Interview with John Piper

When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?
Mostly someone, anyone, who is looking for a good yarn and who appreciates a story set in an environment that is a bit darker and less predictable than the average whodunit. Naturally, there will be parts of my books that will attract some readers more than others.
In Claude's Journey, the main characters might well attract dominant women and submissive men as well as wannabe transsexuals and cross dressers. I would like to think that the kinky aspect of Claude's experiences will not put off those who want to read a thriller. It is about a people-trafficking gang executing those that get in their way.
La Crème de la Crem on the other hand, is more about corruption. There is sex in it and it is fairly violent sex, but the real story is about cannibalism. I hope I'm not going to influence any potential cannibals who may pick it up! Those who like something a bit macabre should enjoy it, possibly slightly cynical individuals.
Hibernia Unanimis is a completely different concept. It covers historical events but it is set twenty years in the future. The subject matter is politically based, with a madman who wants to take over all of Ireland and is prepared to bomb the UK extensively if he doesn't get his way. It is a straight thriller and it should please those who are looking for an adventure story, so that should have broader appeal.
What inspired you to write Claude's Journey?
I have wanted to write a novel since I was in my teens - a very long time ago! Back then, there was no word processing and I was a lousy typist anyway. Technology made it possible and it was also part of the inspiration. My wife asked me about something in the newspaper to do with sexual domination and I couldn't answer her because I hadn't heard of it either. So I went to the internet, as one does these days, and I opened up a Pandora's box! When I realized that some people do actually kidnap young men and forcibly change them into young women, the plot just jumped out at me. I spent a bit of time on the internet, checking my facts and at the time the newspapers were full of a story of a people trafficking gang. Once I had the characters and the setting, it flowed.
And what about the inspiration for La Crème de la Crem and Hibernia Unanimis?
They were both story ideas I had years ago. I just never got round to writing them until now. Having written the first novel, I think I have become a bit addicted. I didn't know I could write something of around 90,000 words and have it hang together in a single cohesive product.
I have written professionally all my life, but technical papers and manuals, sales proposals and magazine articles are all a far cry from a novel. I could never find the time to write for myself. I must have written 300,000 words of Claude's Journey until I could précis it to the optimum length. I plan and write more efficiently now and I discard far less as a result.
Are your books in any way auto-biographical?
No, not at all. Like most writers, I create my characters out of people I have known, or more often from a combination of two or more such people. Claude is loosely based on two boys at my secondary school, but I'm sure - and I sincerely hope - neither of them went through any of Claude's experiences. Most of my characters are based on people I have worked with or had contact with through my work and people I have observed on train journeys and so on. I do like to watch people and imagine what their lives might be like.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book, which has just been released, is Hibernia Unanimis. The title is taken from the Latin motto of the Irish Confederation of 1642-1651 and it means Ireland is United. The story is about a megalomaniac schizophrenic who sets out to reunite Ireland by force. He has prepared for many years and he has thousands of bombs planted so he can hold England to ransom. He kidnaps the future King Charles III and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. However, despite his planning and his cunning, his madness keeps causing him to be unpredictable.
This was a story idea I had many years ago and was one of the stories that so interested a Cornish couple I met back then, that they arranged an interview with a publisher for me. Unfortunately, I didn't have the confidence to follow it up back then. It would have been easier to write in the days before the Northern Ireland Peace Process. However, there have been some political changes that have added to the story, so in many ways, I'm glad I waited.
You can take one book to a desert island. What's it going to be?
Probably Fatherland by Robert Harris, but definitely one of his books! I would love to be able to write like him, but he has the advantage of a career as an historian so he already possesses knowledge I will never have time to acquire.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
It is tempting to say the Brentford Trilogy by Robert Rankin because there are five books in the trilogy - which kind of gives away Robert Rankin's style! Very zany books indeed and thoroughly enjoyable.To pick one, it would have to be East of Ealing, but they should really be read in sequence and in their entirety.
As above, anything by Robert Harris, but Fatherland springs instantly to mind.
I enjoy comedy as well as suspense and a bit of philosophy is also good, so Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome is a big favourite.
In a similar but much more exalted vein, Candide by Voltaire.
Now for the fifth. Most likely it is a book that I have yet to read. I have a large and eclectic library and the final candidate must inevitably cause me to be unfair on many others. I'll take the plunge and add The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. Wonderfully weird and quite dark.
What do you read for pleasure?
Anything and everything - no limits!
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I use my laptop because I can do so much else with it.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I'm not sure I have managed to do any effective marketing yet. Out of what I have done, discussions with other authors have given me the best ideas, but the cover design has been the most effective.
Describe your desk
It was bought second hand from a local insurance company that had been taken over and they were moving out. It is modern and clean looking in pale wood. I keep it tidy because I like a clear work surface, but don't go looking in the drawers!
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Surrey in the South East of England. I'm not sure that it influenced my writing at all. That came more when I went to art school and then on to work and even more so when I had a job that required world travel. My main influences have been people rather than places and the people are influenced by the places - the environments in which they exist. I draw upon those I have met all over the world for my characters - good and bad.
When did you first start writing?
I have always been a writer in my heart. My school essays were well received and then when I went out to work I had to write technical manuals and sales proposals. From that I progressed to magazine articles (I also edited a magazine for mathematicians for a while). As I mentioned before, when I was a young man, I got talking to an elderly couple in Cornwall and the subject got on to my story ideas. They were captivated and asked a friend who was a publisher to contact me. In the end, I didn't have the nerve to go ahead. It was much later that technology made it possible by giving me word processing to use and taking early retirement gave me the time to write novels. One way or another, I have written for others as long as I can remember.
You've self-published but not been traditionally published: What are the main disadvantages of self publishing and would you like to be traditionally published?
I would definitely enjoy the kudos of being offered a publishing deal, but I'm not sure I would have the patience to go through the hard slog of seeking a publisher. I prefer the self publishing route because it is instant! The big advantage of being published traditionally is that you get all the marketing that goes with the publisher's investment in you and you get to see your work displayed in bookshops everywhere. The downside is that you are then at the beck and call of the publisher - and rightly so. I value the ability to plan my own schedule too much to submit to that. On the other hand, until I get the offer, I can't really say how I would react.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Easy publishing! I never really expected anyone to buy my books and I could not afford the cost or the time to make multiple applications to publishers. This way, I could get my writings out there without any strain on my limited patience! It was a surprise visit from an old long lost friend that set the ball rolling. He asked me what I had been doing lately and I told him about my first book. He downloaded it and loved it. Then he downloaded the second and loved that too. He told lots of people and they made up my initial readers.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I was told about Smashwords by a fellow author. The attraction initially was the multiple formats to which the books are converted. I like the easy and friendly interface and I think it encourages book buying. I'm new to Smashwords, so who knows what contribution it will make.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
All of it. I don't suffer writer's block so I enjoy the excitement of creating each page. The satisfaction of a work completed is also pretty hard to beat.
You've got one wish. What's it to be?
I never expected my books to be read at all, so every sale is a bonus. If one of them could make it into the top 100 or similar, that would be the icing on the cake!
What are you working on next?
More writing. The next book will be called The Secret Weapon. Then there is the germ of an idea for another after that, so I am going to be kept busy. Presumably one day I will run out of ideas for stories, but for now, they still keep coming.
When I write, it is very much like when I read - I have to keep going until I've finished, no breaks until I turn the last page!
Published 2015-06-02.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Hibernia Unanimis
Price: $5.50 USD. Words: 88,290. Language: English. Published: May 29, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense, Fiction » Historical » United Kingdom
Germany has taken steps to guarantee her loans are repaid. In an effort to ensure that Ireland keeps up her payments, a German politician sits on the Irish government in an advisory role but, in fact, he holds significant power. It is in this situation that a schizophrenic megalomaniac makes his deadly move to throw them out and take over Ireland and reunite North and South by force as a dictator.
La Creme de la Crem
Price: $5.00 USD. Words: 75,500. Language: English. Published: May 12, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Traditional British
In a grimy industrial town in the North of England, corruption reigns in high places, bringing with it a cocktail of sex and perversion to the corridors of power. Closure and redevelopment of the docks has left many out of work and the pressure of life has increased crime and prostitution on the streets. Perfect territory for a serial killer, but this killer has a further, macabre motivation.
Claude's Journey
Price: $5.50 USD. Words: 84,820. Language: English. Published: May 12, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Action, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
Claude is a victim. He was victimized and bullied throughout his early years, then through school and even at work it was still going on. He had come to expect it, but he doesn't see what is coming next and he is trapped. Trapped and forced to swap gender to be an enslaved maid. Then, gradually at first, the people around him begin to die. He knows his turn is coming but not where or when.