Welcome to my guest page. Here, every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation, over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, if they are not driving, with a friend about their work in progress, or latest book release. I’ll be talking to all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers.
Today I’m welcoming Steve Stred to chat with me in the Clubhouse tearoom garden as it is such a beautiful morning. Good to have you here, Steve.
Thank you for having me, Paula.
You’re very welcome. May I start by asking you when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I’ve always preferred reading and watching horror and anything dark, Paula. I’ve dabbled in sci-fi with my releases Jane: the 816 Chronicles & Wound Upon Wound and fantasy with Piece of Me, but for the most part my mind takes me to darker places and even darker themes.
What writing elements do you think is your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?
This is a difficult question to answer, simply because it almost makes me feel like a pompous ass saying what I do well! Ha! I personally think my strongest area is creating emotion and character attachment. Getting the reader to root for our MC and care about them or hate them. As for what I could do better – I think still working on refinement and story flow. I’m fairly succinct with my writing, with most of my works being novella length, but I still think there’s areas I could improve upon for conveying details.
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
Currently I am working on a follow up to ‘Wagon Buddy,’ which is in final editing stages. I’m also working on a book with my friend David Sodergren and a novel to arrive next year!
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
Hmmm, that’s a tough one? I personally don’t consider anything ‘unfinished,’ more ‘in progress.’ I’d estimate currently – 3 collections, 5 novellas and 3 novels?
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter?
I typically come up with an idea, usually one or two lines, and will write it down. That may be an email to myself, a note on my phone or logging in and creating a word doc. I’ll then tumble that idea around in my head to plot out some of it, but for the most part I mentally complete the entire story in my head first from that first spark. I think this is one of the reasons I’m considered ‘prolific.’
Choosing only five of your favourite authors, and list them in order 1 begin the top of your list and say how have they influenced your writing?
1 – Andrew Pyper. My favorite author and such a great human. Andrew influenced me by showing me it was OK to embrace being Canadian and to have Canadian content in my writing. He’s also one of the best writers out there, and his use of settings as a character is fantastic.
2 – Stephen King. I know he’ll end up on a number of author’s lists, but Mr. King was the first author I ever read that was a horror author. He’s also always embraced that and never shied away from it. His interconnected worlds definitely inspired me.
3 – JH Moncrieff. JH has crafted some truly amazing works and her friendship and encouragement has been amazing. She’s influenced me by showing how much the story’s setting can play a role.
4 – David Sodergren. Without Sodergren’s input and guidance, I couldn’t begin to imagine where my writing would be at. I’d probably still have the same number of releases out, but they wouldn’t be near the quality they are now. When I’m working on the final draft before sending it to him for edits, I try to read it as he would and work to make changes that he’d suggest.
5 – Duncan Ralston. The third Canadian on this list, Duncan has influenced me by his unflinching attitude towards negativity. He’s given me some great advice and really helped me along the way. Really proud to call him a friend.
I also want to add that this question is ruthless in making me pick only 5!
Sorry, Steve 😉 Great choices though. For my next question, when reading your work through do you ever find that your daily mood swings are reflected in your writing?
No, not for me. When I am formulating a book in my head, I typically have it solidly in place before I start writing. So, when I start working on it, I stay pretty much “in character,” the entire time.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Yes, big time. My first novel was ‘Invisible,’ which was 60%-ish autobiographical. I’ve had versions of my friends in a lot of my releases, including their first names (with permission of course) and base a lot of my work around where I grew up in the middle of nowhere.
What did you learn when writing your book? In writing it, how much research did you do?
I think the thing I learn each time I write something is slowly becoming better at refinement and self-editing. Thinking through a phrase or description a few times before moving on. As far as research goes, it all depends on what I’m writing. My Witch stuff has a decent amount of research. My Father of Lies trilogy has seen me spend over 300 on the dark web over a few years, where I’ve joined two different groups of people, who I’d label as cults, to see just what they believe and how they expect to unlock cosmic immortality.
Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?
That would depend on how long you’ve been around haha! I used to be a competitive athlete. I tried to compete for Canada in the sport of Bobsled in the Winter Olympics, but my body paid such a price, I ultimately failed to meet the standards. I did that sport for four years, which was after I was a Shot putter. My athletic background means I’m very organized for projects and methodical. I don’t like change too much, very much schedule oriented.
Some may not know that I’m Canadian and from a very, very small town in the West Kootenays in the province of British Columbia.
Lastly – I’ve lost all desire to watch anything. I’d rather read. Since my son arrived, anything I would want to watch isn’t appropriate to watch while he’s awake and I now find when I do have free time, I’d rather nap or read or whatever. Just not sit and watch something.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I have a Monday to Friday job, which prior to the arrival of COVID-19 was 8-5 Monday to Thursday, Fridays 8-4. I had an hour lunch four days a week, so I’d do all my writing then, as well as on my two 15 min breaks. Occasionally, I’ll write a few things on my phone, but normally it’s all on lunch. With COVID-19 considerations right now, I’m M-F 8-4:30 with a 30 min lunch. So, I’ve adapted to the 30 minutes of writing available and try to be efficient with my time.
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
No-ish? More than 1? I’ve always been a believer of write what you can when you can, whether it’s a sentence or whatever. Something is always better than nothing. Real life example – when I wanted to go to the Olympics, it was a 5 year plan for a 4 year Olympic cycle. You don’t just show up and go. There were a lot of considerations. I had to lose weight, get faster in sprints, change my lifting, eating, etc etc. Transfer that to writing. You don’t just show up with a novel. You need to write it sentence by sentence before draft one is done. You don’t get to write ‘THE END’ without writing that very first word.
How many hours in a day do you write?
Anywhere from 5 minutes to 80 minutes, depending on schedule and breaks. Occasionally, I’ll get some free time at home on the weekends and I’ll dive into it.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Yes, twice now. I have four kids’ books out. I had someone buy one of my horror books once and complain as they thought it was a kids’ book because of my other kids’ stuff. I know. I attempted to swap my kid releases to a pen name, but Amazon wouldn’t let me.
Recently, I had reached out to a friend about writing and releasing something under a pen name. After we discussed it, we saw that a lot of hard work would go into something that would very well be seen by nobody!
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Really depends on how in depth I already have a story mentally plotted. I think ‘The Girl Who Hid in the Trees’ took me a week for draft one? ‘Ritual’ was maybe three days. Whereas my first novel ‘Invisible’ took me over eight years as I had a number of starts and stops and real-life issues etc. I think each person will find their own working speed or groove and each story will take just as long as it needs.
Thank you for joining me today, Steve. It’s quite lovely sitting here.
Here is Steve’s brief bio and pertinent links
Steve is an author of dark, bleak fiction and have a number of novels, novellas and collections out currently. He has appeared in anthologies alongside some of the biggest names in horror, such as Tim Lebbon, Gemma Amor and Ramsey Campbell.