Name Christian Saunders.
I use the name C.M. Saunders when I write fiction.
Though I’m lucky enough to look younger, so I often lie about it. Don’t tell anybody.
Where are you from
I live in London now, but I grew up in a little ex-coal mining village called New Tredegar in the South Wales valleys.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I always had a passion for writing. It was probably the one thing I was good at when I was in school, but I didn’t pursue it until I was much older and had spent nine years working in a local factory learning the nuts and bolts of lfe. I wrote as a hobby in my spare time, and eventually started getting some success. From there, things snowballed. I went to university as a mature student, taught English in China for five years, then moved to London where I write for sport and men’s lifestyle magazines. Along the way I’ve managed to get ten books published and thirty-odd short stories. I am living proof that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I have a new novel out called Sker House. It’s a traditional haunted house-style story set on the South Wales coast. The characters are fictional, but much of the story is based on historical fact and Sker House is very much a real place. My parents used to take me there when I was a child, and many of the stories I heard about the place stuck in my head. Later, when I did some research, I found that the truth was even stranger than the fiction.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I remember writing war stories long-hand in note books as a child, though I didn’t start taking it seriously until my early twenties. As for ‘why,’ I’m not really sure. I like the idea of sharing thoughts and emotions with people, and influencing them in some small way with my words. As I got older, I gravitated toward horror and dark fiction with a ‘sardonic twist of humour’ as one reviewer eloquently put it.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I guess when I first started having things published regularly. It’s hard when you start out, especially if nobody knows who you are and you have no experience, no contacts, and no writing credits. You start at the bottom and give away the first few pieces for free to ‘exposure markets’ just to get a few credentials under your belt. Then you start climbing that ladder.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was called Into the Dragon’s Lair – A Supernatural History of Wales. It took about eight years to write and research, around my day job, before being taken up by a small Welsh publisher. Wales has always had a reputation for being a mysterious place. I wanted to know more about the history and folkore of the place I am from. Maybe I was hoping to find out a bit more about myself in the process.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I think it’s evolvled over the years. When I started writing seriously in the mid-1990’s it was a very different landscape. You could afford to be indulgent. Then the Internet came along and changed everything. These days, you have a very limited time to make an impression and get a reader hooked. It’s made for much faster-paced, punchier writing. Every word counts.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Sker House named itself. I’ve always thought it would be a great name for a book.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There are a few. Basically, I want to convey the idea that all is rarely what it seems, and the history of a place, and the experiences of an individual, shape them and their future. There is also a subtext about pursuing your dreams, leaving home and returning, and all that comes along with it.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
Quite a lot of Sker House is based on fact. There is a famous legend about the Maid of Sker that I incorporated, where a young girl fell in love with a local harpist. Her father didn’t agree with the romance and imprisoned her in her room at Sker House until she agreed to marry someone else. Her unhappy ghost is now said to haunt the place. I also mention some other local legends, historical figures, and go into the history of Sker House in some detail. Of course, I used a little artistic license and the primrary characters are all inventions.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I didn’t know it at the time, but the life of one of the central characters in Sker House mirrors my own quite accurately in that he was from industrial south Wales, and left to be a writer. *SPOILER ALERT* In the end of the book, he ends up working for a men’s lifestyle magazine in London which, spookily enough, was something I wound up doing about two years after I finished the book.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I think it’s absolutely vital to read often and widely. I usually have several books on the go at any one time. At the moment I’m reading Stephen King’s latest, Bazar of Bad Dreams, Travis Barker from Blink 182’s autobiography, Graham Masterton’s Community and a couple of anthologies that I dip into when the mood takes me, usually between longer reads. My TBR list is insane.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Quite a few, actually. Darcy Coates is a very talented young lady, Robert Brumm has written some good, original books, and Renee Miller has a very distinctive way with words. She’s definitely one to watch, though if she catches you looking at her she’d probably decapitate you with an axe.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I am putting the finishing touches to a horror novella set in the First World War called No Man’s Land, which will be out this summer to commemorate the centenery of the Somme, and I am also working on a series of YA historical adventure books based on a character called Joshua Wyrdd. I also want to release a third volume of short fiction at some point in the next year.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My DeadPixel comrades. It’s a loose collective of indy writers. The website is well worth a visit for anyone looking to discover some new authors. You’ll find a range of styles and genres:
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’ve been making it work professionally for three or four years now. I’m not going to lie, its tough. In my day job I can’t always write about what I want, or be as creative as I’d like, but I count myself lucky to be able to make a living doing what I love. In the past year or so my fiction has taken off and began to make up a bigger chunk of my income. The trick is learning how to balance everything.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t think so. I didn’t think it was as scary as I hoped it would be when I first started editing it, but it’s pretty hard to scare yourself when you know what’s going to happen next! I wanted it to be more atmospheric, rather than go the guts and gore route. That’s too easy.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Balancing everything is the hardest part. The day job, the research, the writing and editing of fiction, marketing, social networking. It all has a place, and if you spend too much time on one aspect you end up neglecting the others, often to your detriment.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Stephen King. I’ve been a fan since my early teens. People have him down as a horror writer, but there is more to his work than that. I love the way he builds his characters, and the way he can write a scene and make you believe you are actually in it, often with what appears to be the minimum of effort.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I travel a lot both with work and as a hobby, and I tend to write about the places I visit. I lived in China from 2007 to the end of 2012, so during that period I wrote a lot about Chinese culture, and being a stranger in a strange land. I lived in Wales until I was in my late twenties, so that is my default setting!
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
When you go with a traditional publisher, they decide on the cover and you often have very little input on that side of things. The best thing about being an Indie writer is that you control every aspect, including the artwork. For the past few books I have used an Australian artist called Greg Chapman. Check him out here:
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The pure workload involved. The first draft took over a year to complete. Then I sat on it for over three years, and recently dug it out and did some heavy editing. The editing process was very intensive, and lasted about four months.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned a lot about the history of south Wales during the research stages. One thing in particular I remember was the ‘Wreckers.’ Locals would use lights fastened to grazing cattle to entice passing ships onto rocks, where they would kill any surviving sailors and steal the cargo. It was quite common around the coast of Britain.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t give up!
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Nothing except I want to thank each and every person who ever invested time in my work for their support. It means the world. Without them, I would still be putting things in boxes in that factory.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
When I was a child I loved Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree books and Alfred Hitchcock’s Three Detectives, so it probably would have been one of those.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
The Office makes me laugh. I didn’t know how close to the truth it was until I actually worked in one. Cruelty to animals makes me cry. And coming to the end of a stuffed crust pepperoni pizza. Although that could just be the self-loathing.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
So many! If I had to pick just one it would be Lee Harvey Oswald. I’d ask him what really went down that day in Dallas in 1963.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
Can I have a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, please? “Do not follow where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I’m a big fan of combat sports, especially MMA, and I love travelling. I always think about the quote they have in the Lonely Planet guides, “The world is a book, and if you don’t travel you only ever read one page.”
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I like paranormal shows (The Ghost Inside my Child is the scariest thing on TV), sit-coms and cheesy horror films. I love most of Eli Roth’s films, even the Green inferno, which the critics hated. But what do they know?
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I like spicy food. Spanish, Mexican, Indian, and certain regions of China like Sichuan and Hunan, where I used to live. Other than that, I like Italian. You can’t go far wrong with pasta and cheese! Music-wise I like punk and old-school rock. Some of my favourite bands are Bouncing Souls, the Ataris, Less Than Jake, Blink 182, Hawthorne Heights, The Alarm, The Clash. I also love old-school Americana; Springsteen, Bob Seger, Tom Petty, etc.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I have this dream of being self-sufficient and living off the grid in a cabin next to a lake. I’d read a lot, go fishing, grow my own vegetables, keep some chickens. As long as the cabin had Wi-Fi and central heating, obviously.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Yes I do, and I try to update it regularly and keep it interesting.
Also, feel free to come and say hi on Twitter. I might write about scary stuff, but I’m quite friendly in real life!
And don’t forget to check out my Amazon Author page:
My new book, Sker House, is available now: