04 Dec The Golden Egg Writing Process Questionnaire, Edited by egger, Andrew Wright.
At Golden Egg the process of producing high quality stories is something our team of wonderful editors understand intimately, but as eggers, we always want to learn more! To this end, I will occasionally be asking already published writers to share their views on their own wonderful story creation.
Dave Massey, author of the award-winning Torn, published by Chicken House in 2012, took the plunge and was lovely enough to answer all the questions I sent him. Dave’s second book, Taken, was published by Chicken House in 2014. He is currently busy writing his third. Dave is a very talented chap, as well as writing novels, he also plays classical guitar.
When did you know you wanted to write?
Mmmm… I’m not sure I ever did! I’ve always been creative, but more on the music side of things, playing lead guitar and teaching myself classical. Writing seemed to happen organically for me and really started when I was installing radio and recording studios for a friend. The station manager overheard me talking and invited me to present a music magazine show. That led on to a daily four hour comedy gig and I had to write original sketches day in, day out – stressful but a fantastic training ground. From there I went on to write the odd thing for magazines and local newspapers.
What did you write first? Did you show it to anyone?
My first novel was called Black Ivory, a book about the slave trade. I subjected my friends and family to it and submitted it to a few agents and publishers. The premise was good but it was never going to get anywhere. I have always fancied re-writing it though, especially after seeing the movie Belle. I think Black Ivory had an angle on the trade that nobody else has looked at even now – I could tell you what that is, but I’d have to kill you!
Who inspires you in your writing?
Like most writers I think my biggest inspiration comes from those closest to me. If you mean the inspiration to actually sit down and write that is a different beast entirely. I’m driven by deadlines and if someone was to say to me ‘sit down and write a novel; “You have six weeks,” I’d do it. I loved working with Chicken House editors like Imogen because she constantly set new goals for me to aim at. Left to my own devices I drift and never finish things. That is why I aim to write in blocks, like at Christmas. I set myself targets.
What is your writing method? How do you go about making up the stories and crucially, finishing what you start?
Before I was published I was heavily influenced by Robert McKee’s book, Story. It was really designed for screenwriting but what he says struck a huge chord with me. Like a magpie I took bits that I fancied and chucked the rest, things like the three act structure many movies adopt, like starting my writing with an inciting incident and throwing in the odd turnaround. I even started doing this for important chapters. For my second novel, TAKEN, I kept this approach but got a huge amount out of Imogen’s BookMap© too. Initially quite daunting, the BookMap© was ultimately very liberating because it enabled me to have the whole story on paper before I set pen to paper. And even though the plan inevitably changed as I began writing, the BookMap© helped steer my way as I discovered things about my characters and their setting. My stories nearly always start with an Inciting incident – a scene that I believe will drive and inform the whole story. Finishing things is all down to the planning and that is where doing the BookMap is a dream. It is an approach I will keep on using.
How do you capture your ideas?
My head rolls images like a film and I think some of this came from radio where you also need to think in terms of camera position and generating images for listeners. I capture my initial ideas on a nice big piece of A3 generating free associations and just getting everything down that pops into my head.
What is your worst writing moment?
Realising that something has slipped through the editing process or worrying about continuity after making a major change. I am comforted by the knowledge that if that ever happens I am in good company…
And your best?
My best writing moment would be meeting people who have read my work and who have something to say about it. In fact, after one writing event I found some graffiti on a wall outside where someone had scrawled I love Husna – one of the Young Martyrs in TORN.
What are you working on right now?
I am re-writing an old novel, a supernatural murder mystery set in Paris at a Cosplay party.
What are you working in next?
Probably a novel about a community on Mars.
What are you most proud of?
Although I love my other stories too, I can’t get away from that warm feeling of producing my very first book baby, TORN.
What books, ideas, inspirations have helped you in your writing process?
Too many to mention really. Like many people I was blown away by The Lord of The Rings the first time I read it. After that I discovered novels like The Worm Ourobouros by Eric Eddison and the Earth Song trilogy. In more recent times Neil Gaiman has been a huge inspiration along with more outlandish authors like Ben Aaronovitch.
Who do you read? And why?
These days I read lots and lots of YA because, when all is said and done, publishing is an industry and it is impossible to write without having an eye to what is already out there and to get a feel for where the market is going. It is the businessman in me, sadly! That said, I still try to read for no other purpose than to leap, like Lyra, into another world where no one can find me.
Dave Massey did our GE Writing Process Questionnaire in November 2014. Thank you so much Dave, so very informative.