- Guest Author -
Welcome to the world of an author from the UK - Phil Simpkin. Phil has 37 years experience gained as a Police Officer, and skills gained in Uniform, CID, Major Crime Investigations, Training and Communications, with Leicestershire Constabulary 1976 - 2006. Now he's an author. Wow, welcome, Phil ...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I am a late entrant to writing, now in my late fifties. I have spent the last 37 years in Law enforcement and Emergency Planning, before deciding it was time to work for me, rather than for other organisations. I am married; a Father and Grand-Father; a keen Blues and Rock lover; aged guitarist; lover of good beer and wine.
I have had a desire to write a novel, since the mid 1970’s when I first acquired an interest in early Victorian Leicester, England, and set myself that inevitable task as a ‘must do’ for when I retired.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I started researching my novel about three years ago now. I first put words together in mid 2012, and completed the first draft towards the end of 2012. I kept putting it off, but the death of a close friend and his determination that I should stop procrastinating, and off I went! The final published version went to press in March this year.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
I like the ability to take history, both general and personal, adding the characteristics of people and places I have encountered, the anecdotes and experiences of 37 years in law and Emergency Planning, and to be able to weave them into what I hope is an entertaining and interesting format.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Nobody can prepare you for the problems you will encounter in terms of publicity, marketing, scepticism of self-published writers, agency submission systems, cost-cutting to make work attractive to small to medium book-sellers...the business side of writing might have been a simpler answer!
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
A police Officer from mid 1970s to 2006, working in Uniform and CID, Major Crimes, Training, Communications, and latterly Emergency Planning, working on such things as the Asian Tsunami, London Bombings, some interesting challenges. I then ran my own consultancy for six years as an Emergency Planner.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Publishing two books simultaneously. My first non-fiction work, ‘Leicestershire Myth & Legend – in verse’ was intended as a trial for self publishing media, and actually, I ended up completing my first novel ‘Jack Ketch’s Puppets’ at exactly the same time, for different reasons.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I soon realised that I was going to have to write a series of novels, given the research I had undertaken, and the time period I covered in my first novel. The series is going to be known as ‘The Borough Boys’ and Jack Ketch is #1 in the series. I am now working heavily on #2 in the series, plus a new contemporary detective series, and a non-fiction reference on using Genealogy and History resources in writing Historical fiction.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
People and places; they all have character, and hold memories and stories to tell!
My main work is Historical fiction, but more generically Crime fiction, some reference; some poetry.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Don’t let people put you off. There are a lot of ‘knockers’ out there at present, who see change as a threat, and actively seem to discourage new and unpublished / untested writers.
Also, don’t try and run before you can walk. I try, and fail! My wife keeps digging me in the ribs and telling me to have patience!
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Not so much writer’s block, but more writer’s distractions. I have become actively involved, as part of my learning the craft, in a wide range of activities, from writers groups, to Blogs and a website. All take up time, and can distract you from your main task...writing itself!
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I am an early bird. Up early; check emails; Check blog comments; visit social media sites; update sites. Then I try at least 1000 words at least, each morning. Slowly, but surely!
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
My office is my conservatory. It is open on three sides. In the winter it is cool and keeps you alert; in the summer it is like a green-house, so all the windows and doors come open, and I end up as part of the garden, birds, dogs, kids...they’re all there!
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Getting that first, really good review. I have had some fantastic reviews so far, but would love one of those that others seem to achieve, with a big named reviewer.
That is a close second, to actually turning out something that I have enjoyed writing, and that someone will enjoy reading in the first place!
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
A guy called James McGee. He has written a series of novels about early Bow Street Runners, centred on a character called Matthew Hawkwood. It is early policing and swash-buckling, hand in hand, and they are great reads.
Classically, Conan-Doyle, and Charles Dickens. Oliver Twist has to be one of the great references to what life was like in the period I have targeted.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
Buying my first novel, rather than waiting for a free giveaway which he knew was coming! He couldn’t wait that long!
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
The worst comment from a reader is when they don’t comment at all. No review is worse than a bad review, as you can’t develop your craft without them!
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
I certainly use my personal knowledge, experiences and people I have met, to shape my characters and locations.
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Blues music; Guitars and playing them; Rugby ; Beer and Wine; Good Food; Family; friends, the usual stuff!
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
No. I looked at the costs and was shocked. For first publications, I knew I was going to have to sell a lot to even cover those costs, let alone other costs. On that basis I used friends, colleagues and set them a list of benchmarks against to which review / edit / proof my work.
I would like to work with a good editor shortly, if I can justify the expense.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Warm; Relaxed; Wife and Children have other things to do; Coffee on; Write till I drop! Rate what I write!
IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
My grand-daughter. She is only six. She is bright, funny, challenging, practical, and would keep me motivated. I would love to be there to see her grow, and she would keep me young!
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Respect each other. There are opposites of everyone and everything. If those can be tolerated – fine. If not, then expect to be locked in conflict for ever more!
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Write, edit, proof. Write, edit, proof...for a while longer yet. Until I hit the note for a big publishing deal that is!
WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
A Christmas Carol – still love it after all these years. Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulkes – Brilliant! The first Casualty, by Ben Elton – Brilliant! Escaping the Delta – Elijah Wilding – Blues History! Swallows and Amazons...Arthur Ransome; just in case I end up as a kid again! It was his series that got me reading!
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
Samson Shepherd is me! I would love to have been harder and stronger at times as a cop, and perhaps John Beddows is what I would have preferred to be.
DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Yes! There is an elitism, that permeates the Industry, and it is fighting change to the detriment of what my kids and grand-kids want. I admire quality and control, and crafted books; but let self-publishing learn and evolve!
DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Every day! For a while!
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
The first draft of Jack Ketch’s Puppets. It was raw and what had come from my fingers and the keyboard. I then had to modify it to meet the expectations of agents and publishers, and it was never quite the same again!
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
I would see success as a point at which daily, you see a slow but regular download of your books, and a rush for your newest one! Recognition?
WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
I hope, they will understand the horrors of living in 1850s Leicester, not at all how I imagined it! Also, the primitive methods that were open to Law enforcers, who were really not very well respected, yet doing a damned hard job. I hope readers leave the last page thinking ‘Yes, they got what they deserved; What is next?’
HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
I played around with ideas for ages. I made up my own; I downloaded free images and then found a mass of copyright issues. In the end I went to an ex colleague who I knew was a talented artist. I told him what I was doing, and he created Samson Shepherd, who is the character on my cover! I kept it simple and used who and what I knew!
WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
To actually retire... at a point when I am earning enough in sales / royalties, not to worry about much at all. I don’t want to be mega-rich. I want to be comfortable, sure, who doesn’t? And respected as a writer!
ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
I’d like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to reach out to your readers. If you are interested in finding out more about me, I have the following links:-
My website: www.1455bookcompany.com
Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7014332.Phil_Simpkin
Amazon.Com Author page:http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00BVYPO28
Jack Ketch’s Puppets:
Leicestershire Myth & Legend – in verse:
Clancy's comment: Phil, thanks for sharing your time. We also share a great love of wine and beer. I'd love to spend a few hours with you, chatting about your experiences as a law officer.
Cheers to you, mate.
Cheers to you, mate.