Interview with David Powell

When did you first start writing?
I always did bits and bobs then, back in the 1970's I was out of work, (life as a salesman is never very secure) and had inherited an old typewriter so I thought I would try a TV Play. Amazingly, that sold and eventually was made into a series of plays, which looking back were O.K (isn) but not brilliant, but then nothing, and I had a mortgage and three kids and selling jobs were relatively easy to get so I went back into the marketplace. I often think that having an 'easy' money earning option maybe bad for writers or indeed any creative artist. I have a sister, who in the fifties was just beginning to make her mark on the stage. But she had children, was a trained teacher and so took that route.

It's hard making the right decision sometimes, and difficult to judge later whether it was right or no.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book is about a Navajo Indian girl, which is a big change from a Musician in Paris in the 1950's but there we are.

The Navajo believe that at the menarche, a girl is possessed of magical powers. So I have taken this concept and imagined that her powers remain and grow stronger, and ask 'What would happen then?' Which is I guess the basis of many stories. What would happen? What if?

Hah, and trying getting a book where a girl has a period past the slush pile.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I love writing, I like to think that although perhaps I am limited I write quite well. But there are a different set of criteria now on which books are judged, which are all to do with fairly rapid profit. I spent many years in 'Business' so I am not unaccustomed to this, but this is changing the pressures, it seems to me, and publishers are less and less inclined to think of a writer's third or fourth book. They want all books to be smash hits.

The other idea, maybe 'impression' is a better word, is that scores of young graduates with degrees in Creative Writing get jobs with publishers and agents and they are given the task of reading submissions. They have learnt the rules, have all the phrases about 'Showing not Telling' 'PoV' etc. and I wonder if they have ever read some of the best writers with these rules in mind. Jane Austen often has two or threes point of view in the same section of the book, and George Orwell, who is often fondly quoted as some kind of 'guru' on the craft of writing, in 'Burmese Days' has scenes where the PoV can change in the same paragraph.

But because they tell a bloody good story it doesn't matter. And I believe in the primacy of 'story', if it hasn't got a story it isn't a novel. And if it hasn't a good story, no matter how well written, it will never be a good novel.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Well see. I hope so, and I have maybe even high hopes, but this is my first time using it. So, we'll see.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
There are moments when I find I have written 1500+ words and I love them. I also have moments when I have written 500 words and I hate them, they have been painful to write.

Curiously, often, when going back to them, it does seem to matter, that is to say, sometimes the easy flowing words are crap other times the hard painful syllable by syllable slog words are really satisfying. And vice-versa
What do your fans mean to you?
I am always amazed whn people say they love what I write, but have not yet developed the necessary carapace to not be upset when they say they hate what I wire.
What are you working on next?
I am fascinated by the power of the Press on individuals and have been horrified for many years by the casual cruelty of what some papers/writers do.

When I was quite young, in my teens, a local minister of religion was found guilty of 'peeking' through some kind of crack or hole in the wall at women as they used the Ladies Toilet. There was a brief local scandal, he lost his job and a great deal of standing but gradually put his life back together again. Then a famous British Sunday paper, presumably finding sales in that area dropping, ran it as a front page, big headline story. And the man, married with children, committed suicide. Years later I met a reporter from that paper and he was not all surprised, the paper keeps, he told me, files like that on every area.

I have, therefore, been very interested in the current 'Hacking Scandal' and somehow, a parallel with the French Revolution came to mind, especially Charlotte Corday, who famously murdered/assassinated J-P Marat for his writings, which she believed drove thousands of people to the guillotine.

So, what if, (my favourite question) someone like that lived now?

Thus the project, which is provisionally called 'Charlottes' Sentence' Note the place of the apostrophe. And most writers are useless at titles.

But still, that's it. I've only done about 30,000 words so far, and it's a struggle.
Who are your favorite authors?
Austen, George Eliot (later rather than earlier), Arthur C Clarke, Dickens,
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. It was called 'The Gribbley Grabbley Monster' and I wrote it for my kids. It's about a Monster that lives in the forest and tickles people to death. So the King has offered the hand of his beautiful daughter to the man who can rid his kingdom of this monster. So, they come and are all tickled to death.

At last, a handsome young man comes along with no horse, no weapons, just a great sense of humour, he makes everyone laugh all the time. He takes on the Monster and a joke telling joust ensues. As the Monster laughs so much he is happy that the young man is proclaimed the Victor and the monster explains, everyone who came into his forest looked so frightened and miserable he tickled them to make them laugh.

And they all lived happily ever after.
What is your writing process.
Oh, dear, I wish I were more organised. I have and idea, I see scenes, chapters, incidents within the idea and write them down. Then I work them into to a story line, with I hope, a good structure.

But my current work, Charlotte, comprises two main story lines, one historical, and based on fact, the other modern day and fiction. And it is very complex. I am trying to use Scrivener, and I can see it is an excellent program, but I am having problems.

In this instance, the 'historical' part of the book needs much research on my part into the French Revolution and I find it so interesting I get carried away an am not writing. Displacement Activity my wife calls it.

Tfrouble with my wife is, she is often right.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. And it terrified me. But I read it again and again. And I knew the Ghost of Christmas Past lived in the wardrobe at the top of the stairs.

Which is scary when your are four.
How do you approach cover design?
I try to get and idea, and then I employ a Graphic Artist I know to bring it to realisation, Expensive, but so far so good.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I have three kinds of reading. New books, which I read out of interest and because it's part of the job. Then I have books I have recently read which I go back to to firm up why I think they work/don't work.

And comfort books, which I have read and re-read since a teenager. So, I guess, these are my favourite books.

In order of thumb marks, worn covers and broken spines, good indicators of use, I think.

Pride and Prejudice. Why? Well, it's very well written, and beautifully structured. Things happen when they should and when they have happened, the novel takes a different course, all beautifully resolved at the end.

25% of the way through the book the Ball at Netherfield sets up the love story between Bingley and Jane and the antagonism/attraction between Elizabeth and Darcy. Exactly half way through Darcy proposes to Elizabeth and she spurns him. 75% of the way through, Elizabeth, who feels, at last, she is falling in love with Darcy, hears about her sister's elopement with Wickham and concludes her hopes are now dashed. The last quarter of the book works to a resolution of her problems and ends, of course, in marriage. Perfect.

Then, I guess, 'The Lord of the Rings' which I picked up when I was about 17 and read all day and all night, over a whole weekend until I had finished it. Then I read it again. And, throughout my life again and again and again. Brilliant.

And I must mention a book that took me about seven years to read because I laughed so much, 'Three Men in a Boat'. Still, for me, the funniest book I have ever read. It took me so long because I laughed so much I had to put the book down. Even now, with a battered old copy, I only have to open it at random and read a page or two be laughing.

If you like this kind of very English humour it is a book for adults in private, your laughing really annoys those around you.

Then, and perhaps a little out of kilter with the first three, 'The Hunger Games'. I think, of the trilogy, the best written, strong characters, conflict and resolution, excellent stuff and an object lesson in how to write, structure and flesh out a bloody good story for teenagers.

Then the old favourite, 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. Again beautifully constructed and written. If you want to write a good story and need help, read this book, get a pad and sketch out the plot, then remove the flesh down to the skeleton. Then, refresh the skeleton on your words, using your characters. As good an exercise as I can imagine and what a lesson on structure.

Finally, 'Middlemarch', George Eliot. A book which delves so deep and so poignantly into the character of Dorothea and into her failing relationship with Casaubon, She married badly because the man she married was not the man she thought he was, and, perhaps more importantly, she was not the woman she thought she was. A deeply satisfying story about people and their folly.

So, a mixed bunch of books and motives. But there we are.
What do you read for pleasure?
See previous question.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I use a Kindle, also my desktop.
Describe your desk
A smallish room, say 12 x 12 ft two walls with white tops and cupboards underneath. Apple back central on corner, printer to the left, telephone to the right. Blinds permanently closed to stop gazing out of the window.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
First 15 years in a UK town which is now subsumed into Liverpool. Then my family move back to their Welsh roots and I finished my schooling in a holiday resort called Rhyl. I was lucky here to have a brilliant English teacher, Miss Beckett, whose love of English literature allowed her to see in me, an untidy boy with a thick scouse accent someone worth encouraging.

Then to University which features a lot in 'The 16th Song' at Aberystwyth.

But they are only background, the real influences are books and other media, particularly TV. I consider Dennis Potter one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century and his plays are a must for anybody wanting to to see how far the imagination can go. If you haven't seen it, 'The Singing Detective' is a must.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The need for a cup of tea.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Just doing stuff, I suppose I travel a fair bit, and I have a big family (brother and sisters) who constantly keep me interested, sometimes good, sometimes bad.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I search for novels I want and find the ebook version. I am not rich and the economic imperative is always strong, and ebooks are cheap, and sometimes free.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I'm still looking for the perfect process. I doubt I will ever find it.
Published 2014-03-10.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Sha'Di's Gift - Inheritance
Series: Sha'Di's Gift - Inheritance. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 81,610. Language: English. Published: December 7, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Sci-Fi & fantasy, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Sha'Di wants to be an 'all-American Girl'. But she has a gift, a gift that will change her life and the lives of those around her. She doesn't want it, but can't get rid of it, and as it grows inside her others want it for their own ends. Only an escape to her heritage will save her.
The 16th Song
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 120,120. Language: English. Published: March 7, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Biographical
The 16th Song is a book about a young man making mistakes and how the mistakes follow him despite his success as a song writer. Set mainly in the turbulent Paris if the late 1950's, it tells of how random acts of violence, unconnected with the victims, can distort a life forever.