- GUEST AUTHOR
AND POET -
Today, I interview a man who lives in my favourite country - Thailand, and I do hope to catch up with him in a few months. He is a man with more than 30 years' experience in teaching English language and literature to students and adults. Fluent in Italian, mother tongue English. Passable in spoken Thai. French & Spanish understood, degreed in honours English. Poet and novelist. Keen ornithologist in Asia and Europe.
Welcome, Jonathan ... Sawasdee khup,
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I started writing poems in my teens. I became over-interested in writers, their lives and their work. They became companions, too. I wrote to console myself. In my twenties I wrote poems, novels and short stories. Some poems won prizes. I stopped writing in my thirties and forties, but came back to words in middle age by which time the muse had departed.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I became a writer in my teens and twenties. I wrote to console myself and to order chaos.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
The creative process varies for me but I never plan meticulously. I often have a central idea or with a novel an awareness of its overall intention, that is my overall intention, too.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
The idea of creating something beautiful and worthwhile.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
For me it’s lack of recognition or the struggle to get people to read me.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I was possibly a Thailand traveller in some form or another. Thailand is where I have lived for fifteen years and despite problems and racism I’d prefer to stay here rather than go back to Europe.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Some of my poems?
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I’m revising and editing a collection of essays, stories and blogs about Pattaya, that extreme city on Thailand’s eastern seaboard where I live.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Some poems and novels, myself, the city where I live – Pattaya.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
Mainly fiction now.
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
There are all the usual tips out there : write, read, write, edit, select after collecting, don’t get too discouraged, but if I had one thing to say I would say there are too many books out there, so read the greats, and read them again unless you feel you just want to write one genre (like space sci-fi) but then for me you are already “lost” because you have opted out of the real task, the writer’s duty, which is to present a recognisable world in a heightened and intelligent manner. That’s real enlightenment, real endeavour, but as you will have realised I’m old-fashioned and moralistic. Jane Austen would have agreed with me, though (and a few others!).
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
No, but as mentioned I stopped writing for years for personal and economic reasons.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
No. Where I am wherever that is.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
Shakespeare. He’s compressed, dynamic, a poet, not somebody repetitive, dogged, and habitual.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
A comparison to Dickens, recognition of literary tradition in my poetry, acknowledgment of originality.
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
Refusal to read my work, quotes out of context, indifference.
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Yes, all the time.
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Good books, swimming, bird watching, fishing, my son, my adopted granddaughter.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
No. I did them myself having corrected university essays for more than twenty years.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
I’m afraid I can’t.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
The temptation is to answer: myself. The other temptation is to opt out of answering the question because my choice of person would depend on what type of desert island I ended up on.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Can you listen to me for a while and set aside your plans for the day, your self-importance, your lust for power…? That sort of thing…
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I’m sixty-seven in May. I need to stay healthy. I need to consider what plans to give priority to.
26. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
Yes, I suppose they do.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
I did quit. I stopped writing for decades.
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
Poetry : “The Nothing-Lyre”. Prose : “Collected Selected Words” (now retitled “Sexy Thai Bar Girls And Me : Sex Adventures In Asia” / “Great Tits I’ve Known (And Other Species)”). The poem was easy and defines a personal moment. The novel was therapeutic and fun.
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
Writing well, from the heart. Having people interested in your work.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
They should somehow feel enriched. They should think about life not in the abstract. They should know more about me.
33. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
I wrote a play for theatre many decades ago. I think some of my books could be filmed.
34. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
The self-publishing world stresses the importance of excellent, attractive, appealing cover-design. I have tried to give a lot of thought to covers and with the help of a friend I have progressed a bit, I think, but overall I do opt out because words are my task.
35. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
I’m sixty-seven. I love Shakespeare. How can I have an ultimate dream? If pushed, I want God to exist without all the polemic and the dire problems that kill Him (but remember “We are such stuff / As dreams are made on and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep.”).
36. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
Marketing is overwhelming. It devours time. The book publishers out there help the authors they select. They have a vested interest in their authors selling. If you are on your own, then of course try all the channels if you have stamina, time, and expertise (or even if you don’t, I imagine you should try them).
37. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
Well, last century, no. This century, yes.
38. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Dedicated. Committed. A word-lover.
39. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
Difficult to answer. You need to be extremely self-aware to answer this one with a modicum of intelligence. In the end, it’s probably me that pisses me off the most – and so that sense leaves me in the mire.
40. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
41. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
The people I’ve seen dying don’t get round to it, so I will imagine I am in good health, concluding my last work of literature. The very last sentence would be “Well, I suppose I’m glad that’s over. I can now even read the stuff once again.”
42. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
Knowing the Asian child I live with now has a better life than many of the girls I meet in Pattaya (Thailand). This answer could well change in the future. That’s what it’s all about, getting answers “right” even in a context, in a moment of time - unfortunately.
43. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Don’t judge a book by its cover (?).
Clancy's comment: Many thanks, Jonathan. I look forward to having many chats with you in Thailand.