Born in Glasgow, Martin Eastland commenced his writing career at the age of 12, seemingly by accident. Discovering a knack for putting words together, he developed on and off over the next 30 years, taking a break to focus on screenwriting and film-making, and performing in karaokes around the UK. He never lost the knack, though and, finally – after 30 years of writing for fun and the therapeutic benefit it brings – he was enticed to submit a story to a small press-released anthology publication. He was published on the strength of this story, and has been published in various anthologies – flash fiction, short story and micro-fiction drabbles. He ceased submitting to focus on his solo collection, Out Of The Ashes, for which he is currently seeking a daring and provocative publisher. His second collection of short fiction and drabbles is in progress, with hopes of securing the same publishers.
Interview with Martin Eastland
TTJ: What inspired you to start writing?
Martin: I’ve always been a fairly avid reader since childhood, but it stemmed from severe literacy deficiencies as a young child. Somehow, I overcame it and was soon reading far above my previous level. The first book which caught my attention was a kids version of Stoker’s Dracula, followed shortly by Dickens A Christmas Carol.
The real development followed soon after when I was forever altered by reading ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. That book blew my mind, strengthened my vocabulary and made me a writer. I had to write stories like that, and made it a point to try ever since. I’ve been somewhat successful in that I have developed a very cinematic writing style, in terms of narrative imagery.
TTJ: How long have you been writing?
Martin: I started writing at 12, in High School. I discovered a significant quality which could only have been derived from my recent expansion in my choice of reading material, but the encouragement of an English teacher spurned me to keep writing based on my “remarkable ability for my age.” It proved to be enough to get me where I am now, thirty years later.
TTJ: How do you handle writer’s block?
Martin: I view writer’s block in a dim light, I’m afraid. On one hand, I see it as being a myth, a convenient excuse for laziness in a fledgling writer, who has procrastination as his M.O. On the other hand, its never been an issue for me, anyway. I’ve always been able to switch effortlessly from one story to another and then return to the original when a solution presented itself. The longest gap in completion so far was for my story, Perfect Stranger, which was six months or so. The resolution just came to me and I finished off the story within the week. It still remains one of my best, I think.
TTJ: What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing’?
Martin: Opinions on writing – good or bad – are highly subjective and contentious. If I give mine, they can only be mine. But I would say good writing is found in both ‘truth of life’ and the uncompromising reality within it. You have to tell the truth of life or everybody will see you as an avoider of reality, and any credibility you have will be lost. Like trust, its very hard to regain. The readers know, as some things you detail in character narrative may well be things they have experienced in their own lives, and you screw with that at your peril. It’s a story, yeah, but it has to have its roots in reality, or it’ll expose you as a fraud. Fiction is the lie. A good author finds and illuminates the truth behind the lie. Beyond that? Good writing draws you into the worlds you create. A large part of that is context, subtext and fluid punctuation. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it (laughs).
TTJ: How do you develop your plot and characters?
Martin: I don’t subscribe to plotting. I have a rough idea in my mind and pursue the story through placing characters in terrifying predicaments and discovering twists to get them out of them. Its far less restrictive and allows far more room for dropping in an inciting incident even I have no idea about beforehand. I think it adds to overall concepts of dread, terror and horror – the 3 tenets of horror.
TTJ: Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. What advice would you have for new writers?
Martin: I’m in no position to advise anyone. But I would offer that they should enjoy the process of writing, although the long wait for publishers to reply with acceptance or rejection emails can be extremely disheartening. Rejection, and fear of it, can cripple you at times. Fight through it the best way I know how. Don’t give a damn. It’s that simple! Approach it with the attitude that its not a rejection – rather a re-marketing opportunity. It usually isn’t a reflection on you. There are many and varied reasons for rejection.
TTJ: What are your favourite, and least favourite, parts of publishing?
Martin: My favourites are the actual composition from conception to handing in the edited version. Also, seeing my work in paperback format, in my hands is a sweet ending. My least favourite is the waiting involved in learning of a story’s fate. If it’s going to be rejected, fine. The sooner it is, the quicker I can fix it up and resubmit to another publisher.
TTJ: Where do you get your inspiration?
Martin: I couldn’t say. I just get ideas all the time. I can usually distinguish the keepers from the losers, but I note them all down. You never know what gems you are throwing away, but the good ones stay with you, nagging you daily until you make a start on them. Those are the ones you want to focus on.
TTJ: Are you working on anything at present which you would like your readers aware of?
Martin: Only that a further collection of similar short stories is being written for release six months after publication of the first.
TTJ: What books or authors have influenced you the most?
Martin: Stephen King, mostly, but other authors are James Clavell (Shogun, Tai-Pan, Noble House and Gai-jin), Dickens (A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist), and Stoker (Dracula). I have read extensively outwith those named, but those are the ones having had the most impact on me.
TTJ: How do you come up with titles?
Martin: I find I can get a relevant title for an idea in minutes of the story idea filtering through. Titles have never posed an issue for me. My mind’s a title generator of sorts. I can take one or two words that work alone or together, and pull a story of thin air. The rest is a little thinking time and in-writing development as I work through it.
TTJ: How do you do research for your stories?
Martin: Depends on what’s required, really. Places, legal stuff and dates mostly, which gets done when I get to the relevant parts. Either that, or I leave it till the editing stage. YouTube documentaries then further reading, if need be.
TTJ: Do you write listening to music. If so, what music?
Martin: I have a background in film-production and have a long history of writing screenplays to widen my understanding of that craft. Along with that love of movies, came a fascination with film scores and composers - John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and John Barry being the forerunners. It aids the scenes when I write and lends atmosphere and tone to the words.
TTJ: Was the writing process different? What challenges presented themselves?
Martin: The process remained the same, but the challenges were inspiring in bringing different textures to each story.
TTJ: Which of your book(s) was the most enjoyable to write?
Martin: I only have one to get out there, so it would have to be that one, although the current collection I’m working on is becoming very interesting.
TTJ: What was the highlight of writing the stories?
Martin: There were a few highlights. The key stories which stood out from the rest, the amazing feedback and support for them, and for me, from a small group of trusted beta readers, and the unrelenting speed in which the ideas came for them.
TTJ: What are the key themes, or message, to the stories?
Martin: There are a few recurring themes. I write about issues I am interested in – the current climate of third and fourth-wave feminism, kids in jeopardy (Always an attention-getter in stories, and sadly so), and social commentary in general. I believe a writer is a reporter, reporting on both sides of life – dark vs light, good vs evil, Jungian concepts of duality in humanity. I have to report the facts from a reportage angle, whilst injecting my own analysis of the subject at hand, all the time keeping it firmly within the context of the stories. I try not to include messages, though. As the saying goes, ‘Leave the messages to Western Union.’ Nobody wants lectured to. But I have to tell the truth of life, comfortable or not, or I’m lying to my readers.
TTJ: What is the future of your characters? Are there any sequels planned?
Martin: I start each story as a one-shot deal. The object is always just to write a good story. I have started sequels to two of the stories – requested by beta readers who loved the originals. They may or may not be included in the second collection.
TTJ: Do any of your characters hold a special place in your heart?
Martin: Not really, but if I had to pick one, it would be Callie Murphy from Suffer The Little Children, who was unwanted from birth after her mother passed away after childbirth, her father in his grief blaming her for the death of his wife. Then her subsequent life events and their horrific conclusions. I really felt for her.
TTJ: What do you hope the readers take away from your work?
Martin: Mostly, having had such an experience in reading them that the first thing they want to do is discuss them and blow my trumpet for me terms of how much of a cathartic and visceral experience they had living vicariously through my tales of terror (laughs). I just hope they spread the word like a virus if they like them, and want to be infected with dread more often.
- THEY’RE COMING!
From ‘BLOOD AND BEETLES’
© 2020 Nocturnal Sirens Publishing, USA
- A MOTHER’S LOVE
From ‘MOTHER’S GHOST GRIMM Vol 2'
© 2020 Nocturnal Sirens Publishing, USA
- DEMON’S BREATH / THE PRINCE / THE TRUMPET CALLS
From ‘MONSTERS’ Dark Drabbles Series
© 2019 Black Hare Press, AUS
- THE DEVIL’S CONSORT
From ‘ANGELS’ Dark Drabbles Series
© 2019 Black Hare Press, AUS
- CALL ME
From ‘FLASH FICTION ADDICTION’
© 2019 Zombie Pirate Publishing AUS
(All intellectual copyrights reverted to MARTIN EASTLAND).
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