I'm fine with getting up - I'm very lucky. I live in a wonderful house with my wife and two cats in a lovely, picturesque part of the world. That said, when it comes to sitting down at the PC and writing, I put it off with all sorts of excuses. I'm not one of those writers who gets up at the crack of dawn and knocks off 500 words before breakfast! I have to ease myself into the day.
Who are your favorite authors?
Dare I say, I don't read much by way of fiction, which is a bit like saying that I want to race fast cars when I hardly ever go out driving! My favourite novel (at this moment in time) is "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak. I love his style and composition and when writing my own novel I've used Zusak as a good example of how to compose a narrative. I think would-be authors can learn far more from reading the work of a successful author than through any other method. After all, creativity is all about taking a form to its next stage, so our best teachers are always going to be those authors we love reading.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on a novel, which is a new venture for me. I've authored a factual book - "Teach Yourself Journalism" and a biography - "Not the Red Baron One Pilot's Love Story" - but I've always seen myself as a novelist.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Trying not to write. Sounds funny, but I'm a reluctant writer preferring to be out in the Cornish countryside or doing anything other than writing. However, when I am writing, I'm happy enough. Rainy days are better for writing, when there's absolutely no choice but to stay indoors and get behind the keyboard. We have a farm, and although it's no longer a working farm as such, we still have to keep it in good order and that means being my own groundsman for much of the time. My wife sells antiques so I'm her assistant in that venture helping her set up her stall and attending fairs ... And, my other occupation is that of filmmaker, so that takes up a good deal of time, too.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I'm new to ebooks, so I'll have to come back to you on that one ...
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, I called it "Carol of the Bells" (inspired by the Christmas song) and I wrote out the beginning of that story in a exercise book in longhand - long before the days of the PC. I've long forgotten it, of course, but it was a very real thing in my head at that time. My late mother had a gift of being able to create stories in her head and I've inherited that ability, so story ideas are never a problem, I'm glad to say.
What is your writing process?
I don't think I have a process as such. I'm glad that I learned to touch-type many years ago as it's a great help nowadays. I write when I feel like it and I'm not under pressure, though I have had deadlines in the past and met them.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I used to love the stories in British comics of the 1960s' when I was a child. Those stories inspired me and I borrowed from them at an early age. I remember the opening lines to one story began: "At an experimental research laboratory ..."
How do you approach cover design?
As with the story, I envisage the narrative and the packaging right at the commencement of the process. With "Not the Red Baron - One Pilot's Love Story" I always had a particular image in my head for the cover, something that remained with me throughout the near twenty years of research on the book. Unfortunately, the image I had in mind was a press photograph, and I was unable to locate the original, so the quality was never going to be good enough to reproduce as a jacket cover.
Thankfully, Cal Sharpe of Caligraphics did a wonderful job with the images I supplied to him.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
"The Book Thief" by Marcus Zusak. Brilliant story, brilliantly told and also a superb film/movie. Any book by the Cornish author Derek Tangye from his famous "Minack Chronicles" series. Any book by Dirk Bogarde, though I prefer his autobiographical books about his life in Provence. Any book by Bill Bryson - a master storyteller. "Echoes" by Maeve Binchy. Again, another great storyteller - the essence of all good books.
What do you read for pleasure?
Factual books. I love to learn things - history particularly. I don't tend to read fiction, which is ironic for someone writing a novel, but the basis of a good novel is historical research; and I love the research part.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I'm new to e-reading, so I can't truly answer this question. I'll have to try it so that I can finish this question!
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Again, ask me at some point in the future ... With the print edition of "Not the Red Baron", I give talks and presentations to interested groups such as flying clubs and other social group organisations; or I might have a stall at an event where I can display the book and talk to people perhaps at an air show of the kind Robin Bowes might have attended as a display pilot.
Describe your desk
A beautiful old roll top bureau in my "man's room" upstairs. It's my room for all the car/aeroplane/train memorabilia that I collect and it's all very old fashioned. The laptop is the only concession to the modern age and of course, I can take that anywhere so it's not really a part of the room.
Cluttered? A little, but anything too tidy and ordered is a sign of no activity whatsoever.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up deep in the countryside on the Wiltshire/Somerset county boundary (Wiltshire side). This is very ancient country indeed and the cottage I grew up in is at least 200 years old built in traditional stone. The village is about half way between Stonehenge and Bath, so you can imagine that growing up in that type of beautiful rolling Pasteur land is everything for a creative mind. Thomas Hardy's Wessex and in the 9th century King Alfred's Kingdom of Wessex.
King Alfred had a profound influence on me. For many years I used to tour schools as a theatre-in-education actor/writer performing the story of King Alfred for children of primary school years - 8-9 years of age. I'd adapted the history to tell in King Alfred's own voice how he came to resist the Danish invasion, but how he eventually struck that famous deal that resulted in them becoming Christians and settling in peace alongside their Anglo-Saxon neighbours. It's a truly heroic and remarkable story and one that is a relevant to today's age as it ever was - the young King who wouldn't give in, but went on to spare his enemies and then create a cohesive system of defensive burghs - many of which have become modern towns. He's even credited as being the "father" of the English Navy. And that's just a couple of the many great things that he achieved! The English speaking world today would not have existed without him.
Yes, the world in which I grew up was truly historic and beautiful. It influenced me just as it continues to influence writers today.
When did you first start writing?
School days. Writing in an exercise book that first story - "Carol of the Bells". I didn't really write again until the early 1980s when I spent a few weeks travelling alone in the US and that was a creative period for short stories - again, written in long hand in an exercise book. One American author - a friend of the family I was staying with in New Jersey - suggested in a phone conversation that I learn to write romance stories for the Harlequin series of romantic fiction - Mills & Boon in the UK. He suggested that I get a few books from the library and just study their beginnings, middle and endings, and that that was a good way of getting to know the format.
I tried, but those books really aren't my thing. It was great advice, but if romantic fiction isn't your thing (and it wasn't mine) then it's never going to work. Shame, because I understand those authors earn good money.
Back in the UK, I started to write scripts for a TV situation comedy based on my own experiences working in a famous chain fast food restaurant. Later, when I was then working as a security officer I would take my portable typewriter and tap away at the scripts between security patrols. It was good practice, but it just wasn't "my" time at that point in my life. I might try again though with a different idea and approach as I have an idea that just might work ...?
What's the story behind your latest book?
Ah! That would be telling. No author wants to give their plot away until it's signed, sealed and delivered.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Years and years and years of graft and rejection. There are successes along the way. My entry into the world of being a published author stemmed from an idea that I posted to a top London publishers at the time that I was already writing "Not the Red Baron". My thoughts were that another book might help to establish a market for NTRB, so I wrote to the publishers offering a "Teach Yourself" book on theatre-in-education, as I'd been involved in that line of work for some years and had researched the fact that thousands and thousands of performers, writers and others go into schools to educate and inform right across the English speaking world. My book would have been a reference point helping those new to TIE how to go about it.
The publishers rejected that idea, but came back to me asking if I would write a similar title on Theatre. The door was open - at last! The problem was, I didn't know that much about theatre and living in West Cornwall I was too far from the theatre scene - no contacts, no experience, so I had to turn it down. To my amazement, the publishers came back to me again - the door was still open; but the subject was stagecraft - I didn't have the experience or the contacts. Yet again, I had to turn them down.
Remarkably, the publishers offered again, only this time the subject was journalism. Yes! I could do it. I had experience and plenty of contacts. "Teach Yourself Journalism" was my first book. I could now call myself a published author.
But being an author is rather like being an actor - you're only as good as your last job. The next job was going to be even harder. At least I was able to join The Society of Authors.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I have to answer that again, it's early days. I'll come back to you on that one, but at least Smashwords offers an author the opportunity of a world wide market and that's got to be good, or should I say, fantastic!
The world is changing so quickly. Authors have the control and readers have more choice - that's got to be good. Also applies to filmmakers too! The Internet is working wonders for creative people.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Well, I just love working from home with my wife and two cats. It's also lovely to see a story take shape as new ideas come into focus. Just reading back through yesterday's work you can see how it can be improved in all sorts of ways.
What do your fans mean to you?
It would be nice to have a following. I'd better start working hard to get them onboard!
How do you see your future as a writer?
I have a lot of projects in mind for films and books. I just hope I've enough time to fit it all in.
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