I approached author Tim Reed to ask him some questions for my fantasy newsletter. He graciously agreed to the interview and to sharing it with you here. Tim is from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, in the United Kingdom. He self-published his fantasy novel, “Everlace: Knives of the Night”, which was released for publication on July 20, 2006.
Mary: What is your writing background, and when did you first consider yourself a writer?
Tim: I have grown up with writing, to the extent of school and creative writing at university. I have read a lot of fiction, which I cannot reiterate enough the importance of. To consider yourself a writer is a matter of confidence, ability and manuscript. I think I have always considered myself a writer since I studied A-level English and then at university, but when I finished my novel is when I knew I could call myself an author.
Mary: Who or what has influenced your writing, and how?
Tim: My father has influenced my writing the most, in that he instilled a love for literature and language from an early age. Being a schoolteacher he also helped me develop a broad vocabulary. Even though the media can be a horrendous influence, I have to admit that it has helped me immensely in fantasy; be it with books, films, television, computer and board games. If you learn to focus on one area then there is a lot of influence and information you can glean.
Mary: Has your environment and/or upbringing impacted your writing?
Tim: Once again, as I answered before, my father impacted my writing, as did the fact that I let no one stifle my imagination through my adolescence. It helped visiting my grandparents in the country. There’s nothing more inspiring for writing, and writing fantasy, than the country.
Mary: Do you use an outline?
Tim: When I started my novel, I was young and naïve, and just started writing with the minimum of an outline. Then I found out it was foolish and chaotic. Everyone should have an outline of some sorts, but it differs from person to person on how detailed it should be; and of course you don’t need to stick valiantly to it. You should still write fluently. Personally I’ll look at my plan at the start of each chapter, and then generally write without it until the next one, unless I have to refer to it.
Mary: What conditions do you need to write?
Tim: Having quiet is always handy, though I’ve learned to adjust in the different houses I’ve lived in. I used to write with classical music in the background, but do it less and less nowadays.
Mary: I know you are currently writing the second book of Everlace. Do you have any other projects you are working on?
Tim: I’m taking a proofreading course to become qualified as a proofreader and look for work afterwards. Also have a potential film project with an associate around the corner. I have a prequel book underway as well, and am working on some spoken word cds for my first book with my housemate.
Mary: Do you believe in the “muse”?
Tim: I think the idea of the muse is one based more on romance than fact. Personally the closest I would have to a muse is nature and its effect on me. I wouldn’t ever blame writers block on its absence though.
Mary: What are your thoughts on “writer’s block”
Tim: I think it does happen, though writers do tend to use it as an excuse sometimes when they’re being lazy or apathetic to their work. I think the more stuff you have on your mind, and the busier you are with other things, the more likely it is to happen. Focus and delegation is the key.
Mary: Do you have a favorite quote about writing?
Tim: ‘Salve to thy sores: apt words have power to swage
The tumors of a troubled mind,
And are as balm to festered wounds’. – John Milton(1671)
Mary: What is the target audience for Everlace?
Tim: It is geared for young adults. So 11-16 year-olds, though accessible for older readers also.
Mary: You have a very complex magic system, with Wizards, Enchanters, Necromancers, Warlocks, Sorcerors, Hags, and more, all with their own unique magic style. How do you keep them all straight?
Tim: I read once that in fantasy, and in magic systems, that every magic has to have flaw or a downfall, because if it is perfect magic then anything can be done and the story loses all tension and interest. Taking it on board I made each magic user have a flaw or limit to what their magic can do. Sorcerors for example can tap into a small percentage of the Gods magic, but it has sent them mad with its usage. Wizards can only use Grimoire(book) magic, Enchanters risk zombification if they summon monsters beyond their ability, and so on. You can have a lot of magic in a book, but as long as you don’t let the magic become the book you’re all right.
Mary: Does the protagonist, Rydal, share any characteristics with you?
Tim: Indeed he does, though unconsciously until I read the book back to myself, and a friend commented on it. The quiet nature and naïveté in certain situations would attribute itself to me.
Mary: Is there a message in your novel?
Tim: Of course. Every monster and race has its own background, own intentions. How do sheltered people deal with the world around them, and with their own gifts, weaknesses, and with threatening and huge forces.
Mary: Why did you choose to self-publish your book?
Tim: It was almost made for me. I was coming to the end of writing it, and my father sat me down and said that he’d found a self publishing group than ran like a normal publisher. I said forget it as I didn’t have money to pay for it, but he said he’d take a loan out to pay for it, as he had faith in my ability. I checked them out and they were reputable. I thought as the opportunity’s there, take it, instead of waiting years to get replies from mainstream publishers. This way I get a foothold in the industry at an early age.
Mary: Is self-publishing what you expected?
Tim: Pretty much. I’m lucky in that my publisher still does a lot for me contractually, but it is a case of you get out what you put in. It’s far more hands on and you get a big say in everything. The production side was generally sound as well.
Mary: What was the process like?
Tim: There was a year of editing and production after signing the contract, both from the publisher and me. Then cover designs, marketing plans, consultations, contacts, etc. in a big rush. I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit overwhelming, but that’s only natural. Writers tend to be insular, humble people, and with self publishing it takes you out of your comfort zone, which is excellent for your growth.
Mary: Would you recommend the same method for other writers?
Tim: It depends. Self publishing is becoming more and more viable, with the eradication of vanity publishers who rip people off. If you have the money then yes, as mainstream publishers are increasingly using self published companies as tools to pick up talent. That’s what it’s like in England anyway, I can’t speak for the US.
Mary: Will you publish your second book the same way?
Tim: That also depends. If a big publisher comes along offering a book deal then I’d be a fool to refuse, and my publishers wouldn’t hinder me anyway, but if not, and I make enough money or can take out a loan, then yes.
Mary: What steps have you taken to publicize your book?
Tim: You use an umbrella effect. The most effective way to publicize your book is by word of mouth surprisingly, not advertising, although it helps. I have sent press releases and books to local newspapers, radio, schools, arranged book signings in Ottakars, Waterstones and Borders. Got business cards, posters and flyers to put up in relevant businesses. Approached published authors for reviews(little success as yet), and generally become my book so to say, and opened my mouth. It’s not as hard as I thought to get contacts.
Mary: What other hobbies do you have?
Tim: I’m a good sportsman, playing soccer and cricket. Have an interest in mythology, religion, poetry, walking, theatre, art, computer games and films. I go to church and visit my family whenever I can.
Mary: Do these influence your writing?
Tim: Mythology and religion certainly do. Greek, Egyptian, Aztec, Norse and Arthur myth are perfect for ideas on characters, monsters and settings, as is reading the bible. Computer games and film do as well. Final Fantasy and Spirited Away are prime examples.
Mary: What are you reading now?
Tim: I’m reading ‘Dusk’ by Tim Lebbon
Mary: What does your family feel about your writing?
Tim: They are in full support, and wish me to fulfill every ambition I have. My dad especially takes an interest in my work, and has helped me edit it in the past. He gets a deserved mention in my acknowledgements.
Mary: Are you a member of any writing groups or websites?
Tim: I have a myspace account and have joined its various fantasy groups. I have recently joined the British Fantasy Society as well.
Mary: I asked my newsletter readers if they had any questions for a self-published fantasy author.
strange_wulf: What do you recommend as a good ‘frequency’ for writers? That is, how often should I write? Once a week? Every day? What’s a good starting pace for novices?
Tim: I think that is an individual perspective, though I would try and write each day, even if it’s only a few words. And if not able to write, then read back some of your work instead. It is tough to return to something if you leave it too long. Getting into a rhythm is essential for good novel writing.
breezy-e: Do you think that self-publishing would be better than traditional publishing if you’re living overseas from the country you’re trying in?
Tim: No, I don’t think it would. Self publishing usually tries locally first and then expands. It would be hard to immediately try and sell it in a different company, though not impossible. It depends on the country’s rights buyers, etc.
crazyjbyrd: Which one do you like better, Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?
Tim: Without question Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter is a cleverly marketed book, but Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece of literature.
Mary: What advice do you have for other writers?
Tim: An old cliché, but don’t give up. It is hard to get established, but it doesn’t stop less intelligent people getting into sport or films. Know what your message is at all times, and try and create your own style quickly, but don’t be afraid to use other writers for inspiration. There is no such thing as original work nowadays. Everything has been done in some form, just make sure you put your own spin on your work, and make your characters strong, as they can carry dialogue for you when not much is happening, and keep the book lively.
Mary: Anything else you’d like to say?
Tim: Too many people bleed imagination out of folk in modern day society. Don’t let cynics and culture do it to you. If possible also, get a background in business of some sort, so you’re not walking blind when trying to make your book viable.
Mary: Take an opportunity to plug your book.
Tim: Everlace is a teenage fantasy quadrilogy set in a fictional world, based around 17 year old Rydal’s quest for vengeance. The world mixes dreams and reality, and Rydal’s gift means he can traverse the dreamworld and affect events in the real world. It has elements of horror and mythology, and is an energetic and challenging novel, influenced by The Lord of the Rings.
Thank you for the questions and interview, it helped me as much as you I’m sure.
Mary: Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule for the interview, and for the thought that went into your responses. I enjoyed this very much.