10 March 2013 - 'P. A. J. QUATRINE - Guest Author

Copyright Clancy Tucker (c)



G'day guys,

Today I introduce an inspiring author - P. A. J Quatrine. Peter, welcome ...

Q Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing journey?

A: My name is Peter Anthony John Quatrine.  I am 25 years old and I have been writing since I was fourteen. It was something that proved to be extremely difficult and arduous owing largely due to my dyslexia and having to learn to read and write. I’m largely self-taught. When in secondary school I could barely spell my own name. I was fundamentally illiterate, though it went undiscovered for a long time because I was very good at memorizing. What had happened was that I would listen to my parents, or my teacher, reading a passage or chapter from a book and then I’d repeat it to them, giving the illusion that I could read.

However, that approach ended up helping me to learn to actually read and write, though it became more a case of remembering how words look. Generally, I would have the book in front of me and have it on audio book. As I was listening to the book being read, I would follow the word on the paper and through that I would be able to indentify words. I admit it was a very unorthodox way of learning, but it was how I learnt.

Q: When did you become a writer?

A: I can’t remember that pivotal point where I decided this was what I wanted to do. On paper (no pun intended) I don’t seem like the right kind of person to be writer - I have way too much going against me. Nevertheless, story making and telling was something I felt I was good at and could do something with. I have some memory of seeing Jaws and then trying to write that as a book (at the time unaware it was based on a book).  What compelled me to do it I have no idea but the hilarious thing was that I couldn’t actually write, so it ended being a jumble of random letters on the screen.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

A: Creating the stories and meaningful character interaction. It could be in part due to my Aspergers, but crafting a world where I can make all the rules, within reason, and dictate those rules, again within reason, is very appealing – though it does make me sound a complete megalomaniac.

I also find something very therapeutic about creating a scene and allowing it to proceed naturally. I think there is a tremendous sense of joy to be had when you’ve finished a particularly emotional scene that will, hopefully, resonate with people as strongly as it resonates with the writer. I find it wonderful to think up interesting scenarios and see how they could play out and how that affects the overall story.

Q: What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

A: For me a lot of things.  I find it very frustrating when I’m writing a scene up and then suddenly your mind just becomes blank. It’s also aggravating when I have a word I want to use, but I can’t seem to spell it. I think my record for that, was nearly an hour trying to figure out how to spell a single damn word. But I think probably the hardest thing about being a writer is being able to take a step back and say “ok, objectively is this actually good?”  In that regards, again probably due to the Aspergers, I get very, very, very obsessive.

Q: What were you in your life before you became a writer?

A: I have done various jobs, such as shop keeping, bar tendering and did a paper round.  Anything I could do to get money. All of them proved to be very difficult, though I tried my absolutely hardest.

Q: What are you working on at the moment?

A:  I am working on book 2 of “The Chronicles of the Dragon Sisters”, though I’m also developing some ideas for some other books that I might submit to the publisher I am in contact with.

Q:  What inspires you?

A: Would it be cliché to say everything?  Really I can find inspiration in something as mundane and plain as watching an insect crossing my path, to something utterly fantastical.  Emotions are a great source of inspiration, be it a traumatic experience or a joyous moment.

Really, for me, it’s about being so moved by something that it causes a trigger in my mind. Art, music, a conversation with someone, even walking through the city and noticing something I’d never appreciated before. This is also why you should carry a notebook and pen with you, because you never really know when you’re going to get an idea.

In regards to Dragon Sisters, I was actually influenced by the artwork of Brian Froud. Rodney Matthews and fantastic landscapes also played a large role in my writing this book. Perhaps, I’ll come up with a list of what inspired Dragon Sisters so you can see all the various elements that when into its creation.

Q: What genre do you write?

A:  At the moment I have written predominantly in fantasy, but I am pretty open to everything.  I don’t think authors are really ever confined to any one genre. Most books, in my experience, tend to take several elements of different genres and stitch them together.  Romance tends to be a prevalent sub theme in most novels, whether the story calls of for it or not, in order to obtain the “complete experience”.

Also if the book is largely action or an adventure you might find something that is reminiscent of horror.

In fact, in my own book there are numerous elements of it.  You have a slice of life aspect of it with Eva trying to resolve her relationship with her estranged sister and also trying to work around her family and their foibles. You have the more tense horror moments, such as the Riddler’s cave, or her and her sister being stalked in the library by the unseen creatures.  You have obvious fantasy elements with the dragons and other mythological creatures coming to life. Then you have the mystery aspect of it all. What is the connection of the house to their family?  What part do these worlds play in their lives?   There is a leavening of humour in some characters and relationships e.g. Nancy Widow and Sera and Pudgeon that offers a contrast to the darker elements. I believe if you broke many books down you could find most threads which belong to different genres.

Q: Do you have any tips for new writers?

A: I would recommend you walk round with a small notepad and pen as you never know when you are going to get an idea and there is nothing worse than at having a idea and not have anything to write it down.  It is impossible to keep it in your head.  You could have the perfect passage which writes itself there and then.  If you are writing a big trilogy or big story write it all down as to how you are going to resolve everything. Spending all that time with book one and book two and have it all collapse at the end is disastrous.

Q: Do you have a preferred writing schedule

A: With Aspersers and dyslexia no not really. I tend to try and write an hour a day.  Even it is for five minutes.  It is feeling that motivation and I appreciate a lot comes out of self-motivation.  Don’t have too much to say on that really.

Q: What is your greatest joy in writing?

A: My greatest joy in writing is capturing that scene, capturing that moment and having it come across in such a way so that there is no doubt in anyone’s mind what your intention was.  For example writing a really romantic scene where two lovers have not seen each other for years and who thought their relationships was going to end are reunited, and maybe after a journey together actually finally admit how they feel about each other. Having that scene come together with atmosphere and wonderful writing which brings it to life and makes it have a profound impact on the individual’s psyche. Or, likewise coming to an end of a really arduous chapter can be a joyous relief.  For me the greatest joy is crafting the story, crafting the character and becoming so intimate with them and knowing their foibles.

Q: What the best compliment you have received from a reader

A:  The best compliment I can get from any reader is for them to be able identify with characters and genuinely mean it.  Not just have it be some throw away remark, but sincerely feel that away a character. I was lucky enough to get that. I received an e-mail from a reader and they told me they’d love the character of Jane’s character. That was a great thing for me to feel.  This gave me to a great sense of confidence in my ability, which is a nice alterative to how I usually feel.

Q: What is the worst comment from a reader?

A: That they liked the story.   I know that seemed like an odd to say, but the problem they didn’t expand. Simply saying “I like it,” doesn’t give anything to work with. What did you like?  It is such a broad word and there is nothing you can extract from it, not meaningfully anyway.  All you can do is speculate and there is nothing really to be gained from that, because the speculation can be endless.  I want concrete facts or points, so I can see the complainant (or compliment) and evaluate it.

I tend to think I am pretty open about my work.  If you can point out a genuine point against me not based on your own personal bias but something that is real, such as the twist here is very clumsy and here is why. Then I can learn from that. Most everything, particularly writing, is governed by principles and rules, and if you can present to me a case against my writing which I can’t argue against; at least, not compellingly so, or my entire argument pivots on my own ego, then I have to concede that you are right and have to change it or discuss it with you to see if we can form a happy marriage with two ideas or visions.

When I get a comment that is so uninspiring “I liked it” or “I disliked it”.  There is nothing to really gain from it no insights, nothing.  I would rather have a really bad review provided the person lists why they hated the book so much. If they can give the reasons why they despised it, then I can learn and hopefully evolve from that.  In that, there is something valuable.

Q: Writers are influenced by things that happen in their lives, are you?

A: Oh yeah, absolutely, I mean Ryan’s story, touched on briefly as it is, is one such case. His feeling of helplessness, trying to keep himself steady and make sense of everything that is going wrong in his life, is similar to how I’ve often felt, although, I am happy to report I have not experienced anything quite as harsh as Ryan did. There is an affinity although our personalities are different.  Your life, and the events that had shaped it, are another source of inspiration. I think most writers draw on their personal experiences.

Q: Other than writing what else do you like?

A: Music and video games.  I actually design games in my spare time, although it is a very demanding practice and discipline that I don’t get as much time to work on it as I would like to.  From sprite animation to drawing the background and composing the music is very challenging task. And those are just small projects.

I also love music.  I tend to be open to anything that I have a really special part in my jazz, heavy metal, blues, folk and rock music.  I actually have a big CD collection.  The last time I checked I believe my CD collection was over 1,500, nearer to 2000, and my games video collection is over 700.  I like collecting things.  I think that is down to the Aspergers, as I do like having them presented and organised in certain ways.  I also, unsurprisingly, collect books.

Q: Did you have your book professionally edited before publication?

A:  Sadly no, I was going to but it was money more than anything else so I had to rely on myself.  I would please advise readers not to be scared of that notion as I did put a lot of time into editing it.  You might spot a few punctuation errors, but it’s not terrible, or so reviewers have told me. At least I hope it isn’t.  Go and look at the previews on Amazon and make a decision from that.

I was with Chicken House for a while. I was working with them on the book and I got to a level it was going to handed over to their editor, but then, at the last minute, I got let go due to the adverse nature of the publishing market in the recession.  They did provide me with insightful and valuable feedback that allowed me to revamp the tale and they were very supportive.

That was extremely depressing, as I’m sure anyone can imagine. I have to confess that the lack of a professional editor is something that does keep me up at night.  I hope the work is strong enough for people past this and read the first two chapters which are available on Amazon.

Q: If you were stuck on a desert island with one person, who would be it and why?

A:  David Attenborough. Why? Simply because, if I’m stuck on an island, we can wander around and marvel at animals and plants and I can listen to him narrating everything to me.

Q:  What are you plans for the future?

A:  I am going to keep writing.  I am going to continue crafting stories for my readers.  Hopefully people will be interested in buying the book and spread the work so I can earn a living off it.  At least that is my hope

Q: What five books would you take to heaven?

A: Five? Only five? Sorry I couldn’t even possibly begin to do that. I have a hard time narrowing it down to one hundred and even then I don’t rank them.

Q:  Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

A:  I think all of my characters carry part of me, whether it’s an idealised form or something I can resonate with.  Jane deals with her problems by burying herself into her work, that’s something I do. Eva’s turbulent frustrations and anger is similar to how I can be.  Serra’s temperamental moods are something to which I can very much relate.  I think each of the characters has something you can trace back to me.

Q:  Do you ever feel like quitting?

A: Yeah, its one of the nasty little thoughts that constantly gnaws at me. With the dyslexia I often feel as if I shouldn’t be, as if I’m masquerading. I always have that doubt dogging me and constantly peering over my shoulder.

Q:  What should readers walk away from your books feeling?

A:  I hope they will want to continue with the series.  Hopefully they will become endeared to it. Perhaps they’ll love Zen because the find him cute, they might become endeared to Sera as they like the subversion of her tropes.  They might like Pudgeon, or perhaps find something about Ryan they really appreciate.  Ultimately I want them to walk away from this book caring about these characters and where they are going.

Q: What is your ultimate dream?

A: Simply put, my ultimate dream would just to become a hugely successful author or games designer.

Q:  Anything you would like to add?

A: Yes, thank you.  I don’t know how well of an account I have given of myself as this is first I have done something of this nature.  I also understand me saying that I am dyslexic and saying things like I do not have professional editor might turn some of you off, but I would please urge you to please give my book at chance.  It might surprise you I know when you look at the blurb about it and think it sounds very clichéd and it sounds very familiar and that is intentional I assure you.  Give it a try, give it a download on your Kindle, smartphone, tablet, or computer.  You might be surprised.  I would just ask you to give it a chance, give me a chance to prove my worth to you, prove that I can do this.

Thank you very much.

Clancy's comment:Wow! Well done, Peter! Love ya work! Excellent interview. It's been an absolute pleasure. Keep going.

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