Francois, the honour is all mine, it is a real pleasure to be chatting here with one of my favourite Children’s Authors :)
Congratulations on winning the Readers Favorite Award 2016 for Inspirational Poetry Books for your book “Life, Sex and Death – A Poetry Collection (Vol. 1)”. I hope readers of the interview will have a new perspective on poetry and writing from this interview.
I hope so too. Poetry is a magical thing to me, whether it consists of stark phrases of brevity or lush volumes of flowery prose, I try to keep my interests as broad as possible to appreciate how people write their poetry. To me, it is an incredibly intimate process when crafting a poem and I feel privileged to know what the process is like myself. I can empathise with what people are going through when they are concocting the verses layer by layer in their pieces. Poetry is such a sensual way to deliver encouragement, hope, kindness, sincerity and emotional contact through the medium itself, it speaks clearly to the soul in all of us.
I have always been obsessed with song lyrics, specifically because I admire how songwriters get them to fit into the music of their songs. My poetry evolved many years ago from writing lots of song lyrics in admiration of lyricists and finding that I had too many words to fit into popular musical structures. However, there was a rhythm and musicality to my phrases, which ultimately developed into the poetry that I am writing now. I’m extremely passionate about poetry and find myself falling in love with it over and over again every time I read something new or rediscover a classic piece from the legendary poets of the past.
Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from for your poems? Are you inspired by situations, images or life experience?
I can pretty much get inspiration for a poem from all of the things that you mentioned above. Sometimes I can even write a phrase or line that comes to mind and then build the entire poem from the ground up around it. It is the same with stories, they can start from very humble beginnings, seeded from a prompt or phrase to then take on a life of their own.
I have been to many charity shops/thrift stores and bought games with prompt cards on a variety of topics. I probably have enough inspirational material to last me for the next ten thousand years! I believe that you can train your creative mind to use whatever you can find as a source of creative inspiration and would encourage people to take clippings from magazines, purchase writing prompt books, search Google for royalty free images to spark visual creativity, go and listen to conversations in coffee shops/pubs or spend some time soaking up reference books at your local libraries.
Historical research I find is particularly a massive boon for firing up the creative juices, as there is so much that we can learn from the past to then incorporate into forms that we find in modern day, to the point where we are producing both familiar and original content. I abhor clichés but there are only a finite number of ways to do things, so I am keen to focus on finding new and exciting ways to express myself through the vehicles and tools that we have at our disposal. We live in an information rich age and we should be taking advantage of this at every opportunity we possible can.
I regularly take part in National Poetry Writing Month every April and have successfully written all the way through the month because I find the prompts incredibly inspiring. The odd time that I have been unable to use the prompts has always resulted in me seeking out an alternative and I’ve found that providing you are resourceful, you can always find something to write about. A friend of mine asked me if I ever write for myself in a diary/journal and to be honest I don’t. I just use situations that I have enjoyed or suffered from in my life as further fuel for inspiration too. To me nothing is off limits. I might not name anyone in particular but I will certainly try to use positive and negative circumstances I’ve encountered and synthesise them into either a positive or cathartic poetic experience for people to relate to.
I definitely would consider myself to be a night owl. I’ve tried working early in the morning and I can do it if I force myself but I much prefer putting on some music to listen to then working late into the night. From 11pm to 3am is my core productivity slot, I can get a lot done because it is quiet along with there being no distractions. I feel like once I am done, I can then reward myself with a good night’s sleep once I’m finished.
I write pretty often (not nearly as much as I would like to in terms of number of words but still every single day). It is good to have that level of discipline in your life. However, I also balance my time between writing and promoting myself. I’m dead against writing loads but not attempting to promote it properly because if you have put the time and effort in, you should be proud of your work. It deserves an audience that will need to be hunted down and relentlessly chased to read it!
With regard to a writing location, I work from my home office in the loft/roof of the house. It is cosy up there and very conducive for writing. It allows me to squirrel myself away from the world and to get on with the task in hand. I believe everyone needs to find their happy place to go create and be free of distractions. I don’t have children but if I did I would immediately start creating the moment they fall asleep.
Many people have a fundamental idea that poetry is about rhyming sentences. But it isn’t. There is much more to poetry than simply rhyming. What forms do you use and why?
I think you are very right, pure rhyming in every line and verse tends to suit pop songs and nursery rhymes. I tend to work on the sound of words and the flow of them. I’m hugely influenced by singer Mike Patton from Faith No More. There is some rhyming in my poetry but I am often fond of rhyming words that aren’t commonly paired together. I’m experimenting with a huge amount of forms when I write, especially when I am in the throes of National Poetry Writing Month!
With regard to my own personal form favourites, I tend to favour alliteration as one of my main poetic weapons of choice. I’ve also been told that I write very funny haikus (Japanese poems of 5/7/5 syllable structure – they tend to lend themselves very well to editing and punchlines because of the small space you are working with, you are forced to get the message across in a very precise way) and I enjoy crafting lunes (another alternative haiku form that can use either words or syllable count but with a different counting pattern). I also tend to write a lot of sonnets, rhyming couplets (alternate rhyming schemes are a lot of fun), poetic duets (I’ve written many fabulous duets with other incredible poets) and prose poems that tell a story more than anything. If you challenge me to write it then I will give it my best shot!
What was the inspiration to write “Life, Sex and Death – A Poetry Collection (Vol. 1)”?
I was inspired to create the volume Life, Sex & Death because after three years I had written a fair amount of poetry. I actually made a music album way before I started writing poetry called “Life, Sex & Death” that was never commercially released. I came up with the name by taking my name (Ellis D/LSD) and then transforming that into a three part story structure for our time here on this earth. It is meant to represent life (birth), death (take a wild guess) and as for the sex part, well that is everything in the middle! Put simply, we are born, we love and then we die. The fun part is what happens in the middle of this epic sandwich.
After I began collecting my poems together, I was very enlightened to discover that on reflection the dominant themes that I use for my poetry are grounded in the realms of Inspirational, Philosophical and Love/Romance (sometimes all three crop up within the context of a single poem). From that point onwards, I was then able to divide them up into these categories and as a result, I had a poetry book that had clearly defined themes, which helps no end when it comes to promoting it alongside similar books!
Why is poetry important as a form of literature and why, in your opinion, do some authors prefer to write poetry as opposed to stories and novels?
Poetry to me is extremely important because it can convey messages and movement in a few sentences what it can take an entire short story or even a whole novel to express. I don’t like to compare all writing mediums directly with each other because I have huge love of both short stories and novels as literary vehicles. What I would say is that in this frantic world we live in where time is of the essence, I can write poetry far faster than the time commitment I would have to invest into short stories and novels. From this perspective, I can totally understand why authors who have limited time to write would favour the art of poetry. However, given the luxury of time and the opportunity to fill that time, I would gladly embrace working on bigger projects such as novels. To someone like me I feel like poetry comes naturally and it will always be my number one choice when it comes to writing pieces. I’m sure there are many other poets who feel strongly the same way.
In your experience, what opportunities or channels are available to authors and poets to build their platform and gain recognition? What do you believe are the factors which have contributed to your success as an author and poet?
I would encourage every writer to start a website/blog. There are so many tools that allow you to do this for free. The blogging community is very warm and welcoming, along with extremely encouraging. I believe in writers making friends with other writers, as I feel the best ones are the ones that are keen to promote the work of others, which I try to tirelessly do wherever possible. I would encourage you to submit to competitions and award contests often but only after you have honed your craft and impressed many people, along with becoming comfortable with heavily editing your work or having it edited professionally by editors. I started out in the blogging world admiring many people (who I obviously still do until this very day) and I never stopped aspiring to reach their level of commitment, professionalism and writing ability to enthral their communities. I kept writing in a focused way regularly too, to the point where I believe I have become someone also to be admired in the blogging world. This is important to me, as I am excited to be a source of inspiration for other writers and authors. To me this how I pay it forward being a writer, by giving back to the very writing community that helped me become the writer that I am today.
I used to be a Financial Software salesman, my career up until now has mostly centred around the Financial Services industry, having worked in it for over fifteen years. The work was well paid but I was made redundant recently (the third time in my life) and it has made me re-evaluate what is important in my life. Writing as a career is not particularly well paid and often necessitates a need to find some other regular paying work to allow you the freedom to write and create. I have never been concerned with chasing material wealth and am more passionate than ever about ensuring that my writing is my primary focus, whatever life throws at me from now on!
In my free time (there is not a lot of it but I try to allocate some every so often, in order to remain sane), I tend to read, play video games and watch a lot of film/television. I’m really excited where TV shows are going right now and am becoming more fond of it than films because you can spend many more hours enjoying the characters, stories and action. Movies are fantastic but don’t tend to last long, whereas TV has a wonderful opportunity to go into much more detail and slowly reveal things in time rather than all at once in a film. Music is a big passion of mind too, right now I enjoy listening to retro/electronic music and indie rock.
You have authored two other books, “A Little Bit Of What You Fancy” which is a collection of flash fiction and short stories, and “A Blend of Tea Break Tales” which is also a collection of short stories. Can you tell us a bit more about these two books?
“A Little Bit of What You Fancy” is a collection of short stories that I have personally authored. Most of them are humorous, with the odd horror story or sad tale thrown into the mix. About half of the material is flash fiction and the other half of the book are longer short stories that were previously printed in Kindle Anthologies and local newspapers. I enjoy the medium because you have to be focused with where the story is going, since the word count is limited. Every sentence has to be heavily edited and pared to the bone. It is another writing discipline that I enjoy very much, along with being one that keeps your writing both tight and focused.
“A Blend of Tea Break Tales” is also a collection of short stories from a band of authors that belong to my local Writers’ Circle. I donated one of my stories (which crops up in “A Little Bit of What You Fancy”) for the collection and I collated all of the stories from the authors. There is a lot of diversity in the tales of this particular book, they are mostly all contemporary modern day fables laced with humour, romance and poignancy, with a couple of historical pieces also thrown into the mix.
You are donating all the proceeds from “A Blend of Tea Break Tales” to children’s literacy programs locally and internationally. What inspired your decision to support children’s literacy programs? How can we as parents and teachers encourage literacy in children?
This was a joint decision from all of the authors who participated in the collection. Rather than deal with the nightmare of trying to pay out separate royalties to all of the authors, we thought of the very endearing idea to donate all profits to support children’s literacy programs. All of the people that I have associated with are extremely generous, this is their way of giving to something that is of massive benefit to us all in the long run, for if we encourage our children to read well then they will be better educated and better off all round because of this.
As parents and teachers, I would advocate in making reading as fun as possible for children and try to encourage them to pick up a book instead of mindless internet surfing or playing of handheld videogames. Don’t get me wrong, I would never want to deny children the chance to play with such devices but perhaps they should earn their time on them by reading first!
Do you have a specific readership that you would like to reach with your writing or do you let inspiration guide you and identify the readership later?
I think I’m very much a fan of the latter. Like all writers I would like everyone to enjoy what I put out there but am fully aware that this is not the case. However, I am lucky in that I do manage to appeal to a broad range of people who tend to ‘get me’ and therefore I am much in favour of letting inspiration lead the piece for it to then find an enthusiastic audience.
Much has been said about traditional publishing vs self-publishing? What are your thoughts on the matter?
I would always champion going after the traditional publishing deal in the first instance. This might sound funny coming from somebody who has previously self-published but I am a strong believer in both publishing mediums/platforms for different reasons. I do believe however that traditional publishing has access to better marketing resources and why I would court them from the word go.
My biggest beef with the traditional publishing model is that there are always going to be a finite number of slots available that everyone is fighting for and it seems completely reasonable to want to self-publish, in order to avoid having extremely long waiting periods when you don’t even know if your work will be accepted. I began self-publishing out of necessity (because my poems were previously published and the traditional publishing route was not available to me) and an incredible amount of hard work needs to be done to get yourself noticed when you self-publish.
I remember something Chuck Wendig said (he is an incredibly inspiring author who writes useful advice by the bucketloads) and his take on the matter is to try at least half a dozen publishers in the first instance and if they reject you to then consider the self-publishing route. I think that you get more control in the self-publishing world, so you have to take on the responsibility when it comes to presenting your work in the best light possible. I personally would have no problem relinquishing control of the marketing/cover design/formatting/etc of my own manuscript if I was accepted by a traditional publisher/small press, provided of course that a good enough job is being done and my vision is not altered significantly from what was first submitted. If you prefer the level of control and freedom that you gain from self-publishing then I say embrace it wholeheartedly, especially if your concept is unique and does not immediately scream out for a traditional publishing deal.
Traditional publishers will find you further down the line if you make a decent enough impression in your self-published sales and maintain a level of professionalism to catch their attention.
What projects are you working on or planning next?
I have several things in mind right now. I really want to start a futuristic comedy detective novel that I have toyed around the concept with for the last few years. I also have a sequel planned for Life, Sex & Death, along with another different poetry book filled with poems directly inspired by pictures drawn by my father Arthur Ellis, who is a blind artist. I’m at a crossroads point too when it comes to wanting to make another music album that I will produce on a professional basis. Having received the accolades for my poetry has made me want to embrace the opportunities to try other creative endeavours/outlets. I also plan to write a book/videogame (with interactive choices to alter the story) and my passion for films/television means that this will be another area I will explore in the near future. I want to embrace all aspects of writing in the fullness of time!
You have some resources listed on your website to help authors with various aspects of writing which is great. I will be looking at some of the resources listed, thank you very much. From your personal experience and journey to becoming an Award Winning Poet and Author, what advice would you like to offer authors regarding writing and getting published?
Always try to finish what you start. It seems obvious but I do find that the best way to get through something is to remind yourself constantly about how much you have already done/achieved and how much more you could achieve with just a few more steps and to push through to get to that point. And then once you are there to forget what you just did and try to do it all again. Before you know it you will have gone further than you possibly could have imagined!
I would encourage all writers to ignore negativity when it comes to people who tell you not to be a writer, to view criticism only as something to listen to if what the person says makes sense (and you can tell that they ‘get’ your work) and that their views are echoed by other similar like-minded people. You don’t have to change your vision to suit the opinion of another individual but you can certainly use their information to enhance your writing or take what is useful from the criticism and simply ignore the rest.
With regard to getting yourself published, I would say get your work professionally edited, the benefits will be immense and the cost will be worth it a thousand times over. Don’t be afraid to query agents (in the first instance) and publishers regarding your work if you have a finished manuscript and you have had it professionally edited. If your concept of a novel is too radical and rejected by publishers then consider self-publishing but only after you have tried a few traditional publishers that you have researched and who publish the types of genre that your book sits in.
If you do choose to go down the self-publishing route then make sure your book gets formatted properly and shell out for a beautiful cover, these things are crucial if you want to avoid the stigma that self-publishing gets mainly due to sloppy workmanship that can be fixed with a bit of effort.
Finally, if you do choose to self-publish then get your book reviewed by publications that focus on self-published works (unfortunately most of the publications that offer this service will charge a fee for a honest review but again if you are selling a fiction book it will be worth it). Editorial reviews are extremely important to put in your book descriptions, along with getting reviews from your readers too. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get people to review your book and the more honest they are about it (even if they only write a couple of lines), the better it will be when it comes to making your books visible to new readers.
Oh and do as many interviews as possible with people like you and myself Francois ;)
Thank you again for taking the time to be interviewed by me. I have enjoyed this opportunity immensely and hope that readers will too!
I have thoroughly enjoyed this interview Francois – I wish you every success with your writing too and I look forward to your readers appreciating your work further :)
David Ellis is an award winning author of poetry, fiction and music lyrics. He conducts author interviews on his website for any author that has published at least one book in any fictional genre.
He lives in Tunbridge Wells, Kent in the UK.
David is extremely fond of cats and dogs but not snakes.
Indiana Jones is his spirit animal.
Visit his website to arrange an author interview. along with finding creativity tips, techniques and guides for artists and writers at www.toofulltowrite.com
You can contact David on the following social media platforms:
You can buy David's books using the links below: