Welcome to Luke F. D. Marsden
Where are you from and where do you live now? I was born in Scotland, but grew up mostly in Bristol, in the South West of England. I now live and work in the old Roman Spa town of Bath in Somerset, site of the UK’s only thermal springs.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I published my first novel – Wondering, the Way is Made – in November 2014. It is a story of friendship in a crumbling world. It takes place in Latin America in the very near future, against a backdrop of serious climate change and societal upheaval. A band of good friends are brought together by fate in Argentina, and they journey across the South American continent in a camper van looking for a quiet place to ride out the adverse events that are occurring globally.
I first got the idea for the book when I was in Kerala, India in the summer of 2011. There was a deadly heatwave at that time in the US and it was the summer of riots in the UK. From a distance I watched and, with a small step of the imagination, envisioned what it would be like if things degenerated to the point where it was no longer worth returning home.
I eventually came to write the book three years later, whilst in South America. The situations, background events and anecdotes in it almost all have precedent in very recent history, even though some of them may seem far-fetched. The locations are places that I visited along my own way through the continent. One of the aims of the novel is to make the reader aware that sometimes the far-fetched can be far closer to reality than they realise.
I am currently working on a second book, which will be a collection of allegorical short stories exploring themes around the conscious and subconscious mind.
Where do you find inspiration? I get inspired by travel. It’s a cliché, but the real world (or, should I say, the universe) is stranger and more exotic than fiction. You just have to go out and find stories and ideas – the whole universe is full of them. The beauty of fiction is that, as a writer, you can then adapt, adorn and embellish those stories and ideas without limits until you have captured whatever it is that you were seeking.
Do you have a favourite character? If so why? I am surprised that I find this question so hard to answer. I have become very attached to the characters from Wondering… They are all misfits, but my favourite, if I had to choose, would probably be Joe. The group of friends tolerate his philosophical musings and outspoken monologues, as they are humorous and keep them amused. He regards his high-sounding ideas as important contributions to the group, and in a way they are, but not in any tangible sense. I like this about all of the characters – they all bring something unique and invaluable to the group, and the collective somehow combines to add up to something greater than the sum of the individuals.
Are your characters based on real people? My characters are usually composites of people I know and have met, with a measure of artistic licence thrown in. I like to create them this way as it lends authenticity.
Is there a message conveyed within your writing? Do you feel this is important in a book? I like to read, and write, books that have a message – it is something that is important to me. I wrote Wondering, the Way is Made as an attempt to capture something of the essence of the frivolity and self-indulgence of our time, and found that peering into the near future was a good way of doing this. The heroes and heroines represent a generation in microcosm. They are nice people, sympathetic, but upon reflection perhaps not quite as sympathetic as they appear. They lament the demise of society and the planet, quite rightly, but there is nothing in their actions that absolves them from the very things they criticize others for. They are products of a ‘Me’ society, they are, at times, wasteful, irresponsible, largely unmoved by the poverty they see as they travel through Latin America, and overprivileged in some cases. However, the fact remains that they are also gentle, thoughtful, honest, very likeable and humorous, which makes it easy to overlook their flaws and shortcomings. The book carries the message that, collectively, humans can be quite selfish, even if individually they are nice people.
In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? Wondering, the Way is Made is currently available in e-book format on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Flipkart. I intend to launch it as a paperback later this year.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? I hired a professional to copy edit my novel Wondering, the Way is Made. It was a sound move – the prose had a subtly, but significantly, more polished feel to it once the changes identified by the copy editor had been applied. As for content, I like to retain complete editorial control, which is part of the reason I chose to self-publish. However, several close friends did kindly proof-read the book before publication, and their feedback contributed to the overall shape of the work.
Do you read work by self-published authors? Yes. I have recently branched out from my erstwhile reading habits (mostly early 20th century books and philosophical novels) and I have been seeking out works by self-published authors, particularly writers who could be regarded as my immediate contemporaries. It’s rewarding to discover a great independent author for yourself, and enlightening to find out who else is out there writing right at this moment. A lot of superb talent exists outside of the mainstream publishing machine. I have recently read books by Harry Whitewolf and Leo X. Robertson, both of which I have enjoyed. The great advantage of the independent writer is that they are not beholden to any publishing house, editor, or anything, other than themselves, so they have the ability to write works for their artistic merit alone.
When buying a book do you read the reviews? I generally don’t read a book’s reviews before I read the book itself, although I’ll look at the average star rating as a sanity check. Most important, though, is the synopsis. If it grabs me, I’ll read the first few pages and a random excerpt from the middle. Then, if I’m still undecided, I might read a few reviews – a good, a moderate, and a bad review chosen at random. Book synopses of the kind that list a load of five star reviews in them send me running – it makes me suspect that the synopsis wouldn’t stand up on its own, or that an average book is hiding behind some good reviews. When I DO like to read the reviews is after I’ve finished the book. I’ll write my own review first, so as not to be influenced by any others, then compare it with the others after posting. Reviewing is an art form in itself, and I find this method helps to improve it.
What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? I love movies, but I think are mentally quite passive compared to books. While they are great input into the imagination, the flow of information is mostly one-way, as so much is served up to the viewer as the finished article. It’s all over after two or three hours of concentration. The same goes for video games (although I can hear howls of disagreement from some quarters!). A book requires time, and engagement of the imagination and intellect. Reading is a two-way process, a dialogue between the words on the page and the mind of the reader. It is a significant personal investment to read a book – I think that’s why it’s difficult to sell them. You are not just asking a reader for a some of their money, you are also asking them for one or two weeks’ worth of their spare time. They have to be pretty certain that it will be time well spent. This is why, therefore, I think it is such an honour when somebody does take that step, and elects to read your book.
What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers?
- When someone picks up your book to read it, they are making a personal investment of their precious time in the words that *you* have written, over and above everything that everyone else has ever written. That is an incredible honour. Never forget this.
- Write the books that you want to write, not the books that you think others want you to write.
- Write a little less than you want to each day, so that you start with renewed inspiration the next. This is paraphrased from Ernest Hemingway, but I have found it to be good advice, so I am passing it on.
What are your best marketing/networking tips? What are your worst? Best guerrilla marketing tip – Leave your book business cards between the pages of books you think your readers will pick up in bookshops.
Worst marketing tip – Leave your book business card in pubs and coffee shops. I’ve found it to be ineffective. Perhaps I’ve yet to find the right places.
Best networking tip – Get on Goodreads. It’s a great community of book-lovers.
Worst networking tip – Treating real-world networking events as though they’re work rather than pleasure, and therefore avoiding them. I’m guilty of this.
Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it? I recently finished reading Kabloona, by Gontran de Poncins. It’s a phenomenal account of life with the Inuit of King William Land in the Canadian High Arctic, a barren expanse of ten thousand square miles with a population of 25 people. That the Inuit succeed in the circumstances he describes is miraculous, and he writes well of the enormous pride they feel in their way of life, and the extreme care and attention to detail with which they must live in order to survive. When the physical surroundings are described they are hard to imagine, such is their other-worldliness: perpetual night, hunting seal by moonlight, haunting ice-scapes, weeks spent travelling by dog sled through vast emptiness, eating what is caught along the way, hastily erecting igloos in blizzards that it seems that nobody could survive… these are all part of normality. He is horrified at their customs at first, but their honesty, generosity and selfless acceptance of him eventually win him over and help him to rid himself of his initial egoism. This way of life is now vanished, so the stories that he recounts, as well as being astonishing, are the only way we’ll ever experience it.