Archaeologist and writer Steve Toase lives in North Yorkshire, England and Munich, Germany. His work has appeared in Scheherezade’s Bequest, Not One Of Us and Cafe Irreal amongst others. In 2014 Call Out (first published in Innsmouth Magazine) was reprinted in The Best Horror Of The Year 6. He is also a regular Fortean Times reviewer. Recently, Steve worked with Becky Cherriman and Imove on Haunt, about Harrogate’s haunting presence in the lives of people experiencing homelessness in the town.
How long have you been writing and what got you started?
I’ve been writing with some sense of focus since about 2008. I started a correspondence course and one of the first exercises was to write a book review. I knew the editor of a custom motorbike magazine, sent her the review and she ran it in the magazine.
Are there any writing resources, such as books or websites, you’d like to recommend?
Duotrope, Submission Grinder and Dark Markets. They’ve been invaluable for finding new places to send my work. After Duotrope started charging (and before Submission Grinder really had the users to be effective) I stopped using it for about 6 months. I found I wasn’t discovering new markets, or making informed decisions about where to send my work. Without Duotrope I don’t think I’d have been as successful as I’ve been.
Bookwise, I’d recommend Stephen King on Writing. Good solid advice. The other one I keep returning to is Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook. With contributions from many other writers and artists Wonderbook is an amazing resource. At first the quantity of illustrations give the impression it is a light book, but there is a huge wealth of advice and guidance.
What is your favorite type of fiction and who are your favorite authors?
I tend to read fiction with a weird or magical edge. That could be fairly light, like Joanne Harris’s Chocolat, or more blatant, for example Neil Gaiman. At the moment I’m reading lots of China Miéville, Angela Carter, Italo Calvino, and just started the Rivers of London books.
How do you measure success when it comes to your writing?
Whether it is accepted for publication. If someone is willing to publish my work I take it as a sign of having achieved my goal.
What tips do you have for finding time to write?
Write everyday is a bit of an old saw, but it works well for me. I work at home and was a stay at home Dad, so I didn’t have much time to sit down at the keyboard. What I try to do is work out ideas while doing other stuff, so when I start I have an idea where I’m going. Also, if you only get ten minutes a day to yourself it’s still possible to get a hundred words down. Writing is attrition. Every little bit gets you closer to a finished story.
Are you an outliner or discovery writer? Or somewhere in between?
Somewhere in between. I normally start with an idea or image, and then work out from there, but rarely know where the story is going to end. With the novel I’m working on I wrote the whole first draft without knowing the ending, but having in my head a couple of key events through the story.
Have you attended any conferences or writing retreats? What was the experience like and do you have any to recommend?
I’ve attended some local writing conferences. Trinity University in Leeds runs a writers’ day every year, with workshops in the morning and afternoon, divided by readings at lunch. I find I get most out of these events when I already have an idea of what I want to tackle personally in the sessions. It might be a particular storyline or character. This normally goes off in completely different directions than I expected, but that’s a good thing.
How do you deal with rejections?
Read them, take on board any feedback and move on. This is where I find Duotrope comes in very useful. There’s no point in me taking it personally when a magazine that only takes 0.5% of all stories rejects my work. I normally have a route planned out for where I’ll sub my work, and accept rejection is a part of that. It wears me down a bit when I have a few in a week, but the acceptances balance it out.
What are your writing goals for the next twelve months?
Finish my novel. Get back into freelancing. Work on the next stage of Haunt. Write some more short stories. I’d really like to turn some of my flash fiction into comic scripts. Not many goals for the year then….
What books are you reading right now?
I’m just finishing Angela Carter, The Passion of New Eve, steadily working through her back catalogue. I review books for Fortean Times, and at the moment I’m reading Spirits of Place edited by John Reppion. Also my fellow Haunt writer, Becky Cherriman has just brought out her first full poetry collection Empires of Clay, and it is a beautiful set of poems highlighting Becky’s considerable talent.
Is there anything you’d like to plug? Feel free to share a link.
I was recently the lead writer on a project called Haunt, about how people experiencing homelessness in Harrogate are haunted by the opulent identity of the town (my own background is I was kicked out of home at 16). This developed into an anthology and street theatre piece using work by people who had experienced homelessness and vulnerable housing.
In November I took part in the Munich Stories 2016 project organised by Munich Artists. Writers were paired with artists. At the beginning of the week everyone chose a prompt. The writer produced a story, the artist a piece of art. On Wednesday we swapped, with the artist using the story as inspiration, and the writer the artwork. There were some fantastic people involved, including Lynn Hardaker, Hazel Ang, Diana Radovan, Nina V. Rye, Sabine Magnet, Elizabeth Hughes, Pung Worathiti Manosroi, Natalia Zurakowska, Masha Baur, Jacqueline Cuts. It is available for purchase at Amazon.