Interview with Chris Kellett

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a middle class suburb of Bradford in the North of England called Horton Bank Top. It was on the outermost fringe of the city and was surrounded by open countryside and small farms. In the school holidays my older brother, our friends and I used to spend entire days roaming for miles round the woods and fields. It was pretty idyllic. My writing was influenced by the fact our house was full of books. My dad was an avid if eclectic reader of both factual works and fiction. We were all members of our local lending library. When I was small both my parents read to me, as I grew up I was encouraged to read pretty much whatever I could lay my hands on. To give some idea of what I read I'll just say it ran from DH Lawrence to Jane Austen and from Dickens to Tolkien. Another influence from my dad was his time in the army during WW2. He was a German speaker and toward the end of the war was a member of a unit charged with hunting down wanted Nazis. He told me about his experiences while I was in my teens and it fired my imagination for all things to do with military intelligence. It also stirred my interest in military history prompting me to read widely and deeply into the history and conduct of both world wars.
When did you first start writing?
I have to own up to a guilty secret. When I was at grammar school I'm afraid science and I just didn't get along. I invariably came top, or near the top, of my class in the arts and humanities subjects but near the bottom in science. I realized I had classmates who suffered from the opposite syndrome. It seemed like a fine idea to reach a deal with three classmates to cover my maths, physics and chemistry homework. I wrote all their English essays, they each covered one of the sciences for me. It worked brilliantly and all went well for nearly 3 months until a fateful English lesson. My English teacher, the brilliant George Barrett to whom I owe a huge debt, handed back the exercise books of everyone except my co-conspirators and me. He dropped all four books on my desk and said "four excellent essays Kellett..........see me after class." This was my first job as a freelance writer; just a pity it didn't last longer! George did ease the pain by telling me my undoing was down to the fact I had a recognizable writing style which was unusual for one of my age.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I use both Nook and Kindle but on the whole I prefer Nook.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Like many indie authors I've tried just about everything and its not at all easy to separate out which techniques have produced the best results. My view is that its the cumulative effect that produces results. The major techniques I've tried are: creating a website, blogging, seeking reviews, social media (Twitter), press-releases to my local and national media, giving interviews on local radio and joining sites like Goodreads. For a first time author its tough going and you just have to work at it. The consensus view is that it gets easier as you produce more titles.
Describe your desk
I have a really solid desk made from inch thick beechwood. It's about six feet long and half that in width and has no drawers. It stands against a wall below a window looking out across sheep grazed fields toward a distant church. The left-hand edge is against another wall and my PC stands there. The sides are pale grey, the front's silver and is supposed to look like a Nokia cellphone. Why I've no idea. On top of it are a couple of boxes that originally housed components I've used to upgrade it and which now hold a sizable collection of IT related junk I keep convincing myself will come in useful someday. There's also a tub of blank CD's and my address book sitting there. In front of the PC is a six inch high pile of the books I constantly refer to: The concise Oxford English Dictionary, A thesaurus and the latest edition of the Writer's and Artist's Year Book. There's a black plastic three decked filing tray next to the PC. The lower decks hold correspondence and stationery while on the top deck are a calculator, stapler, spare printer cartridges and USB memory sticks. Next to this is a straight-sided hand made pot I bought on holiday in Cornwall last year. It has Celtic symbols incised all round it and these are highlighted in sage green on a cream background. It's stuffed full of pens and pencils. In the middle of the desk sits a 21" flat monitor with built-in speakers and on the right-hand end my trusty Epson printer. Often there's also a mug of coffee to be seen but apart from the case for my reading glasses that's it. It's pretty neat and tidy without being obsessively so.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I've had a long held ambition to write novels. In my younger days I wrote three but lacked the confidence to submit them to a publisher. By the time I wrote my latest "The Wrath of God" self-publishing had become an established part of the scene. Becoming an indie author still felt daunting but an article in Writing magazine that set out how simple it could be convinced me it wasn't just possible, it was a genuinely realistic goal. So I went for it. I'd put three years' work into researching and writing this novel so the guarantee of getting it published was a huge attraction. The fact I could publish my work as an indie e-book at reasonable cost, (less than £1,000), made it doubly attractive. In the end I guess my main motivation was the same as all other authors; I wanted my work to reach an audience to be read, appreciated and enjoyed.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords is a great platform for authors. Placing a book on the website couldn't be easier, even better its free! The support system of providing readers with biographical and other data on each author is excellent. I feel strongly that the ability of prospective readers easily to access this data and so get a feel for me as a person and an author is very helpful. My readers have told me the search function on Smashwords starting with genre and progressing through secondary criteria such as cost or book length allows them to find the books that interest them more easily than on other sites. It makes the experience of selecting a book or books simple, easy and above all pleasurable. Because the buying experience is so positive readers tend to return again and again and that's great news for us authors.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Because I write books in the thriller/suspense/intelligence genre plot isn't just important its absolutely critical. The plots I create are intricate and have to be totally credible but not obvious. Constructing a plot is always the first part of my writing process and is totally creative. It gives my mind freedom to draw inspiration from my entire experience; from everything I've read, heard, discussed and unconsciously absorbed. At this stage none of the practical considerations surrounding the production of a novel intrude. It's a joy, pure and simple. Once I've gone through this process that never takes less than weeks and can take months the realities of authorship come to the fore. Setting out the plot within the context of the novel is a bit like building a house. I have to be sure the foundations are properly laid before the walls can be built and that I'm not trying to construct the roof before the walls are finished. Its all about getting everything in exactly the right sequence in both space and time. This is the nitty-gritty of writing in this genre and is vital though not so pleasurable as creating plots. I find the other great joy of writing is populating my story with a cast of characters. Choosing them, giving each a distinctive personality with hopes, dreams and fears is both creative and joyful. I find another joyful aspect of writing is when I sit at my desk in a morning knowing that today a really nasty or evil character I've created will get what's coming to him. It gives me a nice warm glow.
Who are your favorite authors?
They're mostly writers in my own genre: Len Deighton, John Le Carre, Adam Hall, Jack Higgins, Alastair McLean, Ken Follett, Tom Clancy, Frederick Forsyth and Robert Ludlum.

Writers I admire in other genres include: Nicholas Monsarrat, Morris West, Ian Rankin, Robert Harris, Robert Graves and Colin Dexter.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
In no particular order of preference my five favorite books are:
1). The Ipcress File by Len Deighton because of its great plot, gritty realism and the appearance of Harry Palmer as a character.
2). Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre Simply a brilliant plot, wonderful characters and the way the reader can almost see, taste and smell the "Circus" in all its seedy grimness.
3). The Quiller Memorandum by Adam Hall. Quiller is the archetypal down-trodden spy who produces results out of sense of personal and professional pride rather than anything high minded like patriotism. No-one, not even Le Carre, has evoked the paranoia and sheer seediness of post war Berlin better than Hall.
4). The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. Because this is the only book I started reading then stayed up all night to finish because I couldn't put it down.
5). The Day of the Jackall by Frederick Forsyth. Because this book has an outstanding plot, great characters and is genuinely suspenseful. Also because of the central enigma - just who was the jackall?
What do your fans mean to you?
Everything. Without readers there's little point in writing. I relish the feedback I get from fans and try to learn from it. Praise is great and always welcome but constructive criticism is really useful, it helps me grow as a writer. If a fan tells me he/she enjoyed a book but found a particular character or plot line unconvincing I put this information to good use in my current writing and try to grow as a writer which is what its really all about.
Published 2014-03-12.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Wrath of God
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 122,790. Language: British English. Published: March 4, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Spies & espionage
Powerful dirty bombs threaten European Cities. Aziz believes he's God's agent on a mission of divine vengeance. He succeeds in planting his bombs threatening thousands of lives and economic meltdown. Against him stands Major Paul Boynson. Brilliant but ruthless he has to read his enemy's mind but the evidence is wafer thin. It's decided on the streets - triumph and disaster separated by seconds.