We would like to welcome Award Winning Author Noel Coughlan to indieBRAG today. He is here to talk with us about his writing. Noel lives in western Ireland with his wife and daughter. From a young age, he was always writing a book. Generally, the first page over and over. Sometimes, he even reached the second page before he had shredded the entire copy book. In his teenage years, He wrote some poetry, some of which would make a Vogon blush. When he was fourteen, he had a dream. It was of a world where the inhabitants believed that each hue of light was a separate god, and that matter was simply another form of light. He writes stories in this so-called Photocosm and also other fantasy and science fiction.
When writing, what makes you feel happiest?
The thing I most enjoy is when the characters write their own story. Aside from saving me a load of work, I get to sit back and savour what’s happening like a reader. There’s been a couple of times in my books when I had two possible outcomes for particular scenes and I didn’t know which one to take until the words appeared on the page. Often writing the scenes I’ve mapped most out in my head beforehand feels a bit of slog to write so I try to combine planning and pantsing (plantsing) to keep things fresh.
What makes you feel the most frustrated?
I’m never satisfied with progress. Some people can write a book in a month. I’m not one of those people. I’m a relatively slow writer, but even when I’m faster than normal, I always wish I could have done more. When progress comes too easy, it devalues it in my mind and leaves an aftertaste of dissatisfaction. Writing a novel is like running a marathon without any idea just how long the race might be and not knowing if the timekeepers and medal givers will be still at the finishing line by the time you get there. All you can do is keep faith in yourself and keep running.
What are the challenges you face when sitting down to write?
Time is always a challenge. My writing time has to fit around my family’s schedule. My best time to work is in the mornings when my daughter is at school, but I’ve learned not to be precious about my writing process. There’s no special location or ritual or mug that might become an excuse to procrastinate. If there’s background noise, I listen to soundtracks on my headphones. I write every day. If I’m away, I write on my phone and then copy the text into Scrivener and clean up the punctuation. I might write only a hundred words if on holidays or otherwise occupied, but even that little bit helps maintain the feeling of momentum. My current unbroken run has lasted over six months, but on the other hand, whenever I eventually miss a day I won’t stress about it. It’s a target, not a prerequisite.
What traits and values do your characters have that you have most in common with?
I’d be most sympathetic to Grael in A Bright Power Rising/The Unconquered Sun. He matures from a youth with somewhat lofty ambitions to someone who is willing to sacrifice those dreams for the betterment of his community. His focus on his friends and family definitely chimes with me though I’m not as skilled with a spear.
How would your characters describe you?
Gascarp Torp, one of the major villains of the Golden Rule duology, would hate me as much as I hate him. I’m always bemused (and a little worried) when readers say they sympathise with him. I know him too well to like him. I understand the ego that drives him. (To be fair, I put it there.) He’d never bother to understand me because he’d dismiss me as some soft weakling, a non-threat.
I would get on well with Grael. The Elf AscendantSun might unconsciously dismiss me as just another ugly human at our first encounter, but I’d quickly impress him with my exhaustive knowledge of his race.
If you were to write your memoir, what title would you give it?
I couldn’t see myself ever writing a memoir. I put the interesting parts of my life into my works, sometimes deliberately but often unconsciously. Not that a reader could probably pick out exactly what is personal experience and what is manufactured detail. Writing is like baking: the measures and the order are as important as the ingredients.
What are your themes in story telling?
My themes vary from project to project. The Golden Rule duology dealt with the destructive power of myth, not simply societal but personal. Each of the main characters suffers self-delusion in some way. They either face it or are destroyed by it.
My short stories could be about anything. They start out as a simple idea, sometimes very abstract. For example, The Murder Seat started out as simple thought: if a cursed object was deliberately used to murder someone, it would be the perfect crime because no jury would convict the killer on that basis.
What is the emotion/feelings you have after writing for hours?
It depends on the day and what I’ve achieved. Generally, there’s a yearning to do more. Sometimes, things click into place with surprising ease as though it has been waiting to be discovered in some corner of my mind. Those days are special. Alas, they always fade on the stroke of midnight.
Do you have a habit in your writing that you wish you could get rid of?
I am training myself to stop polishing on the first draft because (1) Experience has thought me that 80-90% of the words will end up in the bin on the second draft even where there’s no real change to what happens. (2) It hampers seeing the overall shape of the story. (3) It’s harder to edit polished writing. Having said that, if I don’t give the writing some weight, the story starts to float away, so I suppose it’s a question of balance.
What is the best compliment someone gave you about your book(s)?
A lot of very nice things have been said about my books. It’s hard to single out one example. Recently, someone contacted me on a forum I frequent to express his appreciation of one of my short stories. I always try to include a lot of subtle touches into my stories, never really expecting anyone to notice. When he spotted one detail about a phone cable, I was absolutely delighted.
B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree