Today’s interview is with Simon Pearce, owner of Space Monkey Creations.
LQ: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
SP: My name is Simon Pearce and I am an English language teacher at a university. I have lived in several countries, but am originally from the UK. I now live and work abroad for the foreseeable future.
Outside of the day job, I am in the process of building my own company called Space Monkey Creations (SMC), which has 3 interests: books, videos, and clothing. So far, I have published my own 2 novels and that of 1 other author (The Traveller by Chuck Thompson). I have created music videos for artists in England and Japan, and am in the middle of production for a documentary (which is now on hold due to the global pandemic). I also design and plan to sell eco-friendly clothing that has sustainability at the heart of it. My first drop for the brand, called HSTRC, is also on hold because of the pandemic.
LQ: What does your writing process look like?
SP: As I come from a background of writing film scripts, my process is a little different to most writers. The majority of the steps are the same, from what I can see, but there is an extra step to mine that most don’t do. Like the majority of writers, who have told me about their process, I start with simply making notes of ideas for a project. I don’t have a particular preference with regards to paper or electronic devices at this stage, and so I have multiple notes on my phone and some notebooks. The next step, once I think I have a sufficient amount of material and ideas, is to outline, usually bullet points at this stage, the story from start to finish. I then develop these bullet points into more detailed paragraphs for each chapter. The outline is always done as a Word document. As I develop the outline I also go through the corresponding notebook and electronic notes, putting lines through the ideas as an indication that they have been included.
The next step is where I go a little different. Here is where I write a full film script of what will eventually become the novel. This stage focuses primarily on the dialogue between my characters and also serves to show me the pacing of the narrative. There is very little in a film script in terms of description and action, as these things are kept to no more than 3 or 4 lines at most at the start of a scene and occasionally between the dialogue. Here is where I really get to be the characters and develop their speech and language, with little focus on any other aspects of the book. Once I have my completed first draft of the script I will wait a while, usually several weeks, before reading it straight through and then deciding if it needs to be redrafted or if it’s ready to move into the first draft of the manuscript. This end step is similar to the novel writing stage in that it could take one draft to dozens of drafts before I am satisfied with it. I write the script on the professional software called Final Draft and treat it very much like I am writing a movie and not a novel.
After the film script is finished I sit in front of Scrivener and start writing the first draft of the manuscript. By having first gone through the writing of the film script I find that the initial draft of a novel comes very quickly. By now I’ve got my interactions between my characters thrashed out and have gone through the whole story enough times to know what’s happening and when, so now it’s mainly about the describing/showing and nothing else. From here on out it’s the same as any other writer. Rewrite, rewrite and rewrite until I’m happy.
I then work with an editor to ensure it is up to a professional standard for publication. I don’t use ‘readers’ or have friends and family read it. I’m not writing for friends and family, and there’s no telling if test readers will be into the twisted humour I’ve been writing so far. I think it’s better to put the finished book out there into the world and let people decide if it’s their kind of thing or not. In all honesty, I do believe that everyone’s tastes are different and what one reader may deem trash another will love and become heavily influenced by. I’m not looking to become critically acclaimed or be on any best seller lists, I simply want to have the freedom to tell the stories that I want to tell.
LQ: What was your favorite book to write so far?
SP: My first book, Taking Care of Business (TCB), has been my favourite to write so far. It’s an adaptation of a feature film that I directed and co-wrote. I didn’t have a particularly enjoyable experience directing that movie, and this had a huge impact on my thoughts about writing a novel. I’d been advised to adapt the script into a novel many times in the past, but insisted on putting my efforts solely into turning it into a feature film instead – as originally intended. At almost every step of the film making process I had to compromise in one way or another and as a result walked away with a movie that I am not proud of and an experience that I don’t look back on very fondly.
The knowledge that I could tell this story in a format where I didn’t have to compromise or change anything based on other people’s opinions is what led me to adapt the story into a novel and then publish through my own company (Space Monkey Creations). The novel writing process was extremely freeing and hence so much more enjoyable than the film making experience, so now I look back at writing TCB and smile, as opposed to looking back at making the movie and shaking my head at not only the time filming it but also the end result. The novel allowed me to be as wild and outrageous as I wanted to be, with no concern for commercial success or offending others. This is also why I never gave the traditional publishing route any thought, I want complete freedom and control over my stories.
LQ: Who is your favorite character to write about?
SP: I don’t have a favourite character, so far, as I enjoy writing the whole story. I think I am far more story orientated than character driven in that respect.
With that said, the reason TCB has been developed into a trilogy rather than a standalone story is because I wanted to see what I could do with the 2 debauched protagonists without the constraints that were originally placed on the first story. TCB was originally written as an independent movie to be shot all on one location, and so the novel stuck to that premise for the most part. I decided that I wanted to take the 2 main characters out of that single location setting and let them run free, and so with each novel the landscape has grown ever wider.
The first story takes place in the protagonists’ home in Wales and then the second story took them across the length and breadth of the whole country. In the final novel the protagonists go as far as Europe, which is why it seemed so fitting that Brexit was happening at the time of both development and writing of the first draft.
LQ: Who are your favorite authors? Have any of them influenced your work?
SP: By far, Hunter S. Thompson. His novel ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ had a huge influence on me, especially my first novel ‘TCB’. ‘Fear and Loathing’ is an exaggerated story based on real people and real events that makes comment on the time it was set. I loved the idea of taking reality and exaggerating it to wild and outlandish proportions. In school I was told by my English teacher that the best authors write about what they really know, and what they’ve really experienced. Even if you’re writing a fantasy full of magic and dragons, your real life and experiences must seep into it to make a real and relatable story and characters. Hunter’s novel showed me that even when your experiences and characters are hedonistic drug abusers, there’s still an entertaining story to be told and an audience out there somewhere for it – if you like that kind of thing. My early twenties were spent living and working in London, where I was surrounded by an underground of drug takers and dealers, which pushed me in the direction of writing about that kind of world, albeit far more exaggerated and hopefully humorous than real life.
LQ: How are you doing during the current pandemic?
SP: I am very fortunate to be in a position where I can continue teaching, via virtual classrooms from home, and have no worries or stress as far as finances or losing my job are concerned. For me, the current pandemic has actually made my work a lot easier.
My own business has been stalled due to the global pandemic. One part of my company will be the retail of clothing I designed, but delivery of this merchandise from the factory has now been put on hold for the time being. Also, I was mid-production on a documentary which has also had to be put on hold due to both the social distancing and curfew measures put in place by the government of the country I currently reside in.
Fortunately, when it comes to writing and publishing, the pandemic is not having an effect on me.
LQ: What are you currently working on?
SP: I’m currently working on the final installment of The Business Trilogy, which is called Out Of Business. The first part was Taking Care of Business and the second part was Back In Business. The title of the 3rd book seemed perfectly natural to me and took little thought. The first draft was written during the peak of the Brexit fiasco, which had a bigger influence on the first draft of the novel than I would have anticipated.
Due to other non-writing projects, the rewriting of this manuscript is going far slower than I would usually take but as I published 3 novels last year (SMC’s first active year) I’m not putting any time pressure on myself to finish this novel and get it out there. I’m confident that I will finish The Business Trilogy this year and I’m looking forward to diving into my next novel or possibly even some short story ideas that I have.
It will be fun to move on to new characters and new genres. This trilogy has focused on narcotics and dark humour, but I am interested in writing within other genres and about different subject matter. At the moment it’s hard to say what I’ll move on to, as I have a lot of ideas in the development stage.