Next up in my writer’s series is my guest with Stuart G. Yates, author of historical and contemporary thrillers. Before you get started talking about your writing, Stuart, please tell me a little about yourself.
Hi, I’m a British writer, born way back in 1957 on the Wirral, which is not so very far from Liverpool, birthplace of the Beatles and a very famous football team! Growing up was full of the usual stuff people get up to, but for me, imagination and dreams were always the most important things. I left school at 15, which people often find surprising. It was nothing of the sort; a simple quirk of fate. My last school year ended on July 18th, my birthday was the following day. Nobody was about to keep me in the cold, heartless embrace of state education for another year for the simple sake of a day! Before then, I’d already written a whodunit, and was writing my first novel. It didn’t amount to much, but when I was 22, I submitted my first work to Jonathan Cape. Thirty years later I was finally published. In between, I went back to school, got myself educated and ended up in university studying to be a teacher. That’s still what I do, only now I live in Spain. I yearn to return to Blighty. Writing keeps me sane, but little else does.
WHY DO I WRITE
I’m not at all sure. It’s simply something I do. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and when I was young, I’d spend hours on my own inventing adventures, playing with model soldiers, creating worlds. I read voraciously, Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming in the old days, moving on to Sven Hassel and Jack Higgins, all of whom are huge influences on me. When I was 12, I wrote my dear old gran a whodunit and she could not work it out. My desire to write was born. It is something which has never left me. Escape, I suppose, is the thing. I write virtually every day, and every day I learn something new. I don’t do it for financial gain – wouldn’t that be wonderful – I do it because I have a longing to create. To sit in front of the computer screen and know that when I step away there will be something there which did not exist before, that is what I strive to do. And if people are entertained, enjoy my work, then I feel I have accomplished something, something beyond words.
HOW HAS WRITING IMPACTED MY LIFE?
It’s given me purpose, a hope, a dream to fulfil. One day somebody of influence will pick up one of my books and want to turn it into a film, or a TV series. Until then, I strive to do the best I can, to improve, learn, develop. I write mainly at weekends and, being a teacher, I have longer holidays, which enable me to write virtually full-time. I rarely go out, and living in Spain, I have no close friends. If I was back in the UK, this might be different. Good friends may well lure me away from the keyboard, but I doubt it. Well, not that often! I manage my time pretty well, writing in the morning until roundabout one in the afternoon. Then I have a break, as I’m pretty much spent by then. Later I might do some more, and I often work on more than one book at a time. There are some who say you shouldn’t do this, as no book will ever be completed. Well, I’ve written 40 books now, 18 of which have been published, so whatever the experts say, they’re wrong. There is no doubt I spend more time on my own now than I have for a long, long time. I have to. If I want to create a 100,000 word novel, it takes time and damned hard work. I can usually get a book down of this size in about a month. That’s the first draft. The polishing takes a lot longer, but I still do my utmost to finish at least 3 books a year, sometimes more. I was first published in 2009, and in 5 years I’ve had 18 books accepted for publication. At the time of writing, I should have at least 2 more out by the end of 2014. Possibly three. So, that’s 4 books a year. But I never see it as a chore. As soon as one book is completed, I’m off on another one. I love it. I don’t think I’d do it if I didn’t.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD I GIVE TO BEGINNER WRITERS?
Writers always say that, but it’s true. Read as much as you can, but read critically. Often we are so lost within the pages of book, we are not even aware of the words. This is what the writer should strive to do. To take the reader on a journey, without being intrusive. Allow their imagination to run free, don’t give them too much. Write whenever you can. If you’re a routine person, write at certain times and stick to them. Read your words back to yourself OUT LOUD. Especially dialogue. It’s amazing how this helps. Whatever you do, don’t buy one of those ‘Learn to be a crime writer’ books; they are not worth the paper, believe me. Writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. I’m not a great fan of self-publishing, I have to say. Often this leaves me open to abuse. I couldn’t give a monkey’s. I have not fallen for the garbage, the promises of riches. I’m a journeyman writer, learning my trade every day of my life, and I’m lucky to have a publisher and an editor who are brilliant. They don’t cost me a single penny. I honestly believe this is still the best way forward. If you can manage to land an agent, that is brilliant. I have one, but when I started, I didn’t. I submitted my work to independent publishers. This can be something of a minefield, so check them out using Ralan.com and Predators and Editors. Authorbeware is also another good site. But this is not the easy option, believe you me. Indies are just as thorough and as demanding of excellence as the Trads. This has to be good. With so much dross out there, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get yourself noticed. But quality will always win through. That and writing LOTS of books! My Hardrada book ‘Varangian’ is doing ok, and I am hopeful the second volume will do even better. But fame and fortune are not the reasons I write, and nor should they be yours. You do it because you love it, because you have a story to tell. This is the key. If you can weave together a good story, you’ve got the magic formula. In truth, there is NO formula. I often hear people spouting off about the snowflake, the three part this, and the four part that. It’s all…well, I won’t swear, but I feel like it sometimes. These people know NOTHING about writing. Everything they’ve ‘learned’ comes out of a college course, or a workshop or something else. You know who my hero is? John Harvey. I idolise that man. Why? Because he’s a working, grafting writer. He has no pretentions. He learned his trade the old-fashioned way, by knocking out stories every day of his life. Hundreds of them. That’s what you should do. Write, and don’t stop writing. Free yourself from the shackles of being told what to do, and simply do it. Allow the story to take you far, far away. Live the dream, invent worlds and populate them with characters you care about and believe in. Do all of that, and you’ll get there.
I write a blog, in which you can read me going on and on and on about this kind of stuff, with a lot else besides: http://authorstuartgyates.wordpress.com
My website, www.stuartgyates.com is also full of background information, with links to where you can buy my books.
I write Young Adult paranormal mysteries under my pen name Glenn Stuart. Here are the covers. Sadly, ‘Sallowed Blood’ is not available for the time-being, as the publisher decided to cease business. However, I shall be re-submitting this book to my current publisher, expanding and improving it so watch this space!
As Stuart G Yates I write adult work; thrillers mostly. My great love is writing historical fiction. I love history, and I teach it. I’ve been telling kids about Harald Hardrada for over twenty years and one day I asked myself, ‘How come nobody has ever written ac story about him? He’s great!’ So, that’s what I’ve done. What began as one novel is now going to develop into a five-book series, tracing his early life until his tragic death at Stamford Bridge in 1066. In the meantime I write lots of other stuff, not all of it as taxing. Contemporary thrillers, packed with violence and lots of twists. They’re easy. I don’t have to research. My books aren’t for the faint-hearted, so if you’re easily offended, steer clear!
Here are some of the covers:
My best-selling book is ‘Varangian’, which is Harald’s first story. You can catch a taster on my website. All of my books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, as well as Smashwords. All e-readers are catered for, and every one of my books are available as paperback. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse into my world. Please let me know what you think, and remember…keep reading!