Darren Humphries the geek that's in a parallel universe.
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?
There is actually no balance to be struck here. I write the story that comes to me and hope that people like it. I’ve been very lucky so far to have found an audience of people who do seem to enjoy what I do. If you write for your audience you end up writing to a formula and that must be a lot less interesting and a lot less fun, although it might be more lucrative.
What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in.
I have always been attracted by science fiction and fantasy. These are the genres that allow all of the really big questions to be asked. We’re talking epochal questions such as what it is to be human, where the human race is going, how technology is changing us and so on. Of course, I don’t ask any of those questions. Whilst I write (mostly) science fiction and fantasy, what I most enjoy about it is telling the story and (hopefully) being funny. I’m not writing literature here, I’m providing a fun and entertaining escape from the real world for a while that hopefully leaves you a bit happier than when you started the book.
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 have a box or whatever actually. What I have is in my head. Old and unused ideas sit in the back of my mind percolating and bubbling and eventually come out in ways that I didn’t expect, naturally fitting into what I am writing. Ten percent of AN ORC NOT LIKE OTHERS is actually from another fantasy story that I was going to write that never went anywhere. As this book took shape, that other story slotted right into place.
How do you manage plot bunnies (ideas that invade your mind that aren’t usually helpful to the story you’re writing but breed like...er...bunnies)?
I’m not sure that I get plot bunnies. I have ideas for stories in my head all the time, but they consigned to the cauldron that’s always bubbling there and eventually emerge fully formed or are subsumed into other stories, or just die. I usually have several stories on the go at any one time, so ideas usually find a place in one of them or disappear quickly. An idea that remains strong and is demanding to be written might get shoved further up the priority list. For example, the sequels to both TO INFINITY and AN ORC NOT LIKES OTHERS have languished half-written whilst other, more urgent ideas have taken their place, including books 2,3 and 4 of THE MAN FROM U.N.D.E.A.D. series.
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 ?
Any character that you write has to have some of you in them, even if it only your imagination. Obviously GOODNIGHT DEAR:THE UNSENTIMENTAL DIARY OF A BEREAVED HUSBAND is all me since it’s a diary that has my unedited thoughts in it throughout a difficult time for me, but the fictional characters all reflect my ideas and values. For example, I always try to write strong female characters because my life has been full of those. My evil characters have a tendency to be smooth and suave rather ugly and smelly. My heroes tend to be flawed, always trying to do the right thing, but not always sure of themselves or completely selfless. Mainly I aim for them to be entertaining and fun to be around, even the bad guys. Witty dialogue is a must.
The character I’d most like to be has to be Agent Ward, the Man From U.N.D.E.A.D. who just has such an interesting life and such a touch with the ladies. He’s probably the (extremely) idealised version of me. The character I’d most like to be with is Ellie, the Bodyguardian Angel from THE GREAT ROCK N ROLL DOOMSDAY TOUR because I had so much fun writing her that I didn’t want the book to ever end. Sadly it did, and no ideas for a sequel have ever come close.
Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your family wonders if they're related to you or one of your characters?
Being a one-parent family, I can only write when my children are in bed, so I don’t think they ever get the full force of my detachment when I’m writing. As for the rest of my family, most of them aren’t interested in the books that I write and they don’t own kindles (everyone gasp in horror!) so they never get to read them. Even if I bought them all one for Christmas they wouldn’t use it to read my books.
What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?
I write the kind of books that I would enjoy reading. I don’t see how anyone could honestly do otherwise. I am a huge fan of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and Tom Holt, all of whom are in the same area. The time that I saw THE MAN FROM U.N.D.E.A.D.:THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE KIDNAPPED CHEMIST in the Amazon chart sandwiched between the Pratchett/Gaiman masterpiece GOOD OMENS and that work of genius from Douglas Adams THE HITCHIKERS’ GUIDE TO THE GALAXY was such a huge thrill for me. That my work could share screen space with theirs for any reason was just mad.
I also like other books though. Tom Clancy’s technothrillers are fun to read and Stephen King remains essential reading for me even though his output of late has been patchy. I also try to get in some of the indies that I see recommended on the forums to show my support, but I would rather spend my time writing that reading, so opportunities are limited.
What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?
I actually don’t. I always hoped that if the books were good enough then people would find them and enjoy them and tell others. I never really thought that I could ever make a living out of this, so I don’t market extensively.
What I do try to do is have a good cover. The first few aren’t that special, but I’ve learned and hopefully the later ones are better at catching the eye and not looking amateurish or generic. I also work long and hard on the blurb. You don’t have many words to get the idea across, so I try to keep them short, pithy and fun. I hope that’s enough to get people through to the sample which will either convince them or not.
I also contribute to forums without trying to sell my books. I don’t shy away from the fact that I’m an author when the subject comes up, but I don’t push it either. If people engage with me they might like me and therefore might like my books.
How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?
I welcome it. In fact, I have a small group of readers who have become my editors, my Triumvirate Voluntary, and between us we manage to eliminate most of them, though I am sure that a few get through. I admit that the earlier editions of my earlier books had some typos and I’m not proud of that, but we’ve worked on that and they are so much better now.
What do you like most about visiting forums?
Simple answer – the people. These are people with a passion for books and reading and that can never be a bad thing. There is such a cross-section of people and on most of the forums they are all nice to each other and are free to share their thoughts and opinions without fear of ridicule or censure. Any success that I have had has come as a result of the support that people on the forums have shown to my books. They read them, liked them and said so , both in the forums and in reviews. Engaging with people who are actively wanting to read what you are writing is a real spur to getting it written and my productivity over the past year or so has been down to that. Any indie author who does not actively engage with forumites is really missing out.
What is on your near horizon?
The house across the street.
But seriously, ONE SMALL STEP FOR THE MAN FROM U.N.D.E.A.D. (also known as UNDEAD 4) will be coming out in October. I have a collection of short stories I aim to have out in time from Christmas entitled SHARING A FENCE WITH THE TWILIGHT ZONE and next year should see both UNDEAD 5 and an UNDEAD spin-off book come out. And then there’s still those TO INFINITY and AN ORC NOT LIKE OTHERS sequels to be finished.
Where can we find you for more information?
I have a blog (darrenhumphriesebooks.blogspot.com) that I blog on far too infrequently, I have the chattiest author thread on the Goodreads UK Amazon Kindle Forum (lots of chat, not so much news) and I run a science fiction TV series website (www.scififreaksite.com). One day I might have time to keep up with any one of them.