What are you working on next?
I am spending time working on getting my new book Cliffington to market as a printed book alongside the ebook. Once I have completed that, I will be starting on my next project, which is likely to be a recording project.
Who are your favorite authors?
I have always enjoyed ‘traditional’ authors – Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, the Bronte sisters; but I also like more modern and perhaps more challenging authors such as Doris
sisters; but I also like more modern and perhaps more challenging authors such as Doris Lessing, Thomas Mann, even Philip Pullman. I greatly enjoy poetry and wish that it was more widely appreciated. There are so many fine poets from across the centuries, from Benn Gunn to Sylvia Plath, from Edward Thomas to Marianne Moore.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I hate wasting time. I cannot imagine sleeping late! I always have so many projects on the go that it is hard to find time to keep up. I love to be busy and I often go to sleep thinking about the current work, whether a plot for a story, music, or revisiting my ideas file. I guess I want to create something that will, if not change the world, certainly help to reflect on the way we live and add something unique and positive to people’s lives.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I write music and songs, lots of them. So I spend a great deal of time playing my guitars, working out material for the next recording – there always is a next recording! Music is a great foil to writing books – it is concise, colourful and active. Anyone who has read one of my books will know how much I love music – I try to put it in there.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
They say books are sold by their covers, but I like to delve a little deeper and I often try a few paragraphs to see what it’s like. I think it is good to have a broad approach and not just stick to what is comfortable, so I will happily read work by complete unknowns. There is a lot of good work out there. I find it is best not to get bogged down by genre, so I will try and browse by other means – the number of words, for example. Having said which there is a lot of really good poetry out in ebook land.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I wrote (other than school essays) was about a place – it had no actual humans in it at all – the character was the place itself – an old sand pit in Suffolk. The plot was a little thin as not a lot went on, but it did try and show how this manmade place had become a wild and wonderful environment after the men had left.
What is your writing process?
I do like to have the basic idea of plot first. I have recently been writing very long books and they need a degree of structure to succeed. I usually have a very clear view of the ending before I start – it helps to have a target and then everything I write is heading towards that point. The characters are sometimes very complete before they start to speak but sometimes I find their voice develops as I write down their words. I can always visualise the characters who inhabit the book. They have to have a purpose and never exist for their own sake. I do write from start to finish progressing a few thousand words at a time – whatever I can write in one session. Then each successive day I review and rewrite the previous piece before adding a new section to review the next day. I usually write something every day to maintain momentum. Once I have a first draft, I read it through, editing as I go. I might do that many times and the end book can read quite differently to the first draft. For example, with Cliffington, I went through the manuscript editing it cover to cover at least twelve times. I always get someone else to read it fairly early on and then again later – it is invaluable to have an external validator. The last two books, Moses Trod and Cliffington both took around two years to write.
How do you approach cover design?
I design my own covers. I do like a traditional approach, insofar as I do not like to follow the fashion but try to create something that will hopefully stand the test of time and appear less dated as a result. I spent many years associated with the printing industry, so have the advantage of understanding page layout and design. Although you should never judge a book by its cover, to state the old cliché, most people do. I aim to try and show that the words inside have some serious intent. I am quite pleased with the cover for Cliffington, it is simple and hopefully draws the eye.
Describe your desk
My desk is a traditional, old wooden desk I bought secondhand many years ago. It faces a wall, so there is no distraction to the work in hand – I cannot stare out of the window daydreaming! I am not sure the desk matters too much, but the writing environment does and my golden rule is to make sure there are no words other than mine in my head at the time – so I write without distraction. Usually, I do listen to music as I write – obviously it has to be instrumental. I am sure it does influence what I write, but then I choose it with care. During the writing of Cliffington I often listened to Northumbrian pipe music, because it plays an important background role in the story – and I like it!
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I have spent my life living in the south of England. Many people no doubt think of it as a densely populated place, but actually, it has a huge amount of accessible and very beautiful countryside. I started walking out alone in the countryside from about the age of eight or nine, and this above all other things has influenced the scenery in my novels. There are few better places to spend a day than traversing the North or South Downs and I spent many days in my youth and early working years doing just that. It is not just about the places you see but also gives the rhythm to life and provides opportunities for thinking through ideas and plots or characters. I have always carried a notebook wherever I walk so I can jot down any new idea. Often these ideas have ended up in songs or writing projects, even after gaps of many years.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I have always been a self-sufficient person and I had a huge amount of material available. I had never attempted to get anything published – I had a full time job that took all my time, so writing was always a spare time activity. It was not until my son left home and I found I had more time on hand that I set about putting my writing in order. Having completed my novel Moses Trod, I concluded it would not be a very attractive proposition for a traditional publisher, due to its length (around 580 pages), but I quickly realised this was no problem to indie publishing and ebooks. I looked into the market and set about creating an ebook. It took a little while to get it right, but it was easier than I expected and I was able to get my book out into the public space with little cost and very quickly. It was good timing as the ebook and indie publishing industry was just taking off. It encouraged me to carry on and I now have three books, Moses Trod, Cliffington and The Follower all available in ebook formats.