Gina West's Not-so-Hostile Takeover (Part 2)

Gina West: Questionatrix and goofball

Read the first part of the interview here: PART ONE

...and now, the conclusion...

18. I know you love comics. How have they influenced your writing?

Look out…here comes the boring…

Comic books are deceptively complicated. Okay, perhaps not every story, but to create a story in around 26 pages takes a lot of work. The writer has to write as if this is your first ever issue of the comic you’ve just picked up while not boring the guy who’s been following it for a thousand years. Much like a television writer, they have to write to beats so that they end in a way that will make you pick up the next one. They also have to write to the strengths of the artists they work with. And it all has to fit into a picture or a speech bubble. I’d liken individual comic books to the chapters of a story, a long ongoing story, except in each chapter you have to introduce your main character over again and the chapter has to be a stand-alone story while being part of a longer arc.

Comics taught me about creating characters and story arcs. They also fueled my creativity, because comics have to constantly evolve to keep the audience coming back. Some comics have run non-stop for more than thirty years, sometimes with the same continuity, characters and history, so how do you keep that fresh? Comic book writers are amazing at that. No idea is off limits, and no, they don’t all work. There are probably as many bad ideas as good. The good ones though are incredible: Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s Dark Phoenix Saga in Uncanny X-Men, Frank Miller on Daredevil (Born Again) or Batman (Dark Knight Returns & Year One), Brian Michael Bendis on Alias, Warren Ellis’ Extremis story arc in Iron Man, Joss Whedon on Astonishing X-Men, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman or Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman. These stories are the backbone of the superhero movies that have taken over the box office. They’re also mature, nuanced, intelligent, thoughtful and thought-provoking, using fantasy or men in spandex to tell more complicated stories than you might at first suspect.

Or the short answer: they’ve influenced me a lot! Lol.

19. What other genres would you like to try and maybe dabble in just to test your writer’s mettle?

I’m open to writing in any genres or cross-pollinating genres. Romance is probably what appeals to me least, but even then I’ve thought about putting together a romantic story to see if I could do it. I like flexing different writing muscles.

20. How do you respond to negative comments/feedback?

Honestly, I try to figure out if the negative feedback is warranted, and, if it is, I take it on board as something to look at and improve on. If I don’t feel it’s warranted, I’ll do my best to ignore it, but from time to time the negative breaks through and causes self-doubt. That’s when it’s good to have people around who understand that and can help point you back in the right (write) direction. Thanks, Tweeps!

21. In your interviews, you often ask about “writing what you know.” Speaking for myself, I have a fairly limited knowledge base. How do you expand your knowledge?

It depends how you look at that statement. We all have our own life experiences and it’s possible to use those to inform your story or characters. It might be something small like having been on a ship or something bigger like having worked as a doctor or lawyer. We can all add those little experiences to our writing.

Now, I’m ALWAYS trying to learn things. I read a lot of articles, news and science features, online. I try to read books as often as I can, and I talk to people. On Twitter, if you engage in conversation with me, I’m likely to ask questions if something interesting comes up. I’m nosy, yes, but I ask to learn interesting things that I maybe know nothing about. And there’s usually nothing more fun than talking to someone who’s excited about something. That enthusiasm is hard to fake.

22. What are your strengths and weaknesses in your writing?

Grammar and head-hopping have been mentioned to me once or twice as weaknesses. Strengths? I’d say dialog, character and hopefully an interesting idea.

23. What has been most difficult about writing for you? What has been easiest?

Writing is enjoyable when you’re “in the zone”. It’s easy and it fuels itself. The difficult part is if you don’t have the time or you get bogged down. Every line becomes a challenge.
One of the new challenges is marketing. Deciding to let others read my stories means I have to tell them about it. Apologies to those who hear me tell them about it seven million times a week. 

24. What’s next in the Spartan’s repertoire?

My current WIP is called Persephone and is a follow up to Monsters. It’s taking a while to get where I want to be with it. In the meantime, I wrote a YA Urban Fantasy story based around a place called Dynamo City. It’s filled with interesting characters and hopefully an engaging story which, if successful, will be ongoing. No trilogy here. There’s enough material to write about twenty books, if there’s any kind of demand for it.

25. Why did you self-publish? Did you try other routes?

I genuinely wrote Monsters for me first. It was an idea I wanted to write. A few years ago, I heard about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and I thought I’d give it a try. I’d never seriously considered being a writer “for real” but I started thinking it didn’t sound like a bad idea. NaNoWriMo got on my radar and I competed and completed Monsters during that mad November. The following January, I entered the ABNA competition and didn’t get past the pitch phase. I’d never pitched before, and I was already learning all these new things about writing. I wanted more. I wanted Monsters as a book to hold in my hand. Finishing it was a huge deal for me since it was the first full length novel I’d ever completed. I decided to go through Createspace and make it into a book. Then others wanted it…and then it was an ebook…and I’ve just kept going like that.

I didn’t know enough about the publishing world, and I’m still not sure I’m writing what is being snapped up just yet, but I’m definitely gearing myself more in the direction of an agent and a publishing deal. The Dynamo City stuff will be self-pubbed. Persephone I intend to query and see if I can generate some interest in it. Persephone will be my first real attempt to follow the traditional route.

26. What promotion techniques have helped you the most?

That’s very difficult to say. I’d like to say the work sells itself, but it doesn’t. I’d also like to say my wit and charm go a long way but I’m not sure they do either. The two biggest assets for an Indie writer or someone who self-publishes are word of mouth and reviews. If someone reads your book and tells others about it, it generates sales. If someone reads your book and gives you a good review, it generates sales. It’s really that simple.

27. Why social media?

The internet has opened up a world market from your computer, and the best way to tap into that is through social media. Carrying on the thought from above, if someone on Twitter or Facebook reads your books and tells all their friends, suddenly your audience size has increased exponentially. There’s a lot of give and take if you want to create genuine connections. I will happily support those who offer support in return and I’ve been fortunate to bump into some really supportive people. I find myself getting excited for any successes amongst my social media connections, because I look at it as a sign that it’s possible to succeed doing it the way I’m doing it. Plus, some of these people are just genuinely decent and talented and deserve a crack at the big time.

28. Top genre to read. Top genre to watch. Top genre to write.

To read? Comic books are still a lot of fun. Either those or thriller/suspense type stories.

To watch? Sci-fi or fantasy. Done right, those are sometimes just so spectacular.
To write? I’m all over the place but anything with strong characters is what I’ll be found chipping away at.

29. What is the reaction of those around you - family and close friends - about your writing?

My family are always very supportive. Since many of them stumbled onto Facebook and Twitter they’ve been able to be vocal about my writing, and that’s always appreciated. Close friends too have been very supportive. My friend Andrew helped me all the way through Monsters, and I still maintain to this day it wouldn’t have gotten finished without his input. I don’t have a big family or a lot of friends but they’re all in my corner.

Now I begin the nosy questions:

30. And the Spartan’s favorite question: You're stranded on a desert island. You’ve got one book, one piece of music, one movie, a bowl of your favorite dessert and one person you'd like to share the island with for a while. What are your choices?

Book: To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book but I think I’d choose something a little longer and more fantastical…Dragons of Autumn Twilight. Unless the new Song of Fire and Ice book is out…then definitely that one. Lol

Music: Holst - The Planets. A truly brilliant classical music suite to cover every mood.

Movie: The original Star Wars (A New Hope) before Lucas messed with it. I used to watch that movie all the time. A lot of fun.

Dessert: Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream. Yermy!

Person: Wilson the Volleyball.

31. If you knew you only had 48 hours left to live, what is the first thing you would do?

Quit my job.

32. Why the helmet?

Gus was a nickname from childhood and Spartacus was a cool movie. Trying to come up with a cool Twitter handle that hadn’t been used was difficult, so I tried Spartagus and it stuck. The helmet came along with the Sparta bit. It was then fun to play with that persona.

33. What do you wish you had time to do?

Write more and travel more. I’ve been to some cool places but I’d love to go see some more.

34. Hobbies? Collections?

My biggest hobby over the last twenty years has been comic books. My collection takes up way too much space, and it’s not even that big compared to other collectors. Right now, I have over 5000 comics taking up a lot of space in the dungeon. I get into collecting mode really easy. If I was a serial killer, I’d get caught because someone would find a shelf full of heads or something. I’m just saying I collect things. Lol. I also have a coin collection and you could say a movie collection.

35. What would you like to learn to do?

I enjoy learning a lot of stuff. I’d like to learn to write better, though. Lol.

So there you have it, ladies and gents – what makes the Spartan tick. Thanks, Gareth, for letting me stop by and ask you a gazillion questions. Be expecting a volleyball for Christmas, by the way. You need to be prepared in case that deserted island scenario happens. ;-) she gone? *sneaks out of darkened room* Whew! :)

All joking aside, my thanks to Gina for suggesting and then setting up this interview. It was a lot of fun.

Gina is writer of romance and erotica. Her first novel, Twilah, is complete and awaiting publication. Her second is being edited as we speak. She's super-sweet and a touch sarcastic and I would highly recommend you follow her on Twitter:

And don't forget to check out her website - 


  1. Fantastic interview! Very interesting breakdown of what it takes to write comic books...I didn't realize all the different things that had to be considered when writing one, but it makes total sense. It was great to get to know you better, Gareth! Thanks for sharing! :D Ohh, and I completely agree with your Star Wars comment. The originals are the BEST.

  2. Thank you Karen! I'm glad you enjoyed this interview and, as always, I appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment. :) Now that Lucas has sold Star Wars, there is a New Hope...(sorry, I had to)...that the new Star Wars movies will be good! Yay!

  3. Wow, cool interview! Go SpartaGus
    There is more to the writing malarkey than I thought. Maybe that's why I have taken 30 years to start mine!! LOL


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