Where Readers & Writers Connect
Yes, very much. There’s something special about entering the imagination of another human being and sharing in a world they have created. I’ll admit to being a sucker for well-written prose, even if the plot leaves something to be desired. Thrilling plot twists are great but the thing I enjoy most about a book is the language. If the writer can carry me along on their words and make me forget where I am, then I’m sold. For this reason (and because I also enjoy character-driven stories) I tend to lean more towards literary fiction. By contrast, I’ve abandoned many a book in spite of an exciting plot, simply because the prose was weak.
· When did you decide you wanted to write?
About fifteen years ago. I was a growing Christian looking for something I could do for God (sounds clichéd, I know, but it’s the truth). A story started rattling around in my head and wouldn’t leave me alone until I’d written it down. I wrote the first draft in about three months during which time I prayed and nibbled incessantly. I gave the manuscript a quick polish and, not knowing anything about the publishing industry, bought a copy of “The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook” and started looking for advice on where to send it.
At the time I was based in England so I sent it out to an agent in the UK. In the meantime I prayed and nibbled and waited expectantly for the contract to drop through the letter box. Two weeks later (wow, I remember thinking, that was slow) the reply came back. Very interesting, it said, but not something we are looking for right now. So I sent out another, and another, another. All came back with the same polite but negative response. I had soon amassed twenty rejection letters and as many excess pounds from my nervous nibbling. I then sent it out to a handful of agents in the US. A couple came back with the same message as their UK counterparts (albeit with slightly different spelling). Then, just when I thought I’d made a huge mistake, an acceptance letter arrived. I wobbled with glee at the prospect of starting a new career.
Sadly, however, it was not to be. I came very close to landing a deal with a major secular publisher, but I still had a massive amount to learn about writing and it would be another thirteen years before a publisher would like my work enough to take a chance.
· How many books have you written, and how many of them have been published?
In total, I’ve written about eight completed books, the first four during the year that I was represented by an agent in New York. My first success was with Alpha Redemption which was published in September 2010. Since then, two more have been accepted for publication. The first, Alpha Revelation, will be available in December this year. The second, Hanzet, will appear in March 2013 next year.
· Can you tell us what you believe has had the greatest influence on your writing?
Between the age of nine and eleven I was fortunate enough to live in Camps Bay, a tiny bend in the coast just around the corner from Cape Town. We lived right on the coast with a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. Up the road from our flat was this dilapidated little cinema that I was told had once been a coach house. It was small and a bit shabby but I loved it. Every Saturday morning they showed a double-feature of kid’s films for the grand sum of 15 cents. For the two and a half years we lived there I spent every Saturday morning watching films like Jason and the Argonauts, Flipper, and King Kong. This filled me with a love of story-telling that I try to convey in my books.
· How do you prepare to write a book? Did you do any special research?
Once the premise is clear in my mind, I start writing. I only do research if I don’t know something, so I tend to go about it with my flying goggles engaged. I have a book coming out in December that takes place on Mars. I did a ton of research for that. Simple things like gravity, geography, atmospheric conditions, magnetic fields, etc. It’s amazing how important the little things can be to a story, which makes research absolutely vital.
· What genre do you usually write?
· What made you choose that genre?
I love the really big questions that sci-fi allows me to ask.
· Can you tell us a little about your latest book?
Alpha Redemption is a human drama set half in space and half on Earth. It follows Brett Denton, a man plagued by sorrow, as he volunteers for a dangerous one-man mission to Alpha Centauri. He is running away from his grief but he is also running from his faith. God, however, has other plans and uses the ship’s on-board computer to lead Brett back to redemption. In December, the sequel comes out. Alpha Revelation continues Brett’s story on Mars.
· Do you have any favorite inspirational quotes?
Boswell, Life of Johnson – Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.
This reminds me that, no matter how wonderful I think my own writing is, chances are that someone else will have very different ideas.
Samuel Johnson – Only a fool ever wrote, except for money.
This reminds me that I should put more effort into marketing and that I need to earn money to be a viable investment for a publishing company.
· What is your writing schedule like? Do you write only when inspired?
I write in the cracks, mostly during lunchtime, but if I can write just 600 words a day, that potentially gives me a book every 6 months, which isn’t bad!
· Do you like the promotional aspect of being a writer? What are your best promotional tools?
Honestly? No. I’m naturally shy and tend to be self-critical so it always surprises me when someone likes my books. I would rather be writing than trying to sell. On the other hand, I do understand how important it is and I do enjoy interviews because I get to talk about writing.
My favorite promotional tools are interviews (like this one) and my personal website which is great fun to maintain and doesn’t feel like hard work.
· Do you read books on the craft of writing? If so, what are your favorites and why?
Not many. Not enough, probably. Personally, I would rather be writing than reading how to write. The most useful book I have ever read is “Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing” by Les Edgerton. He helped me break free from my habit of writing prose the way I was taught at school (i.e. “solid” but boring).
· Are you a plotter or a panster? Explain your writing process.
Big pantser (not the pants, my process). Once I have a strong premise, I strap on the flying goggles and launch myself off the nearest cliff. I’ve tried plotting (it seems the sensible thing to do) but it doesn’t work for me. As long as I have a strong premise and an end point towards which to aim, I’m happy soaring (or plummeting) through the air.
· What do you do when you are not writing? Do you have any hobbies?
I used to teach aerobics for a living, so am a bit of a fitness fanatic. I also love food so, to be truthful, I need to train.
· Why do you write?
I can’t help myself. I’ve tried to quit so many times but always end up back at the keyboard. I suppose it’s an addiction although, personally, I like to think of it as a calling.
· What one piece of advice would you give to a beginning writer?
Instant success is very, very rare so be prepared for plenty of hard work. Even if you feel God has called you to write, it takes a lot of effort to produce a marketable book.
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Bio: I was conceived in the USA, born in England, raised in Africa and after a childhood spent travelling around the world, consider myself a nomad at heart. I love the smell of a harbor and have never lived more than a few miles from the ocean. I love animals and if I could do it all again would choose a career as a big game warden in an African nature reserve.
I have done some interesting jobs through the years, including working as a waiter, a salesman and, for a number of years, as a fitness instructor (at one point winning a national aerobics title). I originally studied to be a psychologist but decided to concentrate on my fitness career.
At the age of twenty, I bought my first computer and discovered I had a knack for programming. For the past twenty years, I have worked as an IT professional, and am currently responsible for maintaining one of the biggest databases of its type in the world. Married with two children, I live in a small farming community in Holland.