Stuart Sharp has joined us today to give us some insight into his "process" and to tell us a bit about his book, The Glass.
1. Where did the initial idea for The Glass come from?
After my last comic fantasy novel Court of Dreams, I wanted to do something with a bit more big, serious content behind it while still keeping the jokes. I suspected that life, the universe and religion might count as big and serious. But it’s also a side effect of doing some research, at MA level way back before I started my PhD, into medieval visions of the afterlife and how they fit into those societies. I ended up reading a lot of the stuff that came before Dante: visions recorded by Bede and a host of others, going right back to Plato’s soldier of Ur. There’s typically a very straightforward structure there that most writers would recognise, with a main character catapulted into another world, going on a journey with a guide and companion, and then typically coming back transformed. It felt like if I could take elements of that, play with a few of the ideas found in some bits of paranormal romance/urban fantasy, add in some kind of big, humanist story that somehow still managed to feature angels and still weld it all together I might have something that worked.
2. Which part of the publishing process was the most surprising?
I work as a ghost writer when I’m not writing for myself, so the parts that take me by surprise are typically the ones that have nothing to do with the writing. I put this one out myself, more as an experiment than anything since I’d been doing some work for people who had been very successful with self-publishing, and it was surprising how straightforward the process was. I think I still prefer the traditional publishing of my other books, since it puts all the emphasis for the bits I don’t like much on me, but I can see why people do it.
3. If you could give yourself any piece of advice before you started writing, what would it be?
I think prior to writing this, it would have been “get it finished” because this is one that took me a while. In fact, I might have to take that on as advice more generally. It’s like, because when I’m ghosting I have to finish things quickly, I’m determined to procrastinate with my own work to make as big a contrast as possible. Yet my current favourite piece of writing advice is that it’s not about the idea. Everyone has ideas. Many of them have the same ideas. It’s the way you choose to express that idea that matters.
4. Plotter or panster?
My writing process is... complicated. I’ll typically pants the first chapter or two, then stop and stare at it, trying to work out what I’m actually writing. Then delete it as rubbish. Then decide that I liked it after all and try to plan, and possibly have another go. Delete. It’s a cycle of over plotting and deletion until I finally get so sick of it that I pants the whole thing (with everything I’ve learned from all the plotting and deletion) then go back and try to fix it. For the record, this is not how I would recommend writing a novel. Again, I think I’m trying to get away from the organisation and plotting that comes with ghosting.
5. Quiet room or noisy room when you’re writing? How quiet do you need it? What sort of noise?
I can typically write most places. I’ll write with music on in the background, if I know the music well enough that I’m not constantly stopping to listen to it. It needs to be background. I’ve been known to put the cricket on TV to watch too. Usually with my cat jumping on me and demanding to type. Yet it’s mostly down to mood. There are times when I want absolute quiet, and I’ll lock myself away in a corner of the house to work. Routines, for me, should be kept only as long as they feel right.
6. Your writing area/desk: a place for everything and everything in its place or if anyone ever straightened it, you’d never find a thing?
I’m quite chaotic with my writing spaces. I’ve produced huge amounts of work with my laptop balanced on my knees, or on a bed, or in the middle of a stack of papers. I suspect I vary the space according to how much I want it to feel like a job. I do know more or less where everything is, but that’s more a feat of memory than of organisation.
7. What is your current pop culture obsession (book, TV show, movie, webcomic…)? What are the rest of us missing?
A good friend of mine (defined here as someone I’ve seen face to face once in the last five years) has started up a web comic while he’s on sabbatical from his scientific career. That can be found at http://mazemaker-comic.blogspot.co.uk/ I’m also enjoying Jodi Taylor’s novel Just One Damned Thing After Another, which seems like a lot of good fun and some really well written funny fantasy. At the same time, I’ve been reading a lot of the more literary and interesting end of sci fi/fantasy, so people like Tricia Sullivan, Iain M Banks, Mary Gentle... anything that can make me feel vaguely inferior about my own stuff and promise the world in general that I’ll try to do better next time.
The biggest questions in Mark Tilesbury’s life have generally been fairly straightforward: How exactly did he end up as the assistant to celebrity psychic Greg Rambler? If the dead are getting in touch, why are they always so happy about things? Why is it always him who buys the drinks after the show?
Things get a lot more complicated when a chance meeting with a very strange man lands him in the middle of a war between the last remnants of the angels and the creatures from the other side of the mirror. A war in which it turns out Mark might very well be the ultimate weapon. Kidnapped by a woman who seems far too ready to pull knives out of thin air, he must travel the length of the UK, dealing with crazed angels, estate agents with afterlives for sale and occasional VW campervans, trying to find a way out of this mess before either the angels kill him for his own good or the Glass catch up with him. Ultimately, he has to decide if perhaps the scariest thing in the mirror isn't… well, him.
Stuart Sharp is a writer and ghost writer living on a small farm in the East Riding of Yorkshire, where he lives with his family, his cat, and an assortment of inquisitive wildlife. After finishing a PhD in medieval history, he now knows slightly more about long dead people than is really useful when it comes to any kind of real job. He mostly writes a mixture of fantasy genres, and has collaborated with writers like Eve Paludan and J.R. Rain on the first three books of their “Witch Detectives” series.