In the first of a series of author interrogations, I posed my questions to the lovely David Wailing, author of Fake Kate and Bang: Memoirs of a Relationship Assassin
How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?
I must want to write it. That’s always top priority, much more so than writing for other people. I’ve got to enjoy writing it, even if it’s hard work! And it’s common knowledge that if you write for everyone, you fail to reach anyone. I write for me, and then invite everyone to the party!
Recently I stopped rewriting Cupid’s Warhead, an older book of mine, for precisely this reason. I’d put months of work into it but it was becoming a slog, and I wasn’t enjoying it any more. So even though a few lovely people were keenly awaiting it, I decided to stop and move onto something I would enjoy. It’s really important for me to stay excited about whatever I’m writing, otherwise the motivation fades away, and all the distractions take over.
Having said that, I do try to keep in mind how commercial a book might be, or at least whether there’s an existing audience for it. I have done a few things from time to time to broaden the appeal, such as reduce the amount of swearing. But I see them as improvements rather than compromises, as long as my original story or characters are not weakened as a result.
Just thought of a perfect example. Scott, the main character of Bang: Memoirs of a Relationship Assassin, is a man who splits up couples for a living. I knew some readers would be appalled by this, and refuse to read the book. I considered changing his personality but that would have completely ruined the entire story. Instead I added a short introduction by the publisher of his memoirs, which makes it clear he is going to be changed by his experiences, and is just as susceptible to romance as the rest of us. So Scott remained intact, but readers knew he wasn’t going to remain the heartless swine they expected. Afterwards I felt an introduction helped give his story context and feel like more of a personal memoir, so again, an improvement rather than a compromise.
What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in.
This is an odd question for me because I don’t think of ‘genre’ until the book is written. Usually at the point when I’m categorising it for Amazon!
Recently I’ve found my books fitting into the Mystery and Thriller genres, which is fine, but I’ve also had people tell me they should be classed as Humour, or Drama, or even Chick-Lit! There’s a little of everything mixed up in there.
More appealing to me than genre is theme, and I’m still excited by the theme of identity. In one way or another, I think every single thing I’ve ever written is based around the idea that we all have multiple sides to us. I’m interested in characters pretending to be something or someone they’re not. There’s just so much potential for drama, conflict, and gags too! So that’s my main attraction, rather than genre.
Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them?
Yes, I’m constantly storing nuggets that might be useful in future. In the old days I used to scribble all my notes in exercise books called Dave’s Big Book Of Really Great Ideas! Now they’re kept as various Word documents and so on.
Quite often I will think of something (or overhear some priceless dialogue) at work and then email it to myself. So I’ve got an email folder full of nameless characters saying hilarious things to each other!
How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with ?
With primary characters, I think there’s always some element of me within them. Since I have to think like they do, I must be able to properly live inside their heads, so naturally they can’t be totally alien to me. The problem is trying to make them more unlike me – I don’t want everything I write to feel autobiographical!
The character I’d most like to be is Ben, the Kiwi traveller dude from Fake Kate. He’s just so happy and upbeat and excitable, always wanting to have adventures and enjoy life to the full. I’d love to be more like that. Plus a lot of readers have told me how much they fancy Ben and would kill to get their hands on him!
The character I’d like to be with socially is Scott, the relationship assassin, purely to observe him. Scott’s something of a mystery even to me... he’s the ultimate mask-wearer, and as someone fascinated by identity, I would want to get to know someone with his abilities.
As for who I’d like to be with romantically... well, I wouldn’t trust any of them. They’re all two-faced one way or the other!
Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?
I do get very wrapped up in writing. I’ve been known to deliberately ignore my phone and doorbell and, once, the fire alarm. But my OH is a teacher and even more busy and work-obsessed than I am!
What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?
It’s more the style of book that I like reading rather than genre really. I like modern, urban stories, because as a Londoner I can relate to them well, but the characters have to be believable and the plot intriguing. I used to read a huge amount of science fiction and fantasy, and can still be tempted, but again they have to be believable in some way. I’m not so keen on books firmly set within a professional world, like police procedural or legal fiction, because everything always feels locked in a pattern. I’d be willing to give anything a go as long as the initial premise was exciting, and there was potential to be surprised. A little unpredictability goes a long way!
What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?
What a question! I suppose there are two sides to this. One is to make the book itself as attractive as possible, which is no mean feat. I think the key is to have an interesting central character and an intriguing hook into the plot. (I see them as one and the same – I don’t think character and plot are two distinct things.) But that’s much easier to say than do!
The other side is the promotional and marketing stuff, which if you’ve done the first bit well, is much easier. One reason all my book covers feature a human face is that I want readers to see whose story it is, to meet the protagonist, and hopefully be drawn into their world. I think people respond to images of other people more than landscapes or abstract illustrations.
Something else I do is build fictitious websites which are then featured within the book itself, to make the world it’s set in feel more real. For example, the company Infidelity Ltd from Bang has a corporate site at www.infidelity-ltd.com, and all the online dating profiles used in Fake Kate exist at www.otherhalves.com. I see them as bonus material, to be discovered by readers as nice little extras!
How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?
I feel like this: nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnngh! That’s the sound of me grinding my teeth together. I’m genuinely grateful if anyone takes the time to point out errors, and if nothing else it shows they’re properly reading my book! But I’m frustrated that I didn’t spot it first, and get annoyed with myself for being unprofessional. Hence the nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnngh.
What do you like most about visiting KUF?
I like joo the best. She’s my favourite. I only come to KUF to be near her really.
But there’s lots of other reasons! It was a turning point for me to discover KUF, and realise what a fantastic place it is for both indie authors and readers. It felt like walking into a bar and realising they play your favourite music, serve your favourite drinks, and it’s already filled with your mates. It’s a cliché, but I honestly felt like I’d found somewhere I fitted in without having to work at it, and still feel like that now.
Bearing in mind how hot-headed forums can become, and how shockingly vicious things get on the Amazon forums, I think KUF is truly one of a kind. The moderators do a great job with a light touch, and everyone just goes out of their way to be friendly. The worst thing about KUF is that it’s a massive distraction when I should be writing!
What is on your near horizon?
Two big projects this year. The first is a short story collection called Halves. I wrote two short stories for KUF’s Hearts and Arrows anthology in January, and enjoyed it so much I wanted to write more! Halves will include a full-length novella plus the ’novelisation’ of a short film (hopefully!), and will be out in the summer.
The second is Shot, which is the sequel to Bang and the next in the Memoirs of a Relationship Assassin series. I’m aiming for that to be finished by the end of the year, with hopefully another two books in the series next year. Plus plenty of other ideas for new novels bubbling away.
Where can we find you for more information?