Hello darlings! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with author Antony J. Stanton
I started to write a fantasy adventure book when I was a teenager. I actually wrote a couple of hundred pages (longhand – can you believe it?!?) but never finished it. Maybe I’ll go back to it one day. However, having watched the film ‘Top Gun’ (showing my age) I opted for a career as a military pilot. I later became a commercial long-haul pilot and still am now, but after a bet with mates, decided to write a book. One book became three, and I am now on the verge of publishing the third in the series, and more than fulfilling that bet.
Book Sample: Book one = “Once Bitten, Twice Die”. I guess it is in the post-apocalyptic horror genre, although it sits just as comfortably in the thriller / action adventure categories.
Why do you write? It’s an odd thing, and I hope this doesn’t sound daft (or worse – pretentious), but the joy of writing, for me, is not dissimilar to that of reading. It is the joy of discovering a story, but so much more vividly and intensely than if I were merely reading it. It is the joy of almost living that story. I know, as the author of my own books, I should know where the story is going and exactly what is going to happen, but that’s only really 10% of the truth. When I started writing I knew roughly how my trilogy would begin and end, and vaguely what would occur, but it has been as much of a journey for me as it will be for the reader. I would be writing and thinking, so what would happen now? Then it would come to me. Good lord! If that has just happened, then I guess this person is about to die! The American writer Robert Frost once said something like ‘No surprise for the write, no surprise for the reader. No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader’ and that is absolutely true. So my joy of writing has been like reading the most vivid story ever, but being so much more emotionally attached to it than any book I have ever read.
When did you decide to become a writer? I have always had a very vivid imagination, I have always read lots and always been creating things, and so writing, for me, was the natural expression of that passion. And also I have read so many books, and seen so many films, where the reader or viewer was treated like an idiot. Where the impossible or improbable happened and we are just supposed to accept it. I wanted to write that wrong (if you’ll pardon the pun) and create something where the reader is treated as an intellectual equal (or even superior.) If something happens there is a very good reason for it. Reality is not suspended. Rules apply and are adhered to. And I hope my sense for realism has translated well onto the page.
How long does it usually take you to complete a book? Well for me there is no ‘usually’. These are my first three books. So far, from sitting down to start writing the first, then when I decided to self-publish, working through editing, formatting, and publishing, it has taken over six years. I think book four will be a lot quicker though.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something? As I said in my bio, the impetus to actually begin to write these books came from a semi-inebriated bet with mates. They challenged me to write and publish a book. So I woke up the next day, and thought, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, why the heck not? The challenge was the motivation I needed to stick my head above the parapet and risk being shot down. It was the incentive to risk failure. And if anyone else wants to write a book but doesn’t want to risk the ridicule or failure, I’d just say, sod it! Go for it. What have you got to lose..? I wish I’d started 10 years earlier. Contact me and I’ll gladly help, as far as I can.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? No. I write whenever I can. I still work as a full-time long-haul commercial pilot, so a lot of my writing is done around the world, when everything is still dark and jet-lag prevents me from sleeping. But if I am at home I will just write whenever I get some peace and quiet.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? My writing process has developed considerably from when I started. I am more disciplined now, I have learned to keep copious notes on events and all the characters. They all have their own bios which may not appear in the books, but gives me the info I need on them to write believable individuals, to make them consistent with themselves. Also, as I have progressed I guess I am more willing to take risks. To cast aside the rules, when I see fit, to create the story that I want.
Do you listen to music or watch TV/movie while you write? No, I wish I could. I remember reading how J.K Rowling used to go to a café and write there. That’s kinda my idea of an author, sitting in the corner of a café and scribbling away over copious cups of coffee. In reality I need peace and quiet. I find even having music on is a distraction. I find it really useful to read aloud what I have written, to see how it sounds, assess the cadence and timbre of my words, and if I were to do that in a café I’d be locked away.
What have you written? A trilogy – so far… although I did leave the door slightly ajar for books four, five, six, etc…
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you? When I started I thought I knew pretty much exactly what was going to happen. But as I wrote I realized that so much more was going on than I had realized. Any single event would need fleshing out, for example. There would be reasons and back-stories behind any one character’s actions. So I was taken on an incredible journey myself. I mentioned Robert Frost’s quote above. I actually found myself surprised by the twists and turns (and there are many) that my story takes, and actually found myself in tears as I wrote sometimes when I realized that one of the characters, whom you can’t help but get emotionally attached to, was about to die… It’s an incredible experience.
Do you design your own book covers or have someone else? If you use someone else would you tell us who/website? I am a writer. I am most certainly NOT an artist. I used Adnan Saleem of DestinationCreation.com, and I have to say, I am delighted with his work. The ideas were all mine, but he interpreted them perfectly.
Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures? To be honest this is an area that I have found challenging. My day job is as a pilot. Marketing is something totally new to me. I have read lots and listened lots to others, and got ideas from them. Social media is obviously a big thing, but it can’t be a one-way street. An author shouldn’t just bleat on about their own books. You have to engage with people, give something back, communicate and help others. Then maybe people begin to be interested in you… But if anyone out there has any great ideas about book marketing then I am all ears.
Any advice for aspiring authors? Write. Write lots. And keep writing. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers who tell you that you can’t. Because if I can, then you certainly can. And also read – a LOT.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he do that is so special? Hmmm, good question. There are many characters and arguably a few ‘main’ characters in my books. There was too much action and too much happening to have just one person’s point of view. There is a particularly nasty vampire who features a lot and a more benevolent vampire who provides the principle vampyric point of view. Then there is a very sassy female vampiress who provides a balance. Amongst the humans there is one man who is the overall leader with the main POV, but then there is a strong female POV also. I think it’s up to the readers to decide who is their favourite.
Where do your ideas come from? I have always loved the horror genre and somewhat darker literature. Vampires are often paired up against werewolves, even The Mummy or Frankenstein’s monster. Rarely however, are they seen alongside zombies. I just imagined the lone, sexy, suave vampire, used to being top of the food chain, unassailable, and all-powerful. What would happen if, for once, it was he/she who had to avoid being bitten? If for once it was the vampire who had to flee for their life? And if that vampire was cornered by a horde of enraged zombies, how many would it take to bring down a vamp? I just thought that there were a lot of really interesting possibilities that had not really been explored.
What is your favorite movie or TV show? My books feature vampires in a post-apocalyptic London with rampaging zombie-like creatures, as well as the unfortunate surviving humans. I love the horror genre in general and so two of my favourites would be ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘True Blood’. Both are excellent, but it is impossible for me to choose between zombies and vampires. Also, I have been a big fan of Game of Thrones.
Which writers inspire you? So many writers and so many books, it’s hard to know where to start. There are the obvious usual gothic authors like Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Richard Matheson, and more recently Emily St. John Mandel. But also other writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez who taught me what I could get away with in a book, and that it doesn’t always have to stick to the rules. And also John Steinbeck who will spend an entire page purely describing a leaf or a toilet seat but uses that description to move the story along in ways that I would never have thought possible before. Incredible.
What is the current book you are promoting? I published “Once Bitten, Twice Die” in November 2015. It is book one in my trilogy, so although I am about to publish the third book in time for Halloween this year, I guess I am still promoting book one. If you haven’t read it then there’s no point in jumping in to books two or three.
You mentioned you’re writing a new story. How about a teaser? My trilogy has now been written. The story is complete… ish… As I mentioned earlier, the door has been left ajar for further books. There are avenues that were mentioned in books one to three that I am exploring. There is a little history to flesh out that I think will surprise readers. And without wanting to give any spoilers, there is still a lot left unfinished at the end of book three. You’re in for a bumpy ride folks!
Who is your favorite character in your book and why? Tough question. I love Farzin – the most evil vampire – just because he says things and does things that I could never conceive of anyone actually doing for real. I mean, people just aren’t that cruel, are they? The sexy female vampiress Flavia – well, I think everyone would love her, just because… Even though she is bad-ass, you just can’t help but be charmed by her. And there are a few of the humans who are my favourites. Too many to mention here.
Who is your least favorite character and why? All the characters were there for a purpose. Some played big parts of the story, some small. They all had their reasons and backstories. So I don’t dislike any of them. But if it were for real, then without a doubt Farzin must surely vie for being one of the most despicable literary characters of all time.
Do you have any formal education in creative writing? If not are you planning to go to school? I did a long-distance writing course with ‘The Writers’ Bureau’ which was extremely useful, but that is it. Otherwise, I am untrained in the literary arts. I hope that does not reflect in my writing though.
If your book were made into a movie, whom would you cast? Well this is a bit hush-hush, I’ve not really mentioned this to anyone yet, but I am actually in a reasonably advanced stage of negotiations with a Hollywood producer at the moment. I flew to the States to meet him last month, in order to discuss. He is keen to adapt my books for TV. He is convinced that they could be the ‘next big thing’, sort of like ‘The Walking Dead’ meets ‘True Blood’. Many a slip twixt cup ‘n lip, but hope springs eternal. And it doesn’t hurt to dream, right..? He wants to start shooting sometime next year, so watch this space. Hence I have deliberated a lot about casting. There are a lot of characters to fill, I am open to suggestions from your readers… Thoughts? MF: That is awesome! Congrats!
What is your next project? Two things: getting the trilogy adapted for TV, and working on books four, five and six, etc.
Do you or have you sat down and read your book fresh off the presses as if it wasn’t yours? And if you did, what was it like? Not yet. I have a couple of paperback copies of each, but as I am still in the process of publishing book three I just haven’t had time. I think after the dust has settled, and when I have had a chance to distance myself from the books a little, I may try to read them afresh.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why? ‘Dracula’ – as it is such a classic, and there cannot be many books that have left such a legacy. I mean, how many books, TV shows and films are there now about vampires? Incredible…
What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer? You cannot see your own mistakes. You write a page one day, go back to it the next and think, ‘did I really write that?’ You need to step away, give it time and then come back to it with fresh eyes. Otherwise you will miss your most glaring mistakes. Better still, give it to someone else to edit.
What are some of your favorite books and why? I have mentioned already some of my favourite and most inspirational dark, gothic and post-apocalyptic authors. So apart than those genres, other favourite books would be, in no particular order, ‘Bird Song’, ‘1000 Splendid Suns’, ‘The God of Small Things’, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’, ‘Catch 22’, ‘The LIittle Price’ and ‘Child 44’. I need a book to give me an emotional response. I want to be moved to tears, either happy or sad. I want my eyes to be opened, to feel as though the outside world is intruding upon my time and getting in the way when I am reading, and to approach the last page with regret. These books have all fulfilled some or all of that.
What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing? Pros and cons. I am sure almost every author wants to have the validation of a proper publishing contract, but there are disadvantages to that. The lack of control, the loss in royalty percentage, the time to get the book to audience, etc… However, I think most of us would still go down that route, given a chance. I self-published, but would still be open to the prospect of a proper publishing contract.
Would you say there is a stigma to being self-published? There certainly used to be. Less so now. Alas self-publishing does mean there is a lot of dross out there, and that will, I think, forever mean there is a slight stigma. It is just down to the self-published author to distinguish him/herself as a cut above.
What book are you currently reading or just finished? ‘The Universe versus Alex Woods’ by Gavin Extence. So far, very good.
What do your fans mean to you? Everything. It is great when my friends or family tell me they like my book, don’t get me wrong. But when I get an email from someone I don’t know telling me how much they loved it, or I see a 5-star review on Goodreads or Amazon, etc, that really means the world. That day I am smiling. A lot.
Tell us something unique about you. I have lived a rather ‘exciting’ life. I was kidnapped in Kazakhstan, and shot at in Ghana, amongst other little adventures. Alas these adventures are more ‘Jonny English’ than James Bond, I am afraid to say. But the kidnapping one, that’s actually a great story. I have been told many times I should write a book about it, and maybe I will. But if any of your readers ever see me in a book convention or down the pub, I’ll happily spill the beans over a pint of something cold. MF: How scary! You should write about it, terror fascinates the human psyche LOL
Is there anything else you would like to add? Yes. Many people have sent me photos from around the world of them reading one of my ebooks / paperbacks, but sometimes just of the book by itself in an ‘unusual’ situation. In order to say thanks I am going to print these photos in the back of the ebooks and hopefully also the paperbacks, along with a mention in the acknowledgements section. I will be updating these regularly. So if anyone wants a book with their picture in it, send me a photo of you reading one of my books, or just the book by itself. Be creative, the more unusual the better.
How can readers discover more about you and you work? I have a website, I am on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Smashwords, CreateSpace and Instagram. All my contact details are also in the backs of my books. I’d be delighted to hear from anyone with any questions and guarantee to reply in person to everyone…
Thanks so much Antony for sharing! For more about Antony and his work, follow the links below: