Author Interview: Seb Jenkins
Each Sunday, I'll be interviewing a different author about their writing journey. If you are an author and would like to be interviewed for this series, please complete this application form. If you have any questions, or if you want to recommend an author, please get in touch by emailing me at email@example.com.
About Seb Jenkins
Seb Jenkins grew up in Bedfordshire in the UK, and read books religiously from an early age. A strong interest in Horror and Action Young Adult novels such as Darren Shan and Cherub later carved a desire to write his own material, pitched towards his younger teen self.
Fast forward to age 21, Seb is just finishing up his zombie survival series Life After Death, with the third and final instalment now underway. You can find all of his material on his Wattpad account, and on Amazon.
Where and when did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?
I was quite late to the game of actually writing my own content. Obviously, I was really into books as a kid growing up, and I had always had a good imagination, but it never occurred to me to write my own stuff. As I was finishing my last couple of years at school, I started to jot down odd ideas for stories, characters, and plot twists, and after a year or so, I found myself with a detailed plan for Life After Death. It was at that point I decided to give writing a real go.
Who is your favourite author, and can you give us their best quote (in your opinion)?
Stephen King is obviously a huge inspiration as a wannabe Horror writer—what he has done for both page and screen is simply astounding. I think my favourite quote has to be:
'Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.'
How long did it take you to write your first novel?
The actual writing stage of my first novel took just over a year, but I haven't yet come back around to the editing stage yet. I had to juggle my writing with full-time education, and then a uni degree, so things moved a little slower than I would have liked. But finishing that first novel is an amazing feeling.
Do you plan out your novels or just start writing?
For novels, I think it is key to plan before writing. I believe that without a long and thought-out planning stage, you end up with mistakes and work that probably isn't your best. My favourite stories are those with intricate plots, twists that make you think and scream inside—you don't get those without planning. If we're talking about short stories, though, it can sometimes be fun to just start writing and see where it takes you. Freestyling can lead to some very interesting shorts.
Description or dialogue?
I would say that my dialogue is far better than my description, and I love creating a sense of humour for my characters through their speech...but I would still have to go for description. It allows you to paint a whole picture for your novel, as well as inner thoughts and feelings for your characters. There's something fun about really setting a scene, and describing every single nook and cranny, so that it almost becomes a photograph in your reader's mind.
Have you ever read your book reviews/comments, and if yes, what did you think of them?
I mainly use Wattpad, so the reviews and comments ping straight to my phone. I would like to say that I don't read them, but I read and often reply to every one. The Wattpad community is generally there to offer praise, point out mistakes, and hand out constructive criticism. I can honestly say that I am a far better writer after reading these comments.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
One hundred percent. Anyone who says they don't is either a liar, or has never written a long-form story. Writer's block is natural. You can't expect plot details, and descriptions, and metaphors to roll continuously from your head like an unlimited loo roll. Sometimes you just need to take a break, or even a day or two, then come back to a scene, and suddenly, it all flows again.
What has been the most difficult challenge you’ve had to face as a writer?
I think establishing a loyal readership is the most challenging thing for any author. Setting up my profile on Wattpad for the first time ever, I had no content, no followers, and no author friends. It's an incredibly drawn-out slog to get from that point to a steady number of reads and dependable fellow authors, but it's definitely worth it.
What is the best purchase you’ve ever made as a writer?
I recently decided to pay someone far more qualified to design my covers for me, and it already looks like a great investment. People always say, 'Don't judge a book by its cover,' but we all do it, everyone does. Having a set of cool, eye-catching covers instantly draws people in, and I'm very glad that I did it.
Which software or platform do you use to write your books?
I use Wattpad, and cannot urge people enough to come and join. It offers the chance to both share your own work, and to view other talented authors'. Some of my favourite ever books have been written by indie Wattpad writers. It is also just one big community—these aren't selfish robots at the other end of another computer screen, they are like-minded people with like-minded goals, and I have made many friends off the back of this. If you want to become a better writer, Wattpad is the place to go.
What does literary success mean to you?
That's difficult to answer. In one sense of the word, I would deem myself successful on a personal note if I continued to write and improve, as it's my passion and I enjoy it. But I suppose when the term success is used, you think of commercial success, and I would only ever think of myself as a 'successful author' if I managed to get my work published and read by a large number of people.
What’s your favourite self-editing technique?
I like to complete a novel or piece of work before I even think about editing. This way, by the time I go back to chapter one, it was written about a year ago and seems completely new and fresh. This makes it easier for me to distance myself from my own writing.
Are you working on a novel right now? If yes, can you tell us a little about it?
I am in the early planning stages of a new novel, Fate or Fortune. It is based around a low-level journalist, who is struggling to make a name for himself, constantly sent out on these wishy-washy features that don't really challenge him. One day he is sent out to a local psychic community to interview one of their members. After she predicts a grave danger for the man and his family, he puts it down to the eccentric nature of fortune tellers. But when his family are brutally murdered, he has to find out whether she had anything to do with it, or whether she really is psychic.
Where is your favourite place to write?
I'm a big fan of typing at my desk, in silence. Anything else and I just get too distracted.
Has a reader's opinion ever impacted on your plans for a novel/series?
I wouldn't say that a reader's opinion has ever changed what I was originally going to do. Generally, with novels, I plan them out as detailed as I can, and stick to that plan quite tightly. Having said that, certain opinions always make me either more or less confident about where I'm taking the story, and how my readers might react. But I never tend to deviate. I'm writing for me more than I am for them.
Of all the books you've written, do you have a personal favourite? If yes, which book, and why?
Although it is by far the worst in quality, I think you always have a soft spot for your first novel, so I'll say Life After Death. I think just because it was when I first decided to make a real go of writing, and the Wattpad readers took to it better than I could ever have expected. I aimed the book at a 13-year-old me, so receiving messages from teenagers telling me that it was their favourite book ever will always stick with me.
What is the coolest experience you've ever had as a writer?
I think teaming up with other writers on the One Million Pound project. I met some like-minded people and joined a great cause to raise as much money as possible through three short story anthologies. Each anthology, Fiction, Fantasy, and Thriller, features 40 amazing shorts by 40 talented authors, and it's something we are all really proud of. All the money raised goes to charity, and we are currently in our promo/launch phase.
Do you write full-time, part-time, or just as a hobby?
I don't think I could seriously describe it as anything more than a hobby at this stage, as I've been doing it alongside my uni degree and haven't really made any money from it, but I certainly have hopes of taking it further in the future. I do have plans to take a break after I graduate to write part-time for a few months before heading into the working world.
Have you ever Googled yourself? Did you like what you found?
I have googled myself, yes, mostly to see if my digital footprint was getting any bigger as my online readership grew. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the results, as Google had me listed as an author, and most of the first page of results was made up of my work. Still working on that Wikipedia page, though.
Is there any part of the writing process that you really hate?
Editing. I despise editing. I know it improves your work, and is a key stage to writing a novel, but there's something so exhausting about going back over your work to tweak and subtly improve it. If I could outsource one aspect of the writing process, it would definitely be editing.
Do you need to feel emotions strongly to become a good writer?
Everyone feels strong emotions, that kind of comes with the whole humanity deal. The key is writing what you know, and channeling your feelings into your writing, that's what makes a good writer.
What was your most embarrassing writing-related mistake?
Basic spelling errors are never fun. I know how to spell, and the difference between there, their, and they're, but sometimes, after an hour of work, all kinds of mistakes creep in. Being corrected by someone half your age about a simple spelling error is never one of my finest moments.
Do you prefer to write series or standalone novels?
Novel-wise, my only ones so far have been a three-part series, however, part of me wishes that I hadn't started with that. Part of being a writer with an active imagination is the constant flow of new ideas, and it can be frustrating being tied down to a series as these amazing ideas pile up. I think I will concentrate on standalones as soon as I finish the Life After Death series.
Do you research your books before you begin writing? If yes, how long do you spend researching?
With Zombies, I kind of researched subconsciously for years, as I've always been into zombie books, films, and TV shows, so there wasn't actually a huge amount of active research. However, with my upcoming novel Fate or Fortune, I plan to research for a month or so before I even start planning.
If you weren't a writer, what job would you like to have?
If I couldn't write for a living, I don't think I would stray too far. A literary agent, or working at Wattpad would be great.
Do you weave personal experience into your writing?
I try to as much as I can. It's always more realistic if you're writing loosely based around something that actually happened to you, or a conversation that you actually had.
What are you working on right now?
At the moment I'm working on quite a few different projects. I'm desperately trying to find time to bring the Life After Death series to a close without making my readers wait too long. As my first project, it's been an amazing journey, and I really would not have continued writing without some of the amazing messages that I received after book one. At the moment, I'm a little way through book three, entitled After, which is going to be a shorter novella. It really concentrates on our characters' journey to carve a future for themselves in such a destructive world.
My main project at the moment is called The Hunt, which I am co-writing with the amazing Shaun Allan, along with the odd guest writer. We wanted to create a story where no one talked about the plot, or where the tale was going, but instead picked up the book, read the previous chapters, and took the story wherever they wanted it to go. It makes it unpredictable, exciting, and to be honest, very challenging. I'm thrilled with how it's going so far and we've got so many amazing Wattpad horror writers on board.
The book is basically set in a dystopian future in which the gaps between classes are growing ever wider, and poverty has gripped the majority. Fox-hunting is still banned in the UK, but as with many other countries across the globe, they have substituted humans into an old-fashioned hunt-type game show. People can volunteer to be hunted for sport, if they survive and reach the end, they win £1,000,000 for a new life. If they are caught, they leave behind £50,000 for their families to have a chance.
I am also working through some short stories, and poetry about social injustices, as well as planning a brand new book for 2018. All news can be found on my socials and Wattpad account.
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?
Stick at it is both the best and only advice for aspiring authors, really. Chances are that when you start, your writing might be bad, but trust me, you will slowly improve as you go. I think every writer always harbours a sense of hate for their own work, and a sense of, 'It's not good enough!', but sometimes you can be too close to it—see what others think and adapt from their comments. The only way to get better at writing is to learn on the job really, just keep coming up with new ideas, and don't be scared to tweak them, or to try something new. No one gets it right the first time, even the pro's.
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If you are an author and would like to be interviewed for this series, please complete this application form. If you have any questions, or if you want to recommend an author, please get in touch by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.