Our next victim in the ongoing series of interviews with the writers of World’s Collider is relative newcomer, Adam Colston. In a short time, Adam has carved out an impressive body of work and he is definitely a talent to watch in the future.
Elise Hattersley once again conducts the interview because she did a darn good job last time and she asks smarter questions than I do. Elise asks Adam about his writing goals, his publications to date and his love of ladybirds. Maybe not that last one.
Adam, you are the king of short story writing. You’ve been published in magazines as well as anthologies, and in 2008 you were nominated for the BSFA Short Fiction Award. In 2009 you won second place in the Writers of the Future Contest. What’s your next writing goal?
Well obviously I’d like to be Emperor of Short Story writing! Seriously I don’t consider myself anything more than a blind man in the land of the King of Short Story Writing (Alastair Reynolds or Iain M. Banks).
I write stories I think are great and they never sell and others I think are less great sell easily…
My next goal–that was the question, wasn’t it? Well for short stories, I guess I’d like to sell to one of the top 3 markets. The top 3 markets get a bit more exposure and stories published in them tend to have a greater chance at awards. Awards are quite useful springboards with regard to becoming a full-time writer, which would be my ultimate goal.
Which aspect of short-story writing appeals to you most?
Endings. It is where I struggle the most, but also where, when you succeed, you improve your story the most. Endings should be relevant and emotionally satisfying, but preferably with some unexpected twist (that doesn’t jar).
I always think that short stories are like Fabergé eggs–they are short enough for almost every aspect of them to be perfectly formed.
Do you have any plans for ever producing a novel-length work?
Yes… lots of plans. Have a look on my computer and you’ll find plans after plans, after plans…
I have a few novel length stories I want to write, but life keeps getting in the way. I work full-time and things have been pressured at work and I’m getting married soon. I need to improve my discipline with regard sitting down at the desk and writing.
Do you have a particular routine for writing? What does that consist of?
I used to be very disciplined. I’d sit in the quiet dining room and type for hours with no distractions, but then we knocked through from the living room and now I get distracted by the TV.
I tend to write when I feel inspired–which is bad a bad thing. There are times when I have a healthier routine and will write in my lunch hour on my iphone and then for a few hours each evening.
I am inspired by the likes of Steve Savile, who can write WHOLE NOVELS in 20 days (or less)!
You’ve been writing since 2006, and only 2 years or so later you started securing publication. Do you have any advice for those of us still struggling for recognition?
Make sure you are part of critique group to improve your skills–preferably one where you don’t know the other participants (like critters.org). It’s important to get good, honest feedback on your stories, because other people’s feedback trains your own critical skills. After some time you don’t need people to crit each story because your own skills are honed.
I have two people who read most of my stories still–I know they give honest feedback and will say it doesn’t work, if it doesn’t work.
I would also advise people to enter free writing competitions like the Writers of the Future Contest. This can improve you skill at ‘writing to market’ and, if you win, give you a massive boost in terms of exposure and recognition.
Why science fiction? Why not, say, romance novels chronicling the forbidden love between a ladybird and its prey, or DIY guides to self-flagellation?
I write other things too, but have been less successful at selling my fantasy and horror stories. An Australian print magazine called After the World is publishing a zombie story of mine this month entitled Preacher Man.
Romance? Nope. I don’t read that sort of thing so I doubt I could write it well.
DIY guide to self-flagellation? You read it?! What did you think?
It was a little more hands-on than I’d been expecting! Are there any genres you’re looking to explore in the future?
I’d like to have a go at something a little more mainstream, like thrillers, etc. I also wouldn’t mind a bash at film or TV scripts, if I ever got a chance.
Working together with other writers is a new thing to you. Have you found it particularly challenging in any way? (And if so, what way?)
Yes, it is a first.
It’s about giving up control of something to some degree, which is fine by me.
Normally, when writing a story, you are the god of your little world, but in this instance there is a pantheon of gods. To be fair, my story isn’t really affected by any of the major threads that run through other stories, so I stayed away from most discussions and only stuck my nose in occasionally.
Your story Lures, Hooks and Tails will be posted at Daily Science Fiction on Tuesday, December 20th (and has already been mailed to subscribers). Can you tell us anything about it without giving the game away?
It’s a pretty short story at around one and half thousand words and is set on one of those old fashioned trains (as per Harry Potter), with a corridor running down the side and small compartments with six or so seats in them.
A young man with fishing gear gets chatting with a middle-aged woman who becomes younger and more attractive as they are speaking…
Do you still get a thrill from being published?
Yes, I do. I don’t think that disappears, but certainly I look for the next big thrill–a big three publication, a novel, an award. But you can only write your best stories and hope these things will happen to you.
My biggest thrills to date were my first sale and winning Writers of the Future.
What are some of the advantages of being published electronically versus on paper – and vice versa?
I like paper/print because I like to see the item on my brag shelf (which is tiny) and I think people still equate being ‘in print’ as being superior to any web-based publishing.
However, being published on the web has advantages, especially if the ‘zine is a free one (that pays me!)–more readers, links can easily be made from other websites, more reviews, etc.
How do you decide where to submit your stories?
I use Duotrope and do searches based on story length, electronic subs and pay rates. I sub stories to pro-paying venues only, unless there are other factors to consider.
Obviously we can’t disclose too much about World’s Collider, but did the overall storyline shape up the way you thought it might, or did it turn out to be a bit of a surprise?
I think it was a bit like when you ask for a particular Christmas present, but then get something better. A nice surprise!
And finally, what’s your favourite science fiction concept?
Sorry, but didn’t you ask me that last time you interviewed me at the World’s Collider 10th Anniversary party in 2022?