Christopher Nuttall was born in Edinburgh, studied in Manchester, married in Malaysia and currently living in Scotland, United Kingdom, with his wife and baby son. He is the author of twenty novels from various publishers and thirty-nine self-published novels. His latest book, Trial By Fire (Schooled In Magic 7) is currently an Amazon bestseller.
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When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
That’s a bit of a funny story, really. I read a book, thought the author had a great premise but rotten execution and decided to see if I could do better. Somehow, I put together 40 chapters of a semi-coherent story. It got rejected, of course, but by then I’d written several more books, having been firmly bitten by the writing bug.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
Immensely avid, to the horror and dismay of my teachers. (I was reading Tom Clancy at 8, which caused some distress.) Basically, I always liked science fiction, some fantasy, action and adventure … I also read a lot of history, mainly because it wasn’t taught at school.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
Trial By Fire is book seven in the Schooled In Magic series, which follows a young girl who is dumped into an alternate world where magic exists, dragons fly through the skies and young magicians go to school to learn magic. I always saw the series as a cross between the standard boarding school story and ‘Lest Darkness Fall,’ a story about a person who sparks off a whole new industrial revolution, but it’s also about Emily’s growth as a person. I knew Trial By Fire would have to be written when I started outlining the whole series, as it’s a major turning point.
From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?
Hard question to answer. I had a rough idea of the story back when I was writing Book 4, which was in October 2013. I was fairly sure I knew how things would fall out as I worked my way through Books 5 and 6, but I didn’t draw up a complete plot until February 2015. And then it took me about a month to write and edit the book.
Describe your working environment.
A computer, a comfortable chair, a place for a mug of tea … I’m a simple man. <grin>
A bit of both, really. I have beta-readers who point out minor issues, then there is a more solid edit after the first draft is completed.
They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?
It’s just something you have to live with, really. I don’t think there’s an author anywhere, certainly not one who’s sold over a thousand copies, who manages to please everyone. I know there are several authors I dislike who are considered popular and vice versa.
Basically, I would force myself to consider the review; is it making a valid point, is it based around a misunderstanding or is it merely trolling? I had a review of one of the Ark Royal books that complained that there were no fortresses on each side of the tramlines, for example; that was based on a misunderstanding, as it is technically impossible to build Starfire-style warp point defenses. There’s no point in getting annoyed about that because it was my failure, as a writer, to explain it. A troll, on the other hand, could be infuriating (they make it personal) but there’s no point in trying to argue with them.
My general advice? If you want to be a writer, grow a thick skin.
Are you a disciplined writer?
Yes. I try to write around 9,000 words a day.
What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?
I haven’t really been a member of a formal group, so my advice might be useless. Generally, I’d advise a writer to join one which covered the same genre (my one experience with such groups was a mishmash of styles, including romance and historical. It didn’t last). It would probably also be good to look for patient writers who won’t, as you say, crush someone’s ego.
However, you also need people who will be honest. It’s easier to deal with bad writing and spelling before the book is published than afterwards.
How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?
Hard. Very hard. Truthfully, I would advise some authors to go indie first and then use their reputation from that to build up a portfolio they could show to prospective publishers. A friend of mine once claimed that getting published was harder than Ranger School … and, as he’s done both, I tend to believe him.
Generally, find a publisher who might be interested, show your work (while following their guidelines) and hope for the best (and keep writing while waiting.)
Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
I have several projects in the pipeline. Right now, I have Bookworm IV (and Final): Full Circle. The Bookworm series is perhaps the closest I’ve come to writing high fantasy; if you liked Schooled in Magic, you might like it. After that, I have A Small Colonial War, which finishes off the Ark Royal/Warspite series, and several others.