Tim Collins books have been translated into over 20 languages. He has written a number of non-fiction books and recently turned to fiction. His books are fresh, new and unique. He took time recently and answered some questions for the readers at Book Reviews and More.
1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I was sent on Robert McKee's screenwriting course by the advertising agency I worked at, and that made me think about trying fiction.
2. How did you nurture that dream?
I was used to writing non-fiction, so I wrote a few synopses and sample chapters. But they weren't much use, because you need to finish the whole book if you're trying to get fiction published.
3. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?
I worked as an advertising creative for thirteen years, so I'd still be doing that.
4. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?
My wife Collette was my biggest supporter. And my publishers Michael O'Mara were always very helpful.
5. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?
I wish I'd known a little more about story structure. When I was younger, I'd try and start novels with no research or planning and wonder why they stalled after the second chapter.
6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?
The editor I'm currently working with lets me go through a long list of ideas, and choses a couple for me to write up. Then I produce a step outline of the plot and a list of jokes I want to include, and get on with the first draft. You have to turn off your inner critic while you're working on the first draft, then switch it back on again for redrafting.
7. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?
I'm a huge fan of progressive rock such as Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes, and the genre is perfect for writing to, as the songs are very long with lots of instrumental passages.
I don't make specific playlists for each book, though. I have a friend who does, as he believes he can condition himself to start writing when a certain piece of music starts. But what if it plays when you're out for the evening? You'd have to reach for your notebook and start scribbling away.
8. How did you make the decision to switch from adult non-fiction to writing teen and young adult fiction?
I'd always loved vampire fiction, so when they genre became popular again I thought I'd have a go. They say you shouldn't chase trends in publishing, but if you're writing comedy, I think it's allowed.
9. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?
I make notes about each of my main characters, but I haven't started to believe any of them are real yet. Given that they're all fantastical characters such as vampires and werewolves, this is probably a good thing.
10. What is your favorite part about writing the Wimpy Vampire series? Do you have any more books planed in that series?
My favourite part of writing the series was inventing all the silly bits of vampire and werewolf mythology and history. I've currently reached the end of the story I planned, though I have an idea about how to continue it if anyone asks.
11. What current projects are you working on or are in the back burner in some stage of development?
I've written a series for younger children called Monstrous Maud and I'm now working on one for adults.
12. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?
I loved Douglas Adams when I was a teenager, though I've never tried to write in that style, with a witty third person narrative voice. He did it so well there's no point in rehashing it.
I also obsessively followed everything Alan Moore did from Swamp Thing to Watchmen to The Killing Joke.
13. Who are some of your favorite authors or books now?
I read a lot of books for children and teens now. Some that have stood out for me recently are Crawlers by Sam Enthoven, 15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins and The Demon's Watch by Conrad Mason.
14. Some of your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?
Most pirated ebooks still have conversion errors and you can't sync them across all your devices, so they're not really worth it for the small amount of money you save. But I'd like to hope they could introduce you to new readers who wouldn't have bought your book, but might buy your next one.
15. Some authors monitor torrent sites and have their publishers contact them to remove their content. Do you do so are have someone do so for you?
We're supposed to report them to the Society of Authors, but I haven't snitched on anyone yet.
16. Completely off topic but what movies do you enjoy?
I love horror movies, and I've watched classics like The Shining, The Exorcist and Suspiria so many times they've become familiar, comforting experiences. Which is confusing for anyone who might be watching them with me for the first time.
17. What about TV shows?
Doctor Who has been my favourite show since I was six. I loved Peter Davidson's Doctor then, and I love Matt Smith's Doctor now. I also love The Twilight Zone and The Prisoner, though the revivals of those shows were less successful.
18. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?
The cost of higher education in the UK has more than doubled under the current coalition government, so there's a lot of pressure on students to take vocational courses rather than arts subjects. But learning for pleasure rather than to meet the imaginary demands of a job market is very valuable.
19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore
The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The Stand by Stephen King
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?
Get in touch with others who are trying to do the same thing. In the case of children's writing and illustration, SCBWI is a great organization to join.
Tim thanks for taking some time to answer the questions. I look forward to reading more of your books.
Books by Tim Collins:
Diary of a Wimpy Vampire (UK Title)
Notes From a Totally Lame Vampire (US Title)
Prince of Dorkness
Adventures of a Wimpy Werewolf
Mingin' or Blingin' (2005)
The Little Book of Internet Dating (2005)
The Ginger Survival Guide (2006)
Are you a Geek? (2005)
The Book Club Bible (contributor) (2007)
The Baldies' Survival Guide (2007)
The Little Book of Twitter (2009)
Behind the Lost Symbol (2009)
The Northern Monkey Survival Guide (2009)
Author Profile and Interview with Tim Collins