Frequently Asked Questions
I was recently asked a few questions by a magazine journalist, maybe some of my answers will answer your queries:
1. What / who inspired you to become a writer?
I imagine most authors begin their writing careers secretly harbouring a desire for literary fame or possibly as a means of escape from a dead-end job that saps remorselessly at their souls. For me, nothing could have been further from the truth. I had a fabulous job, designing cars, if you must know. It enabled me to travel the globe and the most I ever wrote, on a daily basis, was the odd business memo or a whinging letter of complaint to the local newspaper. Then, late in the 1990’s serendipity threw me a curved ball.
I was back in the UK staying at a pub for a week, working on a project, and purely by chance I struck up a conversation with a fellow boarder. He turned out to be a rather famous author, and I don’t mind telling you, as a lover of adventure thrillers, I was more than a little star struck. I knew his work well, I’d read many of his novels, and in fact, I’d seen several of the films made from them. He told me that he was struggling with a new character series, so for a couple of evenings, over a few beers, we fleshed out the bones of his enigmatic plot as a team. I found the process thrilling, pure creation, and in spite of the fact that I was in awe of him, we evidently worked brilliantly together.
A day or so later he phoned me at home. I remember the day well. He asked if I would be willing to ghost-write the novel’s first draft for him, while he underwent a course of medical treatment. Although blessed with a vivid imagination, my writing skills at the time were mediocre at best, and in spite of my attempts to persuade him of my inadequacies, he managed to convince me otherwise. That was the beginning of our ten-year literary friendship. An exceptional mentor, he coached me in the craft, taught me the importance of character arcs, plot suspension and how to write believable dialogue. He was patient, firmly encouraging and on occasion fiercely critical of my efforts. It took me over three years to perfect the first in the series, and to my surprise, when the book was published in 2002, it became a resounding success. We worked on a further four bestselling books together until his passing. Ever since that day I’ve been writing under my own name.
2. Where do you get your ideas from?
Travel is without question my muse. I love visiting new and exciting places, rich in history and culture. Maybe my ancestors were sailors or perhaps even pirates? I see locations as important characters capable of imparting atmosphere and mystery, somewhere the reader can escape to. When I’m not travelling, wanderlust absorbs me; often I’ll create a scenario in an enigmatic city just to give me a reason to go there. I suppose some people would say that I have itchy feet, I’m sure it’s not athletes foot. Wherever I go I carry a notepad, camera and Dictaphone so that when I return home I can relive the experience and weave the knowledge gained into a plot.
The concept for "Webb of Thieves" came from a chance encounter with an Interpol agent on a long haul flight. The idea developed in the dozens of letters I sent home from Japan, Bangkok and Hong Kong. I visited these countries quite a few years back during an assignment to design and produce a plastic tailgate prototype for one of the Japanese automotive giants.
3. Do you have any tips for aspiring writers (writing, getting published, etc.)?
My advice for an aspiring novelist is to plan your book well, chapter by chapter like a complex project, because that’s exactly what it is. You wouldn’t build a house without blueprints, would you? A quality novel is likely to take somewhere between six months and a year to write, and without a plan, you are planning to fail.
All too often I’ve read a novel with a promising beginning, only to be left wanting at the end, almost as though the author didn’t know how to end it. Knowing the story’s structure, before you begin, can seriously enhance the writing, and ultimately the reading experience. You never have to face the dreaded “writer’s block” and if, for any reason, you’re having trouble with a particular chapter, you can jump to another in the outline to regain your momentum. Also, I feel that knowing the beginning, middle and climax adds enormously to a writer’s enthusiasm.
Novel writing is a long-winded process; it helps to know where you are going and how you are going to get there.
4. Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known prior to getting published?
As a ghost-writer I was sworn to secrecy. As much as I wanted to shout of my success from the rooftops, I was forbidden from telling anyone, including family and friends, for fear of compromising my author’s reputation. Alas, that is still the case. The modern trend however is towards collaboration, for example; Clive Cussler’s recent next novel “Piranha” is a literary alliance with Boyd Morrison. With both of them being terrific authors, it’s sure to be a smash hit. If I’d known this could have been an option back at the late 90’s, perhaps my search for an agent / publisher, after shedding my anonymity, would have been a much smoother and less time consuming process.
5. What’s next? Are you currently working on anything else?
To date I have three Adventure / Thriller novels complete. “Webb of Thieves”, “Webb of Relics” and “Webb of Martyrs”. It’s a new series that features Alexander Webb, an ex-army designer (Think Q in the Bond films) who, now in civilian life, is seeking a degree of normality. Of course this doesn’t go to plan. If you would like to read introductory chapters of each novel please visit my website. The fourth book in the series, “The Holbein Legacy” (Working title) is close to the end of the planning stage. Any day now I’ll begin writing it in earnest.
6. Are the Novels in any way Autobiographical?
I'd love to say yes, but in truth the only similarity between the two of us is a passion for design. I'm certain I would crumble under the pressure of some of the situations Alexander finds himself in. The locations, sights and indeed even one or two of the hotels featured in the Novels are written from first hand experience.
7. What do you like to do in your spare time, when you can find some?
My interests are many and varied. I confess a love of dogs and Heathcliffe, my border collie, is my constant companion. I wish he could talk. He has a good heart, a kind soul and often makes me laugh. Music too is of great enjoyment. I have a collection of both electric and acoustic guitars, probably far too large a collection not to be considered an obsession. To get fresh air into my lungs, every morning, weather permitting, I go into the garden to release a few arrows. I discovered archery years ago when I moved from Holland to South Wales and found an archery store a mile or so from my home. Some say it keeps me sane. One thing I have in common with some other authors is my love of cars, in particular, sports cars. Sad, I know, it’s probably an age or virility thing. I’ve owned many of them in the past and my current flavour is a TVR Cerbera – probably the quickest I’ve ever owned. Boys and toys eh?
8. What are you currently reading, if anything?
As you can probably guess, I’m a fan of Adventure Thriller fiction and I always have a book on the go. If I were to steer you in the direction of any authors in particular for a thoroughly enjoyable read, I’d have to suggest: Boyd Morrison for his ‘Tyler Locke’ series, Tom Cane’s ‘Sam Carver’ series and Scott Mariani for his ‘Ben Hope’ books. Possibly the most enjoyable stand-alone novel I’ve read in many a year was ‘The Medusa Amulet by Robert Masello’