I met David a few years ago at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in Derbyshire. He immediately struck me as an amiable fellow writer, always willing to share advice. He’s been published in the US, and I’m glad that his books are now coming out with Cloudberry.
The most urgent question first, David. When will your books come out ?
The first three Cloudberry releases are already available as Kindle eBooks on Amazon. The titles are: "King’s Priory", "The Long Road to Sunrise" and "The Gallows on Warlock Hill".These were chosen to be the first to be published by Cloudberry because they make up a trilogy of stories set around families living in the same English village. Three more books will shortly be issued by Cloudberry: The Vanson Curse, Prestwick and Lieutenant St Vincent’s Disgrace.
Why did you begin to write? Was there a specific event that spurred you on?
At heart, I have been a writer since my school days. I have enjoyed a life-long love of books and writing. My home is over-stocked with books. Ten years ago, I retired from Air Traffic Control
with the intention of using my retirement productively. Writing came top of the agenda. At that time, two short romance novels had been published in the UK and I was in the process of writing my first full-length gritty novel. It was published in 2004 under the title A Tangle of Roots by BeWrite Books, a UK small press.
What genre do you write?
I have been very lucky in that none of the four publishers who have taken on my work have insisted I stick to one genre. Some of my books – including the three already on Amazon – have been cross-genre. In other words they have elements of whatever genres are appropriate to the stories. I have written one pure aviation thriller called Prestwick. It utilises my working knowledge of aviation. Look out for it soon on Amazon under the Cloudberry banner. I have also written historical novels including "The Vanson Curse" and "Lieutenant St Vincent’s Disgrace". These are both set in Cornwall. The Vanson family of Cornwall were my ancestors, but the stories about them are pure fiction.
Which do you find more challenging, the process of thinking up a story or the editing?
It is said that writing a novel is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. I have no trouble picking up basic ideas for a novel: the 1%. The ideas are all around us just waiting to be used. The time, effort and sweat lies in the writing and editing process. Once I have completed the first draft, I aim to edit my stories three or four times before I even think about sending them to a publisher. Even then, they are not perfect and they demand more editing before they appear in print. If I had to make a rough estimate, I would say that my working time breaks down into: 1% getting the basic inspiration, 9% drafting out a viable plot, 45% writing the first complete draft and 45% editing before sending the manuscript to a publisher.
Do you have a favourite among your books and why?
"King’s Priory" is probably my favourite. It is a story about a man searching for answers to his present day problems by delving into the life of his grandfather, a WW2 fighter pilot. I like it because it goes some way towards exploring my views about human existence: the idea that we all have a purpose in this life, a reason to learn and help our souls to develop. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a religious or spiritual book in the normally accepted sense. Far from it! It has thrills, romance and mystery in abundance. But there is a subtle underlying theme that transcends the action. If I am ever to be remembered for one book, I would like it to be this one.
How do you fit writing into your daily life?
Being retired, I have no problem organising my writing life. Most mornings I wake up early, between six and seven o'clock, and I think about what I am going to work on that day. I don’t switch on my computer until I have a cup of tea in my hand and I know what I am going to write. I stop work after about an hour, have my breakfast and then go out to buy a newspaper. Then I make a second cup of tea and complete the cryptic crossword. It is now around ten o’clock and I am ready to return to the computer to continue writing. I stop for lunch shortly after mid-day. I will then write for about two or three hours in the afternoon and around two hours in the evening. Variations? Yes. Two days a week my wife and I look after our adorable three-year-old grandson, Henry. He loves to wander into the study, climb up on my knee and ask, “Can I see Henry?” At that point, I clear down the manuscript I am working on and replace it with a home video of Henry.
Should you ever consider changing genre, what would you like to write?
If I had to settle into one single genre, it would probably be Historical. There is so much to be explored in history, so many fascinating events and characters. And the research work is an enjoyable part of the writing process. I have outline plans for a series of stories following one man, a soldier, through the years of WW1. His father was German and his mother was English. He is caught in the middle. There is room in the series for a lot of introspection and soul-searching. I have drafted out the first book. If I find the time to complete three stories, I will offer them as a trilogy. I would rather do that than try to find a publisher for a one-off novel when so many other writers have written excellent single books on the subject.
Which of your senses is most likely to be involved when there’s a first spark of an idea?
A difficult question to answer but let me try. I get my basic ideas from the world around me. Sometimes it is something I see, but more often it is something I read. Maybe it is a newspaper article, a magazine article or a book. Years ago, I read a fascinating book about Amazonian Indian tribes. When I read about explorers taking a child with them on one of their explorations, a question came into my mind. What would happen if such a child was lost in the Amazon jungle? That prompted a short story which later developed into a full-length novel. Today, that novel is re-released as The Long Road to Sunrise. So, the answer to the question must be “sight”.
Are there any writing related events that you go to?
Yes. I attend the Swanwick Writer’s Summer School every year in August. This is where I first met Karin and also my present publisher. I attend a weekly class in Dorset run by the writer, Della Galton. Even though I have been published by four different publishers, I constantly find myself learning something new about the skills of writing. And I count myself honoured to have been invited to attend meetings of the DunfordNovelists. This last group is only open to novelists by invitation.
Do you belong to any writing related organisations?
I have joined several on-line organisations which provide opportunities for me to air my writing. I have always come away from them disappointed. The organisations I value very strongly are those where I can work face-to-face with other writers: Swanwick, Della Galton’s classes and the DunfordNovelists.
How can readers contact you?
I am always open to contacts from readers, either through my blog site: www.acloudofbooks.blogspot.co.uk or through my publisher, Cloudberry.
How important is reader feedback to you?
Very important. That is why I take extracts from my work-in-progress to Della’s classes. I read out the extract – usually about one thousand words – and then I welcome comments and opinions from other class members.I always come away with valuable commenst that help me make the text better.
What’s your favourite book of all times?
"The Chrysalids" by John Wyndham. I first read it when I was a teenager living in Bath. I have re-read it numerous times since and it always appeals to me. The story is post-apocalypse fantasy and I am not too keen on fantasy novels… except for this one. I won’t spoil it for you by telling you about the story, but I will say that it has a very important message for the twenty-first century world and the problems we face.
Well, David, thank you so much for answering my questions. I’m very much looking forwardto meeting you again in Swanwick this August. All the best with your new releases. We’re
all looking forward to hearing more from you in the near future.