Once again I have a Monday morning treat - an interview with writer Martin Pond, who tells us about his book Dark Steps, as well as his other writing projects, and his inspirations...
A collection of short stories, a series of twist endings, and one author's dark steps back into writing...
A teenage boy waits to take a sinister test he may or may not pass; a new father hears a strange voice on his daughter's baby monitor; a poisoner's best-laid plans go terribly astray; an enigmatic man gets as close to death as he can; a young boy wonders why Christmas just doesn't feel right this year; after the year from hell, a man is driven to extreme measures; a dying man reveals a black secret to his son; and, after four years in limbo, a man's life starts to unravel...
These dark tales of the unexpected are for fans of the short fiction of Stephen King, David Morrell and Dean Koontz. Step outside of the every day and take dark steps into a shadowy place...
As an introduction, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Born in East Kent in the early Seventies, I was educated at the University of East Anglia. A career in IT followed, and continues to pay the bills. I try to fit writing in between busy work and family lives.
What is your book about?
Dark Steps is a collection of twist-in-the-tail short stories, bringing together a lot of my output from 2008-2011. Some have been published in magazines and the like before; for others, it’s their first time in print. When asked to describe these stories, I usually say that if you like the short fiction of Stephen King and David Morrell then maybe you’ll like these too.
When and why did you begin writing?
It’s always been something I’ve loved. I wrote a lot in my teens and early twenties, but that somehow fell by the wayside as the world of work got in the way. I started again in 2007, at the suggestion of my partner. I gained further impetus from taking a diploma in creative writing at the University of East Anglia, and haven’t stopped since then.
What genre do you prefer to write in?
I don’t set out to write within a certain genre. It’s just that a lot of my stories tend to gravitate a certain way, towards psychological horror and speculative fiction. Having said that, I’ve had a fairly successful stab, if you’ll pardon the pun, at what I call old-school, schlock-horror, and suspense. And then again my current novel length work-in-progress is straight literary fiction, plain and simple.
What is your biggest writing achievement to date?
Having a shot story appear in Unthology No.1, published by Unthank Books. It’s one thing to self-publish, quite another for an independent publisher to look at your work and say “Yes please.” This was especially gratifying, as there were launch events and readings to do too. I was even asked to sign books. All in all, a novel experience that I hope to repeat. Often.
What inspired you to write this book?
Being a collection of short stories, I can be honest and say I didn’t set out to create this book. I just found myself with a whole heap of stories and wondered what to do with them all. I guess if I’m being really honest I thought I might try to capitalise on the aforementioned publication too.
Who is your favourite author, and what is it about their work that strikes a chord with you?
That’s a tough one. I like different authors for different situations and moods. I love Stephen King – one of my most treasured reviews described my writing as “like a British Stephen King”. I also very much enjoy Nick Hornby, with High Fidelity being one of my favourite books of any genre. And Margaret Atwood is simply incredible, as are Cormac McCarthy and Chuck Palahniuk. I could go on and on…
What book are you reading now, and would you recommend it?
Fiction-wise, I’ve just started reading The Promise Of Happiness, by Justin Cartwright. I’m only a chapter in but on the basis of that I’d say yes. His writing reminds me a bit of Patrick Gale, and that can only be a good thing. Non-fiction, I’m also reading Dave Gorman vs The Rest Of The World by, well, Dave Gorman, obviously. He’s a very funny man, both on stage and in print. His blog is always worth a look too.
What are your current projects?
I’m 60,000 words into a novel-length work of fiction, entitled Drawn To The Deep End. It charts a thirty-something’s decline in the wake of his fiancée’s death. No, it’s not a comedy!
Where and when do you do most of your writing?
Wherever and whenever I can. In between a busy work life and hectic family life, writing time is precious. Basically it’s whenever I get the opportunity to crack open the laptop.
What would you say was the hardest part of writing your book?
Without question, editing myself. It’s notoriously hard to let go of a line that you think is brilliant but which, in reality, is not so great. Objectivity is important for any editor, but when the work you’re reviewing is your own, that line can get blurred.
Who designed your book cover – and was the cover something you deemed important?
I did my own cover too. The current cover is my second attempt – the first was a bit too “belt and braces”, as I discovered when a paperback copy dropped through my letterbox. I changed it soon after, making it much stronger (I hope) because yes, the cover is vital – often it draws the reader more than any blurb or review, particularly if they’re unfamiliar with your name or work.
Did you try to go down the route of traditional publishing first – or did you feel that self-publishing was right for you from the beginning?
Having already had some short stories published traditionally, I felt that self-publishing gave me the perfect means of capitalising on that momentum. I also liked the idea of retaining full creative control, and have been impressed with the technical simplicity of the process. Having said all that, when the novel is completed I’ll be pitching that in the hope of getting it published traditionally. I think the amount of effort I’ve put into it demands that I at least try.
On the whole, how have you found self-publishing?
From the point of view of actually producing books, it has been relatively easy and a lot of fun. What you cannot overestimate though is that amount of time, effort and energy that must be devoted to self-promotion. It can get pretty tiring when you’re your own editor, publisher, agent and PR… not to mention all that impacting on writing time!
Where can we buy the book?
All over the place! Amazon (UK/US), Barnes and Noble, Diesel, iTunes, Kobo, Lulu, Smashwords, Sony and WH Smith.
Do you have a website or blog where we can keep tabs on you?
Sure. My writing website is http://martinpond.blogspot.com
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Funnily enough, I recently blogged about time management for writers – that article’s here. Beyond that, I would say try to write what you like to read – if you don’t like the story you’re writing, how can you expect anyone else to? And my number one tip – don’t let not knowing how a story will end stop you from starting. Just take a character, put them in an interesting situation and get writing. You’ll find out what happens as you go. That’s exactly how I started my novel-in-progress – I’m now 60,000 words in and know exactly how it’s all going to end.
And, finally, do you have anything else that you’d like to say to everyone?
Buy my books please! That, and you can follow me on Twitter if you’re that way inclined – I’m @MartinWrites. Enjoy your reading…