Saturday, 29 March 2014

Interview with Simon Duke - Smashwords

Interview published on Smashwords - 29 March 2014

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?

I was born in Stoke-on-Trent in the UK. I lived in countryside England and had a very happy childhood. My family moved to France when I was eleven and I was parachuted into a French school without really speaking French. It took me a while to get up-to-speed with the other kids and I was (and I guess I always will be) the 'Angliche'. Thus my tendency to favor underdogs. I grew up watching many American film classics and loved the 80s films and music (some of it) and read many American novels. I grew fond of the modern gangster and of the transition from film noir and epic to the more gritty and realistic portrayal of crime in more recent times. Let's say that my writing sort of reflects bits of all that. They are fountains of inspiration for me.

Are you like Kyle, the main character in 'Out of Bounds'?

I see a lot of myself in Kyle. Many of his life experiences are similar to mine with the exception of the Xanax and the interactions with the criminal world! He is flawed, just like every common man. He has his struggles and that makes him more real than the people who are naturally good. He is put into extraordinary circumstances and defies odds to overcome his underdog status in the story. Life is a challenge and I think Kyle has his heart in the right place when it comes to what's most important to protect. He's an unsung hero and I relate to that.

Describe your desk

You might think the way my desk looks is a preview of my personality. Well, you're right. I like my desk to be tidy with ample room for typing away on the keyboard and for frantic mouse movements. I like to only have the essential things on the desk. I need my work station to be organized to avoid unnecessary distraction. That way I have a comfortable basis to start writing and my mind can wander off and do the rest.

What is your writing process?

I start off with a story idea and write it down in a summary. Either the rest of the story comes to me straight away, or I begin writing a few scenes and things gradually fall into place. As soon as I have a solid enough backbone to a story, I flesh it out and divide the result into chapters. From there on, I write bit after bit. I set myself realistic goals (such as a certain amount of words to write per week) and above all do not hate myself if for some reason or another I do not meet my targets. There are times when the inspiration does come and I have to cash in to churn out more words than usual. Other times I realize the storyline is weak and needs beefing up, or I have a change in mind with regard to how events unfold. I then go back to the backbone and fit these new ideas in.

Silence or music when you write? If music, who do you listen to?

Both, definitely both. Silence is a prerequisite. I need it for my deepest thinking and concentration spans. But as I get more comfortable with the process I tend to put on a melody from time to time. It mustn't be too distracting though and make me want to dance on my chair instead of writing. So I opt most often for music without lyrics and make sure there is a constant flow coming through. Sometimes I like it soft and classical or jazzy, but when I need some more pace I listen to artists like Moby, M83, Armin van Buuren, etc. I enjoy some movie soundtracks too.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

It was called 'The Lost Patrol'. One evening after school when I was twelve or thirteen, I penned down a few thousand words. I used to watch a lot of war films back then and thought to myself that a film starring Arnie, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, and a plethora of other famous movie stars as U.S. marines lost in the Cambodian jungle, and being wiped out one by one by clever and dangerous Viet Congs would be cool. Obviously the only way to make that possible was through my imagination. That's the story of my first story.

What do you read for pleasure?

I think I found a vocation in crime fiction writing after reading so many books in the genre. This pleasure never disappeared. I'm just a bit more choosy in the crime fiction novels and thrillers I read. For variety, I also read more classical works and I am always on the lookout for authors who get me hooked with their writing and characters. Finally, I like to be up-to-date with what's going on in the world and spend time every day reading the news, be it for the headlines or for the sports and entertainment.

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?

This may sound like a cliché, but I do spend a lot of time thinking about my characters and project myself in them. I'm always trying to note down ideas and make progress on my writing research, which can come under many forms: books, movies, inspiring TV series, or simply everyday conversation and happenings. And every once in a while I meet inspirational people (muses in some sort). I also enjoy travelling, being outdoors, and practicing sport whenever possible.

Who are your favorite authors?

I have many favorites and this is a really tough question. After a quick peak at my bookshelf I have to say that today I'm a big fan of the works of RJ Ellory, Michael Connelly, Henning Mankell, George Pelecanos, James Ellroy. Moving away from crime and thrillers, I also have a little collection of books by Paul Auster, Ernest Hemingway, John Irving, and many others.

'Out of Bounds' is available. Job done. But can you provide any snippets for your next book?

It's still early days and the 'Out of Bounds' marketing publishing and post-publishing phase has taken up most of my time, but I am well into my second novel. Again it will be situated in the United States and I will address one of my all-time favorite persona, the serial killer. The new angle: I cannot yet disclose, but I hope the killer will be seen as the ultimate serial killer, and that the journey of my main protagonist to get nearer to the killer will be considered an epic quest.