John Porter, author of Dirty Little Stories and The Collector.
In fifteen words or less, describe how a reader might best approach your books:
I was going to say that the best way to approach my books is to sneak up on them from behind… but here’s the real sentence… “Scratch below the surface a little, laugh occasionally, and always be prepared for something unexpected!”
If you were trapped on a desert island, and a magical talking stork could bring you one book (not yours) which would it be?
I’d have to say the Bible. There’s a lot of history, mystery, adventure, action and comedy in that. But apart from the Bible? It would be a toss up between something long, like the Homer’s Illiad, and something enjoyable and fun, such as Spike Milligan’s Rommel – Gunner Who? On second thoughts I’d get the amazing stork to bring the biggest book I could think of so I’d have plenty of toilet paper for a while!
Summarise your writing style (or books) in 100 words or less:
No matter whether I’m writing horror, adventure, historical drama, meditations, mystery… whatever… more or less everything I write seems to have a touch or two of comedy in it. It’s often pretty zany comedy, but at other times I love to get a good theme of dark humour rolling through a plot. Wry jests – snapshot cameos which are designed to lighten up a more serious part of the narrative – stuff like that. Mice that hunt cats, exploding cabbages, eccentric people… it’s not all a barrel of laughs, but I try to add a few smiles whenever the time is right.
Which authors influenced/influence you most?
Spike Milligan, John Wyndham, Douglas Adams, Ray Bradbury, Dylan Thomas, Roald Dahl, Tom Sharp, H H Munroe, and Bryce Courtney.
What other factors have influenced your writing?
Wow! That’s a big question! Certainly a love of words. I started playing with written English when I was around six or seven years old and couldn’t stop. Dad painted, Mum knitted, I wrote. Watching people is very important to me too, and finding those connections between things and people and places that aren’t immediately obvious – leading the reader to discover the connections little by little for themselves as a story unfolds. Douglas Adams was a master of that… I am but a humble student! Travelling around as I’ve done, and moving through a number of relationships – that’s given me a lot of material to work with too. Emotionally charged events in my life which seemed so important at the time, but with hindsight are just blips on the wide radar of life. Writing about those blips and seeing where their similarities might lie is always fun once you’re separated from them by a little bit of time. Time for thought. Life’s strangeness generally intrigues me, as of course do all those exploding cabbages.
What made you go indie?
Indie books present an easy way to publish both major works, as well as experimental pieces freely and quickly. To reach such a wide potential readership so simply is impossible any other way. The other big benefit is the numerous methods available to introduce readers to my books with free sampling, and even free complete short stories taken from compilations. Once I have a reader who enjoys my samples, I have a customer.
What’s your favourite part of indie publishing?
The freedom I have over the production of the book. It’s totally up to me, and I sink or swim on the merits of what I do. I write, proof-read, edit, rewrite, lay out the work, and market it. Sure, I don’t have to do all that, but there’s a great deal of satisfaction in seeing the whole job through from the first tap of the keyboard to the final happy response from an excited reader. And that’s another thing Kelly, it’s soooo good to get reader’s feedback. They tell you want they would like to read next, and what they would buy if they found it. You don’t get that with conventional paper publishing.
What’s your least favourite part?
Strangely enough it’s the same as my favourite part! That’s not a contradiction, although it may well be a paradox. I don’t like seeing the thousands of samples being downloaded, and only a comparatively small percentage being converted into actual sales. But there are enough actual sales to keep me happy. To overcome the slight frustration, I imagine that my indie books are on one of those tables at the front of a conventional bookshop. Heaps of people come in, pick up a copy, browse a few pages, then go and buy a newspaper or magazine. And some of them take one of my books home. In a conventional bookshop I never get to see all the people who flick through my books then put them down again. Indie publishing is exactly the same, except that millionsof browsers pass by, thousands of them browse, and hundreds buy, and the big difference is that I get to see how many people are browsing. That in itself is great feedback for future covers and book descriptions!
Why should someone pick-up your book(s)?
Simply put, until they pick up one of my books, or sample it, they’ll never know if they like it or not. The scope of most of what I write is so broad that it’s quite difficult to categorize my books into conventional genres, so people have to be prepared to step outside the tetrahedron a little. My novel The Collector, for example, includes historic and geographical detail about Australia, comedy, intrigue, solo outback adventure and a touch of horror, but also delves quite deeply into the minds of those involved in the plot. Once someone’s read a couple of my short stories they often become hooked, and I quite often receive emails asking for another book along the same lines.
What formats is it/are they available in and where?
I have most of my work published on several convenient formats at Smashwords and I also print and bind my own books – actually I’m quite proud of that – I’ve won several awards for book-binding! I can be reached via my business website.
John currently has a short story, A Tall Story, available at indieebooks.co.uk.