By 19 he was regularly selling illustrated articles to photography magazines. Entering a national contest resulted in a radio play, Hitch-hiker, being broadcast on BBC Radio 4. A lengthy spell of serious illness curtailed his writing for a few years. When he met his second wife, Stuart resumed his writing, penning short stories and winning some competition prizes. He and Valerie have a teenage daughter, Kate, and currently live in a small market town. ME/CFS has caused him to reduce his employment to part time.
He's had several short stories published, some accessible on his website http://www.stuartaken.co.uk/about.php. His novel, Breaking Faith, was published under the auspices of the Arts Council sponsored website, www.YouWriteOn.com. He's currently writing short stories and working on a fantasy trilogy.
Website ~ http://www.stuartaken.co.uk/
Blog ~ http://stuartaken.blogspot.com/
Facebook ~ http://www.facebook.com/stuart.k.allison?v=wall&ref=profile
Twitter ~ http://twitter.com/#!/stuartaken
Smashwords ~ https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/stuartaken
Goodreads ~ http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4234877.Stuart_Aken
LinkedIn ~ http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=78124450&trk=tab_pro
When naïve Faith falls for worldly Leighton, which of them will triumph?
This romantic thriller is set in the Yorkshire Dales during the 1976 heat wave. Faith is innocent and unschooled but intelligent. Forced into contact with local glamour photographer, Leighton, and his bevy of models, she falls in love. His misogynist assistant, Mervin, aggrieved at the changes she brings, threatens violence. Her hypocritical father and estranged mother and sister cause further upheaval and Faith has to battle unfamiliar forces, as she emerges from isolation into a strange and dangerous world. Will her spirit rise above the corrupting influences or will she succumb and be destroyed? (Warning: the nature of this story, and it's theme of love versus sex, inevitably means there is some explicit sexual content.)
Paperback available from Amazon in UK
And from Amazon in USA
As an eBook from Smashwords
And from many retail outlets worldwide
A Sackful of Shorts
13 varied tales from a group of writers with talent in all genres.
My writing group recently decided to compile an anthology of short stories to represent the various talents of the authors. I was asked to edit the book and produce a cover. At the end of November, it was published as an eBook by Smashwords.
This selection of short stories represents the diversity of the medium, and of its talented contributors. There's something for everyone: dive into the sack and sample humour, sci-fi, romance and much more.
A Sackful of Shorts, suitable for all ebook platforms, can be bought here.
1. Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?
I grew up in a house with no television until I was 14, and exhausted the local library's children's section by age 11. The dragon who presided over the books allowed me to take one at a time from the adult section, provided it passed her muster. That she allowed me to take Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, as my first title, suggests she was unaware of the book's nature. But I was hooked on reading. The desire to write came later and I wrote a load of illustrated articles for the photographic press from my late teens. It wasn't until I entered a play writing contest in the 1970s that I considered fiction, but I found in story telling a freedom and opportunity for imaginative living that thrilled me. I have never lost that feeling of wonder that comes from making a story.
2. Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
I think all writers cobble together their characters from a mixture of those they have met and parts of themselves. None of my fictional characters is a recognizable friend, or enemy, but they all contain bits and pieces of men and women I have known. And all hold some element of myself; both the good and the bad characters.
3. How do you go from an idea for a book to the birth of the story? Is the process the same for every book you write? How long does it take you to write a book?
My ideas come from so many sources. I have three Moleskine notebooks (the type used by Hemmingway), and I have one permanently by the bed, another in the sitting room and one which I carry wherever I go. All three have dedicated pens with them, so I can jot down the bones of an idea at any time. Once I have an idea, it goes, along with the date it emerged, into a file on the computer. And then I forget about it.
Later, apparently from nowhere, whilst sitting at the keyboard, I will develop the idea into a story. For a short story, that's all the preparation there is. I re-write afterwards. But for a novel, I do an outline in my head, nothing written at this stage. I then create my characters and produce files for these, with pictures taken from various sources. All my fiction is character driven, so the characters really come first.
For the fantasy, because I had to invent my own world, I drew a large map and placed all the geographical features, towns and routes on it. Next, I wrote some myths and folklore as background before I developed the various political systems and the different religions of the groups involved in the story. I have around 300 pages of this material, which I occasionally consult during the editing process. But I write off the top of my head.
My first published novel, Breaking Faith, took about 18 months to write and edit. The first volume of the adult trilogy has taken longer, because of all the background writing and research. But I can write a short story of 1,000 to 3,000 words in a day if I'm fired up.
4. Are you currently working on any new book projects?
I am working on the adult fantasy trilogy at present. Volume one is written and has had its first few edits. At 277,000 words, it's quite a task to edit and I have a final revision to do, which I will be starting almost as soon as I've finished this interview. With 52 named characters, an invented world with its own politics, religions, traditions and customs, it's quite an undertaking but one I thoroughly enjoy.
5. Do you have any advice for beginning writers on how to write a book? Do you have any advice for them regarding promoting that book once published?
With the advent of eBook publishing and the many self-publishing opportunities, it is too easy for new writers to imagine they have a product worthy of foisting on the unwary public. For this reason, I advise any new writer to first ensure that they understand the rules of grammar and spelling. Nothing is more calculated to irritate readers (and, in the process, give self-publishing a bad name) than careless presentation of the writing. So, if you're going to publish for the reading public, I ask that you make sure you know what you're doing first.
Promotion is a challenging area for most authors. The qualities required to produce imaginative fiction are almost the direct opposite of those needed for the hard-headed business of promotion. But it is the case that all authors, whether self-published or treading the tradition route, have to be involved in promotion. It is never too early to start the process of marketing and I would advise the setting up of a website or blog as soon as possible. Participation in social networking communities like Twitter and Facebook, and contributions to the blogs of other writers and readers are also very helpful in developing a presence online.
6. What’s your writing schedule like? When do you find time to write?
I have a part time job, to keep my family fed and clothed. So, I am not able to write full time, unfortunately. But I spend a good deal of my 'free' time writing or engaged in writing-related activity. I do write something new, even if it's only a diary entry, every day. When I'm in the creative phase I can happily sit and write 2 – 4,000 words at a sitting.
7. How have your friends and family received your career as an author? Are they supportive?
My wife has always been very supportive and she acts as my first line editor. Although not a natural 'reader' she has an eagle eye for inconsistencies, spelling and grammatical errors and clumsy sentence construction. I place everything in front of her now and she has proved an invaluable aid in honing my work to the highest quality.
I also belong to a very supportive writing group. We meet about 18 miles from my home, once a week. We read out selections of work in progress and receive back honest, constructive, tough and detailed criticism. The group is composed almost entirely of published authors and we have a great breadth and depth of experience between us. One member acts as a freelance writing coach for a well-respected consultancy, another has had numerous text books published and is a university professor, another worked as a translator for the UN. So, we have some real expertise in the group. Samples of their work can be found in the anthology referred to above – A Sackful of Shorts.
8. What’s the most challenging aspect of writing for you? ~ POV issues; using too much passive voice and not enough active voice; trouble creating active and engaging dialogue; using too many similar words in starting sentences; or something else?
I love words and have a tendency to use too many. This is where the membership of the writing group can be so helpful. When I first started to attend, I used to come away after reading a piece to discover I could have reduced the 3,000 words offered down to 1,500 and improved it. Now, conscious of the sort of remarks wordiness will engender, I prepare my work for this discerning audience and cut before I read. Even so, I often find I'm presented with suggestions to reduce the word count.
Joanne, many thanks for this opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas with your readers. I really appreciate your kindness in arranging this and have enjoyed the conversation.
You’re welcome! Enjoyed the conversation as well. Thank you, Stuart for stopping by today.