For those of you who read After Her, I am pleased to introduce you to the author, the great Simon Hillman!
ISO: Hi, what is your name?
SH: Simon Hillman
ISO: What is your favorite beverage?
SH: Any good Scottish Whisky (there’s no e in real whisky), I especially like a Monkey Shoulder. It’s very smooth.
ISO: What is your favorite food?
SH: As my belly gives away pretty much anything. My local pub used to do a Lamb Shank Sunday roast and that was pretty much perfection on a plate.
ISO: What is your favorite sweet?
SH: I don’t eat sweets. I had a TIA, which is like a mini stroke about six years ago and my brain can no longer register sweet on the taste spectrum so Chocolate, sweets, puddings are all flavorless and wasted on me.
ISO: What are your go to snacks or drinks as you work?
SH: First draft: Coffee. Second draft: Fresh juice. Editing: Alcohol. Final draft: Hard liquor.
I don’t eat when I work. When I was younger I’d quite often go two or three days without a proper meal. My body won’t allow that now but on a writing day I don’t eat breakfast. Break at 12 for a small lunch and have a big meal at around 5pm. I don’t feel the need to snack.
ISO: Tell me a little about yourself.
SH: I’ve just hit the big four oh. I have a wonderful six year old daughter who is a bloody genius. She has done VSS365 for me on Twitter sometimes and her stories always get far more likes than mine. I had a very tiny stroke brought on by stress about six years ago and since then have been looking for something to do to pay the bills that doesn’t cause a relapse. (One side of my face shuts down if I get too stressed, partial blindness, some loss of speech and loss of co-ordination.) I stumbled back into acting, which I hadn’t done since I was sixteen, thanks to an ex-girlfriend and have been very fortunate to make a decent living out of it this year. I have always written but the time and lifestyle changes my new career has brought means I have really been able to focus on it like never before over the last 18 months.
ISO: When did you realize you were a weirdie?
SH: At college, when I could drop lines from Buffy into conversation and nobody realized it wasn’t just me being me. I realized then my thought process and use of language was different to most people.
ISO: What are your Weirdie interests?
SH: Anything by Joss Whedon, except Justice League (when even the mighty Whedon can’t save a film it has to be awful!) I admire cosplayers and love your cosplay interviews, I often have a costume department making me cosplay so it’s too much like work to do myself. Most of the Weirdie stuff I’m into would be considered quite mainstream now but would have got you a playground beating when I was young. Comics, Pratchet, Marvel, Dr Who.
ISO: Who are your weirdie idols? Unconventional people you look up to.
SH: Again most of mine would be considered mainstream now but when I was growing up Terry Pratchet was the local weird guy who wrote strange books nobody read. Joss Whedon was a failed movie writer with this weird comedy/horror TV show the schedulers here didn’t have a clue what to do with so was impossible to get into the rhythm of watching.
Dr Who was hated for Sylvester McCoy’s take and the low budgets in a world of Sly and Arnie on the big screen and fantasy in general was mocked, scorned and frowned upon.
ISO: What type(s) of writing do you do?
SH: My main focus at the moment is a series of detective mysteries. The Yin and Yang Detective Agency is a series of five novella (short novels about 30k words) set in Bristol (UK) as a pair of twin brothers Earnon and Kenway, with their friend Lucy discover the seedy underbelly of the City and a deep conspiracy. The series is based on the onion personality theory and each book, Cliché, Role, Phobic, Impasse, Core, unravels another layer of secrets as the characters learn about themselves and each other.
I also write short stories, Minded to Kill; available on my author page like the Yin and Yang series, is a collection of killings from the point of view of a serial killer.
The short story appearing on your website; After her, is a very personal story of depression, self-doubt and suicidal thoughts following a difficult break-up, told through an Alice in Wonderland-esque fantasy. Learning to be brave and self-reflective enough to understand the full reasons a relationship and all past relationships have failed. Not just taking all the blame or giving all the blame, but accepting that no one person is going to complete you. Especially if they’re looking for someone to complete them and making the same mistakes.
I have two other WIP’s – a political romance and a Knights of the round table series based on the original le morte d’arthur stories.
ISO: What are your favorite hobbies?
SH: Drinking. I love singing (I’m classically trained) and the next adventure will be trying to find a band to join. I’m a big gamer, especially action RPG’s and I love a good box set.
ISO: When did you start writing?
SH: I started writing screenplays in my teens. Originally I wanted to write a British version of Buffy about three teenagers fighting demons in a quaint English town but I could never quite nail down the tone. I then got involved with a project the BBC used to run called writers room which gave aspiring writers the chance to submit spec scripts. After a few attempts I got a script through to the feedback stage and the feedback I received was invaluable. Life then got in the way for a few years but I always kept playing with ideas and by the time I could commit to writing again I had the Yin and Yang stories mapped out in a very basic form.
I’m a pantser so most of my notes tend to be about theme, character and the feel of things rather than step by step planning.
ISO: Why did you decide to pursue writing?
SH: It was really a question of time. I’d love to have been a writer all my life pretty much but my career and my many, many, many bad relationships got in the way.
ISO: Who are some authors you look up to?
SH: Pratchett, Abercrombe, Bernard Cornwell, Grisham, Clancy, Christie. And many from the writing community on Twitter: Iso Rivers, Marion Thorpe, Rebecca Kearney, Harley Laroux, R.E Lucas, CGizamA, Jessica Piro, Troy H.W. Greenwood, Abi Graham and Kelvin Rodriguez.
ISO: What genres do you write?
SH: Mystery, romance, action, thriller, hopefully all in one book. I also write historical alt world and politics.
ISO: Are you traditional, independent, or hybrid published?
SH: Currently independent. I’m releasing the Yin and Yang series on Amazon. I may review my situation once the series is complete though.
ISO: Why did you choose that publishing path?
SH: Novella’s are a tricky sell and I had a very clear vision for the story I didn’t want interfered with.
ISO: What are your favorite books?
SH: Death on the Nile, Hunt for Red October, Small Gods and Wyrd Sisters are probably the only books I’ve read more than once. I’m not a great re-reader or re-watcher once I’ve finished something I move on.
ISO: What do you love about writing?
SH: My characters. I tried to take a break between books 2 and 3 but they just kept talking to me. And the same between 3 and 4 I was going to take till the new year off but I’ve already started drafting odd scenes just to shut them up.
ISO: If you could live in or visit any fantasy world, where would you go?
SH: One where fat, bald men are revered as deities.
ISO: Where do you get your inspiration?
SH: I wanted one character to be a bit James Bond, a charmer, a gentleman, rough, tough and roguish. I wanted a more modern hacker, spy type hero, a bit of a nerd. Then I thought it would make for an interesting dynamic if they were estranged twins trying to build a relationship from these two different worlds. Finally I wanted to give them a female Sherlock Holmes; initially my plan was a love triangle to complicate things but as I started to put it together the story and relationships were already complex enough.
So basically it was fitting everything I love into a little jigsaw to make my dream story and hoping there’s a few people out there who love the same things to read it.
ISO: What are some lessons you have learned about being an author?
SH: Have a system to rewrites and editing or you’ll fiddle with a perfectly reasonable sentence forever and miss a glaring pot hole by putting style over substance.
ISO: What is the most difficult thing for you about writing?
SH: Getting the right amount of description down. I have such a clear picture in my head if I’m not careful I either write eight pages just to set a scene, or no description because I forget the reader can’t see into my brain.
ISO: Who is your favorite fictional character?
SH: I have so, so many, but probably Sherlock Holmes. He is such a complex hero and largely not a particularly nice or good person, but somewhere inside a little voice gives him this drive to help people, to do the right thing.
ISO: What are your “fandoms”?
Buffy was my first obsession and remains my biggest. I don’t really get that deep into things, I like to enjoy them at face value not pick apart every aspect of story. I’ll watch every Marvel film on day of release because they’re great films about characters I’ve loved most my life. If they decided to put Black Widow in a purple jumpsuit instead of Black, for example, that wouldn’t ruin the film for me.
ISO: What is something you wish beginning Authors knew?
SH: Trust your voice. Don’t spend hours reading about the ‘correct’ way to do things. Especially before you start. Maybe look at the rules later but your first draft of your first story just let it fall out of you in any font, any format and with nouns, adjectives, pro-nouns, verbs, adverbs as you feel they fit your story.
ISO: What tips or tricks do you have for other authors?
SH: Find an editing system that works for you so you know when you start editing and when you’ve done as much as you can. I know my weaknesses are word repetition and overlong sentences so I build my edits around fixing those things and that tends to make other issues jump out.
ISO: What projects are you working on?
SH: As it says on my Twitter: Simon has a 5 year plan.
Yin and Yang book 3 is with my amazing BETA reader. I’ll be releasing it Boxing Day along with a special edition with the first three books in one volume.
Book 4 I’ve just started sketching out odd scenes for, I’m trying really hard to leave it alone till January. Books 4 and 5 will be out next year with the full story edition out for Boxing Day 2020.
My Camelot series starts with book 1 Uther. This is a more long term project, it may appear next year, more likely 2021.
Finally my political romance novel is very much my baby at the moment. It’s the story of a 30 something, divorced Liberal Democrat who embarks on a campaign to become leader of the party and a possible future Prime Minister. Her views do not sit well with some members of the party establishment especially her ex-husband, so her advisor brings on board a young passionate speech-writer. Will his words help her, or his feelings for her destroy her?
I’m also including the full texts of all the speeches he writes for her which she gives in the story, so writing those is quite an undertaking in itself. In my mind this will probably come at the end of the 5 year plan with a couple more Camelot books and possibly some other Yin and Yang adventures coming in 2021 and 2022.
ISO: What projects do you want to do if money and time were no object?
SH: The same ones I am just with great art, traveling to research rather than relying on Google and huge marketing budgets.
ISO: Where can we get your books?
SH: On my Amazon author page. ‘After Her’ is a Werdie exclusive though.
ISO: Where can people find your writing?
SH: Hopefully no-where except my author page. I’m sure some of my old terrible screenplays are on the interweb somewhere though.
ISO: Who’ll win the SuperBowl?
SH: Probably the Patriots but I’ve got a sneaky feeling for the Seahawks this year.
Please remember I do not own any of these pictures and the opinions in this survey belong to the interviewee.