It’s my pleasure to welcome debut author S.C. Flynn to the blog today! His novel Children of the Different has just hit the streets, and he’s kindly answered some of my questions. I’m always curious about self-published writers and what drives them, and after reading Stuart’s interview my respect for him has grown.
So with that, please help me welcome Stuart to the blog!
BB&B: If you had to compare Children of the Different to another book or movie, in the style of “X meets X” what would you compare it to?
SCF: Maybe “The Chrysalids by John Wyndham meets Mad Max.” Poor old John… .
I’d love to hear a little about your experience with self publishing. How did you make the decision to self-publish versus going the traditional publishing route?
I tried for many years to make it the traditional way. I had two different professional literary agents for extended periods of time, but they were unable to place my work with a publisher.
During that long apprenticeship, I wrote seven novels, three of which were effectively learning exercises. The other three are non-YA fantasy novels set in separate but connected eras of one secondary world, with related themes running through them. Those three novels were conceived and written together with the agents I referred to above, and are of the same standard as Children of the Different. I am an obsessive reviser, so by now all of these have reached publishable standard, subject to polishing with a copyeditor, etc.
Perhaps I was just unlucky that I did not break into conventional publishing. In any event, with Children I decided to try a new sub-genre (Young Adult post-apocalyptic fantasy) and a completely new strategy. I had never written a Young Adult novel before, and as I said, I had always seen myself as being published in the traditional way.
I was in fact suspicious of self-publishing – rather like you, Tammy! I told myself that I would only self-publish if I could offer a product as good as that of the big publishers. So I hired an all-professional support team (copyeditor, formatter, artist and audiobook narrator). I moved countries to take up a demanding day job that would allow me to fund the project.
So, not a decision taken lightly or without a lot of writing experience behind me!
Children of the Different is set in Western Australia, your birth country. Yet you have been living in Europe for many years. What made you decide to set your book there?
This really relates to what I said above about the long writing path that brought me to where I am now. I had never written about Australia before. So when I was looking for something new to try, it seemed natural to turn to Australia. It’s a popular country in general around the world, its strange animals are well-known, and I naturally had a lot of knowledge of and feeling for the settings. Australia is associated with post-apocalyptic stories, particularly Mad Max, but I thought there was certainly unexplored potential there.
Probably due to these factors, Children was the easiest novel I have ever written. Once I had the basic idea, the story flowed quickly. The hardest part was in revising to suit the Young Adult category: simplifying the grammar and vocabulary, emphasizing certain key concepts, and generally making the style as clear and direct as possible.
You feature lots of native Australian animals and insects in your story. How much research did you need to do for the book?
I grew up in country Western Australia, where those creatures are around you every day there. The last time my wife and I visited my father down there, we used to sit outside in the cool late evenings and watch the possums come out of the attic to hunt fruit. Ants – including the unique and dangerous bull ant – were my personal obsession from when I was a small child.
The area I come from is close to the great forests where the novel begins. I think that is what makes forests special to me, even on the other side of the world.
Children of the Different features an American military base. That base not only actually exists, but I have been inside it – not for military or research purposes, but it was a good experience to be able to draw on.
The northern desert country covered with giant termite mounds has a particular association for me. I have been a pro-standard jazz musician (trumpet) since I was a kid, and I once did a tour that played in lots of towns up that way. I still remember it as the “Dust Tour” – day after day sitting on a bus with that red dust pouring in everywhere.
So not much new research was needed, no… .
Who are your favorite authors and which ones had the most influence on your writing?
My favourite speculative fiction authors would include Ursula Le Guin, James Tiptree Jr, Gene Wolfe, Jack Vance, Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick.
The writers who have most influenced my own writing would include Jennifer Fallon, Guy Gavriel Kay, Mark Lawrence and Michael J. Sullivan.
What is a typical writing day like for you? Are you a full time writer, or do you have a “day” job?
I have a very busy and unpredictable day job, so my writing is limited to weekends and holidays. Sometimes it is even difficult for me to find time during the week for networking and social media, but I do what I can!
What’s next for you in terms of writing? Are you working on something new, and can you share it with us?
I have not decided what to do next – at the moment I am giving everything to trying to publicise this novel!
As I said above, I have three other (very different) fantasy novels completed to the same standard as Children of the Different. So one possibility is to publish one of those, which would involve all the work of revision and interacting with the support team of copyeditor, artist, formatter and narrator all over again, as I have just done this time.
On the other hand, a number of advance reviewers have expressed an interest in seeing more of the world of Children of the Different. This first novel has a definite and (I think) satisfying ending, but I could certainly write another novel set in that world, with some old characters and some new ones. The problems of that post-apocalyptic world are far from settled! I have some good ideas for a sequel, but I will see how this one goes and if there is sufficient interest in the world of Children.
Please tell us three things about you that can’t be found on the internet.
Like most bloggers, all my eccentricities are probably out there somewhere already!
Maybe I have not already confessed the full extent of my fanatical list-keeping. Naturally I use technology all the time, but I still maintain exercise books of handwritten lists: every book I have read for the last 25 years, every song in my repertoire (more than 1,000 for jazz, plus hundreds more for rock and classical), favourite films by language, books to read, films to watch, my ratings for classic Dr Who stories – I had better stop there, I think…
My trumpet is called Johann. There – it’s out there now!
I love spending small coins rather than banknotes or by credit card (for many years, small coins were all I had, if that).
Thanks for joining me, Stuart! You can read my review of Children of the Different here.