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Monday, 11 October 2010

Author Interview with Monique Martin

Monique Martin, a graduate of USC's Film School, is a full-time freelance writer. In addition to writing documentaries, industrial films and screenplays, Monique has just published her first novel, Out of Time.

Tell us about Out of Time in a few sentences.

Out of Time is paranormal and time travel romance filled with action, adventure and suspense. A professor of the occult and his assistant are transported back to 1929 New York City
where the underworld of crime is run by the underworld of demons. They struggle to survive
the demons and each other until the next lunar eclipse can bring them home
 
What qualities do you need to be a successful writer?

I think understanding what makes people tick is the key. Why do we love each other? What makes you hate someone? And, having a thick skin (rejection isn't any fun) helps too. You're going to get knocked down. If you want to succeed, you have to get back up and keep swinging. Being slightly insane doesn't hurt.

What is your working method?

I just let it all out. I find if I edit as I go, I kill my flow. It's so easy to start obsessing of the smallest thing - over one word out of 100,000 and lose yourself in that. So, I have to just let what comes, come and clean it up later.

What is the single biggest mistake made by beginners to writing?

They let their excitement get the better of them and forget that after the art comes the craft. Writing is rewriting. Your first draft shouldn't be your last.

How did you come to write this particular book?

I think I was watching a documentary about Al Capone or some other gangster from the 1920s. I've always been a fan of the supernatural, the paranormal. And, I just came up with the "what if" idea of the underworld of gangsters actually being ruled by the Underworld of demons. I just loved that idea and slowly the characters and the rest of the story grew from that.

If you have a favourite character in your novel, why that particular one?

Oh, that's a Sophie's choice. I love them all for different reasons. I think Simon Cross is my favorite. He's the hero. I have a bit of a crush on him. But, other than the obvious answer, there's a very small character named Frank. He's not really that integral to the part, but he made me look at history in a new way. He made me see the period I was writing about in context. 1929 didn't just appear, it was borne of the decade before it and the scars from WWI were still raw. Frank brought that home for me.

How can people buy your book?

Out of Time is available in Amazon's Kindle Store both in the US and the UK. It's also available through Smashwords and ebook retailers like Barnes and Noble, Apple's iBookstore and Diesel eBooks.

To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer?

Very. Now, that said, a good proofreader can help writers who aren't the most skilled grammarians. But, in the final edit, it's got to be right.

How much revision of your MS do you do before you send it off?

Revisions can be a Möbius strip if you aren't careful. It's easy to get caught up in rewriting your rewrite over and over. Just a bit more! I know it can be better! At some point you have to let it go. I probably did three full revisions before I could let Out of Time out of my sight.

Where and when is your novel set and why did you make these specific choices?

It's a time travel adventure so it starts in the contemporary world, Santa Barbara, California to be exact, but quickly changes to 1929 New York City. I love Jazz Age Manhattan. I think I had almost as much fun researching as I did writing.

It was that documentary about gangsters during prohibition that gave birth the story. And, it was such a rich backdrop for writing a romantic adventure. The music, the clothes, the danger. I miss it!

To what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world?

It's crucial and that's both good and bad. People are in a rush and they need things to be quickly identifiable. Oh, that's a romance. Oh, that's a mystery. It helps. But, it can also pigeonhole you. I think Out of Time crosses several genres. It's too early to say if that will help or hurt it.

What are your writing habits?

I write every day. Like it or not. Sometimes what I write is rubbish, but that's all right too. It's like digging for gold, you've got to remove a lot of dirt before you get to the good stuff.

How do you know where to begin any given story?

I really put a lot of thought into that and once I decide on just the right starting point, I start the book after that. I studied screenwriting and one of the rules that I've carried over into my other writing is to start late and end early. Throw people into a scene and leave before it reaches a complete conclusion.

What sort of displacement activities keep you from actually writing?

I'm very easily distracted. I tend to multitask and that can be my downfall. I'm working, but not really focused. I come from a line of brilliant procrastinators, so I excel at wasting time. I learned early on not to play solitaire or any addictive game. I put on some music and literally force myself into the chair.

Do you have support, either from family and friends or a writing group?

While I was writing Out of Time I was lucky enough to be in a wonderful writing group with some very talented writers. They helped me make it better in every way imaginable. My friends and family are incredibly supportive. Quite a few of them art artists themselves, so they understand how hard it is.

Is presentation of the MS as important as most agents and publishers suggest?

Well, it's certainly got to be professional looking. No coffee stains on the cover, margins where they should be, no "creative fonts", but what's inside is what really matters.

How long does it normally take you to write a novel?

Six months to a year. It depends on "real life". It does have a tendency to get in the way. I have more time to write now, so I might be able to speed up that time table. We shall see!

What are your inspirations?

I'm inspired by so many things. From my mom to Abraham Lincoln. That sounds a little nutty, doesn’t it? There are far too many writers to list who've inspired me. I always turn to Victor Hugo's Les Miserables when I need a kick in the brain. I love Anthony Horowitz's work. More his TV than his books though. Foyle's War is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. Brilliant. And, I'm a Sherlockian, so I find inspiration from both Holmes and Doyle.

If there’s a single aspect to writing that really frustrates you, what is it?

Starting. A blank page is evil.

Do you think writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?

Both. I do think some have a gift for it, but the craft can be taught. I've always felt that if you can think it, you can write it.

What are you writing now?

I'm working on three projects right now. One is the sequel to Out of Time. The second is a humorous coming of age novella set in 1973 about a young boy obsessed with Marvel comics. And, the third is my father's memoirs based upon his time in the Air Force Air Sea Rescue.

Is there any aspect of writing that you really enjoy?

Oh, so much of it. I think my favorite part is the escape. It's like getting paid to daydream. How fantastic is that?

Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?

Good question! I'm not sure I could handle being ensconced in a cabin in the woods or even a hut on some tropical beach, although, I'd probably get a lot done. I think I actually have the ideal environment right now. I love where I live and, frankly, when I'm writing I lose myself completely so it doesn’t matter where I am really.

Where do you actually write?

Wherever I am. Typically, that means at the desk in my office. But, sometimes I'll walk up to the park and plant myself at a picnic table. I do my best thinking, which I think is perhaps just as important as the physical writing, in the shower. Truly. I think it's because I'm so relaxed that all of my brain can focus on the writing and not worry about what's for dinner or who I need to call back.
 
Now, you know more about me than you probably wanted to. Thanks so much for your time, Stuart. It's been wonderful.




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