Welcome Wednesday says hello to Steve K. Smy, author of horror/future fiction/fantasy.
Steve sent along Kate Wellesley, from G1:The Guardians series, to be interviewed on Familiarise Friday of 14th June but today, it's Steve's turn to be on the hot spot for an interview.
Hello, Steve, it's nice to talk to you again.Hi Nancy. Thanks for inviting me to appear on your blog! It’s an honour to be here.
Your bio tells me that you live in Ipswich, Suffolk, England. Can you tell us a little about Ipswich, please? And what the visitor would love about Suffolk itself?
I confess that I dislike Ipswich intensely. It suffers all the modern ills without any truly redeeming features. Most of its history is forgotten, or even destroyed when convenient. Large parts of the town are little more than abandoned commercial sites. The historic port has been ‘modernised’ and lost all its character. The Vikings once raided and burnt a large part of the town. Now, that’s left to the local politicians and developers who start work and then leave before they finish.
Now Suffolk is another matter! If you can ignore the bad roads, there are some truly beautiful parts of the county. From the ‘Sandlings’ (heathland) along the coast in the east, through fairly flat areas to very cosy little places in the west, there’s a surprising variety. The historic Constable Country stands astride the Suffolk/Essex border in the south. There’s a rich heritage in the county and it would take many visits to even begin to scratch the surface. With the ‘sister county’ of Norfolk to the north, there’s a wonderful variety, including some impressive pine forests. If you love the gentle or the wild and windswept, Suffolk has the extremes. It’s also home to the vanishing port-town of Dunwich, which has been slowly claimed by the North Sea, and about which there are many legends. It was once one of the largest, most important, ports in Europe, if not the world! South along the coast, you now have Felixstowe Docks, which enjoys the same reputation in the modern age. And finally, there are some lovely nature reserves, including the gorgeously beautiful Minsmere, an RSPB Bird Reserve.
I haven't managed to visit that area, yet, but it sounds my cup of tea since I'm very 'history driven' during my holidays. This may sound like an odd question, but people get ideas from many sources - Does living in an area of historical significance have any bearing on your ability to create fantasy?
To be honest, I don’t think so, though living in a country that has such deep roots may help more than I realise. I attribute what I write more to my tastes in reading since childhood. I actively try to not reflect English history, which has too often been bloody and brutal, a cruelty that began at the very top. It’s also a very immoral history for long periods.
My hearty congratulations go to you! You’ve published a lot since ‘becoming serious’ about your writing in 2012. Were some of those new writings sparked by ideas/ notes/ partially completed work you’ve had for some time?
I tried to pick up a few threads from old ideas but they didn’t work out, so I ended up starting from scratch. Since the latter part of last year, in fact, some of the developments have been the result of experimenting with entirely new genres, like my G1: The Guardians series. There’s no way I would have written anything like those tales in the past.
What kind of things kick-start your imagination and lead to a new book?
That has always been a fascination for me! The kicks are so very random and unpredictable. It could be seeing a shape in clouds or a discussion on some issue. The ideas come from all over, sometimes too many too quickly, and at any time.
You describe your ‘Guardians’ series as novelettes. Many authors of today are tending to publish what they term novellas and find they are popular with readers. Do you see any difference between a novella and a novelette?
I was looking to write more short stories at the time the novelettes began to appear. Not sure as to what qualified as a short story and what was a novella, I looked it up on Wikipedia. I found a very handy reference there that gives a qualified idea of word counts and terminology for them. It was the first time I had ever encountered the word ‘novelette’. Of course, since the fourth novelette, the word count has risen, to tell more about the characters, so I’ve progressed to novellas, which are the next step up. I like both as they can be quick reads for when you really don’t want to wade into some heavy tome. Wikipedia does say that there aren’t any hard and fast rules about word counts, but I’m sticking to their guide. You can find it at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_count
Can you please tell us what you consider to be the best word length for a novelette?
I like to stay in the top bracket, really. That puts it at somewhere between 15,000 and 17,500 words. If there’s a lot of very short words, though, I might still regard a book as a novelette if it strays a little beyond the 17,500 limit.
I tend to write pretty lengthy novels and am honest enough to know that - without a lot of hard work and practise - I couldn't write very short stories. You write in the fiction sub-genre of horror/future fiction - for readers, like me, who have not read much of these categories, do you see any differences between dystopian writing and your horror/future fiction?
Horror/future fiction is actually quite new for me. It has a similarity to dystopian fiction, but only very loosely. For me, ‘future fiction’ is simply a device, allowing me to create conditions that suit the story as a frequently vague backdrop, with the occasional technological curiosity and changes in Society. It doesn’t have to be dystopian – it could actually verge on Utopian, depending on other factors. It could, in fact, be both side by side, with an almost perfect Society alongside a totally bankrupt ex-Society. It suited my purposes to have quite unpleasant conditions, but they aren’t totally dominant, hinting that change lies in the hearts and minds of people, rather than in the powers of institutions or governments.
You also write fantasy short stories. What word length would you consider to be the cut off point of a short story?
Again, using the Wikipedia guide as a baseline, I aim for between 5,000 and 7,500 words. If the story is aimed at an audience beginning with fairly young children, it may be less.
I've had a go at different sub-genres -ancient historical and contemporary mysteries - but I'm not sure which I like best, yet. Which of your sub-genres would you say is your favourite?
For fiction, there was a time when I would have struggled to decide between science fiction and epic fantasy. That’s shifted in recent years, however, as I consume more and more books. I don’t think I could comfortably name any one genre, especially since discovering mixed genre for my own writing. At the end of the day, I just like a good read. For Non-fiction, it would have been ancient history and military history – that hasn’t changed vastly, it’s just broadened to encompass more recent history. I’ve always loved myths and legends, too.
You’re also writing a longer novel. Is it too soon to tell us anything about it, or can you share a little?
That’s a tough one! I collided with illness which stopped all progress just short of the climactic chapters. To resume, I’m going to have to actually read the more than 120,000 words I’ve already written. That’s a job I really don’t relish, but there’s no other solution. As a consequence, there’s every possibility of some drastic changes being introduced. All I can really say is that it concerns the ‘Matter of Britain’ – which is a misnomer, as far as I’m concerned – meaning the Arthurian tales. At the time, there wasn’t a ‘Britain’, as such. It takes elements from the legends, especially those with roots older than the French fantasies about the subject that have become so dominant. But, of course, there’s changes, new ideas and some distinctly different views of the greatest history never truly told.
Have all of your stories been self- published so far? If so, can you share with us what you’ve found the most challenging aspects of self-publishing?
They have indeed. As a result of health issues, I don’t have the option of doing battle with the traditional methods, with all the difficulties, heartaches and such. I decided, therefore, that all I really wanted to do was to share. If that was the case, self-publishing made sense. It’s immediate and can be done on a non-existent budget. You get your work out there and some may enjoy it. Whether ‘some’ means ‘one’ or ‘a thousand’, it really doesn’t matter! And if it’s ‘none’, that’s okay too. You can only put out the buffet. It’s up to the guests to eat – or not. Perhaps that’s why I don’t really view anything as having been a real challenge. If pressed on that, I guess I’d have to say getting the word out that you’re offering your works to any and all comers.
I’m currently seeking beta readers for a historical novel that’s almost complete, though I’ve never used them before. I know that many authors really appreciate their feedback. Do you have a particular editor you like to use, or a bank of people who are your beta readers?
Here, I have to be utterly honest. Until I started having books turned into paperbacks, I had just one beta reader and one editor – myself. I simply can’t afford to pay others and I didn’t have any contacts, or even enough friends, to call on to be beta readers. With the advent of paperbacks, I’ve had some help from the guy at skoobebooks, who has read everything I’ve sent for publication. He’s picked up a few errors (nothing too glaring). Then again, with a ‘real’ book to work with, I’ve found some other things, including some isolated parts that I’ve reworded to fit better with later events. So new versions are on the horizon for some. I should say that another company like skoobebooks, FeedARead, were happy enough to sort out the pdf proofing and such, for the printers, but they didn’t give anywhere near the same level of help and support.
Which project is your latest release?
That would be the novella, The Sigil of Ahriman, which is the third part in the G1: The Guardians series. But hold on a minute! No, it may be another, the fourth part, by the date this goes out. I’m still writing it at the moment, and it’s going to be the longest in the series yet! There’s a possibility it may not yet be released, though, because there’s getting the cover design, editing, and everything else to be done. It only has a very vague working title, so far, and I’d rather not divulge that or anything else, just in case it’s not done.
What do you see as your biggest writing related challenge for the rest of this year?
With health issues to contend with, I’d have to say that they’re the biggest challenge. I can’t always write as much as I’d like, or wish, to. Other than that, it will be keeping new stories coming and possibly even having a crack at sorting out the novel.
Fantastic answers, Steve, and thank you for being so frank with my nosey inquiries!
Steve can be found at:
Imagineer on facebook
Short Story eBooks:
Shade of Evil (Smashwords, also available from all Amazon sites)
For the Sake of Mercy (Smashwords, also available from all Amazon sites)
The Ossilan Affair (Smashwords, also available from all Amazon sites)
Evil Under The Circle (Available from all Amazon sites - search ASIN B00CA74SX6)
Novelettes in Paperback:
For the Sake of Mercy (skoobebooks Book Store only)
The Ossilan Affair (skoobebooks Book Store only)
Shade of Evil (FeedARead only)
He has written and published (as ebooks) stories in three series: the "Thief" series of fantasy short stories, the horror/future fiction "G1: The Guardians" series (two novelettes, to date) and the science fiction "Captain Henri Duschelle Stories" (a short story and two novelettes). The first novelette in each of the last two series has now been published in paperback - contact the author for details.
Mr Smy is also a blogger with a growing readership.