- Guest Author -
Welcome to an interview I conducted with an award-winning author from the UK - Alan Place.
Welcome, Alan ...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
Before I tell you about myself, I would like to thank Clancy for the use of his blog today. It isn’t often I get asked to write on a blog, and it means a lot to me.
I was born in North Yorkshire – local government changes have changed the name of the area, to me it will always be Yorkshire – my family moved to the Bristol area in the winter of 1963. I feature the coastal area around where I grew up in a lot of my stories.
My journey started when I was in school, even though I enjoyed sports and was a good swimmer and cricket player, I felt more at home in the library. From an early age, I was able to tell a good story and I learned to read fast for my age. My first publicised story came in my teens, and was for a UK men’s magazine called Knave. Years later I had articles printed in magazines as varied as Country Music People, Froots (Folk Music), Jazzwise, Jazz Review, Trials and Moto-X news and Maverick. I also did a cd review for singer Janie Kirk.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I started to write full-time in June 2011, being bed-ridden with a torn tendon and not being a big TV viewer gave me the opportunity to try and live my schoolboy dream. I started writing “Chronicles of Mark Johnson” for their enjoyment, and before long I had a weekly readership to please. From there my passion flowered and has bloomed fully with the last eighteen months.
WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
That depends on what I am writing, while writing the Pat Canella stories I had to research 1940’s US culture and arms, to ensure the guns in the story were the ones of the time. When I write Chronicles, the writing is free, because the universe in which it takes place is only in my mind. Some of my ghost stories are based on historical events and others on unsolved mysteries.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
The thing I enjoy most about being a writer is at the moment I am free to write when I feel like it.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
One of the hardest things about being a writer is getting publicity -- which is why I thank Clancy for this opportunity – it is fine to have people tell me I have a huge US fan base, but sales don’t prove it to me. The other thing which hurt for a while is false promises, people who say they’ll buy but don’t. I said did hurt because after being lied to for three years, my reaction when I read that is “I’ll believe it when I see the sale.”
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
For fourteen years I worked in the Bristol Museums service. A crime I witnessed during the time is mentioned in my book “Sexual Explosions.” Before that I was in the Royal Air Force for six years.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
My biggest to date is being awarded the Seal and Certificate of excellence for “Chronicles of Mark Johnson” by indiePENdents.org in 2012. I hope to surpass that in March, I have a story in a big Sci-Fi contest in Toronto and hope to get a top six placing in the International event.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
As usual I have a number of projects under way. They include editing “The Descent of Mark Johnson” this is book 2 in the series. I am writing the “Forgestriker” stories which are a hit on Draft2Digital. I have started a story called “Caves of the Undead” which is the follow up to my Amazon hit “Holding Richmond”
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
There is no one thing which inspired me. I can get inspired by anything from a cloud shape to a mystery and from a smoke trail to the behaviour of our cats.
WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
A better answer would be what genres don’t I write. I class as a writer not a genre-writer. I am most known for ghost/horror stories but I have a growing fan base in Sci-Fi, if sales are a measure.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
I would say write what you feel is good for you, and never follow a trend. My big hit “Holding Richmond” came out in the height of the Twilight craze two years ago, at the time I made it clear that these vampires are not (!) sexy young things who sparkle. Two years on and it is still selling regularly. I wanted to be known for my work not a copy of somebody else-I hope you do too.
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
No, fortunately I have not suffered from WB. I do get a block from the other side, my muse is always giving me new ideas for stories, which is why short stories end up being over 20,00 words. One thing which angers me, the attitude of “Paid Writers” who say the block is an excuse for laziness. This is easy to say when you have books in shops or a regular pay cheque, you try telling somebody struggling like me. I got all of $11 last year from Amazon.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I prefer to write through from mid afternoon, mainly because I am a night person and find it easier to work in the night time. So, I tend to rise later.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
I don’t at the moment as my room is so small I have to sit on my bed. The only thing I get jealous of is when I read about authors who say they look out at nature. I have to contend with four walls a washing machine and tumbler drier.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
My greatest joy is somebody liking my work. I had a few e-books returned but on the big picture I think most people enjoy my stories.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I don’t think I have a favourite author. I read across the scope from George Elliot to Cherie Priest and from Dan Abnett to Checkov. I do like the old fashioned adventures of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, in their time so much was to be discovered it was an age of wonderful writers.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
From my editor, Julia, when she said “The Descent of Mark Johnson” was a well written account of a man going through a mental breakdown.
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
One reader – a sixteen year old girl – said “Sexual Explosions” was not at all sexy and the characters were unreal. This comment lead to a mass outrage, the main objection to it being, the girl had not written a story herself, so, how could she criticize me?
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Without a doubt, my life has influenced my writing. My early ghost stories came from trips to my county of birth and from the village I lived in for over 25 years. I wrote a short book about a trip to Canada to see a friend – who has since passed away – and the trip led to my second most popular book on Amazon “Nerja” and its sequel “Glacier of Death.”
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I like most forms of music from classical to rock, and I am fond of the flute and woodwind sound. I love my pets and would be lost without them.
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
The first two or three were edited by Julia, my editor, since she introduced me to AutoCrit I do most of my own editing now to cut more costs.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
To rise to the sound of nature-as I did on my trip to Canada, our house was in a wooded area and it was heaven on earth. After having a short walk to freshen up, to be able to sit quietly and work in peace for a few hours. Before going on a trip to the coast/lake/docks to get the feel of the wind and get inspired to write more.
IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
I would love to meet my Grandfather again, he was a lovely person from what I recall and I never had the opportunity to hear about his life as a fisherman.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Pull your troops out. Let people who wish to fight, fight in their own land and with their own people. Money needs to be spent in your country on your people, we don’t want another Detroit.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
For the near future, I hope to write book 3 in the Chronicles series and more of the “Forgestriker” series and hopefully a sequel to “A Sailor’s Love.”
WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
The first book I read “The Silver Sword” by Ian Serrialier, “On the front line” the biography of the late Marie Colvin, “Silas Marner” by George Eliot, “Native Ghost Stories” by Amos Gideon & Darren Zeno and my own award winner “Chronicles of Mark Johnson.”
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
Yes, I do. Mark Johnson and I share a lot of beliefs and we are both photographers who love our seclusion and the sea. I am also like my character P A Canella, in as much as I wish to be read and yet remain unseen.
DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Yes, it does. In this age of self publishing, I am annoyed that Indie work is still considered cheap and little more than a quick fix of porn. The recent Apple survey did little to quell this image, of the four best selling Indie books, three featured semi-nude covers. How is a serious writer going to get noticed when the world sees those as representing Indies?
DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
About once a month I do, last month I almost took myself off line. I saw my blog reads and worked out the vast array of G+ circles I got put it – against my wishes – then added in the followers and followers of followers on Twitter and thought “What the hell am I blogging for? Out of the thousands of links, I’m lucky to get 20 readers for a blog.” That is the reason I stopped blogging, I only started again in case I get a prize in the contest.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
I think the latest story “A Sailor’s Love” has to be one of my favourites. I liked it so much because it was both a joy to write and to see how I turned a 1,500 word blog for a friend into a 35,000+ word book.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
My definition would be to have people enjoy my work. But, I don’t consider myself a success by a long way having taken 3 years to reach my first month with ten sales in. Perhaps that will change if I get a prize this weekend.
WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
I try not to preach, I leave that to ministers. The main aspects of my writing focus on elements of the unknown and I would say everything may not be what it appears. Also, in my erotica the message is “No matter how sexually charged and explicit my story gets, the men always respect the ladies.”
HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
I take a lot of care choosing images which fit the story, one reason for staying an Indie is I can choose my covers rather than get a bunch thrown at me, which probably have nothing to do with my work.
WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
My dream is to see a book of mine on a shelf in a store.
WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
I do most of my own publicity, it’s a drag and takes time from writing but as I cannot afford a publicist – and probably wouldn’t trust one – I have no options outside of begging favours from friends.
ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
All my books are SP and always will be.
DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
A man of true spirit.
WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
People who say they’ll buy a book and don’t. If you don’t intend to buy, why tell a lie?
WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
The last book I read was “Marcel Proust – a life” by William C. Clarke. In the aspect of social history it was a fascinating glimpse of French life at the time of the Dreyfus Affair. However, as a biography of the man, I have to admit to not finishing the book as I got overtired of reading about Marcel’s asthma and his pompous attitudes.
WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
He died writing.
WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
My next targets are to have a book sell ten copies in a month, to have a month when sales come to more than $10 and to have a book replace “Holding Richmond” as best seller. I would love to win the contest in Toronto, but reality tells me a top six placement is the best hope.
ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
I would like to thank you, Clancy, for allowing me this opportunity to visit the blog. I would like to thank two special friends as well. My close friend Ruth, who never in the last three years doubted my ability as a writer, and my good friend and editor Julia, without whose help I would not be standing on the edge of a new era.
Ladies, I cannot thank you too much for your support and help.
Clancy's comment: Thanks, Alan. It's been a pleasure. I do hope you see ALL of your books on shelves in many stores.
VOTING FINISHES MAY 5.
Think about this!