Shaun Stafford lives near Stamford, Lincs in the UK. He has two sons. By day, he leads a wholly bohemian and non-profitable existence – indeed, some say Shaun Stafford, like one of his many transgressive characters, only exists in the mind of a very twisted individual. By night, and sometimes way into the early hours of the morning, he writes fiction. He has written numerous books and short stories in different genres, but his main genre is transgressive fiction. He has also written screenplays which have been developed into short films.
What inspires you to write?
It certainly isn’t money. There is only one reason why a writer should write, and that’s because it is their life, their reason for living. Real life can be mundane, and much of my time is spent daydreaming. Those daydreams eventually become stories, which eventually become books. I think anybody who gets into writing because they want to be famous or wealthy is deluded. Of course, a writer has to be deluded in a way to be able to write, but I’m more inspired to write from my imagination, rather than follow a well-tested formula about vampires falling in love with zombies in the hope that angst-ridden teenage girls will read it.
Tell us about your writing process.
I think of a situation and then turn it into a story. My latest book, Besotted, was begun towards the end of 2012. It’s about a writer who’s dying of cancer. I was perhaps 60,000 words into it when I was mugged. I lost about 20,000 words. Throughout 2013, I struggled to recover that work. I became my lead character. Nothing about the book was planned – things just happened. As my lead character found himself in a situation, I disappeared into his head and tried to figure out how he would get out of the mess he was in. In past, I’ve outlined books. “die Stunde X” was fully outlined, chapter by chapter, and that’s why it’s so episodic. Each chapter has a cliff hanger. But I ditched that way of writing because it’s not transgressive, and it ends up being more like a job than a creative process. I prefer to write off the cuff, and tidy things up afterwards. Once the book is finished, I might have to read it a number of times, not just to spot typos, but to ensure that all of the sentences are the best they can be, and that if I’ve said a character has blond hair towards the start of the book, then they still have blond hair at the end. For “Besotted”, I’ve just removed one character completely because their scenes were dull – I didn’t need them. I spotted that as soon as I read it for the first time. Much of “Besotted”, I wrote in a pub, slowly getting drunk. Some nights, I wrote a thousand words, but one night I managed to hit 10,000 words. People don’t believe me when I say that, but I can touch-type at 100 words per minute. I’ll let you do the maths to see if it’s possible … My lead character in that book was an alcoholic, and I became him. I finished the first draft in September of 2013 and celebrated by going sober for charity. I have a writer friend who methodically plans his books. We generally take the same amount of time to bang out 100,000 words that we’re happy with, but I do my tidying up at the end. He does it at the beginning. To get through writer’s block, I crack open a bottle of vodka and drink it neat. If I can’t break through the block, at least I’m getting drunk and having fun.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I usually become my lead character. It’s the only way I can figure how to get them out of a tight spot. Sometimes, though, my lead character will just do something unexpected, and I’m sat there wondering why. It’s curious. It’s not even a conscious act. He might say or do something which, although is well within his character, is not something I was expecting. And then I may have to mull things over for a few days to think of in what direction the book will head. For “Putrid Underbelly”, I ended up becoming obsessed with Internet gore websites, because that was a key feature of the book, something the lead character became obsessed with. Invariably, it’s not good becoming my characters, but it has to be done.
What advice would you give other writers?
I would say, “Just write – don’t procrastinate.” If you’re struggling to finish your novel, write a short story. Or even better, write more than one book at a time. That way, if you’re suffering with writer’s block, you can always move your attentions to a different plot. Don’t set yourself a target of writing, say, 500 words a day. Write, if you can, but if you can’t, if it won’t come, go out and get drunk.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
When I sent “die Stunde X” (an alternative history novel) to publishers in 1995, they told me it wasn’t original, that it had been done before. Now the market is saturated with alternative history novels. Similarly, with “For the Love of the Devil” (an erotic YA horror story), I was told that it was difficult to place the story in one particular genre. I figured after then that I didn’t have much faith in conventional publishing. I desperately wanted to see my books in print, so I went down the Lulu.com route perhaps 6 years ago with “The Journal”. To hold that book in my hand was a momentous occasion. Nowadays, though, with self-publishing on the Kindle, it’s easier to get your work in people’s hands. I’m not top of the best-seller list, but to a writer, even one reader is fantastic. My current bestselling book is “die Stunde X”, and that’s almost 20 years old. The problem with self-publishing is that your books may well be riddled with typos. You have to be a harsh editor as well, unless you’re going to pay somebody to edit your work. Would I go with a mainstream publisher? Only if I could retain the right to self-publish anything and everything that they didn’t want to publish.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
The self-publishing market is full of writers – the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Indie writers have been given bad press, particularly by publishers and published writers. I’ve uncovered many gems, some of them raw, some needing a bit more work, but in some cases still far superior to the mainstream published writers. It’s easier to download something onto your Kindle at midnight rather than wait to visit Waterstones in the morning. Nothing beats the tactile feel of a paperback book, its spine cracked as you turn the pages, but the Kindle is the future. When you self-publish, you get 70% from each sale. You won’t get that much from a mainstream publisher, and in many cases, you’ll still have to do much of the marketing yourself. The mainstream publishers may eventually cotton onto the fact that there are thousands of Indie writers out there who are just as good as the people they’ve given massive advances to, and perhaps that will open things up for the rest of us.
What do you use?
What genres do you write?
transgressive, alternative history, thriller
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print
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