Scribal Love Welcomes Stuart Aken
Stuart Aken is an author of Romance and Science Fiction Books. His newest work Breaking Faith is available from Smashwords and Amazon.
So where do you hail from?
My birth is a story all of its own. Hull, a large port in northern England, was much bombed in the 2nd World War. My father had worked as chief engineer on small boats that guarded the English Channel from U-boats.
Because of his dedication to duty, eating on the job in rough seas, he developed a duodenal ulcer. After the war, he became a mechanic at a local garage and his job entitled him to the house next to the workshop; a valuable asset in those days. But the ulcer burst and he died, leaving my mother homeless and pregnant with my 18 month old sister in tow. My short story, Ella, a contest prize-winner, is a semi-autobiographical account of the time around my birth.
What inspired you to write 'Breaking Faith'?
Years ago, I was on holiday in an area of outstanding natural beauty, the National Park of the Yorkshire Dales. Teetering on the brink of oblivion at the edge of a sinkhole (a type of vertical cave) with the damp rocky bottom barely visible, a question came to mind: 'What if there was a woman's body down there?' That was the starting point.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I used to be a professional photographer, so my writing is very visual; many readers have said they can picture my characters and settings as if they were watching a film. I prefer to 'show' my readers what is happening through the eyes of the character whose point of view I'm using. Some things you have to 'tell' the reader, mostly for brevity, but it's much more absorbing for the reader to live the story from within the character, don't you think?
How did you come up with the title?
Because my heroine is steeped in the religious prejudices of her bullying master, and she's the eldest of 3 sisters, it seemed appropriate to borrow from a religious quote. '..faith, hope and charity..', which, of course, names all 3 sisters in the story. As she matures, she breaks free of Heacham's imposed restrictions, and she understands that her faith is false. Also, she's put through difficult and dangerous challenges that might break her. So, the 'breaking' part has multiple meanings. The downside is that some people may see the title as indicating the novel is about religion, which it most definitely isn't.
What is Breaking Faith about?
Breaking Faith is a romantic thriller about the influence of corruption in society.
A naive young woman, emerging from obscurity, a philandering photographer and his glamorous models, and a jealous misogynist eager for revenge turn the pages. Older friends, mistaken parents and a younger sister, all with their own motives, complicate Faith's voyage of self discovery. When she falls in love, her inexperience places her in great danger.
The novel, primarily a romance, heightened by aspects of the thriller, is set mostly during the heat wave of 1976, in the Yorkshire Dales of northern England. The eponymous heroine, Faith Heacham, is naive and trusting. Raised in isolation by her hypocritical, abusive, Bible-bashing father as his skivvy and as nursemaid to her disabled sister, she has no knowledge of the wider world. Made to find work, in order to support the household, she takes a job with Leighton Longshaw, a notorious local photographer. His misogynist assistant resents her presence and threatens her with violence. Just as Faith realises she's falling in love with Leighton, she rediscovers her estranged, beautiful, and sexually predacious younger sister, Netta, and introduces her to him without understanding the likely outcome.
Is it a single or multi-layered storyline?
The overlying story is the developing romance between Faith and Leighton, but there are other threads drawing Faith into renewed relationships with her family members and entwining Leigh with his other women, especially Netta. Underlying the whole is the growing menace of the woman-hating Mervyn, who desires revenge and isn't too concerned who satisfies his needs.
So is it a man’s or a woman’s novel?
I hope it appeals to both; certainly both men and women have responded positively with reviews of the book. On the surface, the romance will probably find more favour with women whilst the sexual elements of Leigh's relationships with his models and other women, will attract more men. But, as the novel is written from the viewpoints of the two main characters, both female and male voices speak throughout the book.
And what is Ten Tales for Tomorrow about?
Ten Tales for Tomorrow is a collection of short stories, some prize-winners, some previously published in small magazines. All are speculative fiction, with a strong leaning toward science fiction. Most, though not all, are dark tales of one sort or another. But there's some light and humour here as well.
Is it a book for men or women?
I suspect this one will appeal more to men than women, but only because traditionally the readership for science fiction has been male centred.
What books are you reading now?
I've just finished The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffennegger . An excellent story with some wonderful writing. At this moment, I'm re-reading Hamlet and will soon re-read Jane Eyre, because these are some of the texts my daughter's studying for her A level exams and I want to be able to discuss them with her, if she wants my input. I have an extensive and somewhat eclectic list of 'to read' books, however. Time is the basic block, isn't it?
What are your current projects?
A long time ago, I drew a map of an imaginary land and marked it with invented places and features. That was the real beginning of an adult fantasy novel I'd been considering for a while. The history, religions, myths, customs, geography, societies and politics all followed until I had a world that seemed real enough to stand as a setting. But, as I always start a piece of fiction writing by getting to know my characters, I developed the 50 or so named people who populate the pages before I started on the story.
I've written and edited the first volume of The Seared Sky, but at 277,000 words I suspect it's a little too long to attract most publishers. I'm now reading the typed MS from beginning to end to see if I can split this first volume into two books before I start to write the next part of the story.
Do you see writing as a career?
I'd dearly love to join the 2% of authors who write full time and make a living but it's very difficult in the modern world. In the past, publishers supported writers they considered promising and allowed them time to develop. Sometimes they got it wrong, but often they allowed real talent to grow and reaped their rewards in great sales and the production of brilliant books. This no longer happens: now, publishers are interested only in celebrity and are run by bean-counters; people with no understanding that the world is about more than money.
This year, I'd like to finish the adult fantasy to the point where it can be published; volumes 1 and 2. I've more stories I'd like to compile as anthologies and there are writing contests to enter, magazines to submit my short stories to. My website and blog need constant up-dating to remain of interest and help to my readers. I hope to attend my writing group regularly for the weekly meetings that prove so supportive and inspiring. So, not a lot going on, really.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
At school, my English homework frequently consisted of essays and stories; it was the only homework I actively enjoyed. In fact, the only two subjects that resonated for me were English and Technical Drawing. Had the teacher of the latter been more sympathetic, I might have become an architect. My English teacher, a pretty young woman, whose sexual presence was quite stimulating for an adolescent, encouraged me to enter an annual writing competition. I won first prize; the cup. From there I went on to some journalism and playwriting, to novel and short story writing.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
In the writing itself; not really. I can sit down at the keyboard with no prior preparation and turn out a decent 1000-3000 word short story at one sitting. It'll need editing, of course, and occasionally it will be rubbish. But I love the act of writing, of being there in that other place that my imagination takes me when I'm in the creative phase.
What I do find a constant challenge, and a real drain on my time and energy, is the necessary marketing activity. The two aspects of being a modern author – writing and publicity – are diametrically opposed activities, requiring different personality traits for real success. I think publishing made a huge error when it decided to place the burden of marketing on authors instead of hiring people with those specific skills.
What books have influenced your life most?
I've read since my early years. We had no TV until I was about 14, so I'd exhausted the children's section of the local library by the time I was 11. I was allowed to take out one book at a time from the adult section after that. My first such book was Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, a classic of war and coming of age, set in the First World War. It was an eye-opener and made me realise what could be done with a book. Since then, I've read countless books, and all have influenced me in their own ways.
Did you find the idea of having your work published for others to read intimidating? If yes, why? If no, why not?
Not intimidating. I wouldn't put something forward for publication unless I was relatively confident it was something people wanted to read and unless I was sure I'd made it as good as I could at the time. I love the idea of publication. Readers will undoubtedly let me know if I've sent a pup out there.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Very difficult. Different writers bring different qualities to the craft. But, if I'm forced to name names, I'd choose William Golding for the richness of his metaphor, Graham Greene for the depth of his story telling, Shakespeare for his poetry, William Horwood for his empathy, J.K Rowling for her imagination, Stephen King for his menace and tension, and Rosie Thomas for her intelligent emotional component. But that does a disservice to hundreds of other brilliant writers I've encountered, and continue to come across, in a lifetime of reading.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I'm learning all the time. Sometimes, my ignorance astounds me. I think what came across most, in the publication of both these books, was the importance of the reader. To write for yourself, a phrase too glibly repeated, is to embrace the danger of self-indulgence. Yes, you must write what you know and what you would want to read, but modified by the knowledge that others will spend time and money on your output. Respect for those who read and buy your books can only be a good thing, can't it?
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Unpopular, but, yes. There are too many people writing. In the same way that everyone with a camera believes themselves a photographer, everyone with a pen, keyboard or PC thinks they're a writer. Please, only write if you have something worthwhile to say, understand the rules thoroughly enough to break them without causing offence, and, most importantly, if your life depends on you writing. Anything less than a deep passion about writing and the work you produce is insufficient to preserve you in a world where would-be authors are ten-a-penny but where good, published authors are as rare as altruistic politicians.
Thanks Stuart for Dropping by! You can find Stuart on the Web at:
Stuart Aken: Author of Breaking Faith & Ten Tales for Tomorrow.
Editor of A Sackful of Shorts (An anthology of short stories from the Hornsea Writers group).
Find them on my Author page at Amazon:
UK - http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=stuart+aken&x=15&y=19
Or USA - http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=stuart+aken&x=12&y=17
Sample or buy as Ebook: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/stuartaken
Visit my Website: http://stuartaken.co.uk/
Follow my Blog: http://stuartaken.blogspot.com/
Tweet with me: http://twitter.com/@stuartaken
Friend with me at Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/stuart.k.allison?v=wall&ref=profile
Thank you, Clare, for this generous opportunity for me to interest more readers. They're the lifeblood of the author; little point in publishing for yourself, after all. I've enjoyed this session with you and hope I haven't rattled on too much. Words, you know, are the downfall of the writer.