Martin Sketchley

Martin Sketchley

Martin Sketchley grew up in Tamworth, Staffordshire. Following a brief but passionate affair with music, he began writing behind a market stall in Burton Upon Trent at the beginning of the 1990s, and sold his first short story to small press magazine Xenos in 1994.

Having worked in retail and then catalogue publishing, he is now a freelance writer and editor. He lives in Birmingham with his wife, Rosaleen, and their two children.

Questions and Answers

Is writing your full time occupation, if not what is?
My time is split between writing and editing work, the latter having been my day job since 1998. I'm freelance and work from home so I'm able to make the best use of my time as far as writing and family are concerned. It's great. I'm very lucky to be able to spend much more time with my wife and kids than most other blokes. There are downsides, but they're far outweighed by the benefits.

What was your first professional sale?
By first professional sale I take it you mean the one for which I was paid money rather than a free copy of whatever it appeared in? Other than the deal with Simon & Schuster for the first three Structure novels the only piece I've been paid for was a short story called 'PUPPY FAT', published in the Pulp Faction anthology GIRLBOY. I didn't get much for it, but it was a paperback anthology, which was something I'd been aiming at for a long time. My first ever short story sale, to small press magazine Xenos, was a real thrill.

Who is you favourite author?
I'd probably have to say Christopher Priest. His novel THE AFFIRMATION is an incredible book, so much crammed into a slender volume, and so subtly. His finest work, I think. The Prestige was wonderful, too. There's also a guy from Birmingham called Joel Lane who's been a big influence on me. He doesn't write SF, more dark, urban grimness, but his work is astonishing, and often disturbing.

When did you first decide that you wanted to be an author?
Probably not long after I'd written a few short stories, back in the early 1990s. It just suited my character. I felt I could express myself well, and found I had a lot to say, issues to explore or confront. I'm not sure it's something you decide, though. It's something I feel lucky to have found.

When did you first feel that you were an author?
When I began writing seriously I knew that eventually I'd sell professionally if I just kept going. That might sound arrogant but it was just what I felt. John Meaney has told me he felt the same, and so have many of the other people he's met. So I guess I've always felt I was an author. However, I've only called myself an author since the sale to Simon & Schuster.

If you could give one piece of advice to a would-be author, what would it be?
Advice is difficult to give because it has to be specific to the person on the receiving end or it's not much use. The first thing I would say is don't be a "would-be author", be an author. Don't faff around -- just get on with it. But be professional. (All you've got to do is find out how to be professional.) Advice comes in dribs and drabs from different places. You've got to sort out what's applicable to you and how to implement it.

SF, Skiffy or Sci-Fi? What is the correct shortening of Science Fiction and does it matter?
Ah, now this is one of those things that really gets my back up. I say "SF" myself because it's politically correct within the SF community, but it really doesn't matter. I know skiffy has a definition of some kind, but it's a bit like saying "do you say noon, midday or lunchtime?" Ask me about the difference between SF and fantasy, or why SF isn't taken seriously as a genre. Go on. I dare you.

Why do you think SF gets a bad press?
Aggghh! I knew it. Because a lot of people are lazy and it's easier to slag off SF (or anything else for that matter) than it is to talk about it intelligently, look at it objectively and perhaps realise that it's developed since the 1950s pulp stuff. The biggest films in recent years have mostly been SF or fantasy, so someone likes it. Anyway, come on, people within the SF industry love the fact that high-brow folk aren't into it; it gives them something to complain about at conventions. Next question.

Do you enjoy book signings/conventions?
I love conventions, especially now I've worked my way in and know a few people. It's hard at first, especially if you're a writer because writers tend to be fairly insular people. It's quite cliquey, too: all these people sitting around in seemingly impenetrable groups. It's all very well to say to a first-timer that they should just go up and talk to people, but it's just not that easy. I guess that's part of the test of how serious you are about getting on, though. I always find going to a convention bucks me up a bit.

Who (Fact or Fiction) would you most like to meet, and what would you ask them?
I'd really like to meet Radiohead, just to be able to tell them how much their work means to me. They're an astonishing band. If I could do creatively within the context of writing fiction what they've done within the context of a rock band I'd be very happy indeed.

Do you get inspiration from recent scientific discoveries and theories?
You have to take them into account. For example, developments in nanotechnology and DNA manipulation and their uses have to be extrapolated to create a realistic future, if that future is technologically based. I'm not sure that's inspiration, though, is it?

What are your thoughts on writing for shared world series such as Dragonlance and Star Trek?
Pay me loads of money and I'll do it.

Do You Always know a Story's Ending When You Begin Writing?
I know an ending. But it's not always the ending I use.

What book are you reading at the moment?
The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. It's very interesting, as well as educational. I knew there were gaps in my SF reading, but I didn't realise they were quite so wide.

Are you a music fan? If so, what?
Yes, I love music, and my taste is very eclectic. This question could be an interview in itself to be honest. Radiohead are stunning. Among modern stuff I like Stereophonics, but have recently been listening to The Smiths again. I also dug out an old Echo and the Bunnymen 12-inch; on side one is their version of People Are Strange from the film The Lost Boys, which I never play, but on side two are three fantastic tracks: Run Run Run by the Velvet Underground, Paint it Black (The Rolling Stones?) and Friction by Television. I also like Rage Against the Machine, Pulp, Prodigy, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles; the list is endless.

Is there something you are particularly proud of?
My two kids. It's corny, I guess, but there it is.

What do you do when you're not writing?
There's not much time to do anything else. My one vice is my car. I have a 4-litre Jeep Cherokee, which I love. I don't smoke, I don't drink much, I don't go out a lot, but I do have a big car with a fat engine that I put petrol in. When I press the loud pedal it goes GRRRRRR. The indicator stalk goes CLACK when you use it. It's built like a tank, is practical and capable. We love it.

What are you currently working on and what do you have coming out?
At the moment I'm rewriting THE DESTINY MASK, book two in the Structure series. THE AFFINITY TRAP is published by Simon & Schuster (released February 2nd, 2004). THE DESTINY MASK is to be published some time early in 2005. I guess THE LIBERTY GUN -- the third in the series -- will be out some time in 06. After that -- who knows?

Many Thanks

Relevant Links

Martin Sketchley Main Bibliography
Martin Sketchley's Website
Simon & Schuster (UK) Website