Hello again friends, bloggers and muses,
Welcome back to another week of Behind the Author, again this week weare focusing on authors aspiring towards their first published books, an I have a special guest for you today…
Today’s Guest: Tom Burton of Slumdog Soldier
Tom has nearly completed his first complete Novel and is a professional proofreader by trade. Let’s see what wecan learn from him. 😁
Mathew: Hey Tom, it’s great to finally jump into this interview with you. I know you have a book in the works and author’s completing their first big novel always excites me. But – let’s not get ahead of ourselves, what made you start your blog in the first place?
Tom: Hi Mathew, thanks ever so much for having me! I guess I started it because it was such a brilliant creative outlet for me. I’ve always found it much easier to express myself through writing than verbally in person. Books are such a great refuge to dive into vivid new worlds; as I’m naturally quite a quiet person, I really found that typing the words out on the page really helped me to express my emotions clearer and improve my writing. I had a story in the works and wasn’t sure of how to pitch it best to new readers, so I thought, maybe try it online.
Mathew: So, back to your story “Slumdog Soldier” now, how did you get the idea for this story and why did you choose to release it in weekly chapters on your blog?
Tom: I’ve loved history from an early age. It’s fascinating to have that unique viewpoint that transports the reader into the rich breathing world of our grandparents and ancestors. Recent historical fiction of my chosen period tends to concentrate on the Victorian Era and the legacy of colonial empire, but many authors tend to portray this period as an idyllic golden summer of peace, tranquil garden parties and upper-class romances. So I thought: why not try grassroots fiction instead? A story of soldierly brotherhood among the gutter rats of London; righteous vengeance against cruelty, the plight of fallen soldiers in a country that forgot them and standing up for the small-folk on the grimy margins of society.
I’ve always had a soft spot for lone-wolf antiheroes like Max Rockatansky from Mad Max or Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. Asocial outcasts who prefer to be left alone and prickly towards strangers they mistrust, they’re reluctant to emotionally invest in others and often gruff and tactless to close friends. Yet they have a deep protective instinct to assist people in need, always willing to intervene on behalf of struggling innocents. Whether for their family, close trusted friends or strangers they’ve taking a liking to, their underlying decency and compassion shines through when helping others. Following their own primal code of righteous violent justice, these characters are ruthless avenging angels against the three-headed dragon of greed, corruption and cruelty. By targeting the rotten dregs of society outside the law – abusers, sadists, bullies and tyrants – these visceral revenge fantasies still resonate with millions of people worldwide, fulfilling that universal cathartic desire for good to triumph over evil and fix a broken world.
I chose a weekly schedule because keeping my blogging to a consistent weekly schedule: 1) makes me accountable to my waiting readers and stops me procrastinating; 2) lets followers know when to anticipate brand new content, and 3) gives me a self-imposed challenge to keep regularly producing quality posts for readers every week. Spacing each fresh chapter out in weekly installments means I’ve got over three months of future chapters still scheduled and ready, which means less pressure to panic-publish new stuff in a rush. I could release more of them each week if I liked…but I don’t want to.
Mathew: Have you had a plan behind the story-line the entire way or have you been just kind of “going with the flow”, so to say?
Tom: I’ve had a plan behind the story line ever since I started my initial rough draft, so I knew what the climax and resolution was going to be right from the start. But this newer version I’ve been publishing online is a massive change from my first draft: originally the Hero was quite a passive character and events would just ‘happen’ to him; now, I’ve deliberately made him a much more proactive protagonist who drives the story onward through the choices he makes.
Mathew: Have you thought about what sort of incentive you might offer your readers to buy your novel after you’ve released it in it’s entirety on your blog?
Tom: I’ve planned that I’ll release my story up to a certain fixed point (end of Part 3) and deliberately leave out the final climax (Part 4): if readers felt that the story was engaging enough and wanted to discover how the story resolves, that would be a great incentive if they’d like to buy the finished novel!
Mathew: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers out there? Any handy tricks you use for dialogue or characters or creating a setting? I’d love to get your take.
Tom: Write for yourself first and foremost. Ignore the fact that anyone else will read what you publish, just focus on your own thoughts, ideas and opinions, and figure out how to put those into words. No need to appear too ‘professional’ or use ‘big words’ to try and impress others.
There’s tons of writing advice out there, but for dialogue, characters or scene-setting, here are just a few observations I’ve found useful:
1. Starting in the middle of a scene pulls the reader into the story.
2. “Said Bookisms” (alternate verbs than “said”) enhances the delivery of the dialogue, add nuance to speech and liven up a story. But don’t overuse them; it gives the impression that characters are overacting. If every one growls, snarls, or hisses their dialogue, it draws too much attention and breaks the reader’s immersion in the story, so the flowery verbs lose all of their impact and the writing looks ridiculous. The rarer they’re used, the more effective they are.
3. Simpler is better. Don’t use complicated words because it makes you seem smart – it throws the reader right out of the story. e.g. saying ‘edifice’ instead of ‘building’ doesn’t tell your reader anything useful about the building; it just tells them that you know the word edifice.
Mathew: Thanks so much for joining me in this interview Tom! It’s always great to get another perspective from a wonderful author and blogger. I love your good vibes and passion for writing. I hope you keep it up and I wish you success.
My last question for you is this, I think most of us know very little about you behind your short stories and fictions. What’s the life of this mystery author like? And do you have any passions outside of writing?
Tom: Thanks ever so much for such kind words, Mat! It’s been an pleasure to take part and I’m so pleased you’ve enjoyed my stories.
I’ve lived and worked on the East Devon coast for the past ten years now; there’s such amazing countryside scenery all around and Exeter’s such a lovely city to visit! I’ve managed to find plenty of time for my writing while job-hunting this summer, and I’m really excited to have recently started a new job which is a big step up from my previous retail experience. I’m also studying final exams to become a formal Proofreader, so hopefully this will help build my CV while learning a valuable skill set for future work.
Aside from my writing I’ve found cycling a great hobby, at first just for commuting but now for fitness and getting into the countryside (especially over the summer!). I’m a big fan of good TV series like Stranger Things, Peaky Blinders and Fargo, and I’m currently volunteering in a local charity shop fundraising for sick children. It’s been so rewarding to give something back to my local community!
There you have it folks! From the man himself, don’t be afraid to share your creative works on your blog. It can be a good way to get others interested in your upcoming novels to build a readership. It can also be a way to gather feedback. Don’t be afraid to share. Thanks again to Tom for inspiring us with his insight and experience!!!
Thanks for joining on this week’s, Behind the Author!
If you haven’t been to Tom’s site yet, check him out HERE.
Questions? Comments? Leave them down below!