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Author Interview: Simon John Cox Author of The Slender Man
September 09, 2015 • Leave a Comment
It’s an internet meme, which started a few years ago on the Something Awful forums. I stumbled across it one day and got simultaneously scared out of my pants and inspired. It was an odd sensation.
I suppose it depends on which grubby corners of the internet you skulk around in…I discovered it by chance a few months ago, but I expect a lot of people have known about it for a while. It was also featured in a BBC radio programme just before Christmas (although my story was written and published before then).
Not a great deal of formal research, really – the antagonist isn’t real so there was no need to understand that, and the rest (characters, locations) are generally drawn from experience.
I have to know the beginning and the end before I write a single word – otherwise I don’t know where the story is heading – and I usually know at least two major plot points, but it usually evolves as I write.
Don’t write horror at night when you’re home alone.
I don’t think there was any single significant revelation, but every time I write something I feel that it’s a small improvement on the last thing I wrote.
The nightmares. Seriously. Writing it gave me nightmares.
The plot is all imagination, but there are plenty of elements that are based on my experiences – there are Second World War bunkers in the woods near where I live, for example, and the characters and locations are loosely based on amalgamations of people and places that I know. I’d say that the main premise of isolation and an imminent, inescapable threat are certainly what I personally find most terrifying.
I tried traditional publishing with my first novel, but it was considered by agents to be “good but not commercial enough”, which I think means that no-one beyond my immediate family would buy it. I’ve had short stories published in various traditional and online collections, but the main thing that made me try self-publishing was the immediacy of it – once I’ve written, edited, re-edited and re-re-edited my work I upload it and it’s just there. There’s none of the momentum-sapping delay that I’ve found with traditional (print and online) publishing.
I held a launch on Facebook, and promoted it (sparingly) via my Twitter feed, but beyond that I think people have been finding it by search engines or hearing about it by word of mouth. I published it on Amazon and Smashwords, which I think works well – Amazon is the big shop window, and then Smashwords is essentially a distributor to Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble etc. It’s not doing badly, so I think I’m doing something right.
I had work published in the Kindle All-Stars anthology last year, and that put me in touch with a number of self-published authors who have inspired and supported me. People like Bernard Schaffer, Laurie Laliberte, Tony Healey, J. J. Toner, William Vitka, Matt Posner, Keri Knutson, David Hulegaard…actually pretty much everyone who was published in the KAS anthology.
For a novel I would, because the perception still persists that traditional publishing guarantees a minimum standard of quality (even though some really terrible books make it into print, and many contain more editing errors than my self-published stories do).
Paperback. I’m a traditionalist.
I think that the ereader revolution will continue and gather pace as non-traditional markets increasingly adopt it (i.e. China, Brazil, India etc), but that paper books will still remain part of the mix for a very long time to come. I also suspect that the self-publishing world will act more and more as a kind of publicly validated slush pile from which agents and publishers pick new writers.
I’m working on a novel that I’m hoping to finish by the end of February. It’s about one man whose official records are all erased, and another who is brought into existence by having false records created for him. It’s better than it sounds, honest.
Editing. It’s just dreary, and as I’m the writer I often can’t see the wood for the trees.
I designed the cover myself, by pasting white text over a royalty-free image using MS Paint. It’s essentially as low-tech as you can get without resorting to pen and paper.
I had a selection of people read the story and provide feedback, which I then reviewed and mostly incorporated, but I didn’t hire anyone to help me. Partly because I don’t do this for a living and therefore wouldn’t want to invest money on the process, and partly because I’m a qualified copy editor and proof reader and also a massive pedant.
When I first started giving my work to other people to read all of the criticism was tough, but now I’ve been writing long enough to know firstly that if the criticism is constructive then I can learn from it and improve, and secondly that some people just won’t like what I write, and there’s nothing I can do but accept that. The best compliment I ever received was that someone said that he rated my unpublished novel as one of his top ten favourite books of all time (yes, he honestly said that), but I suspect that he’d previously only read nine books.
“Write what you know” doesn’t necessarily mean write about your job or your hobby, it means use your experiences of life to create deeper characters, richer dialogue and more engaging situations.
I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read any of my work, and to say that if you enjoyed it then I’m very pleased and if you didn’t then it doesn’t mean that I don’t love you and I hope we can still be friends.
The best thing to do would probably be to follow me on Twitter (@simonjohncox) or look in on my website (www.simonjohncox.com).
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