07 April 2012

Novel-Writing and Publishing, the Second Time Around: Richard Godwin

I've hosted a promotional post from Richard Godwin in the past on this blog, but my curiosity went farther than just what his new novel, Mr. Glamour is about. I was interested in the process; what went on behind the scenes, and the amount of research and work went into the creation. I asked Richard a few questions, and his answers are rather useful for writers/authors of all sorts. Now on his second release, Richard has a greater wealth of experience and information to share. Please help me welcome Richard Godwin to speak of the processes behind writing and publishing a novel. - CC

CC - Hi Richard, thank you for this opportunity. 
Since this is your second novel you've released, what was different this time around than the first? Do you feel that the process has gotten easier? What did you learn between APOSTLE RISING and MR GLAMOUR?
 RG - I wrote Apostle Rising over two and a half years ago. That was the first draft and then I edited it of course, but that is an illustration of how slow traditional publishing is. I wrote Mr. Glamour over a year ago and of course edited it. I think between the two novels I have learned more about tightness in narrative structuring. I did extensive planning for Apostle Rising and also saw the novel take its own organic path. While planning is important, it is also vital you allow the story to breathe and with Mr. Glamour, I saw what the story wanted to be with less planning.
I think it is a more structured story, as one reviewer has picked up. Apostle Rising is a great read and has received excellent reviews.  It has some profound passages and a shock when you find out who the killer is.  But Mr. Glamour is lean and muscled, full of the glitz of the glamour set and the pace is relentless. The ending is a series of shocks.

CC - So you're into shocking readers with lots of twists and turns. I suspect this all takes a lot of research or know-how to get the story as realistic as possible. How much research went into Mr. Glamour? Do you have any background that helped you write this book?
 RG - Writing police procedurals does take research and while that is a part of Apostle Rising it is less so a part of Mr. Glamour. In Mr. Glamour I was more interested in digging into the psyches of the two cops. Jackson Flare is a troubled man who is disfigured. There is a story behind that. There is also a dangerous pimp out to kill Flare. Mandy Steele has a trauma, it is something she keeps to herself since she wants to maintain a somewhat idealized set of beliefs about the police, but the case tests her and opens a wound. She descends into a dark path, pushing her sexual boundaries in private in ways that some readers may find shocking. But I believe police officers male and female are human, they do a job but are subject to all the frailties that beset any other individual. As such, this taps into a theme I am interested in: The relationship between law and crime and the overlap between the two. Many detectives have strong criminal shadows, as Carl Jung pointed out. There is a tendency for people to believe they know their limits but again and again in war we see relatively adjusted individuals committing atrocities. Whether this is as result of the licence that war provides and is an illustration that society functions only because it has a punitive legal system, or because the breaking point in an individual alters them and their morality, are issues that are impossible to define. Yet they expose the fundamental fragility of the things we take for granted. Extreme crime takes anyone brought into contact with it to the darker recesses of the human psyche. In war those same aspects are exposed. The army tests a soldier's limits. Physical fitness and strength are easy to come by but the army wants men who will not break. So they find the limit. Soldiers operate as part of the machine. But the machine breaks down, and it does so when the authority structure fails. Embedded in that is the need to abnegate personal responsibility. People accept authority largely but not always because they can be relieved of their responsibility. The killer in Mr. Glamour takes full responsibility for his crimes in a shocking way and one that does not leave Flare and Steele feeling vindicated. He also subverts an authority system that is corrupt from the inside and makes the reader question the nature of reality.
There are many twists and turns because the characters showed me what was happening. In  terms of my background, I have read a lot. I used to lecture in English and American literature and if you read attentively you see the techniques writers use to create their effects. There are many styles in which a novel can be written. Sadly, there is a school of thought that believes there is only one way of writing it. Mr. Glamour is made up of some wealthy men and beautiful women and some low lifes and two hardened professionals. The glamorous people in the novel can buy anything, except their safety from a killer who is watching everyone.

CC - You've mentioned your agent, and I think lots of writers have the ambition to find one in order to get their books into larger publishers. Do you have any advice for those who are on the lookout for an agent? Any words of warning?
RG - I spent a lot of time a few years ago trying to get an agent with a near success from one who asked to read two entire manuscripts only to say that she liked what I'd written but wouldn't take me on at that time owing to the economic climate. That was good, since they don't ask to read several hundred pages if they're not interested.
The advice I would give to a writer trying to find one is always approach them in the correct manner.
Firstly, find out what genres they represent. Secondly, if they fit your style then send an inquiry. Do not send them sample chapters until they have OK'd it. Then if they give you the go ahead send them what they want. Make the synopsis short and effective. Give them an elevator pitch on your book.
A great elevator pitch is:
Alien is Jaws in space.
Then let them take their time. One idea is to find out who the agents are of authors who write like you. Approach them.
Each agent has a different spec, do not use a template. If they want hard copy send them what they ask for. I have been told this on good information, they hate chapters sent in shiny see through folders. They go shooting off their desks and end up behind the sofa with the squashed chocolates. If they ask for the full manuscript send it with an elastic band around it. Really.
I have been told that a bad agent is worse than no agent. The good ones have relationships with the big publishing houses and will get you a look in.
The agent I now have came looking for me. I did nothing to find her.

CC - Wow! It's got to make you feel good when you have agents looking for you. Let's talk about the editing process. How different is Mr. Glamour in its final form from the submission you sent in to the publisher?
RG – It does.
It's not hugely different, since I put it through a rigorous set of edits. There are areas where the publisher cut back scenes and asked for a few additions. I changed the first chapter. Also the ending is different.

CC - Tell me about how the cover was thought up and created. How much input were you allowed in its final appearance?
RG - I have input on my contract into the covers of my novels. I think that is important for a novelist. The concept is mine. I wanted a woman on the lens of a camera. I also got to choose the woman from a range of Getty images. The woman on the cover has the look I wanted.

CC - I've seen lots of your stories, ranging from Horror, to Noir, and everywhere in between. They're great, and all unique from one another. But I'm sure all that takes time. What does a busy author like you do to unwind on any given day?
RG - Thank you. I started off writing novels. I write stories because I love writing them and they are a good way of disseminating my name and keeping people entertained. They are also a useful forum for exploring genre. I've recently been writing Bizarro. I can write a story quickly. Novel writing gives you stamina. It is time consuming but I write every day. For relaxation I may have a glass of wine, watch a DVD in the evening, read a good book or email my good friend Carrie.

CC - :) Richard, I really appreciate your time for this post. Before I close, I have to ask, what are your plans for the future? Have another novel hidden in the shadows? Have you thought about screenplays, or anything else?
RG - I have just written a long story for an Italian publisher. It is called The Secret Hour and will be available as an E Book in both English and Italian this year. I have another novel which I hope will be released as an E Book later this year. Apostle Rising is also to be released as an E Book this year. I am writing the sequel to it now. I would be interested in writing a screenplay. Hopefully one of my novels will be made into a film. And Apostle Rising is being translated into Hungarian, the publisher there is printing 5,000 copies. I will also be in Pulp Ink 2 and Pulp Modern. And my Mustard Man anthology is out in ebook format now with Pulp Metal Fiction. But the real question is: Who is Mr. Glamour?
Carrie, thank you, it's been great talking to you.

Richard's works available:

            Mr. Glamour

Apostle Rising

Piquant Tales of The Mustard Man


JD Mader said...

Thanks for an illuminating interview!

AJ Hayes said...

Thanks you two. Interesting questions and straightforward responses. I've had the pleasure of reading Apostle Rising and am now happily enmeshed in Mr. Glamour. Both books are quite different from each other and at the same time (thanks to the strong voice and style of the author)similar. Both deal unflinchingly with the most graphic of subjects. Neither backs down a hair at the events they protray. Each share a capacity to make the reader think. Both consider the "why" of horrific events; the psychological reasoning behind the savage attacks depicted within their pages and -- more importantly -- how that destruction wreaks the worst of psychological havoc with the pair of "good guys" looking for the perpetrator. Again, thanks, Carrie and Richard, for a smashing interview.

Paul D Brazill said...

Great stuff. I'm reading Mr Glamour now, and it's a beaut.

Unknown said...

Thanks everyone for stopping by. I wanted to dig a little deeper into Mr. Godwin. I'm pleased with the results!

Unknown said...

Oh yeah!
What an intelligent & poetic writer. Makes you bloody sick. Ha!

Unknown said...

A great interview from the well though out questions to the enlightening answers. Richard is a brilliant writer with a unique storyteller's voice, so it was a pleasure to understand a little more about his process.

Good luck with the Mr Glamour and the upcoming e-books. Thanks for the interview Carrie.

Miss Alister said...

Wow. Most edifying. And downright effusive for Mr. Godwin! What form of coercion or magic did you use Carrie?! Brilliant interview, you two : )

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for your comments. Carrie I do wish you'd stop calling me Mr. Godwin.

Unknown said...

Fascinating insight into a quite brilliant mind. Well done, Carrie, for peeling back a few more of Richard's many layers. The planning and structure pointers were particularly pertinent to me as I continue to learn the craft.


Unknown said...

Excellent insight into a dark and brilliant mind, Carrie! Thank you for having Richard come around and share some of his thoughts.

Just in the relatively short time I have known Richard, I have come admire both the man and his writing greatly. His writing, because it never disappoints... Richard doesn't pull punches. His unique insight into the human condition... what makes us... what drives us... what we fear most... transforms ink and paper into a an experience for his readers not soon forgotten. What was it I said in my review of Apostle Rising, Richard? "Noir/horror has a new master... and its name is Richard Godwin." I am watching the mail every day for the arrival of Mr Glamour!

On a personal note, Richard has been more than just a mentor to me... I count Richard as a true friend. His support and encouragement have 'propped' me up more than once when I have been discouraged or lost, overwhelmed. Richard's advice and suggestions have helped me immeasurably... most notably some advice he gave me with my NANO novel - which I am pleased to say, has made it through a second draft - and when I stopped and listened, really listened to what the story was trying to tell me, so much just fell into place.

I don't think I can ever thank Richard enough for the time he has spent with this 'fledgling' writer... oh look at me? Running off again... haha!

I like what you say about war, Richard and how it changes people and their perceptions, their values.

We think we know our limits, but until they have really been tested, as in war, can any of us say with any certainty how we will act? I think deep down in our psyches is that 'voice' that dreads and fears the 'license'... the justification... that war gives us because we don't really want to know what we are capable of... and at the same time, there is a part that speaks to a primal need that has been with man ever since he walked out of that first cave, and which war allows us to shed the eggshell thin cloak of civilisation and respectability we all wear. For the man of honour, the license of war allows him to peel back that cloak and do what must be done to combat evil... even if it means turning to a criminal. I mentioned this to Richard a while back, as an example… the French during World War II. For many of them, they had to turn their entire value system over to defeat their common enemy, the Nazis. Good, decent, moral, law-abiding citizens had to set aside that cloak of civilization and respectability… they had to become criminals to defeat criminals… to protect themselves, their families, their country… the freedom of a nation…to defeat evil.

Sometimes 'good' isn't enough to defeat 'evil'... sometimes evil must be met with evil, and we pray that in the end, that 'good' part of us will triumph. That we can put that cloak back on… patch the tears and burns… and try to rebuild a country… or a life.

I think for most people, it is not the threat of a punitive legal system that brings us back from the edge, so to speak, but because there is a morality that is so deeply ingrained in us, it can't be overcome by evil.

I’m probably running out of comment space, so I will wrap up…

Thank you both for a wonderful, thought-provoking interview, and Richard… all the best with all your endeavours.

Carrie, I wish you success in all that you do as well. I am glad for another reason that I came over here to your site. I see a couple of books that I need to add to my ‘must-read’ bookshelf!

Thank you both!

Anonymous said...

Col glad you enjoyed it. Carrie thank you for hosting me.

Anonymous said...

Veronica thank you so much. I was delighted by your review of Apostle Rising and will be more than interested to hear what you think of Mr. Glamour. You are right in your observations, war is an area that provides much scope for narratives, since moral notions and law as we know it are held in abeyance, and in that context character can be tested and explored. Great to see you here and great news on your Nano novel.