"I never knew if I really saw it, or if I simply imagined it." - Harbingers by Icy Sedgwick.
—–A Q&A with Icy Sedgwick—–
First, tell us about you, who you are, where you are from and something quirky about you?
I’m Icy Sedgwick, and I write dark fantasy, Gothic horror, and Westerns! I live and work in the north east of England, and once upon a time I was a paranormal investigator! Now I teach graphic design and advertising, which is a bit more reliable in terms of income, but I indulge my fondness for all things weird by writing and blogging about folklore every week.
Tell us about your business? Where did it all start? Where is it now? Where can we find you?
I’m one of those typical writers who says “I’ve been writing as long as I can remember”, but I wouldn’t be so crass as to say that’s when my business started! I’d probably say it was 2008 when I first had a short story accepted for publication. It was online, and while it wasn’t in a magazine like Black Static or Fantasy & Science Fiction, it was still published!
Nowadays I submit stories to anthologies instead, and I’ve got three novellas to my name, with two more novels on the way. Writing fiction is a business that you really can’t afford to slow down for – not if you want any modicum of success! I actually give away copies of my second short story collection to anyone who’d like a sample of my writing – you can find all the details at http://www.icysedgwick.com/harbingers/.
What does ‘being creative’ mean to you?
I think a lot of people see creativity as ‘making something’ or ‘writing something’. To me, being creative is being able to create something that didn’t exist before. It’s easy to see pursuits like art, or photography, or sewing, as creative because there’s a physical end product. But then you have things like dance and music which don’t have tangible end products, but they do have an end product you can experience through performance.
Does it stop there? No, I don’t think so. Because you also have people who have a tremendous eye for interior design, or who can put together quirky outfits. They’re essentially still creating something that didn’t exist, even if it’s a colour scheme for a living room, or a way to wear a particular scarf.
You can even extend it to problem-solving. That requires a huge degree of creativity, to see what elements you have, and to figure out how to use them together to achieve an end result. The solution itself is ‘created’, so creativity doesn’t have to be restricted to making pretty pictures or being ‘arty’ in some way. It’s taking influences and ideas and using them to do something new.
What is your absolute favourite thing you’ve made/written? Is it different to the item that sells the best?
Choosing a favourite book is so hard because you like all of them for different reasons. I was really proud of my first Western, The Guns of Retribution, because it was the first book I’d had published, but then I’m really proud of the sequel as a weird Western, To Kill A Dead Man, because I’d introduced horror elements which is more in my comfort zone. And I love my dark fantasy novella, The Necromancer’s Apprentice, because I had so much fun writing it. It also keeps achieving good ratings on Amazon so I guess other people agree!
Though I think my absolute favourite thing is my first full-length novel, Fowlis Westerby. It’s a supernatural YA book, and I actually wrote the first draft back in 2008, and it’s taken me until now to feel I’m a good enough writer to be able to say it’s finished! I’m going to be querying agents with it, so I have no idea if it’ll sell at all. It seems weird to have a favourite book that only two other people have read, but I’m just so proud of how it turned out, and I enjoy the story. It’s the kind of book I would have wanted to read when I was younger.
Though I guess all writers would say that!
If you could work on one skill to perfect, what would it be?
Marketing! I have no problems marketing other people’s work, be it Etsy shops they run, books they’ve written, or other projects they’ve been involved in, but I always feel so disingenuous talking about my own stuff.
I find marketing absolutely fascinating as a discipline, but I get especially antsy when people tell me I need to focus on sales figures, and whatnot. I’ve heard other top authors say that writers shouldn’t waste time or effort on anything that doesn’t net a sale…but I’m happier talking to other people online and forming friendships with them. If they never buy one of my books but they’re cool to talk to, then ultimately I’m pleased I’ve found someone awesome! If they do buy my books, then obviously that’s great.
But that’s not exactly going to get me thousands of sales and if I want to be sustainable as an authorpreneur then it’s definitely something I need to improve!
"A blue sky, swollen with early spring, arched over the village. A single black crow flew overhead, riding the air currents. Emmott Sydall watched its progress from her seat by the cottage window. The village wise woman told her crows carried souls to the afterlife. Emmott wondered if another villager had fallen foul of the Plague." - This Was Paradise by Icy Sedgwick
What memorable responses/advice have you had about your work? Anything positive, negative? How has that response/advice helped you grow?
My favourite negative response was an Amazon review that says my book reads like it was written by an eighth grader for eighth graders. I had to look up what an eighth grader was, as I’m in the UK and that means nothing to me, but no one else had that particular criticism! So that response taught me to take reviews with a pinch of salt. I’ve actually had reviews which have made some super valid points that I’ve been able to address in my writing, but that one just reminds me that not all opinions are equal.
I think one of the positive responses was that reading my books is less like reading, and more like watching a film. More than a few people have said that to me over the years. It’s particularly helpful because if I’m a bit stuck, I’ll sit back, close my eyes, and ‘watch’ the scene I need to write take place…and then I just describe what I see, hear and smell! It’s usually enough to get me ‘unstuck’.
If you could give one big piece of advice and one little piece for beginners in your field, what would they be?
One big piece of advice would surprisingly be to not necessarily pay attention to writing advice. Seek it out and take it in by all means, but don’t treat it as gospel. There are as many ways to write as there are writers, and there’s no one right way to do it. Besides, what works for one person might not work for another, so if you read something and it doesn’t sit comfortably with you, then feel free to ignore it. You’ll soon discover which authors you find yourself agreeing with, and which ones set your teeth on edge.
A smaller piece for beginners would be to read as much as you can. Reading a lot doesn’t guarantee you’ll start out as an amazing writer, but it does give you an intrinsic grasp of story structure, character, and how to use dialogue. Don’t compare your own writing to what you’re reading in the early days, but really immerse yourself in the fiction you’d like to write yourself. See what works and what doesn’t. Plus reading is fun, and writing should be fun, if possible!
What are your go-to tools of your trade? What do you recommend for our readers?
I have a notebook with me at all times, but in all honesty most of the time I use the Evernote app on my phone. It syncs with my tablet, laptop and work PC, so whenever I get an idea, or suddenly remember something I wanted to do to a particular story, I make a note on my phone using the app. Then next time I’m on my laptop, I hit ‘Sync’ and all of the notes I made on the go appear. I do like the idea of using physical notebooks but at least with Evernote I can attach web pages that inspired me, or attach photos to notes.
I also use Google Drive as a back-up, so at the end of every writing session, I save the file both on my laptop and on Google Drive. Again, it lets me access the file from anywhere, but it’s also nice to know that it’s not just saved on one physical device. I do also have further back-ups on an external hard drive AND Dropbox, but that might just be paranoia talking 😉
Plus I’ve only just started using Scrivener for writing, but it’s definitely a very different experience from using Word, which is what I used to use. I still have an awful lot to learn, but I like the fact that Scrivener can help with ANY writing project, not just novels. Might be useful for my PhD!
"A hand shoves the small of my back and I stumble forwards. The boards feel rough beneath my bare feet. I look down at the stage lights. Flames once blazed in those fittings; now it's just energy efficient bulbs. A single spotlight snaps on, drowning out their weak glow. I shield my eyes against the glare, unable to forget what waits in the darkness beyond the stage. I stand in the spotlight, legs shaking with" - Stage Fright by Icy Sedgwick
Anything you’d like to add? Anything I have forgotten to ask about?
Only one thing – if you do want to be a writer, don’t forget that the two most important things are that you need to actually do it, and it should be fun. The only way you’ll ever improve as a writer is to keep doing it. You’ll suck at first, but you’ll be able to see the point when you realise you’re getting better! If you want any help in getting better then I have how-to articles on my blog at http://www.icysedgwick.com/category/writing/.
Besides, you get to make stuff up all day, play in worlds that you’ve invented, and get to join incredible people on their adventures. Why wouldn’t someone want to be a writer?!
And finally, would you like to give a little bonus tutorial for our readers to create something for themselves?
This involves something to write both on and with, and some kind of public place. Coffee shops are good because you can sit indoors and have coffee/cake, but libraries, train stations, shopping centers and so on are also fine, as long as you can sit down.
What you’re going to do is find a table/seat near someone else. This can’t be someone sitting on their own, unless they’re on the phone, because what you’re going to do is eavesdrop on the conversation. You only need to listen to a small part of it, but you’re going to note down a few of the things that are said. It doesn’t have to be verbatim, just enough to give you a sense of the conversation.
Now I want you to imagine two things. First, what might have led to that conversation in the first place? Where did these people come from? How do they know each other? What do they do for a living? Why are they talking about that topic? Second, where might the conversation go after you’ve stopped listening? What might they each do or say? Will one of them leave? You can do this with fantasy and science fiction genres too, so don’t be afraid to involve sonic screwdrivers, light sabers or plasma rifles.
With that beginning, middle and end in place, you have the loose outline for your first story!
Please note that there are some affiliate links in this post. By earning a small commission through these links, I am able to keep this site running for you 🙂