Steve Dunn… a life of fantasy, mystery and close encounters of the zombie kind

Beacon Church Elder PortraitsOur guest on the blog today is Steve Dunn, author of three novels and the forthcoming ‘true’ story behind the Goldilocks fairy-tale, which will be available to download via Amazon soon. Steve is married to Jennie and they have a ten-year old daughter. He has worked for the ambulance service for over twenty years, and has been part-time paramedic and part-time church pastor for the past four, but from this November will be leading the church in a fulltime role. He is also a film lover and fig-roll connoisseur.

Welcome to the Blog, Steve, we’d love to start by asking you a little bit about your writing journey so far?

I’ve always enjoyed stories of all kinds (be they novels, comics or films) from a young age and so writing my own came naturally very quickly. I’m fascinated by the thought of other worlds or versions of our own, and the opportunity to live others’ lives within them, and so to create them myself is a wonderful thing. One English teacher in particular, Mr.Swan, encouraged me in creative writing more than most, and since then I’ve never been able to resist. I began writing a short story here and there, then came a novella, and subsequently a first novel I wrote in the 1990s which will remain forever hidden from public perusal but at least I’d written one! Once I’d finished a complete manuscript I’d somehow proved to myself it was possible whilst juggling family and jobs, and so other ideas bloomed into full-sized projects which I developed over the years.

What are the best and worst things about being a writer and what do your family and friends think about you having published three novels?

The fact that my brain won’t turn off – it’s both a blessing and a curse! Be it people-watching (“What’s his job? Her secret? Where did they grow up? Why do they look like that?”), appreciating life’s synchronicities and even enjoying “what-ifs”, which are the things that inevitably spin off into project ideas for me. My wife loves where my brain goes at times, and we have a lot of laughter and banter in the house, but it does also mean she’d like my attention a little more when I’m currently consumed by 999AD or Homefront Britain, for example… My family are immensely proud and I’m so grateful for their and my friends’ support.

You write across a range of genres, but do you have a favourite – either to write or to read?

As far as genres are concerned, I’m usually drawn most to the likes of fantasy or mysteries more than others, but then I’ll enjoy anything as long as it’s well written. Rather than specific chunks of the market, I’m more drawn to anything that’s different – I love characters and settings with quirks, the weird and the wonderful, the heightened atmospheres and realities than can elevate you to somewhere so decisively different to your own world. So I love to read from Bram Stoker to David Mitchell, from Iain Banks to Yann Martel – it’s when there’s something that sets them apart from others, be it a unique voice or vision, that my interest piques. And I trust that overflows into my own work.

What inspires you most in your writing and what gave you the idea for Viking Resurrection? VR

As I’ve mentioned, it tends to be a “what-if” that spirals into something eventually resembling a novel. The idea snowballs and evolves, and eventually becomes nothing like the original thought in the first place! Viking Resurrection was inspired a long time back from when Pirates Of The Caribbean first came out, for example. I wondered about a young girl who discovered she was heir to a line of pirate royals, and as the idea blossomed, I transferred it to Anglo-Saxon times and young Amy became someone who no longer discovered a long-lost inheritance, but instead something far grander and purer – the opportunity to change the world for the better and still remain somebody just like the rest of us.

We happen to know that you’re a huge film buff! Do you think this influences your writing style and would you ever try your hand at screenwriting?

I guess my writing is often fairly grand in terms of visuals and I enjoy using words to paint pictures. That must surely be influenced by the films I watch, and the crossover between words and images is a wondrous thing. Viking Resurrection is a fairly obvious one in terms of epic action and mystical beasts, but when it comes to School Of Thought some of the scenarios are somewhat left-field and abstract, while Raine Fall is very much a noir tale and so bears many tropes like a shadowy underworld, a femme fatale, sexual tension and romance. That one’s a juicy tale for both the boys and the girls! I have a couple of ideas for screenplays, and may even develop Viking Resurrection as such, so watch this space…

What are the best and worst things about being selfr-published? Would you ever consider a traditional publishing deal?

For both School Of Thought and Raine Fall I tried many, many different agents and each time received the letter explaining they didn’t even have the time to look at my submission, quoting the vast statistics of how many they receive each year versus how many they can take on. It’s hugely disappointing but then you realise quite what you’re up against in terms of “white noise”. So I published both of those on Kindle and then later on Kobo, mostly because I felt I had something others would enjoy, and it would be a shame if the books just sat in a dusty hard drive. I only expected to sell half a dozen to friends. Next thing I know, I’d sold triple figures across both titles over a few months, one week outselling Michael Crichton and James Herbert, and four-figure sums downloaded on promotional weekends. Still nothing to live off, but quite special for a guy whose only fan until then was his wife. If it had stayed that way, she’s my ideal reader so that’s brilliant, but this is now icing on the cake. So for Viking Resurrection, I naturally went straight for it and am now planning promotional events to help boost it once some more initial reviews have appeared on Amazon to validate people spending their well-earned money on it a little more. I’d still consider a traditional deal, who knows what the future may hold…

How do you handle the marketing, cover design, editing, typesetting and proof-reading aspects of being SP’ed and would you advise other aspiring authors to pay for professional services in relation to this?

Marketing is very much a gradual build of my platform via social media and making contacts. It seems for self-publishing (if not all publishing for Raine Fallmost of us) it’s about playing the long game – like a long-distance runner. One step at a time, but don’t stop. The more titles I can get out there – whilst continuing to be tough on myself for quality – then I trust the more it might all snowball.

With regards to covers, I do it all myself. I don’t have much in the line of spare capital so rely on my art college days to develop the images in-house. The cover for Raine Fall is actually personal family memorabilia – all those photos and papers you see are my grandparents’ from WW2, which not only authenticates the image but is also somewhat of a personal homage, with the book itself being dedicated to my Grandpa. As for editing etc, again I do it myself at the moment until royalties (hopefully) release spare funds for such services in future. I’ve always been a bit of a grammar pedant, and rely on certain folk who will read my books prior to publishing with an objective eye. It’s always nice to get positive feedback, but I’d much rather hear where a book can improve than just have my ears tickled. So certainly, professional services will be investigated in the future as things progress. I’d certainly recommend professional help with regard to proofreading if you don’t have a keen enough eye for it, and of course for the cover designs if it’s something you’re not strong at. When it comes to chart listings and website surfing, people do still judge a book by its cover in that immediate fraction of a second…

Who is your writing hero/heroine and do you have an all-time favourite novel?

I think David Mitchell is a master of language. Cloud Atlas took my breath away. Each of those stories not only has a different thread, but is also distinguishable by individual use of prose too. Brilliant stuff. As for my all-time favourite, I keep returning over the years to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s such a wonderful blend of mystery, romance, horror, narrative devices, and the characters alone are a delight.

What are you working on at the moment and what are your writing aspirations for the next few years?

I’m currently writing a short story/novella (the next few weeks will decide!) called “Gold a’Locks And The Three Weres” – detailing the ‘true’ events that inspired Goldilocks – ready for release at Christmas. After that it’s straight into another short called “Suffragette Sensei”, which will be the first in a series. She’s going to be a fun heroine to keep returning to. Following those, there are two novels brewing: “night/SHIFT”, based on my twenty years as a paramedic but with added zombies (although I have met one or two*), and then an untitled sci-fi which I’m very much looking forward to writing in a couple of years. I’m just keen to continue building a fan-base outside of my own personal circles, which is already happening now, and seeing where it takes me. If I sold no books at all, I’d still be writing. I love words! (*No, really. Ask me if we ever meet.)

Who is your favourite character from your books and was (s)he based on anyone in particular?

My favourite is probably Amelia from Raine Fall. She strides into Timothy Raine’s life and blows him away. She’s magnetic, carries the qualities we see in sirens of yesteryear, even resembling one or two, and Timothy can’t get her out of his head. Where their story together leads is for you to find out, but I’m looking forward to meeting her again in a sequel one day. I’m quite entranced by her myself. Don’t tell my wife. If your daughter told you she wanted to be a writer, what would you say? I’d be delighted. She already has a propensity for coming up with wonderful ”what-ifs” (I wonder why that is?!) and I love those conversations. She’s got great insight for subtext in stories, both written and filmed, and has already penned some little tales that demonstrate her own voice. We’ll see!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given as a writer and would you add anything further for aspiring writers reading this interview? SoT

The best I’ve come across recently is from Chuck Palahniuk on avoiding ‘thought’ words (“He felt/believed/knew…”): instead, aim to provide the evidence for your readers to feel or think the same. I’ll let him explain at length – it’s widely available on the wonderful interweb – and it’s helped my writing no end. Stephen King’s “On Writing” is a fantastic resource too. Besides that, I’d simply add, “KEEP WRITING”. There’s too many people who talk about writing, what their ideas are and even what their book’s called, and not actually doing it! Write, write, write… In that process, you learn and you grow.

Is there anything else you want to tell us or any other advice you can share? Read lots, and read widely!

Watch what other published authors do and learn from them. And train yourself for the long distance run. Most “overnight sensations”, in writing and music alike, have actually been plugging away at it for years. In the meantime, enjoy the journey.

Thanks for joining us on the blog, Steve, and giving us such an interesting insight into your writing world. I’ll definitely be asking you about those Zombie encounters next time we meet!

Find out more about Steve and his books at the links below:

All Steve’s books are available on Amazon and Kobo.

facebook.com/SteveDunnAuthor

twitter.com/SteveDunnAuthor

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The Wednesday Wondering – Our Characters on the Big Screen

Another week, another Wondering! This week we return to another passion of ours – films with a fabulous (but very tough) question set by Write Romantic Jo:

Who would you like to play the main character(s) in your book if it were made into a film? OR Who would you love to see the main characters in a book you love that hasn’t yet been made into a film (or perhaps a remake if you hated the film version that has been made)?

I think this Wondering has really captured the imagination of the group as most of the Write Romantics have responded to this one and have all chosen their own books. I think it’s such a dream scenario for us all that, not only will our books be published, but they’ll be made into Hollywood blockbusters too. Well, it has to happen to someone. Why not us?!

Although the only book I’ve read is Jo’s, I loved reading everyone’s responses because I instantly got a feel for the type of characters in their books. Mind you, I had to Google a few of them because I’d never heard of them … mainly because I’m far too busy writing and my sacrifice is very little TV! I have, however, now discovered a few new hotties I didn’t know existed!!! 😉

 

HELEN R:

If my book ever made it to film I would love to see Jessica Lucas play Jenna. When I saw Jessica Lucas’s photograph she felt right for the part. Her mother is white and her father is black, just like my character in the book. For Jake, I would envisage an actor such as Paul Walker with the lighter hair, the blue eyes. I could see him playing the part of a vet too, and looking ruggedly handsome as he works. I could see these characters together in a film … who knows, maybe one day. After all, we can all dream!

 

ALEX:

The main characters in Beltane are Finn, Zoe and Maeve. Zoe is new to the world of magic and has a lot to deal with in terms of coming to terms with her own gift and what’s happening around her. I think Karen Gillian (Amy Pond in Doctor Who) would be a fantastic Zoe. 

Maeve pretends to be a spiritual healer but is actually very cold and calculating. I think an actress like Lindsay Duncan would be wonderful.

Finn is a lot trickier. My friends who have read Beltane have very strong opinions on this and so far we’ve not found anyone we agree on. The person that Finn most looks like is Dan Snow. Now I’ll admit that a while ago I had a bit of thing about Dan (and watched one or two history programmes for no other reason) but I didn’t intend him to be the model for Finn. It just kind of happened. So far I’ve not been able to think of an actor who looks like Dan Snow. If anyone knows of one then let me know. I’ll be happy to check out any possible candidates! [Alex – closest I can think of is the absolutely gorgeous Paul Rudd who played Mike, Phoebe’s partner, in Friends but has been in a stack of films – Julie]

 

JAXX:

I’m not very good with names of famous people but I do know of Aiden Turner- the Irish one from Being Human, not the English one from – something else! I always imagined his face when I was writing about my gypsy boy as he looks dark and swarthy (and a little bit like he needs a good wash but I could soon have him in the shower!)

 

HELEN P:

I would love to see Sigourney Weaver sporting a very British Accent to play my main character Police Officer Annie Graham in The Ghost House and of course Detective Sergeant Will Ashworth would have to be Brad Pitt or actually I have a bit of a thing going on for Kevin Bacon at the moment so either of them would be fantastic.

 

JULIE:

I massively struggled with this one because I tend to have a good idea of the basics of appearance but don’t fill in the blanks fully. I once tried to find some images to inspire me and I didn’t feel anyone quite cut it but I’ll have a go for here because, as the host of the Wednesday Wondering, I’m determined not to back out of responding to one! I will not be defeated!

I have 5 main characters in my novel, Searching for Steven. Sarah is the protagonist and is a strong woman, a hopeless romantic and slightly ditzy at times. She’d need to eat a few pies for the role but Anne Hathaway would be my first choice. Sarah has two best friends, Clare and Elise. Clare is Irish, blonde, stunning, a massive flirt, a commitment-phobe, a career woman and very straight-talking. No idea if she can do an Irish accident but the closest I can think of in looks is Charlize Theron although she is a bit old for the character (sorry, Charlize – you’re still beautiful!) Elise is a very gentle soul and loyal friend. She has auburn hair so that limited me slightly (unless we get the dye out). Not perfect but we’ll go for Amy Adams or Isla Fisher.

For the boys, I turned to Glamour Magazine’s Top 100 Sexiest Males to try and get some inspiration but it didn’t actually help! There are some very odd choices on there! Sarah has two men battling to steal her heart. First love Andy would probably be played by Matthew Goode (who I adore in Leap Year) and new friend Nick would be Patrick Dempsey (although he’s also a bit too old so may need to be tweaked in the editing suite!)  Spookily enough, they’ve both been in favourite films of mine with Amy Adams (Leap Year and Enchanted respectively) so maybe she needs to be Elise as she’s worked with them before. Or maybe not because she was their love interest in those films and if the men start fighting over Elise instead of Sarah … well, we have a completely different book!

 

DEIRDRE:

In the book I’m writing now I definitely had in mind Laila Rouass and Edward MacLiam when I came up with my main characters. She’s just beautiful, and I do love an Irish actor…  They played Sahira and Greg in Holby City, a storyline I got tremendously involved in as it was so emotional, and sad since they didn’t end up together.  Unfortunately, when my book comes out and is made into a film  *much laughter* they won’t be able to play the actual parts unless they can play quite a bit younger. But who knows, maybe they can!

 

JO:

My answer would be that I would have liked Colin Firth ten years ago, around the Bridget Jones diary era, to play the hero in my book, but he has gone just a tiny bit too crinkly around the edges now – haven’t we all? Or maybe it is just me and Colin! Got a thing for Ewan McGregor at the moment after watching him in tight armour in Jack and the Giant Slayer, so I think I’ll cast him.  I’d like my heroine to be played by Holly Willoughby. Okay, I know she’s not an actress, but she’s got just the right look and sense of humour and I am sure she’d be able to turn her hand to it – after all, she’s apparently a published children’s author now too, but I have decided not to hate her too much for that!

 

What do you think of our choices? Would you go to see a film with this cast of characters? If you’re a writer, who would you like to have playing the main parts in your book? Whether you’re a reader or a writer (or both), are there any books not yet made into films for which you visualise certain actors? Unless I’ve missed it, I don’t think the actors for 50 Shades have been confirmed yet. If you’re read that, perhaps you have a visual of who would play Ana and Christian (have I got the names right?!)

Please join in. We’d love to hear from you.

Julie

xx

The Wednesday Wondering – Who’d Win in a Fight; Book or Film?!

Apologies for a very late Wondering …. just got in from running Race for Life this evening and this is the first chance to post.

Another week, another Wednesday Wondering and this time I’ve posed the question again, turning to another of my loves; films.

The Wondering is:

Many amazing books become films (ch-ching!) Can you name one book that you preferred to the big screen adaptation and/or one film that you thought was better than the book? And, of course, please tell us why.

I’d also love to hear whether you are someone who likes to read the book before the film or after the film. I know some people have very strong opinions on this.

So, what did the Write Romantics come up with? I’ve given the responses on previous Wonderings in alphabetical, reverse alphabetical and random order so here’s alphabetical by surnames.

JO:

Looking back on my previous responses for the Wednesday Wondering, most of them spookily linked to this theme. I spoke about Harry Potter in one of the posts and my eleven year old daughter is adamant that the films are better than the books, as they contain almost non-stop action. The books have too much description for her liking but, since she thinks I know nothing anyway, there is little point me trying to explain the difference between visual and written media on this point! I also wrote about the Green Mile, but I can’t pick a favourite between Stephen King’s book and the film.

TV adaptations are easier, I think. I loved Jilly Cooper’s novel, Riders, as a teenager, but the actor cast as Rupert Campbell-Black in the mini-series was so wrong – at least I think so! On the other hand, although I loved reading Pride and Prejudice, seeing Colin Firth in tight breeches as Mr Darcy meant the TV adaptation pipped the book to the post I’m afraid. This started a long love affair for me with Colin (in my dreams), which strangely takes us back to films… And, much as I adored Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones Diaries, the films with Colin (and Hugh thrown in for good measure) are so perfectly cast and edged past the novels and into my heart!

 

JULIE:

Why do I set such tricky Wonderings? Hmmm. I’ll start with the last bit first. I know some people have massively strong opinions on book then film or film then book but I’m not one of them. I would probably lean a little towards film first simply because it usually (but definitely not always) helps me with the visualisation of characters and scenery.

The worst film adaptation I’ve ever seen is one I haven’t actually watched all the way through – Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews. It’s shockingly bad and they massively change the ending. I got quite angry about that one. Also Cecelia Ahern’s PS I Love You. I think Hilary Swank is a great actress but she really didn’t fit the bill of Holly for me. Gerald Butler is welcome eye candy. But … sorry … I didn’t like what they did to the story. I saw absolutely no reason to take it away from Ireland where it’s set and fiddle with the story in that way. The book was so much better.

As for film being better than the book, I am inclined to agree with Jo about Bridget Jones even though I adored the book. The cast were just perfect. Another one was Sleeping with The Enemy. The book was good but I saw the film first and it absolutely terrified me. Perhaps I may have preferred the book if I’d read that first, though.

 

DEIRDRE:

I’m not a regular cinema-goer but when I do go it’s often because I’ve read the book, so for me it tends to be book first then film, although I don’t have strong views either way. I don’t think I can honestly say that I’ve ever found the film ‘better’ than the book because it’s a totally different experience but there are times when I’ve got something extra from the film that I didn’t get from the book.

One example is Ian McEwan’s Atonement. I love his writing – the man’s a genius to my mind – and I read his books with a permanent ‘wow!’ going on my head, but the plot of Atonement is somewhat convoluted and seeing it on screen helped me make sense of some of the bits that I had perhaps misunderstood in the book. That I might need this kind of help is of course one of my failings, not his!

Another is Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller. She tells the story well and I really enjoyed the book but it’s quite short and I found myself wanting more. The film made the whole thing that much ‘bigger’ somehow. In the book I didn’t find much sympathy for Barbara Covett, the narrator, but seeing her portrayed on screen by Judy Dench with her wonderfully expressive face made it easier to ‘see’ the person she really was.

 

HELEN P:

Hmm that is a tough one. I would say that Twilight wasn’t better than the book but it’s the best film adaptation of a book that I’ve seen because it kept to the original story. I loved the film The Woman in Black and thought it was much scarier than the book by Susan Hill.

 

HELEN R:

That’s a real toughie! I think the only films I prefer to the books have to be the Harry Potter films. Whilst I think that J.K Rowling’s writing is simply amazing, it really isn’t my sort of thing…but, I don’t mind sitting through a condensed version on the big screen (when hubby has had enough of my rom coms!)

I always prefer the books to the films: Nicholas Sparks’ “The Notebook”, Cecilia Ahern’s “P.S I love you”, Jennifer Weiner’s “In Her Shoes” to name just a few. I would always choose to read the book first because I wouldn’t want the film version to “spoil” it for me, but perhaps this is why I always end up liking the book best? Films are always so much shorter than the book so I tend to feel that they’re lacking in the richness of the words that I enjoyed.

 

ALEX:

I loved the film ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ which is a romantic comedy about an uptight fish scientist (played by Ewan McGregor) who falls in love with his colleague (Emily Blunt) when he’s working on a project to introduce salmon fishing into the Yemen. He starts the film thinking the project is crackers and that she’s an idiot for suggesting it but through working together they become friends and then fall for each other. It’s warm, charming and uplifting. I found the book a huge disappointment. It’s more of a scathing satire on government, PR and idealism with a tragic ending.

I don’t have strong views on reading books before seeing the film. But watching the film first has definitely helped me to get through some of the classics. There’s no way I’d have made it to the end of Jude the Obscure (which must be the most depressing book in English Literature) without imagining Christopher Eccleston as Jude.

 

OVER TO YOU …

Tell us what your answer would be. Or tell us if you agree/disagree with what any of The Write Romantics have said. We’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading and for joining in.

 

Julie

xx