Report by Sarah Noon
Faze – A City of Addicts: M.J. White
Martin White’s debut novel was published in September and is a book, he says, inspired by personal life events. What began as a series of short stories inspired by Grimm’s fairy-tales – read to Martin by his mother when he was young has developed into a “… marvellously gory, action packed, dystopian story for lovers of sci-fi horror.”
Initially, Martin began writing adapted fairy-tales, where Little Red Riding Hood was a “crack addict” and Humpty Dumpty “threw Molotov cocktails.” However, perhaps the most inspirational thing about M.J White is how he began writing.
Martin was born and grew up in the Thornhill area of Southampton (an area that has had its share of problems). He left school at 15 with no qualifications. He then worked in catering (a job where he felt he needed no qualifications). He also worked as a gardener and later as a drug counsellor.
Martin says that he “… always knew (he) wanted to write but didn’t know how to” and so he joined a creative writing class. Here, his tutor said, he liked his work but suggested that he maybe dyslexic – something that had previously been undiagnosed. The creative writing classes taught him about structure, grammar and punctuation; “I now know where to put a comma!” He relies on Word and Grammarly to enable him to write his stories.
He decided to re-enter the learning world and studied at Andover before being accepted at Winchester University as an Undergraduate in Creative Writing.
In 2018, as part of his Creative Writing course, Martin began joining his collection of short stories together. However, he felt that as a whole piece, it “just didn’t work.” At this point, Martin says he went back to his 120,000 words and “hit the delete button.” He then began world building and developing what is referred to in Faze as “The System.”
Martin talks about how addiction is all around us and can affect anyone, something that his time as a drugs counsellor has taught him but that with the help of people around us, we can all get back from the brink of self-destruction. Addiction is an intrinsic part of “The System”. The people in Faze have all been given a drug to fight ‘flu. This drug is highly addictive with recipients requiring a top-up every 24 hours.
Martin’s Goldilocks short story was the strongest of his original short story collection, providing him with his protagonist, Adria, who is 16 years old and homeless. With setting and protagonist in place, he was now able to link his stories together.
Faze is “not for the faint hearted” Martin says, with his target reader being a horror fan over the age of 18 (“definitely not for children”), adding that any adult can read his book. His mum, he says, loves it!
When asked about his writing routine and discipline, he reveals his main aim is just to “get it out” (he calls this the “Stephen King method”) explaining he writes better in a crowd rather than on his own – favouring # Coffee 1 as his place to write. When writing Faze, he set himself a target of 2000 words per day – the final word count of Faze is approximately 80,000 words.
Martin hired a private editor before he submitted his work (something he advises all writers to do), editing and re-editing approximately 20 times before sending it to his publisher (by this point he had re-read his work 30-40 times and was getting “too picky” – this is how he knew it was time to submit his work).
He has no agent. Instead, he contacted publishers directly as he initially had dozens of rejections. But Martin’s hard work has paid off. Faze was published this year and claims sales are doing “pretty well” – both as a paperback and on Amazon. He is now working on the sequel: Faze, Journey to the Core and states that he is finding writing this book much easier.
Martin’s inspirational talk ended with the following words: “If you believe in your work, truly, then someone else will too.”