SCIENCE fiction and science fantasy writer Julian M. Miles, pictured, found success publishing short stories, and from this found the confidence to launch his own website and has self-published four books so far. More details of his books at www.lizardsofthehost.co.uk
In no more than ten words, why did you become a writer?
A progression from storytelling that has been even more fun.
What motivated you to quit your day job?
I haven’t! I became unemployed in late 2010, suffered a few personal setbacks, then collated, revised and/or completed my early work for private publication while job hunting. As the climate for job hunting, especially in my career path, became very difficult, writing was, and remains, a way to do something while still searching. In early 2012, I sat down and had a good, long look at the publishing industry. In mid 2012, I decided to do the whole thing on my own, as far as I could. (Which means pretty much everything apart from volume distribution and a big marketing budget.) If all goes according to plan, I will have a ‘day job’ to support my writing, sooner or later. I consider the chance of my stories achieving a status where writing alone can support me to be slim. It would be a fine thing, but a certain cynicism/realism has to be applied.
How did you get your first proper opportunity?
A Canadian-based website specialising in science fiction, science fantasy and speculative flash fiction, 365 Tomorrows – http://365tomorrows.com – brought to my attention a specialised form of story making – flash fiction. I found a knack for it and became a staff writer for the site in late 2011. I have three stories a month published on the site – they publish a new story every day, either from the half-dozen staff writers or submissions from around the world.
What’s the worst thing about self-publishing?
Apart from the derisory view that many people hold of books published by the author without the implicit ‘seal of approval’ gained by having a deal with a publisher, I have found that the doubts are the worst. From the quality of each story to the cover art, format, layout and design, every aspect may feel and look right, but the little doubts regarding worthiness persist.
What is the best thing about the career path you have chosen?
For all the travails in my life, they have culminated in me being able to write. While I may have some regrets and several embarrassing memories I wish I hadn’t caused, I have nothing to complain about.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
On the writing front, I hope that is yet to come. Personally, it was helping a dear friend through some very difficult times. Details of said are not mine to divulge.
Can you share some of the ‘great works’ that have inspired you?
Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy is, to me, the finest piece of fantasy ever written. The sheer scope of the work, implicitly and explicitly, is staggering in its all-encompassing sweep. For science fiction, Kevin J. Anderson’s Saga of the Seven Suns stands as the most massive (seven volumes and a graphic novel prequel) work that delivers a satisfying story. Scott Westerfeld’s The Risen Empire took my breath away with its use of technology. Joel Shepherd’s first Cassandra Kresnov trilogy – Crossover, Breakaway and Killswitch is a beautiful example of science fiction thriller that addresses some deep concepts. In the graphic novel format, J. Michael Straczynski’s Midnight Nation is a masterpiece. I also have to acknowledge Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone and R.W. Chamber’s King in Yellow. Finally, the early works of Andre Norton and any of Mick Farren’s fiction – I consider them to be the two writers that have had the greatest influence on my writing style.
What do you think is the secret to having a goodwriting career?
Keep writing. Never stop. Seek out people who will be honest about your writing, in grammar and in content. But never let anyone dictate to you about the stories you are telling. They can advise you, but it is your story. Tell it your way.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just finished re-reading David Gunn’s Deaths Head trilogy and Steve Wilson’s 13, an old biker classic that I have only just managed to find a decent copy of. At this moment, I have nothing in progress, but am looking forward to Joel Shepherd’s 23 Years on Fire arriving soon.
What are you goals for the future?
They are distressingly simple, really. A job to support me while I continue to write. I have many more stories to tell and I’d like to get to a point where I can take the time to work on the couple of really big writing projects I have had lying around in fragment and note forms for over 20 years.
What are you most looking forward to in 2014?
Publishing more books, writing more stories, finishing a couple of books that I started writing this year.
Do you agree that you must ‘write what you know’?
In part. Having a ‘working’ knowledge of a topic can lend technical depth and provide insights that the average reader is unaware of, but really, you should write what you want to and do it when the inspiration arrives. Get it down on ‘paper’, at least enough to capture the feel and idea. Even if it’s not fit for publication, it’s all good practice, keying your creativity to the outlet of writing. Imagination is designed to take you places where you haven’t been, after all. If that place happens to be an area where there are genuine experts available, do research and strike up a conversation with them after you have captured the core of the work. Insight from professionals can improve your work, but only you can create the story.