Marcos: Kev Heritage, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Please tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Hi Marcos. And thanks for the invitation. So, a little about me…I’ve always had an active imagination. I was an only child (until my brother was born when I was eleven), and I spent a lot of time on my own imagining fantastical adventures and journeys—and became totally lost inside of them.
I suppose, even now, I’m a little bit disappointed with real life as it never lives up to the fantasy world buzzing around inside my head. But the way I can get closest to making that real, is by writing. No matter how annoying, frustrating or sometimes depressing, life can be, writing always delivers. I can escape into those worlds and live inside of them for a while. For me, it’s a magical experience.
Don’t misunderstand, my life is not mostly annoying, frustrating or depressing, but perhaps in the way people like to disappear inside a soap, a movie or a book, I like to enter worlds of my own making… whilst trying my best to not sound pretentious!
I find it hard to settle anywhere or in any one life. It’s one of those dreadful writer clichés, but I have had lots of different jobs. I have worked as a driver’s mate, factory gateman, barman, labourer, telesales operative, sales assistant, warehouseman, Student Union President, university IT helpdesk guy, British Rail signal software designer, premiership football website designer, mobile banking content team lead, gigging musician, graphic designer, stand-up comedian, sound engineer, improv artist, magazine editor and web journo.
I am a self-publisher who creates my own novels. I write the content (using a team of beta-readers and grammar fiends)—I design the covers and do all required formatting. My novels are available as paperbacks, audiobooks and e-books.
I am a Twitter nut with over 110K followers (follow me on @KevHeritage) and a lover of technology.I am English and reside in the seaside town of Brighton.
Marcos: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Kev: Thursday… a long time ago. I have an over-active imagination, which means that given the time and the inclination (and without something to keep my mind occupied) I can convince myself of pretty much anything—and it all makes perfect sense! As you can imagine, over-thinking in this way can be quite a serious flaw to a happy productive life.
I’m a rational chap, and have found ways to deal with this, but as young man, I unfortunately developed quite a nasty cancer and my imagination went into manic overdrive. I didn’t have a nervous breakdown, or anything like that, but I got stuck in a repeating anxiety pattern regarding all the tests I had to endure on a monthly basis. My mind worked overtime on every word spoken to me at hospital, every look—everything and anything. The chance of reoccurrence was high, so I had to be ready, but I was obsessing over it. A kind of psychological torture—or at least that what it felt like.
In the end, and against some very stern advice of my oncologist, I went to go and live in Greece for six months (a sort of extended travelling holiday). I needed to get away from the illness and the tests—I was sure my anxiety was not helping my chance of survival. I made my peace with the universe and booked a flight. I travelled the Greek Islands and finally began to relax. Wanting to chart my adventure, I started writing a journal. And writing that journal soon became very important. A sort of catharsis. One morning, on the island Santorini, I had a vivid dream:
A poet in a trench during World War One transported to a fantasy world where his spoken rhymes gave him a sort of magical power of healing.
I immediately needed to know more about him and put all of my thinking time into writing his story. It acted like a perfect heat sink for my overactive mind. I wrote for the rest of my time there. And writing has remained the same for me ever since. I don’t obsess about the minutiae of human relationships, my health, the climate, asteroid impact—anything—anymore. I put all that energy into creating worlds, characters, stories and plots. And that is how I started writing. I lost my first story somewhere along the way—which is probably for the best—it was bloody awful. I was a terrible writer, heh. I beat my cancer and I’ve been writing ever since.
Marcos: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Kev: World domination, where the only books are my books! As that is unlikely, my ambition, like most other writers, is just to write. It sounds simple, but of all the things I’ve done, writing is the only one that makes me feel fulfilled at the end of the day. And, believe me, some of those days can be dull, particularly spent subbing the same chapter over and over again.
The first thing a writer needs to do is manage their expectations. Careerwise, writing isn’t lucrative. The average author earns less than minimum wage. For all the work you have to put in, that’s not a big return. But it’s not about the money for me, nor most writers. Writing is very much its own reward. I suppose we all dream of a hit novel. Or that killer idea. But the reality of writing is a lot of hard, lonely work with very little glamour or money at the end of it. But as every novel and story is a hostage to the future, I never know what might happen…
Marcos: What inspired you to write your first novel?
Kev: Blue Into The Rip is not my first novel, per se, but it is the first one I was happy to publish. I see the other earlier novels as apprentice pieces along the way.
Marcos: So how did it come about?
Kevin: I was flipping through a notebook to see if I’d come up with any good ideas (I hadn’t), but scribbled at the top of one page were the peculiar words: ‘Blue Into The Rip’. I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote that phrase, yet it stuck in my mind. I started to wonder what it could mean. Like a puzzle… and I love a puzzle.
‘Blue’ became a character name and the ‘Rip’ some kind of tear in the fabric of time and space. The story sort of jumped out from there.
As soon as I discovered Blue was the result of genetic experimentation, the back story leapt fully formed into my mind and I knew it would take more than one novel to tell that story, so the series was born.
Marcos: What challenges did you overcome when writing your debut novel, Blue Into The Rip?
Kev: With Blue Into The Rip, I knew Blue would be transported to the future, meet some space cadets, visit a flooded London, live under the remains of the Amazon Rainforest and fly to a space station with the story ending with him floating over the Rings of Saturn (although I had no idea why, I just thought it’d be cool) and that was it.
That…and a terrific twist!
I found the novel as I went along. But by far the hardest part of Blue Into The Rip was to make the central character likeable. I wanted Blue to be that snarky kid at school. It made sense once I knew who he was: super-intelligent, weird looking (due to his big, blue, googly eyes), lonely and different. And trapped at home with irrational hippy parents. But… it just didn’t work. My editors were united: they didn’t like him. Quite frankly, it was a disaster. The novel was seriously flawed.
At this point, I nearly gave up. But somewhere inside, I knew that if I rewrote him, if I softened Blue’s edges I could make him work. A big job as he’s in every scene throughout the novel. But as soon as I started the rewrite, Blue suddenly arrived. He was still sarcastic, but now funny, warm and vulnerable. It’s who he wanted to be all along—if that makes any sense? I’d made the mistake of making him somebody he wasn’t. The rewrite was a joy. So it’s true to say that Blue, himself, taught me a lesson: always let your characters be who they are.
It’s odd to find your central character at the very end of the writing process, but that’s what happened. The result is a fuller, more rounded person who we root for.
Marcos: Do you have a special time to write?
Kev: I used to have this image of a writer locking him or herself away from all distractions. They were producing high art and they needed a refined, quieter atmosphere, right? Maybe that is the case for other writers, but not for me.
Like people who can fall asleep anywhere, I can write at a drop of a hat. All I need is my phone, Drum & Bass on my headphones (yes, I said Drum & Bass), my notepad or laptop and I’m off.
The Drum & Bass is for the times when I can hear people speaking. Normally I can write in a bar, in a cafe, on the train, anywhere really. But if there is a single loud voice somewhere—a character in a bar, or on a TV or radio show—the headphones go in and I’m blasting out wordage to some banging tunes. My guilty pleasure.
Marcos: I couldn’t help to notice on your site that you are a fan of Doctor Who. What do you think of the show’s writing over the years.
Kev: Wonderful! The writing for all series starting back in 1963 until 2014 has been mostly fantastic. For such an imaginative series, there will always be hits and misses, but that is the nature of Doctor Who. First and foremost—and a lot of people forget this—it’s a children’s show.
It has to work for the kids.
It’s got to fill them with wonder, make them laugh and scare their socks off.Over the new era we’ve had two brilliant script editors, Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat.
Russell T. Davies is a more hands on script-editor—I’ve heard of a few cases where he nearly rewrote the screenplays of some writers. His emphasis was on emotion and (to my mind) sentimentality—which has its place in Doctor Who, but maybe there was a little too much under Russell T. Davies’ reign. Not that I’m knocking him, I’m in awe at what he did with such an iconic series.
Steven Moffat is more hands off. The stories he puts through are more imaginative and, to some older viewers, more unbelievable, but I think he knows his audience well. He’s writing for children not all us serious grown-ups.
Sci-fi—by its very nature—is always the most imaginative form of fiction. And Doctor Who is one of the most imaginative series on TV. I love all of Doctor Who, the old and the new.Let’s hope it goes on for another 50 years.
Marcos: Which Doctor is your favorite?
Kev: From the old era, Sylvester McCoy.
All the Doctors were great. Tom Baker in particular was mesmerising, so I’m not too happy having to pick one out, but Sylvester McCoy had something special.
He struggled against a lower budget and stories that should not have been filmed (I won’t go into the politics behind that, suffice it to say it was part of a successful attempt to axe the series), but despite everything, his Doctor shone through.
Even through the silliness, the bad sets and ridiculous storylines, he gave it one hundred percent, bringing a darker aspect to the character. An aspect inherited by all the doctors since his incarnation. He is quite simply a marvellous and complex actor, and a great Radagast the Brown in the Hobbit series.
Marcos: From the modern era?
Kev: It’s far too early to give an opinion on Peter Capaldi, although he was fascinating in his introductory season. So I will plump for Matt Smith. Listen to some of his lines. Write them down on paper. Look at them. They are just everyday sentences, but he puts so much into them that they sound fantastical and other-worldly. Matt brings the child to the role, reminiscent of Patrick Troughton. Who else can pull off a bowtie and a fez with such aplomb?
Doctor Who is a truly great show because it reinvents itself every couple of years. What other show does this? All great shows, no matter how brilliant, always fizzle out. Doctor Who is about imagination and change. To be a Doctor Who fan, you have to accept that your heroes will be replaced. It’s a good metaphor for life. Nothing lasts forever. Things change, but change doesn’t have to be bad.
Marcos: If you could write for Doctor Who what would you bring the writing table?
Kev: I’d try to bring what all Doctor Who writers bring: imagination, humour and pathos. A tall order.
Marcos: How do you feel about books being made into films? Should they stay close to the source material or do something new and different?
It always surprises me when people moan about films not matching the books they are based upon. They are two entirely different mediums.
What upsets me is when the book is lost along the way. When the key part of the story is ignored—when, say, the unhappy ending is replaced with a happy one, because the producers (the people who put up the money) are worried about its commercial viability.
It can be somewhat of a lottery. A film that doesn’t follow the book can just as easily be a hit as a flop. It depends on a lot factors… and luck. The only downside is that a bad film can be the kiss of death to a magnificent book. But having said that, I love the idea of movie versions. They can be great fun.
Marcos: Would you like to see one of your novels made into a film?
Kev: Yeah. Sure. That would be cool.No matter how awful the final film may be, I’d still get the chance to casually drop into the conversation:‘Yeah, they’re turning my book into a movie’.Good or bad, that’s a result! I’m also practically minded, which means that I’d expect the movie to differ from the novel. It would be naive of me to think otherwise. More importantly, I would want any film based on my books to be spectacular—and to get ‘spectacular’ I would hope for a director with vision.
Directors who have vision don’t want to film every scene in the book as written. Instead they want to add stuff from their own imagination. They want to interpret the work in their way. Which I don’t have a problem with. They want to add to the work, not detract from it. So good luck to them.We also have to accept that films cost a lot of money. And sometimes the people with the money (the producers and the actors) also want some input. The humble writer, who is not putting up any cash, has little or no say once he or she has signed away the film rights.At that point, we writers have no more control (unless we’ve wangled a job writing the screenplay), and we just have to hope. But I’m sure I wouldn’t be too upset about that scenario, seeing as it may mean a Blue Into The Rip movie! Wahoo!
Marcos: If you could pick your own director who would it be?
Kev: After Cloverfield, Star Trek and Super 8— my choice would have to be JJ Abrams.
Marcos: What do you think of ‘trailers’ for books?
Kev: I’m open to anything to get a book noticed. I don’t have any video trailers, but I’d welcome anybody wanting to collaborate with me on such a project.
Marcos: Any tips on what to do and what not to do for upcoming writers?
Kev: You can pretty much find the same advice all over the net, but here we go:
Dos: Read and write every day. Know your grammar—when to use it and when to ignore it—and make sure your story flows.Flow is everything.Learn to accept criticism. It is the only way you will grow as a writer. A good critique is like gold dust.And read my helpful guide: The Complete INDIE Editor – 55 Essential Copy-edits for the Professional Independent Author. A few people have joked that I should’ve cope-edited the title, heh. But it’s a great resource to use when giving your work that final bit of polish.
Donts: Never show a first draft or any draft to a friend or family member. They will tell you it’s great. It won’t be. More likely, it will be terrible. Get independent people to read your work always.If self-publishing, always get your work professionally edited. The temptation to publish an unfinished piece of work is hard to resist. But you must.Don’t copy other writers.
Marcos: Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
I would ask any of your readers who have purchased one of my works to leave a review. Reviews are not only important for helping a potential reader make a purchasing decision; they’re absolutely critical in bringing a book to that reader’s attention in the first place. It doesn’t have to be detailed or eloquent. On the flip side, it is very rewarding to hear from readers who’ve enjoyed my work. Just one or two lines on Amazon or Goodreads is all. It can really make a difference. And I love to get your feedback.
And please feel free to contact me on any of the following links. I will certainly find time to reply.
Email: goforit at kevheritage.com