Sunday, October 16, 2016

Author Interview: Steve Dillon, Author, Artist, Editor, Publisher, Publicist and Philanthropist

Hey fellow readers and writers. This week I am interviewing Steve Dillon: author, artist, editor, designer, publicist, publisher and philanthropist

Steve Dillon is one of over 30 artists and writers involved in the creation of the fantastic collaboration The Refuge Collection. The book can be described as a series of tales about a place called Refuge. "Heaven to Some, Hell to Others". It's a place where the thin veil of death is often torn asunder, where Egyptian gods roam freely alongside Lovecraft's mythos deities. There are tales of terror, suicide and murder, perverted priests, corrupt politicians. All in the name of charity, with stories from Ramsey Campbell, Kaaron Warren, Paul Kane, Lee Murray, Tracie McBride, Mark Allan Gunnells and many more! So far, 32 interwoven stories have been published online, and the last few tales are in progress. Book 1 is out now, (Heaven to Some...) and this contains the first 18 stories by 12 authors), and the remaining 18 will be included in book 2 (Hell to Others!)

Steve not only wrote 15 stories for Refuge, but also contributed artwork and cover design work. He was also the series editor.  All of that equals a pretty big job in my eyes. 

Well done Steve and thanks for coming today to talk to me about your contributions to The Refuge Collection. 
Can you tell us a bit about you as an author? 
Writing fiction has always been a hobby, but as our kids have grown older, I’ve found more and more time to develop the hobby. Writing is now a passion; a compulsion and is rapidly in danger of becoming an obsession.

What are the hardest part of being an author?
Finding the time to get the ideas down before the next idea hits me. That, and the dreams… When I’m immersed in any project, whether that’s painting or writing, sleep becomes more like walking I’m just walking in a different world. Since I started work in The Refuge Collection, each night is like a visit to Refuge. I dream its streets into being, meet up with and converse with its people, study about their personalities and wonder what adventures will befall them next. I seldom sleep more than a couple of hours before waking, and if the ideas are buzzing about me—the hornets, I call these—then getting back to sleep is very difficult. Sometimes I have to switch on the laptop and start writing. Is that bad?

What do you enjoy most about being an author? 
Above all, the ability to construct an alternate reality, to play out my dreams, to test my theories, explore the interactions between ideas and personalities. Of course, this can be done while I’m painting, but writing provides—for me at least—a much faster means of transport to get there.

What authors/books have had an influence on your writing? 
I’m hesitant to offer a long list of writers, but of course everything we read influences us. The first library book I recall reading was a Doctor Who story. It was way above my age, but I was enthralled and subsequently labelled a ‘bookworm’ by my family. After filling my world with Spiderman, Doctor Strange, The Avengers and all those early British Marvel comics, I moved on to read more Science Fiction—I was equally attracted to the artwork and I collected Sci-Fi posters and artwork. I turned to fantasy after a while— everything by Tolkien, Terry Brooks’s Magic Kingdom and Shannara Chronicles (I hated the TV series) and of course Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea. I’ve Lol’d at most of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books and peripherals. My main inspiration for the darker side of fiction comes from Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell (who has a story in The Refuge Collection), HP Lovecraft, MR James, Brian Lumley and many more. Since coming to Australia, I’ve discovered a much broader wellspring among my colleagues and friends, as well as my co-writers at The Refuge Collection. Lee Murray’s ‘Into The Mist’ leaps out at me as one of the best novellas I’ve read recently, but I mostly read short stories now. I also listen to audiobooks on my daily commute, and have recently discovered Ian Tregillis’s ‘Something More than Night’ which in my opinion is a modern archetype. When I was young, I read the Bible studiously (especially Revelations), as well as Shakespeare (I memorised most of Macbeth and large sections of Hamlet and Richard III.)

Do you ever get Writer’s Block? If so, how do you deal with it? Do you believe there is such a thing? 
I believe in it, because people often refer to it. I have tried to write three novels, one of which got to 60,000 words before I put it down and accepted the fact that it was something I’d never finish. That’s not a block, in my opinion, even though it may be a dead end. There’s plenty more to write about, after all. Ideas come to me all day every day and I find I have to block them out, so I don’t believe I’ll ever suffer from lack of ideas. Personally, I find writing to be more of a sludge at times, when I have to pause the ideas factory in my head to write stuff down—the details if you like—when I really just want to crack on with the story.

Do you have a particular place that you like to write? 
At my day job, if I can get away with it—that’s where I’m writing at the moment. Usually when I’m waiting for some information before I can proceed with something. I write in bed sometimes, or on the commuter train—with earplugs in—and that’s where I wrote the first draft of ‘The Shiraz Train.’ I also have a dedicated space where I work at my day job as well as write, and I travel a lot and stay in hotels, so I do a lot of reading and writing at restaurants or in my hotel room. In general, I prefer solitude and quiet, so I always carry earplugs with me.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
During working hours is preferred, but not always practical as my day job gets in the way. Other than that, not really.

How do you like to reach your readers? (Social media? Book signings? Blogs etc.)
I use Facebook a lot, and Twitter tends to feed off that. We also have a fantastic web site built by Eric Gross, one of our contributing artists. I’d love to engage more in person at book shows and conventions, etc. but I’m fairly restricted in that respect because of my job, family commitments and geographical constraints.

Can you tell us about The Refuge Collection?
‘The Refuge Collection’ is a series of short, standalone, scary tales set in the shared, mysterious world of Refuge. 36 tales from Refuge have been imagined by about 30 writers and artists, but they also inter-leave and form a large organically-grown story-tree. It’s often in my own stories, and in my role as series editor, where we graft the other branches to the tree, or plant seeds that can grow into other tales, allowing the characters to blossom between stories.

All the proceeds are for charity to aid refugees, and we see this as a way for fictional horror stories to help people who are living real-life horror stories.

How long did it take to write the book?
“Book 1 of The Refuge Collection—subtitled ‘Heaven to Some’—saw print about 9 months after I kicked off the project, and Book 2—subtitled ‘Hell to Others’—will follow about 3 months later. A lot of that time is spent working with the other writers on how the plot will flow, and sequencing of the stories.

Do you have a favourite character/topic in the book?
Refuge is populated with an assortment of characters that are often revisited in different tales, sometimes by different writers. The town’s mayor is a devious, devilish sort, and along with father Millar, the corrupt parish priest, he’s probably the one most writers want to include in their own stories.

What was your process? Did you plot out the entire book, or just let the storyline flow? Do you write in chronological order?
I began by writing a few inter-related short stories in quick succession, to flesh out some of the key characters, places and events. Then the other writers developed the themes, contributed their storylines and ideas, and we worked together to make them all fit together. One of the stories, by Ramsey Campbell, is a reprint, and this needed to be adapted slightly to fit into Refuge. My most recent stories are inspired by the events and happenings that other writers have brought to Refuge through their stories. Although I had a beginning and an ending in mind, how those two elements came together have largely been affected by the other tales and the imagination of the other writers.

Do you have plans for further instalments?
Yes. Book 2 will be out later this year, and we’ve already begun writing for The Refuge Companion, which will include some additional stories, but also character summaries, plot overviews, and additional thoughts. Easter eggs and puzzles will be solved, and some of the symbolism in the books will be expounded upon.

Do you have a plan for your next book?
I don’t know that Refuge will ever let me go, and I’ve been asked by some of the writers to make this an annual project. Plus, we’ve already held discussions for a TV series, graphic novels, a role-playing game, etc. But I’m also trying to find time to write non-Refuge work for competitions and for escapism. The problem is, they always seem to draw me back to Refuge… I’m writing one about cats at the moment, and cats feature heavily in Refuge, so who knows?

Author, editor, artist, publicist, philanthropist... what do find to be the hardest "job"?
“Series editor, definitely. Being in control to some extent of the underlying plot – the shared world side of things, as well as the underlying empathy with the refugee situation – meant I sometimes had to explain why key characters couldn’t be killed off, or why a certain plot point wouldn’t work. In some cases, multiple review cycles were needed and eventually I ended up turning down stories after several revisions because we just couldn’t make it work. That was quite draining on my time and energy.

There are often people who try to detract from author's work. How do you deal with trolls/haters/detractors? 
“I see it all as personal opinion. I was never a Stephen King fan (now we’ll get the hate mail!), but I know he has sold one or two stories, so he must be good. If Stephen King was to write the way I’d like him to write, maybe it would be worse for that. Who knows? Having said that, some of his movies are great, and I loved ‘Needful Things.’

Why did you decide to help a charity with this book?
“I’ve always tried to help where I could. I generally avoid the news because I usually feel so helpless, but this one time I was visiting my Mum who lives in the UK. I turned on her TV and saw the real humane crisis that is the refugee situation, and I cried. I was already writing three or four stories, so I thought, Okay, these will be for charity. Then I hit on the idea of asking Ramsey Campbell if he’d be involved, and Kaaron Warren, and once I had their support, the rest came easy. There are a lot of people who want to help but don’t have any way to help out, and this kind of slotted into place: A book about fictional characters living in a place called Refuge, providing the readers an entertaining read, but still raising real-world refugee issues in a way that’s easy to absorb, and put in place by a bunch of people who love doing what they do – writing, artwork, etc.

Ebooks vs Physical books? Do you have a preference when reading?
I prefer hardback books to thumb through when I’m feeling self-indulgent. I like softbacks to read and fold the pages, and drink coffee over and while travelling, I read ebooks for their convenience, and listen to audiobooks most workdays in the car.

Self-publishing vs traditional publishing? What are your thoughts? Do you feel that the industry is changing? 
It seems to me that the advent of self-publishing is a writer’s heaven and a reader’s hell… The biggest challenge is to recognise the great stories from the masses. Most people will tend to stick to known authors as a consequence, which is a blessing and a curse—another duality.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors? 
Don’t aspire—just write. I’m an artist because I paint, no matter how good or bad (or unconventional) it might be. And I’m a writer because I write. Even if nobody else likes it, or ever reads it. I was an aspirant for way too long, and life is too short.

How can readers find out more about you:
Website: www.RefugeCollection.com
Smashwords (for ebooks): http://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/22669
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/stevedillonwriter/ and http://www.facebook.com/refugecollection
Twitter: @Refuge
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/29KLmdF
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/user/show/12352170-stephen-dillon

As mentioned earlier, this book will benefit charity, to be more precise, The Sanctuary Australia Foundation. Here is a link to a great article about the book and the charity.  

Thanks Steve for dropping by this week. The collection was released in HC on August 1 and the PB is now available too!

Thank you everyone for stopping by. If you'd like to be interviewed for this blog, please drop me a line, if you have a cool story to tell also let me know. 

Until next week!

Cheers, 

Amanda Howard

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