Fiction Interviews

Ian Skewis ~ Author Interview

“Don’t worry so much. Trust your instinct and trust your own efforts.”

In 2017, Ian Skewis lit the literary world on fire with his debut novel A Murder of Crows. An extremely talented and prolific writer of literary fiction, crime thrillers, science fiction and horror, we’re grateful Mr. Skewis was able to take time to join us at the Book Writer’s Café for a few virtual pints to discuss his writing and reading life.

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Ian Skewis, Scottish Author

A Murder of Crows became a #1 Bestseller and was longlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize. He also narrated the audiobook version which went to No.1 in the Audible Mystery charts and won the Gold Acorn Award for Best Audiobook.

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Prize-winning poet and author, Michael J. Malone stated that “Skewis creates an atmosphere of foreboding and doesn’t let go until you reach the last page.” The Herald called his book “an impressive thriller.”

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Ian Skewis is an Associate Editor for Bloodhound Books and a freelance proofreader/editor. He is the author of best-selling novel A Murder of Crows (2017) and a member of the Chartered Institute for Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), the Glasgow Editors’ Network, the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA), and the Society of Authors.

To learn more about the celebrated author Ian Skewis, read on.

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How many books have you written? Which is your favorite? Why?

I’ve written one novel, narrated the audiobook and self-published seven paperbacks. I’ve edited and proofread over one hundred novels. It’s frustrating because I am so busy editing other authors’ books, I have less time now for my own but I am in the process of planning my schedules more comfortably so that I can gradually return to long-form writing. I hope to have my second novel out there in the near future. But I do have about seven novels lined up and more short stories too. My favourites are usually the ones I’m working on at the time. I do have a fondness for A Murder of Crows because it was the book that launched my career in publishing. Not bad for a handwritten work that I spent some 28 years on in my spare time!

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What is the significance of the title?

I knew that the story would fit into the crime genre so I needed a title that fitted the bill. It opens with a murder and is largely set outdoors in the countryside and a crow appears several times at key points in the novel, hence the title.

What was inspiration for the story?

It came about from a troubling incident in my childhood when I found a man hanging dead from a tree. He had committed suicide, I later found out, but it has haunted me ever since. I still love the countryside but that event in my childhood made the countryside not only a thing of great beauty and wonder but a place where dark things can happen.

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What is the key theme and/or message of your book?

Memory plays a large part in A Murder of Crows. One of the characters, Alice, has early onset dementia and her scenes are described through her own eyes, which is terrifying enough but even more so from the perspective of a crime novel. Misjudgments are conveyed in the novel too. Sometimes even the slightest stumble can cause a huge catastrophe to be set in motion, even years down the line. It’s a theme which I feel will be tenfold in the sequel when it eventually comes…

Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? Is so, why?

Alice is the most popular character in the book it seems. I think it’s because readers identify with her crisis and feel for her. Scott perhaps is the most tragic of them all in some ways but I can’t give away too much here. Spoilers…

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What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book?

The editing process was a huge mountain to climb and, in some ways, the most stressful. Marketing the book was another. These days authors are expected to spin lots of different plates. I learned a lot during that time, though, and I’m still learning.

What was the highlight of writing your book?

Seeing the paperback arrive. It was my utmost dream to see that novel as a paperback. When I signed the initial contract, it was digital only but a few months later I heard whispers about the potential for a physical copy so when it was finally confirmed I was overjoyed.

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What was your hardest scene to write?

In some ways the opening scene which describes a murder. Unlike some authors I don’t like to focus on blood and gore, it simply doesn’t interest me. I wanted to view this murder from a different perspective, a very human one. So, I chose to describe his thoughts and feelings as he falls down to the ground, dying; the girlfriend he would never see again; the baby he would never hold in his arms. And then some flashbacks to his parents and small details that in the moment of death become hugely important. I tried to convey the helplessness behind it all, the regret and the sadness of being all too aware that this is it, this is the end.

What do you hope your readers take away from your book?

I can only hope that it takes them on a journey and during that time they forget about all else. My stories are often very dark and a little strange, but so is the world, I believe. The feedback from A Murder of Crows was incredible and I was glad that readers understood what I was trying to do.

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What books are you writing now?

At the moment I am working on a two-part novella. It’s set in the west end of Glasgow in Scotland. The first book is called The Awakening and can best be described as horror with a little science fiction in there too. I’m having a lot of fun with it and I think there is potential for a third book too.

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Where do you draw inspiration from?

It varies. Many of the stories I have written were in gestation for a number of years so trying to recall where I got the inspiration from is tricky now. Music and film always inspired me more than other novels to be honest. Certainly, I was inspired by Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing in my youth and Ian McEwan’s books, especially The Cement Garden and Atonement. But often, it can just be a notion that springs to mind. For example, my novella, The Awakening, stemmed from a creepy shadow in the corner of my room…

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What books are you reading now? What books are currently on your bedside table?

I’m rereading Jaws by Peter Benchley. I’m surprised how different the relationships are in the book compared to the film. Next up, The Exorcist and its sequel, Legion. I haven’t read them in many years so I’m eager to revisit them. I do seem to be going through the book archives at the mo!

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When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Originally, I wanted to be an artist and I did go to art school but once there, I found the course didn’t interest me, so off I trotted to drama school, loved the course, graduated and became a professional actor for a few years. But increasingly, I felt like a very small part of a big machine and I wanted to have more creative input so after dropping out of the arts altogether for many years I returned in 2013 and decided I wanted to write. I’ve never looked back since.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

It varies, depending on the demands of the work. At the moment I’m editing and proofreading a lot of other authors’ books so I fit in my own writing when I can.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

The beauty of working independently is that I can set my own deadlines. I try to be realistic, particularly given the demands of editing and proofreading other authors’ books. At the moment I’m producing a paperback short story collection, which grows by about three books per year. It forms a little library of individual stories covering a wide range of genres and I love doing them as they allow me to further my craft in areas where I might otherwise not get the chance. However, I also design the books and assemble the files before sending them to the printers so it’s a lot of work. The writing is only one component! It can take several months to finish the story, design the book jacket and assemble the files, then tweak it once the proofs arrive. But the end result is worth it I feel.

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What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Crikey! That’s a tough one. I guess I like for everything to be just so. It’s perhaps one of the reasons why I haven’t yet approached a traditional publisher. I hate the idea of giving away too much control. I’m not satisfied until everything is looking as good as it possibly can be and when it comes to my own work I don’t like to compromise. That was one of the reasons I left acting. Despite appearing in some great productions, all too often I felt I was compromising my artistic vision. Not anymore!

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? Why?

A dog. Only because I adore them. I can’t think why depression is called the ‘black dog’. They are the most joyful, social animals. The complete opposite of darkness. A donkey perhaps, if we’re talking depression, but a dog? Absolutely not! 

What is your writing Kryptonite? How so?

Time, or more precisely, the lack of it. I have so many books to write and sometimes it seems I am always trying to keep up with every single aspect of my life. The problem with having a job I love is that it has become an obsession… I haven’t had a full day off since October 2016. Am I obsessed? I’ll let you judge!

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What advice do you have for writers?

For potential debut authors I would say be brave and be honest. It takes a lot of courage to put your work out there and for some of us that’s not an easy thing to do. Choose carefully who sees your work though. Friends and family will tell you what you want to hear. Choose someone who is knowledgeable in the publishing sphere and whose opinion you can trust. Find out what kind of author you are. Not every author is destined to be a multi-million selling commercial success because not every author writes in a commercial way. If you can recognise at a reasonably early stage what kind of author you are, you can then make a clearer decision about what kind of author you want to be. You can do this by studying the market and other authors’ books who you appreciate.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Don’t worry so much. Trust your instinct and trust your own efforts.

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Do you write listening to music? If so, what music inspired or accompanied your last book or your current book you are writing?

I don’t listen to music when writing. I prefer silence. The music I hear when I’m writing is the rhythm of my own words.

What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?

None really because it’s my journey and mine alone. I’m happy for advice but I think the best way to learn is to do so through your own trial and error. A mentor can give you some help but they can’t live the journey for you. Sooner or later you have to learn to swim without arm-bands.

What are the most important magazines or websites for writers to subscribe to?

It depends on your chosen genre and what you intend to achieve. Some authors might prefer to keep it local in terms of their readership and contacts. Others might want to try and rule the world with their output. There is definitely plenty of magazines, podcasts, events and websites you can sign up to, many of which are free but it is a minefield out there so I’d suggest less is more, which goes back to what I said earlier about deciding what kind of author you want to be.

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What does literary success look like to you?

If readers enjoy it then it’s a success. My first novel was a bestseller but its success can also be measured in its longevity. It has since opened some doors for me. If your book means you can somehow maintain a foothold in the precarious publishing sphere then I guess that can be taken as a reasonable measure of success.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I try to be true to the work itself and so if it feels right then I would consider it. Up until recently I haven’t written a sequel to any of my work but I do have some sequels planned. Short story writing is a good way of finding out if a project will have legs. I’m happy to say that my current project does and will definitely extend to a second book and potentially a third. I do have a sequel to A Murder of Crows planned, too, and a potential spin-off but that will be some time yet before they make an appearance as I’m so busy with other projects at the moment.

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‘Nothing ever ends, not really. Everything is a prelude, a prologue to something else…’

From A Murder of Crows (2017) by Ian Skewis

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Ian Skewis publishes FREE SIGNED PAPERBACK BOOKS and a regular newsletter. To receive your free books which are available worldwide (free postage too) simply sign up using the link here: https://www.ianskewis.com

Other publications by Ian Skewis include: The Lonely Cyclist and Inkling (science fiction stories), Borrowed Time (a piece of Doctor Who fan fiction), A Trick of the Light and A Man of Many Parts (horror stories).

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Ian Skewis is an Associate Editor for Bloodhound Books and a freelance proofreader/editor. He is the author of best-selling novel A Murder of Crows (2017) and a member of the Chartered Institute for Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), the Glasgow Editors’ Network, the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA), and the Society of Authors.

Ian Skewis can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, & Goodreads

A Murder of Crows is available worldwide on Amazon

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CG FEWSTON

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The American novelist CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, & he’s a been member of the Hemingway Society, Americans for the Arts, PEN America, Club Med, & the Royal Society of Literature. He’s also a been Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) based in London.

He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Fathers Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), The Mystics Smile ~ A Play in 3 Acts (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), Little Hometown, America (2020); A Time to Forget in East Berlin (2022), and Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being (2023).

Forthcoming: The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.

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He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.

You can follow the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 470,000+ followers

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A TIME TO FORGET IN EAST BERLIN 

“A spellbinding tale of love and espionage set under the looming shadow of the Berlin Wall in 1975… A mesmerising read full of charged eroticism.”

Ian Skewis, Associate Editor for Bloodhound Books, & author of best-selling novel A Murder of Crows (2017)  

“An engrossing story of clandestine espionage… a testament to the lifestyle encountered in East Berlin at the height of the Cold War.”

~ Lone Star Literary Life Magazine

“There is no better way for readers interested in Germany’s history and the dilemma and cultures of the two Berlins to absorb this information than in a novel such as this, which captures the microcosm of two individuals’ love, relationship, and options and expands them against the blossoming dilemmas of a nation divided.”

~ D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

A Time to Forget in East Berlin is a dream-like interlude of love and passion in the paranoid and violent life of a Cold War spy. The meticulous research is evident on every page, and Fewston’s elegant prose, reminiscent of novels from a bygone era, enhances the sensation that this is a book firmly rooted in another time.”

~ Matthew Harffy, prolific writer & best-selling historical fiction author of the “Bernicia Chronicles” series

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LITTLE HOMETOWN, AMERICA

“Readers of The Catcher in the Rye and similar stories will relish the astute, critical inspection of life that makes Little Hometown, America a compelling snapshot of contemporary American life and culture.”

“Fewston employs a literary device called a ‘frame narrative’ which may be less familiar to some, but allows for a picture-in-picture result (to use a photographic term). Snapshots of stories appear as parts of other stories, with the introductory story serving as a backdrop for a series of shorter stories that lead readers into each, dovetailing and connecting in intricate ways.”

~ D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

“The American novelist CG FEWSTON tells a satisfying tale, bolstered by psychology and far-ranging philosophy, calling upon Joseph Campbell, J. D. Salinger, the King James Bible, and Othello.”

“In this way, the author lends intellectual heft to a family story, exploring the ‘purity’ of art, the ‘corrupting’ influences of publishing, the solitary artist, and the messy interconnectedness of human relationships.”

~ Lone Star Literary Life Magazine

GOLD Winner in the 2020 Human Relations Indie Book Awards for Contemporary Realistic Fiction

FINALIST in the SOUTHWEST REGIONAL FICTION category of the 14th Annual National Indie Excellence 2020 Awards (NIEA)

“Fewston’s lyrical, nostalgia-steeped story is told from the perspective of a 40-year-old man gazing back on events from his 1980s Texas childhood…. the narrator movingly conveys and interprets the greater meanings behind childhood memories.”

“The novel’s focus on formative childhood moments is familiar… the narrator’s lived experiences come across as wholly personal, deeply felt, and visceral.”

~ The BookLife Prize

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American Novelist CG FEWSTON

 

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This is my good friend, Nicolasa (Nico) Murillo, CRC, who is a professional chef & a wellness mentor. I’ve known her since childhood & I’m honored to share her story with you. In life, we all have ups & downs, some far more extreme than others. Much like in Canada, in America, the legalization of marijuana has become a national movement, which includes safe & legal access to cannabis (marijuana) for therapeutic use & research for all.

“This is a wellness movement,” Nico explains. The wellness movement is focused on three specific areas: information, encouragement, & accountability.

In these stressful & unprecedented times, it makes good sense to promote & encourage the state or condition of being in good physical & mental health.

To learn more you can visit: Americans For Safe Access & Texans for Safe Access, ASA (if you are in Texas).

The mission of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis (marijuana) for therapeutic use and research.

Link: https://www.safeaccessnow.org/

TEXANS FOR SAFE ACCESS ~ share the mission of their national organization, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which is to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis (marijuana) for therapeutic use and research, for all Texans.

Link: https://txsafeaccess.org/about-1

Stay safe & stay happy. God bless.

 

Nico Murillo Bio ~ Americans & Texans for Safe Access ~ Medical Cannabis

 

 

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