September 14, 2021

#013: Sean Lusk talks about the clockwork behind idea generation, writing, agents and publishing.

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In this episode I interview Sean Lusk; a fiction author from the UK with some wonderful insights about writing and generating ideas. You can check out his debut novel The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley here. Described in his school report as a dilettante, Sean took the description seriously, failing his exams and traveling to Pakistan, India, Egypt, and on through Africa. Along the way, he has had jobs as a gardener, immigration officer, speechwriter, teacher, strategist, diplomatic official and conference organizer. He began writing seriously in 2000, winning prizes with his unsettling, darkly humorous, and intriguing short stories. After writing and later burning a novel set in the mountains of Pakistan and another set entirely in the small ads column of a local newspaper, he returned to work for the British Government, focusing on teaching officials to think strategically and plan for the future. He wrote an academic book on the subject in 2014, having observed that running exercises on pandemic planning or climate change seemed to have the effect of absolving everyone from the need to take any action, much as confessing one’s sins to a priest does little to stop sinning. The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley is his debut novel, a celebration of fluttering birds, clockwork, travel, eighteenth-century spymasters, and love in all its forms. Sean has recently moved from rural Greece to the Scottish Highlands where he lives with his wife Sally and is in the process of acquiring chickens, dogs, cats, tartan carpets and, he prays, some llamas.

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April 29, 2021

#003: Marcus Hawke talks about the writer's struggle, his writing process and the art of never giving up.

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Marcus Hawke (@marcushawke) is an author primarily of horror fiction, some fantasy and sci-fi, and a few things that defy categorisation. After years of rejections he finally had a short story “Bump In The Night” published in Jitter Magazine back in 2016. Since then, his work has appeared in a number of publications. His full-length novel, “The Miracle Sin“, has also now been published by Blood Rites Horror.

In this conversation, we discuss the writer’s struggle to get published, his own approach to writing, and the art of never giving up.

Also, below these notes is a personal message from Marcus Hawke for all writers currently going through the struggle.

Selected Links from the Episode

You can find more information about Marcus Hawke here on his website.

You can find Marcus on Instagram and Facebook.

Marcus’ debut novel The Miracle Sin.

Marcus’ short story Bump In The Night.

Bitter Chills Horror Anthology in which Marcus’ work features.

Parasite Gods Anthology by Blood Rites Horror in which Marcus’ work features.

Show Notes

We discuss (among other things):

Encouragement from horror author Ann Rice.

Putting aspects of the self into your characters.

Writing as therapy.

His influences.

Creative output.

The writer’s struggle to get published.

Laughing in the face of rejection.

Approach to getting published.

Marcus’ debut novel The Miracle Sin.

Taking pictures of dead people – possibly the best way to get a still image?

Marcus’ writing approach.

The birth of ‘plantsing’.

Research and note-taking, tools and tactics.

Book cover artwork.

Future writing projects.

Marcus Hawke

A Message From Marcus Hawke

Greetings and salutations! Marcus Hawke here. I was kindly invited to provide some words, insight, and encouragement into the pursuit, dare I say, the plight, of being a self-published indie author. No small task. However, I have just the thing.

I put out a version of my first published short story, “Bump in the Night”, on Amazon and included a recount of just how that came to be. For the very reason that I wished to impart something of this journey on to those who read it.

marcus hawke

So without further ado, here it is:

“We regret to inform you.”

“Unfortunately this piece has not been selected.”

“We’re passing on this.”

“We wish you luck placing this elsewhere.”

And the one that somehow deals the cruelest of bruises:

-THIS IS AN AUTOMATIC RESPONSE –

So familiar had I become with these phrases and their many cousins that I had come to believe they were the only responses editors were capable of offering. And yet they all had good things to say (when they actually did say something). The writing was good, the description was good, the characters were solid, the voice was strong. Liked this, loved that. Just didn’t feel my work fit with whatever issue of whatever publication they were putting out that month. So how do I overcome that, I often wondered?

Well, I’ll tell you how.

I was staring intently at the stippled pattern of my desk – which thanks to an overactive imagination had formed a giraffe holding a balloon – when I realized that I hadn’t submitted in a while. Not surprising since I was much more into my artwork at the time, had a number of personal and professional matters leeching energy from me daily and had no real incentive to pick the baton back up just then. But I remembered some words of encouragement that I had received two years earlier while expressing frustration online with my apparent lack of progress.

“Keep the faith. It’s not a foot race, and if she can make it, so can you.”

The commenter: Anne Rice. Yes, the Anne Rice. One of my all-time favorite authors. She posted an article about a girl who had been granted a publishing deal from writing One Direction fan fiction (yes, really) and responded to me. So I started looking through every mag and zine that was accepting submissions at the time and happened upon one called Jitter. I’d never heard of it before but they were allowing authors to submit up to three stories for their upcoming October issue. I submitted three stories. The first was rejected. The second was accepted. The third was….wait…WHAT?

Hello Marcus Hawke. Congratulations on being published in Jitter (Issue #5). In this letter you will receive information regarding…

I must have read that e-mail ten times to make sure I had it right. Finally, after years, years of trying time after time, it had happened. It didn’t even matter that the other two had been rejected because all it took was one.

And they had addressed me by name. My name. Not the one I was given at birth, not a nickname which is almost never selected by the individual. The one I chose for myself because that was who I most felt like and ultimately wanted to be. In that moment, I could have breathed fire and leapt straight to the Moon.

“Bump in the Night” was that story. And it’s true what they say: you always remember your first.

And therein lies the secret, all ye who have ever put pen to page: perseverance. Read. Write. Submit. Repeat. That’s it. There is no secret to being published, you don’t have to be gifted by The Bard himself. Just keep going. Keep working, keep improving, keep submitting, and keep the faith.

Not in fate or destiny or whatever god you happen to believe in (if you do), but in yourself. I know it’s hard. I know you’re tired. I know you’re heartbroken and deflated and hopeless. But never give up. Victory is a spirit and it’s only impossible if you quit.

Don’t.

-MH-

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