Interview with Ethan Blake
My real name is David Wallace and as there is a very famous author with this moniker, I chose to write under the pen name Ethan Blake, only to discover later that there is a character on ‘Emmerdale Farm’ (a T.V.soap opera) still never mind, it’s a treat to hear my name on telly.
I have worked in the publishing industry most of my life and writing is still a joy to me. I have three novels and one collection of previously published poetry now on Amazon
As a fan of many different Genres, I have taken great delight in exploring all of them. My three completed novels, each completely different, yet with ‘I Hope’ the common thread of mystery. I always liked to be kept guessing.
Ethan, please tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I’m sixty one years old with the mentality of a twenty year old, I often forget that I’m not as spritely as I used to be as I recently discovered when I tried to vault a neighbours fence, it appears ones legs don’t have the same amount of spring!!!, My mind cleared the fence with ease, unfortunately the real me didn’t. I am currently in painting mode, I love to work with acrylics as I haven’t the patience for oils anymore, I find it a great mental ‘Time out’ from writing as the concentration involved leaves no space for other things. Sandra (My Partner) and I walk my dog every morning around 7am and have a coffee or two on the beachfront and we three sit and watch the village awaken. This is the best of the day for me as I am an avid people watcher. I take mental note of behaviour and situations as they happen and often use them in my writing, it’s a great source of material. I have also started to design and make clocks, so I’ll probably post a few examples on the forum when they’re finished. As you can see from the photo I also love to play guitar and regularly play with other musician friends at local bars and restaurants. We play many different styles and genres it usually depends on who turns up and what mood they’re in, but it’s always a fun night.
How long have you been writing seriously and do you see writing as a career?
I have been writing both professionally and for pleasure for forty odd years and had a quite enjoyable career as a journalist in local newspapers for thirty of them.
What inspired you to write your first novel, The Daniel Legacy?
This came about from a conversation I had with a clergyman many years ago and he mention a verse in the Bible about the prophet Daniel being told to seal up a book that would not be understood until the last days! So; My imagination ran riot with this, What was in the book? Why was it sealed up etc.etc? Unable to find a satisfactory answer through normal means (Wiki, Google etc.), I decided to make up my own.
Did you follow the traditional publishing route or self publish?
I tried, and am still trying, to go the traditional route, but found the publishers and agents criterion is often at odds with the authors. I think most writers would like to see their work in print and whilst I can understand the financial constraints governing the publishers decisions, I wonder about their ability/interest/understanding; is it in the artistic merit/authors interest, or solely based on revenue returns, which is quite sad really as there are some amazingly talented writers/Artists out there, as this forum clearly demonstrates. I decided to self publish mostly to give some closure to the novels I had been plugging away with and thus free up time and energy to get back to what I love to do …write.
Please tell us about your most recent novel, The Shadows of Echo Lake.
I’ve always enjoyed American detective/spy thrillers, I just had to try and emulate the style. Whether I have managed to do that is up to the readers to decide.
Did you work from an outline, or just write?
I have a general Idea of the story but once I start I tend to let the characters develop. This often leads to complications and I have written myself into so many blind ally’s that I always think in retrospect, I should have had a more detailed outline. Unfortunately by the time I remember (I am sixty one) I have written several chapters and find myself up the aforementioned blind allyway.
Regarding the first page, how did you go about crafting an opening that would ensure the reader continues to page two?
Ahh, the HOOK,probably the hardest part of writing for me. I still think like a journalist and go for the attention grabbing headline, then try to involve the reader in some way, Tell them a little bit of something that hopefully will make them want to know more, A teaser really, a bit like a movie trailer. Show something of what’s coming but leave the detail for later.
What importance do you place on cover design and why? Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
I would buy a book based only on its cover! So yes, for me the cover is very important. That said, some of my favourite books have very nondescript jackets although I should say that I already knew the authors work so that is what for me really takes precedence.
What were the biggest challenges faced by self-publishing and how did you overcome them?
Understanding the computer techspeak on the Amazon site was a major headache, so I got my brother to upload it for me! The next trial was marketing and promotion. I read everything I could on the subject, then I watched all the tutorials on Youtube, and so it began. The major drawback is the time required to firstly get your novel noticed, then it is a never ending quest to keep it in the limelight. This is probably the reason why most writers want a traditional publishing deal.
What social media platforms do you use to market your books and which have you found to be the most effective?
There are so many sites offering help and marketing assistance to the self published writer now that it is really up to the author to decide which to use. I used Amazon, Indie Writers, Google+,Bookblog, and many others including FB. My best results came through Amazon and Kindle promotions. But that’s probably because I spent most of my ‘Marketing Time’ on them.
Your author website, www.ethanblake.com, is both colourful and informative. What importance do you place on authors having their own website?
I guess it’s almost prerequisite, It’s a way of keeping in touch with your readers and it can generate a lot of good feeling. As a promotional tool it’s a necessary evil, although it does take up valuable time when I would much rather be writing.
Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?
Yes, I read all reviews of my work, even the non constructive. Feedback is a great way of honing the craft, So all observations are worth hearing, some more than others!
If you could choose an author to be your mentor, who would it be and why?
Hmmm. That’s a difficult one, I guess i would like to be as Prolific as Stephen King, as brilliant as Charles Dickens, as clever as Robert Ludlum, and as erudite as Wilbur Smith. So any one of these would be just fine with me.
Many of our members say they experience the dreaded ‘writers’ block’. Have you experienced this and if so, how do you overcome it?
No, never had it, I have been ‘Blocked’ on many occasions mostly due to wine or Vodka which has left me incapable of finding a keyboard never mind using it.LOL. Seriously though, I tend to switch between poetry and prose as the muse dictates, so I think one can get bogged down in the work and it’s a way of switching something else on, instead of being switched off completely.
You say you are a fan of many different genres is there a genre that you would not attempt to write?
Romance, I am, according to my partner, the most unromantic man in the history of the world. So I guess that’s an automatic exclusion.
What book are you reading now?
LOL I would love to tell a lie here and say I’m reading something profound and intellectual but the absolute truth is I’m reading ‘Computers for Dummies’, and I’m struggling with that.
If you were a castaway on a desert island and could choose five books to be a washed ashore with you, what would they be?
Easy, Great expectations (Dicken)s
River God (Wilbur Smith)
Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain)
The Wasp Factory (Iain Banks)
When you read a book do you read as a reader or as a writer?
Funny that, I never really considered how I read. I had to really think about this. I guess if the book is well written and grips me from the off, I read as a reader, If there are Spag or plot weaknesses, then I guess I read as a writer, obviously I much prefer the former.
David, as an experienced writer and poet if you could offer three tips to new writers what would they be?
1. Always heed advice from those more experienced
2. Accept criticism even through gritted teeth.
3. Persevere, whatever your failing, everything is there to be overcome.
What are you working on now?
I have three novels at the circa 30k stage, and at the moment I can’t apply myself to any of them, so I’m doing a bit of rewrite on one, some filler on the other, whilst rereading the third to trying to remember where I was going with it.
What are your plans for the future?
LOL. The above for the foreseeable future, once I have finished Computers for Dummies and fixed my laptop.