CHRISTIAN SMITH

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world.
Welcome to CHRISTIAN SMITH.


Christian Smith – Writer and Traveller

Christian, what’s your connection with Betterwrite?
Betterwrite provided a development edit and copy-edit for my very first novel, Hunting For Caracas, a contemporary thriller. I was delighted that they agreed to work with me. The whole process was a great experience.

Tell us about your work.
I’m a private chef, currently working between Switzerland and the south of France. Writing has now taken over all my spare time.

What writing are you doing, or planning, at the moment?
After publishing my first book, the plan is to keep going. My first draft of Hunting For Caracas was so long I had to remove one side of the story. That’s now become its own book, and it’s nearly finished. I also have most of the outline for two sequels to HFC. And I’m working on a cookbook. Now I just need to find some time to write them!

What do you like about your writing?
The freedom of it, both in being able to do it anywhere, and that it’s a creative outlet for my imagination.

What don’t you like?
Olives. They taste like licking a battery.

Have you got a personal bugbear?
Nothing springs to mind.

What has pleased you in your work?
Working with editors on a story I created from absolutely nothing. Also finishing a full book, with a beginning, middle, end and everything, and enjoying it so much that I went straight onto the next project.

What didn’t please you?
Constantly having to stop writing and go back to work. It can be difficult to find time and motivate yourself. In my experience, there’s such an enormous process between having an idea for a story and having the completed book on file on your computer.

What amused you?
I was surprised by the insecurity I felt sending my work to an editor for the first time. It took years to get my story together, writing whenever I could, then I suddenly realised, “I have no real idea if this is any good! If they just laugh and send it back, this is a colossal waste of time.”

Whose writing do you enjoy?
Roald Dahl would be one, who gets extra points for being a fighter pilot. Eeeeeveryone says Shakespeare (can’t think why …). George R.R. Martin is another. But finding new favourite authors is perhaps the most enjoyable thing.

Favourite title?
I honestly don’t have one. It changes so often.

What do you like about George R.R. Martin’s writing?
I love the effort he puts into his plotting, and the twists he creates. Of course, Shakespeare was good at this too. When I read a story I never try to figure out where it’s going, or what the secret might be. I just let it wash over me. When an unexpected twist hits you it’s the best, and the more you read, the harder it is for an author to surprise you. It’s a great skill.

Give us a quote.
“To be or not to be” – just kidding.
How about:
“The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass”,
from the poem ‘The Guy In The Glass’ by Dale Wimbrow.

What’s your favourite word in English?
I quite like furious.

Any other quotes?
I’d happily quote the whole poem the above quote comes from.

Favourite saying?
“Learn by doing” and “Less haste, more speed”.

Apart from work, what plans or ambitions have you got?
Travel, travel and travel. The world is an ace place. I love just being outside, whatever the weather, doing stuff and meeting people.

How will you do that?
Quit my job, win the lottery (or rob a bank), live the dream. Obviously.

What have you learned about life?
Don’t take it too seriously. We all come and go. Do what makes you happy. And England are NEVER gonna win the World Cup again.

What have you learned about people?
I’ve learned that 99.9% of people are good and kind and just trying to find their way.

Tell us something quirky about yourself.
I used to be a firefighter.

Finish with a story, true or false, with beginning, middle and end, up to 30, 60 or 120 words.

    A Very Good Day

When I wake up it’s raining. I love the rain, so I go for a long run. In the afternoon, I have lunch with my wife. We have no plans, so we just sit and drink all afternoon, talking absolute nonsense. (41)

COLBOURNE MILLER

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world.
Welcome to COLBOURNE MILLER.


Colbourne, what’s your connection with Betterwrite?
Betterwrite helped me with the editing of my novel Creaking Floorboards.

Tell us about your work.
I started writing Creaking Floorboards over ten years ago, then it took me five years to get it to print. Life intervened! However, with my fingers firmly crossed, I’m determined to publish the two follow-on instalments of The Trials and Tribulations of Ian Wills later this year. Ian Wills is a forthright man, a self-proclaimed ‘Ancient Briton’, a total Marmite character. Ian is navigating the rocky road through middle age, and he shares with the reader his most private reflections and brutally honest observations of the people and politics that make up his world. Ian wants to change his life, to sing, to live, to escape dull twenty-first-century suburban London.

What work are you doing at the moment?
I’ve been working on a fourth book, which can be read as the final instalment in the journey of Ian Wills, or as a standalone novel. Once the other two in the trilogy are published, of course.

What do you like about your work?
The freedom to escape.

What don’t you like?
The rewrites, the editing, the marketing, etc.

Have you got a personal bugbear?
Virtue-signalling.

What has pleased you in your work?
Sometimes I read it and I smile.

What doesn’t please you?
Other times I read it and I cringe!

What amuses you?
Everything.

Whose writing do you enjoy?
George Orwell.

Favourite title?
Animal Farm.

What do you like about Orwell’s writing?
Whether he writes ‘fiction’ or ‘non-fiction’, he’s powerfully believable.

Give us a quote.
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

What’s your favourite word in English?
Existential.

Any other quotes?
“Sometimes one’s compelled to withdraw, to protect one’s sanity.” – Colbourne Miller

Favourite saying?
Thanks for sharing that!

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got?
To sing and play my guitar more, to produce my repertoire.

How will you do that?
The hard way, I should imagine.

What have you learned about life?
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Forget the struggles and embrace any success. Accept and love yourself, then give to others.

What have you learned about people?
Dogs are more honest.

Tell us something quirky about yourself.
That’s a tough one!

Finish with a story, true or false, with beginning, middle and end, up to 30, 60 or 120 words.

Thirty-five years of marriage had flown by, and Sam was fast approaching sixty.

“Yes darling,” Sam responded, trying to conceal his sarcasm.

Caroline called again: “Come on Sam, hurry up. They hate it when we’re late.”

Sam ran down the stairs, well, as much as he could with his dodgy hip. By the time he came to a halt he was face to face with his wife, her bright red lipstick practically smothering him, her overbearing perfume numbing his senses. He knew she knew! It was her eyes, that vengeful squint he knew so well.

Without warning, everything turned black: a large carving knife meting out its own justice through the arteries in Sam’s neck. (115)

HUW JONES

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world. Welcome to HUW JONES, one of our authors.
Huw wrote The Last Director of Shoreditch, a “wondrously descriptive page turner” with “a compelling plot and vivid characterisation”.


Huw Jones – Recovered Writer

Huw, what’s your connection with Betterwrite?
I turned to Betterwrite for help with editing and proofing The Last Director of Shoreditch. The help I got was patient and practical, and improved the finished book.

What are you working on now?
A few months after publishing my book, I had an accident and broke my neck. Since then I’ve focused on getting better and am fine now, ready to think about a second novel. I have some ideas I’m sketching out.

What do you like and dislike about writing?
I love the freedom of thought it brings, but it can take over your mind completely, which sometimes isn’t a good thing!

Whose writing do you enjoy?
Graham Greene, Iris Murdoch, Ian McEwan, Alan Hollinghurst, Colm Toibin, Jonathan Franzen.

Favourite title?
Therese Desqueyroux by Francois Mauriac.

What do you like about Francois Mauriac’s work?
The sheer economy of writing. He can conjure up a mood or scene in few words and really get into the minds of his characters.

Give us a quote.
“Marriage is like abroad – no one would want to go there if they hadn’t been told it existed” – from Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh, which I recently read for a book club.

What’s your favourite word in English?
Lie-in – I often have to get up very early for the day job!

Any other quotes?
“She look like she ain’t long for this world but dressed well for the next.” From The Color Purple, another book-club choice.

Favourite saying?
“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got?
To stay healthy.

How will you do that?
Go easy on the red wine, and exercise more.

What have you learned about life?
It’s what you don’t do that you regret.

What have you learned about people?
They’re more resilient than you think.

How did you start writing?
By finally realising a book won’t get written unless you sit down again and again to write it.

JAMES CAMPBELL

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world. Welcome to JAMES CAMPBELL, author of The Seven Trials of Cameron-Strange.


James Campbell - Writer and Blogger

James, tell us about your work as a writer.
I was lucky enough to win the Impress Prize for New Writers in 2014 with my first novel Click, Double-Click. I call it a psychological thriller, an episode in the life of a troubled Scots-New Zealand emergency physician named Dr Alastair Cameron-Strange. I was still working as a doctor when I wrote it. I spent half my career in emergency medicine, and I’ve got dual British-New Zealand citizenship. I guess you write about what you know!
Impress Books very kindly suggested a trilogy, and published the second episode, The Seven Trials of Cameron-Strange, in 2016. Impress asked freelance editor Rob Matthews, of Betterwrite, to assist in the copy-editing process of Seven Trials. For which much thanks! I’ve written a draft of episode three and I’m currently revising it.
Impress asked me to write and post a weekly blog which I started at the beginning of 2015. At the time I was 'blog-naïve', not much enamoured of the virtual digital world (read Click, Double-Click to find out why) but I took it on and I have to say it’s been a very rewarding experience. I’ve just posted my 157th blog. I write it as a journalist might write a weekly newspaper column. Usually something has happened during the week in my life or in the wider world that sets off a train of thought. Certain themes prevail – medicine, politics, music, literature, and something harder to define; call it the life of the mind.
In an alternative life I might have been a journalist. I read more non-fiction that I do fiction – history, biography and science – and in my own current writing I have three non-fictional pieces on the stocks. But then, Dr Cameron-Strange, who has been dormant and out of touch for a while, contacts me from some obscure corner of the world to tell me about some odd and usually deeply troubling incident.

What do you like and dislike about your work?
In fiction, I’m satisfied if I can create a scene which has the quality of veracity and intense realism such that the reader might think: “That really happened.” I’m dissatisfied if the reader thinks, “Just because Campbell says so, doesn’t make it so.” This quality of unreality often occurs at plot junctions when you require to move from A to B, and is analogous to the difficulty encountered by composers negotiating the corner between first and second subjects in a sonata. Every chapter, indeed every sentence, must contribute to the whole, yet stand alone and of itself be pregnant with meaning.
Non-fiction I find less difficult. You must have something to say, and then say it as clearly and directly as possible. I try to cut out the in-jokes and the hip gags you sometimes encounter in those interviews in the Sunday supplements with film stars doing the publicity circuit. F. R. Leavis called that “near-culture”.

Whose writing do you enjoy?
Ian Fleming. I’ve been collecting his first editions for 30 years, picking them up unexpectedly from obscure second-hand book shops. I’ve got ten of them, including Thrilling Cities.

Favourite Title?
You Only Live Twice. It’s actually the third book of a trilogy, part thriller, part travelogue, part of an arc depicting an individual’s physical and psychological breakdown.
What do you like about Ian Fleming’s writing?
Everything! The economy of style, le mot that is juste, the joie-de-vivre, the vivid colours and the intensity of the imagery. Fleming’s bizarre world, simultaneously menacing and farcical, becomes more distilled as the canon progresses. And he can be very funny.

Give us a quote.
Bond composed a haiku for Tiger Tanaka, the head of the Japanese Secret Service. You can find it on the frontispiece of You Only Live Twice.

What’s your favourite word in English?
Schadenfreude.

Any other quotes?
I think it better that in times like these
A poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;
He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter’s night.
(William Butler Yeats, On Being Asked for a War Poem)

Favourite saying?
Primum non nocere. First, do no harm.

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got?
Depends how you define 'work'! Now that I’ve hung up my stethoscope, I’m trying to move my writing centre-stage and make my approach less anarchic and more disciplined. I mentioned that my work-in-progress comprises one work of fiction and three of non-fiction so if I complete more than half of that this year that would be great. But I guess that makes it 'work', so what else? Writing is a solitary pursuit so I must also try to be less of a recluse.

How will you do that?
Phone up all the friends I’ve been neglecting. They are very kind and patient.

What have you learned about life?
That it’s worth the candle.

What have you learned about people?
The good and the bad run through us all, to a varying degree. As a doctor I’ve been privileged to meet many wonderful people, who have shown extraordinary courage and fortitude, kindness and humanity, while enduring personal suffering without end. In emergency medicine I have also sometimes met people who were intimidating, threatening, violent, even murderous. But I don’t believe I have ever met anybody who didn’t have a trace of humanity.

Tell us something quirky about yourself:
You mean my vestigial third nipple? They say it’s a sign of great potency.

Craziest thing you’ve ever done?
To run the 48 volcanoes of Auckland in a day.

Finish with a story, true or false, with beginning, middle and end. Choose the length, up to 30, 60 or 120 words.

Onegin

After the wine stoup and the bravado,
The full military dress and the sparkling women
When the challenge did not seem to contain its corollary –
The Hurl of the Challenge had seemed to be all
And just another mess game,
We rose at five, thirsty
Too early yet for our headaches
And the numb, bitter cold. I remember

The absolute sharp focus of wheel and spoke and gravel patch,
The crispness of the morning, we seconds conferring
Like anxious doctors,
The frost and the rasp and the visible air.
The assignation.

White ground and white singlet,
A slow spread of red
After the smoke puff and the absurd muffled combustion

And breakfast for three.

(114)

MANDA MELLETT

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world. Welcome to MANDA MELLETT, the author of Stolen Lives (Blood Brothers #1)


Manda Mellett – Romantic Novelist

Manda, tell us about your work as a writer.
I’m lucky enough to be able to write full-time. Over the past 18 months I’ve published ten full-length novels and am currently in the process of editing the eleventh. I’m writing two series, one about sheikhs and their bodyguards, and one about an outlaw motorcycle club based in the US. I use UK English for one series and US English for the other. My great team of beta readers keep me from using UK English words – when I started I didn’t know that Americans don’t understand the word ‘fortnight’.

What’s your connection with Betterwrite?
Betterwrite edited my first book, Stolen Lives. I’d already had a non-fiction book published, and decided to try my hand at fiction. Having written reports for years during my working career, I reckoned I was a fairly good writer, but the feedback from Betterwrite taught me that many conventions I’d been using all my life were wrong, for example using full verb forms in speech like I have done it. In real life, people use contractions and say I’ve done it. I’m still using (and building on) the knowledge Betterwrite gave me. Having my book edited by Betterwrite has certainly helped me become a better writer.

What are you working on now?
I’m currently waiting for the edited copy of Peg’s Stand (Satan’s Devils MC #6) to come back from the editor, and in the meantime I’ve started on the first draft of the next book in the Blood Brothers series. This work is currently untitled. I currently publish a book every two months and I’m lucky enough to have a cover designer, formatter and editor who work to my timescales. For an indie author, having professional help is essential to produce a polished, finished product that people want to spend their money on.
Of course, a lot of time is also spent interacting on social media and promoting my books – getting into the market is the hardest thing for an indie author. I have a great PA who helps me keep my name out there.
As well as my beta readers I have an ARC (advanced review copy) team who have early sight of the book and get their (honest) reviews published early to help sales.
An indie author’s life is not just writing, although sometimes I wish it was!

What do you like and dislike about your job?
There’s not much I dislike about writing full-time, but I do find writing the first draft is the hardest part. I’m not a planner, I go with the flow and just let the characters in my head lead the story. Sometimes the words don’t come easily, but I force myself to sit chucking words at the screen, hoping some fall in the right order. Surprisingly often, the scenes I’ve dragged out of my head turn out to be the best in the book.

Whose writing do you enjoy?
This is a difficult question for me as I’m an avid reader, fully believing that exposing yourself to other authors allows you to expand your vocabulary, and can spark ideas unrelated to what you’re reading. It’s hard to pick one author as there are so many, but I would have to say my current favourite is MariaLisa DeMora.

Favourite title?
Another difficult one. But her latest book, Alace Sweets, is a departure from her norm and an excellent read.

What do you like about this author’s writing?
Her style, and the way her words flow.

What’s your favourite word in English?
Juxtaposition. No idea why, and I don’t believe I’ve used it in a book yet. But talking about favourite words, I do fall into the trap of overusing one word in each of my novels – and it’s not the same one each time. For example, my editor pointed out that in one book I have everyone realising something, and in another, they kept getting everything sorted. The overuse of particular words is something I try to watch out for in my first edits. And I’ve found I’m not alone in this, it’s a common mistake among authors.

Favourite quote?
I’m going to cheat here and use one from my last book, Heart Broken (Satan’s Devils #5):
“Like a clock that’s stopped working, hands frozen in time, I can’t move past this, can’t acknowledge I’m never going to see her again or smell the sweet perfume that was all hers.”

Favourite saying?
The dog’s bollocks. Americans can’t believe we use this term.

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got?
My life goal is to write as many books as possible, and to become the best writer I can be.

What have you learned about life?
I’ve just turned sixty, though it doesn’t seem possible. I’ve had a long working career, met an amazing range of people and dealt with all manner of situations. I had a strange childhood, lost my parents by the time I turned twenty-two, and during that time went through something that would be unbelievable were I to try to write about it. I’ve had good and bad relationships, I’ve had a child, and have now been married for almost thirty years to an incredible and supportive man. I draw on the lessons I’ve learned through life and my many experiences when I’m writing my books. For example, Heart Broken takes the reader on a journey through grief, something I’ve experienced myself.

What have you learned about people?
They’re demanding, LOL. I’ve got a number of fans who keep clamouring for the next book, and coming up with suggestions on who I should write about next. It does put pressure on me to keep writing. I’ve learned how supportive people can be, and how helpful. Complete strangers will help when you ask. Again, examples: I learned how to crash a helicopter from a pilot instructor, for Peg’s Stand. The Tucson Fire Department was a great help in teaching me how to fight a wildland fire. Another example: while discussing what was feasible with a fellow author, she mentioned something which gave me the idea that made Heart Broken possible.
Then there are people who like to bring you down, like those readers who only ever give one-star reviews, whatever the book or author. And especially those who get the first book in the series free, and then give a bad review because the author expects them to pay for the rest. Yes, those people do exist.
My richest experience was managing a team of thirty people, most of whom were from ethnic minorities, and some with alternative lifestyles. It was an incredible opportunity to widen my experience and knowledge.

Tell us something quirky about yourself.
I have two Irish Setters who rule the house. I can’t sit down without one, or both, trying to sit on my lap. When I’m walking them I’m working through plots in my head. I take them to dog shows, and they’ve both been exhibited at Crufts.

What’s the most difficult thing about being an author?
I think it’s essential that authors have characters who speak to them in their head. I know mine so well I know how they’ll react in any given situation, and I often hear them having conversations. The difficult part is making some shut up so you can get on with writing someone else’s story. It’s easy to become distracted, so there’s discipline involved in writing, keeping focused on what you’re doing. There’s no point having half a dozen unfinished manuscripts.
As noted above, being an indie author (or any published author) means a large chunk of time has to be spent on self-promotion.

Give us a short story with a beginning, middle and end, in up to 30, 60 or 120 words.

A short story no longer than 120 words? Hard for an author who normally writes novels of 120,000 words or more! But here’s my effort. Mouse, a part-native American, will be having his own story in Mouse Trapped later in 2018, but he’s already talking to me…

Mouse backed his bike up to the kerb and kicked down the stand, relishing the refreshing scent of pine in the air. Starting up the hiking trail, he heard a piercing scream. Quickening his pace, he came to an abrupt halt when he saw a woman facing off a bear, her coat held open and her arms up high.

What the hell? He knew he had to act fast.

He came up behind the woman, taking her hands in his and lowering them. “You face off a lion, make yourself look less threatening to a bear,” he explained quietly.

He encouraged her to back away. Slowly and calmly, she did so. The bear watched them curiously as they moved away. (120)

MARTIN PERKS

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world. Welcome to MARTIN PERKS, one of our authors.


Martin Perks – Thriller Writer

Martin, what’s your connection with Betterwrite?
You edited my third book, A Dangerous Secret.
Tell us about your work.
I write mystery, psychological, thriller and suspense novels.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m writing my fifth novel, entitled The Other Women.

What do you like about your work?
I love writing stories, creating characters and devising plots with surprise endings.

What don’t you like about being a writer?
Promotion and marketing, which although very necessary is a bind, and time-consuming. It adds to the time it takes to write a novel.

Have you got a personal bugbear?
The cost of promotion and marketing which eats away at my royalties, leaving very little profit.

What particularly pleases you in your work?
The ability to finish writing each book.

What doesn’t please you?
The constant revisions and rewrites, which always take an age.

What amuses you?
The bad reviews from people who haven’t even read the books.

Whose writing do you enjoy?
Ken Follett, Dean Koontz, Wilbur Smith, Stephen King, Jeffrey Archer.

Favourite title?
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

What do you like about Ken Follett’s writing?
It’s a ginormous book with so many characters and plots, but he keeps the reader guessing and shows great attention to detail.

Give us a quote.
“I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.”

A Dangerous Secret is available on Amazon, along with Martin’s other titles

What’s your favourite word in English?
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Any other quotes?
“It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.”

Favourite saying?
“Treat others as you’d like to be treated yourself.”

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got?
To keep healthy and enjoy life.
How will you do that?
With a great deal of difficulty.

What have you learned about life?
Nothing in life is easy.

What have you learned about people?
Everyone is different.

Tell us something quirky about yourself.
I’m a music fanatic and I’ve always got my earphones in, whether I’m writing or not.

Finish with a story, true or false, with beginning, middle and end. Choose the length, up to 30, 60 or 120 words.

I was putting out the rubbish and noticed the black bag lying next to the dustbin, ripped open. Annoyed, I put it back in the bin, thinking birds had been scavenging.

The next morning I found the bin lying on its side, the black bag ripped open again. Scratching my head, I wondered what to do next. I put the bag back, then the lid, which I sealed with black tape.

Surely those birds wouldn’t get in the bin this time!

Just to discover the truth, I set up CCTV to record what happened. Much to my surprise I found the ‘birds’ were in fact a fox – who had managed to get the tape off with his teeth.

Clever fox! (120)

NICK CORBLE

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world. Welcome to NICK CORBLE.


Nick Corble – Author and Walker

Nick, what’s your connection with Betterwrite?
Betterwrite provided both a development edit and proof of my second novel, The Bond, or Last Man Standing. The aim was to get it ‘agent-ready’.

Tell us about your work.
I’ve always written, and am pleased to now be in a position to do it full-time, having served my time at the salary workface.

What work are you doing at the moment?
I’m currently walking a diagonal line through England and writing a travel book about what I discover and the experiences I have on the way. My aim is to make this an inclusive journey, and as such have invited others to “walk with me” both personally and virtually using social media, blogs, podcasts etc. More details here: www.diagonalwalking.co.uk

What do you like about your work?
I love getting lost in the process and the words. Also, the challenge of making something readable and giving pleasure to others (hopefully!).

What don’t you like?
A familiar gripe perhaps, but the randomness of the publishing world. I have had books published by niche publishers and have also self-published, but it seems getting the attention of the more established publishers is a bit like winning a golden ticket.

Have you got a personal bugbear?
The (very occasional) one-star reviews you might get on Amazon. Very few books are one-star, especially when most other reviews are four or five. So you spotted an error, or think you’re cleverer than the author? Don’t give one star – that’s just sad.

What has pleased you in your work?
The juggling of thinking of the next work, writing the current one and marketing the last one.

What didn’t please you?
When I know an idea isn’t working and it’s time to admit it.

What amused you?
I always smile when an idea comes from nowhere while I’m actually writing.

Whose writing do you enjoy?
I love Paul Theroux, the grumpy old so-and-so.

Favourite title?
Fresh Air Fiend.

What do you like about Theroux’s writing?
His descriptions are so evocative of places and people. Also, when travelling, he’s his own man.

Give us a quote.
“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travellers don’t know where they’re going.”

What’s your favourite word in English?
I’ve been recording some podcasts lately, and listening to myself apparently my favourite word is absolutely.

Any other quotes?
“Writing is its own reward” – Henry Miller

Favourite saying?
“Life is a journey, but you’re the one in the driving seat.”

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got?
To continue travelling. I think I’m enormously privileged to be in a position to travel, and it’s almost a duty.

How will you do that?
By setting aside protected time so it doesn’t become something I “always meant to do”.

What have you learned about life?
Everyone views it differently.

What have you learned about people?
Understanding others’ motivations helps you understand their behaviours.

Tell us something quirky about yourself.
I often feel I’m a character in a novel about my life.

Tell us a story, true or false, with beginning, middle and end, up to 30, 60 or 120 words.
The engine wouldn’t start, they were stuck.
Taking deep breaths, they considered their options. Panic was one, logic another.
Then they remembered the starting handle.
Logic won. (27)

S F CLAYMORE

We’re introducing you to people who are part of the Betterwrite world. Welcome to S.F. CLAYMORE.


First of all, can you explain your connection with Betterwrite?
I got in touch with Betterwrite in order to get a line edit for my novel, Champion’s Rising, the first in my Champion of Psykoria saga, so I can release a second edition with improved grammar and better overall language. At present a new cover is in progress, which should be revealed here on Betterwrite once it’s ready. I hope to have the second edition finished sometime before the summer ends. Until then, the first edition will remain on sale. Betterwrite, along with some other editors I’ve been in touch with, have assured me my writing in the previous edition isn’t as faulty as I’d been led to believe.

Tell us about your writing.
I’ve created a fantasy world that, quite frankly, has a place for almost every creature in mythology somehow or someway. Champion of Psykoria covers the events of a fierce war between the land of Psykoria and the daemons, with Champion’s Rising being a somewhat introductory tale. I like to keep my action intense, and focus much on the details, thoughts, decisions and developments made in the fight scenes. While Champion of Psykoria is my current big project, I’ll be releasing a smaller standalone series, as well as a slower-progressing comic series, on my website, all set in the same world. These other stories will cover various histories and tales loosely connected to Champion of Psykoria, and even other sagas I have planned, once the first one is finished. At present, I have one novelette, The Dragons’ Will, telling the early story of Darkus, a supporting character seen near the end of Champion’s Rising, and The Great Taelon Laskar, a four-part comic series which has just recently concluded. A complete edition for the latter will be available next month. Both are free to download on my website: http://bladeorflame.com

What writing are you doing at the moment?
As far as Champion’s Rising goes, I’m currently in waiting while the new cover is being made. This aside, I’ve otherwise finished formatting them. I’m going to try to make the map art I have more viable for e-book formats (at present, they’re exclusive to print and PDF), but this aside, I’ve got half of a novelette (or possibly novella) written for a back-story about King Breetor’s venture into the land of the beasts, a story summarized in Champion’s Rising. If I’m able to finish formatting before the cover is ready, I intend to continue working on it. At the same time, my comic artist carries my drafts for a new comic series, which continues where The Great Taelon Laskar left off. I can’t say when I expect this to be ready though; it’ll mostly depend on when my artist is available to work on it.

What do you like about your work?
Perhaps one of my favourite things about my work is how this world I’ve created gives me the freedom to use my imagination in any way I want. I also love the way things seem to flow together sometimes, such as when I have a plan to have one character develop certain traits, and realise another character has developed different ones, keeping the relationships and personalities dynamic. I always try to ensure that no two major characters are too similar, whether in appearance, personality, or even fighting style.

What don’t you like?
Most things I didn’t like about my own work I would’ve removed before publishing, but out of what’s left, if I had to name anything, perhaps it’s the loose ends my stories leave behind. Don’t be mistaken: I don’t do it by accident, because I do have plans for these unfinished plots, but the fact that I have to do one novel at a time before I can cover them all might so concern an author that readers may run out of patience. Rest assured, all loose ends will be addressed by the series’ end.

Have you got a personal bugbear?
Most of my bugbears have to do with anything that doesn’t allow me to finish any piece of work I’m doing, especially when I’m very focused. For someone who travels a lot, I often end up in places with power cuts and poor internet connection. I guess having these kick in when my ideas are pouring out rapidly at times when I need them can really get on my nerves.

What has pleased you in your work?
As previously mentioned, I’m happy with the dynamic variety of traits within each of my characters. I’m also very pleased with how all the back stories and histories described blend well with the overall setting, making the world very deeply imagined. I create my main plots before I create these back stories, only creating the latter when I realised there are holes that need to be filled. Overall, I’m happy to have created such a diverse world filled with so many fantastic creatures.

What didn’t please you?
Again, most of the things that didn’t please me, I would’ve removed. As far as Champion’s Rising goes, I always felt the entire story takes place over too short a period of time. In earlier drafts, the story took place in just less than two weeks, but I made it longer, to around one month, feeling the story would feel more epic. A part of me feels this is still too quick, but the characters don’t travel too far in this novel, which is why the timescale ended up like this. If I made things longer for this novel, some of the journeys I have planned for sequels would take excessive in-story time, which I feel would be unacceptable. In the end, I felt it was better to have the first novel taking place within a single month.

What amused you?
I guess if I found anything amusing about my own works, perhaps it’s in the more light-hearted scenes where the characters interact, especially in the introduction of more upbeat characters, such as Serenity Brakor (Champion’s Rising) and Taelon’s three apprentices (The Great Taelon Laskar).

Whose writing do you enjoy?
I’m a fan of Terry Goodkind, Gail Z. Martin, and George R.R. Martin. Tolkien as well, of course; his stories will always have a kind of aura to them, with him being such a pioneer of the fantasy genre.

Favourite title?
I think I mentioned this in another interview I did, but this isn’t an easy question for me to answer. I don’t exactly read a novel thinking “This is my favourite” or “I like this author’s book better than this other author’s book” or anything of the kind. Every author will have their own different style; I certainly like to think the same goes for me as well. I do, however, compare novels in the same series to one another, and often think whether I like the earlier parts of a saga better than the later ones.

That said, I find that if you read with this sort of mentality, you find yourself not having a single favourite book. To be honest, I’d probably give the same answer if asked what my favourite movie was!

What do you like about this author’s writing?
I’ve always liked how George R.R. Martin’s writing manages to be both dark and entertaining at the same time. As for Terry Goodkind, his writing always has me guessing the unique and creative ways his protagonists are going to end up foiling their enemies at the end of his novels.

Give us a quote.
There is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.
— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

What’s your favourite word in English?
This is definitely something that requires a lot of thinking to answer. I’m going to go with justice. Some may think it’s a cheesy answer, and perhaps it is, but it’s a deep word with a deep meaning, and if you think about it, the very concept of the word holds different meanings for different people. One person’s view of justice may be very different from another’s, and perhaps that’s why I find it such an interesting word, and an even more interesting concept.

Any other quotes?
When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything. Then there are no more answers, only better and better lies.
— Jon Snow, Game of Thrones Season 7

We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.
— J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Just remember who you are… The world will try to change you into someone else. Don’t let them. That’s the best advice anyone can give you.
— Cinda Williams, Chima, The Warrior Heir

And lastly, I’ll throw in one of my own:
It was much easier giving a compliment when there was only truth in it.
— S.F. Claymore, Champion’s Rising

Favourite saying?
The secret of getting ahead is getting started. – Mark Twain

Apart from your work, what plans or ambitions have you got?
I do have some aspirations to start my own business sometime in the near future, but what type of business will mostly depend on location, and who else will be involved (I don’t think I could do it alone). With a background in computing, there’s also a part of me that wants to publish indie video games, likewise set in the same world as my novels. However, I’m unsure if I have the time to manage it all, so priorities come first, and the novels will always take priority.

How will you do that?
As far as starting a business goes, the only major step is to find a suitable location, and only once I’ve done that will it become possible to decide what the business will be, due to what’s in demand in that location, competitors, etc. The idea of creating an indie game is something I’ll only start trying when I reach a point where I have enough time apart from my other priorities.

What have you learned about life?
It has its ups and downs, honestly. If you want something, you need to go make it happen. It’s also better to enjoy it when you can, and there is no singular way to achieve this because different people will enjoy different things, and different people will want different things. Once you figure out what it is you want from life, just
go out there and make it happen.

What have you learned about people?
To simply say people is too vague. If there’s anything I’ve learned about people, it’s that no two of us are the same. Some can be fickle, while others can be a great joy. Some can be both, or anywhere in between. There’s just too much diversity for people to be thought of as all the same. But if we were all exactly the same, wouldn’t the world be such a boring place?

Tell us something quirky about yourself.
Too many to list, honestly. I’m quite an adrenaline junkie, so I often appear a bit mad to others in such situations, though much less so now than years prior.

Finish with a story, true or false, with beginning, middle and end, up to 30, 60 or 120 words:
His kin were not prey: far from it in fact. They were revered. But there were those mightier yet, so mighty that a war among them was destroying everything. Food was burnt in the flames of war, homes crushed in storms of fury. How would they survive?

This was not their war, yet death spread beyond those fighting. Friends and loved ones starved. Where there was once happiness, only sorrow remained.

It finally ended. The mighty hid in sorrow of what they’d caused. Hope and peace returned. Now the land must recover; that was why griffins lived in a land alongside dragons. No matter how long it takes, they will restore life to this land. (115)

(I really had trouble trying to fit this into 120 words, so I apologise if it comes out a bit choppy. For those who’ve read Champion’s Rising, this is an account from the viewpoint of a griffin in the Land of the Beasts where Breetor travelled in the past, recalling events during the war between the silver and black dragons.)