Hello and welcome to my weekly blog series – Author Interviews.
These weekly author interviews give me good reason to stalk / pester some of my favourite authors and beg them to come sit in my red interview chair. I like these interviews because I think I find out about the person behind the books and glean some writing tips.
This week I bubbling with excitement. When I was at the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards in London this year I met Icy Sedgwick, a very inspirational writer and an author who has ventured onto Youtube. From the moment we started talking I knew she would be a fab person to interview.
Here is pic of Icy and I at the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards, check us out looking all creative and sophisticated!
So after much pestering on my part I am thrilled to welcome Icy Sedgwick!
Hey Icy! Welcome to my blog and to my red interview chair. Please take a virtual seat and make yourself comfortable. Wow this is so cool!
Tell my lovely readers all about yourself
Hello! I’m a Geordie, and by day I teach graphic design and advertising. By night, I write dark fantasy, weird Westerns, and Gothic tales…and I’m also doing a part time PhD in Film Studies.
I’ve got three ‘main’ books, two Westerns (The Guns of Retribution and To Kill A Dead Man) and the start of a dark fantasy trilogy (The Necromancer’s Apprentice). But I’ve also got two short story collections. Harbingers: Dark Tales of Speculative Fiction is actually free on my website at the moment.
When did you write your first book?
I first finished one way back in 2008 for NaNoWriMo. Well, that was the first draft, anyway. It was about 53,000 words and I was just so pleased to have written ‘The End’ on something longer than 3000 words.
How long did it take to write your first book?
Just over a month for that first version. But I’ve gone back and edited and rewritten so many times, it’s only just finally finished now! Please, don’t take eight years to write a book. That’s just silly.
What was your motivation to write your first book?
For my first published book, I got an email from the owner of a small press who’d read some of my short flash stories on my blog, and he asked me if I wanted to write a themed novella for him. I jumped at the chance! Nothing like having someone waiting on you to keep you on track. That novella went on to become The Guns of Retribution.
What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?
I’ve had a couple. The Guns of Retribution started out as third person past tense, then became first person present tense, then ended up as first person past tense. Plus the main character changed his job halfway through and went from being an outlaw to a bounty hunter. I just kept going because I’d been asked to write it and I didn’t want to let them down. It wasn’t really the end of the world though, just a bit of a pain during the rewrite!
Did you go through any bad writing patches during writing your book – what kept you going?
During the one I’m working on at the moment, it wasn’t so much a bad patch as a dry period, but I was working on an academic book at the same time and I couldn’t get back into the fiction head space. Luckily I switched back when the academic one was done. But what kept me going was just wanting to get the story told because I knew what the book after it would be about.
Are you a plotter or do you just write / see what happens?
When I start a story I have an idea of the beginning, the rough bit in the middle, and the ending. Then I just make it up as I go along between those points. It’s like knowing you’re going to start in London, and you want to get to Birmingham, and then you’ll end up in Leeds, but where you end up going in between is entirely a matter of chance!
What is the best thing about being a writer?
Being able to do horrible things to people who’ve been mean to you by hiding them inside a character. No, in all honesty, I think it’s being able to have these fun adventures in your head, and then share them with other people.
What is the worst thing about being a writer?
The fact that some people expect you to work for free. If you even DARE expect remuneration for what you do, you either get “Well I can get everything else for free, why should I pay for it?” or “But writing is Art. You can’t put a price on Art”. Evidently these people have never seen the sums the work in the Turner Prize goes for.
Have you ever considered quitting writing, and if so how have you worked through this?
I thought about it once, and I just thought “Yeah, I’m not getting anywhere”, so I decided I’d finish my work in progress, and pack it all in. Of course by the time I finished I’d forgotten that I’d decided to do that until about four months later, by which point I was neck deep in something else. I’m so glad I didn’t tell anyone I was going to quit otherwise I’d have looked silly!
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
I don’t have one. Because I have so many other things to work on as well as writing fiction, I might only get in ten minutes of writing in a day. That might be at work over lunch, or it might be longhand on the way to work, or it might be on my laptop when I get home. I dream of the days when I can set aside entire days just to write…and I know I’ll spend those days doing quizzes to find out which Disney villain I’d be.
Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?
I procrastinate like nobody’s business, and I can tell I’m doing it because I get sucked into working on entirely the wrong thing. I keep colour coded To Do lists in Google Keep so if I realise I’ve spent more than 20 minutes on something relatively trivial, I’ll have a look at my list and see if it was something I needed to do. If yes, I keep doing it. If not, I put it aside and go back to what I should be doing.
Which is more important – plot or characters and why?
For me it’s probably plot, but I’m not really a people person. But you can’t have a plot without characters, and normal people relate to other people, so ultimately characters win over plot. Think about it – we remember Frodo, and Harry, and Luke Skywalker, and they’re the people we discuss, or dress up as. We don’t re-enact plots or talk about which narrative we’d be. So I think characters are terribly important to a good story.
What have been your 3 biggest learnings during your writing career?
- You’ll never stop learning, so don’t punish yourself for realising you don’t know everything.
- Stop using words like ‘He looked at X’ – just describe whatever it is. We know he must be looking at it because the book’s from his POV.
- If it stops being fun, find a way to make it fun again.
How do you manage social media as a writer?
I find so many little pockets throughout the day, like sitting on the train going to work, or waiting in queues, or whatever. I do a lot of my social media then. Or I’ll have the different platforms open all day, so I can drop in and out between tasks or on breaks. I actually enjoy using social media though so I tend to make time to fit them in. I don’t see it as ‘marketing’, it’s just talking to cool or interesting people. That’s one of the reasons why I started to experiment with my Youtube channel, to be able to feel like I was talking to viewers, rather than blogging at them. But I’m going to shake that up a bit!
Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?
Read as much as you can. Fiction, preferably, but good non-fiction can be an awesome source of inspiration. You’ll subconsciously soak up how to tell a story, and how to do it well. I also recommend watching films – not necessarily for structure, because films can do things that books can’t since they’re a visual medium, but definitely for dialogue, or character arcs. Just soak up stories. You’ll learn so much. And stop calling yourself ‘aspiring’. If you write, then you’re a writer.
I did share writing tips over on my blog for a while, which you can find here, but I’ve put those on the back burner while I overhaul things a bit!
Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so how do you overcome?
My writer’s block always comes from one of two things; I’m either not sure what needs to happen next in the story, or I’ve got too many other things going on at the same time and I can’t focus. If it’s the former, I just skip ahead to the next bit that I KNOW I want to write, and write from that point. I go back and fill in the gap later. If it’s the latter, then I try to take some time to read or draw, or do something creative, which slows me down enough to get my head back to the story.
Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?
Always. I’ve usually got a few things on the go mentally while I’m writing one book (or short story) and it’s really difficult not to just start working on the others. So I keep separate notes in Evernote for each project and just add anything to those, so when I’m ready to start the next book, or story, I’ve got a starting point.
What do you wear to write?
I don’t really have a set writing routine, so I wear whatever I have on at the time. I love the idea of glamourous people like Jackie Collins looking amazing as they sit down to let the words flow…but as I type this I’m wearing tracksuit pants and a black vest. I’m so stylish it physically hurts.
If readers want to get in touch how do they contact you?
They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or they can follow me on Twitter @IcySedgwick! I love Twitter. I probably spend too much time on it!
Thanks Icy, fabulous interview!
Things I have taken from our chat:
- Wow – love how you got a call from the owner of a small press and that resulted in a themed novella! I also like how the novella grew into something bigger.
- Love your phrase to describe writing ‘fun adventures in your head’ – if only my readers knew about the fun adventures I go on inside my head…
- Your writer learnings are great! I must go through my draft and eliminate ‘he looked at..’
- I will check out your writing tips blog posts.
- Tracksuit pants and a black vest sounds chic!
Thank you Icy – love it!
Love the Youtube – just been watching your ‘Write What You Know’ episode. One day Icy I will venture on there too.
Have a great day all!
If you have written a book and you want to sit in my chair please leave me a comment with contact details.