- Guest Author -
But it wasn’t enough. The book he’d been putting off for years was burning away inside him. One day he began to write . . . Welcome, Richard. Thanks for sparing the time to be interviewed.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I grew up in quiet, rural Cambridgeshire, England, so as a kid I did a lot of dreaming and wondering about the big wide world. I studied philosophy at university and then went on a one way journey to Asia at 22, keeping a diary of events. I eventually became a teacher, and I’ve taught in three countries, but Bangkok, Thailand has been my main base in recent years, and I’m a university lecturer now.
Eventually I blended my old diaries with my philosophical ideas to create I of the Sun - A Journey into Southeast Asia and the Heart of Human Consciousness. It’s a travel book about my first year on the road, mostly set in Thailand hot spots like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi, Ko Phi Phi and Ko Phangan, as well as neighbouring countries. In addition to your more traditional travel writing, there’s a lot of adventure and partying as you would expect from a young guy travelling alone for the first time. The book also explores philosophical themes about free will, human consciousness and action. The premise asks “Why do we do what we do?” The protagonist sets off on his journey of complete freedom to find out.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I always wrote a lot for school and fun as a youngster. I guess it grew into a desire to write books about the world and any other ideas that came into it. All you got to do then is write.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
For me writing is pure freedom of expression. I love the simple joy of expressing and communicating ideas, both simple and complex. If other people get something positive from it, then the feeling is even better.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
The writing I guess. Long hours of solitary work with nobody to motivate you but yourself. I’m sure many writers are natural writers in the sense that they love the process. However I tend to enjoy more social and multifaceted work, so the self-motivation and single focus of writing can be tough for me. My book I of the Sun is all about free will, the irony of which wasn’t lost on me during periods of intense procrastination.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I have no idea.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
I of the Sun is my first, and so far only book. It took three and a half years to complete, and is based on one year’s worth of diary, so I’m pleased it’s finally finished.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
Book marketing. Loads of work and many new skills to learn to spread the word about the book off and online. The book is available online now, but the official UK release is on the 1st of June, 2013, so getting ready for that and trying to increase my online presence. I have two more travel books partly based on old diaries I’m ready to work on, but I need to grow my audience first, and both books would need some further travels.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
All aspects of life, good and bad. I find reality more interesting than fiction to be honest, so I’m inspired by people, travel and the news. But I do love good quality books, music and film.
WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
I guess for now I’m a travel writer, though I like to think my work has a lot more action than your more passive, observational travel books. I also like to bring in a lot of philosophy and other content into the narrative.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Write. Whatever it is, just get it out, and you’ll naturally develop a feel for the language and different styles of writing. At first, try not to worry about how good what you’ve written is. Just keep ploughing on and don’t look back. You can focus on that later on in editing, after you’ve expressed yourself unfettered the first time round.
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
My writing tends to be non-fiction so I usually know roughly where I’m going when I’m writing. Once I get going I’m usually fine. Starting and getting into the right zone can be hard though.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I don’t really structure my days that tightly aside from work. I think it’s better to write when fairly alert, so after work is not a good time. If I’m in the zone, I can write at any time of day though.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
On my laptop usually in my room, though I tend to move and travel quite a lot so that room could be anywhere. I used to write in pen on paper in bars, but you can get a bit clumsy so I don’t do that with my laptop.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
When you’re on a roll and words combine into beautiful sentences, springing from your fingertips like a fountain and you’re not entirely sure where they came from – yeah, that’s a nice feeling.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
For his subject matters and common sense, George Orwell. Stylistically I love the prose of Henry Miller or Jack Kerouac.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
A reviewer on Amazon who I swear I don’t know said I of the Sun is “One of the best books I've ever read!”
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
Obviously not everyone is going to like your work, but it still took a little getting used to when my book first came out.
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
My book is ‘semi-autobiographical’ so yes, certainly. I tried to cover a broad spectrum of human emotions in the book, so it’s pretty honest and emotionally close to the bone in places. But I hope that readers recognise many of their own emotions through writing about my own.
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Travelling whenever I can. I’m usually based in Bangkok, Thailand so I love to visit the huge variety of places here when I can. I enjoy my job teaching for the most part. I’m not a fan of shopping or collecting things, so most of my money tends to go on travel, entertainment and meeting friends old and new.
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Whilst writing my book I was also learning about the publishing industry, which is still in a huge state of flux right now. It seemed to be very hard for a first time writer to get a publishing deal if they weren’t famous for something else beforehand. So I decided to self-publish without going to any publishers or agents first. I paid for a basic editing service, but the service was limited. So I spent the whole last year, with some very helpful friends, editing and proofing the book over and over again till it was as good I could make it. So no, it hasn’t been professionally edited. It might be a little repetitious in places, but there are barely any errors in the book, and most people are impressed with its overall professionalism.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Great people and good fun in a beautiful location I guess.
IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
I’m still looking for her!
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Perhaps ask them to look back at why they first decided to go into politics, and ask them to compare what they wanted to do then, with what they have done since.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Going to keep pushing I of the Sun this year till I get a larger audience or a mainstream publishing deal. As I mentioned earlier I have two half-done books I’m ready to write properly now, so ideally I’d love to make some money, quit my job, hit the road and write them up full time. Working full time and writing is tough.
WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
I’d take a pen and paper and write Heaven – the book.
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
I think people are mostly made up of the same emotional framework, so I think it’s a good test of empathy to try to see a bit of yourself in everyone you meet.
DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
I haven’t really dealt with them yet. There was a huge amount of work and new things to learn dealing with my self-publishing company in UK, as well as graphic design for the cover. I then did a 1000 book print run here in Thailand to get the ball rolling in the same locations as the book, so had to learn about printing, distribution and physical marketing (as well as physically transporting dozens of books to smaller book shops across the country). And then endless online marketing, social media and videos I‘ve made. It’s a long road!
DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Not in the long term no. But on a day to day basis you can lose motivation and focus.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
I of the Sun. I look forward to giving it some competition soon.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
I guess if you complete what you set out to do and you’re happy with it, that is a success in itself and one that you should be proud of. Going beyond that, I guess most writers want success in terms in sales. Ultimately I would like to reach a large global audience, so I have a lot more to do yet.
WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
I of the Sun is a rollercoaster journey around Southeast Asia, covering various highs and lows of travelling alone, partying hard and pushing oneself to the limit in the spirit of adventure and a love of life. It’s also an intellectual journey into the philosophy, science and history of human consciousness. Ultimately I hope that it’s an uplifting and empowering experience.
HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
My cover took at least six months to do whilst proofing the book, and went through quite a few designers’ hands. At first I was fixated on a circular Sun-like photo my photographer friend took. It looked great but I was eventually convinced by others that I was looking at the cover from the wrong angle – I was obsessed with my own artistic vision, when of course the cover is a marketing device for potential readers to see what kind of book it is, and make it stand out in the marketplace.
WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
Over the next few years to sell a lot of books and/or get a publishing deal. Then write more travel books without a full time job and all the other duties involved in self-publishing. Beyond that I’d like to push myself as a writer by writing some fiction novels and get into film writing perhaps.
WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
It’s tough getting yourself noticed and connecting with people. Books don’t sell themselves, and just having a website or your book on Amazon doesn’t mean anyone is going to see it. You have to connect with others. I’m just starting out and I have a lot to learn, but I guess what I need to do is similar to my earlier problems with my book cover – to try to see my book from a potential customer’s point of view and not my own, and how it could be presented as valuable to them. I haven’t quite got there yet.
ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
I of the Sun by Richard Arthur is available in print and eBook from Amazon and many other online retailers. Check out the website www.iofthesun.com for links to retailers and social media, plus more information and content. Thanks for your time and thank you Clancy for the interview. Have a great day everyone.
Clancy's comment: Thanks, Richard. Anyone who has been to South East Asia will appreciate the work in Richard's book. It has received a great review in the Bangkok Post. Check out his website and read the review below.