What's your background with writing?
I was something of a precocious child and began reading at a very
young age. When I began school I was already ahead and showed
particular aptitude in English, My reading age was classed as
'Intelligent Adult' at age 8 and I began writing at school. My stories
were well received by the teachers. Of course, I have no memory of what
I was writing except that it was mostly Science Fiction, I was a huge
Star Wars fan, after all.
Who are your inspirations/influences?
I have to admit to being a huge Stephen King fan. I was handed a copy
of 'Salems Lot' when I was 10 and have read just about every word he
has written since. I also include Dean R. Koontz as a major influence,
he has a way of spinning a story and has written the only book that
has made me actually cry (Odd Thomas, if you're wondering).
What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment as a writer?
I have two accomplishments that I really can't separate. Firstly, the
fact that I am doing this at all. I have always had a huge fear of
rejection and I knew that if I was to follow this path then I was
inviting rejection. Learning to cope with and accept that is, for me,
a huge accomplishment. Secondly, my first published piece, Scared, was
only the second story I had sent for consideration. Knowing that
people can plug away for years without getting published and getting
accepted so soon is one of the proudest moments of my life.
What genre do you feel the most comfortable writing in?
I haven't really settled on a genre yet. I always assumed that I would
end up writing horror and, while my stories tend to have a darker side
to them, I haven't pigeon-holed myself into any specific category.
How does having Multiple Sclerosis impacted your writing?
When I was first diagnosed the sensory loss in my hands was so bad
that I couldn't type. When I was in the Rehab facility I had to borrow
a keyboard and learn how to type again. It was then that I started
seriously writing. It would be fair to say that without MS I wouldn't
be a writer. I try not to let the MS influence stories in any major
way with the exception of the semi-autobiographical 'Scared'. I am
more open to themes of social isolation and characters than have a (I
hate the word) disability. Being in a wheelchair could be seen as a
disadvantage but I have tried my hardest to turn it into an asset. I
could use the diagnosis as an excuse to sit and do nothing but it has,
if anything, made me determined to achieve the most I can.
You have written many short stories, which is your favorite and where
can we find some of them?
All of the stories I have written have been published by Static
Movement. One of my favorites is 'The Less Travelled Path' that
appears in 'Something in the Attic'. I wrote this story as a college
assignment (it got an 'A') and it basically sat ignored for the next
18 or so years. I have another piece in the forthcoming 'Serial
Killers' anthology, again from Static Movement, called 'Ars Gratia
Artis' that I am very proud of. It is the most stripped down story I
have written, reduced to a single character's dialogue and I was
surprised at how well it turned out.
What do you find the most challenging about writing a short story?
Keeping it short! I tend to write very complicated, almost novel
length descriptions which are then cut down in the proof-read stage. I
remember being confused by the adage 'The medium is the message' while
at college but I think I kind of understand it now. The amount of
detail you put into the story needs to be proportional to the word
count. This has turned into a love of Flash fiction. The precise,
uncluttered nature of it has a great allure for me. I have written
whole stories in fewer words than I have used to describe a
character's clothing in longer pieces. I would recommend Flash fiction
to anyone who wants to write short stories, it is superb practice.
How do you feel about working with small presses and would you suggest
them to new writers compared to the mainstream publishers?
Working with small presses was part of my 'game plan' when I decided
to write seriously. When I did my research it became apparent that the
whole system established by mainstream publishers seemed to
deliberately make getting published an arduous task. Small presses are
intrinsically more inclusive. That's not to say that they print
anything! I have my share of rejections but you build up a
relationship with the editors of the small presses which is mutually
How do you or have handled marketing your own work and what
suggestions would you have for others for marketing their work?
My efforts towards marketing are, frankly, poor. I have never been
much of a salesman and I feel that at the level I am at time would be
better spent honing my art. Having said that I did make sure that I
had my author page set up on Amazon and that I use forums such as The
Write Idea's Crowing Corner to announce my achievements.
What projects do you have planned for the future?
I am planning to continue writing short stories and to make the move
into paying markets. I am also working on a novel-length superhero
story that I hope will see print in some format eventually.
Any advice you would like to give to new writers who may not know how
to approach the publishing world?
There is a ton of advice on the Internet, that's how I got my
information but be very wary of anywhere that wants you to part with
cash! In my experience all authors, published or not, are a helpful
bunch and, if asked nicely, will give you pointers.l
Where can people know more about you?
I occasionally blog at http://mleonsmith.blogspot.com/ and some of my
writing can be found at http://haveahootreadabook.forumotion.com/ and
http://www.helenwhittaker.net/phpBB2/ and I also hang around those
sites. Let's not forget the Static Movement site at
Q. What is a signature worth? - I’ve been trying to figure that out since the near signing on Friday. Believe it or not I’m not a collector of books though I have a couple of shelves of b...
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