The Picture on the Fridge by Ian W. Sainsbury
What led you into writing?
I wrote my first song at fourteen, my first comedy sketch at around the same time. The song was terrible, but my brother and my dad still quote the sketch to me today. I actually managed to get something I’d written onto a TV programme in the late 1980s (Hale and Pace). For some reason—imposter syndrome, probably—I didn’t pursue writing, and became a professional musician. I tried standup comedy for three years in the noughties. I still write comedy, for ventriloquist Paul Zerdin.
In 2015, I met someone who’d sold hundreds of thousands of novels on Amazon. I dusted off my author ambitions and gave it a go. Enough readers liked The World Walker and its sequels to enable me to write full-time.
How does a typical day look?
Red bush tea first. Family duties until 8:30, then walk the dog. 9:30-10:30, noodle around with ideas, while spending too much time being distracted.
10:30 – make large pot of freshly ground coffee and start writing.
3pm Stop writing, do admin stuff and see the kids after school. Think about what I’ll be writing tomorrow.
I keep the notebook handy for the rest of the afternoon and evening, sketching out ideas. About a fifth of these will make it into the final book.
In what ways do your characters test your abilities?
Empathising with people who don’t think like I do is one of the hardest—and most rewarding—parts of writing fiction.
What’s your setup?
I dictate most of the first draft now, but this has only taken over as my preferred method during my last couple of books. I dictate into a Zoom H1n, away from the keyboard, while I pace up and down the front room. Dragon professional dictation software transcribes it, then I immediately correct it and tighten the prose a little. Two dictation sessions gets me 2,500-3,500 words a day.
If I’m editing, I use ProWritingAid to weed out over-used words, stray adverbs etc for draft two, then invite my proofreaders/line editors to a google doc for draft three. I follow behind their progress, making any final tweaks.
What lasting effects have your favourite authors had on your writing and style?
My favourite writers – Graham Greene, Ursula LeGuin, John Irving, Iain Banks, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, PG Wodehouse, Lee Child teach me that there’s always a better sentence waiting to be found, if I’m willing to put the effort in to look for it.
What do you do for inspiration?
Read. Shower. (Separately.)
What repeating themes do you find yourself pulling into your stories?
The nature/nuture debate on the formation of personality. The pros and cons of humans tinkering with their own consciousness or genetic code. The big one: ‘There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ We don’t know what we don’t know. Which is good news for writers who like to speculate.
How do you wind down?
Time with my family, playing piano, writing music on Nanostudio 2 on my iPad, losing at online poker (playing very low buy-in tournaments). A good single malt (to help ease the pain of losing at online poker).
What sort of challenges do you regularly overcome while world-building?
It can be hard to walk the line between giving the reader too much information, and too little. The writer needs to know how the world works in detail, but the reader doesn’t, unless it has an impact on the characters.
What’s the most useful advice you could give to an aspiring author?
This will sound trite, but it really isn’t. Start writing something, then finish it. That’s it. Authors get their training on the job.
Tell us about the book you’re promoting.
My latest novel was released at the end of June – The Picture On The Fridge. It’s my first psychological thriller, and has just won the Kindle Storyteller Award 2019.