The 5 Questions of Writing by guest author Steve Catto

I am glad to welcome author Steve Catto to my blog today. Here he explains about his writing and how he came to writing novels. Welcome Steve, over to you!

When I started writing?
That’s difficult to say. I’ve written technical manuals and documents since I started work, about forty years ago and I’ve always experimented with writing little bits of fiction but never thought seriously about publishing them. I suppose that my first proper fiction novel came about by using ideas that I’d been scribbling down for years. I started writing bits of it about ten years ago, but at that point in time I didn’t have a plot or story to put them in.

How I write?
I don’t really write draft and then edit it. I edit as I go along, so the words that go on the page are pretty much tidy, and I don’t move on until I’m happy with them. Of course I go back over it later, many times, reading it all aloud to make sure that it trips off the tongue properly so that it can be narrated nicely. During that process I find words and expressions which don’t sound right, or which don’t work, or I spot holes or decide that different words might sound better. That actually takes much more time than writing the work in the first place. Although I started parts of Snowflakes about ten years ago I think I wrote the bulk of it in four months, and then spent nearly a year getting it to a point where I was happy with it. They say that music and art, which includes stories, are never finished – they’re just abandoned by mutual consent. You do get to a point where it simply can’t be made any better without expending a disproportionate amount of time on it, and you have to admit defeat and say that it’ll do, because there are other things which compete for your time.

Why I write?
I just want to make people think, and I want them to enjoy reading the words. I have lots of ideas and I want to tell people about them, but in a way which makes a believable story. It’s a release of emotions for me.

Where I write?
I do the writing mostly from my desk at work. I have my own business and office so, provided I do my work, I can pretty much write whenever I like. That means I’ll stop work if I have a particularly puzzling bit of thinking to do, and write a bit. I go away on business quite a lot, so there are train journeys and evenings in hotels when I can get things done.

What I write?

I didn’t know what it was that I wrote until I went to market it. Most authors will say that’s no way to write a book because you don’t have a target audience. That’s true. Snowflakes is a story about a group of four strangers thrown together in a world which is very much like ours but doesn’t work quite like ours. The three main characters have a complex relationship, but the fourth member of the cast is a mysterious little girl who has no clearly defined purpose. They all manage to get along, but only just. They don’t really understand why the world doesn’t work properly, and are oblivious to the things that the reader sees, which revolve around the little girl. In the end it seems that death is the only way to resolve the growing dissatisfaction with their lives, and for one of them it is.

I like the world building, and the prose. I like the descriptions of their world, with the skies and the river and the mountains. I want the words to be as important as the plot and the characters, so the reader enjoys reading them. People have called it “elements of magical realism in a real-world setting”.

After a lot of advertising and market research my publicist and I have decided that the full grand title for its genre is “speculative post-apocalyptic science fiction” which is odd because I think it’s more fantasy than science, but you can’t argue with the market. Those are the readers who like it after they’ve bought it, so that’s who we’ll sell it to!

I’m working on the sequel, whose working title is Into The Darkness. It’s the back-story of the mysterious little girl. In the meantime I’m writing short stories and flash to build my reader base, and loving every minute of it!

The Author in his own words

Steve Catto is an old man, or at least that’s what it says on his birth certificate. He was born in Yorkshire, but his parents took him to Australia when he was six years old and he grew up there, sometimes racing cars across the desert.

He was never very good at school, but the one thing he did learn was how to learn, and he started writing programs for the computer at the local university, much to the disdain of his teachers who told him that he would ‘never make a living out of that rubbish’. In his late teens he returned to the UK, and his parents followed him – which wasn’t what he wanted because he was hoping to get away from them.

His first proper job was in the computer department of an infamous Oxford publishing company, and he subsequently went on to write software for electricity control systems, and simulators for the military. He started to fly gliders and wrote programs to analyse the data from aircraft flight recorders, where he also learned to fly, and crash, lots of other types of aircraft as well – which was the best part of the job. 

At various times in his career he has also lived and worked in France, Switzerland, and Canada, and he now lives in Scotland. Since appearing in school plays as a child he has performed almost continuously on the amateur stage, and spent a few years scuba diving. These two things have nothing to do with each other.

In terms of his pedigree as an author he has written many technical manuals and filled in countless timesheets, so is well versed in the art of conjuring up works of fiction, however he has never written a novel before, especially not one that involves a blonde girl and a man with a bow and arrow, but he did once spend three weeks working in a factory that made handles for buckets.

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