Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sara Jayne Townsend on Being a Writer and Blasting Zombies

I'm peeling back the curtain again today to give you all a glimpse inside the mind of UK horror and crime author Sara Jayne Townsend. She was nice enough to sit down with me to discuss her process as a writer and the many unique challenges new authors face in breaking in.  

Griffin: Tell us about your forthcoming release.

Sara-Jayne: I’ve got a collection of short stories coming soon, tentatively scheduled for February 2012, with Stumar Press.  Entitled SOUL SCREAMS, this is a collection of 13 short horror stories.  Some of them are supernatural horror, some are more psychological, but they are fairly dark and gloomy.

Griffin: Describe your journey as a writer.

Sara-Jayne: I’ve been telling stories all of my life.  Even as a child, I was making up stories about my dolls and toys, who all had names, personalities and family histories.  I decided I wanted to be a published writer when I was 10, and tried writing a novel not long after.  It was awful, of course.  I knew I liked telling stories, but I didn’t know what made a good story.

Over the years I’ve learned many lessons about how to write a story that will keep the reader interested.  My first publishing contract, for my horror novel SUFFER THE CHILDREN, arrived shortly before my 40th birthday, thus fulfilling a 30-year-old dream.

I’m still learning how to tell a good story.  I don’t think a writer ever stops learning how to write.  There are always ways in which one can hone the craft.  It’s a lifelong learning process.

Griffin: Do you have a daily writing schedule and if so what is it?

Sara-Jayne: I have a day job which involves commuting into London, and it’s often hard to find time to fit the writing and everything else in around it.  I try to catch the early train twice a week, and sit in Starbucks with my NetBook for an hour before work, to get some writing time in.  This means getting up at 5:30am, and if someone had have told me a few years ago I would voluntarily be getting up at this time in the morning, I would not have believed them.  But it seems to be working for me, as it means I definitely get some words written, even in the weeks when I don’t do any writing in the evenings.

Griffin: How much planning, outlining and research goes into each of your books?

Sara-Jayne: I’m a bit anal when it comes to planning, but I’ve learned the hard way this is the way I have to work.  I have too many half-finished manuscripts that were abandoned before the end of draft 1 because I couldn’t work out what happens next.  So now I start with a plot outline, which usually runs to about three pages, detailing all the main plot details.  From there I’ll do a chapter plan, deciding what is going to happen in each chapter.  Once I have that done, I’ll start writing chapter 1.  I will deviate from the chapter plan – either a particular event will need to cover more than one chapter, or I’ll write a chapter and work out that something else needs to happen I hadn’t originally anticipated, but that’s OK.  

I’m a bit lazier when it comes to research.  I tend to start writing without doing much research.  As I’m working on draft 1 I’ll write margin notes for myself – “find out more about x” or whatever.  Then I will try and find out what I need to know, and amend future drafts accordingly.  The most important thing for me is to get the first draft laid down.  If I’m enthused about an idea, I need to start writing it.  I know myself well enough to know that if I went off to do the research before starting, I’d turn it into an excuse to never get started.  Draft 1 is the scaffolding.  Once I’ve got the first draft, I can then build the rest of the novel.

Griffin: How do you deal with writer's block?

Sara-Jayne: I find it best to go away for a while and do something other than write.  Blasting zombies on the Playstation sometimes helps.  Eventually I feel ready to go back to the computer and try again.

Griffin: Any thoughts on the current state of the publishing industry?

Sara-Jayne: I think the e-book issue is becoming a quiet revolution.  There seems to be fear in the industry that e-books will destroy print books, but that doesn’t have to be the case.  There is room for both, and most people with e-readers still buy print books as well as e-books.  But it’s not the case that e-books are a passing phase – they are here to stay, and sales of e-books climb ever higher, while more and more bricks-and-mortar book shops are closing down.  The publishing industry has to accept that e-books are not going away, and adapt to that.  I’d like to see e-book versions of all books available, and I’d also like to see all e-readers using the same format.

Griffin: What authors inspire you?

Sara-Jayne: I discovered Stephen King when I was 14 and he remains a huge inspiration, especially in my horror stories.  I like the way he portrays ordinary, flawed people in extraordinary situations.  

My crime fiction has been inspired by Sara Paretsky, whose character VI Warshawski remains a shining example of a strong, independent-minded female protagonist.

Griffin: What's the best thing about being a writer?

Sara-Jayne: Writers have an outlet for their fears and frustrations.  I’ve never written ‘happy’ stories, and I think it’s mostly because I use the writing as a way of trying to exorcise negative emotions.  Happy feelings I want to hold on too; I don’t feel the same need to write about them. 

As a horror and crime writer, I have an outlet for any feelings of hostility.  I can subject my characters to extremely unpleasant things, and it stops me from going nuts and lashing out at my co-workers or my fellow commuters.  Having that outlet keeps me sane.

Griffin: What's the worst thing about being a writer?

Sara-Jayne: Not being able to earn enough from it to make a living.  I often feel like I’m working two jobs – the day job is the one that pays the bills; the writing job is the one I’d rather be doing.  And that’s before considering the time required to work on promotion.  

Lack of time is an issue.  Sometimes I envy all those people that finish the day job and go home and relax for the evening.  But only sometimes…

Griffin: If you weren't doing this interview right now, what would you be doing?

Sara-Jayne: Probably blasting zombies in Resident Evil…

Griffin: Thanks so much for stopping by! Any last words?

Sara-Jayne: Thanks for having me!  Anyone who’s interested in learning more about my writing can visit my website at http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com and my blog at http://sayssara.wordpress.com.

Sara Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror fiction. She has two novels available as e-books from Lyrical Press, Inc: SUFFER THE CHILDREN, a horror novel and DEATH SCENE, first in a series featuring amateur sleuth Shara Summers. Her forthcoming collection of short horror stories, SOUL SCREAMS, will be available soon from Stumar Press. Her web site can be found at http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com and her blog at http://sayssara.wordpress.com.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Daniel Audet onThe Biz-ness of Writing.

As an aspiring author , maybe like you, my daily efforts consist of writing, thinking about writing and thinking-about-thinking-about-writing. We talk about talking about writing, we talk about writing and we talk about talking about writing about writing. Somewhere in the mix of the mental mosh pit that is most writers minds, is the looming realization (at whatever point it becomes important for you) that writing and publishing is a BUSINESS!

An obvious point, you say? Sure. But, you’d be more than surprised at how many talented writers and authors have a child-like idealistic perspective of the industry (including myself).
You, me, we - need to understand that your writing is a product and a commodity. It’s something you are trying to sell to others in the industry who will be trying to sell your work and you, to bookstores, reviewers and readers.
Let’s look at what that means for us as writers struggling and working our way up the food chain in the publishing industry.
First  - take an informal inventory:
You’re an imaginative determined person fighting for time to write. Check.
You have your website or blogsite or eCommerce site. Check.
You’re active on Twitter, Facebook and other social sites. Check.
You follow writing guru blogs. Check.
You have a pile of the best “How-To” books beside you. Check.
You go to book fairs and signings. Check.
People tell you the writing is worthy of publication. Check.
You’ve sent queries and manuscripts. Check.
Now what?
Hopefully, like any other endeavor wherein MONEY and LABOR are vital parts of the equation, you’ve taken a proactive approach to studying the business of publishing.
For me, when I look at the big picture of this industry I know instinctively that the major players are (sorry dude) NOT writers, (unless you‘re Steven Gore or James Patterson or David Baldacci ). We’re talking about big business and ALL that that implies. Take a long hard look at the industry and try to separate yourself emotionally from the overall insight of how it works. Examine the working elements. Put your ego, attitude and feelings in your back pocket. Look at it from the top down. Publishers, editors, reviewers and industry publications all play an important role in selling a book. (Did I mention how much I LOVE editors?)
Like any industry, labor is a baseline factor, an essential one for sure, but if you can gain the perspective of  the players involved who are trying to survive in a fast paced, extremely competitive marketplace and where and how they do their thing then you’ll better understand where and how you fit in as an author - aka LABOR.
It isn’t just a fight for book sales it’s a fight for dollars, in general.
Study trends like eBooks. Know the difference between online publishing, self-publishing, the large publishing houses and their divisions. Follow bloggers and columnists who write about this stuff. Read up on writers, writers websites, authors who sell lots of books and those who write about them.
Follow links out, look up names of industry leaders and companies involved.
Find the time. You’re a student, not just a writing student either. And, it isn’t just a matter of trying to hook up with people who can help you. The object is to bring your A-game and find partners.
My life has changed so much in the last 3 years, it’s crazy. As I fine tune my schedule and direct more focus and energy towards becoming a break out novelist I look back at how I spent my time and energy and I laugh. I know I could’ve never had any hope of making it to the bestseller list spending only a few hours a week writing, networking and mapping out the industry. I studied, still do, other writers and the industry as a whole and learned that professional means just that - professional. I used to spend more time telling people I was a writer than actually writing. Now I spend, at a minimum, 4 to 6 hours a day writing. Most days it’s more like 8 to10 or more hours a day between writing, reading, networking and studying.
Finally, let me tell you something critical I’ve learned the hard way:
I’ll know I’m there when someone else tells me I’m there.
What?  When is that?
When my short stories win or make it into the finals of competitions, when I get mentions from my peers in their columns and blogs, when people contact me about my work (which they are beginning to do) looking to help with editing or referring me to an agent, AND when my first manuscript is finally tweaked, edited and ready to rock-n-roll and someone is waiting to look it over, when someone buys me lunch to talk a book deal over, and, when people start buying my book. That‘s when.
Don’t think that all you have to do is get the book into an agents hands, go pick out a new Escalade, and then start writing the sequel. You need to know what a good agent is supposed to do and what they’ll expect of you too.
What does an agent do once he or she has a good prospect? Do you know?
What happens next?
Find out, this is what I’m saying.
You’ll realize that the more you understand about every aspect of the ‘bizz-ness of writing’ as you careen down ‘the writers road’ to the best seller list, that knowledge will make you a better driver and a better writer.
If a published author or industry notable chooses to take an interest in you, consider yourself blessed.
And, face the fact that you WILL need a good editor, first a line editor then an overall concept and structure editor. Like I've said, save your money for a really good one.
Stay tuned writers….


I agree with Daniel on a number of points. The bottom line is, being a writer is a life choice, not a get rich quick scheme and certainly not a ticket to getting your own reality show. It takes an insane amount of hard work and a dedication to always improving your craft. Unfortunately, more often than not, it also involves getting your ass handed to you more times than you can count. Paying your dues. That's what the old timers used to call it and the truth of what they believed still holds today. Thanks for stopping by Daniel and we look forward to seeing your novel on a shelf real soon. 

Daniel Audet Author Bio:
Writer, blogger and radio show host.

     At the age of 15 I ran away from home, near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and, in the tough years that followed I aspired to become a professional athlete in 3 different major sports, nearly making it until sidelined by serious foot and hand injuries. Ending up in LA as a model and an actor I’ve worked in over 30 films and 15 commercials, most recently doing a bit as a limo driver in an episode of “Burn Notice”.
     A sports & travel gear designer for a major sports action company in the 80′s and early 90′s, I got to travel the world, (something I intend to resume soon).
Nature called so I became a tree doctor for most of the 90′s and early 2000′s. Gigs as a waiter, a lifeguard, a bodyguard and a truck driver filled in some of the “lost years”. A writer by genetics, I’ve always written stories, poems and song lyrics since I was a kid, having found limited success in all 3 fields. Country music is a passion of mine and hopefully I will be spending more time in the Nashville music scene, maybe even getting song credit for work I’ve done that made it to country radio, and finding honest writing partners so I can get more songs on the radio with my name on them.
I made the choice to seriously and completely dedicate myself to fiction writing a few years ago, that is, to learn the craft and art of writing and storytelling. Without having any idea if I really “had the goods” or the capacity to compete in the big leagues I began my journey down the writers road.
So far, so good.

Connect with Daniel Audet on:
His Blog
Twitter: @danielaudet

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

13 Days of Christmas Giveaway!

If you're looking for a great holiday giveaway contest, you need to swing by Avery Olive's blog. 13 authors are taking part and she's got tons of cool giveaways. Have I mentioned a free copy of MALICE is one of them? You doesn't need more horror over the holidays?

In other news, my short horror story THE GRIP just (temporarily) dipped onto one of Amazon's bestseller lists. Normally short stories don't do that well, so I'm starting to think that giving away all those free copies of THE SECOND COMING might have wetted people's appetite.

Finally, I'm hoping to have the first draft of my post apocalyptic zombie novella HIVE finished by this Thurday (December 15th). I can't tell you how much fun I'm having on this one. I almost don't want it to end. Kinda scary no? I've taken some stylistic chances here too, but in true Hayes style, there's loads of action and hoards of ravenous zombies. Translation: Good family fun. Once that particular bad boy is in the can, I'll be working on a final draft of my 2nd full length novel, NOCTURNAL. That one's straight adult horror and I think people are really going to enjoy it. I'm also sure to get some angry hate mail, so I'm looking forward to that. All joking aside, 2012 is going to be a big year for me and I really look forward to seeing where this journey takes me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Scott Nicholson's Creative Spirit

So I asked Scott recently what was new in the life of a bestselling author. His answer: "Creative Spirit." 
Now, I'm familiar with all of Scott's work, but I still wasn't sure what he was talking about. 
"A new book?" 
"Kinda," he said. "Back in 2004 it was called The Manor. I've since revised and updated it for the Kindle."
I immediately got excited. Having read and loved The Manor a few years back, I can only imagine how much better it's become. See for yourself.  

"Scott Nicholson is a writer who always surprises and always entertains."- Jonathan Maberry, Dust & Decay

A paranormal thriller by Scott Nicholson

After parapsychologist Anna Galloway is diagnosed with terminal cancer, she has a recurring dream in which she sees her own ghost at Korban Manor. She’s compelled to visit the historic estate to face her destiny and the fate of her soul.

Sculptor Mason Jackson has come to the manor to make a final, all-or-nothing attempt at success before giving up his dreams. When he becomes obsessed with carving Ephram Korban's form out of wood, he is swept into a destructive frenzy that even Anna can’t pull him from.

The manor itself has secrets, with fires that blaze constantly in the hearths, portraits of Korban in every room, and deceptive mirrors on the walls. With an October blue moon looming, both the living and the dead learn the true power of their dreams.

View or sample Creative Spirit at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Kobo, Smashwords, BN.com, or Goodreads. Look for Liquid Fear and Chronic Fear from Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint.

CREATIVE SPIRIT is Scott Nicholson’s revised edition of the 2004 U.S. paperback THE MANOR. Scott is Kindle bestselling author of 12 novels, including THE RED CHURCH, DISINTEGRATION, LIQUID FEAR, and SPEED DATING WITH THE DEAD. Connect with Scott on Facebook, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Twitter, blogspot, website or Amazon page

Friday, December 2, 2011


Just a heads up for all you fans of FREE. My darkly disturbing horror short THE SECOND COMING, just went free on Amazon and it's already a hit the bestseller lists (#6 Short Stories, #14 Horror). If you're in the mood for something a little longer, you'll find my novella BIRD OF PREY HERE as a free pdf download and also on Obooko. While you're at it, might as well pick up my sci-fi horror short THE GRIP, also free. And finally, my novel MALICE is only .99 cents on Amazon for the holidays. All this holiday madness won't last long, so swoop in and grab your copies fast.

Holiday Malice

Attention Christmas shoppers. Malice (Kindle) is now .99 cents for the holidays, so if ever there was a time to pick up a copy for Grandma Suckles, Uncle Bob, Little Billy and the rest of the extended family, this is it.

Sadly, on B&N and elsewhere, Malice is still a whopping $2.99, but I have a warm spot in my cold heart for all you Nook and Epub lovers. If you're interested in picking up a copy, send me an email (griffinhayesbooks [at] gmail.com) with 'Holiday Malice' in the subject line and I'll cut you a Smashwords coupon for $2 off the cover price. For people bad at math like me, that means you'll pay the same as the Kindle folk. A great ice breaker at cocktail parties, trust me.

Please note: No children were harmed in the creation of this blog entry.