Interview with Merlin Fraser
Author of Inner Space
How long have you been writing fiction in a serious way?
I first started about six, seven years ago with an idea for a children’s television series before discovering I knew nothing about writing for the screen. I was convinced the idea was good and started to write it down in a story. I still have it on file somewhere but never took it any further than that. However, by that time I had been bitten by the bug.
How does writing fiction make you feel?
Like a General in charge of an army. Everything and everybody is there for you to command, you get to decide who lives and who dies, it’s quite a buzz.
Has your feeling about writing changed over time?
Frustration is the biggest single change to come for any new writer when you finally realize that you have created, what you think, is this great masterpiece and it remains a secret because it is hard to bring your work to market. I sometimes think that if I knew then what I know now, I might never have started. It’s a tough world, but I still dream one day…
What do you see as some of your strong points?
I’m a fighter, either that or I’m too dumb to quit.
What do you see as your weak spot in writing? Are you working on that, and how?
My weakness is my inability to convince the publishing world I exist. Getting my work before the reading public is my greatest challenge, it’s like pushing water uphill. But like a lot of other writers I keep plugging away, you have to, the alternative is to quit trying.
Tell us a bit about the project you're working on right now.
‘Inner Space,’ is a trilogy of stories exploring the lost or hidden powers of the human mind, hence the name. The stories take the form of murder mysteries involving a police detective whose world, and beliefs, are turned upside down by a series of bewildering events. He has to turn to a university professor studying ‘Near Death’ experiences to find answers. Book One is complete and already in print. Book Two will be out in a couple of months, and Book three hopefully by the end of the year.
How do you get ideas?
I have quite a vivid imagination. There are many things that interest me, for instance the Supernatural and Paranormal. I read once that we humans can control only about 20% of our brain function. Another 20% is reserved for the automatic side of life like breathing and other bodily functions. I wondered what the other 60% was up to. There are amazing stories of people who have had ‘Out of Body’ experiences, usually as a result of a Near Death incident. I found myself wondering ‘What If,’ What if you could leave your body at will, where would you go, what would you do? In Inner Space, I explore the darker side of ‘What If.’
When writing a book, do you work from page 1 and go steady towards a first draft? Or do you work in several sections of the story all at once?
I spend a long time thinking about the plot, and I will write down a lot of notes, mainly as memory aids, but usually by the time I sit down to write I have a clear idea where I’m going. Getting a story to flow in the first instance is hard, but once it starts to roll I’m a lot happier. When I start to write, I don’t necessarily know how it will end; however, when you have the ending set in your head it is easier to write towards it.
Do you edit your own work?
Yes, and No! When the creative juices flow, I never stop writing no matter what, I ignore spelling and grammar, everything, I just keep going until I hit a wall or run out of steam. I will leave it for a day and then go back and reread it. Sometimes a lot of it will be rubbish and get binned. I’m very lucky that I have one or two good and honest friends who will read the story as it goes along. They will tell me if I’ve lost them or if I’ve lost the plot or I’m waffling on.
Who else do you consult about your work prior to publication?
I have a proof-reader and someone who corrects my grammar when I get carried away. I have a great cover artist. Recently, I joined a couple of great Internet sites where I have met fellow writers, we share thoughts and ideas, and I have found a wonderful wealth of talent who want to help.
What is your genre, if you should put a label on your writing?
Tough one, I wander around. The first thing I wrote was a magical fantasy, but I enjoyed writing the Inner Space Murder Mysteries, although I steer clear of the ‘Who Dunit’ genre. There are people far better at those than I am, and it’s hard to be different. I am in the process of writing a children’s story, as an experiment, and that is what it is because I don’t have any children of my own, but it’s in my head and the only thing to do with that is write it down.
Do you build characters and scenes in a systematic way?
My characters are loosely based on people I know or have known, or bits of them, so when a situation develops in the story I know how each character will react. That is, take it in their stride, run and hide or just faint. Scenes develop along with the plot line, again I draw on my own knowledge and travel experiences, although to write Inner Space I had to visit the city of Cambridge for background. I needed a university that everyone would know, and Collin Dexter had already pinched Oxford.
Do you sketch out your story and plot before you start a new project?
Not really, lots of notes and jottings, but mostly it’s already in my head. If there are inaccuracies, they will show up as I start writing, and I can modify or adapt as I go along.
How do you feel about getting literary critique for your work?
Depends on the mood I’m in at the time. It is an important part of a writer’s life and is vital if you want to get on and improve your writing and techniques. Although it can be a double edged sword: Constructive criticism I can take; I know I’ll never be up there with the greats of literature, I don’t need some newspaper hack to tell me.
On a scale from 1 to 100, how content are you with your own writing?
50. I don’t think any writer is ever content with their writing, it’s a project you start and finish mainly to get it out of your head. When you go back and review it, you always think you could have done it better. Least ways I always seem to do that.
Are you exploring new themes and ideas to write about, if so which ones?
All the time. As I mentioned earlier, I am exploring a new idea for a children’s story, I have a political murder mystery bouncing around in my head, a sort of follow on from Inner Space but a lot darker.
Anything else you'd like to add for our readers?
If you’re a writer, or like me a ‘wannabe,’ don’t give up trying, we have chosen a lonely and tough world to try and conquer and there’s a lot of us out there. If you’re a reader, then seek out Inner Space and help me to stave off starvation.
Merlin, thank you very much indeed!
Thank you for this wonderful opportunity!
(c) Copyright 2010
This interview was prepared by: Novelty - The Literary Showcase
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