Q. Tell us about your writing process?
Several come into play, depending on what I’m writing. If it’s a chapter book for a series with guidelines, I work out the plots first before writing them. If it’s a novel, I can have a general idea of where I want it to go, and then let it take me there. More often than not I don’t know the ending till I reach it. The great thing about computers is that revisions can be made easily, whereas with the old typewriters, I suspect most of us didn’t hone our fiction as well as we might have, simply because we didn’t want to re-type the entire manuscript. I still have MSS with lines of type pasted over old lines to avoid retyping the whole page, and added “A” and “B” to page numbers to avoid re-typing an entire manuscript when I’ve thought of a good idea for the plot.
Q. Do you decide what’s going to happen in your story or do your characters tell you?
As above, a bit of both, depending on what I’m writing. Editors also play a big part in most authors’ work. It all seems fine, but then an editor will say, “Hang on”, and re-writing scenes can change a lot of things. Re-writes are good in that often a better idea will present itself. The best of these look as though the author has planned it, whereas really, it just came out of the blue in a revision.
Q. What is something exciting you would like us to know about you? It’s ok to reveal secrets we won’t tell anyone. Promise
A tricky question. Secrets by their very definition can’t be divulged . Exciting is subjective. I’m “excited” about all the school festivals and author bookings I have for authors and illustrators coming in via Creative Net Speakers’ Agency. I’m excited with publishing Phil Kettle and Susan Halliday’s Toocool and Marcy series. These have been published by major publishers and here Ford Street is publishing them!
Here’s a “secret” that I can’t talk about too much – I’ve written six new chapter books for Macmillan’s new flagship series. I also have a book called The Pranksters’ Club coming out this year with Blake Australia.
Q. How many hours do you spend writing each week?
Not many these days. The publishing and speakers’ agency take up an inordinate amount of my time. I basically work seven days and nights a week to keep everything moving ahead. The marketing side alone is a 40-hour week. The chapter books I mentioned took up about three to four weeks.
Q. What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Persistence is the key. Most of the classics were rejected several times before finding the right publisher – the world’s best-selling Harry Potter series is a good example of this. Had Rowling’s agent given up after a few submissions (which many agents do), then Harry Potter would never have been published. There must be thousands of books that have suffered this fate due mainly to the authors giving up. John Kennedy Toole committed suicide when his Confederacy of Dunces failed to find a publisher. I believe his mother persisted, it found a publisher, and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. A shame the author didn’t persist.
Q. How beneficial is social media to you as a writer?
It’s hard to quantify. I have over 3500 friends/followers on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. I usually post all URLs to online reviews wherever I can, including magazines such as Buzz Words and PIO. But how do I know if people are racing out to purchase the books? The sales figures aren’t extraordinary by any means, but they are, according to my distributor, above average. I think word-of-mouth is very important, but it takes more than telling people you’ve had a good review, or this is a book You Must Read Before You Die. It’s only when those people tell other people that it all kicks in.
Q. If you could be any character from any book for a day who would you be and why?
Bond. James Bond. Maybe Modesty Blaise, but I think Bond has more fun. Artemis Fowl would be pretty good, too. They’re all intelligent and can be ruthless, but only when needs be. They’re rich, the world is their oyster. All have ambitions (not sure what Bond’s are, but certainly Fowl and Blaise have them). To a certain extent, they’re all anti-heroes, but each has a conscience – again, Bond errs slightly here.
Q. What’s next from Paul Collins?
Apart from the chapter books, I need to work on Il Kedra, Book #3 of The Maximus Black Files. I have a great editor, Sue Jimenez, working on it right now. All I need will be time to sit down and take a long hard look at her comments and start revising . . .