Amazon describe Blank Canvas
And it's as intriguing as it sounds.
An accident on a colonial ship leaves it crippled and drifting through space. The custodial crew of seven have suffered losses and with no way to repair their vessel they must abandon the ship to organize a rescue mission from Homeworld. They leave behind a single crew member to keep watch over the five-hundred-thousand colonists asleep in suspended animation. Left alone, facing months if not years of isolation, a woman set to be the colony's ‘master artist’ must battle the demons of her past and the despair and loneliness of her present if she is to ever have a future...
Ed is married, and has seven children. He resides on the South Coast and manages somehow to work, bring up a family, remain sane AND write. He likes comics.
So I asked him a few questions...
When did you start writing?
I started writing with real intent in 2002. Before then I'd been a keen (my parents would say 'overly keen') role player. I'd get the gig in the game master chair and I'd have a ball and set up these stories and get automatic feedback. That was cool when it was going well, though when the room is dying and it's clear everyone wants to go down the pub to avoid you and your mad rantings then you feel (indicates a very small space between thumb and forefinger) ... this big.
In 2001 I decided to go for it and write something with the intent on becoming the next Stephen King, only shorter and less good. To be fair, it was a pile of crap. I stared myself in the mirror and came to the shocking conclusion that I couldn't write. Magic didn't spring forth from my fingertips. I didn't crap rainbows. I was not the master of the word.
Damn those reality checks.
Anyway, I could have stopped there, but instead I decided to rewrite and make a bit more of an effort. Clearly I was one of those people that had to work on it for a long time. Well, I did. I still don't think the writing is very good on that book and it remains in a draw, looking skeleton like as it clatters around in my writing closet. But I do like the plot.
From there I shifted to screenplays and I enjoyed doing them, and I learned a lot. But they didn't show some magical might that I hadn't discovered either.
In 2011 I wrote Blank Canvas. I established rules for myself and set the task of reaching the end of the Nanowrimo with at least a part of a book intact. I managed to get all the way through and to be honest I haven't looked back from then. I've written seven books since 2011 and though none of them have been picked up by agents or publishers I believe I am making excellent progress in my own journey. Self-publishing two of the seven helped me to reach audiences and to come to learn more about my strengths and weaknesses. I still have much to learn, but I feel I have a lot to give as well.
What three things would you like to facilitate a days writing?
The three main weapons of the writer are FEAR, SURPRISE AND RUTHLESS EFFIENCY and AN ALMOST FANATICAL DEVOTION TO THE POPE… and nice red uniforms. No, seriously.
Past the need for something to write on, something to write with and the power to do all that I’d have to pick music, tea and BATTENBERG! Yes, the cake that Prometheous stole from the gods and gave to humankind. Ah, segmented yellow and pink blocks of glory! How I love thee!
The music is the key ingredient in that mix, the other two just help to keep the energy levels up. I hit mood through music and have several albums for each book. They become wrapped around the story I’m telling so much so that I can put the c.d on in the kitchen while washing up and be working out effective plot twists and other such stuff.
Music is vital for me.
Do you write to a schedule?
If I’m not working on a building site then I’ll write through several sessions in the day, try and make a big word count and push the story along in a logical and controlled way. If I’m working then I have to write in the evenings, which can be tough when you’ve pulled a hard day on site. Add on top of that my wife and her awesome writing as well then we have a serious need to control the amount of time we can put into any project.
For me, I have to face the screen and dance. Even if I don’t want to. I switch on my netbook, muck about on Twitter and check my email, maybe check out some research, then open documents and check what I did the day before. Once I’ve had a good scan through then I start, regardless if I’m in the mood or not.
While I’m checking out all the internet stuff I have the album I’m writing to on.
I also try to set daily and weekly targets. For instance, at present I’m writing the third book in the Gita Askari series. I have a final word count target and I have a time scale to see it done in. At present I’m trying to get two thousand five hundred from each writing session. That can be tough after a hard day, but I find I can push myself to that without too much effort.
Is writing your main source of income?
Sadly, no. To be honest, I make no money from writing at all. Few people buy my books and fewer leave reviews*. I am in the dusty desert of the literary world, staggering through a dust storm that would surely kill me if not for my trusty bandana, or my job, as I like to call it.
That doesn’t mean I’m not over the moon when someone says they like what I do, pops me a tweet or a little email. I am, but I’m also under no illusions as to my reality, and that is clearly that writing is something I love to do, but does not support me at all. I obviously want it to, and hope that at some point in the future I can make enough to replace my labouring jobs income, but that seems like a long way off.
What are your favourite biscuits?
I adore a custard cream. I love a jaffa cake. But I keep my proper super man love for the Oreo cookie. Why the Oreo? Is it the ritual of twist, lick, dunk, lick, dunk, repeat? Yes! But no. The real reason I love them so much is because they taste lovely, and they happen to be the Martian Manhunter’s favourite biscuit.
I loved the Justice League comics when I was a teen and The Manhunter loved his Oreos, but they didn’t sell them over here. I would sit there wondering what they tasted like. It was clear the American audience knew, BUT I DIDN’T! ARGGGHH!
Anyway. That’s my fav. Oreos. Because a fictitious green superhero likes them.
Where do you do most of your writing?
Well, all the magic happens in the bedroom. No, I mean it. I sit on the bed and write with the pillows propping up my back and my laptop on a board that sits on a cushion (so I don’t bake my sperm, or something).
We have a desk in the corner. It’s a kit furniture thing and it does the job well, but I have a really bad knee and if I sit at the desk it makes my leg hurt. Proper hurt. So I sit cross legged on the bed and let the music wash over me and get the magic flowing.
What book are you reading at the moment?
Well, I’m so tired by the time bedtime comes that I’m finding it hard to focus on anything. That can be very frustrating. Still, I have two on the go. I have ‘Fog’ by Michael Wombat (that I really must get on with so I can leave a review) and Homer’s The Iliad and the The Odyssey. We bought a special edition when we went to the British Museum a little while ago. We thought they were reduced and so I got that and my wife grabbed Plato’s Republic. Turned out that we’d read the sign wrong and they weren’t reduced, but we couldn’t put them back. They were so beautiful.
Do you use social media?
Yes! Of course! I came to Twitter a good few years ago because I got sick of Facebook.
On Twitter I found people that I have fallen head over heels in platonic love with. Buddies and mates, pals and wonderfully encouraging souls. I adore the beast we call Twitter.
It isn’t all plain sailing of course, sometimes you get pulled up for saying something stupid. Sometimes you Tweet before you think and then end up regretting that minute of madness or sloppy spelling. That’s life. Live with it and move on.
I do restrict the amount of pimping I do for my own work for several reasons. To be honest, I’m not a famous or desired writer, so the people that follow me are probably the only people that know I exist really. So to bombard them with tweets about my work seems totally pointless. I hit a link up every few days, try and make myself sound clever, or the book to sound good, and then forget about it. I find it far more fun to share with people what I’m watching, listening to and reading. I love throwing up a link for someone else’s work, hoping I can convince just one other person to enjoy something that I think is cool.
Does the sharing thing increase sales? Well, when I have a special offer on then I get more downloads, but that’s because it’s cheap, or free. I don’t see the increased download activity continue when the books go back up in price, so for me, no. Not really.
That’s cool. I’m happy for every download I get. Sure, I want to have more and be paid well and get on and walk into a Waterstones and see my book sitting front and centre. Not getting that won’t stop me writing. I’m here for the long haul.
Do you own an e-reader?
My wife owns an e-reader. It’s a kindle. I bought it for her for Christmas. The Kindle is tied into my account so that she can download whatever she likes and I’m still paying for it. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.
I have started reading things on the Kindle when she isn’t using it, but I prefer the paperback. It has a magic about it. Pages and pages that smell and can be left on shelves, or carried into the toilet, or dropped in the bath, left on the radiator and then look like they should be helping Indiana Jones find the lost city of Smeg.
I like the idea of the e-reader. It’s great! But I love the book more.
Do you dream in colour?
I do. I have a fairly active dream life as well. I regularly wake up and scratch my head and ask what the hell that was all about?! That can be cool. I also do that vague dream control thing. You know? When something happens and you go, ‘no’ and you can change it about a bit? That. It’s great when the dreams are good, but when I have nightmares they are pretty vivid, normally quite violent and I find that I keep changing direction to avoid danger only for it to be down the turn that I selected after a ‘no’.
Weird, terrifying, and cool question.
If reading and writing were banned what would you do instead?
I always wanted to be able to draw comics. Paint landscapes. Touch people with the art I produce. I love the idea of being a musician. So if I couldn’t read or write I would play music or paint.
I’d need some expression to come forth or suffer a downward turn. Inactivity like that is a bad trigger for me. I’m aware of it and so I keep myself active. I don’t like the dark hole and I know that once I’m in it climbing out is a draining and wretched exercise.
What is your ideal holiday?
Free time with my wife. That’s the thing that centres me.
We have awesome kids and we always try and have a lot of fun, even while on a limited budget, but what keeps me sane is making sure that bond between myself and my wife is rock solid.
I suppose what you really want to hear is where I want to go? Well, I love Cornwall, and I want to go to Scotland. Farther a field? Okay, I always wanted to see Sweden, Canada and Greenland. I love the thought of looking up into the Northern Lights. Amsterdam would be high on my list and so would Berlin and New York.
At present I don’t even have a passport and have never left the country, so perhaps treasuring the time with my wife is a more realistic holiday.
As a finishing note I’d just like to encourage anyone reading to go out, or stay in, and do something they love. If you want to write, then write. Don’t sit and wait for it to happen. Don’t wait for magic to make you paint. Get painting. Do something you like doing and keep doing it. You’ll get better at it and be able to understand more about what you do and why you do it. In time, other people may come to love what you do.
* I think was a hint
Thanks to Ed for some great answers. Nice to see another Monty Python fan and a lover of Battenberg, which DD has only just discovered and is a massive fan of.
Eds books can be bought for Kindle or in Paperback via Amazon.
The follow up to Blank Canvas is Still Life
Gita Askari crossed the universe to find herself. She settled and found peace. Now she must make the journey back, because to live again, she must choose to die.Disclosure : I received an early unedited copy of Still Life for review (but I've since bought it too)
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