On a hot Friday morning, I pick up this week’s featured author and transport to Amsterdam. In minutes, we’re sitting at an outside bar watching a houseboat churn it’s way up the Amstel River. Peaceful, serene. I think a fabulous place for an interview.
1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?
My name’s Dane Cobain and I’m a British poet and author. I live in a town, rather than a city, but I like to think that my diverse interests and endless energy keep people interested. I put on a lot of events, release a lot of books, and just generally stay busy in the local creative scene.
2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?
I’m not a very visual person. Even though I know my way around Photoshop and release videos every now and then, I’m much more comfortable when I’m working with words, and I can’t draw to save my life.
3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as an oil magnate?
Self-expression, I suppose. Writing helps me to make sense of the world around me, and it’s also a little bit like a drug – once you start writing, you get hooked, and it’s difficult to make yourself stop. Personally, I have no desire to – I’m a functioning word addict and I’m not going to change unless somebody makes me.
4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?
That’s a tough question to answer. Off the top of my head, I’m going to say Oscar Wilde – I’m reading a book called Table Talk at the moment, which is a collection of the short stories that he used to tell to guests at dinner parties. People used to say that his eyes lit up and that he dominated the room, and some guests even used to weep after he spoke. I’d like to see what all of the fuss was about.
5. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book be great company?
It’s small enough to not take up much space in your luggage, comfortable to hold and fun to read, with short chapters that keep you whizzing through the pages until the end.
6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.
I suppose it depends on a book-by-book basis, because I write all sorts of stuff and it doesn’t necessarily need the same type of research. When it comes to developing plots and characters, I usually have a vague outline in my head and then I just sort of let it simmer when I’m in bed. If the idea is good enough, I remember it when I’m more awake and start to flesh it out, writing it down in my notebook. I create character profiles of every major character, as well as a breakdown of what happens from chapter to chapter. I usually carry out additional research – mostly online – as and when it’s needed for a specific scene.
My writing schedule is pretty sporadic – I always have so many projects on the go that I just write when I can, although I’m always working on something. After I finish the first draft, I give it another couple of passes by myself and then send it off to my editor, Pam Harris. Pam has a good eye for plot and detail, and so she provides a couple of rounds of amends, starting with rewrites and plot development and finishing up on copy edits and layout tweaks.
7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”
Start by planning it out. A lot of people want to just jump right in and start writing, but planning it out will help in two ways – you’ll have a roadmap in place to get you from the start to the end, and it’s also a good endurance test. If you get bored of the planning stage, you’re not going to have the willpower that you need to write the thing, to edit it and to get it out into readers’ hands.
8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?
I’m not sure that I have one! I suppose it would just be to hustle – to work as hard as you can as often as you can. Being a writer doesn’t put you in competition with other writers – you’re up against yourself, and you want to be the best writer that you can be. Forget about the others.
9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?
I don’t think I could stop writing even if I wanted to. I counted it up the other day and realized that I’m working on five books at the same time at the moment, although they’re all in different stages:
Social Paranoia (non-fiction): An upcoming book about how social networking sites make you paranoid and what you can do to combat that, due for release on August 22nd 2016.
Come On Up to the House (horror): A combined horror novella and screenplay which is due to go into editing shortly for a release towards the end of the year.
Subject Verb Object (anthology): 21 indie authors contributing to a themed anthology. I’m currently writing my own piece for it and editing the contributions from the other authors.
Driven (detective novel): The first book in a series of detective novels. It’s my main writing project at the moment, up to around 15,000 words.
Oceanus (experimental poetry): A long-form experimental poem about the Titanic, based upon the Wikipedia page about the disaster that was live exactly 100 years to the second after the great ship went down.
10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?
I’m in all of the usual places – Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. – as well as at www.danecobain.com. Say hi – I don’t bite!