D.C. Pae is a young author here in Stoke Newington, whose first novel, The Imperium of Steves, is coming out from Quartet Books on Thursday, 26 March (and the lovely people at Stoke Newington Bookshop have promised to stock it.) Getting published isn’t easy of course, so I caught up with her to see if I could get some advice for all you aspiring authors out there.
How long have you lived in Stokey?
I’ve lived in Stoke Newington on and off since I was at University, so 11 years, via East and West London. I always end up gravitating back. It has a great, relaxed atmosphere and the locals are nice, of course!
How did you get into writing?
I wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I started out writing diaries and random short stories, scribbling down my thoughts and observations in a notepad that travelled everywhere with me, or at 2am when I couldn’t sleep. Then the short story got a bit longer, and a bit longer and before I knew it, I had a novel.
Most of us have started writing at some point but only very few actually complete a novel. Any tips on how to make sure you don’t give up?
That is the tip, Tom. Just never give up. Never capitulate to self-doubt. If you believe you can do something you probably will achieve it in the end. Motivation is the hardest thing to button. I certainly had those issues, so it’s important to keep chipping away. Even 100/ 200 words here and there are valuable, because it all adds up. To write a novel, you need to keep an eye toward the long game and you need to congratulate yourself for small victories. Take it day by day and don’t set unachievable targets because that can be demoralising and can work against you. You just need to have patience and staying power; persistence, and you have to think its ace, even if you secretly think no one else might!
How long did it take you to finish “The Imperium of Steves”?
In the beginning, I probably went about it in a haphazard manner. ‘Imperium’ started out as a short story. I wrote the first chapter when I was 25. Then I decided to turn it into a novel, writing parts from different sections of the book; vignettes. I soon realised that in order to achieve the right balance of flow and pace, and also to gather momentum, I would continue in a more linear fashion. I connected the vignettes, bridging them with the rest of the story. I think writing this way kept things fresh throughout because it is easy, sometimes, to get into a certain groove and stick with the same theme or vocabulary, so the style becomes stagnant.
All in all, it took me about 6 months of pure writing but spread out over a 5 year period. I expect, I hope, that my next manuscript won’t to take so long to complete.
Tell us a bit about the book…
It’s launched on March 26th. It’s about a very charming and articulate (though not necessarily clever) serial killer. He is very cool, very cynical but with a definite god complex and an all consuming ambition. My interpretation, from imagination, of the psychology of a psychopath, I felt I had to temper this with humour. I think it would have been far too much of a wrench, to write a straight analysis because writing in the first person requires a certain amount of empathy with the character, which can be quite difficult when the character is of questionable mind.
Theodore Steves is the protagonist. He rounds up a bevy of down and outs, criminals, and starts a commune in Arizona. He plans to unleash his own brand of government and philosophy on the world and his disciples, basically as a celebration of himself. Things do go quite stupidly awry, none of his plans ever quite work out.
Writing a novel is hard enough but getting it published is just as hard, if not even harder. How did you get there with “The Imperium of Steves”?
I was published in a rather unconventional way. Now, I work for Quartet Books, the publisher of my novel. A chance meeting in a coffee shop led to an introduction with Naim Attallah who is a legend in the industry, and a very supportive, enthusiastic proponent of nurturing new talent. I gave him my manuscript and so I was published. I still have to pinch myself!
Any advice for others who want to get their work published?
It is really important to be organised when sending out a submission. Keep things concise, simple things really, type in clear font etc. Read the Writers Handbook or look at the requirements on the publisher’s website. Research the genres they usually publish and send to those that are fitting otherwise you’ll have wasted time and materials. Agents can be really helpful in sealing a deal, but they are generally as hard to secure as the publishing deal itself. Blitz it. Many publishers take a long time to respond, if ever. But most of all, and again, keep at it relentlessly. Many published authors have been rejected time and time again and it isn’t always because the writing isn’t to standard, there are many factors involved. Never take it personally and keep a positive outlook.
The Imperium of Steves is out on 26 March from Quartet Books. I was one of the lucky ones who got to read it already, and it really is a wild ride that’s worth a read. You can buy it in Stoke Newington Bookshop or click here to order it on Amazon.