Hi,Sian! Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your work.
Hello there! Well, my name is Sian MacArthur and I am an independent academic with specific interests in the Gothic and science fiction genres. To date I have had two books published – Crime and the Gothic: Identifying the Gothic footprint in Modern Crime Fiction and Gothic Science Fiction: 1818 to the Present. I am currently working on an independent research paper exploring the role and use of psychogeography within Gothic fiction.
Which gives you more satisfaction – to write a first draft, or to finish the last round of editing?
Truth to tell, whilst I love writing, I loathe editing. Proofreading, editing and indexing should absolutely come with a health warning that warns of the monotony, painstaking attention to detail and sheer repetitiveness that they each demand. They are however a very necessary evil, and when done properly they can really transform the integrity of a text. I had a fantastic editor at Libri back when my first text was being published – and my goodness did she make me sound clever! I think when it comes to having to edit your own work it is so difficult to be objective – sometimes you know the words so well there simply is no room for objectivity as you literally know what words are coming next and how they are meant to be read.
What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
For me this is really random – and often nothing more than a random sentence in a book that gets me thinking. I really love to get to grips with the building blocks of a novel and to understand the ways in which different genres overlap and continue to be influenced by one another. I am also really engaged with the concept that a great deal of fiction (notably crime and detective fiction) is a product of its social and political context – and exploring the ways in which this influence manifests itself within the text is truly fascinating.
Pick a random piece of writing that you worked on ages ago and that never saw the light of day. Now tell us about it!
Now that’s a tricky one for me to answer! I always try not to have unfinished projects hanging around – but sometimes ideas do get shelved and they have to wait until I’m able to pick them up again. I did have a go at writing a novel when I was in my teens though, about a criminal who could clone himself in order to commit multiple crimes simultaneously and have multiple alibis whilst he was committing them. Probably not very original, and definitely not very good!
Do you have a writing routine? If so, can you tell us about it?
When I have a specific project on the go I try to have a writing routine – but often it gets swept aside by the demands of a busy house and family. Writing is not my main source of income so it has to run alongside my other employment and consequently I don’t always find the time that I’d like to! That said, when I do manage to commit to a routine I always aim to write in the mornings, when I’m at my freshest and the house is empty. I used to try and work in the evenings once the kids were in bed, but found that by then I was often too tired to think with any creativity or focus.
What was the last book that you read and what did you think of it?
The last book I read was Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite. I was recently invited to speak at a local book gathering on cannibalism in fiction, and the themes of the novel meant that it fit within the parameters of the subject matter quite nicely. It’s an interesting read, though not one for the faint of heart, that manages to make a credible bond betwixt love and depravity in a way that I have not seen since Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. The characters are selfish, lustful, predatory and ignorant – each of them thoroughly unlikeable but still compelling. It is, to some extent, a disturbing novel, but boy, does Brite write well!
Who are some of your favourite unsigned and indie authors?
Unsigned and independent authors quite often have a hard time when it comes to getting their work taken seriously, which is a shame. So much damage was done when the phrase ‘vanity press’ was coined – and I still feel that there’s a degree of stigma associated with independent publishing. Of course there are bad books out there – and a great many of them have been published by recognised publishers – but there is a great deal of talent out there, and much of it can be found in works by unsigned and indie authors. My favourite at the moment is Jana DeLeon – her Fortune Redding novels are a wonderful read, witty, bright and engaging with a prose style that really manages to combine the feel of a golden age detective mystery with a dynamic, professional female protagonist. I also really enjoyed Ron Sanders’ Elis Royd which was a very interesting read depicting the struggle for power between humans and alien species.
What’s the best bit of writing advice that you’ve ever received?
I think it’s to not let the blank page intimidate me. We’ve all been there, with the title in bold and underlined and the flashing cursor underneath that flashes impatiently, but that particular moment is such a small part of the process as a whole that it mustn’t be allowed to overwhelm and suffocate the possibility and opportunity that the blank page holds!
Do you work with a publisher? What does the publishing process look like to you?
I have been very fortunate in that both of my books have had publishers. The first, Crime and the Gothic, was published by Libri, and my second, Gothic Science Fiction, was published by Macmillan as part of the Palgrave Gothic series. As a process I found it to be wonderfully efficient and supportive. If nothing else it taught me the importance of third party editing – by which I mean allowing someone else to edit and proofread for you. I have routinely found that when I attempt to do these things myself I become unreliable and a little bit over-protective of my work. For me it is far better to have someone else’s feedback and advice – even if it stings sometimes.
How do you get the word out about your work?
Up until very recently my work has been promoted by the publishers. I arrived very late to social media and am still learning about the ways that these tools can be used effectively. I think the best way will always be just to get out there – offer to speak at local libraries, local book stores and get yourself a ticket to any book fairs or conventions that are appropriate for your field.
Big thanks to Sian MacArthur for stopping by SocialBookshelves.com. Be sure to click here to check out her books on Amazon, or to follow SocialBookshelves.com on Facebook and Twitter for further updates. I’ll see you soon!