Paul Blake Author Interview
Paul Blake is a fellow alumni of the Open University creative writing course (A215), although not my cohort. I first found out about Paul Blake via twitter, we share some common interests. His book A Young Man’s Game is an awesome take on modern spy thrillers. So I was very pleased when he jumped at the offer to do an author interview.
His latest book, A Few Hours After This, is out today. Go buy a copy!
Paul Blake Author Interview
How long have you been writing for and what made you start writing?
I’ve been writing since 2016. I was doing an Open University Degree in ICT, and doing pretty badly to be honest. I was fine with the theory behind concepts and how they were used in real situations, but when it came time to actually put what I had been taught into practise I found I couldn’t learn or retain any programming languages. I also struggled with any exams, but that was a factor I was well aware of from my old schooldays.
I muddled through and found that I had two modules to do before the university fees tripled, however I had run out of new ICT modules. I had the choice of going back and trying the ones I had failed or changing the degree and trying something different to get the fabled degree certificate. As I had took on the degree simply to have it rather than any future career aspirations. I decided to change the degree to an Open Degree and looked for modules that seemed interesting and more importantly didn’t have exam components. I saw Creative Writing on there and thought I’d give it a go. My first assignment was a 500 words short story and surprisingly I smashed it, and more importantly I found it fun. Rather than eeking out half-assed work the day before a deadline I was completing assignments with weeks to go. A total culture shock for me.
Do you write for a living, or do you also do other work?
I wish I wrote for a living, there’s not a lot of writers that do. I’m a stay at home dad during the week and work two twelve hour shifts Friday and Saturday night in an out of hours emergency call centre.
Were you always good at telling stories, or has it come to you as an adult?
I’ve never been a storyteller. With jokes I’m more of a wry observationist than the long drawn out story with the killer punchline. It’s definitely something that was hidden in me until it came out one day. Like a superpower, I guess.
Were you good at English in school?
I was okay. I found reading and analysing the classics so boring, however I enjoyed the basic plots. Long flowery language and descriptions used to, and still do, put me off. In my own writing I try for a much more ‘punchy’ stuff. Quicker paced, while still sprinkling in a little glitter here and there.
What do you read for enjoyment?
Following on from the previous question, I still cannot read any classics, however this has spread to most ‘literary’ work too. I like the books I read to quickly draw me in and entertain and excite me until the end. My favourite authors are Tom Clancy, David Morrell, Nick Harkaway, and Neal Stephenson.
Since starting writing I have been reading a lot of Independent authors that I met on Twitter and there are a hell of a lot of authors out there producing outstanding work. I’m going to name drop a few here that I highly recommend as they definitely deserve a wider audience.
- Sean McMahon, author of Fir Lodge and The Dark Restarter;
- Bill Aicher, author of The Unfortunate Expiration of Mr David S. Sparks;
- M. N. Seeley, author of A Flicker of Shadows; and
- Micah Thomas, author of The Little Demons Inside.
Your Crisis Point is a pretty good read too lol. All of these writers have written stories that, in my opinion, deserve to be on the bestsellers list. Each have different styles of writing but the imagination and quality of their work is second to none. Sean McMahon’s The Dark Restarter is one of my favourite books of all time.
What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?
Don’t go into writing to make money, very few of us do make much at all. But if you have a story to tell get it written. It doesn’t have to be perfect immediately, that’s what the editing process is for. You don’t have to aim for a novel sized piece of work to begin with. Writing flash and short fiction (stories between 100 and 10,000 words) are great ways to develop your writing style, experiment with genres and techniques, and build up a portfolio of work.
I highly recommend picking up a few books on the process of writing. David Morrell’s Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing has been a huge help for me. A lot of people recommend Stephen King’s On Writing. I have it, but found it a struggle to get past the first 100 pages. I prefer my writing ‘textbooks’ to be short and easily searchable to find the information I need quickly.
The most important piece of advice I can give is to make sure you backup your work. I use Dropbox which automatically backs up anything I save in a folder to the cloud. I think Google Drive does the same as well.
What is the most useful advice you’ve been given?
Write for yourself. Write the story you want to read. Don’t follow trends because by the time you’ve finished the book the trend would have moved on. Oh, get on twitter and start making connections. Don’t just use it as a marketing platform. Engage with people, learn from other writers and you’ll quickly build up a valuable support network which helps in such a lonely ‘job’.
What is the strangest advice you’ve been given?
I’m not sure it is strange, but the worst advice I ever read was that an author needs to spend a minimum of $3,000 on an editor. An editor is undoubtedly an important part of getting a book polished, but three thousand bucks? That’s a new old car or an all-inclusive holiday somewhere warm over winter. I may have mentioned this a few times already but a lot of authors don’t sell a lot of books. Chances are your book will never recoup that money.
A lot of what an editor does can be done by the author and their beta readers. Once the book or story is written leave it alone for a while, until you can read it with fresh eyes. Go through it and you’ll spot areas that need improving, plot holes, weird character name choices (which does happen. In my novel I had a character called Roger Rogers. I didn’t realise until I was editing as I hadn’t used his first name with the surname in the text. Roger is a minor supporting character, his wife Claudia plays a much greater role. In the book I’d have people calling her Mrs Rogers and I didn’t put two and two together until the editing process.)
How do you deal with the stranger reviews?
*Touches wood* I haven’t had any strange reviews. All mine have been very positive and any criticism, although wrong of course :wink:, I can kinda see their point.
Who do you write for?
I write for myself. An idea will pop up, either in response to a prompt or to a random thought flittering in my head and I’ll mull it over looking for something that would interest me to write about.
What sort of things do you write?
My novel, A Young Man’s Game, is a spy thriller, and most of my short stories have a thriller element to them, hopefully an excitement and pace to drive the reader forward. In my short story collection A Few Hours After This there are sci-fi stories, action thrillers, historical fiction stories and a type of story, I’m not sure of the name, possibly called allegories, where they are set in this world using real-life situations and sometimes real life people to convey a message or evoke an emotion.
Do you do much research? If so what is your favourite source?
It depends on the story. Generally I’ll say yes. A lot of research. I use Google Maps and Streetview to track the journeys of my characters and describe locations. I use Google Images to get an image of a location, person, or object. I use Wikipedia a lot to get a basic understanding of concepts and history and then if necessary for the story, or even the sentence I’m working on, research deeper. Youtube videos are a great tool as well. I once spent a couple of hours watching German U-Bahn trains pulling into various stations in Berlin to aid my description of the boarding process and also see the station to help with my descriptions.
For A Young Man’s Game I also took a two night trip to Berlin to follow in my character’s footsteps to ensure I got details correct, and pick up on anything smells, large crowds, interesting architecture that I couldn’t get through the internet. I also use websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp to get an idea of a restaurant or an attraction good and bad points, and the photos people put online on those sites are really useful too.
What do you have in the drawer? (i.e. written but not yet published)
I’m currently working on a modern-day Ninja novel. Very early days though, and a sequel to A Young Man’s Game is bouncing around my head at the moment as I look for the right angle to go with.
Describe your writing process, what, where, when and how please?
I write at my pokey little desk in the corner of my living room, on a stool that is slightly too big for the desk so I have to have a foot propped up on a stack of books to balance the keyboard on my lap. The desk is a magnet for any junk, letters, my wife’s makeup and jewellery, mugs, ‘we missed you cards’ from the Post Office, and everything else that finds it way there. It is definitely not one of those pristine workspaces posted on Instagram and Twitter, with a cute little pot plant and plenty of space.
All my work is typed directly on to computer, I’ve tried notepads but by the time I find a pen on my desk that works the idea or thought has gone. I use my phone to text or email myself story ideas or plots if I’m out and about.
What is your best method or website for promoting your books?
Getting a following on Twitter has been great, not just one to buy my books but by engaging with people and building relationships they help to promote my work and are my biggest cheerleaders.
Where can we read your words?
All my work is available on Amazon in ebook and paperback format.
My novel A Young Man’s Game, which James reviewed and gave a 4 out 5 rating here – https://www.themself.org/2018/12/young-mans-game-review/ (thank you very much) is available here: http://getbook.at/AYoungMansGame.
My short story collection A Few Hours After This comes out on 26th April 2019 and is available here: http://mybook.to/FewHoursEbook. This collection contains 27 stories that I have written since 2016, including a couple of new ones just for this collection. Each story has been remastered and revamped.
I also have a short short story collection Love in the Mind, which contains two exclusive stories (and which are both very good) here http://mybook.to/LoveInTheMind.
The links above look a little funny, I know, but they take you to your local Amazon store, say Amazon.com if you’re in the US or Amazon.co.uk if you’re UK based, without having to give a load of different links to the various Amazon stores out there.
I also have a website – http://paulblakeauthor.com where I post updates about my writing, and articles on writing I’ve found useful.
You can also find me on Twitter https://twitter.com/paulblakeauthor so feel free to say “Hi!”