Harry Townley, author of These Are the Machines, talks about his approach to writing and his plans for the future.
Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do? Or is it something that you started fairly recently?
I can’t remember why I started writing. It was a long time ago. 1975 or thereabouts. Everybody wanted to be an author back then, so I just jumped onboard the bandwagon, without any real passion. But the ones who had all the passion, they went off and did other things, so I was left to hold the fort. I’m talking about my immediate circle of friends.
Tell me a little about your books.
These Are the Machines is about an attempt to take over the United Kingdom. A group of revolutionaries gather in a Scottish apartment and plot mass social change. They seem hopeless, but somehow they manage it. They get into Downing Street. Lots of people die, and eventually the Americans arrive and blow everyone up. I wrote it a long time ago, but I think it’s still relevant today. The book is a warning. Our democracy is under threat. We are entering an age of digital feudalism. See how you like that, cocksuckers.
Are there any authors who inspire you?
Donna Sutcliffe I always thought was very good. And Delmore Schwartz.
How do you write? Do you make yourself write a certain number of words per day?
I try to write at least 1,000 words every year, but I don’t beat myself up if I miss the target occasionally.
Did you try to get a conventional publisher or agent interested before you opted for self-publishing?
Yes, but I didn’t tie the rope tight enough and he escaped during the night. I’m too scared to try again.
What goals have you set yourself? Do you want to sell a certain number of books in 2012? Is there some way you measure success, on your own terms?
I would like to sell enough copies to motivate me to finish the sequel. I’m really close, maybe 500 words from the end. So that’s my aim.
How have you marketed your work?
Stupidly, I have not.
Have you signed up for KDP Select?
No, because I can’t remember my password.
Away from Amazon, have you had much luck with other outlets? Do you use Smashwords, Barnes & Noble etc?
I haven’t yet, but I might try uploading the book to Smashwords and getting it out to other sites that way. It seems easy enough. I’d like lots of people to read my work. Ideally, everyone would read it. But I’ll settle for half of everyone.
Do you worry about Amazon gaining a monopoly in the ebook market?
No. I’m a capitalist, and companies get monopolies when they are successful. Amazon is pissing all over the competition right now. Do you seriously want to argue that Barnes & Noble are in the same league? Seriously? I’m fine with monopolies so long as there exists the opportunity for a new upstart company to come along and fuck with them. What I don’t like is when monopolies are able to influence legislation in order to unduly protect their monopoly. That is grave, and also very common these days. I would say that it’s the biggest problem we face, the idea that those who have climbed the ladder would now like to pull the ladder up to prevent anyone else from coming up.
What’s next? Are you working on anything at the moment? Do you have anything new coming out in 2012?
Like I said, there is a sequel to These Are the Machines and I’m very close to finishing it. But whether I will… I don’t know. I’m not very disciplined. I would give anything to have the stamina to finish the damn book, but I give thanks that I managed to get one out. That’s an achievement. It’s more than my father ever managed, and he dreamed of being an author all his life. Not that he’s dead, but you get the idea. I don’t know if I’ll manage to get the sequel out, though. I don’t think I’m very well.