31 March 2015 - DAVID K. BRYANT - Guest Author


DAVID K. BRYANT

- Guest Author -

G'day folks,

Welcome to an interview I conducted with a man who spent time in Australia as a child, but now resides in the UK. 

Welcome, David ...





1.    TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.



One of the biggest thrills of my life has been taking up my new pastime of writing books. I would never have guessed it could be so stimulating and satisfying. I was a journalist and public relations executive so I should have realized earlier that my penchant for the pen could be extended to authorship but that actually took until I was 68 years old.


I’ve been married to Stephanie for 40 years. We have a son Matthew and daughter Melanie. Our grandson Henry is two and a half and on January 9th, 2015, I got the delightful news that our second grandson Toby had arrived in the world.





2.    WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?



I had my first go at a book some time in the 1970s. It had been in my head since childhood that a prequel was needed to the great classic, Treasure Island. So I wrote one. I wasn’t impressed with it, put it in a drawer and forgot about it. Then years later, my schoolboy son Matthew read Treasure Island and I told him I’d written the prequel. At his request I read it to him. When he was in his 20s he asked to read it again. I was ashamed to give him the old sub-standard job so I started writing it all over again. This time I did all the historical research and gradually put together a bunch of characters and a plot that, I thought, worked. It became my first published book, “Tread Carefully on the Sea”.





3.     WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?



I get an idea for the premise, then think about the people who would be involved. From that, I start writing with no idea where the story’s going to go. Half the fun is finding out for myself what’s going to happen. I try to draw believable characters, put them in situations and then I talk to them. I ask them how they would react in those circumstances. They answer me and the action follows from that. It might lead to tragedy or a happy ending. I won’t know until I get there. So it’s rather like writing the book and reading it at the same time.





4.    WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?



The moment of breakthrough when you know you have a story that is plausible, fits together and can be completed. It seems to come at about halfway through constructing the book.





5.    WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?



The time and effort it takes. When I was a journalist I could knock out a 1000-word story in maybe half an hour. Books are much bigger animals. They need a massive amount of concentration and staying power.







6.    WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?



I had a good career. I was in the team that launched one of the UK’s first computer-prepared daily newspapers. Later I moved from journalism into public relations and had the privilege of working on behalf of Margaret Thatcher. I promoted one of her revolutionary parliamentary Bills and I also handled communications with the world’s media after the bombing in Brighton that so easily could have killed her.





7.    WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?



Getting “Tread Carefully on the Sea” published. It took about a year to do so and I’m grateful to Solstice Publishing for taking it up.





8.    WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?



Three more books (yes all at once). They’re all historical novels but the similarity ends there. The one nearest completion is a story set in ancient Rome. Like “Tread Carefully on the Sea”, it took an enormous amount of research. It’s based around actual events as recorded by the Roman chronicler, Livy. Another of the books is set in the 1960s, a decade rightly known for its social revolution. But there was a darker side: everyone thought the world was about to end and the drama takes place against the background of the UFO hysteria of that time. The third book is a police/crime thriller set in the 1970s.





9.    WHAT INSPIRES YOU?



I think writing fiction gives an opportunity to get the world in perspective. You have to understand your characters and through them you can better understand people in the real world.





10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?



Historical fiction.





11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?



Don’t give up. If you have a story in your head, it deserves to be written – and you won’t rest easy until it’s done.



See it as fun – because there will be plenty of times when it seems that the challenges are insurmountable. You have to put the book together, find a publisher, edit the book and then, when it’s finally a product, you have to market it. It all calls for patience and perseverance.



Don’t think you’ve finished the book when you write: “The end”. Go over and over it to smarten it up. Take out the lumps and add to the bits that need more clarity. Exterminate repetition. Make sure it’s not disjointed. Get the grammar right and correct the mistakes. Above all, don’t use Grammar Checker – it comes up with nonsense.



Don’t get uppity. Negative behaviour at any stage of the process will rebound on you. No one owes you anything.



Don’t get too proud. Your work can always be improved. Invite constructive criticism from family and friends before submitting for publication. Don’t think your editor is your enemy. Listen to the advice of someone who knows it all better than you do.





12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?



Everybody who invents a story encounters barriers. You just have to patient and the answers will come. Worse than “Writer’s Block” is “Cul-de-sac Block”. That’s when you’ve written reams and reams and you realize that something about the story isn’t working. There’s only one answer: Backtrack to the point where it stopped working and change it. Ask your characters what would be likely to happen. They will speak to you, honest.







13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?



No, I just grab the time when I can. (Unless I’m “Writer” or “Cul-de-sac” blocked!)





14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?



I have what I call my eyrie. It’s a bedroom/study on the top floor of my three-storey house. I sit by the window with the laptop (and spend too much time gazing out of the window).





15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?



Finishing a complete draft. I won’t say “finishing a book” because I don’t think a book can ever be finished. There’s always more that could be done with it. But at some stage, you just have to say: “That’s it. I’ve done my best.”





16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?



The oldest one in the world (I think). He was Homer, author of The Iliad and The Odyssey. I believe those works set the standard for what a book should be and it’s still today’s formula. Scenario, heroes, villains, ups and downs, love, cruelty, tragedy, triumph, conspiracy, tension, what’s gonna happens, fast-flowing prose, all wrapped up in a beginning, middle and end.





17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?



“Particularly well-written adventure. A seafaring one at that, right up my street.”



18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?



So why did I give it four stars instead of the five it almost deserves? I suspect the problem is a habit from the author’s experience in journalism. His invisible, omniscient narrator occasionally breaks into the story and takes center stage, adding bits of information or, worse yet, hinting about what’s going to happen next… it’s deadly in a novel because it breaks the spell, reminding the reader that he’s not actually part of the action or even an observer, but is only reading about it. It’s distancing, and annoying in the extreme...Foreshadowing is necessary, but it needs to be subtle, not done with a sledgehammer.
I should confess that I speak as one who was formerly guilty of the same offense, who has been duly chastised on numerous occasions and is now reformed. Or tries to be.

(By the way, the lady who wrote this still gave the book four out of five stars!)





19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?



In a big way. “Tread Carefully on the Sea” came about because I was mesmerized by “Treasure Island” as a child and wanted to write a sequel.



The book most influenced by my experiences, though, is the crime thriller. I spent some years working with the British police (not as an officer) and drew almost entirely on that background for the book.





20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?



Travel mostly. I do as much as I can for leisure and my career took me to quite a few countries. This is a beautiful world.







21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?



No, and having learned the hard way, I would say to aspiring authors that this is something well worth considering, especially with a first book. After accepting my debut novel, my publisher appointed an editor and I was surprised by what he came up with. It was a valuable exercise but I could have short-cut it by having had the book looked over by an independent editor before I sent it out to publishers.





22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.



Get up late.

Breakfast and coffee in dressing gown.

Bathroom stuff around midday.

Go to beach, forest or mountains.

Have lunch (around 4pm) in a pleasant but not expensive restaurant.

Go home and have a nap (maybe 5.30-6.30).

Do two hours marketing.

Dinner at home at 8.30.

Do four hours writing (9pm-midnight).

Read a good book, sitting up in bed.

Go to sleep at 2 or 3am.





23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?



Elvis Presley. Then I’d be with someone who had a positive nature, a great sense of humor, would buy me a car to get around the island (I presume we’re talking about an island with a Cadillac dealership), and could keep me entertained all day with his songs. Elvis and I would, of course, have a roadside diner shipped in.





24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?



For God’s sake, listen to the people. I live in the UK and I wish we would just tell Europe: “You’re a lovely place to visit but would you please leave a very old, experienced nation (which is not joined to you geographically) to run its own affairs.”







25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?



I’m retired and my plans don’t extend beyond enjoying the freest years of my life. That’s mostly writing books, spending some time on a desert island with Elvis, and travelling with my dear wife, Stephanie.





26. WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?



The ones I could read over and over:



The Odyssey by Homer (charming)

The Early History of Rome by Livy (fascinating and the best historical record of the kingdom, republic and empire)

Warriors of the Dragon Gold by Ray Bryant (my brother)

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

(This one’s cheeky) Tread Carefully on the Sea by Me





27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?



I see bits of myself in all of them. One of the main things about writing a book is that the characters have to be credible and recognizable. So, when you put them into situations, you have to ask yourself: “How would I respond if that happened to me?” However, like most authors, I model characters on people I’ve known. So the other question is: “How would a person like that respond?”





28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?



Oh boy! The industry is changing so quickly that there’s a discord between the old and new-fashioned ways of doing things. When I started out on trying to get my first book published, I trod the traditional route – submitting to literary agents. In my naivety, I imagined hardback copies produced by a major publisher and on sale in bookstores. That would be nice, but how does a new author break into a castle with quillions of established big names? I think you’d have to write it a masterpiece and have an agent recognize that amongst the piles of books sent to him/her every day. So, to cut a long story reasonably short, I submitted to more than 300 (honestly) agents. Some didn’t even reply; some took up to a year to reply (honestly) and none gave any feedback. I then discovered the world of indie books and started sending to publishers who took submissions direct. Bingo! There’s one hell of a lot to learn about this business and I’d be glad to give advice to anyone who needs it. They can contact me through my website www.davidkbryant.com





29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?

Not once.







30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?



Hard question. I’ve enjoyed writing all four that I’ve worked on so far. I will tell you my favorite character, if you like. When I wrote my Roman story, The Dust of Cannae (not yet published), I had this nagging feeling that there was something missing. Then I realized that it was not something, but somebody. This woman came into my head and told me she should be in the narrative. So I obliged. She then told me by telepathy what her role would be and she just kept on driving the story. I don’t think I have a psychic receptor but it really was like someone else had taken control to the extent of becoming a co-author. Maybe she was real and had waited more than two thousand years for her story to be told (?)





31.  HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?



Publication is success, but sales are a bigger one.



32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?



I think they should have been taken to a place which they wouldn’t otherwise have experienced. Plot and characters are crucially important, but so is atmosphere. An author needs to make it possible for his/her readers to visualize everything. The words should become pictures.





33. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?



I can’t speak first-hand because I’m not a designer. I do know that the cover is the only illustration of a novel. It should capture the key ingredients and tell the potential customer whether or not it’s a book for them.





34. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?



To win pots of money.



35.   WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?



This is the crunch point for an author. They are introverts who, when it comes to marketing, have to try to turn themselves into extroverts.

There are many means of marketing and I cringe when I see my author friends recoil from them with the words: “I don’t know anything about marketing,” or “I’m not a natural marketer.” Rubbish. Writing a book is pointless if people don’t read it – and it has to find its niche amongst the million or so books published every year. Get on it, folks. Allocate two hours a day to marketing and if you don’t know how, ask someone who does. You can ask me if you like –






Brand – well I don’t think people should de-humanize themselves. Authors, like anyone else in the public eye, should be approachable, responsive souls.





36.  ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?



No. My only book currently on the market was produced by Solstice Publishing, based in Missouri, USA.





37. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.



Lazy, opinionated, bossy, greedy, moody.





38. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?



People who are lazy, opinionated, bossy, greedy and moody.







39. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?



Polarity in Motion by Brenda Vicars. Here’s the blurb for it:



Fifteen-year-old Polarity Weeks just wants to lead a normal life, but with a mother diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, that’s rarely easy.Her life gets more disastrous when her sixth-period history classmates start ogling a nude picture of her on the Internet. Polarity would never have struck such a shameless pose, but she’s at a complete loss to explain its existence.


Child Protective Services yanks her from her home, suspecting her parents. The kids at school mock her, assuming she took it herself. And Ethan, the boy she was really starting to like, backpedals and joins the taunting chorus.

 

40.  WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?



The End (that’s a joke). Last sentences are really important. They should convey to the reader: “I hope you’ve had a good time here.”





41.  WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?



Being rich. And before anybody says it – being a one-time author is not lucrative.





42.  ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?



Phew!



Best of everything, readers.





Clancy's comment:  Go, David. Loved what pisses you off most! Keep going.

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