Monday, 12 August 2013

Interrogating David Staniforth

I have the pleasure to be the first person to put fantasy writer David Staniforth under the spotlight

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've always felt that I should only ever write about what interests me, and write it in a way that interests me. In other words I only write something that I would enjoy reading myself. I’m in no way unique, so hopefully if I enjoy what I’ve written, there will be others out there with similar tastes to me who will also enjoy what I’ve written.

So far I have published three books, all of them fantasy. I am presently writing the third book of my fantasy trilogy “Fuel to the Fire”. I don’t think fantasy is the easiest of genres to sell: when asked what I write, people often roll their eyes and state that they can’t read anything that’s far-fetched (I’ve not read any Mills & Boon, but I have read some unbelievable M&B titles that stretch the boundaries of credibility much further than my fantasy novels).

To my mind all fiction is fantasy, anyway. I enjoy reading it, and I enjoy writing it. If I was prepared to make any compromise, I would have made it straight away and written a different, more popular, less eye-rolly, genre.

Besides, you can't please everyone, as we all have different tastes. My “Fuel to the Fire” book is loved by some with comments of "amazing 5*", while others say "it was an OK 3*". Trying to please others would therefore pull me in too many directions and I’d end up looking like Mr Tickle.

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

When I write I like to escape completely. I’m in charge, and I want to make up the rules. Nothing allows this more than fantasy. If I want to have a dragon that’s no larger than a humming bird, that collects nectar and pollinates flowers, I’ll have one, thank you. If I want to play with the laws of physics and chemistry (and I do) I will. What makes this really interesting is creating a situation or world in which it can happen. If you create a rule of nature, you have to be faithful to that rule. The characters have to be as believable as in any other genre, and also be true to those rules. To break those rules would be a cop-out. As a writer of fantasy, then, one is polemically free to go where one wants and yet be equally constrained at the same time. It can be immensely frustrating, but simultaneously great fun.

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 have a journal in which I keep notes on plot ideas for existing stories or ideas for new stories. As I have several stories on the go at the same time I generally know where they will be used. If writer’s block hits, I often delve into one of the other stories and use the ideas while they’re fresh. I also keep a box of index cards on which I write different ways of describing something. If I’m writing about someone crying, for example, I might come up with several ways of describing it. One of them will inevitably be preferable, but the others are likely to be worthy of being used elsewhere. They get written on an index card. In the future, if I need to describe how someone is crying, if nothing immediately springs to mind, out comes the index card.

How do you manage plot bunnies (ideas that invade your mind that aren’t usually helpful to the story you’re writing but breed

On reading the first few words, I immediately thought of Glenn Close, and thought: don’t antagonise crazy women.

Can’t say this has ever been a problem. I get so absorbed in my writing that it’s like I’m roaming the invented world with the characters, seeing what they’re seeing, smelling what they are, etc. Perhaps for this reason, anything that has unexpectedly sprung to mind has always fitted in with the story.

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 ?

Reviewers have said some of my nastiest characters have made their blood boil, made them recoil in disgust and physically shudder. The good and the bad characters are an invention of my mind and so, as much as I’d like to distance myself from them, they must have an element of me in them. The really horrible traits, however, are taken from people I’ve come across over the years. The character I’d most like to be, or be with, is without a doubt Bane from “Alloria”. You’ll have to read the book to find out why.

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 don’t walk around talking or acting like one of my characters, as in method acting. But I have often drifted off in thought, mid conversation, if a plot twist or bit of dialogue has come to mind. So, to an extent, yes, she probably thinks she’s married to several characters.

Actually, she probably thought that even before you started writing. *What? Who said that?*

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

I’ll read any genre, as long as I like the writing style and the characters are interesting and well fleshed out. A goodreads’ friend recently posted: “I know I’ve read a good book, if when finished, I know I’m going to miss the characters. I like that and agree with it completely. I like a plot that makes me think, too, and can’t stand being spoon fed by the author. I’ve got my own mind and imagination; leave it some room to work and the story will come alive for me all the more. As mentioned above, so far, I have published only fantasy. The next book to be publish is fantasy. The book after that is a psychological thriller that is already written, and has been sat on my hard drive patiently waiting for a final polish. Perhaps the best part of being an indie author is the freedom to branch out into any genre takes one’s fancy.

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

If a singer stood on the X factor stage and didn’t sing, you wouldn’t know if they had the X factor or not. You’d know their name and what they look like. Books are the same: you know what they’re called, and what they look like. Until you read them you won’t know what they sound like. There’s no point me telling readers they have the X factor so I’m not going to try. I’ve written stories to the best of my ability at the time of writing. Hopefully, I’ve produced a cover that is attractive enough, and written a blurb that is intriguing enough to encourage potential readers to at least have a read of the look inside. To continue the metaphor, I guess that’s my audition. Whether it has the X factor or not is for to the reader to decide. If they think it has it, other readers are more likely to believe their opinion than mine. Hopefully, those readers will spread the word.

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

Arrrchgrr! Not another one, surely?

Nobody’s perfect. If a reader is willing to take the time to read my story, and then contact me about it, great, bring it on. If they can help me improve it by pointing out a simple mistake that is easy to correct, as some have, I welcome it.

What do you like most about visiting KUF/GR/forums?

Encouragement, advice, support and entertainment.

Were it not for the goodreads’ UK Kindle forum, and the fantastic people that congregate there, I might easily have published just the one book. For that, I have to give special thanks to Ignite (I hope she doesn’t mind the mention) for finding me on the Amazon MOA forum, for supporting my writing, and encouraging me to join. Since being on there I have met lots of others who are equally as supportive. They know who they are, and they’re incredible.

It goes without saying that a good number of them are crazy!

What is on your near horizon?

I can see some trees, and just beyond that some wind turbines that aren’t moving despite there being wind. OK, I know *groan*.

The final Book of my “Fuel to the Fire” trilogy will be published soon, likely late Autumn. The psychological thriller shouldn’t be too far behind.

Where can we find you for more information?

I haven’t got a website as yet, though I know I should. So the best place is on Goodreads. Go to the UK Kindle group, find my author’s thread, and say hi.  Or my Amazon author page



  1. Wow you must have met some horrible people if your baddies are taken from life! That's a cracking interview, really enjoyed reading.

    Thanks Joo for interviewing Mr S. It was very interesting.



  2. I agree with MT - you must know some pretty awful people!

    Like the index card idea *steals that*

    Great first interview David - you do it like a pro!