Today I have the pleasure of interviewing upcoming author Shaun Baines! Shaun lives in a damp cottage in Scotland, but comes from the north east of England where his novels are set. He is represented by David Haviland of the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency. His short stories combine dark fantasy with contemporary crime. They can be found online, in magazines and in anthologies, including Eclectic Mix Vol 5 and Metamorphose Vol 3. Woodcutter is his debut novel and will be published by Thistle Publishing in June 2018. He is currently writing the sequel, provisionally titled The Daytons. Both novels are based in the criminal underworld.
Shaun definitely seems to be on his way up as a writer and has a great grasp of what it means to be an author. If you’d like to connect with him on Twitter, you can do so HERE. Now, let’s get to some questions!
1) What is your writing process?
With my first book, I planned the first ten thousand words and used that as a springboard for the rest of the story. It’s an enjoyable way of writing as I didn’t know where the plot would take me. My process changed for the second book. I knew the characters and how they would react to pressure so the plot took centre stage. This time, I plastered my bedroom wall with sticky notes and created a detailed storyline before I started writing. It was less exciting for me, but hopefully more enjoyable for the reader, which is my main goal.
2) What advice do you have for new/aspiring writers?
Anyone can write. I’ve been doing it since I was four, but getting published and making a career from it is a different thing. If you want writing to be your job, then treat it like one. Don’t wait until the muse strikes or when you feel fully rested. If you work in an office or shop, you can’t not go in simply because you don’t feel like it. Be professional and make a habit of sitting down in front of your keyboard. Some days will be harder than others, but the words will come eventually. Do it often enough and you’ll have a novel.
One of the clichés about being a writer is that it is a lonely profession, but it shouldn’t be. To improve, you’ll need other eyes on your work to give you feedback. I hand my text to several readers (some of which I barely know) and ask for their criticisms. It’s warming to know I am part of a group committed to improving my story and it motivates me to work harder.
3) Where do you draw your inspiration?
The idea for Woodcutter came from a house move to Scotland. I live in a rural area with only one other house in view. I started to wonder what our new neighbours thought of us and my mind took a sinister route. Were we in a witness protection program? Were we part of a shadowy organisation? Were we assassins? That gave me the kernel of the story. The characters came next and I borrowed a little bit from everyone I ever met until I had a group of desperate, devious gangsters hungry for power. Their interactions formed the plot and all I had to do was steer them in the right direction.
4) What drew you to your genres?
For a long while, I thought I had to write a literary classic; something about the deep anguish of my soul, but writing one was an arduous slog. When the day was over, I’d cheer myself up by reading fantasies and crime thrillers. I finally realised that genre writing was where my heart lay. Literary masterpieces are fine, but they’re not for me. I want adventure and excitement, and genre writing offers this more readily. After that, I rushed to my keyboard every day and a thriller developed about a son returning to his criminal past to seek revenge. It was a book that not only did I want to write, but one I’d want to read too.
5) What is the deciding factor on whether or not to pursue a project?
I have to enjoy doing it. If I wanted to be miserable, I’d go back to working in an office. Writing a novel is a long process. It takes me nine months and that’s considered fast. Some writers take several years. There is always rewriting to be done, insecurities to battle with and rejection to face. I couldn’t do all that and be miserable at the same time. I’ve discarded whole novels because they weren’t making me happy. And if I’m not happy, how can I expect my readers to be?
Thank you so much for the lovely interview, Shaun! I’ll be keeping an eye out for Woodcutter this coming June and wish you all the best for your continued success! For my readers, I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I have. Please feel free to leave your thoughts below in the comments!