Wednesday, 7 October 2009

INTERVIEW: Joseph Delaney

All writers dream of becoming authors, from there a number of authors dream of success and of those who are successful a number dream of films. Obviously the numbers that ever achieve each of thier goals shrinks dramatically yet Joseph Delaney is one of those authors who'll pretty soon see their work hit the big screen. As such and with a number of his books undergoing reissue at the moment we took time out to grab a word with him...

Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Joseph Delaney: I enjoy writing and I want to do it. Everybody is different but that is the truth for me. It was my hobby for many years and now I write for a living. What could be better than that?

FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

JDL: Probably when I was in my twenties but I easily gave up in those days and was put off by rejections. I got an agent in 1990 and from then on I took writing a lot more seriously and really worked at it despite the rejections.

FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

JDL: I do find short stories harder to write than novels. For the first time I have just finished a short story collection (‘Spook’s Stories: Witches’) and each of them proved hard to write and could more easily have been developed into a larger piece of fiction.

FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

JDL: I would never try to persuade anybody to read my book over someone else’s. I give talks in bookshops but just concentrate on my own books but sometime suggest they might like such a book (for example, John Flanagan’s ‘The Ranger’s Apprentice’) if they like mine.

FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

JDL: I wouldn’t. You can pitch a film in 20 words or less but books are more complex than that. When giving talks I need at least 30 minutes to sell my books.

FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

JDL: I don’t have any ‘must haves’ but certain books hook me so that I want to read more. I’ve just read Sergei Lukyanenko’s ‘The Day Watch’ and next time I go into a bookshop I’ll buy another in the series.

FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

JDL: I put ideas into a big envelope over a period of months and when enough pieces are in place I start to write letting my ideas develop slowly and relying on dreams and inspiration.

FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?.

JDL: To relax, I walk, watch football, day-dream, travel and read.

I have just read John Steinbeck’s ‘The Winter of Our Discontent’. I’d run out of fantasy to read and it’s been on my bookshelf for years. I read it and enjoyed it. It’s good to step outside your usual genre.

FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

JDL: Everyone needs a secret so I’m going to keep mine.

FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

JDL: I had a cat once. I like their independence and weird stare. The Spook has a cat-bogart and at some point one of my witches will probably have one as her familiar.

FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

JDL: One of the witch stories tells of Alice Deane and her first week of training by Bony Lizzie. I suddenly realised just how ruthless Alice could be. I enjoyed writing that story.

FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

JDL: There is certainly a bit of me in both Tom and the Spook. I share the Spook’s attitude and beliefs in many ways. Despite his seeming dislike of priests this hides a more complex truth. He is very tolerant and believes that each person has a right to find his or her own way to the light.

FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

JDL: Walking gives me landscapes; reading teaches me to write. Every time you read a book you are learning the skills of plotting, dialogue and characterisation. That’s why it’s good to read different things and not just confine oneself to the same genre.

FT: Where do you get your idea's from?

JDL: From dreams, flashes of inspiration and my notebook jottings.

FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

JDL: Occasionally I do falter but then leave the writing for a few days and usually return refreshed to find the problem has solved itself.

FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

JDL: When working full time as a teacher I used to get up at 6am and write until 7.30am before going to work. That worked well for me. Now I have all day in which to write so it isn’t a problem.

FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

JDL: No, I prefer to work in silence but if there is unavoidable music or background noise I can usually manage to concentrate and ignore it.

FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

JDL: I thought it would be easy to get published. I thought my books were good but they were awful. I didn’t realise just how long a struggle it would be.

FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

JDL: Writing is the food of the imagination. When I read it stirs my imagination and takes me to other worlds. When I write, hopefully, I do the same for at least some of my readers.

FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

JDL: I’m still putting ideas into a big envelope but ‘The Spook’s Nightmare’ involves a struggle against a shaman, a buggane and the return of that dangerous malevolent witch, Bony Lizzie.

FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

JDL: Google; Supanet; Facebook; Spooksbooks and Amazon.

FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

JDL: I have taken part in writing workshops and once considered doing an MA in creative writing. I asked a friend if he thought doing the MA would make me a better writer. He replied that it might but it would certainly make me a different writer. I didn’t want to change so I carried on in the same way and I’m now glad that I did.

FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

JDL: I just kept at it and developed a thick skin. Having and agent helped because she gave me encouragement. So did my wife, Marie, who always thought that I’d make it one day. Over ten years and more than 96 rejections later I finally got published.

FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

JDL: I like all of it: the writing, the re-drafting, the dreaming, the thinking, the promoting and the signing. Sometime though, after a few weeks of solid events you get tired and can’t face the thought of another train journey. It soon passes though and I’m already looking forward to my next book tour.

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