- GUEST AUTHOR -
Today, I welcome an author from the United Kingdom.
Welcome, Tim ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
Hi Clancy. I always wanted to write and when I left school, I became a trainee reporter on my local newspaper in Liverpool, UK. I started a music column and went on to review films/movies. I had a career in media, and got to own and edit a magazine and newspaper, so journalistic writing was my thing. Then in 2013 I had to stop working whilst undergoing skin cancer treatment and recovery. During this time, I did an online creative writing course and started writing short stories. Then I learned how to self-publish on Amazon Kindle and put up two books of short stories – Thames Valley Tales and Postcards from London. I wrote a longer short story, called Abandoned, in 2015, and used this as the starting point for what has now become a five-book series – A Light in the Dark Ages.
2. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I sketch out the story and list my main characters, make a few notes on their appearance, personality, any personal foibles or distinguishing features. Then, I make a chapter plan, but tend not to go into too much detail. I find that once I start the story, it takes on a life of its own, and I’m often pulled in unexpected directions by my characters.
3. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
I find that being a self-published author gives me the freedom to follow my own interests and not be a slave to deadlines. Although I work at my own pace, I do challenge myself by setting goals and deadlines, although these can be stretched if I become unwell, as this is an annoying aspect of my life these days.
4. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I worked in London for ten years in the newspaper publishing industry, before heading off to Zambia in Africa to do voluntary work in the educational books development sector. Training, skills sharing and travelling. I stayed on to set up my own publishing business and published a business newspaper and a construction industry magazine. I then became a general manager for a mineral exploration company in Zambia, that included spending three months in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) setting up a sister company office. My business went belly-up at the end of 2008 due to the global recession, so I returned to UK in 2009 and worked or a couple of years in the energy sector. Then after my cancer diagnosis, I re-invented myself as a creative writer.
5. TELL ME ABOUT YOUR NEW BOOK
On 1st June, book five in A Light in the Dark Ages series, Arthur Rex Brittonum, was published. This novel is an action-packed telling of the King Arthur story rooted in historical accounts that predate the familiar Camelot legend. Arthur, only son of the late King Uther, has been crowned King of the Britons by the northern chiefs and must now persuade their counterparts in the south and west to embrace him. He arrives in the kingdom of Powys, where his sister is queen, buoyed by popular acclaim at home, a king, husband and father - but he faces a new challenge in convincing sceptical trial chiefs to follow him. It is a treacherous and winding road that ultimately leads him to a winner-takes-all clash at the citadel of Mount Badon. Although in a series, this novel has backstory built in and can be read as a standalone.
6. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
The route I followed into creative writing was to undertake a creative writing course and work through it. This was an online course with about 18 modules, an took no more than two months to complete. The focus was primarily on learning to structure and write short stories. I found this a useful way to begin. I also joined a local writers’ group for support and ideas. Like most things in life – practice makes perfect. You learn by experimenting, and reading a lot in your genre.
7. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Too much is said about writers’ block. I believe that if you plan your story and have a set of notes, then if you go down a blind alley with your story you can consult your notes, retrace your steps, and try a new tack. I always start the day’s session by reading back what I wrote the day before. This refreshes your memory, allows you to correct or make minor changes, and to start with fresh ideas in your head. You are not going to feel fresh and full of energy and ideas every day – its norm to go through a slump. Just ride it out – it will pass. During one of my novels I got so frustrated that I left it for a few days and wrote a completely unrelated short story. Then I returned to it feeling refreshed.
8. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
When I’m at home I like to write in the mornings, when my mind is fresh. If I’m really in the zone, I’ll keep going through the afternoon, and can knock out as much as 8,000 words in a good day.
9. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
Yes. My writing desk is in my living room, and the wall facing me is covered by a vinyl of a forest scene. I can sit back and look through the trees for inspiration. Honest.
10. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
Good reviews and really cheer me up (and negative one can leave me angry). My favourite review comment actually gave me a slogan I used in promoting the book. I was so pleased that a reader on the other side of the world made the connection between Britain leaving the Roman Empire in the year 410 in Abandoned, and a contemporary theme in Britain leaving the European Union (Brexit) in 2020. She coined the term ‘Romexit’ in her review. Brilliant! It’s great when readers ‘get it’.
11. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
We learn as we go along. The first edition of Abandoned upset some readers because it was too short in length, despite the book description saying that it was a novella. Anyway, I was prompted to take action and did a re-write a year later after more research, introducing new characters and plot lines, and more than doubling the story length. Sometime criticism is genuine, and in this case, I took remedial action to fix it. The second edition is a huge improvement on the original and negative reviews have dried up.
12. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Yes. I found I much preferred to talk out the fear of dying from cancer in a short story, and to project my feelings onto a fictitious character. In Postcards from London there’s a story called El Dorado. It’s about a middle aged man who is diagnosed with cancer and is worried about losing his job. He takes time off work and goes on a bucket list trip to Peru and walks up to Machu Pichu, where he has a spiritual experience and reflects on his life. I made that trip in 2016.
13. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
Yes. Because of my background of working in the publishing industry, I understand the process and found it easy to learn formatting and self-publishing. I enjoy being able to take my books from an idea, to a manuscript, and then to publish and market it. Total control of the process. I buy in two services – copyediting and cover design.
Thanks for having me on your blog.
Clancy's comment: You are most welcome, Tim. Good luck. May you sell squillions of books.