Steve Whitmore, author of the Broken Vacuum Clearner & MacKillop books, 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?
As far as I’m aware, I’ve always done it – which is not to say that I came out of the womb brandishing a pen because, of course, that would have been bad news for my Mum and a nightmare for all the scientists and philosophers who think they’ve cracked the nature vs nurture argument. Writing was the first thing I was ever good at beside being kicked in the head by bigger kids so I stuck with it. All the useless beards I grew in my early 20s were merely a distraction.
Tell me a little about your books.
Up for grabs right now I have the first two stories in a rolling spec fic adventure series featuring the investigative duo from Oblivion. MacKillop is an involuntarily morphing truth seeker, hindered and verbally abused by his broken vacuum cleaner sidekick on their travels about the Cosmos. Hopefully, humour is in evidence to all but the terminally decapitated.
Are there any authors who inspire you?
I try always to be inspired by living authors – the dead ones are too easy to stalk. As of now I’m hanging on for the latest in Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy series. YA is toaderly not my genre, so she’s done her job exceedingly well.
How do you write? Do you make yourself write a certain number of words per day?
In an ideal world, setting a certain word limit would enable me to become more productive and focussed, not to mention providing me with a top notch hi-octane digital workout. In truth, it depends what I’m writing, and what stage of the process I’m at. 4000 words of drafty swirl is a different beast to 4000 words of final edits so you have to adjust your motjuste-ometer accordingly, bearing in mind at all times that targets of this kind can be deceptive and no prizes will be won for the regurgitation of 3,999 ‘the’s and an ‘and’. In a cart-crazy world, it pays to travel horse-first.
Did you try to get a conventional publisher or agent interested before you opted for self-publishing?
Like a stunt man straddling a pair of rampaging hippos, everything I dangle is up for grabs from all sides.
What goals have you set yourself? Do you want to sell a certain number of books in 2012?
The whole indie publishing shebang is like a newly born chick in a world of petrified vultures – by which I mean ‘fixed’ and not ‘scared’ (though this may be true of some old birds) – and few of the available yardsticks passed down from ancient stone wing to ancient stone wing have so far managed to measure accurately what the heck dang heck is going on. For every J.K. Konrath and Amanda Hocking there are thousands upon thousands of unwitnessed authors penning everything from sci-fi rom-com horror slapstick porn to sonnets based on their dying great-granny’s last gasps, and as the swamp of words swells in the hope of providing breathing space for dragonflies, the whole concept of certainty is a hard one to pin down. That said, unless I shift a zillion copies by August, I’m shooting myself in a fit of pique.
Have you signed up for KDP Select? Are you worried about the exclusivity clause?
KDP Select is a decent initiative and from the evidence I’ve seen, free books floated by this means tend to experience a momentary boost in downloads, all of which might help with subsequent sales. None of my stuff is currently ‘selectable’, mainly because of the exclusivity clause. It’s not that I’m against Amazon being the sole provider of my material for three months at a stretch, far from it. My problem is how to ensure that I’m sufficiently unhooked from all the other outlets like B&N and Diesel while the Amazon initiative runs amok. There’s also the hassle of trussing myself back up again once the quintet of free book days comes to an end. Maybe it’s laziness, I don’t know, but I have no wish to make like a hermaphrodyte trying to use a public toilet — all that tucking away and stretching out of bits, just to have a pee.
Do you worry about Amazon gaining a monopoly in the ebook market?
I worry about anyone gaining a monopoly on anything. Diversity is a useful commodity in a world obsessed with homogenisation and the more easily accessible ebook (and print book) outlets there are, the better. The battle at the moment seems to be for the monopolisation of access — which gadget, which format, which accessory hairdo, etc. My money’s on the perm.
What’s next? Are you working on anything at the moment? Do you have anything new coming out in 2012?
More stories are in the hopper, hopefully to be released later in the year. There’s a novel also, but it’s a screaming shibboleth of a misfit and I’m not quite sure what to do with it at the moment so it’s gimping around inside my writerly trunk on behalf of everything else. Anyone interested in my stuff can keep abreast of all developments by following my blog or watching out for my army of promotional tattooed nymphs while shopping in their local mall.