What, in your opinion, makes a good or great writer?
Readers! At the end of the day, readers decide who is a good or great writer. William Golding wrote a lot of books, won the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize, but for most readers, he only wrote one great book – The Lord of the Flies. Then again, Dostoyevsky, another great writer, sends most readers to sleep. For me, a great writer is one whose words grab, and keep my attention. Jasper Fforde springs to mind.
What do you love most about writing?
I always learn something new when I write. Either about myself, other people or how to use a semi-colon.
What got you interested in writing novels?
Like most new writers, I wrote my first novel from a need to get something off my chest. In that respect, it was quite therapeutic, but the story was awful because I was writing for myself and not for readers. I see a lot of debut authors falling into this same trap.
Do you see more and more artists using visual mediums to tell stories as a threat to book publishing?
No. Books and movies have lived together quite happily for a hundred years. The real threat to book publishing is attention. The Internet is dramatically reducing people’s attention span. This is one reason why short ebooks are starting to sell so well. People don’t have, or take the time to read.
Who would you say is the best writer you've ever read?
It is always the same answer. Douglas Adams. But James Clavell comes a close second.
What advice would you give to a young first time author chipping away at his first book?
Become a plumber! It pay is much better; the hours are shorter, and no one criticizes you. But if someone is determined to become a writer, be prepared for long late nights, hard work and little reward. The other piece of advice I would give, is to learn very early that writing is for readers, and not for writers. New writers who learn this fast are more likely to achieve some success.
What would you say is the worst thing about being a writer?
It all takes so long. I can write a novel in two months, if I set my mind to it. However, after that is done, it takes months and months, if not longer, to get a manuscript up to a decent standard. I doubt that there is any other art form that has this time-consuming quality control problem.
Of all the books, essays and poems you've written, which one did you like the best?
My book is The Adventures of HAL, but readers hate it. It is my absolute worst selling book, but I have no idea why. Such is life as a writer.
In our last interview you talked about loving to write about flawed and anti-hero characters. Why do you like writing about them?
Imperfection has more facets to write about and for an anti-hero, the only way is up. Maybe it’s the Australian in me that likes to try to turn a loser into a winner, or at least give them a chance.
Everybody has an opinion on Amazon's effect on the publishing industry, what's your position?
Amazon has earned their dominant market share, particularly in ebooks, by being innovative and aggressive. Not that this is healthy for the publishing industry, though. My take on this is that it is easy to blame Amazon, but few criticize Amazon’s competitors. Barnes & Noble has made so many stupid blunders with ebooks, and Apple has only been half-heartedly in the ebook business. Google Play Books has been a complete disaster. Amazon is not the problem. The problem is the lack of any real competition.
Do you have any rules or philosophy when it comes to writing novels, poems etc?
Not really, but I don’t like to use vulgar language. Sure, the odd expletive is necessary, but I try to keep them to a minimum. If I have a philosophy, it is to construct characters that are believable.
Have you ever thought of applying your storytelling skills to a more visual medium?
No, I haven’t. Maybe I’m a purist, or lazy.
Final Question: What's your take on the future of the written word?
The written word will survive because it is one of only two forms of communication - the written word and the spoken word. Any debate about the future of books is currently clouded by the ebook and Amazon effect, but I believe this will only be a short-term issue as natural market forces apply in the end. The book and ebook market will settle down in the next few years. The market will stabilize when new and more committed competitors start to take market share, and then the debate will fall away into history.
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