It gives me great pleasure to profile a fellow alumni of the University College of Wales. I have a forgiving nature despite the fact that Cardiff kidnapped our Aberystwyth Student Union leader back in the late 1980's. I think the battle between the colleges rages on still but we all stick together anyway. So welcome to K T Bowes' Library Corner...and no hard feelings.
. 1. Hi, Dan! Could you start by introducing yourself and telling us a bit about your work?
Hey, Kate. Thank you for having me on your blog. Daniel Parsons is not a pen name. I may live to regret that in the future, but I couldn’t settle on an alias. I’m twenty-one, live in the South Wales valleys, UK, and have written stories for fun since I was about nine. So I guess becoming a writer was inevitable. I did an English Literature degree at Cardiff University and published a Christmas novella called The Winter Freak Show while in my last year. I loved the experience so much I immediately began planning a full-size fantasy novel for Kindle. That developed into my new release, Blott, and brings my story up to date.
2. What inspired you to pursue a career in writing?
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve always loved it. My uncle has been a children’s author since I was small, so I guess he was a role model for me. And I found that a lot of my favourite teachers at school were artsy types. Gravitating towards them meant that their passions for fiction rubbed off on me. One of the earliest points at which I felt the thrill of having someone show an interest in my work was when I was eleven. Two English teachers were discussing their pupils’ short stories when I saw one gesture to my work. That was when I overheard her whisper, ‘this one has potential.’ That comment must have made a lasting impression on me because I still remember it a decade later.
3. When it comes to writing a book, do you plan the whole plot in advance or dive right in and hope the story develops?
It’s a mixture of both methods to be honest. I plan a little bit, but only the big plot points – betrayals, twists, character deaths – because I like to leave subtle clues throughout the story that hint to what might happen later. But I don’t plot too extensively as I find that, if a plan is too detailed, it tends to quash my enthusiasm when it comes to the writing. I like to have the freedom to include new ideas and go off on tangents if I need to, but I also like to know the general direction in which the story is heading. So it’s a balance between producing a good, clever story and keeping the process fun. Because what’s the point of doing your dream job if you’re not having any fun along the way?
4. What kind of research do you do before writing? Do you travel, interview people, or just use Google?
It depends what I’m working on. As I write a lot of fantasy and science fiction, I don’t need to do as much research as, say, an author of medical thrillers. Although, I have to look up some things. Google Maps and Street View help me to research how locations look but the internet can’t tell me how things feel. For that, I travel a bit. My favourite form of research usually comes as a thrill-seeking activity. I remember doing the world’s highest commercial bungee jump in Macau, partly because I love that sort of thing, but also because I wanted to feel the sensation of free-fall. It turned out that the real thing was totally different to what I imagined and I had to rewrite an entire section of a story where a character jumped out of an exploding helicopter. Best research I ever did.
5. What is your writing schedule like? Do you try to hit a certain word count every day?
When I’m in writing mode I aim to get down 1500 words every day until the first draft of a book is complete. That doesn’t mean that I actually write every day – sometimes life gets in the way – but I manage it most days and the momentum stops me losing enthusiasm for the story and scrapping it before it’s finished.
6. Did writing your first book expose a lot of gaps in your knowledge?
Well my first successful attempt at a novel took four years. I started at fifteen and finished at nineteen, so my grammar and writing style changed continuously throughout that period. The story was never published but it taught me exactly what was required for my later books. In my opinion, the rules people teach you only provide you with a basic writing ability. You learn more by encountering problems in your own work and then learning how to overcome them by seeing what other people did in the same situation. Experience is the best teacher.
7. Increasingly, writers are collaborating on novels to gain readers. Is this something you would consider?
I used to think that the idea of co-writing a story would be horrible. Two writers with two different styles and different ideas about where the story should go sounds like a recipe for disaster. But, on reflection, working on a project with someone else could be fun as long as the general plot is agreed upon before any actual writing starts. Having someone to share your enthusiasm for a project would make the whole experience a lot more fun. Plus, if it gets you a few extra readers, I don’t see a downside. I just wouldn’t want to end up with a clunky book that is a compromise between two opposing idea that neither writer is happy to call their work.
8. Does marketing play a part in your work? If so, what do you do to promote yourself?
I enjoy my work regardless of sales figures, but I wouldn’t be able to do it without a degree of commercial success. Because of that, I’ve had to become a sort of writer-entrepreneur, particularly online. I usually spend a minimum of two hours per day on Twitter, growing my account and talking to other writers, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers, and bloggers. On top of that, I pay for professional advertising whenever I offer a book giveaway. Luckily, I enjoy the business side of my work almost as much as the actual writing process.
9. What is your best tip for new writers?
Simple writing is more impressive to a reader than pages of dense language. This seems to be something that a lot of people tend to get wrong when they start out, particularly when writing fantasy or science fiction. I know I did. Writers tend to have a vast vocabulary and they like to show it off. The odd decorative word can really make a sentence pop if it’s used in the right way, but packing phrases full of adjectives can make the reading experience challenging and, often, boring. Less is more, especially if your intention is to write a page-turner.
10. Do you have any big news or new projects you want to share with us?
My Christmas fantasy ebook, The Winter Freak Show, is free on Amazon until the 18th December. This is the second time I’ve offered a free giveaway for this book, but it seems to be quite popular with readers at this time of year. It got into the top 300 in the US free Kindle chart for the first time the other day, which I’m ecstatic about.
My newest title, Blott, was just released. It’s my first full-length novel I’ve published so I’m thrilled just to see it on Amazon. If people like it, I’m planning to expand it into an epic series called The Canvas Chronicles.
My Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Daniel-Parsons/e/B00HOLSWIU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1418653740&sr=8-2
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