Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Interrogating Martin Lake

Martin Lake is an author who would like to live in ye olden days.  As he can't, he writes about it.

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 write about what fascinates me.  I can't be that unusual in my tastes and hope that other people will like the sort of thing that I love to write about.  I don't think I could sustain a whole novel if I was not engrossed by the story and intrigued by my characters.  The only compromise I make is to ensure that I don't overload my novels with unnecessary historical information.  I'm not sure that this is a compromise, actually.  I think it makes good sense and is considerate to the reader.

What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in.

I have always loved fiction and history so it seemed an obvious and fruitful choice to write in this genre.  One of the things I am most interested in is how people in the past could be both like and unlike us.  I'm sure that a Roman could be an affectionate and kindly person while at the same time a follower of gladiator fights.  I also love helping bring the past to life.  I learnt a lot of historical knowledge by reading stories.  I also like the challenge of taking real historical characters and filling out their characters and motives while keeping them in a realistic setting with the real events they lived through.  I try my utmost to keep to the facts as we know them.

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?

I don't but I love the idea of a box!  I do keep notebooks, quite a few of them, one in each of the many bags I carry.  I get my best ideas when I'm alone in a café.  Not only by watching people and listening to them but by having the feeling of being disengaged from the normal concerns of life and free to delve into my imagination.  I expect I also have a yearning to be some 19th century poet with a café next to my garret.  I also use OneNote software as I can stuff anything in that and use the search facility to find it when I've forgotten where it is.

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 ?

My wife tells me that I put a lot of myself in some of my characters.  (The heroes, naturally.)  I agree although I tend to put different aspects of myself into different characters.  So, in my The Lost King series, the loyal and good-humoured side of me goes into Godwin, any thoughtful and clever side I may hope I possess is heightened and embroidered and goes into Athelstan.  I'm not too sure that I'd like to be any of my characters.  The one that comes closest would be Jack Dawkins, the Artful Dodger, as he begins to mature and makes choices about life.  He would be great company as well.  I'm constantly surprised by Anna, the female lead in The Lost King so I'd like to spend time with her.

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 think my wife would say yes.   I can get completely engrossed and forget what time it is.  Lots of jobs I've promised to do don't get done, I'm afraid.  My wife has recently started to edit my books so the shoe is sometimes on the other foot.

What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?

I alternate between history books and fiction.  I guess my main reading matter now is historical fiction although I have favourite mainstream authors who I also read.  My all time favourites are the Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser.

What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?

I work really hard to make reading my books a pleasure.  If I'm not stirred by it or it doesn't sound right to me then why should a reader like it?  I suppose I should be better at marketing but to be honest I'd rather spend my time working on my books.

How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?

I'd shake them by the hand if I could.  I am grateful when people email me to say there is a mistake.  No matter how many times I read and re-read my drafts typos and errors still slip through.  I feel I owe it to readers to have no mistakes.  I have emailed writers quietly to let them know errors I've found in their work and, like me, they are always grateful to be told.

What do you like most about visiting KUF?

I love the sense of community and the enthusiasm for reading.  I've discovered a lot of new books and new authors as well.  Perhaps the best thing, however, is the real generosity of spirit from people.  The advice and help I've had from people has made my journey to self-publication much easier than it would have otherwise have been.

What is on your near horizon?

I'm writing the third novel in The Lost King series.  I'm also editing a novel set in the Twelfth Century Kingdom of Jerusalem.  This was inspired by when I watched Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven and did not believe that commoners would have been knighted in order to defend the city.  But they were.  And it got me wondering what happened to them afterwards.  I aim to publish this one before Book 3 of the Lost King.

Where can we find you for more information?

My blog is martinlakewriting.wordpress.com and I am on Twitter @martinlake14.  You can also find me on KUF of course.

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