And it’s a guest! Author of the month on Goodreads! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Luke F.D. Marsden – from this side of the pond for a change! :)
Where do you live and write from?
I live and work in the old Roman Spa town of Bath in Somerset, site of the UK’s only thermal springs. As well as writing at home, I like to write when I’m away in other places.
Why do you write?
I love to write both for the pure act of creating something, and because I know the impact that reading the right book at the right time can have. I have been influenced fundamentally at different points in my life by picking up the right books – sometimes by pure chance. Some of the fabulous places and people from those books stay with me vividly to this day. I think that the ability of literature, at its best, to unlock the power of the imagination makes it the most powerful art form. It can take you to places and situations that you would otherwise never experience. By writing, I strive to give something back of what I have experienced of the world, and to create works that will resonate with someone, somewhere.
When did you start writing?
I started writing quite late. It was in my mid twenties, when I was living in Barcelona, although I had written fragments before that. I was mainly interested in the sciences at a younger age, and came to discover literature properly a bit later on, at which point I immersed myself in it. I began to write my first short stories a few years later.
What genre(s) do you write?
My first novel – Wondering, the Way is Made – was not targeted at any particular genre. I would loosely categorise it, however, as a work of literary travel fiction. It is a tale of friendship in a crumbling world, that takes place in South America. The book I am currently working on is a collection of allegorical short stories relating to themes connected with the conscious and subconscious mind, so will be quite different. I haven’t thought about what genre that classifies as, yet!
What does your writing routine consist of?
The most important part of writing, the thinking, I do anywhere and at all times! I’m always turning over ideas in my mind and I carry a notepad (of the old school, paper, type) to make sure I don’t forget things. When the thinking and research are mostly done, and I’m ready to start writing, I make sure that I have at least one whole day free. Then I find somewhere quiet, free of distractions, and with luck, inspiring, and write a first draft in manuscript, leaving alternate pages blank for notes and filling in gaps. After that, it’ll be a process of making refinements with successive drafts, during one of which I’ll type everything up on a computer. Although I work a lot with computers I’m a bit of a luddite outside of that, so I try to avoid them as far as possible in my free time.
What do you feel are your strengths as a writer? How have you developed these qualities?
When I read the things I have written, these are the things I like about them:
Clarity of style – I’ve always been sparing with words, and I choose them carefully.
Insight – My travels around the world have taught me to see things from many perspectives.
Realism – I am a realist, by nature. I don’t shy away from seeing and describing things as they really are.
Authenticity – Almost everything in my novel Wondering, the Way is Made – each of the locations, anecdotes and events – draws its inspiration from my own personal experience or real occurrences of recent history, and in this sense they are authentic.
Hopefully that doesn’t all sound too high-falutin’!
Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories?
I get inspired by travel. It’s a cliché, but the real world (or, should I say, the universe) is stranger and more exotic than fiction. You just have to go out and find stories and ideas – the whole universe is full of them. The beauty of fiction is that, as a writer, you can then adapt, adorn and embellish those stories and ideas without limits until you have captured whatever it is that you were seeking.
My characters are usually composites of people I know and have met, with a measure of artistic licence thrown in. I like to create them this way because, again, it lends authenticity. Of course, there is some of myself in some of my characters, but then there are elements of many other people, and a dash of imagination as well.
Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?
I’m a mixture of both, I usually outline, say, the first half of a book or story, then start to write it and let it develop as I go.
I am a slow writer. There is no word that goes into any of my work without consideration of its real meaning and nuance, and I will go over any given passage numerous times before I am completely happy with it.
Tell us about your latest book
I published my first novel – Wondering, the Way is Made – in November 2014. I first got the idea for it when I was in Kerala, India, in the summer of 2011. There was a deadly heatwave at that time in the US and it was the summer of riots in the UK. From a distance I watched and, with a small step of the imagination, envisioned what it would be like if things degenerated to the point where it was no longer worth returning home. I eventually came to write the book three years later, while I was in South America.
The story takes place in various locations in Latin America in the very near future, against a backdrop of serious climate change and societal upheaval. A band of good friends are brought together by fate in Argentina, and they journey across the South American continent in a camper van looking for a quiet place to ride out the adverse events that are occurring globally.
The book also carries a deeper message – it is an attempt to capture something of the essence of the frivolity and self-indulgence of our time, and I found that peering into the near future was a good way of doing this. Its heroes and heroines represent a generation in microcosm. They are nice people, sympathetic, but upon reflection perhaps not quite as sympathetic as they appear. They lament the demise of society and the planet, quite rightly, but there is nothing in their actions that absolves them from the very things they criticize others for. They are products of a ‘Me’ society, they are, at times, wasteful, irresponsible, largely unmoved by the poverty they see as they travel through Latin America, and over-privileged in some cases. However, the fact remains that they are also gentle, thoughtful, honest, very likeable and humorous, which makes it easy to overlook their flaws and shortcomings. The book carries the message that, collectively, humans can be quite selfish, even if individually they are nice people. It also explores the question of what to do and where to go when the warm embrace of civilization, and the comfort of a future that is certain, begin to fall apart.
Wondering, the Way is Made can be found in the following places:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wondering-the-way-is-made-luke-f-d-marsden/1120736997
Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?
I think that the great advantage that independent publishing has over traditional publishing is that the independent writer is not beholden to any publishing house, editor, or anything, other than themselves, and therefore has the ability to write works for their artistic merit alone. I would draw a loose analogy with organic versus processed food. There is a lot of superb writing talent outside of the traditional publishing machine. This said, I have read a great deal of excellent traditionally published works, so it’s difficult to generalise.
Any other projects in the pipeline?
Yes! As mentioned briefly in an earlier question, the book I am currently working on is a collection of allegorical short stories with a loose thread connecting them. I studied some neuroscience when I was at university, and have been fascinated by consciousness ever since then – the stories will explore themes around this. The book is pretty well progressed and I hope to get it out later this year.
What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?
Before I published my first book, I always said that if I managed to write something that touched the life of just one person, somewhere, then I would have achieved my goal as a writer. Since Wondering, the Way is Made was published, I have been lucky enough to receive a lot of positive feedback and encouraging comments from readers. So, in that sense, I have already achieved my goal. Anything from here is a bonus.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
It was when I was in my mid-twenties, and I was in Canada talking to a stand-up comic after his show. I expressed my desire to write seriously and he said something along the lines of: “You’re not going to like what I’m going to tell you, but listen: The best thing you can do for your writing is to go away for five years and do something else. Then start writing after you turn thirty. The difference? Well, the difference will be that, then, you’ll have credibility. Nobody listens to anyone under the age of thirty…”
While I didn’t take his words literally, they did set me thinking, and I determined that I wouldn’t write unless I really had something worthwhile to write about, and for that to happen I needed to have done things that gave me something worthwhile to write about. It is important, in these times of overwhelming information overload, that your words do not just add to the noise, but stand out above it. They must give whoever reads them something that is born of inspiration, and something that has come from the heart.
Find Luke on Goodreads and Author Central UK.