KJ Shadmand Interview
The Indie Book Butler Interview.
IBB: You’ve got twenty words to entice us to read your book(s). What would you say?
KJS: A tale of friendship, love and war, set within a fantasy world inspired by one of humanity’s earliest eastern empires.
IBB: Where do you like to write?
KJS: Somewhere silent and without a view to absolutely avoid anything distracting!
IBB: Is there anything you must have in order to write?
KJS: A steady supply of tea and coffee, a wired Apple keyboard, and a decent night’s sleep behind me.
IBB: What books have influenced you most, both as a person and as an author?
KJS: The heroic fantasy books of David Gemmell had a profound effect on me in my late teens and early twenties. I also had an excellent Classics tutor during sixth-form college who had a talent for bringing to life ancient tales such as The Iliad and The Odyssey. Ever since those days, heroic figures such as Hector, Achilles and Odysseus have loomed large in my imagination, affecting my development as a person and author.
IBB: What is the one thing that has helped you develop most as an author?
KJS: It seems obvious to say so, but the act of planning and writing consistently has been the best way for me to develop as an author. Like so many others, I have wanted to write books for a long time. Actually doing so has meant acquiring the discipline of putting in the hours over months and years, even when you don’t much feel like it. Then, my first attempts at writing stories were quite bad, but I learned a tremendous amount from simply trying, and failing…
IBB: What do you want to achieve most from your writing?
KJS: Primarily, I want to provoke a reaction from my readers, and to take them into worlds that are simultaneously plausible but fantastical. For me, this means reading plenty of history and archeology books to gain inspiration for characters, settings and plots. Most of what I write is based on events from the distant past, or is grounded in a decent understanding of science and the manner in which civilisations work. I think that this lends solidity and believability to my writing, a key achievement for compelling and immersive fantasy writing.
IBB: Have you received a favorite review of your work?
KJS: One reviewer wrote that Children of Anshar is ‘a creative and interesting break from the usual fantasy tropes.’ Given that the fantasy genre has been well-explored by many fine writers, I was especially pleased with this feedback.
IBB: Were there any particular parts of the writing/publishing process that you struggled with?
KJS: I found that the editing and proof-reading process demanded an entirely different mind-set when compared to creative writing, one that I found quite challenging at first. Formatting the text, designing a cover and uploading the work also required a certain level of patience and technical flair that I seem to lack. Fortunately, I have friends and colleagues who were happy to help out in these respects. Without them, I’m sure that Children of Anshar would still be sat in the Cloud somewhere, or languishing in a drawer.
IBB: Is there something specific you do to improve your writing?
KJS: I definitely try to keep my writing as lean as possible, especially as I tend towards flowery and florid language. I’ve found that there is sweet spot when it comes to writing prose – you need to give just enough information for the reader to construct a scene in their mind, then allow their imaginations to do the rest. I think this is a balance that all good art achieves, be it film, music, painting, or fiction. Too little description leaves the observer lost, but an excess of description can be stifling.
IBB: What is the ideal relationship between editor and author?
KJS: I’ve only ever functioned as my own editor, so I’d like to know the answer to this question! My thoughts are that there are, of course, different kinds of editor who may have a greater or lesser involvement in the content of a story, but as with any cooperative enterprise, a respect for each person’s expertise in the roles they perform goes a long way to ensuring that an author – editor relationship results in a better book than might otherwise be the case.
IBB: If you had a direct line to someone who loves or hates your writing, what would you say?
KJS: It has tremendous significance when a reader enjoys anything I’ve written, so much so that I try to go out of my way to thank anyone for taking the time to read my book, and I’ll often send them a signed bookplate or even a signed copy of my work to show my appreciation. For someone who hates my writing, what is there to say? I would probably keep quiet about the fact, and continue writing the sorts of books I myself enjoy reading. I’ve never aimed to be a ‘crowd-pleaser’ or ever considered writing something just because I think it might sell. If any of my writing ends up proving popular, then that would be a happy coincidence, nothing more.
IBB: If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
KJS: This relates to what I alluded to in the previous question. Read widely, find out the sorts of stories you enjoy, and aim to write one yourself. Try to be truthful to who you are as an individual. Then, even if you are heavily influenced by the styles of your favourite authors, your work will possess an originality that gives it unique value.
IBB: What does your writing future hold for you?
KJS: Well, I have a lengthy adventure gamebook (interactive fiction where you choose your own path through the story) that is almost finished. It’s a 19th-century adventure that is based on a work of classic sci-fi that was published over 100 years ago. After that, it’s back to my other two works in progress, another high fantasy novel and a horror/sci-fi post-apocalyptic novel set in a world of rising sea levels. I have always liked experimenting with different styles. Doing so isn’t always ideal in terms of marketing and sales, but it keeps me interested, and my writing is fairly consistent across the genres.
IBB: How have you set about the task of creating enticing cover art?
KJS: I usually have a fairly clear vision for the sort of cover I want. This tends to be constrained by the budget I can allocate for the task, but there are plenty of talented independent artists and graphic designers available via apps, websites, and word of mouth who are willing to create enticing covers at a reasonable price. For my debut novel Children of Anshar, I had a friend use photoshop and stock images to create what I think is a striking cover. It’s not as sophisticated as what might have been created by a big publishing house, but it has a lot of heart.
IBB: How often do you read? What genre?
KJS: I read a little every day wherever possible to keep my mind in the world of words and imagination – I think this is a critically important part of becoming a decent author. I’ll read fantasy, sci-fi, gamebooks and non-fiction books about archeology, history and science. Doing so gives me plenty of ideas for new plots, settings and scenes. I also write and edit for the website Gamebook News. This keeps me engaged with the world of interactive fiction, and encourages me to remain as objective as possible about what I feel works and doesn’t work when it comes to adventure gamebooks.
IBB: Before we let you escape, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
KJS: I read my first Dean Koontz book recently and was deeply impressed. Obviously, this author is a major success and doesn’t need any help from me; even so, I hadn’t come across his work until very recently. If any of your readers enjoy dynamic fiction with dark but highly relatable themes, then I strongly recommend this author. The word is that he enjoys receiving letters from fans, and that if you write to him you have a good chance of receiving a personalised response. Connecting with successful authors whose work I’ve enjoyed has always been a great pleasure of mine.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Best of luck in the future.
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