Welcome back to our Author Interview series. Today, we have Ian Martyn joining us. He is another author I’ve met through Facebook. (Yes, if you haven’t figured out, most of the ones I’ve met I’ve met through Facebook. A great place to meet and greet.)
Ian, why don’t you get us started by telling us a little about yourself and where you are from.
- I’m living in Surrey, but I’m a Lancashire lad who grew up in the beautiful Northumberland.
- I graduated in Zoology and spent thirty years working in the pharmaceutical industry. The last twelve of those was working with some fantastic people in the WHO, Medicines for Malaria Venture, Gates Foundation, Liverpool and London Universities looking for cures for malaria which still kills over half a million children in Africa every year.
I’m going to break in here. You did say Zoology, yet you have been working in pharmaceuticals, right?
I just wanted to make sure. Those are just slightly different fields, if I remember my own recent college experience. Please go on. I didn’t meant to take over your interview.
- I’m married with two grown up sons. When not writing or blogging I play golf, play guitar, also now banjo (to amuse myself and annoy the rest of the family), cycle, read (of course) and do the garden (I’m told I enjoy it).
I’m sure you enjoy the produce, though the work to get there may not be the most fun. It does get you out in the sun, though.
I may regret this question, but do you remember what inspired you to start writing?
- Six years ago the company I worked for made big organizational changes which gave me the opportunity to take redundancy. In the last 6 months of work I had little to do so used the time to see if I could actually write one of those science fiction stories I had been telling everyone I was going to write. The rest as they say is history.
I’m safe! Thank you. ::Grins:: I think I detect a little of the British humor, so wasn’t sure if I was straying into unsafe territory there. Was the change in employment the definitive event that inspired you to write your first book?
- Not really. I always had ideas for stories buzzing round my brain, it was having the time to do something about them.
- Reading both some excellent and also some mediocre science fiction over the years inspired me to see if I could write. As for the first book it started with a simple idea, a ‘what if?’ In my case ‘What if our mythical creatures were aliens who had visited the earth thousands of years ago and as a result passed into legend.’
Do you remember any specific event that led you to know you were an author?
- Good question. To start with I used to describe myself as a ‘would be’ or ‘aspiring’ writer. But then when I was close to publishing my first two books I thought, no, I am a writer. This is what I do.
So, writing is now your only career?
- Definitely – even if it’s not paying me at the moment. I hope it will give me a modest return (OK, I dream about selling the rights to one of my books to Sky Atlantic). I know I will always write
Are you to a point in your project you can share some of your latest news, maybe a little about the project itself?
- I’m finalizing my third sci-fi novel Bleak for sending to agents and of course for self- publishing. It should be out in a month or so (unless of course some publisher thinks I’m worth the risk). Soon I will also be publishing ‘Dancing with the Devil, ten science fiction and fantasy stories of the weird and wonderful for those short of time.’ The idea here is to charge a small fee and hope that people like the stories enough to give my novels a go. I have also completed a follow up to my first book ‘Ancestral Dreams’ and am working on the third and final volume in the series (I didn’t know it was going to be a trilogy when I started).Finally, I blog every week on writing and science fiction and have just completed a giveaway ‘A Companion to the Future’ based on the blog.
- In my soon to be published ‘Bleak’ I explore something of what it is to be human. Bleak is the name of the main character and he is human, but not human. Confused? Good.
- As I say above I’m getting my latest novel ‘Bleak’ ready for publication as well as working on the second and third volumes of ‘Ancestral Dreams’. Oh, and that volume of short stories.
In your writing, do you leave hidden messages for your readers to find?
- For ‘Project Noah’ possibly. That if we (humans that is) keep going the way we are we will destroy the earth and our civilization, but also where there are humans there is always hope.
Has this helped you establish your own style of writing?
- Not sure – I think it is developing, maturing. I’m more confident than at the start. My books are not ‘funny’, but I do like to use humour with my characters
With any of your books, if you could go back to the beginning of the project with what you know now and redo the entire thing, is would you make any changes to your finished work?
- Nothing major, I’m happy with the story. But, no matter how much you revise, there’s always things you spot that could be better, usually after you’ve just pressed the ‘publish’ button
::Wry grin:: Well do I know that feeling. But, at least you are happy with the current form, which is always a big plus. When you are writing, do you have a favorite way of selecting your titles?
- Titles are difficult. For the second book ‘Project Noah’ it was easier, more obvious. ‘Ancestral Dreams’ is a cryptic hint at what the book holds (can’t say more)
What challenges did you run into and learn from during your journey so far?
- Knowing when to stop editing and revising.
- Not getting distracted by other ideas for other stories. Also sometimes banishing that self-doubt.
- That I can write stories that other people want to read – a great feeling.
You said you write science fiction. How much of your work is based on reality or draws from your own experiences?
- I hope ‘Project Noah’ comes across as credible (it starts at the end of this century) and I certainly believe some of the things in it will happen.
- I do sometime base characters on people I know and yes I call on incidents/experiences from my own life, even though it is science fiction. I think that adds to the ‘reality’.
Remind me not to wind up on your good or bad side then. Not sure if I’d like being immortalized like that. (If you do, please don’t let me know about it.) Since you draw a little from your own experiences, do you have any books that have helped influence your choice in what or how you write?
- Easy – the first science fiction I read as a teenager was Arthur C Clarke’s ‘Childhoods end.’ The ending blew my young mind, I was hooked.
Do you consider him a mentor figure, or is there someone else that fills that role for you?
- Probably the late, great, Iain M Banks. As for now perhaps Alistair Reynolds, Raymond Feist or Bernhard Cornwell (historical genre I know, but a great story teller)
Historical figures are wonderful people to learn from. After all, there books are still around today and still appreciated, right. Are any of these your favorites?
- Iain M Banks – the originality of the stories and the effortless style.
Are you reading one of their works now, or has someone of a more recent vintage caught your attention?
- [I am reading, now] ‘The Pygmy Dragon’ by fellow indie-author Marc Secchia
- Recently I’ve discovered Hugh Howey and Michael R Hicks, although, perhaps they are not ‘new’
From the interior of your work, to the exterior. Did you design your covers, or work with someone else?
- My covers are designed by my son who is a designer. We are aiming for a slightly retro sci-fi feel with a style that will be echoed across all my books.
Outside of your immediate family, do you have a support group who can step in to help if things get sticky for you?
- I must admit having joined ‘BooksGoSocial’ I think that’s the most supportive group I’ve found.
The big dreaded question, now. What words of wisdom can you pass on to other “aspiring” authors?
- Keep writing, novels, short stories, blogs, anything. And read as much as you can. Oh, and read Stephen King’s book on writing – the most helpful thing I’ve come across.
Funny thing, I seem to be hearing that a lot in answer to that question. Must be powerful advice, since so many keep repeating it.
Ian, thank you so much for stopping by. It has been a blast, and I look forward to your return tomorrow and the day after with a couple of your characters to let us get to know them as well. Any last words for the readers before I wrap it up today?
- Just that I hope you enjoy the tales I have to tell, I enjoy writing them. And do try and support those indie/self-published authors – there are some great ones out there. Finally if you do enjoy my stories please take a little time to write reviews, to self-published authors they mean a lot.
That goes for any story, though the self-published authors need the extra advantage more.
Thank you all for coming out and supporting our independent authors and creators. If you have any comments or questions, please leave them in the comments below. As always, discussions are welcome here.