Text of Interview with
Howard Ingram – author
Patrick Blaauw, owner of Kinnaree Media, and Editor in Chief of
Thailand magazine and Tropical Living magazine
2nd July 2013
PB: So, thanks for doing this interview, Howard. It’s good for our readers to understand the minds and passion of writers, what makes them tick. How long have you been writing?
HI: Forever it seems; since I was given my first quotation from my father. I had to learn a speech or quotation every week, for which I received 25p.
PB: Every week?
HI: Oh yes, by the time I was 11, I could give you Hamlet’s “To be or not to be”, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, Churchill’s “On the Beaches”, Henry the 5th’s Agincourt or Mark Anthony’s oration over the dead body of Caesar and countless poems.
PB: That must have been taxing; how did it lead you to writing?
HI: I thought if I have to learn other people’s work, I should write some of my own for some other poor little b------ to learn!
PB: What was your first success?
HI: With the BBC. I had a morning story read out on the radio when I was around 18. It was set in Durham, in an iron foundry and told of the absolutely frightening first day at work of “Harry” the Apprentice. It actually came across very well.
PB: Educationally, were you always into books?
HI: Always. I devoured everything, but I had my favourites, especially Shakespeare and Hemingway. I became school Head Librarian (we had quite a big library in our school in those days) and received the award of a couple of books, The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway and Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, to further encourage my catholic reading tastes.
PB: Then on to university? Which university did you attend?
HI: Attend is probably a bit of a misnomer. I went to some tutorials and classes on English and Philosophy at Keele University in Staffordshire but I didn’t last long.
PB: Why not?
HI: Well, it was something to do with the rather lovely wife of my English tutor, but as she may still be around, and maybe him too, let’s move on. Suffice to say, I didn’t find the university authorities as liberal as I thought they should be. Especially the English tutor.
PB: As well as writing, you have done quite a bit of acting, haven’t you?
HI: Quite a bit; mainly Shakespeare. I once played both the Antipholus twins in The Comedy of Errors, chasing myself on and off stage, changing hat and cloak, performing in a Greco Roman amphitheatre seating 3,000 people in Cyprus. The best accolade I got was that of a close friend coming to see me after the show and asking, seriously, if he could meet my identical twin!
PB: What else?
HI: Well, I was Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night and I did a bit of Pinter, or rather, he did me! But the best thing I ever did was as lead in The Crucible by Arthur Miller, acting as John Proctor.
PB: Why was it the best?
HI: I guess it appealed to my darker, pessimistic side. I couldn’t get the character out of my soul for a long time. Sometimes he still re-appears as I look at myself and my own morality.
PB: Let’s lighten up a bit shall we, what about your sports and hobbies?
HI: Well, I’m a keen scuba diver and swimmer. I do yoga for an hour every day and apart from the obvious advantages to bodily and mental health; looking up from the downward dog pose at half a dozen young and well-formed female rears perched in the receiving position does nothing to discourage my on-going participation in the noble art of yoga.
PB: Hmmn. Which books do you read for relaxation?
HI: Well the usual mix of trash and erudition. I set myself the challenge of reading every word of War and Peace last month. It took all of my free time for 28 days. But it was worth it. Everyone who reads it discovers part of themselves in one of the characters.
PB: Which was yours?
HI: That would be telling, but I did like Pierre, as well as all the courageous idiots who charged into a musket ball, lance or sabre.
PB: Your latest novel, The Man with No Name, - what’s it about?
HI: Exactly that.
HI: A man with no name. However, nameless or not, he enjoys his own and others’ lives. Is he sexually dissolute, or is that what others want to believe? Is he immoral or a force for good in the world? The novel has the answers.
HI: Well…maybe both adventure and romance, but not in the romantic sense, more in the earthy sexual sense. I take you on an extraordinary adventure tracing the Harris family from its roots in the UK, through its exhilarating relationships with the family of Mjanyelwa Mashiane, great healer of the Ndebele people; part of the fierce Zulu nation.
PB: Actually, I‘ve read it; well some chunks of it. When you agreed to do this interview I thought I’d better know something about it.
HI: And, did you…?
PB: I found it never letting up for a moment in challenging our sexual and moral conventions! OK it’s a fast-moving story of intense passions, tragedy and then remarkable successes. Yes, I thought it wasn’t bad at all.
HI: Thanks a lot!
PB: Who is your publisher?
HI: Belvedere Publishing. They are truly exceptional, taking me on the publishing journey so easily and so professionally. Really great!
PB: What’s next for your readers?
HI: Well, I have a couple nearing publication. All my novels are totally different from one another. They don’t follow on. They don’t depict the same or even similar themes.
PB: Come on; give us a bit of a hint.
HI: OK, the next will be an adventure crime novel called Fiona’s Head. It’s set on an island in the Mediterranean and on the island of Phuket in Thailand. The novel traces the apparently wrongful arrest of a retired British businessman for the grisly murder of his much younger and beautiful wife whom he discovered having an affair with a local. The evidence is circumstantial, no body is ever found.
PB: That’s all you are going to tell?
HI: Yup. But the one after is really for strong-stomached adults only.
PB: And it’s called?
HI: Korean Revenge
PB: You lived in Korea didn’t you?
HI: Yes. I began my visits there in the 1980’s, going almost every month. Then I lived there for 8 years, while I was researching this book.
PB: How long do you spend in research and writing for each novel?
HI: The Man With no Name took 4 years, part of which time I lived in Africa, researching the culture and activities of the Ndebele nation. Fiona’s Head took only a couple of years, whilst Korean Revenge has been with me off and on for more than 10 years.
PB: How do you write; to a prepared plan or just as the mood takes you?
HI: Interesting question. I don’t really have a fixation with any predetermined writing method. I have to get things absolutely right when I include historical events in my novels, whether it is the progress of the Ndebele tribe in Africa or the sequence of events during the Japanese occupation of Korea, so then, those parts of my novels are highly researched and work to a plan; but a lot of my work goes with the flow, sometimes taking me over and not quite knowing where I’m going. That was particularly true of Fiona’s Head.
PB: Do you travel a lot for your research?
HI: I’ve been to all the continents, spending substantial time in Africa, India, Korea and South East Asia as well as some time in North and South America and Europe of course. I’ve yet to go to the Galapagos Islands or to Antarctica, they are both on my list.
PB: Where are your favourite places?
HI: For me a favourite place, city or beach, depends almost entirely upon whom I’m with and what we are doing together, - those elements make it a favourite or not. But I do love Prague and Budapest, Rome and Venice and Bangkok, and so many other places too.
PB: We’ve got rather away from your novels. Back to Korean Revenge. What’s it about?
HI: It is the grittiest of all my books so far. There’s a lot of autobiographical detail in it as well as insights into the dreadful Korean War and occupation of Korea of the hated (by Koreans) Japanese. It’s a story of revenge and triumph by business competitors and foreign powers. A journey in time from the invasion of Korea by both the Japanese and the Chinese, to vicious modern day board-room politics. No quarter is given, no prisoners are taken. Revenge is both personal and political. It was a tough book to write, and as I said, not for the fainthearted reader.
PB: You were a businessman in Korea when you were writing this book, right?
PB: That’s all you are going to say?
PB: Just a businessmen?
PB: In my research I found that you spent quite a lot of time in both Russia and Hungary at the height of Communism; you were quite a young man then; and then you were in China throughout the 80’s. Was your time in those countries as a businessman too?
PB: That’s all?
HI: Let’s move on
HI: Sorry but I think you are in danger of making 5 out of two and two
PB: Fine, changing tack, do you have a philosophy of life, or maybe advice to give to a budding writer?
HI: Life is too short to drink bad wine or to be with an unsexy partner.
PB: Hmmn, that’s it?
HI: Don’t live in the past. It’s gone. Maybe you can learn something from your triumphs and failures, but don’t bore people talking about them.
PB: What else?
HI: Don’t live in the future either. The problems you foresee probably won’t happen, the successes you dream of probably won’t happen either, so stop giving yourself a hard time; just persevere at what you are doing and do it the very best you can. Especially when pleasuring a woman.
PB: Thank you, Howard. Good luck with your books.
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