Our next Author Interview is with Steven Hawley, or better known on the forum as Potty!
Steven lives in a small village outside of Stratford-Upon-Avon and currently works within the United Kingdom’s care industry. His free time is spent either writing or thinking that he should be writing. He is the winner of the Writers’ Forum magazine’s 2012 National Short Story Week competition. The winning story, entitled Thanks for the Memory, was later dramatised by shortstoryradio.com.
Steven, you recently published your first book, Cattle Market, why did you self-publish?
I decided to self publish for a couple of reasons. The length of the novelette made it very difficult for me to place with publishers. I had, on a number of occasions, entered it into various competitions with limited success.It did get long listed in the Fish Memoirs competition, but that was the most I was ever able to do with it. So, not wanting it to go to waste, I decided to self publish on Amazon. It was a fun and easy process which gave me something I could hold in my hands and thrust under the noses of people at parties.
What were the biggest challenges faced by self-publishing and how did you overcome them?
I didn’t really have any. The hardest part was probably finding a decent cover. I didn’t want to use the stock covers which Amazon provided as I like to be unique where possible. So I had to rope in a third party to create the cover. Over-all I think it turned out quite well!
How did you market your book?
Poorly. I don’t pack a very big punch in social media and I don’t really know how else to get the word out.
What social media platforms do you use to promote your book and why?
I used the usual.Twitter @PottyWhite and facebook. Though I was able to land an interview in the wonderful Piglet-in-Portugal’s blog, which was nice! I also had an online interview with Patskywriter, that was nerve wracking!
Cattle Market is an intriguing title. How important do you feel titles are and why?
I personally feel that titles are very important. I like to write a lot of micro fiction and in doing so, have discovered that half of the story can be told in the title meaning the story itself can be kept really short. Here is an example of how I use the title to tell the story.
Forgotto Carry the Two.
He makes a final calculation. Adjusts the controls and hits burn. The shuttle enters Earth’s atmosphere.
“Be home for dinner, my love.” He says quietly.
By Steven Hawley
I like this story because the very start finishes the very end. The character thinks he will make it back to Earth… well, he would have done if he carried the two! Without the title, the story wouldn’t work.
What inspired you to write a story based on the care home industry?
Eight years working in the industry, mostly. There is a lot of scandal regarding care homes in the press at the moment and I’ve also witnessed a lot of bad practice. I felt that writing this story was a good way to highlight some of the flaws with large residential care homes. The long and short is; they’re outdated and hotbeds for abuse.
I love the cover design and the way it ties in with the title. It almost lends a humorous slant to a serious subject. How important do you feel cover design is and why?
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover… but the truth is, everyone does.
Is the story the result of personal experience, or pure imagination?
A lot of Cattle Market is based on actual events… the characters and setting are fictionalised however. Not all the events were witnessed by me, but passed on by people who have worked in the industry a lot longer than myself. When I was writing the story, in my mind I used one of the first care homes I’d ever worked in as my setting.
What challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) did you experience in writing Cattle Market
The hardest part was trying to make the abuse believable. There are quite a lot of “sensationalised” events in the story which, if you’re not familiar with how care homes operate, can seem far fetched and unrealistic. Amanda, for example, is quite a physical abuser. Many people would find it hard to believe that she would be so open with her torment… the truth of the matter is, her actions are very tame in comparison to what does happen behind closed doors.
In a BBC Panorama documentary released in 2014, an undercover reporter filmed cases of abuse in “Winterbourne View” (Which now has its own Wiki page)where residents (the people in care) were showered with cold water and left outside to catch hypothermia; punched; kicked and pulled out of chairs by their hair and restrained for no particular reason.
They were goaded into fighting one another and much worse. If I were to include some of those thing in Cattle Market, no body would believe it.
A reader of my novelette commented that they felt the abuse was escalated to a point where they thought “Yea, right.”. Unfortunately, what I have written is just a drop in the ocean compared to what goes on.
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?
Moby Dick. I keep promising myself I will read this, I guess on a desert island I wouldn’t have an excuse not too.
The Bible for obvious reasons.
A how-to guide on surviving on a desert island.
An Edgar Allan Poe collective works for the same reason as Moby Dick.
Several of our members are new writers. What advice can you offer?
Just get on with it.
Do you outline a plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?
I outline like I have OCD. I’ve tried writing by the seat of my pants and have often found I’ve needed to go back and re-write the beginning to make the middle and end work. With a clear outline all I need to do is fill in the blanks. The down side of this is I end up spending far too much time planning the story rather than actually writing it.
Do you have a routine for your writing or does it happen sporadically?
Sporadically. I would love a routine but due to the changing dynamics of my day job, any sort of a routine is impossible. I tend to have spurts of writingwhere I might knock out 40k or more words in a short time. But then I’ll have long periods of not writing anything. During the unproductive periods I just mope about thinking I should be writing… instead I watch TV and feel even worse!
How do you develop your characters? Do you have any tips for breathing life into them?
I generally base my characters on people I’ve met. I find it much easier to write acharacter if I know how that person might react to the situation inreal life. I’ve tried creating a character from scratch on a coupleof occasions but I often find that these characters are twodimensional and boring.
Where can people buy your book?
What are your current projects?
I’m working on a SciFi novel and have been for the last three years. I’m 40k words into itand have a draw full of outlines and character profiles etc. I hopeto have a working draft by the end of 2015.
I’ve also recently managed to land a monthly column in a local free magazine. I will bewriting about Foraging for free food in the UK. The magazine is called “The Local Answer” and is distributed within the Cotswold.