The entire M3 Coffee Shoppe smelled of apples and cinnamon when Red pulled a tray of Danish onto the cooling rack before spinning icing onto them. Claret was busy shaving chocolate curls for the tops of the cocoa mugs. Who was coming today? Ian Shaw. The big red guy with the massive claws was the giveaway. Red wanted to ask about wrinkling the time-space continuum with two new-twist sci-fi books.
M3: Ian, boil down who you are as an author in the jackback style.
IS: Ian Shaw is a single man aged 52 who enjoys writing for its own sake and is an avid computer game player. Born into a dysfunctional family, he had no support in his early writing despite showing much promise and getting the sponsorship of a woman writer who offered to get his story published at the age of fourteen, but was forced to burn his first manuscript a page at a time. Consequently he remained unpublished until his more recent writing saw the light of day.
M3: Knowing the lack of support you have gotten, how has the publishing of Jabberweil Hunt and Songs of Angels changed the way you view yourself as an author?
Until you have achieved what appears to be a minor miracle and wake up the next day to see yourself in a mirror and say: “I’ve done it. I’m a published author.” Then, you have not lived. If I died tomorrow I’d go happily knowing that I have achieved something that can never be taken away from me!
M3: In all of the shock, what the biggest surprise in the publishing process?
IS: That there was so much hard work involved in the editing process and how painful it can be to rewrite portions of your magnum opus! Having so little knowledge of the publishing process as I have it was a steep learning curve.
All I can suggest to anyone following the same path is not to give up. We all need to learn and grow, so don’t be afraid to try. You may amaze yourself, I think.
M3: You did not give up. What impression have your colleagues left on you?
IS: Given that I spent most of my childhood with my nose stuck in a book I’d say they made a great impression and shaped my future quite markedly given that I spent around ten years writing software and came to enjoy writing so much as a hobby. In those books I enjoyed travelling to Mars, meeting alien races and exploring space which became my childhood dream.
What you have to remember is that you need to create your own style and not become a clone of your favorite authors!
M3: Individuality is key. Your books blend traditional sci-fi with historical fiction as some of your settings have an interestingly old feel to them. How did you arrive at creating some of the worlds John Thorn visits?
IS: I started by trying to imagine myself in given situations and how I would deal with them. As you can imagine I have very interesting daydreams! At first the stories were just written for fun and I wrote things that would be different to the mainstream science fiction I have enjoyed from a very young age.
Above all I wanted them to be different, and I loved to mix in new strings of ideas from a wide variety of sources, from science fiction to the medieval. The priority was to enjoy writing the stories, which I did immensely.
M3: Despite our high hopes, your future worlds still posses such human foibles like theft and slavery. What social statement do your books make about the human race?
IS: That, given the opportunity, people will be just as good and as bad as they are here and now.
For instance slavery still exists in our modern world even if it is not written about that much in the media. People will do whatever they can to survive and people will continue to steal and do far worse no matter how advanced we think we are, usually out of greed. Humanity also has a nasty habit of repeating mistakes.
M3: Let’s talk about the writing process. What part was the most fun?
No story is ever perfect, but if you don’t enjoy the process of weaving your reader into the story and guiding them along the path, then you are obviously doing something wrong.
M3: What is usually not considered fun is the editing process. How are your books now versus how they looked as manuscripts?
IS: Oh much better! When I wrote them I had no idea what I was doing and the sentences mostly overran, so getting that sorted out, then the fragmentation that resulted, was very hard work. Not least because I had only an average English education.
Thanks to you, Red, and the beta readers we got it fixed though and I am proud of the result.
M3: Beta readers are often unsung heroes. What did you learn from the beta reading process?
IS: That I am very ignorant when it comes to written English! My beta readers (and I cannot thank them enough) pointed out myriad errors which I had no idea were errors because I lacked in the most essential areas of my education.
They also picked up on some pretty bad plot holes which had to be rewritten. Without beta readers, who are somewhat removed from your own points of reference, you will make mistakes that will trip you up later.
M3: With the changes your books took, how has that changed the way you will write future books?
IS: It was quite a big lesson for somebody who had only an average education in written English and it has already altered the way I approached writing the third book in the series: Black Judge. You have to learn to stick closely to the rules of writing and try not to let your enthusiasm run riot.
As you can imagine, the full flow of consciousness streaming onto the page makes it quite a challenge. All I can say is that I learned much and learned to apply it effectively.
M3: You have quite taken to the team aspect of the publishing process. How did joining RedmundPro change the way you look at the publishing industry?
IS: Thanks to you, I got a real idea of just how hard it is to get a book published in the mainstream and I can only admire people like E. E. Doc Smith, Andre Norton and Isaac Asimov who did it the hard way and produced such amazing adventures that affected my whole life.
I feel inadequate faced with such great talent, but I find myself encouraged to keep writing because we all have to start somewhere.
M3: That puts you in a great position to give advice to new authors. What say you?
IS: (Ticking off fingers.)
- Never be afraid to be wrong. If an idea doesn’t look right, store it for later and take another shot at the prize.
- Never assume you know it all. Listen to your editor and be ready to be guided along the one true path.
- Most of all: Enjoy the process. Learn and grow, because your next book will not be the same as that which went before.
Writing is the best fun you can have with your clothes on.
M3: (Grins) You books have custom covers designed from the book characters. How important is cover art?
IS: Good artwork is very important. It’s the first thing the reader sees on picking up the book and will guide them as to whether they buy it or not. I remember well the book covers of the Lensman series of books even though I can no longer remember the contents.
Choose carefully and follow the guide of your editor. They have the experience, so rely on it.
M3: What are you working on now?
IS: Black Judge still needs to go through the editing process and Far Traveller needs major surgery as I tried a different writing style, and, simply, it didn’t work, but I have no plans to give up on it. Writing for me, essentially, is about having fun putting words on the page.
If you are not enjoying the writing process, relax and have a hot drink; then, come back to it fresh. That’s what I have learned to do.
M3: One nail biter can be reviews. How do you feel about the reviews you have gotten so far?
I wrote these books for fun, never expecting anyone to like them, let alone publish them, yet the reviews make me realize that people actually like my writing! If anyone needed to be encouraged to keep writing then this is certainly a good reason to keep going!
M3: Besides reviewers, who should read your books?
IS: Anyone who wants to let the world go hang while making the bad guys pay for their crimes! These stories are a process of redemption and recovery of a lost soul.
Sometimes, by attempting to destroy what we see as evil or wrongdoing, we become like that which we seek to destroy, and John personifies this. Certainly, I believe that these stories are worth reading by anyone who enjoys a good yarn.
M3: Is John going to go on a long journey through the galaxies?
IS: I don’t really know. It all depends on where I take him next and how the story unfolds. If Far Traveller works out, then yes. There’s a whole galaxy out there to explore!
M3: Boil it down. In 15 words or less, why should the M3 Readers buy your books?
IS: If you enjoy zapping bad guys, then this is for you.
M3: Look forward to more adventures to come.
Darling M3 Readers,
Take a few minutes to check out Ian Shaw. You can follow his blog for more news on his upcoming books. Be sure to stop by the the RedmundPro Book Store to pick up copies of his ebooks Jabberweil Hunt and Songs of Angels. Both will be available in print on 01FEB13.
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Thank you for your continuous support of the many talented authors of the M3 Coffee Shoppe.
What do you want to ask Ian? Do you like the idea of sagas and series?