Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Words with... Cody Martin


A warm welcome to Cody Martin, who, among other things, likes cats, Neil Gaiman, 
writing on the roof and watching movies. He once dreamt of becoming an astronaut. Currently teaching in Japan, Cody has written a fantasy novel called Adventure Hunters. Read on to find out more about him...

What I usually wear when I'm writing...

What is your day job or are you lucky enough to write for a living?

I work part-time, teaching English at an English conversation school in Japan. It allows me time to write while also doing my share of the housework, since my wife often works 12-hour days.

What books have you written so far?

Only one: Adventure Hunters. It’s a fantasy story about a trio of treasure hunters who discover ancient war machines and must stop their king from using their destructive powers. It was originally a screenplay I wrote, but I adapted into a novel.

What works in progress do you have?

A sci-fi book tentatively titled The Super School Uniform. A Japanese junior high-school girl gains a suit that gives her superpowers, and she must prevent aliens from terraforming the Earth into a copy of their home world. It’s my first work that was totally conceived as a novel.

How long did it take you to write your book/s?

Adventure Hunters started out as a screenplay, which I began about seven years ago. I wrote it on and off; writing for a few weeks, taking months off at a time, writing for a few more months, and so on. After I finished it, I knew it would never become a screenplay, so I decided to turn it into a novel. That part took about three or four months.

Do you write linear, or jump back and forth? Do you plan or write by the seat of your pants?

Linear and I’m an advocate for outlines. A blogger once said about Christopher Nolan, “While some directors resemble painters, Nolan is more of an architect. He builds films, analysing every word and labyrinthine twist. Forward, backward, inside and out.” I really liked that quote and the more I thought about it, and how I learned to write, and writing in general, the more I began to think of writing as creating a building.

The outline is the blueprint, giving you a general idea what your building is going to look like. The first draft involves adding the foundations, and support pillars and beams. With each subsequent draft, you’re adding the walls, flooring and ceilings. By the time you reach your final draft, you’ve got a building, complete with doors, rooms and cabinets. When you made your blueprint, you probably didn’t know what kind of handles the drawers would have or what colour the walls would be, but the more you wrote, the more details came into focus.

I don’t do the massive 150-page outlines that Jeffery Deaver does, but I can’t ‘wing it’, much like Stephen King does. Those two are my favourite authors and they have wildly different approaches to writing. I’m in the middle. I’ll outline, but I don’t have every little detail thought out. Some stuff comes out in the writing process that I never planned on.

I try to incorporate what inspires me into my outline. If a major part of the story comes out differently than planned, I rewrite my outline to include it. I like having my outline up-to-date. I also put the major events on a timeline, so I don’t get the days mixed up.

Why do you write?

Mostly for myself; to write the stories and characters I would like to see. When I was at school, I wanted to be a comic-book artist, but the stories I had in mind seemed more suited to the moving picture, so I turned towards directing movies. That’s what I studied in college. But I lived a long way from Hollywood, so I wrote several screenplays. It became clear that my directing career would never start, plus I moved to Japan to teach. I turned my screenplay into a novel and learned about self-publishing. Maybe, deep down, and I’m just finally beginning to realize it, I’ve always wanted to tell stories.

How long have you been writing?

On and off, doing bits and pieces, for about 15 years. I started out doing screenplays and fan-fiction scripts for a few shows I liked, just for fun. Then I moved into original screenplays. After doing several of those, I dabbled in short stories to try a different format of writing, and then I moved on to full-length novels.

Where and when do you write? Do you have set times?

I used to write on the roof of my apartment; it has a nice view of the town, it’s quiet and hardly used. I’d gather up my iPad, music, cap and shades, and something to drink. When the roof was too windy, I’d retire to the balcony. With winter coming up, I write indoors in the living room. I’m still trying to adjust my writing schedule to my new job, but I try to write every day.

My favourite writing space
Which character from your books do you like most / are most like?

I like Lisa, from Adventure Hunters. She’s fun-loving, even though she had a tough childhood. Since she is a teenager, she doesn’t have to be as serious as the other two. I’m hoping to explore more about her and her past in an upcoming novel.

What/who inspired you to write and still inspires you?

Stephen King, especially after reading On Writing. That should be a must-read for every author. He openly admits there are people who are highly talented, but at the same time he says that with hard work and some know-how, almost anyone can do it. He doesn’t treat writing as a mythical thing; it’s a job, just like laying bricks or hauling trucks.

Also, in a roundabout way, George Lucas and Steve Jobs. Lucas once said that advances in technology will give rise to “garage filmmakers” – people who have talent and passion, but might not have had a chance before to get their stories out there to the public, because they didn’t have access to the technology. Steve Jobs helped to create and foster technology that is intuitive and easy to use. I think we are seeing a version of Lucas’s vision in the publishing industry now. People with a passion to write now have the means to get their stories out there.

What do you think is the ideal recipe for a good novel or story?

Well-written characters and a good plot. I tend to favour plot over story. I like characters doing things. To me, plot and story are slightly different. They are intertwined and connected, but slightly different. Plot is what happens; story is why it happens. Two men walk into a bar and start arguing – that is plot. The reason they are arguing – maybe one man wrecked the other man’s car – is story.

Have you ever based a character on someone from real life? And did you tell them?

I sometimes use part of a friend’s name for a character. But I’ve never based a whole character on someone. I’d ask them first, if I was planning on it.

Fave things: animal? food? drink? film? colour? band? song? place? item of clothing?

Cats - I love them, especially Ragdolls and Maine Coons.
Chicken.
A&W Root Beer.
Azumi, an awesome Japanese film, directed by Ryuhei Kitamura.
Black.
Morning Musume – I’ve been to their concerts eight times in five years.
Read ‘em and Weep by Meat Loaf.
Tokyo – I don’t get there nearly as many times as I want to.
Long-sleeved shirts.

When you were a kid, what did you want to do/who did you want to be when you grew up?

An astronaut.

Would you say that your dreams have come true or are you still working on them?

I’m still working on them, but I’m happy with my life at this point. I don’t feel I have any unfulfilled dreams that are weighing me down.

My book 
You’re walking in the forest and you bump into an alien librarian from Mars. He wants five book recommendations from you…

Being a SF fan, I’m intrigued by this alien. Recommendations of Earth’s greatest literature? Just my recommendations? I’m assuming so. If he can visit from another world, I’m sure he has enough room in his interstellar library for more than just five books from every world. Let’s see…
The Cold Moon by Jeffery Deaver;
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien;
The Shining by Stephen King;
The Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter; and
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.

Which three authors would you like to take to the pub?

Stephen King, Christopher L. Bennett and Jeffery Deaver.

Are you published or self-published? What is your experience?

Self-published. I’ve found marketing and promotion to be difficult. But the fact that it is all on me, that the novel I wrote will be created the way I want it, makes it great.

How do you find the marketing experience?

I’m still very much a newbie at that part. I have a lot to learn.

What advice would you give other writers just starting out?

Write what you want. Don’t look for an audience. Let them find you.

Do you have a blog? What do you blog about?

Yes, I do. My blog is at http://codylmartin.blogspot.jp. I usually blog about writing and my projects, but I’m branching out into other areas, like book reviews and my thoughts on certain movies, etc.

What other hobbies do you have?

I’m a huge fan of the group Morning Musume. I watch a lot of movies, mostly action and SF. Since I have a part-time job, I often help to take care of the house while my wife works full-time.

What would you like to achieve in the next five years?

To have five books out – at least one a year; more if I can do it. And to have enough money saved up, so that my wife and I can look into getting our own house.

If you won the Lotto or a major publishing contract, what would you do with that dosh?

Buy a house. It’s amazing how expensive houses are here, in Japan. 

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