Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Yes, the first story that I read that had an impact on me was at the age of 12 when I read a short story by Arthur C. Clarke called The Nine Billion Names of God, written about 1953. I followed this with his another short of his called The Sentinel and then moved on to Ray Bradbury who really does write in a visual way - aspiring writers could learn a thing or two from him. Arthur C. Clarke enabled me to see that there was more to my insular life than school - which I wasn't very good at.
What is your writing process?
It depends. I usually set myself a goal for writing a certain amount and then I panic as I realise I'm no where near my goal. Panic writing is usually my most creative. I am one of those writers that prefers to have peace and quiet and this is difficult as I don't really have a dedicated writing space/place so I usually write late at night when the house is quiet or very early in the morning. I am currently decorating a room to be a study.
As a new writer I have discovered the perils of internet research - and being easily side tracked by cute kittens or people using bananas for scale.
I always start with the title, write the opening paragraph and then write all the action bits that have been swirling around in my head. I then connect those with character development and try and put it in some sort of order.
How do you approach cover design?
Aaarrrggh!!! That's how I approach cover design. As a self-publishing ebook author with very little money, a good cover design is essential to ensure that readers pick your book, even if it's just to glance at it. In my head I have a pretty good idea of what I want but in order to produce that I'd have to be excellent at photoshop - and if I was excellent at photoshop I'd probably make more money from that than writing. I had a go at making my own book cover and it didn't turn out too badly but I wasn't satisfied with it and reluctantly came to the conclusion that I'd have to pay someone to do it. I tried the cheap and cheerful route of Fivver and got what I paid for (though they did do a good job on a cover for a short story I was working on). I then spent quite a bit of time finding a good cover artist who had a protfolio and was within my price range. What it came down to was giving the artist something I had worked on and he'd incorporate that into his work. I was very satisfied with the finished cover for Amazon Adventure. If you look at the book covers of the old classic science fiction books, especially from the 1970's (e.g. John Berkey and Chris Foss) and early 80's - they were true works of art, long before the use of computers.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
My favourite five books will always change each time you ask me but in no particular order they are: 1. - Nine Billion Names of God - Arthur C Clarke - the first story I read that changed the way I thought and imagined. 2. - The Year of the Hungry Tiger and Hold my Hand I'm Dying - John Gordon Davis - written with great passion and action 3. - The Covenant Series - Stephen R Donaldson - a type of Hobbit series but well written and a great anti-hero 4. - King Solomon's Mines - H Rider Haggard - great and classic adventure story 5. - Princess of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs - another classic sci-fi adventure
What do you read for pleasure?
My guilty secret is I love to read Asterix and Obelix books, Tintin books and Calvin and Hobbes cartoons. I also like to read stories set in countries other than the States or the UK.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Kindle Fire HD and one of the original Kindle's - both have their advantages. I don't like reading on an Ipad but I have read a couple of books on my Iphone - just because it is so handy if I'm on a train.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
None so far as I haven't started yet, however, my marketing campaign has been gaining steam for about a year as I let everyone know that my novel is nearly finished and I shall be expecting my friends to push it through their social media networks. I have also done test reads with chapters that I pass to my friends' children.
I have also printed some promotional cards to pass around and to leave in useful places like supermarkets, libraries, etc. My website was the hardest part and also having kids explain to me what Twitter and Facebook was and how to use them.
Describe your desk
My ideal desk is devoid of anything other than a notebook and a computer. In reality my desk looks like a mini landfill site.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Hong Kong and the influence from this is meeting new people and living in a different culture that I came to love as well as learning another language. I think that no matter what story I write I fit in some experience I had growing up in Hong Kong.
When did you first start writing?
I first started writing when I was 16. At school I failed at everything but I was a voracious reader as this was an escape from real life. I wrote a short science fiction story that was quite puerile but my English teacher, Mrs Boschman, said it had promise and pointed out some of the things I could do to make it better. I didn't write again until I was in my thirties after I'd had kids and had been made redundant from a job. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could write something that I would enjoy reading. I didn't start the adventure series with the McKenzie twins until I was 48.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I wrote The Amazon Adventure to set the scene for a series of adventures featuring the McKenzie twins, Ollie and Scarlett. They're both teenagers and their father Gordon is the head of a large charitable organisation dedicated to preserving disappearing habitats and animals.
I wanted the twins to have real life adventures as I think there are plenty of places on Earth still left to explore. I chose the ship Aurora as the headquarters for the Gaia Protection Trust as I wanted them to be able to get around the globe - plus I love sailing.
I chose the Amazon for the first book as I thought it had every element needed for a great adventure, dangerous flora and fauna, people still living in harmony with nature, drug gangs, head hunters and legends of monsters.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm not writing I like to spend time running in the forest near my house. I also like to off-road cycle and when I'm on holiday I like to go sailing. I quite like playing squash and I've had a go at golf but end up laughing too much - plus golf balls are expensive!
I like to hang out with my friends and have a beer now and again but I really like to do the usual adventurous stuff like white water rafting, kite boarding, mountaineering, orienteering, geocaching, exploring old cities, scuba diving, trekking and more sailing.
I love heavy metal music - but I seem to be quite alone in this area with the people I hang out with.
My number one way to spend leisure time is to meet new people - you can get some of the greatest stories from other people's lives and experiences.
Do you have any advice for anyone contemplating becoming an author?
Yes. My advice would be to give it a go but to make sure that you are writing a book for yourself, something that you would want to read. Don't think of the financial gain immediately because it won't be immediate. Make sure that every chapter you write is taking your story somewhere - if it isn't, be ruthless and either get rid of it or change it. When you have finished your first draft read it through and be ruthless again, keep asking yourself 'Is my story/character going forward/developing/changing?' - if not - cut it. Pay attention to spelling and grammar. If writing is no longer fun and seems more like drudgery - leave it for a couple of weeks completely and do other things. If it's still drudgery when you get back to it, shelve the novel and either start another one or come back to it after a year. Don't give up forever because you obviously had a book in you trying to get out. Make notes, lots and lots of notes of anything that tickles your fancy. One day you will use it in one of your books. Last but not least - DON'T put yourself down or rubbish your efforts, there are lots of people out there that can that for you for free.
What are you working on next?
The next novel features the McKenzie twins tackling an evil Russian corporation that is dumping spent nuclear waste in the Mariana Trench - the deepest part of the ocean. The twins will be joined by the crew of the research vessel, Aurora and there may even be an appearance by Sun Ging Ma, the Cryptozoologist who was in the Amazon Adventure. At the moment I am doing a bit of research but I have already started the novel. This will be available soon.
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