There are two obvious parts to that question. I've always had the urge to write something more than short stories and travel journals, but my two earlier careers got in the way. So when I retired I had no more excuses and got right down to it. Going independent was a no-brainer really. The conventional route via an agent or a mainstream publisher is full of pitfalls an entails such a long lead time to publication. My experience of starting and running a business gave me the confidence to go it alone, so I simply set up my own imprint and distributed my work on the various indie sites. I realised from the start that the marketing side would be the most challenging and I'm still struggling with that. But if you want to be a successful indie author, you've just got to bite the bullet and do it.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
My single biggest joy, disregarding hubris, is seeing the story unfold as if you're reading something for the first time. Until I started my first full length novel I hadn't discovered the magic of not knowing what happens next, and then gasping with surprise at what appears on the page. While I'm in that creative bubble I frequently blurt out 'Gosh, I didn't expect that!' It's as if somebody is whispering in your ear what to write next.
What do your fans mean to you?
Of course they mean everything. I'm a great fan of Terry Pratchett and used to attend his Discworld weekend conventions in Wincanton, England. Aficionados from all over Europe used to converge on the small town for that annual event, many dressed up as characters from the novels. And there were, and still are, a great many Discworld events happening worldwide. That kind of fan loyalty is surely what every novelist aspires to. It not only gets books flying off the shelves, but it inspires the author to ever greater achievements.
What are you working on next?
A sequel to complete the Patrick Redman Trilogy. I don't want to say too much at this stage, but it sees our two intrepid mariners leaving the Caribbean in pursuit of a voyaging serial killer into the Pacific.
Who are your favorite authors?
I have many favorites, but I'll just mention a few. I love Pratchett for his sense of fun, pathos, and the credibility he engenders for what is basically a preposterous concept. In a similar vein I enjoy Neil Gaiman's novels, though I'm disappointed he hasn't been anywhere as prolific in his output. For action scenes and complex plot chicanery I draw inspiration from Ian Rankin, Lee Childs, and of course the late great Stieg Larsson. Another great Swedish writer is Jonas Johansson whose simple and direct voice and style is endearingly easy to read, and his stories are extraordinary and memorable. Of my recent readings, Gillian Flynn's Girl Gone and Andy Weir's The Martian, though at opposite ends of the genre spectrum, are great examples of a fresh and modern style with explosive impact.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
For me, getting out of bed is not the problem. Going to bed is the only issue I have. I find I work best at night, and am often still hammering at the keyboard as the the sun comes up. But I know what your question really means. What keeps me at it is a kind of obsession, an obsession with the story and continuous improvement of my work.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
These days my second greatest passion is sailing, and in particular, sailing long oceanic passages to warm exotic climates. This winter I took a break, but I usually crew up around October with some stranger on a sailboat and cross the Atlantic, staying in the Caribbean until spring, writing and sailing around in warm and windy seas.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Up until recently it's been mainly recommendations from friends and family. But these days I find books mainly on line, Amazon, Goodreads and now of course, Smashwords.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
It was a short ghost story set in the Falkland Islands. The idea came from a journal I wrote about my experience on a visit to see the wildlife on Sea Lion Island. It's called The Balsam Children and is available on Amazon.
What is your writing process?
When I've got the idea for a story I spend a few weeks on research and mulling it over in my mind. Once I start writing I try to whiz through my first draft as quickly as possible, I say try, because I often find myself going back to check for inconsistencies, a discipline hang-over from my programming days (bugfixing). My second visit, often after a delay of many weeks, is to read it all through, making notes about what needs to be changed. Having made those changes, often deleting great chunks of overwriting, I go through the technical process of checking the credibility of dialogue and character portrayal, and padding out the narrative where necessary with more detail. Finally I go through the tedious process of looking for typos and poor sentence structure. In practice though, these different activities tend to overlap quite a bit.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I was an avid reader as a child, but one set of stories remains in my memory, though I can't remember the titles or who wrote them. They were sea stories about the adventures of a salvage tug captain working around Malaysia and Indonesia. I couldn't have been much older that ten at the time and I don't even remember much about the plot. But my fascination for all things nautical started at that point and has been with me ever since.
How do you approach cover design?
I have long experience from my business life with Coreldraw, and produce all my own images and cover designs. When I need to find particular image I go first to my own collection of digital photos, and if I can't find what I want I buy the image from iStock. I rarely use a whole picture, just the significant bit that I paste onto something else. As far as book cover design is concerned I believe in a consistent brand, using the same fonts and placement for different books. The colours may change, and the pictorial images will always be different, but the livery makes it very clear they are from the same stable.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Gosh! Now I know what the guest goes through on Desert Island Discs. Let me pass on that and move on.
What do you read for pleasure?
In truth I rarely read purely for pleasure these days, though I do draw pleasure from my reading. Because I read mainly to improve my own writing I'm very eclectic in my choices. I read fiction: sea adventures and historical naval novels, quirky books with subtle humour, good thrillers (and sometimes badly written ones), and some crime fiction, and some science fantasy/fiction..
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle, every time. When I'm travelling and sailing I couldn't imagine life without it.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My father was in the RAF and met my German mother during the allied occupation just after WWII. From the age of two we moved around various military bases in Europe, rarely staying anywhere for than a year or so. I went to British Forces schools until I was ten, when my Dad retired from the RAF and we settled in Leeds. As soon as I could leave school (fifteen in those days) I ran away to sea and spent twenty five years in the Royal Navy. Never staying anywhere long enough to make lasting friendships was probably what drove me first to reading, but very soon to writing as well - I believe the one inspires the other. All that travelling left me with the legacy of itchy feet, and that's why travelling and exotic locations features so heavily in my work.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The Waiting-Pool is really a development of the two main protagonists in the The Errant Petty Officer. I couldn't just leave them sailing off into the sunset without a follow on story. I wrote most of the earlier book (set in Africa) on a beach in a small Caribbean Island, so it was obvious where they would sail to next, especially after just having made the crossing myself. The opening scene with the broken steering gear is based on something that happened to me once while crossing the Bay of Biscay in a Gale. Whist in Grenada I also did some interesting research on the '82 Revolution and the US Invasion the following year, and that inspired some of the back story. As to the darker elements of the story, that started with an interest in the scandal of Reagan's machinations over the Contras. I couldn't understand why the President would involve himself so deeply with a bunch of Nicaraguan rebels. Digging deeper I found its relationship with the cocaine Cartels and his personal mission to break the trade routes through the Caribbean to the streets of the United States. And that provided me with the determinant for the story. I didn't set out to make Patrick languish on a desert island for all that time, and I was surprised as anyone when it happened.
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