Sunday, 2 October 2016

Interview - S. C. Flynn

Hey Everyone!

I'm delighted to be participating in S. C. Flynn's ongoing blog tour to promote his new release Children of the Different. I will be reviewing this title in a couple of weeks, but I've been very impressed by what I've read so far. Flynn kindly took time out of his hectic schedule to chat to me here at Smash Dragons. I hope you enjoy!

Also, you check out this link for more information and purchase details. I promise you won't regret it. 

S. C. Flynn, welcome to Smash Dragons. First up, tell me a little about yourself. Just who is S. C. Flynn?

I am glad to be here, Matthew – thanks! I’m an Australian – g’day mate – from a small town in Western Australia exactly the same size as Cootamundra. So I am you, basically! Don’t worry, we’ll find something that sets us apart!

I have lived in Europe for many years – London, Milan and now Dublin. My wife is Italian and Italian is my second language. One time when we were visiting another town in WA, the lady at the hotel reception heard us speaking a foreign language and asked where I was from. When I said “Narrogin, Western Australia”, she gave me a very suspicious look!

Tell me about writing journey so far? Have you always wanted to write? How has your background in blogging helped you develop as a writer?
I have always written, or at least made up stories. When I was about four, I used to sit in a wheatbin and make up adventures – how Australian is that?

I see blogging as very different from fiction. I have written quite a lot for newspapers and magazines, so altogether I have a fair amount of bloggy-journalistic experience. That is certainly useful when it comes to writing guest posts and self-promotion generally – and in being more in touch with the market and what other people are writing, reviewing and talking about – but blogging requires different skills from writing fiction, in my opinion.

I would say that it is certainly possible to be good at blogging and not be good at writing fiction, and the other way round. My fiction style was developed over many years of practice before I started blogging, so I think that for me, they developed independently.   

Tell me about your upcoming book Children of the Different. What can readers expect from it?

Children is a Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic fantasy novel. The fantasy aspects are influenced partly by the Aboriginal Dreamtime. The main characters spend quite a lot of time in comas, during which their spirits travel through a dreamscape called the Changeland, where time, place and cause and effect are very different from the outside world. “A surreal and trippy dystopia”, one reviewer has called it.

Readers should not expect a typical Young Adult love triangle, because there isn’t one! There are female buddies, a twin brother-sister bond between the main characters, and friendship in general. And a slight touch of romance, I have to admit…

There is a lot of action and the pace is rapid. This is a Young Adult novel, so there is no coarse language, sex or grotesque violence.

How long did it take you to write Children of the Different? Did you face any particular challenges whilst writing it?

The overall writing process – from initial brainstorming to final version via beta readers, multiple redrafts and copyeditor – took about three and a half years. I am an obsessive reviser, but there were long pauses during that time, as well.

Children is the seventh novel I have completed, although it is the first one that I am publishing. Three of the others – all fantasy, but very different from this one – are of the same standard as Children and publishable, while the other three were part of the learning curve and will forever remain hidden. Out of all that novel writing, Children of the Different was by far the easiest to write. The story came to me largely fully-formed and the first draft was done in two months – even on the days when I sat down without a clear idea as to the next scene, I found what I needed.

I had never written a Young Adult novel before, so that brought some new challenges. I think the main one – apart from not being allowed to write about sex, of course – was the need to keep the style very simple and clear, and to underline certain key concepts more than I normally would.

Children of the Different is set in a post apocalyptic Australia isn't it? Can you tell me a little bit about the world and the landscape?
Nineteen years before the story starts, most of the world’s population was killed by a brain disease known as the Great Madness. The survivors live in small, scattered communities, each following a different approach to life. As an after-effect of the Madness, at the start of adolescence young people enter the Changeland that I referred to before, and either emerge with special powers or permanently damaged.

The setting is Western Australia. Many different landscapes appear – the giant forests of the South West near where I come from, the ocean, the desert, the city of Perth. Advance reviewers have generally thought the setting is one of the novel’s strengths.

What was behind your decision to self publish this book?
I spent many years trying to play the traditional publishing game. I had two professional literary agents for long periods at different times, but they were unable to find a publisher for my writing. I was probably very close to breaking through for a long time, but it did not happen. Perhaps that was just bad luck, but I decided to do something about it.

With Children of the Different, I decided to try a new approach – a new sub-genre and a new strategy. I was certain that people would like my stories if I could only reach them; the response so far from advance reviewers indicates that I was right.

I was suspicious of self-publishing for a long time – as I said, I saw myself as making a writing career in the traditional agent/publisher way. So when I decided to self-publish, my guiding principle was to only do it if I could offer a product as good as the major publishers.  I hired a team of professionals – copyeditor, artist, formatter and audiobook narrator - to help me achieve that.

I would like to mention specifically the audiobook narrator, Stephen Briggs. Stephen is an old university mate of mine and has been a professional voice artist for many years in Sydney and now Melbourne. It was great working with him on this project – Stephen narrating in Melbourne and me supervising from Dublin. I love what he has done with the character’s voices and the novel generally; initial reviews for the audiobook on Audible and Amazon show that other people feel the same.

What's your take on the publishing industry right now?

I am only just starting out, but I would say that the industry is extremely varied but durable. The novel continues to survive, although there have been predictions about its death for as long as I can remember. Genre fiction seems particularly strong at the moment, supported by a constant stream of movies and TV shows. Statistics can be misleading, but the print novel appears to still be popular, alongside ebooks. Audiobooks are relatively new, but are likely to become more popular in future; they are ideal for people who commute or who want a story while they do the housework, etc.

So in short, I think it is a good time to be trying to publish and sell genre fiction.

Characterisation is so important in any good story. I'm curious, what do you think makes a good character?

Realism and consistency, I think. We all know how frustrating it is to think while reading a story “No one would do that/think that” or “This particular character would not act like that”.

At a more basic level, readers have to care what happens to a character (and even baddies have to be compelling in some way). 

I've read that you’re a fanatical jazz musician. Do you have any other hobbies that keep you fresh? 

Ha ha! Yes, I inherited my fanaticism; I was on the stage playing for money in my parents’ band when I was thirteen and I am still playing the same tunes now. When I was old enough, my father said “This is a trumpet and these are your parts to learn – first rehearsal is this evening at 7pm sharp. Opening night is tomorrow.”

Like you and most of your followers, Matthew, I am a compulsive reader. Apart from that, films. I don’t have time for much else these days.

What's your favourite book? Why?

Hyperion by Dan Simmons. A group of characters with fascinating stories, and a remarkable range of fully-realised ideas.

If you could sit down for coffee with any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Jennifer Fallon. Her writing influenced me. I am also fascinated by the primordial connection between Australian and Antarctica, that were connected in Gondwana millions of years ago. Jennifer lives that connection, spending part of each year in Antarctica.

Who would be in your zombie apocalypse team? Why? 

Adam Roberts: he could pun us out of any situation.
Kameron Hurley: someone has to be boss.
Myke Cole: the muscle of the group.

Ursula Le Guin: a new high priestess for a new world.

Why do you think there is a surge in the Young Adult market in recent years? What appealed to you about writing a YA novel?

There are more people in the target age group than ever before. They are born using technology, so ebooks and audiobooks have become new areas of market growth. Again, technology largely drives the ongoing science fiction and fantasy film market that supports the book market.

As I said before, I have been close to making it in writing for quite a long time now without breaking through, so the large commercial market of Young Adult fiction was an attraction. 

I also enjoy the challenge of writing according to the stricter rules that apply. A YA novel must still have all the basics of a good story – characters, plot, setting – but you do not have the easy ways of getting a reaction through swearing or sex. As a writer, you have to work harder with the basics of story-telling to achieve your effects. It’s good discipline, actually.

What writing advice would you give to your younger self?

“Self-editing has more levels to it than you can possibly imagine, kid. When you think you’ve been severe on your own writing, you have – maybe - just taken the first step.”

How have you grown as a writer since you started your first novel?

In every way you can! It’s an ongoing process, I think, and maybe one that never ends.

The hardest lesson for me to learn – probably one that you have learn all over again for every separate novel you write – is pacing. My personal tendency, I think, has always been to go too fast, out of fear of boring the reader. Going too fast – not giving enough description, for example - risks not giving the reader time to adjust to the setting and feeling lost. It has been really pleasing for me that one of the aspects of Children that has been really popular with early reviewers is the sense of place. That indicates that I have learnt the lesson. For this novel, at least.

I think another important aspect is the growth of a personal style of writing, but one which you can adapt as required. Probably all of my “mature” novels read as if they were written by the same person, which is good. For Children, however, I was able to modify that style for the Young Adult sub-genre. So: simplified vocabulary, clear and regular sentence structure, more emphasis of key background concepts than I would normally do. It’s still me, though!

What projects do you have planned over the next year or two?

I haven’t decided yet. Early reviews indicate a fair level of interest in seeing more of the world of Children of the Different, so I could write a sequel, or maybe some stories set in that world.

The main alternative would be to publish one of the novels I have already completed. I will wait and see what happens with Children.

S. C. Flynn, thanks for stopping by!

My pleasure!

You can purchase Children of the Different at all good book retailers. I recommended you go out and buy it as soon as possible, and stay up to date with all things Flynn at his blog here.

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