in Sydney with my wife and daughter, although I was born and grew up in England and spent a few years in New Zealand before arriving in Australia. I started writing some 25 years ago with the usual short stories and a few soccer articles, followed by a long running weekly newspaper humour column, Harriscope: a mix of ancient wisdom and modern nonsense. For the last 10 years I have been writing feature screenplays and although none were produced, I did have a couple of exciting Hollywood meetings and one of the scripts was nominated for an Australian Writers’ Guild (Awgie) Award. Through all those years I worked on various drafts of my novel, TimeStorm, and despite many, many rejections, decided it would one day be published. The final draft, which I completed nearly two years ago, received a High Commendation at the Fellowship of Australian Writers’ National Literary Awards in the same week the book was bought by Elsewhen Press, a UK publishing company. Who says persistence doesn’t pay off! Now the goal is to turn this success into a career…
About You as a Writer
- What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To support myself and my family solely through writing.
- How long have you been writing?
For about 25 years. Initially, I wrote short stories and a few articles. Then a newspaper column and the first draft of my novel.
- Which writers inspire you?
I’m a big fan of Bernard Cornwell for his historical works; Stephen King, character development, Lee Child, action and David Mitchell for his all-round brilliance. Many others, too.
- Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
TimeStorm has been written over a long time and I initially thought Hugh Jackman would have made a terrific Kit Blaney, but now, years later, I’m thinking Henry Cavill (Superman) or Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) who has the right first name!
- What is the easiest thing about writing?
I don’t find anything easy about writing. I can’t even think about the least hard thing…
- How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It took 25 years to write TimeStorm, with a new draft every four or five years, but the latest should be done within a year.
- Do you ever get writer’s Block? If so, Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
I have constant writers’ block interspersed with occasional bouts of writing. I have to force myself to write, which is very odd as I love writing.
- Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.
I read all the time. In addition to those above, my favorites are CJ Sansom, CS Forrester, George Macdonald Fraser, JP Smith and many others.
- For your own reading, do you prefer e-books or traditional paper/hard back books?
I’m hooked on my Kobo eReader, despite fighting it for a long time.
- What & whose book/s are you reading at present?
I just finished The Swerve, a terrific non fiction work about the founding on the Renaissance by Stephen Greenblatt, and I’m now very much enjoying Lamentation, the latest Matthew Shardlake Tudor mystery by CJ Sansom.
- Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
I try to proofread, then my wife has a go and then my publisher does the final polish, thank goodness! The publisher told me it is very difficult for the writer to proof read and edit, because he or she sees what was meant and not what was written. I couldn’t agree more!
- Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
No, I edit as a I go along. I start a session by editing the previous session. I print it all out at the end and go through with a pen to make notes.
- When did you decide to become a writer? What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
I felt an urge to write suddenly in my early thirties and told a former friend I was going to write a book. He told me I never would, which gave me the drive to do it.
- Why do you write?
Because I am incapable of not writing.
- Do you write full-time or part-time? Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
Part time. With work, I find it difficult to write regularly during the week, so I try to have at least one four hour session on the weekend
- Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day? How successful are you at achieving that goal?
I don’t set goals. It’s about the content for me and I can be equally happy with one page or ten in a session.
- Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand? Do you use a special writing program, or just type away?
- Where do your ideas come from?
I believe there is an invisible entity feeding me the words when I get into the ‘zone’ and I am just taking dictation. It’s a very odd feeling.
- Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I outline in my head, as I’m a slave to any notes I write down and find it very hard to change anything. I find my writing is much more fluid if I have a general direction in mind.
- How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I don’t think my creativity has changed at all, only my ability to express it, which I think has improved dramatically.
- What is the hardest thing about writing?
Writing is by far the hardest thing about writing.
- What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Finding enough time to write.
- How do you market your books? Why did you choose this route?
My publisher is a very small company in the UK, so I do a lot of online marketing via Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus etc. It took a while to realise I was marketing to other writers, but since I joined and interacted with readers groups in the genres covered by my novel, I have seen sales increase and also made a lot of new friends.
- Would you or do you use a PR agency?
- Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
Be creative and look for opportunities. It’s very hard to poke your head above such a huge crowd of people competing for the same readers, so apply the same creativity to selling as you do to writing. It’s a lot of fun.
- What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
I market more than I write, I’m sad to admit.
- How do you relax?
Long walks with my wife. Reading. Watching TV.
- What is your favourite motivational phrase.
“Be scared and do it anyway.”
- What is your favourite positive saying?
- What is your favourite book and why?
That’s a cruel question. One book only? I’ll have to say The Stand by Stephen King. The perfect epic!
- What is your favourite movie and why?
Blues Brothers. The perfect comedy!
- Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
Working as a professional writer.
- What advice would you give to your younger self?
None. Let him suffer like I did!
- If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
The Stand. What an accomplishment!
Thanks Steve, an author with a great sense of humour! I also love your answer to “Where do you get your ideas from?” I think it is called Channelling. I know exactly what you mean, about it being an odd feeling. I do that all the time.
Now, let’s move on to learn About Your Books
- What genre are your books?
My only published book is TimeStorm, a thriller, action adventure, time travel, science fiction, historical romance novel.
- What draws you to this genre?
I figured at one book every 25 years, I should include as many genres as possible. But seriously, I don’t have a genre preference. I wrote nine unproduced feature screenplays, each in a different genre dictated by the story idea.
- How much research do you do?
For TimeStorm I did a great deal of research into Australia’s convict history. My current WIP, a YA science fiction story, is entirely made up, although it draws on my knowledge of and interest in history and alien conspiracy theories.
- Have you written any other books in collaboration with other writers? If so, with whom?
No books, though I do work with a writer/director partner on short films.
- What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
Self-publishing looks too much like hard work, so I certainly prefer having a traditional publisher to take care of all the publishing details.
- What do you do to get book reviews? How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
My publisher sends out press releases and has organised a number of reviews and I have been fortunate to receive many unprompted reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
- What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
Fortunately, all my reviews have been good – so far – so I like them! I’ll let you know how I feel when a bad one comes along…
- What’s your views on social media for marketing? Which social network worked best for you?
Facebook has been the best, by far. And Goodreads is very good too, if you take the time to interact with readers.
- Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
Participate in discussions and not just about your own book. Promoting others is always well received. All my fellow authors at Elsehwne are very supportive and we promote each others’ books. Don’t just drop an ad for your book on readers’ boards and disappear. It will get ignored and annoy potential readers.
- Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch or anything else to promote your work and did it work?
The publisher’s initial press release prompted a lot of sales and they publicise any reviews or other news, which always provides a sales spike. I’ve done two Goodreads giveaways, which raised the profile of the book, but didn’t do much in terms of direct sales. They were great fun, though, and I got a few nice reviews.
- Did you get interviewed by local press/radio for your book launch?
I couldn’t get much interest from the press and as I’m the UK publisher’s only Australian author, they don’t have the contacts here. It was a great pub launch, though, and I sold a bunch of copies.
- What do you think of “trailers” for books?
I’m not a fan of book trailers, mainly because they are books, not films.
- Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
I can’t see the point of giving away books. Sure, a lot of people will obtain your book, but how many because it’s free and how many because they have to read it? There’s an incentive to download it because it’s free, but no incentive to read it. I prefer readers who have enough interest to actually buy the book.
- What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t listen to advice. Or rather, never forget advice is opinion and always question it. (you can question that, too).
- Where do you see publishing going in the future?
There will always be a place for books and reading, though the delivery methods will vary. Despite all the visual entertainment available, nothing can compare with the pictures conjured up by your imagination when you peruse the written word.
Oh yes, I hear you loud and clear Steve! Your last answer is so my opinion too. Our mind is the best visual creator we have!
Now to move on to hear About Your Current Book TimeStorm.
- Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
My main character of TimeStorm is Kit Blaney, an officer on the 1795 convict transport ship, HMS Marlin. Transported through time to the present day, he must deal with the modern world, assist an ailing captain, command his panicked crew, fight rebelling convicts, evade police and the navy, battle an unscrupulous media baron and fall for a woman reporter. Believe me, he has his hands full!
- What are you working on at the minute?
A YA science fiction novel.
- What’s it about? (*if relevant)
It’s about an Earth girl who swaps places with an alien girl. What could possibly go wrong?
- Is this book part of a series? What are your thoughts on writing a book series.
It the first of a proposed series.
- Did you format your own book? In what formats is your book available?
TimeStorm is available in paperback and all eBook formats. Thanks to the publisher, Elsewhen Press!
- If formatted by someone else, how did you select them and what was your experience?
I was fortunate that Elsewhen bought the book and they did a fabulous job in every aspect of the process.
- Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about. Who designed your book cover/s?
Elsewhen invited my input on the cover and I had a vague idea in mind. I sent them a couple of images I found on the internet, particularly some seventeenth century sailing ship paintings. The final cover was designed by Alison Buck of Elsewhen Press and it is a stunning image that really captures the flavour of the novel.
- Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Absolutely. It should attract the potential buyer and interest them enough to check what the book is about.
- How are you publishing this book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both)
TimeStorm is traditionally published. I never considered self-publishing and kept rewriting until I found a publisher.
- How can readers discover more about you and you work?
The best place is my website. It has information of the book, buying links and several blog pieces related to TimeStorm and my writing process http://stormingtime.wordpress.com/
Book Title: TimeStorm
Genre: Action adventure, time slip, thriller, history, romance
ISBN: Paperback: 978-1-908168-44-3 – Ebook: 978-1-908168-54-2
Publisher: Elsewhen Press, UK
Author: Steve Harrison
Paperback / Hardback: Both!
Distributor/Seller: Paperback available in bookshops in the UK & US and Amazon, online in Australia via Gleebooks http://www.gleebooks.com.au/CatalogueRetrieve.aspx?ProductID=9519001 or via the publisher at http://elsewhen.alnpetepress.co.uk/index.php/catalogue/title/timestorm/
Ebook available from Amazon UK, AUS, CAN, US & elsewhere, Kobo, Nook, Apple iBooks, Google etc
Book Cover: Artwork by Alison Buck, based on photograph by http://shutterstock.com
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Steve-Harrison/e/B00MXY9BKQ/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
Booklinks: Paperback https://stormingtime.wordpress.com/buy-paperback/
Ebook https://stormingtime.wordpress.com/buy-ebook/ Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/418568.Steve_Harrison
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview. I look forward to reading your Time Storm and hearing more about your current book. It sounds very intriguing.