- GUEST AUTHOR -
Well, here is an author who is one of the most prolific commenters on this blog. His comments are usually humorous, and often spot on.
Welcome, John ...
1. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
After retirement in 2003 I found myself adapting to not having to work.
Unable to play golf, I discovered a latent passion for writing, which over time became almost an obsession.
2. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I do plan but then the plan changes, and changes.
My first book RELUCTANT HERO was the most difficult. From commencement to completion it took me seven years! I made many mistakes all of which I hope were rectified.
YouTube DC: https://youtu.be/LyONBQFCu4A
3. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Frankly, finishing a manuscript and finally holding the completed book in my hand is a big rush. Most fulfilling.
However the journey, particularly as I have chosen comedy, is a great adventure for me.
Jerry Lewis was an American comedian, actor, director, producer, screenwriter and humanitarian known widely for his slapstick humour in film.
Once in an interview in Sydney, Australia he described being a successful comedian as being a very serious business.
4. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Finishing a manuscript and finally holding the completed book in my hand but again there is that journey; how to make people laugh is an art form, and one that I am working at very hard from many different perspectives.
James Alfred Wight, known by the pen name James Herriot, was a British veterinary surgeon and writer, who wrote a series of books about animals and their owners. His books are considered as works of great comedy. In his autobiography he explains how comedy can be seen in most situations depending on the writer’s perspective.
5. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
Bank clerk, hotelier, driving a 42 seater coach for Scientologists - see SEX, LIES & CRAZY PEOPLE …pest control, fumigation, and timber preservation specialist, company director, and deer farmer.
SEX, LIES & CRAZY PEOPLE - A true life Fawlty Towers! But without Basil.
6. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Self-publishing four books to date.
7. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
My fifth book another comedy: Working title: OH, DEER!
Again fiction – but Inspired by a True Story
8. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Besides true stories, other writers, my family, close friends and sometimes what I call my SIXTH SENSE or subconscious mind.
9. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
I’ve changed from True Stories to Fiction – but Inspired by True Stories.
Gran used to say, “Fiction’s a waste of time unless you can get a laugh out of it.”
10. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Try and get yourself a contract with a legitimate traditional publisher – but be careful. It’s a jungle out there! Difficult but worthwhile. I came close with RELUCTANT HERO – had a draft contract in my hand but then the publisher withdrew at the very last moment on the basis that a) I was an unknown author, b) the story was about someone who wasn’t famous – and c) the clincher; they might not sell enough copies.
It’s fair to say that none of this was a revelation to anyone, including myself, and at times I wonder what publishers’ are seeking with unknown authors, or if maybe they even know themselves?
Remember publishing is a business same as any other – the bottom line is all-important – the author’s style and writing ability are secondary to the profit motive - in my opinion.
11. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
All of the time.
Particularly as I enjoy writing comedy.
How to make a sentence funny? It’s not always easy or obvious, but that’s my challenge.
12. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I prefer mornings to afternoons so as not to interfere with our Happy Hour…
Happy Hour has been known to be flexible, depending upon our mood, the weather, and what’s on the menu for dinner.
13. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
Yes – my wife calls it, “Your bunker” – it is in fact my study – because I have everything there to hand and so it’s most convenient. I often use my SONY note taker for ideas.
14. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
It’s a bit like hunting for the Holy Grail…those occasions when you lose track of time and the morning flows so quickly because you’re on a roll…suddenly it’s Happy Hour time…
15. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I don’t really have a favourite author over others but I do enjoy the work of many.
16. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
I was flattered when told by a traditional publisher that Reluctant Hero was that rare creature, a book not afraid to be honest about war, but immensely readable and entertaining as well. Unfortunately, despite that compliment they passed on my work.
Many readers have praised it as one of the best anti-war books they’ve ever read.
I’m very happy with that. What a tribute that is to the aircrews that never came home.
Both Tripping Over and Sex, Lies & Crazy People are so entirely politically incorrect throughout. So much so that readers are encouraged to read the PREFACE before the books.
That’s to avoid accusations of me being in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act, which by now I believe should have been revised, to better suit Australians!
With Tripping Over I’ve been told it’s hilarious! I’m very happy with that.
Sex, Lies & Crazy People. One reader told me that she laughed so much that she nearly fell out of bed!
17. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
Someone read Reluctant Hero and wrote to say that my Dad was not patriotic enough to King and Country. He took the trouble to point out that people trudged miles in Australia just to sign up and salute the flag and that my Dad’s attitude was entirely wrong. I wrote back and thanked him for taking the trouble to comment, and apologised on behalf of my Dad if he’d been offended. I also suggested that as my story was based in England, the thought processes there might have been different to down-under? Thankfully, that was the only detrimental comment I’ve ever received about Reluctant Hero.
Although the Beenleigh RSL banned Reluctant Hero from their history shelves for the same reason – too honest about war and not Rah Rah enough.
A friend read Tripping Over and asked me where the funny bit was? I scored him “0” on the giggle scale. He hurried to tell me that he thought Reluctant Hero was the best book that he’d ever read but emphasised how disappointed he was with Tripping Over. Again, I thanked him for his honesty and expressed my sorrow that my humour in Tripping Over had not appealed to him.
Humour is a very subjective emotion. What makes one person laugh might not appeal to another.
To date I’ve had little or no feedback about Sex, Lies & Crazy People, which is not overly encouraging, but understandable with global sales of less than 300 copies.
18. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Very much so. That is why my fiction is inspired by true stories.
I would like to pay a special tribute to my Gran, Lily, who never lived to see any of my published work, but who if she had would have been 120 this year. You were always the spark, Gran.
You lit the flame that burns in these books with that Remington typewriter on my tenth birthday.
19. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Does eating and drinking alcohol count?
I love my family. I’m devoted to Carole, my wife of 52 years. She has always been there for me, and our two children, who are grownup people now. We are all foodies.
Carole tolerates my obsession, which is writing. She’s been a model of calm and reassurance. She once said, “Being married to you was nothing like I expected - but has been interesting.” I have never delved into that remark. Maybe some things are best left unsaid?
We love where we live and I enjoy my life. Our friends are supportive of what I do.
As I’ve become older I’ve also mellowed some. Maybe become more tolerant?
I do enjoy peace and quiet.
I don’t like too much noise, too many crowds, or queuing.
20. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Yes. I have had two editors. The first was Tricia Eban. Tricia is Fiction Editor for SCOPE a monthly magazine of Fellowship of Australian Writers (Qld) Inc - of which I was a member.
More recently I met Linda Daniel when she was Editor for In House Publishing.
Linda has proved not only to be honest and sincere with her criticisms but her integrity, consistency, and fairness have easily brought out the best of details that I’d missed.
Linda really has put her heart and soul into editing draft after draft after draft – ad nauseam.
21. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Besides banking a huge Lotto cheque – I wish, or having to turn down repeat invitations to appear as an author guest on ABC TV – waking up in the morning best qualifies.
Otherwise, besides dreaming of writing the world’s finest novel, which of course I may already have done – we’re back to a perfect day, begins with waking up!
22. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
Captain James Cook.
Because I’m sure he’d get us home.
23. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
I don’t think that there’s much that can be said that hasn’t been said already.
Why not quote a line by my Gramps from Reluctant Hero about WW2?
He said, “It’s been proven throughout history, it’s not a real war unless someone’s making a good profit. I’ll bet this one will turn out to be a real doozy.”
24. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
To keep writing for as long as I’m able.
That depends to a very great extend on the gift of time.
My Dad used to tell me everyone has one book in him or her. I’ve written four to date; Reluctant Hero, Tripping Over, Sex, Lies & Crazy People and Living Upside Down.
My next working title is Oh Deer! After that hopefully more books!
25. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
I don’t know. I have four book trailers on YouTube but I haven’t noticed any conspicuous spikes in sales. Maybe they’re the wrong book trailers?
26. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
I appeared at the end of Reluctant Hero.
I’m pretty well the central character throughout Tripping Over, and Sex, Lies & Crazy People. That could be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective of my writing.
It’s fair to say that since I decided to fictionalise - people I have known seem to bear some remarkable similarities to my characters.
27. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Yes – but it’s much the same as any industry in that it revolves around turnover and profits and much of its success, or otherwise, is based on subjective viewpoints.
At least with some other professions – their opinions tend to be more objective.
28. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
All the time – but what else would I do with my time?
My golf remains erratic at best and if I get too close to the ground as in playing lawn bowls – I may have trouble getting up again.
29. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
I’ve enjoyed all four manuscripts to date but I don’t enjoy the process of getting started.
I do enjoy the journey, but would prefer boarding the train, halfway to my destination.
30. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
Ultimately, dosh or financial reward must figure in there somewhere.
I suppose it’s fair to say that the more books you sell, the more popular you think you are. Being a writer if no one reads your work isn’t being much of a writer, is it?
31. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
I don’t write to educate, I write to entertain.
One reader of Reluctant Hero expressed the view that it was amazing how the Allies ever won the war! I agreed with her that if it hadn’t been for the sacrifice of the USA we may have all ended up speaking German or Japanese!
Many wars are like that. Case in point the Spanish Armada in 1588 during the reign of Elizabeth I of England. If the wind hadn’t changed direction when it did…?
Then, again, and it’s a frightening thought that both Japan and Germany have prospered economically and are both more successful today than we are in OZ.
Not much of a legacy for all the poor bastards who made the ultimate sacrifice, is it?
Since then I have switched my attention to writing comedy.
32. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
Very few authors would not want to see their work on the big screen, but I’m sure there are probable pitfalls; what if the movie bears little or no resemblance to your book or disappoints?
Beggars the question of motivation – are we talking art or money?
I’ve not yet written a screenplay but I am writing a stage play.
It’s a comedy production to be held at our Palm Lake Resort, Eagleby in March 2019.
I hope that the audience approve of my writing and refrain from throwing rotten vegetables at me. Here’s to not buggering it up!
33. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
Heaps of thought and effort and money.
Besides input from family and friends - the main work of my cover designs was undertaken by professionals.
Reluctant Hero was designed by the talented Andy McDermott at Publicious.
Tripping Over was the inspiration of Luke Harris at Chameleon Print Design.
Sex, lies & Crazy People was the graphic design team at InHouse Publishing.
Living Upside Down was by Working Type Design, and the cover illustration was by Pawel Nowacki.
34. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
To continue enjoying the gift of life and being happy.
35. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
I’m told that marketing books today is all about social media.
My brand is me - John Hickman.
I’m still trying to understand Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and quite where they fit in.
36. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
37. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Another older failed human being.
38. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
Politicians, liars, cheats, thieves, dishonesty, criminality…actually I’m repeating myself.
Politicians sum it up!
Self-serving, egoistical, toe rags!
What we want in OZ are more unemployed politicians.
And the politicians that we do have should get less perks. Because they have served – why do we support them until they die? It’s a rort.
39. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
Truth or Die by James Patterson & Howard Roughan.
40. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
Can I go around again, please? But knowing then what I know now.
41. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
I’m a pretty grumpy bloke who tries to be happy.
I’d be over the moon if we found a cure for cancer.
My mother was taken at 39 years of age, which was before she finished her dance. Tragic.
(See TRIPPING OVER)
World Peace would make me cry with gratitude but that’s not likely to happen due to the greed and corruption involved on such an enormous scale.
In the meantime let’s do unto others as others would do unto us - but get in first!
OR make love - not war, people!
Laughter is the best medicine!
42. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Thank you for interviewing me, Clancy.
My editor asks, “Please LIKE Books By John Hickman on Facebook!”
My new website is coming soon:
You can find John at:
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OR on TWITTER at: WriterJohnH
Clancy's comment: Great to have you onboard, John. Keep writing. I must grab a few of your books and have a chuckle.