What is your genre? Why did you choose it?
My novel “Dance the Moon Down” is an historical drama set against the background of the First World War. The novel attempts a new slant on an old theme by focusing on the lives of the women left behind.
I have always been fascinated by the history of the early twentieth century. It was whilst researching in this area that I came across the letters and diaries of some women who had lived through the trauma of the Great War. What I read in them inspired me to write my debut novel. I felt that theirs was a story that demanded to be told.
Do you work on more than one manuscript at a time?
No. I prefer to focus all my attention on one story. Better to do one thing well than two things poorly.
Do you work with a writing/critique group?
Again. No. I prefer to work alone, that way there’s no one to blame but me. Having said that, I work with an independent editor. I think that this is essential for any author. There’s always a time when we can’t see the wood for the trees.
Can you remember your first reading book?
I can’t say that I honestly remember the first, but the earliest I recollect are the “Just William” stories. I read them all the time as a boy.
Do you nibble on snacks while writing? If so, what is your chosen treat?
No, my particular weakness is black tea without sugar. I have a pint mug always beside me and it’s never empty.
Tidy desk or a bombsite? Describe your writing area with us.
I prefer to write at the dining room table, next to a window which looks out on my large secluded garden. I always write my first draft in longhand, so initially all I have in front of me is an A4 notepad, plus my note book, and my tea mug of course. My computer appears only when I’m ready to write the final draft. I prefer an uncluttered workspace. Mess only leads to confusion and confusion leads to mistakes.
“Dance the Moon Down” has been independently published by Authors on Line. These days’ traditional publishers only accept submissions from literary agents. I soon discovered that the vast majority of these agents already had more clients than they could cope with. I actually had one incident where an agent refused the book without even knowing what it was, claiming that “he was too full” For all he knew it could have been the next “Harry Potter”
Based on this kind of reaction, I decided to go it alone. Authors on Line offered a complete publication package, which included a graphic artist for cover design, professional editing and promotion. I’m pleased with the result. The finished book is as professional as anything you’ll find in the traditional market.
Who would you say have been the three most influential authors in your reading/writing life?
Herman Melville. As an author he was a man before his time. His understanding of human psychology was exceptional. Sadly, his greatest novel “Moby Dick” was unappreciated in its own time. Happily it has now been rightly accepted as an international classic. Henry James is another. His brilliant characterization and crisp writing style have always impressed me. Finally, it has to be Ernest Hemmingway. His powerful, yet understated style has, to my mind, never been surpassed.
What advice would you like to share with other writers/authors with regard to preparing a manuscript?
Produce a manuscript to the best of your ability, then read it, re-read it and read it again. Then have someone else read it. Obviously a good story is essential, but spelling, grammar and punctuation are even more so. An agent or publisher will always go for these three first. Too many spelling errors or poor grammar is an indication of sloppy writing, after which they will assume it’s a poor story. Presentation is everything.
If the movie rights to your novels are purchased, who would you like to play your main characters?
In that case, I’d like my main character, Victoria, played by the actress Lydia Wilson. She appeared in a BBC drama called “The Making of a Lady”. She’d be perfect. As for the others, well that’s still a matter of some speculation.
I was on my way to the supermarket, when … Do you have a tale to tell relating to an everyday boring event?
I recall one peculiar incident which occurred some years ago. I was on my way to town one sunny Saturday afternoon when a car stopped opposite me and a young woman carrying a baby, followed by a small boy, got out, walked straight over to me and trusting the baby into my arms said “Take the baby”, then promptly passed out. The boy asked in a matter of fact tone “Is she dead?”
“No”, I told him. “She’s just asleep”
Typically the street was deserted, so I decided to knock on some doors to see if anyone would phone for an ambulance. Meanwhile, the baby, dressed only in a vest, a nappy (diaper) and one sock, why is it always one sock? began to cry. Its nose was running and it kept wanting to press its face against my black jacket. Apparently no one was at home and there I was with an unconscious woman at my feet, a small boy and a snotty baby.
Eventually a teenage girl emerged from a side street. “Go home and tell your father that a woman has fainted in the street”, I yelled.
She stopped, stared in alarm, and then replied in what sounded like French. I couldn’t believe it. She must have been an exchange student or something. The situation was getting sillier by the minute. The girl finally turned back and after a while a man, still in his carpet slippers came dashing along. By then a small crowd had began to form (you wait ages for one person then several come along at once).
Meanwhile the baby was still trying to wipe its nose on my jacket.
Finally with plenty of volunteers on hand. The car was moved from the centre of the road, I managed to offload the baby to a nearby woman and an ambulance was summoned. That’s where I left it.
I later heard that the woman’s husband was in hospital after an accident at work. She was on her way to see him, children in tow, when she’d been overcome by the tranquilizers she’d been taking. Instead of visiting, she’d ended up in the bed next to him.
As I was the only one on the street at the time, she’d homed in on me. To this day it remains the oddest thing that’s happened to me when simply setting out for the supermarket.
Oh, gosh! That was an event and a half!