Derrick Ferguson: Who is Samuel James White?
Samuel James White: Samuel James White is a young writer from Leeds, but I suppose in reality he is just part of a variety of different alter egos I possess. I also write under the name of Samuel Shiro, who is grumpy, pessimistic, and hateful. In the past, I’ve played other characters as well, although they’ve never actually being involved within the realm of published work. I suppose Samuel James White is just my original name since I’ve played so many characters over the years and they have now become mixed up with the original.
DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the government you do for a living?
SJW: I reside in the city of Leeds in England. As for what I tell the government I do for a living, well that’s a more complicated matter. I suppose I tell them that I run my own publishing company, Tranquillity Publishing, but I don’t actually take a salary from it. By trade I’m a freelance writer, but since most of that is wired through various means I don’t actually tell the government anything.
Since my intention is to keep moving around the world I don’t suppose I will ever be revealing too much to them. Then again, with the performance of our governments I could tell them and then they’d most likely lose the forms!
DF: How long have you been writing?
SJW: I couldn’t really say. I’ve always dabbled in it since I first started reading, and I was always way ahead of the expected reading levels for my age. I used to write little things, but then I stopped for a long time when I discovered World of Warcraft. Five years of addiction later and I drifted back into writing. On a professional level, though, I’ve written for just over a year.
DF: Before we go into your fiction writing let’s talk for a bit about your professional article writing service. How did you get into that?
SJW: I got into that by accident as a friend came to me and claimed that another friend said I was a writer. I really wasn’t and I told him that, but I gave it a try anyway. It was for some website content for a local hair salon called Room 112, which you can find on my website www.mrshiro.com. I then took another job for him when I found out I enjoyed it. He said he liked my work, so then I started learning about freelance writing. Steadily, I picked up clients from some of the bidding websites and now I have a healthy pool of clients.
DF: What’s the best advice you can give for someone wanting to become a professional article writer?
SJW: I would say that unless you are really lucky expect to work for very little in the beginning whilst you build up a portfolio. Ultimately, the best thing you can do during this time is to make yourself a website. Make a website with all of your best work on it and then link it when you apply for every single job. Even add it to the bottom of your CV, or even make an online resume and just send them the link.
DF: What’s the best thing about dealing with clients? And the worst?
SJW: I think the best thing about dealing with clients is when you can work on a personal level with them. After a while the professional barriers are broken down as you become more familiar with each other and you both begin to learn little things. They turn more into writing friends than clients. Just remember that this won’t happen if you are working directly with a company, normally.
The worst thing is clients who have no idea what they want or what they are talking about. The ones that are overly critical about things they don’t understand I just throw out. It’s not worth the effort and you can’t reason with them because their criticism is rarely based on fact. You know more than them and yet they think it works in a different way. I have no problem with criticism, but I won’t deal with unwarranted criticism.
DF: Tell us about Tranquillity Publishing.
SJW: Tranquillity Publishing, which you can find at www.tranquillitypublishing.com, is a publishing company that I set up in 2012 to help writers find a way into the market. I’m more interested in providing a route via print than just an eBook service, although that usually comes on top of the print package, as print is the holy grail of writing. Every writer wants to see their name in a book. And the problem with the big publishing companies is that it’s all about profit. They won’t take a chance on what could be the next big thing because their only concerns are the company profit margins.
It’s a move away from the joy of writing towards facts and figures. I believe it’s diluting the publishing industry and it’s why I’m only too happy to hasten its downfall by providing other options. Independent publishing and small publishing houses are the future.
As of this interview, we are publishing an anthology that’s expected sometime before Christmas, and we already have our first signed author in the form of Matthew Head. We have our own office just outside the centre of Leeds and have taken on an intern to help with various functions within the company itself.
DF: Why have your own publishing house?
SJW: Well, as I said, I believe that the mainstream publishing industry is nothing but diluted rubbish these days. New writers and new forms of literature won’t be touched, and that’s stunting the creative process as a whole. And to add insult to injury, the writers that are rejected get nothing but a pathetic automated rejection letter. That’s disgraceful.
It’s why when we reject or accept a piece for publication we state the reasons why. We add some advice on how they can improve in the future and wish them good luck. I answer each email personally. Now, why can’t the big publishing houses do that? If they can spend time reading the manuscript and preparing the rejection letter then they can take a minute or two to outline their reasons why they didn’t like something.
These actions damage writers, sometimes irreparably, and we aim to change that.
DF: Tell us about Psychopomp. What is it and what do you have to do with it?
SJW: The name or the entity itself? I’ll tell you about both. The Psychopomp as a name is taken from the imaginary creature that supposedly conducts souls to the afterworld. The entity is an anthology of short stories from new, unpublished, and upcoming writers. The project was conducted mainly by Jacob Milnestein, who I first got in touch with early this year. I believe it was February or something? I know it was before April because I wrote the story whilst on a work trip to Brighton.
Apart from writing ‘My Train Ride’ I didn’t really have a lot to do with it. But either way, I’m thankful that I was a part of the first volume because for the first time I was able to speak to another writer. It sounds weird, but I’m a very sheltered individual. I’ve never connected with another writer in Leeds, so this was my first experience. I hope to meet up with Jacob in person sometime, but in the meantime it’s given me an insight into the creative writing community as a whole.
DF: ‘My Train Ride’ is a very internal story and one that I found very ‘literary’ and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Quite the opposite, in fact. Would you say ‘My Train Ride’ is representative of your fiction?
SJW: Only in how I happen to be feeling at a given moment in time. I wrote ‘My Train Ride’ after I gained the inspiration whilst on the train to Brighton. The inspiration came from me wishing I had chosen the first class option whilst sitting in cramped conditions praying that nobody would sit next to me. A lot of it is taken from imagination, yet at the same time a lot of it is taken from fact.
Although, before we move on I must make a point on the concept of good and bad in fiction. I don’t believe that it’s necessarily a negative thing when somebody calls my work, or any piece of work, ‘bad’. If you read a recent review of mine for ‘My Train Ride’ by an LA-based author he said that he wanted to tell my character to either cheer up or hang himself, and then he went on to say that the character was vile. Now, on the face of that it would appear to be quite a bad review. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. The point is I got some sort of a reaction. Writers should only consider something a failure if the only thing it generates is apathy. No reaction is the writer’s worst enemy, and it’s something that 90% of writers will see when they put their work out into the public eye.
DF: What’s your theory on writing fiction?
SJW: Honestly? I don’t really have a theory on it at all. I know that lots of writers have these philosophical views on fiction writing, but I can’t really identify with them as I just don’t believe in it. I think that it’s something to do when you’re bored or where you are experiencing extreme feelings. Even people who wouldn’t consider themselves as ‘writers’ have created a diary, wrote a letter, or wrote their feelings down at some point in their lives. What separates a writer of fiction from everybody else is that the writer refined their skills and took it up as a goal.
DF: You also enjoy writing poetry. Does writing poetry exercise a different set of creative muscles than the ones you use for fiction and for article writing?
SJW: They are all different forms of writing and require different skills. Article writing is mainly based on fact. What separates the good from the bad are the creative techniques that are masterfully slipped into the folds created by the facts. That requires a certain degree of skill, and I would argue that it’s the most sensitive skill since bringing creativity and facts to the table can turn out to be a very volatile mix.
Writing fiction is mainly about the story. Ok, I don’t necessarily always stick to that since ‘My Train Ride’ was more of an internal story, but it’s mainly about the story. Of course, you add various metaphors, similes, and other literary techniques in there but they are all worthless without the story. Poetry is definitely something entirely different because it doesn’t have to have a story. You can concentrate on your descriptions, and I would say it’s an exercise in your depth of vocabulary.
I think what separates poetry from everything else is you can’t attempt to please somebody with poetry. People have very strong opinions on what makes a good poem and what doesn’t. I have friends who believe that if it doesn’t rhyme it’s just disjointed lines of prose. On the other hand, I have friends who write prose in disjointed lines and think that’s an example of good poetry. You should write poetry for yourself, mainly, and if you try to get it published then don’t get disheartened when somebody refers to it as something that could only come out of the Daily Mail or Fox News. I’ve gone through that, and when I submitted that poem elsewhere it was published.
DF: What can we expect from you in 2013? More fiction, hopefully.
SJW: 2013 is something that I don’t know a lot about. I don’t normally plan ahead with my fiction at all. The only things I’ve locked in at the moment are the advancement of my professional writing career and the release of Matthew Head’s first book in The Chronicles of Darkness series, which is called The Box of Annihilos.
Of course, I will still keep writing fiction, but I can’t really tell whether it will reach the light of day or not. Later this year one of my pieces is going to be published in a short story anthology on Love and Tragedy, which you will inevitably find out about on my website, and next year another story may be seen in another anthology from Writing.com. I also have my sights set on producing another piece for one of the future volumes of Psychopomp, although I will say that it will differ heavily from ‘My Train Ride’.
As for novels, I don’t really have my sights set on writing one of those yet. It’s not something I really want to dedicate my time to as of this moment.
DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Samuel James White like?
SJW:A typical day for me is that I get up very early, normally before 7am, and I go to work at the Tranquillity Publishing offices in the city. Here, I spend most of my time with my professional freelance writing work combined with work for Tranquillity Publishing; it’s all linked very closely.
I then return home about 3pm most days. When I get home I normally read a book or continue with writing. Of course, I do all the usual human maintenance jobs of eating food and showering, but most of my days are dominated by reading and writing. I may spend some time watching sports, playing computer games, and being lonely if I’m feeling generous though!
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know about Samuel James White?
Samuel James White: Well, I run the Looming Dawn Charity, which you can find at www.loomingdawn.com. It’s where I dedicate some of my time every so often to helping out people. Recently, I just donated some money to an impoverished teenager who wanted to work towards accomplishing his dream of becoming a professional poker player, which I will be providing regular updates on. I’ve also lent my services to Experience Himalayan Nepal and Planet Whale to aid them with their operations.
I also share the phenomenon known as ‘catmania’ with Jacob Milnestein!