Today as part of The Fury blog tour (you seriously need to go and read this book – it is a-maz-ing – review coming next week!) and Behind The Books I am over the moon to welcome the author Alexander Gordon Smith to Books 4 Teens to discuss a day in his life (well yesterday to be precise).
Grab a cup of tea and a biscuit and over to Alexander…
A Day In The Life Of Alexander Gordon Smith
It’s fantastic to be here at Books 4 Teens as part of my blog tour for The Fury, thanks for having me! There’s no such thing as a typical day when you’re a writer, but this is what happened yesterday (Tuesday, 24th April)!
My alarm is set for seven, but as often happens I wake up early with a story thumping around in my brain. Stories are a bit like babies, when they start screaming you can’t ignore them. I get up, stagger like a zombie into the kitchen and make a strong coffee. Then I fall back into bed and open my laptop. I often spend the early hours working in bed (yes, it’s a tough life!), especially when it’s cold and miserable outside.
I start working on a story I started earlier in the month. It’s a horror novel for adults tentatively called Brute. I know I should be working on the sequel to The Fury, which is called The Storm, as the deadline is fast approaching. But one thing I really struggle with when it comes to writing (or anything, for that matter) is patience. As soon as that big, shiny idea appears I want to sit down and write, and I’ll often push current projects to one side in order to focus on something new. The trouble is, of course, that halfway through the next project I’ll have another idea and start writing that, and on and on, ad infinitum. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be full of ideas, but coming up with ideas is the easy part for me, and so is starting a new book. The tough bit is finishing something!
I check Facebook. This happens quite a bit. And by that I mean all the time. I’m addicted. Honestly, sometimes I’ll check it every five minutes (or every hundred words, whichever comes sooner). I know it’s just because it’s a distraction, but I can’t help it. What I really need to do is switch off the internet when I’m writing, and one of these days I actually will…
I get up and start packing for a trip to Mansfield. It’s my first proper event for The Fury today, in Mansfield Public Library. I’m really looking forward to it! I’m doing a talk to a group of pupils from a local school, then a ‘meet and greet’ with teenagers afterwards. It’s being arranged by an awesome guy called Steve Powell, who I have worked with twice before.
£83.50 for a train from Norwich to Mansfield, are you kidding me?!
Trying to write on the train but not having much luck. I’m too easily distracted. This is why I always write at home, rather than in a café or a public space. I don’t know how writers can work in public – I just stare out the window at the scenery, or listen to other people’s conversations, or check Facebook on my phone (how can you not provide free wi-fi when you’re charging nearly £100 for a ticket?!), or daydream. I love travelling. That was one of the nicest surprises about being published, the amount of time I’d spend touring. I hadn’t really thought about it before, I mean I knew I’d do school visits but I thought they’d mainly be local ones. I’ve been to pretty much every city in the UK, and last month I did a five-city tour of the States (Seattle, the Tri-Cities, San Francisco, Philadelphia and New York). Last year I was in Sweden and America doing book events, and later this year I’ll be in Dublin, Edinburgh and Poland (and maybe back in the US). Next year Brazil! I really am so lucky to be able to travel the world and talk about the books, it’s such a pleasure and a privilege.
I arrive in Mansfield with another 500 words of the book written, which is nice! Steve comes to meet me and takes me over to the library. It is huge, and has just been refurbished, and looks great. I get the guided tour, and a much-needed cuppa, then it’s straight on to the event. There are fifty kids from a local secondary school there, and they’re full of enthusiasm, which is always great. I talk about how I write my books, and why I love horror so much; and I tell them that anyone can be a writer. That’s the theme of my talks, really, that you can do anything you want, and be anything you want, if you put your mind to it. Just never give up!! It’s awesome being able to talk about The Fury, and to show people the finished book. They all seem to enjoy the talk, and ask plenty of questions, and we had half an hour afterwards for an informal chat. These are my favourite events, when the kids are avid readers and writers and seem genuinely engaged with the show. And I even sold some books, which is nice!
Another tea break and a chance to check emails and voicemails (and Facebook!). There are twenty-three new emails since I left this morning: six from publishers / agent / marketing, five from fans, three about possible events, three from friends and the rest junk. That’s the other thing I didn’t plan for when I had a dream about being a writer – the admin! I spend at least two hours a day, and often more, on emails, letters and other bits and pieces of marketing stuff. Saying that, the letters and emails from fans are one of the absolute highlights of the job, it’s so amazing when people take the time to let you know they’ve enjoyed the books! ☺
I’m scheduled for one more event at the library, an open ‘meet and greet the author’ thing. These are often hit and miss, and usually more miss than hit! Sometimes you get absolutely nobody there, other times people turn up but only ask you questions like ‘Where are the toilets?’ or ‘Do you have a cookery section?’ This time, one person showed up, but he had dragged his mum all the way to the library so that he could meet me, which was awesome! We had a chat, and I signed his book, and that alone made my day. Thanks, Nick, for stopping by to say hi!
Back on the train, and the sun has come out. Mansfield looks like a cool place, but as so often happens I didn’t have a chance to explore. Still, the view out of the window is lovely! A quick Facebook check.
The sun is blazing through the window and I’m fighting the urge to fall asleep. I crack on with the book, The Storm this time, but there are just so many distractions! I had another idea for a book on the way to the station, so my brain is ignoring my requests and is busy working away on the shiny new thing. With any luck it will get bored in half an hour or so and give me a chance to crack on. I check Facebook while I wait.
Leaving Nottingham now and decide to have another go at writing. I’m at a crucial part of the book, roughly half way through. It’s pretty massive, already at 60,000 words, but it’s a big, complex, monster of a story. I’m desperate to know what’s going to happen, and the only way I can find out is by writing it. I don’t plan – well, nothing more than a single-page synopsis that the publisher demands, and which usually changes. I don’t like to think too far ahead. I always worry that if I know what’s going to happen then the characters will too, and that’s a built-in safety net for them – they know they’re going to be safe, or when they’re going to die. And if the characters know what’s in front of them I think it leaks into the story, invisible but unmissible, and readers pick up on it, they lose that sense of danger and intrigue. I love horror because anything can happen, and I don’t like to know what’s going to happen before it happens! That’s why writing is so addictive, I think. I always feel excited about it, because I’m not just following a plan I wrote a few months ago, I’m not just filling in the gaps, I’m writing to find out where the story leads, to find out who survives. I’m writing at the speed of life.
Train sandwiches… Yum…
Managed to get a few more pages of the book written, but definitely flagging now. I used to only be able to do one thing a day – if I was writing, I wouldn’t be able to leave the house, and if I had an event there was no way I could focus on writing – but I’m getting better at multitasking now. You have to when deadlines are looming. There are still a couple of hours left, though, and I forgot to bring a book, so I browse the iBook store on my phone and buy James Herbert’s Others. I’m a huge horror fan, obviously, and try to read as many horror books as possible (well, I try to read as many books as possible full stop, but horror is definitely my favourite). I’m always being asked how I feel about ebooks, and the truth is I think they’re great. I read books on my phone quite a bit when I’m away, and I’ve bought three Kindles already – one for me, one for my girlfriend and one for my daughter. Don’t get me wrong, I much prefer reading actual books – and nothing will ever beat that feeling of being an author and seeing a physical copy of your book for the first time – but anything that gets books out there, gets them into the hands of readers, just has to be a good thing. My books are mainly (but not exclusively) read by teenage boys, and quite a few of them read them on their phones. If they couldn’t do that, then maybe they wouldn’t be reading at all. The important thing is the book, the story; it doesn’t matter how it’s read as long as it’s being read!
This book is really good, where has the time gone?! Seriously, nothing beats a good mystery / suspense / thriller / horror book when you’re travelling!
I make it home (with a pizza, whoops, I can never eat healthily when I’m out of the house – or in it, for that matter…) and switch on the computer in my office. It doesn’t take too long to answer the vital emails – the rest can wait until the morning. Of course I also check Facebook! I wonder whether I should try and fire out another few hundred words, then decide against it and settle for a glass of wine and an episode of Breaking Bad instead. But of course Breaking Bad is research… I spend so much of my time watching films and television series and playing video games too, and it’s definitely part of the job. Everything you read / watch / play teaches you something about narrative or character or plot or action or drama or pace or atmosphere… everything. It’s one of the things I always say to people when I do my shows, that my job basically involves reading books, watching movies and playing video games! The downside of that is literally everything you do relates in some way to writing, you’re always thinking about the story – my life IS writing!
So one episode of Breaking Bad became three and a half, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to stop watching. I have quite an addictive personality, and no willpower (I also complemented my pizza with the rest of my daughter’s birthday cake from Monday and the remainder of the wine). It’s been a fantastic day, though, so wonderful to meet existing fans and hopefully make some new ones. And another wonderful thing about the job is that every day is different. Tomorrow I’ll be writing for most of the day, and working on a screenplay with my sister (we own a film production company together, Fear Driven Films), Thursday I’m doing a Skype video talk to a school in New York, Friday I’m down in London for some workshops, Saturday I’m doing some pickups for a short film we’re making. I’ve never been one for routine, so it’s the perfect lifestyle for me! I go to bed, as always, thinking how grateful I am to be able to do the job I love, the job I’ve wanted ever since I was a kid. I really am the luckiest guy in the world! And like I was saying to the kids today, anyone can do it – just find the job you love and don’t let anything put you off. Never give up!
Quickly check Facebook… then lights out.
Thanks for hosting me on Books 4 Teens, and thanks for reading my post!!
Imagine if one day, without warning, the entire human race turns against you. Every single person you meet becomes a bloodthirsty, mindless savage, hell-bent on killing you – and only you. Friends, family, even your mum and dad, will turn on you. They will murder you. And when they have, they will go back to their lives as if nothing has happened. The world has the Fury. It will not rest until you are dead. Cal, Brick and Daisy are three ordinary teenagers whose lives suddenly take a terrifying turn for the worst. They begin to trigger a reaction in everybody they meet, that makes friends and strangers alike want to tear them to pieces. These victims of the Fury – the ones that survive – manage to locate each other. But just when they think they have found a place to hide from the world, some of them begin to change . . . They must fight to uncover the truth about the Fury before it’s too late. But it is a truth that will destroy everything they know about life and death.
Thank you so much to Alexander for writing this post – it’s really fascinating to see how much travel is involved and love how much he checks Facebook – a bit like me with Twitter