Interview with my writer pal Russell Sanderson
Posted by Sam Whitehouse
Russell Sanderson is a writer to watch out for in the future. I’ve had the pleasure of conversing with him through twitter and email for quite some time now and i consider him a great friend and a brilliant writer. What follows is an interview in which he discusses his own writing and inspirations.
What genre do you write in and why?
I write fantasy because I’ve always had a love for escapist fiction. I was the kid in class who was always staring out of the window, wishing I was somewhere else, doing something adventurous and fantastic. Of course I’m older now, so I stare out of the window in business meetings instead.
How long have you been writing?
As a child, I loved reading but hated writing because my handwriting was (as described to me by my primary school teacher) “like a drunken spider had crawled out of an inkwell and across my page.” My grammar was always fine, but nobody could read it. Fortunately, technology came to the rescue; by the time I’d left school, word processors had levelled the playing field. I got into novel writing after an appendix operation. I was housebound, had no cable TV and Princess Diana had just died. There’s only so much news coverage of any story you can watch before you go slightly bonkers, so I turned to writing. Within a week, I’d written 20,000 words.
Which author has influenced you and your writing more than any other?
That’s a tough one because there have been so many. In terms of me and my writing, I think JK Rowling influenced me most, because she made me realise that writing children’s fantasy was what I liked best. Up until that point I’d focused on science fiction or horror for adults, but an honourable mention has to go to JRR Tolkien, without whom fantasy would be unrecognisable and H.G.Wells who introduced Martian invaders, invisibility and time travel into a Victorian setting.
What is your favourite book or book series of all time?
I’d have to say Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. I never fail to enjoy the books and the way he cleverly ties in fantasy and sci fi tropes with real world issues and ends up with laugh out loud stories that I never get bored of and always rush out to buy them as soon as they come out.
Kindle or real book?
My heart will always belong to pen and ink books – I love books as objects in themselves. Where I write, the walls are lined with books, we have numerous bookshelves throughout the house and my loft creaks under the weight of boxes of books I just can’t bring myself to sell or give away. I must admit that recently, I have gotten into reading a few e-books on the side (just don’t mention it where my bookshelves can hear).
How is your writing day structured?
My writing day is very much structured around my day job (as is the case for most writers) and my family. I come home from work, eat an evening meal with my family, then retreat to get in an hour or two of writing. On weekends, I try to fit in at least an hour each day (more when I can get it) around family commitments and (when I absolutely can’t put it off any longer,) DIY. I try to write or edit 5000 words a week.
Middle Earth or The Wizarding World and why?
I think that while the Wizarding world would be more fun and would certainly allow me to continue to enjoy modern comforts, I can’t help envying Bilbo Baggins his hobbit hole with its large wine cellar, well stocked larders, open fires and lovely surroundings. I can’t imagine a nicer place to write.
Where do you write?
A couple of years ago I converted my garden shed, adding insulation, power, heating, carpeting and a double glazed window. It’s my perfect retreat; surrounded by bookshelves and inspirational objects. Close to the family but far enough away to write without interruption. In an ideal world, my commute would be a walk from the back door to the shed.
How do you plot and plan or do you just go where the story and characters take you?
If I’m writing the first draft, I first spend time plotting it out chapter by chapter. I don’t always stick religiously to the plot, but it gives me a framework to work within and stops me writing myself into a corner. I worry about continuity, characterisation and other issues later. There are always many later drafts.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m awaiting the return of my MG novel, The Chronomancer’s Daughter from a professional editing service (something I was recommended to do by a literary agent whose judgement I trust.) When it comes back, I’ll be doing further work in response to the edit, but in the meantime I’m writing the first draft of its sequel, The Iron Golem. If I’m signed by an agent and they manage to sell my novel, I want to be ready with a sequel as soon as possible to avoid the “difficult second novel.”
Favourite movie or movie series?
The favourite series has to be the original trilogy of Star Wars (I was 8 when the first one came out,) but over the years I’ve come to love cult movies like Highlander (but not the sequels.)
Favourite literary hero and villain?
Easy. Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty.
Which Marvel superhero would you be? (be honest)
The Hulk. Just try plagiarising my website. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
Which book have you read more than any other?
The Lord of the Rings. It’s such a rich world and I always keep going back to it, like going on holiday in Middle Earth.
Any tips you’d like to share about writing…?
Write regularly, not just when you’re in the mood. The more regularly you write, the more progress you’ll make. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, that’s what editing is for and in terms of editing, always edit, edit and edit some more. However perfect you think it is, a short break will usually show you there are more improvements you can make.
What are you aiming for by the end of this year in terms of writing?
I’d like to be signed up with a literary agent and hopefully get a book deal. Whether that happens or not, I’d like to complete the first draft of The Iron Golem and have edited it into something like a book.
You’re trapped on an island with a literary character, who would it be and why?
Katniss Everdeen. She’s smart, beautiful and would be able to feed me by hunting.
The world is ending and we are all being relocated to another planet. You can take one book/book series, which would it be and why?
The Encyclopaedia Britannica. I’d miss the Earth and would want to be able to have as many reminders of my home planet as possible to teach my descendants where we came from.
Thanks Russel for some great advice and a thoroughly enjoyable interview.
You can learn more about Russell and his writing at his cool blog : http://www.pandorawolfe.co.uk/my-writing-blog.php