Hello, all of you wonderful peeps! Today, as part of my string of author interviews, I’ll be chatting it up (kind of) with the one and only Stephen Coghlan.
I’d like to thank all the incredible authors who want to be part of this. You guys are awesome and I hope you never change (except to improve your writing, of course!). As always, everything Stephen said is as is, and my comments will be in italics.
Author Name: Stephen M. Coghlan
Brief Description: A constantly growing author who writes from just outside Canada’s national capital. His works include the novels GENMOS: Gathering Storms and the upcoming Nobilis: Seedling, as well as a myriad of short stories.
Find me on twitter and Facebook as @WordsBySC
- What is your earliest memory of writing an original story?
- Oh, I wrote a few during middle school. I had already begun to get plot bunnies constantly bouncing about in my brain, but back then my writing style needed LOTS of work.
I don’t think anyone is an expert writer at that age. Even when you’re older and wiser, there’s always room to improve and change things up.
- What authors inspire you?
- Anne McCaffrey was the one author who finally set my hooks in hard. I loved her Pern series and her collaborations with Jody Lynn Nye, and it encouraged me to really explore science fiction. Frank Herbert was next, as I devoured all of his works, (not just Dune) that I could get my hands on.
I also want to shout out to those who wrote for comics. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Todd McFarlan’s Spawn, Garth Ennis’ Preacher, and Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal.
- Where do you get your inspiration from?
- I have an overactive imagination. I think, from over the years of challenging myself to become an author, I developed a mental habit where my brain tries to make every thought cinematic. I can get inspired from looking at a picture in a book, a song, a moment of rage, a single commercial, or a desire to tell a created character’s story.
Inspiration hits you when you least expect it!
- How do you build your characters?
- I first give them either an interesting, or a realistic background. Whatever or whoever they are though, they must have lived some type of life. Create that, create them.
- Do you have pre-writing routines?
- No, not really. I write whenever I can, so whatever I was doing before is my pre-writing moment.
- What do you do to take a break from writing?
- Depends upon what I’m doing. As a father of young children AND someone who’s also working full time, stopping writing to do something else is an all-too-common experience.
Props to you for all that effort!
- When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
- When I realised that I had stories to tell. When I was a babysitter, I used to tell stories to the kids I was looking after. They demanded stories from me, so after a while, I began to put them to bed early, but stayed up late crafting worlds with them.
I wanted to see if I could still craft those worlds, and in high school, I began to date a girl who was into writing. In order to become more interesting to her, I began to join her writing groups. That was when the realization that I could write my stories really came to the forefront.
It always comes down to impressing a crush, hey?
- What’s your favourite point of view to write in?
- Depends upon the story. I like to write in first person for shorts, and even tried it out for a novel with an ensemble cast. That proved too complex in the end for others to follow, so I only use 1st person for shorts and novellas.
- How do you outline your stories?
- I start writing down ideas, and organize my thoughts using cut and pastes. Alternately, if I’m talking to any of my other writer friends, I will spitball ideas off of them. Sometimes they add in a word, other times, they ask to take a work and run with it. Lastly, I use voice recording apps constantly, since I have long drives. I’ll record my thoughts, and when I play them back, I write and add.
You have lots of different ways to outline! It’s amazing you can keep track of it all.
- What genre do you write and read in?
- I’m a huge fan of science fiction, post-apocalypse, and I’ve dabbled in fantasy, action, and a romance almost spy novel.
That being said, you could argue that I am predominantly an anthropomorphic or Furry Writer. ( I am a member of the Furry Writer Guild. ) Most of my works either have characters that are animal/human hybrids, or aliens and spaceships, robots and angels with human qualities. I use it as a way to express humanity, emotions, and politics through something that is familiar, but alien all at the same time.
That, and I’ll admit, that someday having claws and a tail would be pretty cool.
- What writing advice would you give to your past self?
- Don’t take criticism as a challenge. Not everyone who tells you something is looking to challenge you, and you aren’t always right. You might have written something confusing or incorrect. You’re not perfect.
I agree! Always listen carefully and don’t get defensive. Not all advice is worth taking, but always listen.
- What piece of advice do you commonly give, but have trouble following yourself?
- See above. I feel like every comment against my work is a threat, an aggression. My stories are my mind children, and a single remark against them bothers me. I have to take a breath and remind myself, constantly, that people are allowed their own opinion.
- What does your work environment look like?
- I write wherever and whenever I can. So this could get awkward. During the day I work in construction, but when an idea gets its hooks in me, I write it down. So I’ve penned ideas or sections on a roof 30 stories high, in a basement four layers below ground, in a ceiling with people walking by beneath me, in the comfort of my own home’s washroom, at the kitchen table before the sun gets up. . . you name it, I’ve probably worked on a story at it.
- What time of day are you most productive?
- Just before sunrise to about 10 in the morning.
- How do you motivate yourself to write when you’d rather not write at all?
- I remind myself that I have the chance to work on the stories rampaging through my mind. If I can get rid of one more from my brain, than I can make room for the next.
- What would you do if you weren’t a writer?
- I’d probably go mad. Despite my outgoing nature, I’m horribly introverted when it comes to my own thoughts and opinions. Writing is my chance to speak my emotions through my characters and events.
I’m the same way. I get panicked just thinking about not having writing.
- What is your favourite setting for a story?
- Surprisingly, Post Apocalyptic. I seem to be fascinated with the collapse of the modern world and the alteration of attitudes and societies. To date, I’ve written over a dozen post apocalyptic or apocalyptic stories, and have had four of them published or signed.
- What type of person is your main character (on average)?
- Generally, someone who works for a living. I love writing blue-collar or media involved characters. I like them to have some grit, some drive.
- Quick! Write a paragraph with this prompt: “the darkness rose through the sky.”
- It arced overhead, blocking out the sun like a giant monolith. Those below stared upwards in awe and confusion, uncertain what such a sign was a portent of, until it came crashing down among them, spreading chaos and fear wherever it touched.
- Have you ever taught someone how to write?
- I’ve inspired others to write, I’ve shown them how I’ve done it, but I’ve never taught anyone “How” to write.
- Tell a story about your greatest writing failure.
- I once wrote a short, paranormal bestiality porn. I did so out of anger. After receiving a deluge of rejections, or no news at all, I opened my computer and hammered out the work in about two hours. I considered sending it out to several erotic publishers, with the thought that, if it is taken, when all of my other works aren’t, I’ll surrender and stop writing.
I never did send it out. I held onto it, using it to remind myself that I can write stories that don’t embarrass me. I did show it as a joke to a few people, mostly those I could watch as their faces turned to shock and disgust.
Anything written in two hours in anger still needs plenty of editing. I don’t think people should be ashamed about writing in that topic, but if it’s horribly written it probably shouldn’t be shared until it’s remastered.
- Tell a story about your greatest writing success.
- Just, Getting, Published.
I spent fifteen years from when I penned my first novel, to finally getting a publisher who LIKES MY WORKS. In those years I learned, grew, evolved, and so did my slushpile and manuscripts. The moment I received my first contract, it was a sign that all that time had accomplished SOMETHING.
CONGRATULATIONS! We all pay our dues until that magical moment comes!
- How many drafts does it take to get you to the final product?
- Nowadays, three. One rough, one rewrite, and then a final edit.
- Who is a part of your core writing team?
- Me, myself and I. Writing is so personal that its something I can’t really share. I don’t commonly tell family or friends what I’m working on. Its become a superstition that if I tell someone, than the work won’t find a home.
I understand what you mean. It’s hard to share something especially when it’s not finished.
That being said, there are a few select palls that I do tell, but even then, it’s a rarity.
- Do you prefer self-publishing or the traditional way?
- To date, I’ve only self-published 2 short stories. Otherwise, all my works have been released through small press operations. Apparently I’m not mainstream material, but the fact that I’ve found a home among those who care and nurture a story to complete growth is exciting to me.
Pfft, who needs mainstream, am I right? (just kidding though, because both ways have merit)
- What advice can you give aspiring authors?
- Take advice, don’t have to apply it, but you should listen when it’s offered. Then, learn to streamline and learn to sell. Learn to show, not tell. Learn to trim the fat: if it’s not relevant to the story, you don’t need it there. Practice loglines and summaries until the cows come home.
Couldn’t have said it better myself!
- What is your most prized piece of work?
- Considering I’ve only been published for a year. . . Every piece I touch. I love them all, although I know that most of them still need work. I refuse to surrender any one of them.
- Aside from writing, what’s your favourite part about the whole process of publishing a book?
- Getting notes from an editor. I love seeing that someone has paid attention to my work, someone has cared enough to say, “Yah, I liked this.” Or “What if you did this instead.” It bothers me for a moment, but then I smile and see that someone is invested in my creations.
- What character, that you created, would you want to be your best friend?
- Kalle Aarons from Nobilis. He’s a veteran soldier, skilled tradesman, and he wouldn’t hesitate to come to a friends’ aid or lend an ear.
He sounds honorable.
- What world that you created would you want to live in?
- Knowing what happens to each of my worlds, I don’t know if I could choose one. Most of my worlds have their calamities, their terrors, their issues. At least, in the modern day, I have some expectations of how life will be.
- How did you feel when you first published any piece of work (novel, essay, short story, etc.)?
- I had been trying for so long to become published, that now, I’m addicted to it. I love seeing my name on a dust-jacket, on a cover. I love opening the pages and feeling the spine crinkle in my hands as the smell of fresh ink wafts through the room.
- What is your favourite quote from one of your stories?
- I can honestly admit to having removed this from my books so far, as I’m saving it for a special point in a future novel:
“Penny for your thoughts?”
“My thoughts aren’t that expensive.”
Whoever says this is going to be one sassy character!
- What is your favourite book of all time?
- I admit, I reference the bible often. I joke that if you’re looking for a story full of smut, wanton greed, lust, then have I got stories to show you.
- Which author do you want to give a special shout out to?
- I’m working with a British Vicar in training, Miles Pateman, on a book together. He too, constantly writes with anthropomorphic characters, but he just hasn’t had a work find a home yet. His talents are incredible and his ideas, phenomenal. His characters have a great voice.
Good luck, Miles!
- Do you think you’ll want to keep writing even after you’ve retired?
- I’m so far from retiring that I don’t even try to fathom that far ahead in my life. I’ll be honestly happy just to survive to retirement, knowing how foolish I can be. Sometimes, the things I do sober, most people wouldn’t do drunk. (see the Spartan photo)
- What project are you currently working on?
- Oh, this is a list and a half.
- The Sequel to GENMOS: Gathering Storms. Due to how drastically Gathering Storms changed from its original vision, it’s caused changes to the already written sequels. During editing, we took a 4 book series and cut it down to three, and some characters went through major overhauls.
- A dark and demonic erotic horror novel. Its origins lie in both a backed-up catheter and a combination of cold medicine and beer. It holds the darkest of my thoughts, and it’s been a struggle over the last year as I try to rewrite it. I’m not the same person who originally penned it.
- I’m coauthoring a story with Miles Pateman about a Trans man who goes to Britain in the search of his birth mother, when his dads admit that neither one is his biological parent.
- I’ve been getting requests to rewrite a spy/action novel that features a small, but ethnically diverse cast. I’m hoping to get to that shortly.
- And I’m still writing several shorts a month as I try to use anthologies and magazines to spread my name out there.
Sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate! Good luck!
Any last comments?
SHOUT OUT TO THURSTON HOWL PUBLICATIONS
Thank you for giving me my chance to tell my stories, and for showing me that I CAN write!
Shout out to the Furry crowd who first accepted me and encourage me to continue.
That’s all for Stephen! Thank you so much for participating and I wish you all the best in your future projects!
Thanks for reading, everyone! Join me on Friday for the next Canadian author! I’ll give you a hint, the initials are L.H.
If you have any ideas on what I should write about in my next post, head to the Suggestion Box. I’d love to hear from you.
STRENGTH FROM WITHIN, MY DEBUT NOVEL, IS AVAILABLE NOW IN KINDLE STORES AROUND THE WORLD.
Here’s a couple links to help you find it:
If you need help finding it for your country, let me know and I might have a link. Thanks so much! See you next time 🙂