I’m delighted to welcome to my blog a fellow author GJ Stevens, whose debut novel, In The End, is released today.
GJ Stevens started writing fiction at the age of thirty. He describes his style of writing as popular fiction which usually has some sort of Sci-Fi or paranormal element, but he is on a journey and won’t pigeonhole himself into one genre. Even as a degree level engineer with a large family and a full-time career in a profession with plenty of adult responsibilities, he has always had an artistic and creative side. After years of self-suppression, the floodgates opened and his novel, In The End, is the culmination of many years of finding time from nowhere to learn the craft.
Whilst working to self-publish his first novel, GJ, real name Gareth, chose to document his publishing journey in an open-book and honest fashion and through his blog he lays bare his journey, detailing his mistakes and the findings of his research as he treads his way into publishing.
As a lover of the outdoors, every year he spends weekends out in the desolate countryside of the UK hiking and camping with his long-time friends which he uses as inspiration for both his creative fiction works and the subject of many a blog post. GJ Stevens is on the beginning of his publishing journey and wants to share the highs and lows with anyone who will listen.
Welcome, Gareth! Your debut novel, In The End, is out today. Congratulations! Can you tell us a little bit about the book?
In The End is an apocalyptic thriller which follows a group of friends whose New Year’s celebrations come to an abrupt end, leaving them in a compelling fight for survival.
What sparked the idea for In The End?
I share a fascination of what happens in the event of an apocalypse with one of my best friends. She is my oldest friend’s wife and along with my wife, we spend as much time as we can with each other including going abroad on holiday. We can often be found sizing up the accommodation for its defensive qualities in the event of a zombie invasion! One evening, we might have been drinking- Okay we were definitely drinking, Sarah said I should write a book about an apocalypse. A few weeks after I wrote an opening chapter and sent it to her on WhatsApp. Her enthusiasm for what I sent her every day pulled me through four months of work and the first draft of the novel.
Is In The End your first novel?
I’ve written six novels before working on In The End, but this is the first novel I’ve decided to release. The other novels were fun to write but I now consider them to be where I learnt to write, my schooling in the world of prose.
What made you choose self-publishing?
I shopped around my first book, spent a lot of money on literary consultancy and learnt a huge amount, but I still ended up with a novel which the traditional industry felt was too cross genre, a sci-fi / paranormal thriller. It was a complete mislabel of the work. The paranormal elements were very light and I felt like I’d lost control of the novel. Self-publishing gives me back control. It’s hard work but I’m in charge and get to make the right and wrong decisions.
What has been the most challenging part of the process so far?
I think the hardest part of the process is what I’m going through now, the marketing, but it’s also good fun too. I’m connecting with some really great people, including people I thought wouldn’t have a jot of interest in talking to me. But getting people to actually pick you out of the sea of other authors promoting their work is double hard!
What about the most rewarding?
I know the most rewarding part of the process will be when Sarah can hold the paperback in her hand and read the dedication. I can’t say too much as she’ll probably read this.
Which comes first to you: characters or plot?
Plot, every time. My characters develop as I write and I have to go back in the edit and fill them out with the characteristics that have grown as they’ve matured in my head. One of the difficulties is trying to look at everything anew, forgetting the picture you have in your head to try and make sure you’ve expressed everything you now know about them.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Total pantser. I love the direction my head takes me when I write. For In The End I only had a loose idea of the plot by halfway through. The majority of chapters end on a cliffhanger and then follow on with how the characters reacted in the moment. The majority of the time the words would just flow, only a few times I really had to figure out what the reactions would be and how they could get out of a tight spot. Sometimes they didn’t!
What is your writing process like? Do you have any particular rituals you follow when writing?
I go to work a couple of hours early and I try to land at my desk and just get on with it. I treat that time as precious. I wrote a dirty draft of a chapter in the morning then in my lunchbreak I would edit into coherence and then send to Sarah on WhatsApp. If I’m writing outside of that habit it takes me so much longer to get in the space where I’m on the page and not wherever my body is.
Is there a part of the writing process that you dislike?
I like the whole process but editing is the least fun. I’ve already written the follow up to In The End and I know when I’ve finished this initial promotion period it needs a big development edit.
You run a fantastic author interview series on your blog and I was honoured to take part. How did the series come about?
I’d been posting about my publishing process for a few weeks and people would comment on the posts about their experiences. I realised other authors were an amazing resource for information and cross-promotion. I’ve learnt so much from other authors it’s really surprised me. I share that knowledge on my blog and it gives me a great feeling when my followers tell me how much they, in turn, learnt from my posts.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and what has been the best book you’ve read this year?
I read a wide range of books and listen to a lot of audiobooks, one tip I learnt from Stephen King’s On Writing. My favourite read of the year has to be Gareth L Powell’s Embers of War, a sci-fi novel which includes sentient spacecraft. The book has reignited an old love for space operas. My description does it no justice. Let’s just say that after reading, most people, including myself, leave with a great affection for the warship with a conscience, Trouble Dog.
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
This is one of the questions I ask every author I interview and I think the best advice I can give is just to write, to write to have fun. If you’re not enjoying the process then what’s the chances anyone will enjoy reading it.
I understand that when you’re not writing, you do a lot of hiking holidays with your friends. What has been the most memorable trip so far?
This year was the ten year anniversary of an annual trip I would take with my friends. We started in the desolate landscape of Dartmoor National Park, a rugged, but bleak location with no facilities. I’ll leave what that means to your imagination. A few years ago we switched to hiking more civilised locations, like the South Downs trail. The biggest advantages, apart from the organised campsites, where the constant peppering of pubs along the way. Those trips have to be my fondest.
What’s next for you?
Back to editing the follow up, whilst trying to stop myself from starting work on the follow up to that. I ache to get back to the storytelling part.
In the event of a zombie apocalypse, what’s your weapon of choice and will you survive?
I actually wrote a post about this where I compare what you can reasonably have at hand to use as a weapon. The winner was a hunting knife, but I’d also grab a micro pick. Check out the post if you want to know the full detail!
After all the thought and preparation I’ve put in with Sarah and through my blog, I just know I’ll be one of the first ones to be bitten!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Gareth! I’m reading In The End at the moment and can say that it’s a cracking novel. It pleases me to no end that it will have a sequel (or two). My review of the book will follow in due course.
COULD YOU SURVIVE THE END OF CIVILISATION?
What if you woke to find the electricity off, the internet down and the streets deserted? What if you were forced to run for your life, no longer top of the food chain? What if the government had no interest in keeping you alive? Those around every corner were intent on hunting you down, but you’d found a reason to struggle on, a new meaning to this life?
Meet Logan. That’s me. The first to believe the world had changed forever. The first to urge our friends to run. The first to kill, but not the first victim. I was the first to see for myself as nature twisted before my eyes. With death surrounding, getting ever closer, they looked to me for answers. Can Logan overcome his fears and find what it takes to get them all to safety, or will it be the end for humanity?