Hi Matt. Interestingly you started out studying astrophysics What made you switch to writing?
My career path certainly isn't typical, though us writers are
Writing and science do appear to go together. I know a lot of people who like myself, write software by day and prose by night. Tell us about your publishing experience. Did you consider traditional publishing before taking the Indie route?
I sent out a couple query letters to agents and received some interest, but in the end I was swept away by the excitement of the digital revolution in publishing, and the new avenues it opened up for authors. It’s certainly been a learning process, but I couldn't have hoped for a better response critically or commercially. There’s a fair bit of extra work involved in going the indie route, from arranging an editor and cover artist to all the marketing and promotion, so any writer under the impression this is the easier route should probably think again if they want to be successful. Going indie means acting as both author and publisher, and you have to be equally adept at both roles. Fortunately I've received a great deal of help and advice along the way.
The next book in the Crescent series I’ll publish via my own company again, but I wouldn't rule out going the traditional route for future projects. There’s a lot of decent publishers out there, especially those who are swiftly adapting to the new digital landscape. The best thing about the publishing upheaval is that now authors have a choice.
Why did you set up your own company to publish Endless instead of using one of the existing self-publishing companies?
I set up a publishing company called Astro Impossible Books. It's not necessary of course, but it adds a little extra professionalism, or at least reminds me to think like a business when it comes to publishing the books. I don't think I'd go with an existing self-publishing company for the same reasons I chose against a traditional publisher - I wanted to be in control of all aspects of the novel and its release.
Endless takes place on the planet Crescent. Tell us about how you created a world with its own laws of physics and humanoid characters? Did you do much research?
A terrifying amount. Research and planning took several months at the start, and continued to be a large part of the workload throughout. There’s always another aspect to flesh out, be it historical or anthropological or why-is-that-big-mountain-there, which inevitably leads to five further aspects that need attention, and so on; the world can never truly be finished in that regard, which is both exhilarating and an almighty time sink. Even if you’re being sensible about the level of detail you put into the world it remains a large task, but luckily you don’t have to start from scratch. Earth provides all the inspiration required – you can barely imagine anything so weird and wonderful as that which is already lurking in some exotic nook or dark depth of our planet. Then of course there’s a world’s worth of history to pilfer for your cultures and civilisations.
I made things a little easier for myself by populating Crescent with humans, as well as fairly recognisable (if archaic) technology; then I made it much harder by making all other flora and fauna unique to the world, and introducing some complicating magical twists. It’s not writing unless you’re making your temples throb.
More of my rambling about world building can be found here, if anyone is feeling particularly masochistic.
It actually sounds like a lot of fun to do - but also a huge amount of work. Tell us about Rifts, the next book in the series. In what way do you think you have grown as a writer since Endless?
In many ways, definitely. Endless underwent six months of editing and rewriting under the guidance/barracking of my editor, and ended up about 20k words lighter at the end of it. It was a fairly gruelling process, but one which taught me a lot. With Rifts I've been a lot more methodical in regards to planning and structuring the book – even if the storm of post-its and notepads on my desk suggests otherwise – and I think the pacing and clarity of the writing has also improved. It’s subsequently given me the freedom to make the plot even more complex and multi-stranded; Rifts is perhaps a more challenging story, more simply told.
It’s also darker, grittier, and more immediate. Whereas Endless had more of a slow build (necessary in some degree to assemble the world and its characters), with Rifts I throw the reader right into the tumult. Best sharpen your blade.
What about the future then? Will you stay within the fantasy genre?
I envisioned the Crescent series as a trilogy, so there’ll be at least another fantasy book after Rifts. But I’m keen to try out other genres, or perhaps something more mainstream. A lot of my shorter fiction has been of a literary bent, so I wouldn't rule that out. Recently I've been working on a black comedy, which might turn into something eventually. That’s the fun thing about being a writer (and reader), your next trip is as likely to take you to Mars as it is Milton Keynes.
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It's also an advantage of independent publishing - you're not tied to what your publisher wants and can follow your own creative path. I really enjoyed Endless, and am looking forward to Rifts. Good luck with all of it, Matt.