Interview with R.A. Gregory

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Hmmm, honestly, no. It would probably have been something like 'Peter and Jane go to the Park' or something like that. It could have been 'Dusty', a story about a roundabout horse which came to life and had a short series of misadventures before being adopted by a clown. It must have had an impact on me, because I've still got it on my bookshelf! Seriously though, I read so many great books as a child that it's hard to pick one out as the first that really inspired me. I suppose 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' by C.S. Lewis, had a big impact on me, as I went out and bought the entire series with my pocket money over a period of a couple of years. Then there were books like 'The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawn' by Norman Hunter and 'The Book of Three' by Lloyd Alexander, both of which I still adore to this day and which, have probably on some level or another influenced my own writing style over the years.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, it was called 'The Bunker'. It was my so called 'long-essay' for my school exams. We only had to write a couple of thousand words, but I told my teachers that I was going to write a 'proper book' and set out to create a horror story worthy of Stephen King or James Herbert, both of whom were quite influential to me at that time. Although I didn't quite achieve that lofty goal, I did end up with a pretty compelling horror story, which I'm still quite proud of. I think it came in at around the 7-10,000 word mark (all handwritten) and got me an A+. In fact, I may still publish it one day, you never know.
What is your writing process?
I tend to come up with an idea and then sleep on it (quite literally) for a while, before starting writing. In the case of 'Death and the Schoolboy', I jotted down some brief chapter points to follow and then just started writing. The sequel, 'Death and the Atomb Bomb' was a bit more tricky and I needed to map out the story in slightly more detail, but I'm not one of these people who plan a book out to the point where they're just filling in the blanks. And in the case of 'Drynwideon - The Sword of Destiny (Yeah, Right)', which is due out in early 2018, I got the idea for it when I was a bit poorly with pneumonia in mid-2017 and then wrote it down without chapter notes or anything. That has been my favourite so far, because I was totally immersed in the adventure and had no idea what was going to happen next. There's something beautiful when that happens. It's like you become a priviledged spectator inside your own mind and some hidden part of your brain, which normally lurks unseen at the back of your skull, takes over and produces all these brilliant and crazy situations, which the rest of you writes down almost unconsciously. I hope I get to write more books like that in the future. It's great fun.
How do you approach cover design?
Painfully! I ended up doing the covers for my first two books on my own and to be honest the results were, shall we say, somewhat lacking, although I must admit that they do have a certain quirky charm that quite possibly reflects the content better than a professional cover could. I also learnt a lot of things during the cover design process, including the fact that a fine artist I am not and that there are many people out there who are better at it than me, so I'd probably be wise to work with them instead. And that's what I did. For Drynwideon, my latest book, I collaborated with a local artist in Chiang Mai, Goy Kankanakul, to do the cover images. All I did was compile them into a cover and add the text. The final result looks a lot better than my earlier efforts, that is for sure. As for the future, well it will depend on the style of book I'm writing at the time, but I think that I'll definitely be seeking out professional artists and possibly layout experts for sure!
What do you read for pleasure?
Lots of things! I guess my favourite genres are fantasy, humour and science-fiction, but not necessarily in that order. At the moment I'm working my way through Terry Pratchett's 'Discworld' series (again). They are so readable that I could do this almost as a full-time job, although I probably wouldn't make any money if I did! I also tend to read a lot of sci-fi short stories from the 50's and 60's; the sort of things that came out in magazines like 'Amazing Stories' and were then instantly forgotten. I love the optimisim and creativity in them, even though we now know that most of what they were writing about hasn't come to pass. (I'm still waiting for my hoverboard and jet-car by the way.) Some bits don't work so well, such as one story I read recently, which had a really strong anti-communism message running through it, but then you have to accept that it was reflecting attitudes prevailing at the time, not today. For me, it's all part of the pleasure of reading, seeing what's come before and how writing has changed since.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I use 'Aldiko' on my smartphone. I might change to another device one day, but to be honest, my phone fits my hand well and the e-reader does pretty much everything I want it to do, so I'm not that fussed about changing any time soon.
Describe your desk
Like a Swiss Banker's underpants. Immaculately clean, made of wood and totally devoid of any personality! No, actually, although the desk is, in fact, fairly tidy and made of wood, it does have a distinct personality of it's own. After all, I've been leaning my elbows and arms on it for so long, that it's practically left grooves in the top, so something must have soaked in. Currently, there is a fair bit of paper stacked in piles around its periphery, but in a tidy way. I can't stand messy desks. Don't know why. I've just always been that way. Apart from that, it has a bottle of water on it (kept well away from my laptop you'll be pleased to know), as well as my monitor and a wonderfully big Hi-Fi amplifier, which powers my sound system and helps me to write. Apart from that, not much else. I hope that answers your question.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Seeing the thoughts and ideas in my mind coming to life on the page and being able to share this with other people. For me, writing is like having a dream that you can actually remember and capturing it, so that someone else can get into your head (in a nice way, of course). I know that no two people ever get exactly the same experience when reading a book, but then that would be boring and the most important thing is that they get a sense of what you were experiencing when they read your work.
What are you working on next?
Two things. The first is the final part of the DATS trilogy, tentatively entitled 'Death and the End'. I really want to wrap this series up, even though I've loved writing every word of it and will be sad when it is over, because I've got fans (well, two fans at least) waiting for it and I don't want to let them down. Also, it was only ever going to be a trilogy and I want to make sure that I give Johnny, Eddie and the other characters in the book the final adventure they deserve, before I get sidetracked again, as I did with 'Drynwideon'. The second thing that I'll be working on is an adventure novel involving a bitter feud between two former friends,which spans seventy years and several continents. I don't want to say too much about that one because it's still at a very early stage, but I'm hoping to be able to publish it around the middle of 2018. I'll also quite candidly say that when I got the idea for the end of the book, it almost made my cry. Right, enough said, move along please, nothing to see here...
Who are your favorite authors?
Too many to list, but here's a few (in no particular order):
David Zindell
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Terry Pratchett
Norman Hunter
Lloyd Alexander
George MacDonald Fraser
Tom Sharpe
James Herbert
Eoin Colfer
Arthur C Clarke
Douglas Adams
Bill Bryson
Robin Hobb
Ray Bradbury
Peter Watts
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Published 2017-11-29.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Death and the End
Series: The DATS Trilogy. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 39,440. Language: British English. Published: February 23, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Short Stories, Fiction » Adventure » Action
Johnny, Simon and Trudy are pulled back to Deathville by Eddie and the Deaths, to face their greatest challenge yet. Entering the void, they must stop Uncle Lucius and his army of lost souls from waging war in heaven, or else the end of the world and entire universe will result! Will anyone help them? Is anyone left to care? ‘Death and the End’ is the third and final book in the ‘DATS’ Trilogy.
Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny - Yeah, Right
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 101,820. Language: British English. Published: March 1, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Adventure » Action
An ancient, but still handsome barbarian climbing Mount Terror to finish what should have been done twenty years earlier. A sarcastic anti-hero, fleeing from his cannibalistic village. A dragon princess who runs 'The Quest'. Throw in a Farting Phoenix, a urine drinking dwarf, a crazy fairy and a half rabbit-half dog (The Rog) and you've got the world's first anti-fantasy novel in your hands!
Death and the Atom Bomb
Series: The DATS Trilogy. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 33,460. Language: English. Published: December 8, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Short Stories, Fiction » Adventure » Action
The summer holiday sees Johnny, Eddie, Simon and tomboy Trudy battling once again to save the world, this time from the mysterious and reclusive Malthus Devryn and his evil henchman, slimy Sneeds. With a battle in the War Room, dancing robots, mini-eyes and more, 'Death and the Atom Bomb' continues the gripping adventures of Johnny Jenkinson and forms part two of the DATS trilogy.
Death and the Schoolboy
Series: The DATS Trilogy. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 20,430. Language: English. Published: December 7, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Short Stories, Fiction » Adventure » Action
Join schoolboy Johnny and Eddie, the Death of Children, as they journey through Deathville, the Impassable Mountains and the mysterious void, armed only with a diamond rivet and a medieval knight for help, in a desperate race to save the world from the evil Uncle Lucius. An enchanting childrens action and adventure story, 'Death and the Schoolboy' is part one of the DATS trilogy.