Interview with Ernest Swain

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in a mining community in the south of Derbyshire, a county mid-England. The eldest boy in a family of six children. Born during WW2 I was fortunate not to have been greatly affected by the conflict, and what I remember of my childhood was almost idyllic. Although encouraged to read from an early age, the real influence upon my writing only came during my teen years when I became a police cadet, and later still a police officer, and I began to see the sordid side of life and the characters involved.
When did you first start writing?
My initial attempt at writing a book was whilst still at secondary school. It was about soccer which was my passion then, but it must have been discarded long ago. After those early schooldays all my writing efforts were confined to my professional work, producing reports, statements, and preparing court files. It was really only when I retired that I began to write but I was fortunate in that I had a wealth of interesting information, stored in my brain, accumulated over my working life.
What's the story behind your latest book?
It's a new genre for me. The two previous books are novels set in late 1700's and incorporate myths, legends and folk-lore which abound in the place I live. The latest book, a novel called Doppelganger, is a story that draws heavily on my police experience in the specialised side of that occupation dealing with terrorism. It's the story of an investigating officer, out of his depth, dealing with spying, murder and terrorism, with involvement of both MI5 and the American CIA.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Frustration was probably the greatest motivator. After numerous attempts to find a publisher I decided that the only option was to go it alone. Manuscripts were being returned and I was convinced they were unread. I studied the publishing industry and it was quite obvious to me that with the volume of manuscripts being submitted they didn't have the ability to read each one. It seemed that to be noticed, and regarded as a good financial risk, I had either to be 'famous' or 'infamous', and as I was neither the realisation was that I had to become an 'Indie' author.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords appears to be a wonderful platform for any aspiring writer to reach the widest general public and find an appreciative readership. What makes it even more attractive is that it's fairly easy - with Mark Coker's Style Guide - to format and upload your work In addition it's Premium Catalogue distributes to major online retailers and other outlets. Doppelganger will be my first Smashwords publication. My previous books appeared in print, and the ebooks were handled by the print company, which cost me a considerable amount of money. Smashwords cost me nothing.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
It's the thought that I've contributed something in print that others - whom I may never meet - read and hopefully enjoy.
What are you working on next?
Again, it's something entirely new for me, it's a selection of children's stories, based upon stories I made up to amused the grand-children some twenty years ago.
Who are your favorite authors?
For years the one outstanding author for me was Alistair Maclean (sadly now deceased) he could keep me on the edge of my seat for hours. I still have most of his books. Frederick Forsyth is another of whom I possess a fair collection. However, my tastes are fairly eclectic and I'm finding the maritime stories of the square riggers by Patrick O'Brian exciting, and there are a host of others that I'm enjoying.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My dear wife. She's a wonderful driving force and an inspiration, helping me with editing and great for organising, especially when it comes to marketing. Upon retirement we purchased a small farm, high in the Pennines of the Peak District, and I've been able to follow another passion which has been working horses - from the heavies such as Shires and Clydesdales, to the lighter carriage horses. Without someone to organise me I'd waste so much time, I'd do neither one thing nor the other.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
As I've already told of my passion for horses, I can relate some of my other interests. There is a huge organisation here called The University of the Third Age - U3A for short - and I follow several interest such as music (I am an accomplished organist), history, computer technology and photography.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Mainly by search on computer and Kindle. I realise now that Smashwords is an excellent medium to search and intend to use that facility. I also attach myself to several organisation, such as 'Goodreads' and 'Avid Reader' and take notice of recommendations from there.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Certainly. I mentioned earlier my first attempt was as a teenager and was about soccer. I'm sure it was a pathetic attempt that didn't deserve the light of day. However, the first novel worth mentioning was 'A Surprising Legacy', which was basically a love story but incorporated myths, legends and folk-lore, plus violent and abhorrent sport such as cock-fighting, but more prominently the counterfeiting of coin and its distribution.
What is your writing process?
That first story, A Surprising Legacy, I carried about in my head for something like seven years before putting pen to paper, so I was pretty sure about the story and how it was going to progress before I even got started. However, I discovered that the story led me away into side issues and things that I hadn't considered. So, I find I can't stick to a rigid agenda. I do like to research as much as possible - I have a terrible fear of being taken to task by my readers over any issue that isn't accurate. More time is spent pulling the story apart after it's written, accentuating the good parts and improving anything that appears weak. I've often spent a whole day writing, only to delete everything if it strikes me that it isn't good enough.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
No, I can't. It's an awful long time ago, and I think my taste then, as a child, was for Enid Blyton books of the 'Famous Five'. I do know that I found their adventures very exciting and probably sparked my appetite for the type of reading I enjoy today.
How do you approach cover design?
I have always produced my own covers. I fully appreciate that a good cover helps to sell the book but I pride myself that I have some ability in this respect. Only once did I have negative feedback from a printing firm who wanted me to spend a huge amount of money with a cover artist of their choice. Having had positive feedback from others, and encouragement to continue producing my own, I ditched the temptation to spend money upon employing someone else. The cover always has to show at a glance what the story depicts and it has to have impact that makes it stand out to the casual browser.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
It's the most difficult question to answer because there are so many. I've already said that I found great pleasure in the books of Alistair Maclean and Frederick Forsyth but here are some more for various reasons:
1)Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy, by John Le Carre. This book not only because of it's engrossing storyline but because the principal character in this trilogy, George Smiley, was based upon a friend, Sir Maurice Oldfield, the Director General of MI5.
2)The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. The story of a professional killer attempting to kill the French president. This paperback was gifted to me by Sir Maurice Oldfield and I treasure it for that reason.
3)The Embattled Mountain by F.W.D.Deakin. The story of a force of men parachuted into Yugoslavia, behind enemy lines in WW2. The reason I treasure this book is because a relative was one of those men.
4)Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. This book because it depicts the dreadful conditions encountered by the front line in the trenches and the underground tunnels on the Western Front during WW1.
5)The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz by Denis Avey and Bob Broomby. This is a little known book that tells a powerful and very disturbing story about one man (local to me) and his experiences of the Nazi concentration camps of WW2.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read anything that I can get my hands on. My preference will probably always be for spy stories but I read auto-biographies, American detective stories, English detective stories, and Submariner stories like Red Octrober. However, a great deal of my time is taken reading and critiquing works of fellow authors across the world and I derive pleasure from that although they're not always 'daring do' adventure stories.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
It's the Kindle. I do read from my computer but I find the Kindle best. I understand that the latest of these devices are back-lit but sadly mine isn't and it makes it rather awkward reading in low light - especially in bed before I go to sleep.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I can't speak too much about ebooks as this venture is quite new to me. I know that everyone insists that careful Facebook and Twitter exposure is effective - I shall have to see. As far as my print editions are concerned there was a lot of leg-work, shop to shop, pushing the book. I did newspaper interviews and best of all was radio. I was invited onto different local radio stations to discuss my books and I found that most beneficial.
Describe your desk
Dreadful. It's an absolute clutter - but I know where everything is and I despair of anyone coming near to tidy up. My wife is despondent when she ventures near and quickly closes the door to my room when there are visitors.
What other work sits in your computer, unpublished?
Several years ago I wrote my autobiography which was only intended for my children and grandchildren. It contains rather sensitive material and some libels that would cause me grief if they were to be published. Since writing that I have realised what a lot I left out, so my next project will be disseminate that auto-bio, include the material I left out the first time around, and make it a book that can be published because there are some good stories there. There's another work, a short story, of fantasy - fairies and hob-goblins, that hasn't been published. It has been seen by a professional who has given it a good pedigree so that's something else that I must bring out. My problem is time.
What do your fans mean to you?
Of course, we only meet with a few, but those are my sounding board more than any others. Others, further afield, that I never meet but from whom there is feedback, and who return for the next story, are for whom I'm writing. They're my audience and I probably get more from their comments than they realise.
Published 2013-09-09.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Doppelganger
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 103,580. Language: English. Published: August 23, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
Police Det.Chief Inspr. Allen, (Tommo) investigates murder of a mysterious female, leading to baffling personal implications for him. He discovers he has a twin, a CIA agent - his doppelganger - who infiltrates a gang of Azerbaijanis plotting to attack a 'plane carrying a Russian presidential party. Tommo's wife is kidnapped, which leads to a suicide - or is it summary justice?