Author Series: M.J. Martin
I’m M.J Martin and I’m a writer from North Glasgow.
What initially got you into writing?
I was always into writing and creating. It started off with songs and lyrics. I fronted a band called Eric and the Bunny-boilers for a long time. I was in bands since I was 12 and had a keen interest in music and penned all the songs and music. I started to gain an interest in writing something longer. I half wrote a couple of truly terrible books and gave up and returned to being a musician.
At some point, I figured out I wanted to write scripts for TV shows. I went away for a year, self-taught myself how to write to the industry specs and returned and wrote the pilot for a TV series called Ninety Eight Percent. We produced a pilot for the show, started our own production company Bad Pony Media and went on to win various awards. At some point in-between I went to college, hated it, learned next to nothing and now have a pretty useless qualification in Creative Industries for Television.
Eventually, I felt I had enough experience to write a book. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done creatively. I didn’t realise once it was written, the real work is only just beginning. It cost me a lot, both in terms of Mental Health and expenses for editors and things. I swore I’d never write another book. Then I wrote the sequel.
Who are your biggest influences and why?
Real life is my influence. Real life, real struggles, real pain.
Are you traditionally published or self-published?
I’m now traditionally published. I started off self-published. Like many writers, I self-published because it’s too hard to get a publisher or an agent. I don’t think I really tried because I knew from my experience with Record Labels in the industry, it’s unlikely to happen. It doesn’t matter how good you are. I did have loads of knock-backs. I think I got rejections from most of the Artists and Writers year book. Getting out there is near impossible for any creative.
My publishing contract happened by accident when we approached them about a factual project I was working on. There was a bit of confusion over my name and my writer’s name and the names and order of my projects and books. All this led to them being interested in the Evil Is book trilogy and signing me on work I had already self-published.
How important is writing as an art form in the world, today?
It’s crucial. Storytelling has been around as long as language. Everything we enjoy starts life somewhere on paper/screen before it’s processed into media for us to enjoy. I love the idea I can take something from my brain and put it into the brains of people I never met, just by typing it out. I’m kind of a creep!
Do you have a set process when starting a new project?
80% of my writing process happens in my head before I start or during the process. Most of my ideas never make it to a page or screen. You have to know your weaknesses and delete them. I always feel until something is given a name, it doesn’t really exist. So a name has to fit or I won’t start on screen with a project.
Now I have more experience, I write out the story in very short paragraphs beginning to end. If there’s anything I haven’t worked out yet, that’ll go like ‘Jimmy left for Aberdeen – why???’ and I’ll know what I still need to work on. I’ll colour each section in red once I have completed it and it’ll be a different colour if I’m removing or moving it. With TV scripts, I have a whole wall and cards with stories, which I move around between the episodes and place in order etc. It’s actually hard to explain this.
It probably doesn’t make any sense to anyone else. I also need to find a style of music that fits with the tone of what I’m writing and I listen to it on headphones blaring on repeat until that part is complete. It’s weird, I’m weird.
What has been your favourite book to write and why?
I have enjoyed Evil Does, the sequel to Evil Is. I could relate a lot to the main character and I enjoyed exploring the gothic environment with her. The thoughts she has in her head sometimes are quite funny. Underneath, that book is really about depression and how it makes you a prisoner. How it changes you without even touching you.
Which genre do you enjoy writing in?
Anything dark, I’m there. The darker the better.
Is writing your primary source of income?
I’m waiting to be published with my first book. I would be surprised if writing were to become my primary source of income. I’m not expecting that. I’m a creative industry veteran; I know I need to write because it’s my passion and not because I expect it to pay the bills.
It’s sometimes taboo to say you have a day job in the industry. I do have a day job. And it’s a hard job sometimes. It takes valuable time away from my writing. It’s a total trade off. I’d need to be earning a lot from writing to be able to write full time. I’m lucky in that I have a job I can be a bit flexible with or cut hours down to bare minimum if I needed to. But I struggle having my head in two things at once.
When I’m writing, that needs to have my entire focus. I could be chatting to someone and have this distant expression because I’m really bouncing plot ideas in my head.
What advice can you give our readers, should they wish to pursue writing?
You absolutely need to commit to finishing your book. Keep writing. Don’t spend too much time re-reading and nit picking; you can do that at the end. Don’t think too far ahead. Make a promise to yourself you’re going to complete the book and keep that promise to yourself.
What does success mean to you?
My idea of success had changed as I’ve got older. I’m not a materialistic person but I appreciate having a safe place to stay, being surrounded by people who matter to me and feeling like I still have some purpose in life. I struggle with finding purpose. I don’t feel I have been successful. I often feel I’ve failed at life. I’m nowhere near where I imagined I’d be when I was a kid. I think sixteen year old me would be thoroughly disappointed!
Sometimes success is just getting out of bed or tidying my space when my mental health is bad. When I was a teenager, I made a video to watch when I was forty, telling me all the things I expected to have achieved. I don’t think I’ll ever watch it. I’m not that person anymore. It would hurt too much.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’ve just started on a factual book called My Mother My Monster. For legal reasons I’m unable to say much more about it at this stage.
What are your hopes for the future?
I’d love to see the Evil series made into a movie. I can imagine it so well as an on-screen adaptation. It would feel amazing going to see a pre-viewing of it on the big screen. I totally plan on sneaking in and sitting at the back so I get to feel the reactions of people watching it. Gonna get an oversized hat and big sunglasses so no one will recognise me. Told you I was weird!
Also Ninety Eight percent is my baby. I’d probably cut my legs off with a butter knife if it meant getting that series made!
Lastly where can people find you?
Creeping at the back of the cinema in a big hat and shades. Or, on my social media and website listed below;
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