Tell me a little about yourself, personally.
My name’s Paul Blake. I’m 44, and live in London, UK. I am married to an amazing wife and have three boys aged 20, 8, and 6. For my day job I work in a call centre dealing with housing repairs. It’s a bit shit but pays the bills. I’m not very good at talking about myself, which bodes well for the rest of this interview.
What is the name of the book or books you have published?
I’ve published a spy thriller novel named A Young Man’s Game, and a short story collection A Few Hours After This, and a very short story collection called Love in the Mind. I have also had two short stories published in the anthology Trumpland: Divided We Stand which came out this month, and another short story published in the March/April 2019 issue of Kyanite Press.
Where can they be found?
They are all on Amazon, available in paperback, and Kindle formats. The books I’ve published are also in Kindle Unlimited.
Do you have any current WIPs?
I have two current WIPs. A sequel to A Young Man’s Game and a modern-day ninja story, tentatively called Revenge of the Ninja.
How are they going?
They are both at the very early stages and have been for a while, to be honest. I have recently set myself the goal of completing the first draft of a second novel by the end of the year, but I haven’t decided if that will be one of the existing WIPs or a brand new one.
What got you into writing?
I fell in to writing by accident just over three years ago. I was doing an IT degree and failing. I needed two modules to the complete it and decided on a whim to try creative writing. I remember liking writing when I was at school, all those many years ago, but I never continued it as an adult. My first assignment was a 700-word short story and I loved the whole writing process. From the initial freewrite to get the idea, to the writing and playing with words, and the editing process at the end to polish the story. My story received great feedback and a passion had been ignited. If you’re interested, I published that first story in A Few Hours After This. It’s called Watching. Before publishing I did go through the story and tidied it up the punctuation and grammar quite a bit, but the actual story is pretty much intact.
What keeps you focused?
I’ve figured out that I need a deadline, be it a competition deadline for a short story or an arbitrary one set by myself. Otherwise I’m a terrible procrastinator, as shown by the two barely started WIPs.
What gives you inspiration?
Anything can give me inspiration. I’m a member of a small writing group and each month we have a short story competition where a prompt or theme is set, and we have to write a short story based on that. Last month the prompt was ‘A story about time’ and after a thinking session I came up with the story similar to the premise if you could go back in time would you kill Hitler, however I changed it to relate to Brexit (The United Kingdom leaving the European Union) and flipped it so the main character was someone trying to prevent someone killing one of the main figures in the Leave campaign and change history. You can read that story on my website – Project Aegis http://paulblakeauthor.com/2020/01/31/project-aegis-short-story/. Once the competition is over, I usually run through the feedback I’m given and make any necessary alterations and then post the story on my site. Once I’ve built up a decent number, I’ll put them in a short story collection, like I did with A Few Hours After This.
For my novel A Young Man’s Game I wanted to write a thriller, as that’s the genre I read the most, however I didn’t want the main character to be a complete indestructible bada** so I decided to make him older and cut off from a support network so he had to rely on his training and natural cunning to survive. He sure gets into a great deal of trouble. I felt sorry for him when writing the novel. I may have punished him a bit too much.
How do you battle writer’s block?
I’ve never actually had writer’s block. There’s been times where I haven’t written anything, but through laziness rather than an actual ‘can’t write’ situation. Whenever I’ve made myself write I’ve found it comes back to me. However, saying that at one stage when I was writing A Young Man’s Game, I’d reached a boring part of the story (boring to write, not to read, of course) and was struggling with motivation. I watched the movie Atomic Blonde which is set in Berlin, like my novel, and it gave me the urge to get back to my novel. I think I stayed up to 4am that night and wrote two whole chapters after seeing it.
Did you decide on traditional or self publishing?
With A Young Man’s Game, I entered a competition to win the chance to get it published. It came third in the competition which is pretty good for a genre novel against more traditional literary works. Unfortunately, the publishing company was one of those vanity publishers, so after a year I withdrew the book from them and self published it instead.
What made you make that choice?
The main reason was that they were taking 50% of the royalties and did absolutely nothing to earn them. They didn’t promote my book, hell they didn’t even put it on their website. The cover I designed and made. They uploaded a crappy resolution cover to Amazon, making the book immediately look unprofessional, then they made spelling mistakes on the product description (which weren’t on the description I gave them). They didn’t give me monthly breakdowns of sales so I couldn’t see what the effect different promotion techniques had. I got a breakdown at the end of the year which was no use except to see how much they and their printers took from the sales. I decided enough was enough and as soon as I received my royalties, I contacted them and withdrew my book from them. I then put it on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing system myself and instantly felt a lot more comfortable and in control of the book. The cover image is now a decent quality and I fixed and improved the product description. The process was so straight-forward that I self-published my short story collection, and will self publish my future books too.
How does it feel to be considered an author?
It feels great. People I meet ask me what I do and rather than mumble boring call centre job I can say ‘Author’ and immediately they are interested, asking questions about my books and how I became an author. It sure makes small talk a lot easier. When writing I get a huge buzz when the words are flowing and the story takes shape exactly as I imagined it when planning, and the feeling you get when you hold your book for the first time is incredible. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that these books, that readers love, came out of my stupid head. The best thing though is hearing my little boys speaking to their friends and teachers and telling them that I’m an author and they have such pride in their voices. It’s incredible.
What’s your social media platforms for people to find you?
I’m active on Twitter at https://twitter.com/paulblakeauthor. That’s probably the platform I use the most. I also have a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/paulblakeauthor/ and a website where I post my latest short stories for free http://paulblakeauthor.com and I’ve started using Instagram but I haven’t figured it out really https://www.instagram.com/paulblake_author/. I messed up when registering for that otherwise that would have been @paulblakeauthor too grrrrrr.