Recommend It Monday–The Unseen, Eleanor by Johnny Worthen

Last week, Johnny Worthen stopped by to tell us about his newest novel, The Unseen, Eleanor.  Since then, I’ve had a chance to dive into it.

The book is fantastic.  The one element that I appreciate the most throughout the entire novel is the fear.  Eleanor has never known a life without fear.  What Worthen does a beautiful job of is layering that fear, so she’s physically afraid of the humans that killed her family and of people in general who would harm her if they knew the truth, but she’s also emotionally afraid: to love, trust, and not be afraid.  The one person she can trust with her truth is dying more every day, so now she has the added fear of what will happen to her once Tabitha is gone.  There are moments in the novel when Eleanor wants to trust so badly and it’s heartbreaking to watch.

Eleanor and Tabitha are hiding in a small town, and Worthen does a wonderful job of showing the tradeoffs of that.  On the one hand, when she’s not required to be at school and doesn’t need to go into town, she’s free to live her life without interference.  Except for the social worker who drops by every month to check on them, they’re pretty much left alone.  On the other, the town is so small that if something unusual happens, the twisted version of it spreads like a wildfire that can never be fully extinguished.  Eleanor sacrifices so much in order to remain unseen.  The book is a wonderful fit for everyone from young teens to adults.

 

Twitterati

I suck at Twitter.  Most of the time, if I have something to say, I need much more than 140 characters with which to say it.  Most of the things I can say in 140 characters is mundane.  I’m not sure the Twitterverse cares how much I love my cat (I seriously freaking love my cat) or that I just created the most epic recipe for macaroni and cheese ever (one word: bacon).  Ok, it might care about that last one.

Unfortunately for me, Twitter is the social medium of choice when it comes to publishing.  The obvious choice would be to stop being so boring and start doing things worth tweeting about.  Hopefully, these next few months will provide me the opportunity to do just that.

I have some upcoming publication news that I’ll share once everything is in place.  I’m gearing up to edit a novel (not one of mine) in the next few days or so.  I have some great new interviews scheduled for the coming weeks and a couple of guest posts on the horizon.  I’ve decided to take my thesis research trip in August, so I should have plenty of things to tweet about that.  I’ll also be attending the Enter The Imaginarium Convention (Louisville) in September.

The other choice is that you guys can get nosey.  Ask me whatever you want, but bear in mind that you shouldn’t ask what you really don’t want to know.  You never know when I just might answer.

Melville Revisited

Yesterday I shared my favorite piece of literature.  Today, I wanted to share the piece of literature that left me feeling the most unsettled.  Interestingly enough, it is also by Herman Melville.  The story is “Benito Cereno.”

If you haven’t read this story, I highly recommend that you do.  For those that don’t, Captain Amasa Delano sees a ship come into an isolated area.  Thinking it might be in distress, he boards his whale-boat and goes to the other ship, which turns out to be a Spanish ship carrying assorted merchandise and slaves.

“Benito Cereno” was originally published in 1856.  To put that into context, slavery wasn’t banned in the US until the Thirteenth Amendment was adopted in 1865.  The first thing that bothered me was the way Melville offhandedly tells us through Don Benito that the slaves originally numbered over 300, but due to a scurvy outbreak, there were closer to 150 slaves left.  There’s almost this feeling of, “Eh, what can you do?  These things happen.”  These attitudes have been the subject of academic research, of which this is but an example.  Whether Melville, himself, embraced or opposed these feelings is irrelevant.  The sad truth is that too many people across the globe felt this way, and I think it is a valuable exercise to experience the range of emotions from uneasiness to horror.  The most disturbing part of this story is the way I kept finding myself feeling sorry for the Spaniards during the slave revolt.  The prose is written in such a way that it evokes that sympathy from the reader, and it’s a shock to the system when you realize you’re sympathizing with the peddlers of human flesh.  Every time I realized where my sympathies were, I was horrified.  I can honestly say that I have never reacted to any piece of literature the way I reacted to “Benito Cereno.”

Herman Melville

I have a confession: I have never read Moby Dick.  This leads to my next confession: I don’t intend to.  Maybe this makes me a poor excuse for a scholar.  Maybe I’m ok with this.  His style isn’t one I particularly enjoy, so it is somewhat ironic that my favorite piece of literature is “Bartleby, the Scrivener.”  If you’ve never read it, click the link and read it.  I’ll wait.

My final confession: Bartleby is my hero.  This is not ironic.  I want to be Bartleby when I grow up, minus that whole dying in prison part.  He doesn’t feel like doing what he is employed to do, so his reply to pretty much everything in the story is, “I would prefer not do.”  And then he doesn’t do whatever it is he would prefer not to do.  That, in and of itself, is worthy of my adoration, but it gets even better.  Bartleby gets away with it.  Every. single. time.  That, my friends, is why Bartleby is my hero.  He gets paid for work he never does.  He gets fired, but he would prefer not to get fired, so he keeps showing up and his boss keeps paying him.  He moves into his bosses offices, but would prefer not to move out, so he doesn’t.  The fact that going to the authorities is the narrator’s last resort is nothing short of mindboggling.

Now, I should probably clarify why, exactly, Bartleby is my hero.  It’s not because he gets away with being lazy or by basically becoming a moocher.  It’s because he says something and then his actions back up what he says.  How many times have we “preferred not to,” and yet we did it anyway.  Perhaps we felt obligated.  Maybe we didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  Or, refusing could be a bad move politically, so we bite our tongues and do what we would prefer not to do.  Bartleby doesn’t do that.  He also never refuses outright any request.  He just says, “I would prefer not to,” and then he doesn’t do it.  Emulating Bartleby could become problematic if taken to the extreme, but I think we could all benefit from the occasional, “I would prefer not to.”

Researching My Master’s Thesis

I’m so happy that I have so many readers from across the country (and even across the world). Now, I have a favor to ask you. Do you have an old asylum in your town/county/state? I’d like to know!

This summer, I’m brainstorming my Master’s Thesis and what I plan to propose to my thesis advisor is a short story collection based on former patients of these asylums. I’d do a novel, but even the “long” thesis is way too short. Hell, even my novella is longer than the longest thesis option I have (and that doesn’t even include the critical essay portion of the thesis). My goal is to travel to one of these asylums, take photos, research the facility, and find out as much as I can about the people who worked there and who were kept there. Then, my thesis project will be stories based on those people.

I can (and intend to) Google the different asylums we’ve had in our history, but I won’t be a local so maybe the people who live there will know something I don’t. Plus, if you give me a head’s up about a place close to you, we might even be able to meet up for lunch while I’m doing my research. You don’t have anything near you but you might know someone who does? Great! Feel free to share this. I’m looking for the evilest of evil institutions because I want to try and give those poor souls a voice, even if it’s a fictional voice.

Guest Post–Johnny Worthen

Yesterday, Johnny stopped by the blog to discuss his latest novel, The Unseen, Eleanor.   Today he stops by to give authors some advice about what to do when your work-in-progress stops being “in progress” and starts being “your work.”

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Some advice for authors

I’ve been a writer my entire life, keeping journals, making newsletters, blogging and creating, but it was until recently I decided that I would be an author.

Writing is easy. It is a solitary experience, it’s creative and personal. Authoring however, needs the involvement of lots of people and people require compromise. This is the hardest part of the being an author. You need alpha readers, beta-readers, publishers, content editors, line editors, cover designers, reviewers and of course, readers. All of these people will pass judgment upon your work.

Even before it’s for sale, the work is out of your hands. If you’re lucky, you’ll work closely with your editor. If you’re not, you’ll be lucky if they tell you what changes they made. If the stars are aligned properly, you might have a say in the cover design, but probably not. All this makes a creative person cringe. Too many cooks. Too many critics.

I knew all this before I got my first my book picked up. I braced myself for the worse, feeling helpless and defensive as if my own child were on trial. I’ve been lucky though. My experiences with Omnium Gatherum and Jolly Fish Press, my two publishers so far have been awesome. However, just in case they weren’t before I sent out a single query letter, I formulated a plan.

Fellow writers and authors, let me tell you my secret plan for handling all this meddling in your work. A way to get past the trolls who give you one star. Let me tell you the only remedy you have, the only part of your career that you truly control, the answer to the question of what now:

Write another book.

That’s it. Make it better than your last one. That’s really all you can do. Give yourself another swing at the ball. Take your experience and your talent and go again. Look ahead as much as possible, not back. Write another book.

Check out my new book, ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN.

“A riveting supernatural character study wrought with the pains of first love and the struggles of self-acceptance.”

— Kirkus Reviews   ELEANOR (THE UNSEEN)

ELEANOR on Amazon

 

And to see love made real with Magick, do not miss  BEATRYSEL

— Unsatisfied with the ancient grimoires, the Magus made his own. Unsatisfied with the ancient demons, the Magus made Beatrysel. She was a creature of love, but there is no love without hate, no light without darkness, no loyalty without betrayal. And demons covet flesh.

BEATRYSEL on Amazon

 

 

Author Corner–Johnny Worthen

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E: Hey, Johnny!  Welcome back to the blog.  How goes things in the land of tie dye?

J: Exciting and vibrant. Colorful and casual.

E: You have a brand new book.  What can you tell us about it?

J: ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN is my new young adult paranormal novel. It’s been called a romance and a horror because there’s a monster in it, but just one little one. I think of it as a fable.

It is the story of a fifteen year-old girl growing up in a tiny Wyoming town. She quiet and unassuming, average and easily ignored. But is not as she seems. She is a sea of contradictions; lost but found, old but young, malleable but fixed. She is most human and not.

It is a character study of a confused but loving little girl who has to face some real challenges. It is centered around a metaphor that change is hard but necessary. It is a book about things not being as they seem and the challenges of growing up. It delves into some serious issues; Bullying, prejudice, love and forgiveness. Courage and cowardice. Trust. It is a haunting tale that will stay with the readers long after it’s finished.

It’s getting great reviews and I’m very proud of it.

Eleanor Cover

E: The Unseen Saga is at three books so far.  What can we expect from future books?

J: ELEANOR is a stand-alone title. I want to make that clear. I always feel a little tricked when I buy a book only to find out an ending isn’t included. My publisher put “Book 1” on the cover, but it stands wholly and completely on its own.

However, if you love Eleanor as much as I and are curious to continue her tale, it does so in the next book CELESTE and the third book  DAVID which again has an ending.

Without spoiling anything, I can say that in these later books the stakes get higher – much higher. Eleanor’s struggles on, still afraid but feeling her potential. Her secretes still haunt her and she has to come to terms with her own prejudices and fears. Danger and discovery wait around every door and catastrophe is but one slip up away.

E: Do you see the Saga going beyond the three books or will you stop here?

J: The three books are written and at the publisher, so if I die, Eleanor’s story will still be told. I’m happy about that. If THE UNSEEN is popular enough I have some ideas on the progression of the story, but I am very satisfied with the conclusion of the trilogy as it stands now, as I am the conclusion of the first book. 

E: Do you have any upcoming events, book signings, etc?

J: The official date of release is July 1, but I have a June 28th launch date at the biggest Barnes & Noble in the state. Check this out.

I’m doing all kinds of conventions and book stuff all summer, including teaching at the League of Utah Writers and going to Comic Con. I’ll fit as many book signings in as I can. Lots and lots I hope. Check my website. 

E: Jolly Fish Press is doing a giveaway for Eleanor.  What formats are up for grabs?

J: Jolly Fish has this give away:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I have this one:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’m not sure what Jolly Fish is giving away, but I’m giving away a signed paperback copy from my own stash. Enter both. 

E: Do you have any other projects going on?

J: BEATRYSEL and DR. STUART’S HEART are still going well. I’m promoting them to readers with darker tastes. In 2015 look for another complete change of gears from me when THE FINGER TRAP, a comedic noire detective mystery/social commentary comes from Jolly Fish and my comedian slacker detective Tony Flaner is unleashed upon an unprepared populace.

E: What has been the most memorable part of your publishing journey so far?

J: Getting to talk at conventions and conferences. I love the attention and I can share my scars so other people don’t have to get them to get where they’re going.

JohnnyWorthen

Author Corner–Max Booth III

E: Hey, Max!  Welcome back to the blog.  Of course, you had to bring me guacamole.  Why can’t you bring me pie like normal people?

M: It is pie. It just happens to be filled with guacamole. I don’t understand why you won’t just eat the damn thing. It’s delicious. This is what killed Hitler. It’s good for us. Trust me. One bite.

E:  You have a new book out, Toxicity.  When did it release and what can you tell us about it?

M: Toxicity was published by Post Mortem Press back in April. Post Mortem Press is probably best known for publishing the short fiction of Joe Hill and Clive Barker through various anthologies, along with the ongoing columns by Harlan Ellison in their quarterly dark fiction journal, Jamais Vu.

Toxicity is a dark comedy about drug addiction and dysfunctional families. It features three main characters and their individual stories, who all eventually clash together toward the end of the book. So, it’s kind of similar to certain Quentin Tarantino narrative techniques in that aspect. Many reviews actually have compared the book to Tarantino, as well as the Coen Brothers, Elmore Leonard, and Carl Hiaasen.

Toxicity Front Cover

E: Where did you get the idea for the book?  What’s the weirdest, or most unusual, thing that has inspired a story?

M: I grew up loving the hell out of films like Snatch and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. I wanted to write a humorous crime novel in the same sort of style. The actual idea? Man, I don’t know. I started off by writing about a dysfunctional family very similar to my own family, and allowed the craziest shit I could imagine to continue from there. After many rewrites, an actual novel had formed.

E: You’ve got some short story news recently.  What got accepted and where can we find it?

M: My short story “The Neighborhood has a Barbecue” was recently accepted in Michael Bailey’s psychological horror/science fiction anthology, Qualia Nous. He had previously published my story “Flowers Blooming in the Season of Atrophy” in his horror anthology, Chiral Mad 2. “The Neighborhood has a Barbecue” is written in the same style as old Twilight Zone episodes, so fans of that show will probably really dig my story. Well, that’s the idea, at least.

Vincenzo Bilof also accepted my short story “One Day I’ll Quit This Job and Rule the World” in his anthology, Surreal Worlds. My story is…surreal.

Both anthologies should be available sometime later this year.

E: You’ve got a fairly busy convention schedule this year.  In fact, didn’t you just get back from one?  Where else can we find you this year?

M: Indeed I did! I just returned home after a great convention at Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago. I spent most of the time panhandling on the streets with Christian A. Larsen.

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The remaining conventions for this year all happen to fall on September. I will be at the following conventions, hosting a vendor table for my own small press, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing: Monster-Con (San Antonio, TX – September 06-07), Enter the Imaginarium (Louisville, KY – September 19-21), and Alamo City Comic Con (San Antonio, TX – September 26-28).

Side note: I’ll also be attending Enter the Imaginarium in September.  If you’re in the surrounding area or you’re willing to drive and you’ve got a burning desire to meet us, that’s where we’ll be.  Charlie can’t come.  They said something about “biohazards” and “fumes.”  Bastards.

E: You have another book coming out this fall from Kraken Press.  What can you tell us about that one?

M: The Mind is a Razorblade will be published this September by Kraken Press. It’s a supernatural neo-noir horror novel of a man born into death. Drowning, he wakes beside two corpses. His memory has been wiped clean. He doesn’t know his name, what he’s doing here, who these people are, or even why one of them is a cop. Questions plague his mind like hellfire, questions that begin a journey leading into the rot of downtown America, a journey that will not end until every one of his questions have been answered, despite who has to die in the process. Even if those who have all the answers aren’t even human.

A story of identity and redemption, satanist cults and funny bunny slippers, The Mind is a Razorblade is the deformed lovechild of a lunatic raised on cheesy ‘80’s science fiction movies.

mindisarazorbladekraken

E: You’ve also edited another tribute anthology.  What was behind choosing Charles Bukowski and what are your plans for future tribute anthologies?

M: I’ve done two tribute anthologies so far. Volume one focused on Kurt Vonnegut, and the second featured Charles Bukowski. Both of these authors inspired me both as a person and a writer. They affected not only me, but millions of fans. I’m currently putting together a new volume for Elmore Leonard, and if any writers are interested, they have until September 30 to submit something to me.

I am actually on the fence about continuing the tribute series after Elmore Leonard. If I do, I’ll either tackle Flannery O’Connor or Roald Dahl.

Roald Dahl sounds like a lot of fun, to be honest.

E: If you could change any part of the publishing industry, what would you change and why?

M: Besides all the ass kissing that’s involved, probably the really shitty “publishers” popping up every two seconds. You know the kind I’m talking about. The publishers that pretty much release only anthologies, offering zero payment or contributor copies, and exist solely to make money off of writers’ friends and families. I would love to see them all fall off the face of the earth.

Max headshot max is homeless

BIO:

Max Booth III is the author of two novels, TOXICITY and THE MIND IS A RAZORBLADE, along with a collection of flash fiction called THEY MIGHT BE DEMONS. He is the co-founder of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and the assistant editor of Dark Moon Digest. The editor of numerous anthologies, he has studied under Craig Clevenger and award winning editor, Jennifer Brozek. He writes columns for Litreactor, Revolt Daily, and Zombie POP. Raised in Northern Indiana, Max currently works as a hotel night auditor somewhere in San Antonio with his dachshund and life partner.  You can find Max at his website  or on Twitter.

Things Abandoned

As I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I saw a link for the 14 creepiest abandoned places on Earth.  One of those places was Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts.  Sadly, when I went to research Danvers, I learned that the main building had been demolished.  One of my dreams is to visit one of the many abandoned asylums.  I know, that sounds creepy.  I blame my horror writer friends.  I want to walk through the empty halls and see where all of those poor souls slept, ate, and bathed.  I want to see the “therapy rooms” and the infirmary.  I want to walk through the graveyard.  You may be asking yourself why I would want to do such gruesome things.  It’s simple, really.  The husks of those institutions stand, but who remembers the people lost to them?  It grieves me to think that so many people suffered and died in places like those without anyone remembering them.  I’d like to find out who was there and why so maybe one day I could tell their story.  It won’t be exactly their stories.  There are things I couldn’t possibly know or ever find out.  I can imagine their stories, though.  I can put into words what their stories might have been, or could have been.  I can bring to life the cruelty they faced, not for pleasure but as a reminder of what we are capable of doing to each other and how easily our circumstances can change to make conditions favorable for it.  Places like Danvers shouldn’t be destroyed.  We need to remember.

Submitting

According to my records, I haven’t submitted anything for publication in about a year.  The upside to this is that I have a lot of stuff that’s submittable.  So, that’s what I’ve been doing this week.  At this point, I’ve sent out a chapbook of poetry, two short stories, and three nonfiction essays.  I have a lot more stories lying around, so I expect to be reading, revising, and getting a few more out the door by the end of the week.

 

Another New Project Idea

I don’t know about you, but it seems like I get more ideas than I do finished projects.  I actually have a folder for all the ideas I get in the hopes that I will actually get to them.  Enraptured was one of those.  It sat in that folder for a good four years before I figured out how to go about writing it.  I just printed out a hardcopy of the draft I have so far, and I’m thrilled that it’s at 55 pages.  That’s a vast improvement over the handful of sentences it used to be.  So, of course, when I finally decide to get back to work, the muse strikes me again.  I’m not going to say much yet about this new project, but I spent a portion of my morning doing research and printing out materials.  I’m not sure how to go about it, yet, but when I figure it out, it will be amazing.  Happy writing to you and may the muse come and bother you for awhile.

Author Corner–Simon Sylvester

E: Hi Simon and welcome.  Pull up a chair.  I’ve locked Charlie in the closet so you should be safe for the time being.  We’ve been working on his impulse control but it’s not going well.  Corpses.  What can you do?

S: Not a problem. If I’d only known, I’d have brought my shovel.

E: You have your debut novel coming out very soon.  What is the name of it and what can you tell us about it?

S: It’s called The Visitors, and it’s equal parts mystery, thriller and coming-of-age. The main character, Flora, is a 17-year-old girl living on a remote Scottish island. She would very much like to leave, but then two weird strangers turn up – and islanders start disappearing. Unravelling the mystery takes Flora to some terrifying places, and leads her to question her entire sense of self. The story is bound in Scottish folklore, too, and rooted in the Scottish islands. It’s about isolation and friendship. It’s a murder mystery about love.

Comp copies small

E: What has the process been like for this book?  What has been the most frustrating and the most rewarding parts of the journey?

S: It’s been a relatively short journey, I guess – just under three years from conception to publication. Most frustrating have been occasional parts of the editing process. I enjoy editing, but I did three or four huge redrafts of The Visitors, including a partial reworking that damn near finished me. But for all the hard graft, there’s nothing like that feeling when the story accelerates away from me – when I’m no longer in control of my characters, and they’re deciding for themselves what they want to do next. That’s why I write – for that dizzying, exhilarating moment when I’m part of something bigger than myself.

E: You also have a book of flash fiction pieces out.  What can you tell us about it?

S: That’s called Marrow. It’s a collection of 28 stories ranging between 13 and 1,000 words. The subjects flit from voodoo to lion tamers, fighter pilots to guinea pigs, and avocados to the end of the world. I love flash fiction. In 2010, I started writing 140-character stories on Twitter. I’ve pretty much stopped now, but I’ve written about 1,500 of them over the years. I moved onto longer flash fiction when 140 characters simply wasn’t enough. I love working in a 300-500 word range – it’s plenty to shape a sense of character, or a glimpse of a world. Telling a good story in that space is a real challenge, but it’s fun, and when I’m so strapped for time, flash fiction gives me the hit I need to stay sharp. I’ve also started reading and performing my work at open mics and spoken word nights more often, and that’s fuelled the need for shorter stories – I prefer reading flash fiction to excerpts from longer works – it’s more satisfying to share something complete, and flash fiction encourages a bit of theatre.

marrow-stack

E: You chose to self-publish this one.  What are some of the major differences you encountered between self-publishing and having a publisher (either pros or cons)?

S: I self-published Marrow for a few reasons. I didn’t think there was much hunger for flash fiction collections from traditional publishers, for one thing. But as The Visitors was going through the editing process, and I was learning more about how a book is put together, I decided that I wanted to learn some of the skills for myself. So I taught myself enough InDesign to lay out and typeset the collection, then flailed my way through Photoshop to design the cover, and bounced the roughs off my friends for feedback. I liked being in charge of the process and creating everything from the ideas in my head to the finished book in my hands. I’ll probably self-publish the next collection, too. But my experience of traditional publishing has been life-changing, and I wouldn’t change it for all the tea in China. Thanks to Quercus Books, I have a phenomenal editor who challenged and encouraged me to develop the story far beyond my original manuscript. Her ideas and guidance have massively improved my book, my process and my writing. Working with the Quercus team has been really positive. The copy editor picked up inconsistencies no-one else had noticed, and the designer created a cover that took my breath away. The book looks and feels better than I could have achieved with self-publishing, and the story is stronger. Quercus have managed all the online listings, and we’re now starting to plan events around the book that I couldn’t have done without them. They’ve been incredible. It still feels like I should be waking up.

E: You’ve just finished a novella, The Year of the Whale.  You work with multiple story lengths: short stories, flash fiction, novellas, novels.  Do you have a favorite length to work with?

S: The story dictates the length. Of those 1,500 Twitter stories, I’ve found myself going back to redraft some of them in longer forms, because 140 characters simply wasn’t enough for the idea, and it was bugging me to leave them unfinished. Generally speaking, I seem to gravitate towards the extremes of flash fiction and novels, missing out the short stories and novellas in the middle. I started with short stories, and they were how I learned to write, but it’s only in writing novels and flash fiction that I’ve improved my storytelling – flash fiction taught me to be precise and concise, and novels gave me the space to expand on my ideas and make a world of my imagination. The Year of the Whale is a peculiar piece. It was all I could salvage of a novel I abandoned at 50,000 words a few years ago. I was left with 15,000 words of a character I loved and an idea I couldn’t shake. I’d been wanting to finish it for years, but The Visitors, Marrow and next novel The Hollows always came first. Then I discovered a novella competition with a month before the deadline, and decided the time had come to wrap it up. Cue long days and late nights to get it finished in time. I don’t think I’ll write another novella in a hurry. I have so little time to write, and the next novel is shouting louder than ever. It’s about a man who loses his memories, and the woman who goes to find them. It’s almost 20,000 words in, and I’m starting to know my characters. It’s beginning to evolve, and that’s really exciting.

E: You have an agent.  What was that process like?  What advice would you give to other authors who are currently seeking representation?

S: My agent is a wonder. She’s called Sue, and she’s incredible. I was very lucky. A friend of mine heard she was taking on new writers, so I sent her a short story about a WWII fighter pilot and an outline for the novel, which at that stage was three-quarters finished. She liked the story and was intrigued by the novel – so I finished it as quickly as I could, spent months and months redrafting, then submitted it. A week later, she wrote back to say she loved it. That was The Visitors. I wouldn’t have found Quercus without Sue. She’s heavily involved with the editorial side as well, which is brilliant – she totally gets me and my ideas, and it’s fantastic to talk to her about my stories. She’s also extremely nice; whenever I call her up to discuss some part of the job, we usually spend half an hour talking about Game Of Thrones or the mice in her office. As for advice on finding an agent – do your research. Make sure your work is a good fit with the agent you’re approaching. Follow their guidelines. Be realistic about where your work fits the market. Be nice. Read the Slushpile Hell Tumblr, and don’t do any of the things on there.

E: What is the most difficult part of your journey as a writer and what are some ways you overcome those difficulties?

S: The hardest part is time. I work very hard as a teacher at a local college, I make short films for local businesses, and I have a wife and daughter I want to spend more time with. As a result, I don’t get a lot of time to write, and I find that frustrating. I often work very late, or cram a lot of writing into my days off (I once wrote 11,000 words in a day). But that means I get tired and stressed. I crave writing, and there’s nothing else I’d rather do, but at the moment my hands are tied by real life. I have my next five novels lined up and good to go, but no space in my head or time at my desk. I try not to beat myself up about it, but it does get me down sometimes. Writing is all I want to do. One day, I’ll find a way. For now, I have my half-hours of flash fiction, and half-days of my second novel.

Good questions. Thanks for having me along!

IMG_0491 IMG_3768 Photo on 13-12-2013 at 10.48 #4 reading at WPM

Simon Sylvester is a writer, teacher and occasional filmmaker. He was born in 1980 and grew up in Scotland, England, Germany and Northern Ireland. He studied English Literature at Lancaster University and Film Production at the University of Bristol.
After years working as a camera assistant and then a magazine journalist, Simon started writing fiction in 2006. His short stories have been published in journals, anthologies and magazines including Dark Mountain, Gutter, Valve, [PANK], Fractured West, Fire Crane, Southpaw and Smoke: a London Peculiar. He won the Flashtag short short story slam in 2014, was shortlisted for the Drowned Villages poetry competition, and has written more than a thousand very short stories on Twitter. His debut novel The Visitors will be published by Quercus Books in June 2014 and he is now working on his second novel, which is called The Hollows.
Simon lives in Cumbria with the painter Monica Metsers and their daughter Isadora.