Simon West-Bulford is a local author. Simon tells us about his recent award, his latest projects and what inspired him to start writing, his writing style and much more…
Where are you from?
I was born in Hertford, Hertfordshire, grew up there and didn’t move to Harlow until six months after I got married back in 1992. We probably would have stayed in Hertford, had it not been for the fact that we weren’t all that keen on living in a haunted house! (No, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I think the house did).
Tell us about your recent award?
This came as a complete surprise to me. I didn’t even know I had been nominated until I won! Every year the Independent Publisher Book Awards honour the best independently published titles from around the world, and my novel, ‘The Beasts of Upton Puddle’ received gold in the Fantasy category this year. The winners were announced on April 30th and there will be an award ceremony in New York on 28th May.
Tell us about your latest book and if you are in the process of a new book?
I have several different projects on the go at the moment crossing a number of different genres. ‘The Beasts of Upton Puddle’, my second published novel, was launched September 2013 and is probably my fondest achievement. Ever since I was able to put a pencil in my hand, I had an obsession for weird and wonderful creatures, and so I spent a lot of time drawing crazy beasts on bits of old computer paper. Later I would write about them, and Beasts is probably the result of that.
As for books still in the works, I recently completed a gothic horror set in 1923 called ‘Dark Seed’. This will be one of the first TREEBooks on the market published by Medallion Press and is due for release January 2015. A TREEBook is a unique kind of eBook in which the way you read actually changes the direction of the story! There are eight different story paths. That one is currently with my editor, but the novel I’m half way through writing at the moment is the sequel to ‘The Soul Consortium’. It’s called ‘The Soul Continuum’.
When and why did you start writing?
I started writing my first book when I was about seven, but never actually finished it. I think it’s somewhere in the attic. Ever since then I’ve been a writer in one way or another. From writing essays on theology during my spiritual days, to writing tutorials for gaming level design, I was always scribbling something down. It was around fifteen years ago I got serious about writing fiction, though. I’d written a study on the Book of Revelation and realized it would be more interesting to write a novel based on those events. It was terrible and will never soil the shelves of a book store, but at least it got me on the road, and from there I started joining writing groups where I could get proper critiquing of my work.
What inspired you to write your first book
I suppose it depends on what I count as my first book. That book I wrote when I was seven was most likely inspired by Star Trek, my love of astronomy, and one or two nightmares about ghostly banana shaped monsters that lurked on the landing outside my room at night. Yes… strange kid!
Do you have a specific writing style
No, in fact I like to keep challenging my technique which often impacts the voice and style of my writing. I absolutely love the H.P.Lovecraft style, so I sometimes emulate that. I particularly used that approach for ‘Dark Seed’. In the ‘Soul Consortium’ I chose first person present tense, which can be a real challenge, and in another novella I wrote a couple of years ago, I took on the challenge of trying to write a story about the legendary Green Man, and I wanted it to see if I could make the story interesting without using conflict.
How did you come up with the title?
‘The Beasts of Upton Puddle’ title didn’t come easy. I think it was my wife that came up with the name of the town while we were passing a village with a similar name once. ‘The Soul Consortium’ spawned from a previous novel I wrote that’s still in limbo, and my intent is to continue the title theme by working my way through the alphabet! So, the next one is ‘The Soul Continuum’ and the third book in the series will be ‘The Soul Conundrum’.
What books have influenced your life most?
That’s an easy but clichéd answer. I suppose it would have to be the Bible at the number one spot. Though I walked away from Christianity over ten years ago, there’s no doubt that the impact of that book is immense. It’s a powerful piece of work with truly amazing stories. The morals within its pages range from genocidal horror to jaw-dropping wisdom, so how could you not be influenced by it? In terms of inspiration though, there are some works of fiction that have always stayed with me: Hyperion by Dan Simmons, Rebbeca’s World from my primary school days, Lord of the Rings.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I have been fortunate enough to workshop many of my novels with some very talented writers over the years. One particular writer stands out for me more than most others because I have a lot of respect for her talent and drive. She has written a novel which I am convinced will be a best seller one day – keep your eyes open for Gayle Towell. I have learned a lot from her. Probably a better known author that I would love to get some tips from would be Clive Barker. The man’s imagination is mind-boggling and his prose, incredible.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I find many things hard about writing. Creating realistic and likable characters is difficult, but by far the hardest thing is continuity. I like a complicated plot, which means there are lots of threads to weave together, and keeping the logic and facts consistent can be a real challenge. It’s also hard to maintain the momentum sometimes. When the idea is fresh and new and the characters are bubbling up from nowhere, you can’t get the words out fast enough, but when the urge comes to writing something new, and you’re only half way in to your current project, it’s hard to stay focused. Even so, when I do discipline myself to sit down and finish what I start, and get into the zone, it’s a satisfying feeling to lose myself in that world again.