Welcome to another great Writers on Wednesday interview. This week I am chatting with Pete Sutton, author, one of the organisers of the Bristol Festival of Literature and editor of Far Horizons magazine ...
Tell us a bit about yourself …
I’m a relatively recent fiction writer. I spent 20 odd years writing for an RPG, eventually becoming its “creative director” – but a few years ago I felt it was time to move on. I’d been involved in the Bristol Festival of Literature (and still am) and a vague “I’d like to write a book one day” eventually became – “”I’m going to write a book” and eventually – “I’ve written a book”. I’ve found that writing the book was the ‘easy’ part!
Tell us about your most recently published book?
As well as being a writer I edit Far Horizons magazine (which has an Australian publisher) and the latest published book is a slim collection of stories from folk who were involved in the RPG I was talking about, but who are all now published writers in their own right. The book is called Former Heroes and is available from Amazon worldwide. As the title alludes to the stories are all about people, and in one case a place, that used to be considered heroes. I commissioned and edited the stories, but managed to get one of my own in there. I’m not sure if that’s bad form for an anthology or not :-)
Tell us about the first time you were published?
Here in Bristol there is a national science fiction convention, BristolCon. They, in conjunction with Wizards Tower Press put a call out for stories for a Steampunk anthology called Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion. It came just about the time when I’d started trying to write short stories. I sent them my fourth ever short story (although, of course I had been writing RPG “stories” for many years – the short story form is, of course, different.) I used the call for stories as a prompt to write a story, I didn’t expect it to be published. It was my first short story sale. I’ll always be grateful to them for seeing something in the story and giving me a lot of heavy editorial help to make it publishable. That book continues to sell well and I’ve even earned royalties from that story, which is nice.
Having that editorial help at the beginning of my ‘career’ (if you can call it that yet) made a big difference and is one of the reasons why I became involved in Far Horizons. Our aim at the magazine is to take unpublished and self-published writers and give them editorial help on their short stories, to make them publishable.
As writer, what has been your proudest achievement so far?
As a writer? I think it was winning a short story competition judged by Jeff VanderMeer who is an author I admire and whose tastes in stories and books have been a big inspiration. Jeff, and his wife Ann, bring out these massive short story collections and must read thousands of stories a year. To be able to write something good enough to win a competition judged by such a hugely talented and experienced writer and editor made me very proud.
You can see the story that won here: http://read.uberflip.com/i/521637-saia-june-2015
What books or writing projects are you currently working on, if anything?
Where do I start? I’m writing a short story serial for Far Horizons called Tales for the Ferryman. I’m midway through a second novel whilst the first is out with publishers & agents. I’ve just taken part in a round robin for Australian Horror Story. I have stories coming out in Fossil Lake 3 & Sproutlings soon as well as a tale in The Speculative Bookshop’s forthcoming anthology. My writing group are working on a second anthology, our first – North by Southwest, was published here in Bristol by Tangent Press. We are also taking part in a Flash Fiction Slam during Bristol Festival of Literature and in something called “Sanctum.” That’s an amazing project by American Artist Theaster Gates which is a 24 hours a day for 24 days sound installation in a bombed out church in the city. I am perpetually busy, which is a good thing as a writer I think.
Which do you prefer? eBooks or Paper Books? Why?
I’ll read anything. It’s totally situational – both have their place. I like the tactile nature of physical books, the smell of old books, instinctually knowing how much longer you have to go, the sheer artistic beauty of some books. But for travelling having a small library in my pocket can’t be beaten. When I travelled the States a few years ago e-books weren’t yet a big thing, it had just come out and the publishing industry was being a bit sniffy about it. I pretty much had to have an extra suitcase just for the books. Humping that in and out of the hire car and onto planes wasn’t fun. I’m a voracious reader and often read several books a week. Especially when I’m between writing projects (which happens less and less – but I read in between writing nowadays).
Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?
Again I think it’s situational. With what I’ve published so far I’ve pretty much been a hybrid author, and see that continuing. Some projects need the big support system of Trad publishing, others can be brought out with nothing more than a laptop and a desire to create something. Spotting which is which is the key.
Aside from your own books, of course, what is one book that you feel everybody should read?
I think every writer should read Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer, as that’s the best ‘on writing’ book I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot!)
For fiction? That’s a tough one, there’s so many, I’d be asking – the best book in which circumstance? I’m really bad at these sort of questions – I’m not even sure I can pin down the one book out of the hundred odd I’ve read this year that everyone should read! I have a review blog and at the end of every year list the books that get my top rating – here’s last year’s - http://bit.ly/1P2uYm3
Finally … is there anything you would like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?
Hello from the other side of the world!