Hi Stuart, and thanks for agreeing to this interview! I know you’re busy getting Memory of Water ready for publication and also it’s Christmas, but I do appreciate you taking the time to answer my nosy questions.
Anyway, without further ado…
Your published writing:
What made you decide to go the self-publishing route?
Without a doubt, it was Penelope Fletcher, author of Demon Girl. I invited her to talk at a writing group I founded and she was so inspiring I thought I’d give it a try. Also, I’m a bit of a control freak and I wanted to get my story out there with my own cover and book trailer. If it did badly, I’d only have myself to blame.
What have been the most rewarding things about going it alone?
For me it was knowing that I did all the hard work myself. When Body of Water went to #1 on Amazon UK’s gay fiction chart and stayed there for three weeks I almost exploded with pride. I also enjoy a much bigger slice of the royalties, let’s not forget that.
And what’s been the hardest?
Trying to crack the US market. I sell four times as many copies in the UK than I do in the US and I have no idea why. I like to think it’s because UK readers are willing to try something new but I doubt I’ll ever really know.
Do you think you’ll stick with self-publishing in the future?
Certainly for The Orcadian Novels, yes. I’ve had a good experience with a publisher for a co-written novella so I’d consider submitting in the future but right now I’m happy to go it alone.
Do you have any advice for authors contemplating self-publishing?
Keep reading your work in as many formats as possible and don’t commit to self publishing in print until you’re sure you’ve nuked all those typos. It is possible to correct them once you’re in print but it’s a pain. Correcting your eBook is a doddle but it’s better to get it right on the first edition.
Which character/s did you have the most fun writing?
In Body of Water, I enjoyed writing Tammie and Maggs. Tammie is one of the few people that shows Leven any kindness and Maggs, for all her blustering, has his interests at heart. People are responding to Dom and Maggs the most. Dom is the big, brooding type and Maggs is a fidgeting pub landlady.
Dom’s dialect is beautifully written. How did you get yourself immersed in the Scots dialect?
I’m glad that you liked it because at least one reader wasn’t keen on it at all. On the whole, people like it. Dom’s accent was much thicker but one of my friends told me that she just couldn’t understand him in one crucial scene so I went back through the book and found a spot to tone it down. There’s a good reason why Dom’s accent is more difficult for Leven to understand than the other islanders but I haven’t revealed that yet. For research I read every single comic strip of The Giddy Limit to get a feel for the accent and then built up a spreadsheet to help me translate Dom’s speech. Thankfully, he’s a man of few words.
What would you say are the ingredients of a typical Stuart Wakefield story?
Action and adventure. I also love a bit of mystery, pain, and gore. I’m a total movie junkie so I enjoy writing anything that would require a special effect if it was on screen. I just have gay leads for a change. Who says a gay guy can’t kick the crap out of a monster or gun down a few aliens?
Are there any of your published stories you plan to write sequels to?
Body of Water was intended to be a stand-alone book but it’s a series now so the next two are in progress. Together they are known as The Orcadian Novels.
Which is your favourite of your covers, and why?
I adore the melancholy tone of Memory of Water and I think it sums up the theme of looking back at your life, dealing with your regrets, and knowing that you can’t go back and make some things right even though you’d love to. There’s still plenty of adventure to be had but the personal cost for all involved is very heavy indeed.
Do you have a preference for writing in first or third person, and why?
I like first person because I’m easily confused with POV in third person, if I’m being completely honest. I can do it but it just seems like a minefield. I have a sci-fi novel on the back burner that’s third person so that will be my first serious stab at it.
Do you leave any particular types of scenes out of your first drafts? Do you find yourself having to go back and make yourself write certain bits?
I think I write like an animator draws. They draw a few key frames and then go back and fill in the movements that join the key frames together. That’s exactly what I do. Unfortunately, I don’t enjoy the in-between stuff so much so that takes commitment to sit down and power through.
Are you disciplined in your writing routine, or are you a procrastinator?
I try to write every day but I tend to write the most when the mood really takes me. I have furious bursts of activity but I’m always thinking about the book even if I’m not physically writing it.
What comes first: setting, character, plot or theme?
Character first, plot and setting come next (together). I don’t think about theme when I’m writing because everyone will take what they need from it. So much of what you pick up on is based on where you are in your life when you read a book that I can’t imagine manufacturing a theme. I can look back at my own work and see themes but at the time it’s an ephemeral thing.
Do you have a pile of stories you’ve started but given up on, or do you tend to follow through with what you start before moving on to the next one?
I have dozens of snippets squirreled away that I may or may not use but once I start in earnest I stick with one.
Readers and reviews:
Do you read your reviews, and why?
Absolutely. I think a well-written review is key to understanding what’s working and what isn’t. I ‘liked’ a 3-star review of Body of Water on Goodreads and the guy who wrote it was a bit surprised because he had pulled some of it apart but I valued him for having written such a long and detailed review. What more could I have asked for?
What’s your most memorable bit of fanmail?
Someone once posted a ‘thank you’ on my site and it finished with “it makes a gay guy like myself proud to be gay” which made me very emotional indeed.
Do you ever make any concessions to what you know readers want when you’re writing?
I felt under pressure to have lots of sex in Body of Water. There’s one more sex scene in it than I’d have liked so I won’t do that again with Memory of Water. Right now it has one sex scene and an attempted rape but it’s all in keeping with the plot and characters. There is a spot for another but that will mean some serious ramifications going forwards so I’m treading carefully.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a published writer?
For me it’s having someone’s face light up when I answer the “so, what do you do?” question. Let’s face it, it’s a damn sight more interesting than telling them I’m an IT Systems Analyst!
What got you started writing m/m romance?
I’m still not entirely sure I am a M/M Romance writer. Body of Water has a strong romantic aspect to it but I feel it’s more about Leven’s heroic journey. He’s left with plenty of unanswered questions but he does end up with the answer to whether or not he can find someone to love who also loves him back. Having said that, I can’t help but be a die-hard romantic so my books will always have a significant element of romance in them.
Are there any tropes or genres you’re itching to have a go at writing?
Without a doubt, sci-fi. Give me a summer blockbuster and I’m a happy boy so expect to see a massive sci-fi novel from me in the future with all my favourite tropes wedges in for good measure. I want it to be a pulpy, sexy ride.
Which writers have most inspired you, both within and outside your genre?
I grew up reading Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, Shakespeare, Orson Scott Card, Jilly Cooper, and Carrie Fisher. At least, they’re the ones that I remember having an effect on me. I was more into comics than books as a kid. As an adult I got into Harry Potter and Twilight but now I’m venturing into M/M Romance and I’m digging Clare London, Eric Arvin, and you! You’ve all inspired me in different ways.
What do you think are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?
I’m crisp when I write so that brings my word count down to about 60k. My books zip along at quite a pace so it’s unlikely that they’ll ever be particularly thick. Some people like that and some don’t so I keep my book prices as low as possible. I reinvest whatever I make back into them so I’ll hire an editor in the future and get designers for the cover and interior when I eventually collect The Orcadian Novels into one special edition.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on the edits for Isali Dreams, a sci-fi novella co-written with Zahra Owens, and I’m on the final edit of Memory of Water. I finished the first draft of Spirit of Water in November so that will be next.
Any other upcoming projects you want to tell us about?
I’ve just mentioned Isali Dreams which should be out in the spring. Memory of Water might be out before then but I’d rather get it right than get it out. After that it will be Spirit of Water and I’ll get cracking on my sci-fi story.
And finally, if you could go back in time and meet your sixteen-year-old self, what single piece of advice would you give them?
Go to the gym! I didn’t start working out until I was 38 and now, at 40, I look and feel better than I ever have.
Thanks Stu – you answered every single question, which I definitely wasn’t expecting! I wonder if your sixteen year old self would have approved of the Superman T-shirts I know you have a fondness for?!
So everyone, fire away with any other questions you have for Stuart – I know he loves a natter
For more about Stuart visit his website and blog.