Saturday, 29 March 2014

Interview with Simon Duke - Smashwords

Interview published on Smashwords - 29 March 2014

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?

I was born in Stoke-on-Trent in the UK. I lived in countryside England and had a very happy childhood. My family moved to France when I was eleven and I was parachuted into a French school without really speaking French. It took me a while to get up-to-speed with the other kids and I was (and I guess I always will be) the 'Angliche'. Thus my tendency to favor underdogs. I grew up watching many American film classics and loved the 80s films and music (some of it) and read many American novels. I grew fond of the modern gangster and of the transition from film noir and epic to the more gritty and realistic portrayal of crime in more recent times. Let's say that my writing sort of reflects bits of all that. They are fountains of inspiration for me.

Are you like Kyle, the main character in 'Out of Bounds'?

I see a lot of myself in Kyle. Many of his life experiences are similar to mine with the exception of the Xanax and the interactions with the criminal world! He is flawed, just like every common man. He has his struggles and that makes him more real than the people who are naturally good. He is put into extraordinary circumstances and defies odds to overcome his underdog status in the story. Life is a challenge and I think Kyle has his heart in the right place when it comes to what's most important to protect. He's an unsung hero and I relate to that.

Describe your desk

You might think the way my desk looks is a preview of my personality. Well, you're right. I like my desk to be tidy with ample room for typing away on the keyboard and for frantic mouse movements. I like to only have the essential things on the desk. I need my work station to be organized to avoid unnecessary distraction. That way I have a comfortable basis to start writing and my mind can wander off and do the rest.

What is your writing process?

I start off with a story idea and write it down in a summary. Either the rest of the story comes to me straight away, or I begin writing a few scenes and things gradually fall into place. As soon as I have a solid enough backbone to a story, I flesh it out and divide the result into chapters. From there on, I write bit after bit. I set myself realistic goals (such as a certain amount of words to write per week) and above all do not hate myself if for some reason or another I do not meet my targets. There are times when the inspiration does come and I have to cash in to churn out more words than usual. Other times I realize the storyline is weak and needs beefing up, or I have a change in mind with regard to how events unfold. I then go back to the backbone and fit these new ideas in.

Silence or music when you write? If music, who do you listen to?

Both, definitely both. Silence is a prerequisite. I need it for my deepest thinking and concentration spans. But as I get more comfortable with the process I tend to put on a melody from time to time. It mustn't be too distracting though and make me want to dance on my chair instead of writing. So I opt most often for music without lyrics and make sure there is a constant flow coming through. Sometimes I like it soft and classical or jazzy, but when I need some more pace I listen to artists like Moby, M83, Armin van Buuren, etc. I enjoy some movie soundtracks too.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

It was called 'The Lost Patrol'. One evening after school when I was twelve or thirteen, I penned down a few thousand words. I used to watch a lot of war films back then and thought to myself that a film starring Arnie, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, and a plethora of other famous movie stars as U.S. marines lost in the Cambodian jungle, and being wiped out one by one by clever and dangerous Viet Congs would be cool. Obviously the only way to make that possible was through my imagination. That's the story of my first story.

What do you read for pleasure?

I think I found a vocation in crime fiction writing after reading so many books in the genre. This pleasure never disappeared. I'm just a bit more choosy in the crime fiction novels and thrillers I read. For variety, I also read more classical works and I am always on the lookout for authors who get me hooked with their writing and characters. Finally, I like to be up-to-date with what's going on in the world and spend time every day reading the news, be it for the headlines or for the sports and entertainment.

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?

This may sound like a cliché, but I do spend a lot of time thinking about my characters and project myself in them. I'm always trying to note down ideas and make progress on my writing research, which can come under many forms: books, movies, inspiring TV series, or simply everyday conversation and happenings. And every once in a while I meet inspirational people (muses in some sort). I also enjoy travelling, being outdoors, and practicing sport whenever possible.

Who are your favorite authors?

I have many favorites and this is a really tough question. After a quick peak at my bookshelf I have to say that today I'm a big fan of the works of RJ Ellory, Michael Connelly, Henning Mankell, George Pelecanos, James Ellroy. Moving away from crime and thrillers, I also have a little collection of books by Paul Auster, Ernest Hemingway, John Irving, and many others.

'Out of Bounds' is available. Job done. But can you provide any snippets for your next book?

It's still early days and the 'Out of Bounds' marketing publishing and post-publishing phase has taken up most of my time, but I am well into my second novel. Again it will be situated in the United States and I will address one of my all-time favorite persona, the serial killer. The new angle: I cannot yet disclose, but I hope the killer will be seen as the ultimate serial killer, and that the journey of my main protagonist to get nearer to the killer will be considered an epic quest.

Monday, 24 March 2014

An Evening with Walter? Or not?

The drums were rolling until that decisive moment when the Writers' & Artists' Short Story Competition 2014 Shortlist was announced. I'd sent my entry for the Competition in July 2013 and had been waiting patiently for months. But on Saturday I found out I hadn't made the shortlist of 10. Oh well, you can't win them all!

According to Writers & Artists, the competition judges had to go through nearly 3,000 entries of "an extremely high standard". They were overwhelmed by the positive response and enjoyed reading the work of so many keen writers. Tough decisions had to be made to narrow down the entries. The winner and two runners-up of the competition will be announced on Friday 28th March.

I'm curious to find out what they thought about my entry, 'An Evening with Walter'. But, now that I know my story will not be published by Bloomsbury, I might get round to including it on the blog.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure what to think about life after book publication.

I'm trying to keep up-to-date with the distribution process. 'Out of Bounds' has been available on Createspace and Amazon websites for a little more than a week now. Same for the ebook on Smashwords. Last week I noticed Barnes & Noble started retailing the ebook too. I'm monitoring this the best I can.

Naturally I'm also monitoring response and sales. Those are hard to measure and I already know that it will take time for the word to spread. However, a few figures have already come back to me indicating that some copies have been sold via Amazon and via Smashwords. Lovely jubbly!

I'm also satisfied with my initial marketing response and with the glorifying comments from my friends on the social media. I guess it's time to seriously consider step 2 in my marketing initiatives and see what else I can do to hammer home the message that 'Out of Bounds' is out there and worth the investment.

I also resumed writing novel n°2 on Sunday. More about that some other time.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Out of Bounds is Available

Out of Bounds has been officially released and is now available in paperback at Amazon and in ebook format at Smashwords. I have also obtained approval by Smashwords for further distribution of the ebook via most of the largest online retailers. This may take a several days. I have listed all currently available links below.

So that’s it, I’m a published author. Okay, fanfares did not herald the arrival of Out of Bounds, neither did the world cease to move and host a fireworks display, but the thrill of seeing my work published was an emotional moment. It’s like being confronted with a big dose of vanity coming from one angle and a sudden rush of humbleness gnawing at you from another - a real mixed bag of feelings. I know that my writing is in no way comparable to the masters of the crime fiction genre (or literature in general), but I am nonetheless proud and excited to finally share my storytelling (which I hope you will find vivid and reflective of my somewhat dark and puzzled conscience); the scope of the action (sequences and locations which I enjoyed writing about); the dialogue (I tried to make it punchy and as American-sounding as possible); my research (it was fun to look into narcotics history, firearms, police procedures…); and my characters whom I think I brought realism and depth to (that means you should be able to craft an opinion on the main protagonists – you’ll either like them or they’ll irritate you – contrary to characters you’ll feel indifferent to).
I hope you find Out of Bounds to be a compelling read filled with shocks and surprises.

VoilĂ , I have blown my own trumpet, but then again it’s not every day you can brag about an achievement of personal meaning. It’s important to believe in yourself in order for others to believe in you. In the words of the great Del Boy, “He who dares, wins”.


Out of Bounds on (Price – $10.99)

Out of Bounds on (Price, currently €10.65, but should be reduced to €9.50 at some stage):

Out of Bounds on Amazon is also available on,, (Price in Euro)

ebook on (Price $3.99)

Barnes & Noble (Price $3.99)

Other ebook publishers (prices and links TBD)


Baker & Taylor
(Blio and the Axis360 library service)

Kobo (Kobo powers the ebook stores of multiple ebook retailers around the world:  WH Smith in the UK, FNAC in France and Portugal, Livraria Cultura in Brazil, Angus & Robertson in Australia, Bookworld in Australia, Indigo in Canada, Collins in Australia, Feltrinelli in Italy, Libris in the Netherlands, Paper Plus in New Zealand, Play in Great Britain, Rakuten in Japan, in the US, Whitcoulls in New Zealand
... and more on the way.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Predicting the Release Date

I received a proof copy of "Out of Bounds" a little more than a week ago. I have to say I was impressed with the speed of delivery and with the end result. Everything looks great.

You can imagine how proud I felt when I tore open the parcel and brandished the book above my head, looked up and shouted in glory. Okay, I wasn't quite so dramatic, but I can say that my heart was pounding. It's quite something to have the fruit of your hard work in your hands. To give you a sense of size, I opted for a 5.06 x 7.81 inches (12.9 x 19.8 centimeters) format and the book is just under 400 pages long. The cover is matte and the inside is immaculate white. Looks good, smells good, feels good... I guess the reading will be good too!

Since then, I have reviewed the book (again) and managed to find several mistakes (mainly typos) and a few small layout errors. This was, I confess, a bit frustrating. Anyhow, all is now corrected and I had my revised manuscript approved by Createspace's monitoring service on Saturday.

So this is it. All I have to do is launch the publication process. Given that book availability can take more than a week and that I have a few days of vacation lined up next week, I plan to click on that button when I get back. That way I hope to witness the listing of my book on Amazon live (or as quickly as possible after the event).

Assuming that all goes as planned, I expect "Out of Bounds" (paperback format) to be available at some point during week 13 (last week of March). I'd love to share a precise publication date, but unfortunately that's the way it is. As soon as the book is available, I'll provide the links to,,,, etc... on this blog.

On the ebook front, apparently release can be nearly immediate on Smashwords and then it takes several days for the ebook to be listed on Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Flipkart, Oyster, Scribd, the Diesel eBook Store, Baker & Taylor's, Blio, Axis360, etc. I will try to make the ebook release occur very shortly after the paperback release. Possibly last week of March, if not early-April.

Take care and stay tuned.