Interview with self-pubbed author Ian Smethurst
Sci-fi and sequel writing author (E.D.F. Chronicles) Ian Smethurst is a relatively young full-time writer (30) and already quite successful. Although not a great fan of sci-fi myself, I’ve read a fair part of Ian’s book and must say it’s winning me over for the genre. He grounds his work in realistic enough surroundings with flesh ‘n blood characters and I admire the gentle, sweet pen he wields.
Where do you live (town, country)? Were you born and bred there?
I currently live in a small village in Bulgaria, very close to the town of Sliven, although I was originally born and raised in Cheshire, England. I plan to return back there in November, to the quiet, leafy county of Lincolnshire.
What kind of food do you like? Are you a good cook? How important is food to you?
Food is important to me although I tend to stick with tried and true traditional foods, there is no beating a traditional Sunday roast with all the trimmings after all, and I have to admit that I am the novice of novice cooks, banned from many a kitchen, simply due to the fact that the kitchen owner would like their room intact after use. I have been known to set the occasional kitchen alight.
Do you do any sports? How often? What does exercise mean to you? Any other hobbies?
I do the occasional walks, particularly along scenic locales, I love taking in the scenery, and just getting out once in a while. I have walked several times along the picturesque Yorkshire dales, and I also plan to walk to the summit of Karendilla, the largest of the Stara Planina mountains in Bulgaria.
Do you like travelling? Where do you go then?
I love to travel, and I have been to several countries, I’ve visited Ibiza 5 times, Bulgaria twice now, Benidorm, and Tunisia, I’ve also travelled through most of Europe, including through the French Alps. I love history and particularly like visiting historic locations, like castles, ancient monuments, and places of special interest.
That being said, my favourite holiday destination would have to be times square, New York. I would also love to take a tour around Westminster abbey, which I am planning to do next year.
Do you have another job apart from writing? For how many hours? How do you feel about the ‘other’ job?
Not at present, right now writing is my job, which I quite like as it allows me the ability to focus 100% on my work, although I would love the extra income another job would bring.
How do your family/friends react to you being a writer? Have their opinions changed since you became a published author? Which remark from your surroundings has stuck most with you?
The friends I knew at the time, didn’t believe I could make it as a full blown professional writer, many of which said I should have given up writing altogether. If I had taken their advice I wouldn’t have achieved anywhere near what I have
achieved today. It was that which most galvanised my resolve, I was determined
to prove everyone wrong, that I could make it as a professional writer, and now
My parents however gave me the most support, I remember when I had completed the first draft of E.D.F Chronicles : The Krenaran massacre, my father was lying on his hospital bed recovering from a fractured leg, bored, and with nothing to read, I showed him the draft I had just finished, and, while in hospital he read it from cover to cover. Once he had finished it, he looked up at me, and with the most sincere look I think I have ever witnessed in him said, “I never knew you could write like that, son.” That will stay with me forever.
Would you call yourself a social human being? Do you have time for going out and spending time away from the writing desk?
I would call myself a social person, when I am not working I do like to go out and have the occasional drink with friends, as well as a nice restaurant meal every now and then. I am mainly regarded as a friendly, easy going person these days, and can be a chatterbox when the ale starts to flow.
Which character trait do you like best about yourself and why? Which trait would you rather do without?
I would have to say the single most character trait I like best, is my easygoing friendliness. The trait I would rather do without sometimes, would be my almost ruthless single mindedness, I see a goal and set out to achieve it, come what may. Sometimes it can have a negative effect in that, unless other options are made aware to me, I won’t even see them.
Can you describe the place where you write + the view?
I actually write sat at my laptop, in a long, fairly narrow hall, there is a window to my right looking out onto the pool, and an absolutely gigantic gazebo which is up at the moment providing shade for people outside. Directly in front of me is a window and a set of French doors looking out across the back garden to our neighbours
property behind us, and beyond that to a lone secluded bush covered hill, called Skobelevo hill, named after our village.
Is there something you always need to have near you when you work (beverage, cigarette, mascot, music, quote, etc)?
I usually work with a fresh cup of tea at my desk, some atmospheric futuristic music, star trek soundtracks, Jean Michelle Jarre, Vangelis, anything like that, to get me in
the zone. As well as some boiled sweets to suck on while I think, otherwise I am only ever going to chew on the end of my pen, and that leaves a rather inky mess.
What genre(s) do you write in? How did that develop?
I write predominantly science fiction, although I have dabbled in short fantasy novellas. My science fiction writing first began in high school, during the days of the Star Trek T.V. shows, although I was actually reading science fiction long before then, I had already sampled works by Greg Bear, Phillip K. Dick, and Alan Dean Foster, while I was just starting High school.
Suddenly not being confined to this one planet, to think that there could be hundreds of planets out there, with hundreds of different cultures, each one different to the next, with amazing technologies was immensely powerful to me, and I began writing short pieces based upon this overriding principle throughout my high school years, eventually culminating in the Novelist I am today.
At some point you decided to self-publish. Can you tell us how that process developed?
By the time I had finished the editing of E.D.F Chronicles: The Krenaran massacre, the financial woes that plague our planet were upon us. I found that fewer and fewer agents were taking on unpublished writers, particularly in the science fiction field. I
grew frustrated, so I decided that I would self publish under lulu, also with the rise of the e-book and kindle, I quickly realised that science fiction readers were one of the most tech savvy of all readerships, and so I targeted this, releasing electronic versions at the same time as paperback versions on both Kindle and other E-readers via smashwords.
How do you feel about self-publishing now? What are the advantages, disadvantages, pitfalls, etc.?
I feel that with the advent of Kindle, and with authors themselves being able to directly publish their work via Kindle direct publishing, there has never been a better time to self publish, the advantages are you have total control over your work, it’s
your writing, your vision, and no publishing house, no matter their size can tell you they know more about what goes on in your head than you do. The royalties are higher, as being self published I don’t have the overheads that a traditional publisher has.
Although there are disadvantages, in that all of the marketing work you have to do yourself, you don’t have the luxury of a marketing department behind you, and if you are not the best at marketing your work, sales could suffer as a result. There are
several pitfalls to be aware of in the self publishing sector, primarily vanity presses masquerading as self publishing companies. Technically they are, but only in the loosest sense of the word; knowing the difference could save a new writer an awful lot of money. During the early days of setting out to publish my novel I very nearly fell to several of these.
Are you in a network of Indie authors? How do you market your own book?
I primarily market online, through facebook, twitter, my own personal website, visiting literary festivals, I have my own facebook group and I am also always available for book signings. Starting next year, I also plan on going on a large marketing binge, becoming a member of the British Fantasy Society and British Science Fiction Association, visiting independent bookstores in my local area, attending literary events and trade shows.
When was your first book released and how did that make you feel?
My first novel The Krenaran massacre was released in December 2010, and I have to admit I was elated. Finally all the hard work sitting at a desk for months on end, editing, polishing, re-editing, re-polishing, getting feedback was finally worthwhile once I held that shiny new paperback copy of my own book in my hands, it’s one of the greatest achievements in my life so far.
Can you tell us some background information on the book? (How did
you get the idea, how long did it take you to write and edit it, is it part of
a sequel, how does the published book make you feel now?)
The idea started out as little more than an afterthought, long before I started writing seriously, back in 1999, I was heavily into watching Star Trek, Babylon 5, and reading various science fiction novels, where I struck upon the idea of creating my own science fiction series, yet one that was different from all the others, harsher,
grittier, more adult in focus. So I set about jotting down a few notes about who the various cultures were in my series, who the characters would be, what they did and why, and so forth. However my work and family life took precedence over this, until in 2007 when I went through a series of personal crises, I took the decision to write The Krenaran massacre. Three years later it was finally published, and I began work on its sequel.
The new novel E.D.F Chronicles: E.D.F Resurgent, takes place six months after the events of the first, and the second in a planned four novel series, having the final completed work feels great, I am really genuinely proud of the sequel, it may be slightly shorter than the first, however it is grander in scope, with considerably larger battles against new and powerful enemies and makes a worthy sequel to the first.
What are your writing habits? (every day, number of words, etc.?)
It’s really hard to pin down a set word count, since all of my first drafts are written by hand, using nothing more than a pen and a pad of paper and then typed up to form the manuscript, what I usually do to set myself a goal is I try to get to a certain page number, for example if I am
currently writing page 30, I’ll try to get to page 40 and so on until it is complete.
If I’m working on my laptop, on a good day I can hover from around 2,500 to 3,000 words, I would consider anything below 1,500 words to be a slow day, but I don’t take a lot of time on word counts, I’ll have a quick check on my word processor at the end of the day, and then leave it at that. I find taking too much stock in counting
words can lead to frustration and detract from the story in the long term.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration and why? Since when?
I find Nelson Mandela a great inspiration, despite spending a fifty year spell locked up as a political prisoner in an African jail, he still promotes peace and equality for all.
Also Gene Roddenberry, for showing the world that there can be a better future, without war, poverty and disease, for showing us that if mankind all pulls together as one, we can achieve some truly inspirational things.
Where do you see yourself in 5-years’ time?
I see myself still writing as I always will.
THANK YOU SO MUCH Ian!!
Want to get in touch with Ian or read his books?
The amazon page for E.D.F resurgent is http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B005H0JD88/ref=kinw_clar_choose1
Author site is http://www.wix.com/ian_smethurst/frontpage.
Blog is http://edfchronicles.wordpress.com/