Archive for the ‘Ashday’s Child’ Tag

Interview with Stewart Bint   3 comments

Stewart Bint 1Today’s interview is with Stewart Bint, whose innovative “bee” theme got my attention on Twitter. As my daughter says, our family are “friends with the bumble”. Welcome to the blog, Stewart. Tell us something about yourself.

I live in Leicestershire in the UK, have been married to Sue for 33 years, and we have two grown up children, Christopher and Charlotte (and a very charismatic budgie called Alfie).

Writing, in one form or another, has always paid my bills. I trained as a journalist and broadcaster, also working as a radio newsreader, presenter and phone-in host for ten years, before becoming a Public Relations writer, which is now my main “day job.” I write case studies for the world’s leading industrial CAD/CAM software developer, and I also have my own personal column in a fortnightly magazine. But I get most enjoyment out of my novels.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

The writing bug infected me when I was just seven years old, thanks to my favourite television show, Doctor Who. The original series, way back in 1963, inspired me when I became enraptured by the storylines which could take place at any time in Earth’s history and future, and absolutely anywhere in the universe and beyond.

Stewart Bint 2I started creating my own worlds and my own characters, writing my stories in little blue notebooks until my parents bought me a portable typewriter for my ninth birthday. And those make-believe worlds became invaluable after my Dad died when I was 11. I retreated more and more into those places where I was in control of my characters’ fate – knowing that whatever happened to them during the story I would make sure they were okay in the end. My worlds were certainly better than the real one at that time.

Having discovered at a very early age that I was hopeless at maths and figures, I quickly realised that unless I could make my living with words I was going to starve.

You and I have some similar childhood experiences, including being math-challenged enough that I realized I’d better be good at writing. So when did you decide to become a novelist?

Throughout my 20s, when I was working as a broadcaster, I set my ambition to become a published novelist by the time I was 30.  Hhmmm, I was only 26 years late for that, as I was 56 when my first book, Malfunction, was published. I had been writing fiction all my life, but never considered it good enough for anyone else to read, so didn’t submit it to publishers until a friend convinced me otherwise.

My original plan was just to offer my work to e-book publishers, as I felt that was the future of the book purchasing market, and four novels, a short story collection, and a compilation of my early magazine columns, appeared in e-format only. Then one of my short stories was published in a paperback anthology, and to see my work in an actual printed book was somewhat magical. I was smitten, and started my search for a print publisher, eventually submitting to Booktrope, based in Seattle. To my delight they offered me a five-year contract. And the thrill of holding my paperback, In Shadows Waiting, was unbelievable.

Tell us about your writing process.

Once the idea starts to take shape I work out where the story is going, and I usually know the ending right at the start of the process. As I write, the scene unfolds before my eyes, rather like a film. Sometimes the journey takes me down uncharted roads, as the characters do their own thing. But I’m always happy to let them. In fact, a fairly minor character in Timeshaft suddenly said something which changed the entire premise that the hero had been working to through his entire life…and that did actually change my planned ending, too.

I love it when characters hijack the plot. It’s so much more authentic feeling.

My first draft is littered with spelling mistakes and typos as I plough on to get the story recorded. Once that’s finished I put it aside for a couple of weeks before beginning the editing process. I suppose I’m somewhat lazy, in that I correct all the literals, etc., and glaring plot holes…but then I submit the manuscript to my publisher, Booktrope, and wait for their editor to explode in a fit of rage! I’m currently working my way through her suggestions for the new edition of Timeshaft. I don’t think any page has escaped her critical eye. But, hey, that’s what an editor’s for – In Shadows Waiting is a much better book thanks to my editor’s work on it, and Timeshaft will be as well.

Stewart Bint In Shadows Waiting Front CoverWhat is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

Paranormal, with sci-fi a very close second, both to read and write.

What are you passionate about?

Apart from my writing – that goes without saying – I support mental health awareness.

This came about after my rise up the corporate Public Relations ladder came to an abrupt halt in 1997 when I suffered a severe mental illness and was sectioned for 28 days under the UK’s mental health act. Recovery was long and painful, but gave me time to take stock of my life and cast off the things I no longer needed. This included abandoning shoes and going barefoot almost all the time…and foregoing corporate success and the stress that come with it – preferring to work as a PR writer instead of PR/Corporate Communications Director.

Another parallel – I used to work in the mental health field as an administrator and what I learned there definitely comes out in my writing. What is something you cannot live without?

This is going to sound awful, but the strict discipline I impose on myself ensures it’s all under full control! A good red wine and fine malt whisky. I’d like to turn the question round and tell you what I wish I could live without. I would be happy to live without a mobile phone and shoes.

I could easily live without a cell phone. A lot of Alaska is still a no-bars zone and I LOVE it. Shoes aren’t terribly optional in Alaska’s winters, but nobody wears them indoors. When you are not writing, what do you do?

Two things. My son makes his living from tennis. He is a professional tennis coach, and plays competitive matches. Whenever I can I love to watch him play. He’s also played at Wimbledon, which makes me incredibly proud. He is also ranked around 8 in the world in the fast developing tennis spin-off game, TouchTennis, and I watch his matches around Europe on the TouchTennis live TV stream, and listen to his commentary on the other games.

Also, I have gone barefoot mostly, for many years (town and country), and belong to a barefoot hiking group, so I can often be found hiking with bare feet on woodland trails.

Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?

The ideas can come from anything, and have included a walk in the park, reading an article on the Chernobyl disaster, and even being personally bullied and harassed on Twitter.

Do you have a special place where you write?

I used to work in my office on the front of my house…but it faced North, and, with its wooden floor, was very cold in winter. So, three years ago I moved to a room at the back of the house with views across fields. I’m sure a lot of my inspiration comes from the time I spend sitting staring out of the French Doors across the open countryside.

A good view out your window is an under-appreciated writing aid, I agree. Are you a plot driven or character driven writer? Why?

Definitely character driven. I work out the basic plot first, then create the characters who are going to live through it. But every step in the story is determined by the characters and how they react to it. They move the story along. I personally believe that good fiction revolves around the characters.

This is my Alaska question. I’m an Alaskan writer. 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?

I’ll bring a range of books by both long-established authors and up-and-coming novelists. The former will include The Voyage Of The Space Beagle by A. E. van Vogt; The Hound Of The Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Mr Mercedes, and The Green Mile, both from Stephen King.

The latter will include The Phoenix Project by DM Cain;The Elemental by Lisa Veldkamp; Sibling Rivalry by Robbie Cox; Mr Westacott’s Christmas by Michael J. Elliott; The Devil You Know by Rocky Rochford; and Tales of Blood and Sulphur by JG Clay; and Star Struck by Karen J Mossman.

I’ll also bring half a dozen notebooks and supply of pens to finish writing my current novel and jot down ideas for the next one.

One thing I definitely won’t be bringing, is shoes. I will spend every morning hiking barefoot around five or six miles through the wonderful Alaskan terrain, which will inspire my writing for the afternoon and evening.

You could do barefoot in Alaska in the summer. Talk about your books individually.

My latest, In Shadows Waiting, which has just been published both in paperback and in e-format, by Booktrope, was inspired by my own personal experience of seeing the ghostly apparition that I describe in detail towards the end of the story. Also…although it is not a vampire story, I have always been fascinated by the concept that vampires can only enter a house by invitation. In my story the apparition is outside at first, then makes its way into the house. The third aspect that inspired me, is that my previous home bordered a m massive farmer’s field which had a Second World War bomb crater in it. I wove those three aspects together, and In Shadows Waiting was born.

Thunderlands is a collection of 17 short stories ranging from the sublime to the unforgivably ridiculous. Powerful, puzzling, horrific, ridiculous, different – but almost every one has an underlying moral message.

Following the fortunes of two sets of time travellers, Timeshaft extends my two earlier novellas, Malfunction and Ashday’s Child, linking the two completely stand-alone storylines and extending them into a full-length novel. The Timeshaft is a path through time from pre-history to the end of the world, under the control of environmental protection group WorldSave. WorldSave operatives travel through the Timeshaft preventing environmental disasters, but that’s more of the backstory. The plot focuses on the group’s leading agent, the enigmatic Ashday’s child, an elderly tramp born in another era. But why has he really spent his life flitting through the ages? What is he seeking? Combining Ashday’s Child’s activities and hidden agenda with an accident befalling the very first time journey by the fledgling Time Research And Exploration Project, Timeshaft rocks along to the past and future with paradoxes and twists galore.

My first full-length novel was The Jigsaw And The Fan, a light-hearted ghost story with constant bites of satire. A strike prevents a dead trades unionist taking his place in the afterlife.  He returns to Earth to haunt a stately home, and angry that the wealth owner makes money from visitors, he sets out to frighten them away. A pair of roguish guardian angels oversee the proceedings, but they are more concerned with their own battle of wits raging across eternity than they are with the well-being of their unwitting pawns on Earth.

Was it your intention to write a story with a message or a moral?

Only with my collection of short stories, Thunaderlands. I’ll let two reviewers explain more:

“Stewart Bint’s ‘Thunderlands’ is a study of human nature, even if all its characters aren’t, strictly speaking, human. The stories examine themes such as greed, lust, gluttony and plenty of other deadly sins, with a widely differing series of characters and settings. The book truly puts us, which is to say humanity, on trial for our offenses, in some cases literally.”

“Each tale has a higher meaning, a clear moral that is told in a manner that allows the reader to reflect on what the author is saying through their short, well-constructed stories. They cover greed to bullying in ways that provide the opportunity for reflection whilst enjoying the unique stories. The writing style is well constructed, providing an interesting read, the author has clearly put a lot of thought into the work to allow them to have deep rooted meanings without them being overpowering to the story.”

Before you signed with Booktrope, you self-published. What influenced that decision?

I self-published originally with Smashwords and then with Amazon, because I felt e-books were the way forward. In recent years the rise of e-readers such as Kindles and Kobos  has had a significant impact on the book purchasing market. Since 2008 print sales are down 26% while e-books have grown from nothing to £563m.

Then, one of my short stories was published in a paperback anthology, and to see my work in an actual printed book was somewhat magical. I was smitten, and started my search for a traditional publisher.

What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishng?

Two things…far greater royalties, and complete control of your book.

Conversely, what do you think self-published authors might be missing out on?

Definitely the professional touch that a traditional publisher brings to your work. Since being accepted by Booktrope my novel has benefitted from a professional editor, proofreader, cover designer, book manager to pull everything together, and a marketing manager.

And it doesn’t cost the author anything.

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?

Yes, but only if they’re prepared to invest in a good cover designer, editor and proofreader, and to undertake all the marketing activities themselves. In other words, to become a professional publisher and accept all that goes with that.

Where can readers find you and your books, Stewart? 








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