Next up for the quick-fire round of 20 questions is newcomer Niels Saunders. The most important thing you need to know about Niels? Do Not Challenge This Man To A Chili Eating Competition! You will lose. And if you want to find out why he’s holding a pineapple, you’ll have to read his book. Take it away Niels!
1. Hemingway famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Where the hell do you find the motivation to stick at it?
Once I invent a character, they’re extremely pushy. They demand to have their story told and won’t let me rest. Writing is the only way I can get them to shut up. Stories are like secrets : they demand to be told. As storytellers, it’s our duty to tell them the best we can.
2. Which would you prefer: monetary success or literary acclaim?
Monetary success. Literary acclaim is lovely and means you’re more likely to be read after you’re dead but monetary success means you have a large readership and can provide for your family by doing the work you love. Isn’t that all anybody wants?
3. How do people typically respond when you say you’re a writer?
Half of people will be fascinated and enquire about my books while the rest give me a concerned look and say, “Oh” as if I’ve told them I have an inoperable disease. A few particularly self-centred types will forgo all talk about my own work and immediately tell me in microscopic detail about the novel they’ve always planned to write but never got around to.
4. Social media – love or hate?
I used to hate it. Social media has always seemed a wretched hive of humblebragging and negativity. Since I’ve been on the self-promotion trail, however, I’ve warmed to it a little. I’ve met some lovely people through WordPress blogs and Twitter has its moments of hilarity. I still have no idea how Pinterest and Tumblr work, though.
5. What would you classify as a ‘bad review’?
Mediocrity. I’d rather someone despised my book than thought it was ‘okay’. At least that way my work would be inspiring passion (albeit negative) in a reader. That being said, in order to maintain my review score, I’d like to respectfully ask (by which I mean beg) readers who loathe my books to kindly spare me their wrath.
6. What’s the worst review you have ever given a book?
If I really hate a book, I don’t leave a review. I feel there’s enough negativity on the internet already.
7. Your publisher asks you to write a sequel to your very successful debut, but you never planned on writing one and you’ve left those characters behind. Do you (a) Write it and be glad that ANYONE is asking you to write more books? (b) Write it, but spend the whole time in an almighty huff about the whole affair, taking your anger out on your characters by killing them all off – swerving the possibility of a trilogy? (c) Refuse to sell out and walk away with your integrity intact, but your bank balance in a shambles?
I’m tempted to say (a) and laugh my way to the bank but my writing process depends a lot upon the nebulous instinct of ‘things feeling right’. If I was in this for the money, I’d be penning cheesy police procedurals. I can only write about ideas and characters that inspire me so, regrettably, I might end up choosing (c).
8. What book do you wish you’d written?
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. It’s the book that really inspired me to start writing novels and I’d love to write something myself one day that might equally inspire others.
9. If you could ask your favourite author a question, what would it be?
I don’t have a single favourite author but I’d love to ask William Faulkner how the hell he wrote The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary and Light in August in the space of 4 years. I’d consider writing even one of those masterpieces in an entire lifetime an incredible success.
10. Which is your favourite part of the publishing process?
I can tell you what it isn’t: waiting for responses from literary agents. Now I’ve chosen the self-publishing route. I’m enjoying the small pleasures that come every day such as a compliment on my blog, a glowing new review on Amazon or an unexpected batch of sales.
11. What was the first song you ever slow-danced to?
As an indie and rock teenager of the nineties and a house and techno clubber of the noughties, I fear I may have never actually slow danced in my life. Who says romance is dead?
12. If money were no object, where would be your ideal place to write?
An atmospheric study with a comfy leather chair, an enormous antique walnut desk, a crackling fireplace, shelves of hardback books and a whisky cabinet with a 1930’s soda spritzer.
13. Do you think readers still value books in the same way?
Not if they’re free. Many people like collecting free stuff and will download novels just because they cost nothing. They’re much more likely to read them if they’ve paid for them. Of course, self-published authors often have to give their books away to gain publicity (myself included). We write to be read, after all.
14. What genre are your books and do you find genres restrictive?
The dreaded genre question! I’ve never been a genre author, I simply write the kind of books I’d like to read myself. Having said that, I market most of my books under the humour genre because they’re meant to be funny. My books tend to mix elements of comedy, mystery and thriller. Unfortunately, there’s no category for that on Amazon.
15. Do you have any unpublished books, buried at the bottom of the garden and doomed never to see the light of day?
I have two. I wrote them both as a teenager back in the 90s. They’re epic dystopian thrillers and although I dread the thought of anybody reading them, I still can’t bring myself to completely destroy them.
16. What was your favourite childhood book?
A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony. It’s a superb fantasy novel that really sparked my imagination. I used to almost exclusively read fantasy when I was a kid and have only just got back into it via A Song of Ice and Fire.
17. Do you have any other hidden talents you’d like to brag about?
I won a chilli-eating competition and I also smoke my own meat.
18. Book launches: all fur coat and no knickers or a valuable rite of passage?
My only book launch so far consisted of clicking the ‘publish’ button on Amazon and posting about it on Facebook. I’ve yet to experience the classic image of signing hardbacks in a bookstore.
19. What did you dream about last night?
I can’t remember which means it was probably one of my recurring dreams about repeatedly mislaying my suitcase on the way to the airport.
20. What would you like your epitaph to be?
I’m going to steal the one from Spike Milligan’s headstone: I told you I was ill.