28 September 2014 - ALLAN GRAHAM - Guest Author


- Guest Author -

G'day folks,

Welcome to the life and times of another author from the UK - Allan Graham.

Welcome, Allan ...

1. Tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey.  When and how did you become a writer?

1 & 2. I’ve always had the yearning to write from an early age. I have dabbled with writing    but I never had the time to devote to it due to work and family life. A few years ago I  attended a weekly meditation class. I used to read out a “Thought For Today” that I had written and snippets of information I had researched and composed. They always went down extremely well and the members of the class urged me to start  writing. I then lost my small business and we were almost homeless. Writing became my refuge. It helped me to get through the pressures of life at the time. Out  of curiosity, I attended a Shamanic evening. I found it thoroughly interesting and I read more information on the subject. Months later the idea for a series of children’s  novels, featuring children travelling to different dimensions via the beat of a Shaman’s drum, materialised in my head. 

That is how the Tom O’Kell series of novels were born. I am on my 3rd novel in the series. I have the idea for a 4th novel  in the series, set in a Babylonian or Egyptian dimension and featuring lots of Ancient  Knowledge. I don’t know how many novels will be in the series yet. I find that poetry just drops into my head from time to time. I don’t set out to write it, it just appears. I also wrote a light-hearted play on Mediumship, called Spirit. This was the first of my  writings. After becoming unemployed I would travel into Manchester and sit in the Royal Exchange Theatre with my writing pad, where I would spend the day writing my play. I also have the outline and plot for a book about a serial killer with a    difference. I don’t know if I will ever get the time to write this. I want to spend the next few years concentrating on Tom O’Kell.

3. What type of preparation do you do for a manuscript?

 I get an idea for a story in my head and I will do some research on information needed for the story and then I create a skeleton outline of the plot, from start to finish. I then start to write but, as I write my characters begin to take control of the path that the story takes and I veer away from most of my original outline. I do further research on required information as the story progresses. 

4. What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

I enjoy using my imagination and becoming attached to my characters. It amazes me how they take on a life of their own and take over the storyline.

5. What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

There are so many writers out there. It’s a million to one chance that you will ever get noticed. I am my worst critic and it can be depressing at times but you have to believe in yourself and encourage yourself to keep going. It’s a bit like running a marathon.

6. What were you in a past life, before you became a writer?

I worked in I.T. for 38 years, mainly on Unix System Administration. I come from generations of miners but, thankfully, my Dad said he would never let his son go down the mines.  I always wanted to work with my hands, a bricklayer or some outside work, but I ended up working in I.T. I never really enjoyed the work but it paid the bills and I enjoy solving problems and helping people.

7. What is your greatest writing achievement?

I’ve never won any prizes for writing, but Dr Dahlia Wasfi, a motivational anti-war speaker and a War Veterans Group read some of my anti-war poetry and contacted me requesting to use the poetry. Dahlia Wasfi said they sent shivers through her body. Also, last year, while my wife was in a coma on life support, I wrote a poem for her to read if she ever woke up. During a visit to the hospital, I saw one of the nurses reading the poem and she was crying. Thankfully, my wife did wake up from the coma.

I was interviewed in London a couple of months ago for an internet TV Channel and, again, when I read some of my poetry in the studio one of the ladies listening had tears running down her cheeks. To touch someone’s heart with my words is very inspiring for me.

8. What are you working on at the moment?

Currently I am writing the 3rd novel in the Tom O’Kell series - Tom O’Kell & The Papanuk .These are stories of Fantasy/Horror interlaced with sadness and humour, in which the children travel to other dimensions via the beat of a Shaman’s Drum. Tom’s Father was tragically killed in the 1st novel but Tom discovers his Father is stuck between dimensions and there may still be a chance that he can save him. However, to make his task more difficult, Tom finds that he is in a battle with the Devil in His quest for Eternal Infinity and the Devil will kill anyone who dares to stand in His way.

 In Tom O’Kell & The Papanuk, the children travel to a dimension of Native American culture. The Papanuk is a Messiah figure who lives amongst the Chicuan tribe. The Chicuan, a peace loving tribe, share this dimension with the Kalamon, a tribe of evil cannibals, who worship their dark God, Kinta-Ketzel. The Papanuk has a vision of  Armageddon visiting the Chicuan Nation and the children soon find themselves caught up in a final battle between these two tribes. Like the 1st two novels, I try to end every chapter on a cliff-hanger and the end of the story won’t be what anyone is expecting.

9. What inspires you?

 I get inspiration for my stories from the Paranormal, from Conspiracy Theories, from Ancient Knowledge and from the Spiritual side of life.

10. What genre do you write?

I write Children’s Horror/Fantasy. 10 - 16 years olds but anyone who is young at heart will enjoy them.

11. Do you have any tips for new writers?

Never ever give up, even though you will get rejection after rejection. Try to write from  your heart and from life’s experiences whenever you can. Create characters that  your readers can empathise or identify with. I like misfits in society, they are far more colourful  and interesting. Try to keep your audience guessing. Have them itching to turn over  the next page and wanting to read the next chapter and, of course, your next book. Create your own style of writing. One last, very important thing - don't ask your friends or family what they think of your writing. Ask a stranger.

12. Do you suffer from writer's block? 

Occasionally. I find it best to switch the computer off then and to just leave it. It may take a day, a week, or a few months. I just need a break from it to get the imagination going again.

 13. Do you have a preferred writing schedule?

No. Sometimes I can get up at 4am and write and other times last thing at night. Then again, it can be during any part of the normal daily working hours. When I go to bed I think about my story and where it will go. I usually fall asleep doing this and hope that my subconscious mind will be working on it while I sleep.

 14. Do you have a favourite writing place?

I sit at my Mac in the living room. It would be lovely to have a large house by a river or a lake, but I’m not that fortunate.

 15. What is your greatest joy in writing? 

Writing takes me into another World, where I can forget my cares and worries and I can lose myself in my characters’ adventures. It gives me hope for a better future for my family.

 16. Who is your favourite author and why?

That’s an unfair question. I have a lot of favourite authors. If I had to pick one then, just because I love the Rumpole character and his humour, it has to be John Mortimer.

 17. What's the greatest compliment you ever received from a reader?

I’ve had one reader email me telling me that she couldn’t put the books down and saying that the names of my 3 Satanic witches, Gildrude, Humphag and Gildrude, in Tom O’Kell & The Shaman’s Drum, wouldn’t be out of place in a work by Shakespeare. Only their names that is - not the writing. Then, as I’ve mentioned, some of my poetry has caused people to cry. Maybe I’ve got the wrong end of the stick though and they are crying because it’s so poor.


18. What was the worst comment from a reader?

All of those rejection emails from agents and publishers. They were definitely right though. I actually re-wrote my 1st novel. I found I had developed my own style of writing halfway through the novel, so, after 20 rejections I spent a few months reading the novel again and again. Then I ripped it apart and wrote the 1st half of the book all over again. Those rejections were the best thing that happened to me.


19. Writers are sometimes influenced by things that happen in their own lives, are you?

Yes, definitely. Once you’ve been through grief you can draw a lot of emotion from your experiences. To have loved and to have lost are great tools for any writer. I also like to try to make people smile so I draw on happy or funny experiences.


20. Other than writing, what else do you love?

My wife first. I have to get that in. I love watching Rugby League and Rugby Union, but mainly League. I enjoy fishing when I get the chance. Obviously reading. Live theatre.  

Taking our 2 labradors for a walk and sitting on the hillside thinking of my next lines, while they run about chasing their tails.

 21. Did you have your book/books professionally edited before publication?

I would love to have my books professionally edited but I can’t afford it. I keep reading them and reading them until I have corrected my mistakes. It does get a bit tedious and I get, what I term, “comma blindness”.


22. Describe your perfect day?

My perfect day would be for myself and my wife to be lazing in hammocks on a beautiful sun-kissed beach, listening to the waves gently lapping the shoreline. Heaven!


23. If you were stuck on a desert island with one person, who would it be?

Muhammad Ali. He was my sporting hero in my youth. He is intelligent, witty and brave and above all he is a man who sticks by his principles. When he was imprisoned for his beliefs he became more of a hero than ever. He really is The Greatest.

 24. What would you say if you had the chance to speak to World leaders?

I wouldn’t talk to the World Leaders. I would talk to the little children of this World. I would tell them that the World Leaders aren’t really leaders at all, that they are just the servants of the people who own this World - ie: The Rothschilds, the Rockerfellers, the Royal Houses of Europe and the Middle East etc.. - and that it is pointless voting because the people you vote for do exactly what they are told to do, irrespective of the lies they have promised you. I would tell the little children not to follow man-made religions, not to enlist in the armed forces, not to believe the propaganda in the Mainstream Media, not to believe the brainwashing they are subjected to in classrooms. I would tell the little children that they are the ones to bring about change, NOT the politicians, and that the future of this World lies in their hands and to make sure it’s a World worth living in for everyone, not just the privileged few.

25. What are your plans for the future?

My future plans are to keep writing and to be happy.

26. What five books would you take to heaven?

Well first of all I'd better double check that I'm going there! My five books would be: 

The Biggest Secret by David Icke 

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

Tess Of The d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy 

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks 

The Rumpole Omnibus by John Mortimer

 27. Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

I haven't introduced an alcoholic, schizophrenic, manic depressive trainspotter yet so the answer is No. I am not in any of my characters, but some of the emotions that I have gone through are.

 28. Does the publishing industry frustrate you?

I don’t really know enough about the Publishing Industry but I suppose they don’t take enough chances on unknown writers, sticking instead to the already established writers who are proven to sell books, along with biographies of well known faces from Television, Film & Sport.

29. Did you ever think of quitting?

Yes, after my initial rejections on my 1st novel but, as already stated, it was a blessing in disguise. It made me re-evaluate what I had written. They were absolutely correct. It was rubbish, so I ripped it apart and wrote it again. It’s an excellent story now. I still get my down days when I think this is pointless as no-one is ever going to read my novels, but then I think of the hard work that I have put into my writings in the past 3 years and I think “so what” I’m really proud of my creations and I enjoy writing them.

30.  What was your favourite manuscript to write? Why?

I am really enjoying writing the latest novel - Tom O’Kell & The Papanuk because my characters are more alive now and the 3 misfits, Anaemic Ben, Mad Mick and Agatha Sparrow are taking a more prominent role. I have also introduced, Manitaku, Chief Watanu’s boy-girl son and I am trying to convey the feelings of him being a girl trapped inside the body of a boy. In this novel, there is going to be an ending that no one would expect. I always have a surprise ending but this ending is going to be even more of a surprise.

31. How would you define "Success" as a writer?

Success to me is writing a piece of work that you are proud of, irrespective of it being published or not.


32. What should readers walk away from your books knowing? How should they feel?

My readers should feel they have just read a cracking good adventure that they couldn’t put down. I hope I have taken their emotions on a journey of horror, sadness and laughter and left them surprised, eager to join Tom and his friends in the next novel in the Tom O’Kell series.


33. How much thought goes into designing a book cover?

I have a very good friend who designed the cover for my 1st novel. The cover for the 2nd novel was something I created myself. I would love to be able to pay for a professional designer but I don't have the funds.

 34. What's your ultimate dream?

My dream would be to see Tom O’Kell become as famous as Harry Potter. To see his adventures transformed into films and musicals. I can dream can’t I?


35. Writing is one thing. What about marketing you, your books and your brand? Any thoughts?

I’ve just completed building my website - www.allangrahambooks.com   I have tried to make it very interesting so that people stay on the website and return. Again, I would  love to be able to afford professional marketing but all I can do is try to promote my work myself via social and book websites.

 36. Are your books self-published?

Yes, I self-published my books. I wanted something to show for all of the hard work I have put in. I’m not trying to get picked up by any agent or publisher anymore. It takes me away from my writing too much, and the inevitable rejections just disappoint and depress. I would rather stay focused on developing the Tom O’Kell series of novels.


37. Describe yourself in five words.

Patient, Shy, Stubborn, Amiable, Optimistic

38. What pisses you off most?

Bad manners, lack of respect.


39. What is the title of the last book you read? Good One?

The Prophecy by Chris Kuzneski. It is a mystery/suspense novel. Small chapters ending on a cliffhanger, which is what I enjoy. However, although I enjoyed the novel, the ending was very ambiguous so it spoiled it for me. I will read his other books though as I have heard they are very good.


40. What would be the very last sentence you would write?

And, although Tom and his friends still remembered the chilling curse the bent old hag had spat from her thin cracked lips, they lived happily ever after........Or did they?


41. What would make you happier than you are now? Care to share?

For my wife to have good health and for our family to have a financially secure future.


Clancy's comment: Thanks, Allan. I agree with you about characters. They almost become relatives. Keep going. 

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