Interviews

‘Evaluating Other’s Books Makes You a More Experienced Writer’

When orator and bestselling author Vince Stevenson was just twenty-nine years old, he’d moved to London, and for the first time, began living alone. That was exactly when he felt he’d all the time in the world. Before relocating to London, the author, now sixty-two, had worked for big companies and was heavily involved in communication. ‘In the old days, we had large dictionaries on our desks. I attended meetings and was often responsible for disseminating and documenting material, and it had to be accurate. If anything left my desk with a typo, I’d be cross with myself,’ begins Mr Stevenson, speaking to the Literary Express in an exclusive interaction. That was exactly when he started attending writing classes and meeting people with similar interests. ‘And I found that incredibly inspiring. I began to write short stories about the IT world, and I had many published in Computer Weekly,’ he tells us with a beatific smile.  

Vince Stevenson

Why Fear When Stevenson Is Here?

Talking at length about his published works, Mr Stevenson says that in June this year, he launched The Fear Doctor, a book he had finished seven years ago, specifically to document the process by which he helps people overcome their fear of public speaking. ‘I tell lots of stories of my failures and disappointments and how you can manage your mind to help you through various difficulties. I wrote the book initially as a lead-magnet for my company, The College of Public Speaking London,’ he shares with us. 

This month, his book Anxiety Quick Wins hit the market. Letting us know that he wrote the book between March and June under the UK lockdown, he mentions the book is about providing anxiety sufferers with options. ‘In England, mental health issues are on the rise. A person can often wait nine months for a diagnosis. What do people do during that long wait?’ he pronounces, going on to add that he initially didn’t plan to bring Covid-19 into the picture, but he had to do so since it was impossible to ignore the unprecedented devastation it had caused on families, communities, and business life.

‘We Write for the Audience’

Be that as it may, Mr Stevenson, who says he might write a novel in the future, tells us he has also edited the first drafts of two friends’ work. ‘I thoroughly enjoy commenting on and improving these works. I think it’s important to have a second pair of eyes checking for the following: typos, inconsistency, incongruence, tautology, and cohesion. I also encounter a lot of passive voice misuse amongst indie authors,’ he tells us, adding that there are reasons that we have grammatical rules. ‘And that’s to make the flow of the text easier to read, understand, and enjoy. Whenever we write, we write for the audience, not ourselves,’ he asserts.

On the question of whether he takes inspiration from any authors, Mr Stevenson, who fathers a girl and likes spending time with his family, says late English writer and journalist Graham Greene had a significant influence on him and that through his works, he was introduced to Joseph Conrad, Hemingway, and Marquez. ‘So, when I moved to London, I read every book they had ever written. I also loved the works of Thomas Hardy, EM Forster, George Orwell,’ he shares.  

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A Morning Person

Currently residing at a town in south-east London, the author says he prefers to write in the mornings. ‘I’m up early and try writing something before I start receiving emails. I like to finish at about eleven,’ he lets us know. 

Giving us a glimpse of how his day looks, he says he attends to the emails after, and then, weather permitting, goes for a walk or spends time in the garden. ‘It takes two hours to water the garden. In the evening, I like to do a review of the morning’s work; then I like to read a few chapters of a friend or colleague’s work. I think evaluating other’s books makes you a more experienced writer. I like to make notes on what an author does to entertain me, and see if I could make that idea/technique work for me in the context of my work,’ he says.

On a side note, Mr Steveson tells us that everything he had learnt about IT as a young man became obsolete. ‘So one had to work hard and stay on top of the professional developments and constantly pass the exams,’ he points out, adding that a subject from which he has derived great pleasure, nonetheless, happens to be that of becoming a full-fledged writer. ‘And I knew it would happen, one day. I felt incredible frustration that my business didn’t allow me to prioritise the publication of The Fear Doctor, much earlier,’ he divulges.

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A Man With a Big Heart

Although the author makes it evident that he spends as much time with his family as possible, we learn over the course of the discourse that he is involved in several projects right across the globe. Having always run public speaking projects for homeless charities in London gratis, Mr Stevenson lets us know that he has had the privilege of participating in humanitarian projects in Bangladesh three times, and similar projects at An-Najah University, Nablus, in the West-Bank. ‘I do it because I love my work. During the lockdown, I also ran three seminars for an Indian university; the coordinator is an ex-student that I met in London some years ago,’ he says.

‘Booking’ a Truck

But has he planned any more book launches this year? ‘My next big project, hopefully coming out by Christmas 2020, is a book called “The Truck 1995”. It’s a travel diary from Ushuaia at the base of Argentina to Mexico City on a truck that’s continually breaking down, along with 28 challenging companions. It’s funny, it’s tragic, there are a lot of big egos, including mine, and critical decisions to be made,’ he shares with a guffaw.

Elaborating further, he says, ‘Various factions emerge, and there’s some occasional hostility. I would describe it as Animal Farm meets Stockholm Syndrome. There’s a weird romance too, in that I meet a beautiful Canadian Classics lecturer who has just ended an abusive relationship with her partner. It all goes a bit crazy in Santiago. Crazy is an understatement.’ 

‘There Are No Shortcuts’

On the question of whether he has any piece of advice for young authors, Mr Stevenson states he has always asked budding authors to keep writing while mindfully improving their technique. ‘My concern is that we all want overnight success. Great writers become great writers by continually improving their technique and experience while getting closer to their audience. There’s no success without the hard yards. There are no shortcuts.’ 

NOTE: Vince Stevenson is also the co-author of  The Successful Mind, an international bestseller. You can buy the book by clicking on its cover image below.

‘Typos, Inconsistencies Annoy Me’

Having got acquainted with great people from the writing community over the last six months, the author states he has made time to read many books, for he’d like to know more about the author and their work. ‘What has shocked me is that one author who writes for a well-known publisher had about eighty typos and tautologies in her book. I would have hoped that a publisher had corrected those issues long before the book went into print,’ he says, asseverating that if he read a physical book with so many issues, he would feel comfortable asking for his money back. ‘The problem is that when you come across these issues, it breaks the flow of the action and the reader’s enjoyment. So, if you send work to an agent or a publisher and it has errors in it, don’t be surprised to receive negative feedback. Even if it’s hundred per cent grammatically accurate, there’s no guarantee that they’ll accept your work; but give yourself every opportunity to impress your potential partners,’ he explains.

He also tells us that he currently happens to be reading another friend’s work which has left him disappointed because of the typos and inconsistencies. ‘I want to give a five-star review for the book, but cannot offer more than two-stars, because of the incredibly annoying and repetitive errors. So, I have a dilemma: How do I broach this subject with somebody who is an emerging friend? I’m sure he’s read those reviews, but he hasn’t taken action to revise the edition. What do you do for the best?’ he wonders. He also tells us that his friend has another book coming out at Christmas, and he would be more than happy to edit the text for him. ‘But I don’t want to appear pushy or interfere with his process. If the second book comes out with typos and inconsistencies, I’ll be disappointed for other readers and me.’

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The Final Word

As the interaction draws to a close, Mr Stevenson says that besides English, he knows Spanish. ‘When I met my Brazilian wife in 1999, we spoke in Spanish together even though her native language is Portuguese. I used to speak French well too, many years ago,’ the author, who has spent a lot of time with his wife’s family in Spain, shares. 

Making a mention of one of his greatest inspirations, an octogenarian named Mike Douse, who regularly publishes books in poetry and the field of digital education, the author tells us that Mike has worked in refugee camps around the world, both creating and evaluating educational programmes. ‘We’re living through challenging times; I’m a great believer in education. Education gives you options. Without education, you’re in a deep hole with millions of others, without resources or support. I’d like to see further projects to ensure that everybody in the world receives an education which gives them human dignity and to end poverty and suffering,’ he says, signing off. 

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