10 questions with author Andrew Shanahan: ‘Don’t get it right, get it written’

Andrew Shanahan’s work came to my attention when he came on my radio show to talk about his remarkable work helping normal blokes win their battle with fat. A journalist who found himself piling on the pounds as a food critic he launched Manvfat in 2014 after realising men, like him, simply didn’t talk about their weight issues.

His journey with his and other people’s weight loss then inspired his novel Before and after, a rather prescient sci-fi work, which centres around a man called Ben Stone so overweight he’s been trapped in his flat with his dog for the past nine years and now the world has fallen victim to an apocalypse around him.

10 questions with.. Andrew Shanahan

Andrew Shanahan, author
Andrew Shanahan

1. What’s your name and where do you come from?

My name is Andrew Shanahan and I’m originally from Stafford but now live in Cheshire. In my head I feel like I’m a Mancunian, just because I’ve spent so much time there and it’s probably where I’d choose to haunt if I ever go through a vengeful ghost phase. 

2. Do you write fact or fiction and in what genre?

I write fiction, although I’ve previously published a number of non-fiction books. My fiction broadly falls within the realms of science fiction, although I suppose it’s more accurate to say it’s speculative fiction. I like stories that pose, “yes, but what if…” scenarios.

3. Are you traditionally or self published and which route do you consider best?

I’ve been traditionally published and self-published and I’ve come to realise that I’m naturally an indie author. I struggled with the process of working with big publishers and absolutely love the challenge and creativity that comes with self-publishing. I’m passionate about encouraging everyone who wants to write stories to look at the indie author route. If anyone reading this would like to get in touch and ask anything about the pitfalls and possibilities of being an indie author then I’m always happy to do whatever I can to help. People sometimes say that there are too many books and I think the opposite is true – I think we need everyone to be writing and creating stories. 

4. What’s your work schedule like when you are writing? 

I write full-time and I keep office hours, Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. My ability to get into a creative frame of mind takes some stewing, and I’d say I usually get about three productive hours of writing done per day. I write fast though so I can usually hit about two or three thousand words per day. The rest of the time I stare at the walls, promote my books and spend far too long talking nonsense on social media.  (cont)

Before and after by Andrew Shanahan

5. What advice would you give to budding writers?

Don’t spend far too long talking nonsense on social media.
I’d also suggest that when you’re writing stories, be strong and keep true to your vision. Listen to those you choose to give input, but ultimately, this is your creation. The joy of writing, and especially writing as an indie author, is putting a book out as close to your vision as you can get it. Write with your voice and your ideas; even if that leads to monumental failure and embarrassment – it’s all yours.
Finally, the greatest piece of writing advice ever given is: don’t get it right, get it written.    

6. Who/what are YOUR favourite authors/ books?

I’m not very kind to myself when it comes to reading. I love to read but I live in fear of plagiarising from other authors. Not just their words and ideas, but the shape of their thoughts and the direction that they’re facing. I worry that reading other authors is a potential influence that leads me away from where I could be. I really feel that authors should be and need to be mentally alone. Consequently, my imagination as a clean room environment with no spores ingressing from the outside world. Therefore, I mostly read things that I could never hope to write. I love the Number One Ladies Detective Agency series. I also enjoy Sarah Paretsky and Sue Grafton because I’m a sucker for a female PI. I’m currently re-reading everything Garth Ennis ever wrote because no one explodes heads like him. 

7.Are you a plotter or a pantster? (i.e do you  plan out your work or fly by the seat of your pants?)

I’m methodical. I shape an outline of a book chapter-by-chapter and work on it over a few weeks. Sometimes I lose enthusiasm for the story at that point, which is useful as it’s galling to write 90,000 words and then lose interest. I use my subconscious a lot, so I like to write while I’m asleep. I’ll read the summary before I go to sleep and in the morning, I’ve usually realised that something else needs to happen, or established that chapter nine would be the most effective point for someone to explode. After that point I write following the summary, but sometimes characters do things that they weren’t supposed to do and occasionally that means you must explode them a few chapters earlier or later.   

8. What helps you focus?

Music and thinking about lunch. 

9. How long did it take you to write your book/books?

Before and After was a one line idea in June 2019. I started writing it in July 2019 and finished the third and final draft in October 2019. 

10. Where can we find your book/s?

Before and After is on sale at the very reasonable price of 99 pence at www.helpbiscuits.com

Before and after by Andrew Shanahan

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