Today it is my pleasure to introduce to you bestselling author Steve Vernon, author of Sinking Deeper OR My
awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster. Please read my review HERE.
Steve has published over fifty short stories, as well as the books Halifax Haunts, Wicked Woods, Haunted Harbours, and his children’s picture book, Maritime Monsters. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Steve, it’s my pleasure to welcome you to my author interview corner. I have been wanting to do this for awhile and now seems a good time. Please get comfy and tell us a little about yourself.
Hi, Lynn. I’m happy to be here.
A little about myself?
I’m a storyteller – first and foremost. I grew up in Northern Ontario, raised by my grandparents, and came to Nova Scotia when I was seventeen years old to get to know my Mom. I fell in love with the Atlantic Ocean from the first time I saw it and have lived here ever since – although I have hitchhiked across Canada a couple of times.
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you?
The problem with a writer’s memory is it is a bit of a stew pot, in that has been constantly stirred. Trying to pinpoint a memory like that is a little like trying to hunt up my favourite chunk of carrot from somewhere within the middle of the pot. I do remember sending a story to Alfred Hitchock’s Mystery Magazine – back when I was eleven years old. I received an actual hand-written rejection letter – because I believe some slush reader had kids of their own.
I also remember the morning that W.O. Mitchell – author of Jake and the Kid and Who Has Seen The Wind – came to our English class as a guest author. I’d say right then and right there I decided to myself that I was going to grow up someday and become an author.
I’m still working on that whole “growing up” part of the equation…
Well, don’t worry, Steve; growing up doesn’t seem to be all it’s cracked up to be (although I still have a long way to go myself). As a writer, do you do much reading? Who were/are your favourite authors or books?
I read every day.
As a writer, I have to.
Whenever someone comes to me and says – “I want to be a writer” – the first thing I ask them is – “What have you read?”
If they tell me – “Well, I’m not all that much of a reader” – I promptly punch them in the nose – or, if they know karate or are of any potential size I might just shoot them once or twice with a ball of high-caliber sarcasm.
Fact is – WRITERS NEED TO READ.
You can’t a drive a car without gas.
You can’t exhale without inhaling good air.
A fire needs good firewood.
Say it again – WRITERS NEED TO READ.
My favourite authors include Stephen Hunter, Robert Parker, Brian Keene, Joe Lansdale, Bernard Cornwell, Gary Paulsen and Conn Iggulden.
I agree about the reading. Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in yourself so you can say “I am a writer”?
For me, giving up has always been an exercise in futility.
The fact is – no matter what I tell myself – sooner or later I find myself sitting down and making up a story. I am a born storyteller – it is something that is genetic in me. So saying that I’m depressed and that life isn’t worthwhile and that I’m going to quit writing and storytelling is about as sensible as me saying that I’m going to quit breathing.
In fact – that’s another one of my rules for determining if someone is a writer or not. If they are driven to do this – to string words together and convey ideas upon the computer screen or a piece of paper – then they are most likely supposed to be some sort of a writer.
It’s like a fellow who wants to be a painter. Odds are – if he is any kind of visual artist at all – he will have already established a LONG career of doodling and crayon coloring.
Writing – for me – is a natural obsession.
I’ll give it up on the day that they dump about thirty or forty shovels full of dirt on my box.
Then we can expect many more books from you. Do you have a motto or Bible verse or quote that you try to live by and that helps to keep you going?
“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.”
And if anyone out there can’t peg that quote then you really need to make time to read a few more books.
I’m glad to say I recognize those words. What do you remember about your very first time to be published, how did that happen?
First story I sold was to a biker magazine – “OUTLAW BIKER”. They paid $150.00 and a contributor’s copy – a magazine with more breasts, beards and motorbikes than I had ever seen together at any one time.
Now back then – in the mid-eighties – that size of a check was about the same as I got paid for several days of flipping hamburgers at a fast food joint – where I was working at the time. So I remember thinking to myself – “Wow, I’m going to be rich.”
It didn’t work out quite as easily as that.
Interesting start! What have you had published thus far? Of those, what do you most enjoy writing?
I could fill a book with everything that I have written. I’ve sold close to a hundred short stories. I’ve got seven regional books out through Nimbus Publishing – (Haunted Harbours: Ghost Stories of Old Nova Scotia, Wicked Woods: Ghost Stories of Old New Brunswick among others). I’ve released about thirteen e-books through Crossroad Press. I have also released eight e-books independently.
Besides that I have written – and sold – about one hundred fifty book reviews. I have written and sold about a hundred poems. I have written and sold several dozen author interviews. I have written and sold a couple dozen articles and have written and sold one radio play.
I like to keep busy.
Which do I enjoy the most?
Well – I really DO enjoy the work that I get paid for an awful lot. There is a real satisfaction in receiving an actual cheque in the mail for my words.
I could also tell you that I ALWAYS enjoy the work that I am doing at any point in time. Whatever story, novella, novel or script that I am working on – that is the one that I love the most.
However – if I really had to be pinned down to one particular work – I would have to say that Sinking Deeper OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster was my absolute favourite work. I really enjoyed creating that young adult novel.
You are a very prolific writer! What process do you go through when writing and perfecting a book or article?
There are two processes that I can tell you about.
The first is the ideal process.
The ideal process consists of writing a manuscript and then putting it away for the next month while I work on something else. Then – after the manuscript has suitably cooled down and I have had enough of a chance to fall out of love with each little turn and twist of phrase and every single plot entanglement – I stomp through it with an eye for continuity and entertainment value.
I sometimes end up rattling something off at the very last minute, running my eyeball over the computer screen to see if anything TOO obnoxious happens to stick out, and then throwing it between two pieces of cardstock and calling it a book.
My usual procedure falls somewhere in between those two schools of thought.
What method do you use to keep track of your writing ideas?
I scribble them somewhere, put it under a likely looking heap on my desk and then forget about it. Years later, usually around the January resolution-making season, I stumble across that scribbled note while making an entirely-too perfunctory attempt to clean up this sorry landfill that I call a desk – and I think to myself – “Hey, that would probably make a pretty good story.”
Then I most likely will put that note back under another heap of scrap paper to mature a little longer.
It is – in hindsight – sort of a compost-heap approach to writing.
Funny! What inspired you to write Sinking Deeper OR My
awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster?
That’s an easy question.
Let’s see if I can make the answer a little more confusing than it needs to be.
For starters – I wrote that novel because I REALLY wanted to write something for all of the kids that I visit through the WRITERS IN THE SCHOOL program. My ghost story collections are VERY popular amongst junior high and high school students – but I REALLY wanted to come up with an actual chapter-by-chapter novel for that age group.
So I came up with Sinking Deeper OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster.
If you want me to get philosophical about it – the book is actually my ode to the oral storytelling tradition. Granddad Angus is sort of a role model for myself – the kind of storyteller that I would like to grow up to become – assuming I ever get around to actually growing up.
I am VERY proud of this particular novel – especially now that it has made the shortlist of BOTH the Hackmatack and the Silver Birch award. That is an awesome achievement for a writer who really did not know what he was doing at the time that he did it.
You have good reason to be proud of this novel. It looks as if you might have had fun writing this book. How long did it take you to write it? Did you have to do any research?
I had a lot of fun writing this book.
Research was minimal. I had spent a couple of years – off and on – living in the town of Yarmouth. I worked in a fish plant, raked blueberries, worked in a cotton mill and indulged in all manner of small town activity. I woke to bagpipes every morning of the two years that I spent attending Kings College University. I even threw a caber quite a few summers back. Dropped it to a reasonable eleven o’clock position – which isn’t too shabby for a beginning caber chucker.
As for the sea monster – well, I had been thinking about that particular idea since I was a kid.
Did you write a little of yourself into any of the characters? Do you have a favourite?
I’d have to say that I want to be Granddad Angus – and I probably was Roland – as a child growing up.
Did you find any part of the story difficult to pull together? If so, how did you stick with it?
Writing for kids is HARD work.
Don’t let ANYONE tell you that writing for children is easy.
I put more sweat into the creation of that novel SINKING DEEPER and the writing of my children’s picture book MARITIME MONSTERS than ANY of my other works.
I stuck with it because I have bills to pay. If in doubt I ALWAYS apply a working man’s ethic to my craft. My muse wears work boots and punches that time clock like it was a religion.
That sounds productive. How did you go about finding a publisher?
Well – I’ve got several publishers – but I’d have to say the publisher that has done the MOST to help make me the writer I am today is Nimbus Publishing. I connected with them on my very first ghost story collection – way back in 2004 – when I pitched my book at the First Annual Halifax Word on the Street Pitch the Publisher’s event.
Pitch the Publisher was basically a sort of Dragon’s Den for writers. You are given a very few moments to tell three different maritime publishers about your book – and WHY they ought to publish it. The event has gone on every year since 2004 – but as far as I have been told my book Halifax Haunts: Ghost Stories from Old Nova Scotia was the very first book to actually make the leap from a pitch session to a published work.
The book remains my bestselling work – with over ten thousand copies sold to date – which isn’t all that bad for a Canadian regional press.
Fantastic! Tell us what honours this book (Sinking Deeper) has received thus far and what is coming up.
As I mentioned – the book has made the short list for both the Hackmatack and the Silver Birch awards for Children’s Fiction. There is no cash prize involved – but both award committees have made certain that copies of Sinking Deeper have been bought and placed in school libraries across the maritimes and Ontario. That – in itself – is a huge benefit – and I am exceedingly grateful for this opportunity.
As a result I will be taking part in school and library readings across the maritimes – and possibly a few in Ontario – although transportation is an issue. I will be appearing at the OLA Conference this year – at the Follett Table on February 1st – at 11:30am. Any of you writer-types or librarians attending I’d be happy to meet with you.
I hope someone reading this can take you up on the invitation. Congratulations on making the short lists! Do you have another job you go to daily? If so, how do you find time to write when you are busy with life?
Oh yes – I have a day job.
It pays the bills.
As to how I find the time to write – I get up early and drink a LOT of coffee.
What other interests do you have for a change from writing?
I garden a little, shovel snow – (hey, it’s Canada) – and work out a little. I read and I watch WAY too many old movies thanks to the Turner Network.
Fortunately we don’t have snow all year! I understand about old movies; I like the Turner Network, too. How do you consistently write? Do you have writing goals – daily? Weekly? Monthly? Long range?
Writing goals have unfortunately been relegated to the realm of forgotten New Year’s resolutions.
I write as often as I can – as well as I can – not nearly often enough.
And yet you are an accomplished author. Do you have another project in the works? Any hints you can share with our readers about that?
I’m currently working on completing a young adult serial/series that is available in Kindle and Kobo format. The work is entitled Flash Virus and it consists of six separate episodes that will eventually form a stand-alone book. I am currently halfway through Episode Five. The first episode is free – in both Kindle and Kobo – and I have given away about 8-10 thousand copies through both networks.
It’s basically the end-of-the-world as told by a teenager.
The protagonist – Briar Gamble – has to react when his school is “invaded” by evil cellphones and a creepy pale-faced mad genius whom the kids refer to as Captain Albino.
You want a taste of it – here’s the first sentence.
“So as near as I could tell the end of the world began roughly about the time that Billy Carver’s butt rang – about halfway through the War of 1812.”
Eight to ten thousand free copies? Wow! (I am reading one of those.) And that first sentence is a good hook. Finally, do you have any advice for hopefuls?
Read every day – not just what you like to read – but read other stuff as well. Read action novels, political tomes, fairy tales, ghost stories, historical yarns, romance novels.
Feed the fire.
Grow yourself an iron-hard rhinoceros hide. This is NOT a profession for the easily discouraged.
Explore your imagination.
Don’t forget to tell a story.
Beginning, middle, end – save the artistic timelines for Quentin Tarrantino and the like.
Don’t give up the day job and remember to have fun.
If all else fails, go and fly a kite.
Great advice! Thank you, Steve, for this enjoyable and informative interview. You certainly gave us a different slant on things.
Now for the giveaway: Are you interested in winning a copy of Steve Vernon’s YA novel – “Sinking Deeper OR My
awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster”? Please leave a comment about this interview for your chance to win. At 6 PM EST on Tuesday, February 5, one name will be pulled from the basket and I will contact the winner for a mailing address so Steve can send the winner a book! Be sure to check back.
Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!