Today’s interview is with David Ellis. We are Twitter acquaintances. Welcome to the blog, David.
Thank you for having me here, Lela, very kind of you and a pleasure to be here.
Tell us something about yourself.
I’m a poet and fiction writer who lives in a sleepy town in the South East of Kent in the United Kingdom. I used to work in Financial Services as a software salesman but now I am currently re-evaluating my whole career to focus more heavily on writing and exploring my true passions as a champion of both artists and the arts themselves.
I adore cats, dogs and other cute animals, sharing tons of pictures of them on my Facebook page. I also really enjoy foreign cuisine – Spanish, Greek, Italian, Chinese, Indian, it’s all delicious. I’m a very romantic and passionate man, who loves the creativity in people and inspiring others whenever I possibly can.
Passion is something that I believe directly comes across in my writing too.
At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?
For quite some time now I have known that this is my calling. When I was in school, English Language and Literature were the only two subjects that held my attention. Nearly twenty years ago, I started writing song lyrics in my twenties (I’m nearly forty now but somehow it still seems like it was not all that long ago, almost like it was yesterday).
I became fascinated with the catchy, rhyming nature of popular songs and would often try to write alternate versions of them with different lyrics and then I would attempt to write songs myself. I even ended up making a couple of music albums full of rock, pop, rap and electro songs, which I built from samples (like a demented architect with music as my Lego blocks!)
When I was writing song lyrics, I had an abundance of words that were literally bursting at the seams when it came to trying to fit them into musical beats. This eventually led to me writing poetry. I look back fondly on those early formative years as a training ground for myself. I have never lost the urge to make music either.
I began writing short stories about four years ago when I first created my blog/website back in 2012. I enjoy the medium of short stories/flash fiction because you have to cram as much as you can into tight spaces and deliver clear, concise messages that pack a punch. I often find that this is an excellent vehicle for humour, which relies on heavily edited zinging dialogue and fast paced narrative.
Now that I do it regularly I cannot imagine a life without it!
What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?
My favourite genre to read is Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Crime Thriller/Action Adventure. I enjoy books that put me emotionally in the story and that explore themes of humour, heroism and have relatable plots and situations regardless of where they are set.
As for my favourite genre to write, I am drawn to writing inspirational poetry in the first instance. There is nothing more satisfying than crafting lines that you know are going to have an emotional impact on the reader that will give them a positive and uplifting experience.
With regard to my fiction writing, I’m now working on Sci-Fi/Fantasy because I like to play with ideas and notions of what will happen in the future, based on our own research of current trends. I find it tremendous fun playing with interpretations of what could become a reality for us and the only sad thing is that I won’t be alive long enough to see if my own predictions will come true!
What is something you cannot live without?
British biscuits being more like what Americans call cookies, right?
I’m deadly serious. I get anxious if I go a couple of days without something to dip in my English Breakfast tea! I get separation anxiety from them. Also, I find that the sugar rush gives my brain the conducive buzz that sparks ideas too, so you could say that they are for medicinal purposes when it comes to kick-starting writing 😉
Actually, I should say I cannot live without tea too, in addition to drinking English Breakfast, I also drink many cups of Earl Grey tea every day as well. Tea is my elixir of life, you take that away from me and there will be trouble with a capital T 😉
Do you find yourself returning to any recurring themes within your writing and, if so, are you any closer to finding an answer?
Revisiting my words as a reader, I’m stunned at what I find. When we write, we are searching for answers ourselves. It is all about asking the right questions to put ourselves in a position as writers to write our way to the answers. I have been told in the past that I have the demeanour of a frustrated musician, who is still trying to figure out how and why the world works in the way that it does. This doesn’t mean that I have given up on the world, I just tend to embrace aspects of love, creativity and inspiration to help solve problems that I come across.
I think that I constantly revisit themes of inspirational advice to encourage myself because in doing so, I am then inspiring countless others in the process and it is a beautiful cycle to be a part of when I am successful in being an inspiration to others.
Do you write from an outline or are you a discovery writer? Why?
I like to experiment with both forms (plotting and pantsing). Usually I write from a prompt or theme and try to infuse that with a particular style of writing that I am trying out. Half the time, I let my mind wander and I use a combination of research and freestyle phrases, then I will edit the piece for flow and rhythmic resonance.
I feel like I am a very much a musical poet, in that I am laying out words to beats in my head. What I find interesting about playing with rigid lyrical structures that I find in specific forms of poetry with syllable counts, repetition, rhyming schemes, etc is how the limitations can actually drive my creativity into new and exciting areas, while maintaining a clear focus for the piece.
Restrictions can lead to repetition but only if you do not embrace your creativity to find ways of making your piece more original. Endless variations on a theme is my ultimate goal to give you more of what you enjoy, whilst keeping everything as unique as possible.
I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?
OK, so I have to approach this question logically. With no internet (or TV/mobile phone games/Netflix, I would imagine), I would look first to having a supply of reading books and would also spend the rest of the time writing. I’d probably divide the time between the two pastimes fifty/fifty. I would need to listen to instrumental music too to keep me inspired on the writing side. I’m heavily into electronic and rock instrumental music, particularly ones with exotic/unique beats like Secret Chiefs 3 or Beats Antique (eclectic choices I know but great to enhance the mood).
With regard to which books I would take with me, anything by Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett – I adore these authors very much and am still trying to get through all of their works, which I have found to be the most uplifting and enlightening experience of my life.
Good authorial choices! Talk about your books individually.
So far, I have published three books.
“Life, Sex & Death – A Poetry Collection” is my debut collection of poetry that I wrote over a period of three years. The book won an award in October 2016 in the Inspirational Category of the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards. There are many philosophical and romantic poems in this collection too, it is pretty diverse. I have been told that I am very good at emotionally expressing themes, ideas and moods through poetry and that I have a knack for writing in ways that greatly move or inspire the reader.
“A Little Bit of What You Fancy” is a collection of short stories that I have personally authored. Most of them are humorous, with the odd horror story or sad tale thrown into the mix. About half of the material is flash fiction and the other half of the book are longer short stories that were previously printed in Kindle Anthologies and local newspapers. I enjoy the medium because you have to be focused with where the story is going, since the word count is limited. Every sentence has to be heavily edited and pared to the bone. It is another writing discipline that I enjoy very much, along with being one that keeps your writing both tight and focused.
“A Blend of Tea Break Tales” is also a collection of short stories from a band of authors that belong to my local Writers’ Circle. I donated one of my stories (which crops up in “A Little Bit of What You Fancy”) for the collection and I collated all of the stories from the authors. There is a lot of diversity in the tales of this particular book, they are mostly all contemporary modern day fables laced with humour, romance and poignancy, with a couple of historical pieces also thrown into the mix.
What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?
I would like readers to take a chance on my books. I’ve found that when people read them they end up surprising themselves and telling me that they enjoy reading my poetry, even if they are not specifically a fan of poetry, which in my mind is one of the highest compliments you can pay someone!
Personally, I would like people to feel inspired in some way, to continue to believe in themselves and to never give up on their dreams. If anything my words are all about making goals and being determined to reach them no matter how long it takes. Be they in love, relationships, creative endeavour or whatever you own personal missions are in life, I want to be the catalyst to help you to succeed.
What influenced your decision to self-publish?
I used Amazon Kindle and Createspace to help produce an electronic and paperback poetry collection for a friend in the past and I edited her poetry collection too. This in turn gave me the knowledge and skills to be able to self-publish my own works, some of which had been previously published on my own blog.
To be honest, I have always considered the option of approaching traditional publishers but had felt that this option was closed off to me at the time I self-published my books, particularly since I have focused on the genres of poetry and short story collections, which generally tend not to attract the big and medium sized publishing houses (most poetry is published by Small Press publishers now).
However, now that I am branching out into full length novels, I am more open to considering traditional publishing methods for more lengthier projects, particularly in light of the accolade that I have gained for my poetry. I will never stop self-publishing though, as I thoroughly enjoy seeing the entire process all the way through to fruition.
What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishing?
The greatest advantage in my opinion of self-publishing is not having to wait enormous amounts of time when submitting to a traditional publisher to see if they will take your manuscript. You are free to write whatever you want and can get it in the hands of the reader very quickly (providing that you pay to get it edited though, which I touch upon later). I think that it is also exciting to be able to handle all of the marketing, promotional and creative aspects yourself, which you would have to delegate if you used a traditional publisher. Self-publishing is not for everyone though, I think you have to be a passionate entrepreneur willing to work extremely hard to promote yourself, if you want to succeed with all of the aspects involved.
Conversely, what do you think self-published authors might be missing out on?
Self-published authors miss out on some of the marketing clout provided by traditional publishers. Many reviewing publications tend to look more favourably on traditionally published works over self-published, which is why I would encourage people to submit their work into competitions and try to obtain awards to help their books stand out from the crowds and be more appreciated by the reading communities.
With the number of self-published books increasing by such a huge rate, it is really difficult for authors to make their books stand out. How do you go about this?
You have to participate in as many interviews as you can to get your name out there. I think that in every interview, you should try to bring new interpretations of your work to the table to make them interesting for people to read and discover different facets of your work.
I would in particular encourage poets to submit to literary magazines and competitions because if you win a prize or are included in a publication, this can be used as a hook to get people to review your work. I would strongly encourage doing research on every review outlet or blog that is suitable for your work and applying to get your book reviewed. Expect to receive many rejections but keep trying and try to get an electronic copy of your book reviewed in the first instance, as providing paperbacks will put you out of pocket, unless the review is guaranteed.
Who designed your book cover/s? I really like the one to the right. The different typography is eye-catching.
I designed all three of my book covers out of necessity, as I had the books ready to publish but problems with the original covers that I had arranged for the projects. The process was fun and immensely satisfying to try out myself and I’m very pleased with the results. The trickiest part I found was finding royalty-free images of the highest quality and integrating them into the covers.
However, I am keen to incorporate the work of others for future publications (especially for fiction work), as I am not an artist myself and appreciate the collaborative nature of the process with designers and artists. I’ve noticed that since there are only a finite number of templates to play with, the only way to ensure that you get a beautiful, unique and original cover is to work with a designer and many of them out there offer stunning work for great prices. It is a worthwhile investment for your book babies in the long run.
Do you believe that self-published authors can produce books as high-quality as the traditional published? If so, how do you think we should go about that?
High quality is extremely important when it comes to pitting self-published books against traditionally published books. I would strongly advocate paying for professional editing without hesitation for novels and novellas (poetry and short story collections are much smaller beasts and far easier to edit yourself). You are going to be attacked mercilessly in the reviews of your novels for bad spelling and grammar, something that could easily be corrected by having another pair of independent eyes look over it. Reputable editors tend to charge very reasonable rates.
Another thing I would use is the computer program ‘Grammarly’ and work hard to brush up on grammar rules yourself, so that when you go to submit your work to an editor, it will be of reasonable quality to begin with and they can then weed out any inconsistencies or other problems with your writing. You want to polish your writing so bright that it can escape any of the stigma associated with self-publishing and sit on the shelf as a professional work to be proud of.
I’ve also seen many beautiful covers produced by talented people for reasonable prices and I think that this should also be a priority if you are not a professional designer yourself. This is a worthwhile investment for the future as a beautiful and engaging cover will attract many readers to your worlds and words.
Finally, if you are uncomfortable uploading your manuscripts into Amazon Kindle/Smashwords/Createspace or any other self-publishing platforms of choice and are making a mess of it then I would get someone to help you to do it (someone who knows what they are doing of course!) or pay to have it done professionally because a poorly formatted book is going to win you very few fans or sales in the long run!
Thank you for having me Lela and good luck with all of your future creative endeavours.
Where can readers find you and your books?