Here’s an author interview I did for The Word Hut website. Hope you like it.
Tell us something about Iain Pattison.
I’m losing my hair, sob. In addition to that I’m a full-time author, creative writing tutor and competition judge. My short stories have appeared in numerous women’s magazines, UK and US anthologies and been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. I’m the author of the best seller, Cracking The Short Story Market.
I’d describe myself as a humourist – which means I’m amusing, but not half as funny as a real comedian.
When and why did you start writing stories?
I started writing stories at the age of eight, filling reams of notepads in childish scribbles. I began writing fiction professionally some 15 years ago after being made redundant from my job in newspapers following a frank exchange with the editor about his charisma and talents. Since then I have been filling anthologies and competitions with reams of childish scribbles. Luckily, people seem to like them.
How would you describe your writing style?
Quirky and zany (if people still say things like zany) with a drop of satire thrown in. I try to make my stories Spartan, fast paced and exciting while machine gunning as many gags as possible. I love twist endings and always aim for an emotional response from my readers – even if it’s only a loud groan.
Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?
I have been blessed (or cursed) with a very odd brain that sparks story ideas non-stop. I have lists of yarns waiting to be written. I love clever word play and puns, and many of my stories are born from me taking a famous saying and giving it a silly twist. I haven’t actually written The Juan Who Got Away yet but it’ll happen…
What is your favourite time for writing?
After 5pm my brain turns to mush (I know, how can anyone tell?) so I write during the day. I try to have three sessions of about an hour each in duration. If a story is going particularly well I may squeeze in a fourth. In between times, I bake. The cakes are usually better received than the fiction.
Where is your favourite location for writing and why?
Hotels when I accompany my wife on her business trips. I get free electricity to power my laptop. And room service sandwiches! Otherwise, I’m usually just tapping away in my home office.
I like to cut myself off from the outside world and all its distractions, so when I write I stick on large headphones and have a wall of music in the background.
What other writing do you do – non-fiction, poetry, etc?
I am actually two people. At least, that’s what the shrink claims. As well as penning humour under my own name, I write dark fantasy, historical horror and the occasional chilling sci-fi tale under a pen name. I’ve adopted the “twin” author approach so that readers don’t get confused going through one of my creepy gaslight scarers looking for jokes, and so that I can either write a comedy tale or something dark and sinister depending on my mood that day.
What is your earliest memory of writing a story?
On a caravanning holiday on the East Coast of Scotland in the pouring rain, in the 1960s. Harry Potter hadn’t been invented so I realised I’d have to create my own escapism until JK Rowling came along…
Are you someone who plans their writing in detail or do you just launch into an idea and see where it goes?
It will come as no surprise that I have my own quirky way of working. I won’t start writing a short story until I have a clear vision in my head of exactly how it ends. Beyond that I just bash it out without too much planning.
People say you should only write about what you know. What is your view on this?
I think: just write about whatever excites you – if you don’t know enough about it, do some research. You don’t need to be an expert, just have enough knowledge that you can fool the reader into thinking you know what you are writing about.
Writing can be a lonely occupation or hobby. What is your advice for coping with this?
As I have already said, I am two people. So I’m never really alone. Seriously, as a full-time writer you have to get out and about as much as possible and mingle with people. It stops you getting stale, recharges the batteries and provides loads of stimulation and story ideas. You can’t write truthfully about people if you live in a bubble.
How do you cope when your writing is ignored or rejected?
I immediately fashion a voodoo doll of the fiction editor, publisher or judge involved and stick hundreds of pins into it. Then, when I’ve calmed down, I revise and polish the story and try the improved version somewhere else – usually more suitable.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you overcome this?
I’d love to experience writer’s block. It must be great. But I have deadlines to meet, groceries to pay for and plots screaming to be written. So I just fire up the machine and write. There’s no better incentive than a red gas bill…
Do you have a blog or website? For what reasons do you run these?
I have a website at www.iainpattison.com where I plead desperately for people to give me lecturing and judging jobs. The content has been described as “self congratulatory clap-trap” – and you should see what my real critics say!
What do your friends and family think of your writing?
They’re pleased it keeps me out of mischief until I can find a proper job. Before sending off a short story I run it past my wife. If she hates it I know it’ll sell!
Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their writing?
The late Terry Pratchett. He was a god and I worship his memory. Some people sneeringly dismiss his Discworld books as being simply fantasy or comedy, but he had a spookily insightful understanding of how people really think and act, both as individuals and groups. He said more about the human condition in one chapter than Dickens did in all his works … and got more laughs.
What has been your proudest moment so far with your writing?
The first time I had a short story broadcast on Radio 4 – The Babel Fable. It was stunning to actually hear my words coming out of the speaker. And knowing that thousands and thousands of people were listening in to it!
There’s something sublimely magical that happens when an actor brings your story to life, and enriches it with his skill and timing. I kept thinking: that sounds fantastic – it can’t be my story.
What do you hope to achieve in the future with your writing?
Immense wealth. Global adoration. Honorary doctorates. BBC adaptations.
I love making people laugh, but my real ambition is to have a series of historical horror novels. If I was the new Anne Rice, I wouldn’t complain.
If you had to give one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
I’ll offer two pieces – never take the advice of more experienced writers. They see you as a threat and want to sabotage you. The last thing any of us need is more competition!
Joking aside, keep churning out work. Be a word factory. Soon as you’ve finished one story, start another.
If you only write one story and send it off, you’ll go mad fretting about its fate, become obsessive checking your email ten times an hour and will be crushed if the yarn is rejected. If you are constantly writing, you soon forget about any one specific story until you hear back. And if it isn’t taken, you can be philosophical and console yourself that you have many others out there – all of which may be winners. It DOES lessen the pain.