Indie Author Of The Month; Paula Harmon

Welcome to another Indie Author of The Month post! This time please welcome the marvellously versatile and prolific indie author Paula Harmon. As well as writing fantastic novels and short stories, Paula was also one of the wonderful people behind Blandford’s first ever literary festival last November. I was honoured to be asked to get involved and it was a fantastic event I hope they are all very proud of. I can’t wait for the next one! Here Paula talks about where her ideas come from, what her writing process is and more. Enjoy.

  1. Tell us about your latest release. What is it about and who is it aimed at?

The Wrong Sort To Die’ will be out as an e-book on 30th June 2020.

It’s a historical mystery set in June 1910.

Fighting her corner in a man’s world, Dr Margaret Demeray works as a pathologist in a London hospital for the poor. Suppressing her worry that she’s breaching confidentiality, Margaret gives a stranger called Fox information about a dead down-and-out, in the hope he’ll use it to raise awareness of bad working conditions.

But when a second man appears to die the same way, Margaret starts to wonder why the enigmatic Fox keeps turning up to ask ever more complex questions.

She decides to work alone, uncertain of his motives and wary of her attraction to him.

Once she starts investigating however, her home is burgled, she’s attacked in broad daylight and a close friend becomes distant.

Fox offers the chance to forge an alliance, saying he knows why the men have died but needs her to find out what is killing them and who is behind it.

Yet how come the closer she gets to him the more danger she faces? And how can a memory she’d buried possibly be linked to the deaths?

Margaret must discover the truth before someone – known or unknown – silences her for good.Margaret Demeray was a minor character in the Caster and Fleet series set in the 1890s where she first appeared as feisty teenager. There was no chance she was going to let her older sister get away with all the fun. It would be suitable for anyone who enjoys writers like Ann Granger, Anne Perry, Clara Benson and like a strong-minded female lead.Tell us about your publishing journey so far.

2. Tell us about your publishing journey so far.

I published two collections of short stories in 2016, followed by a memoir about my father in 2017. In 2018, I published my first novel ‘Murder Britannica’ which is a historical mystery set in Roman-Britain in AD190. The sequel ‘Murder Durnovaria’ set the following year in Roman Dorchester came out late 2019. I published a joint collection of short fantasy stories called ‘Weird and Peculiar Tales’ with Val Portelli. With Liz Hedgecock, I co-wrote the Caster and Fleet series – six historical mysteries set in 1890s London which start with ‘The Case of the Black Tulips’. They’re about two young women, frustrated with the restrictions in their lives who end up in partnership solving mysteries.

3. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was very small, if I was sent to bed early as a punishment I was always quite glad as it gave me the chance to tell myself stories. (For as long as we shared a bedroom, I used to drive my younger sister up the wall by doing this under my breath when she was trying to go to sleep.) Creative writing was my favourite subject at school and I’d always meant to be a writer. Earning a living, then having a family got in the way to start but I thought I’d finally have time and space when my youngest child started school.  However, a relocation and change of working pattern meant my dream was dashed. Then in 2015, someone encouraged me to enter a competition and join a writers’ group. After that I sort of thought ‘if I don’t just get on with it whether I have time and space or not, I’ll never do it’ and I did.

4.What is your typical writing day like?

I work full-time and writing tends to have to fit round work. I try to write for one day at the weekend as well as fitting in an hour a day otherwise. I’d write on train journeys as I did a lot of commuting up till March. The current Covid-19 situation makes things less easy since, although I’m still working, I spend that ‘hour after work’ catching up by video with my mother and sister. But on the other hand, I’ve had nowhere to go at weekends and been able to get on with writing instead. Although, as for many, the coronavirus situation itself has a scrambled my brain a little.

5. What is your writing process? (how do you plot a book, come up with characters, find motivation etc)

I tend to start off with a short scene in my head – a person or people in a location doing something apparently ordinary and then I have to work out who they are and what’s extraordinary about it or what’s going to happen next. I usually start with two characters and seem to end up with a million – really not sure why! Once I know who the people are, I then work out where they are, when they’re living and what time of year it is. If it’s set in another era, I’ll do a little light research to find out what was going on at the time in case I need to factor that in.  Generally once I find the ‘shape’ of the story, I know how it will start and end and roughly who wants what and what is stopping them from getting it. I usually write that down and then an outline of what ought to happen roughly at each stage of the book. Then I just start and see what happens. I quite often end up completely reorganising the middle, though the beginning and end don’t usually change. I find out more and more about the characters as I go long – they become ‘real’ and that sometimes alters what the core of the story is about in terms of what they learn about themselves or their world.

6. What has been the most positive thing about your publishing journey so far?

Hearing that people enjoy what you’ve written – that it’s touched them or made them laugh – is wonderful. But for myself, even if I write something that not many people read, somehow tapping into the part of my brain that demands to write stories is a wonderful mental release.

7. What has been the most negative thing about your publishing journey so far?Marketing is very hard work. Most writers by nature are rather introverted. I’m not sure I always come across that way at work, but the minute I start talking about my books, I’m overwhelmed with shyness. It always feels like I’m exposing a part of myself, which I suppose I am – since most characters have elements of the author in them. (That’s a little alarming when I think of some of my characters.)

8. Who is your favourite character from your own books and why?

That’s really hard to answer and tends to depend on what I’m working on at the moment! Margaret Demeray’s outgoing and determined nature leads her to want to make the world a fairer place, but it hides a vulnerability. She’s drawn in part from some of the rather feisty women in my family, none of whom let anyone tell them what they could or couldn’t do. But I confess her tendency to lose her temper and say the wrong thing when she does is definitely me.

But I can’t help loving Lucretia – one of the main (and from her perspective) most misunderstood characters in the Murder Britannica series. It never ceases to astound her that people don’t realise just how important she is, but she remains full of hope that not only will she become even richer very soon but that she’ll find if not love then passion – it’s just annoying that people around her keep dying in suspicious circumstances.

9. Where do your ideas come from?

I really don’t know! They just turn up. I’ve always had very vivid dreams and quite often that’s where they come from, and I’m also a terrible day-dreamer. I love places of transit like stations where you can think ‘what if I got on a different train and went somewhere else entirely? or what if the train went back in time? or what if an old friend/enemy sat down next to me? or…’ I sort of apply that in other contexts and see what unfolds. ‘Murder Britannica’ started as a paragraph where Lucretia is having a snide and critical conversation with her daughter-in-law. It just came to me one lunch-time and I wrote it down. It was years before the rest fell into place. With ‘The Wrong Sort To Die’, I started knowing that Margaret had qualified as a doctor in about 1898 and wondered what she’d done after that. I knew she’d have a thirst for justice and equality but also suspected she wouldn’t be much good at bedside manner, so wondered what she’d do and decided she’d probably work in a charitable hospital in the pathology department. I decided what year the story would take place in and by chance, saw something on TV about that era which gave me a germ of a background for the plot – most of the general public thinks they’re living in a golden age of peace with new inventions and social change but meanwhile, the government is preparing for war. What might that mean for the people Margaret wants to help?

10. What can we expect from you next?

Next on the list will be the third in the ‘Murder Britannica’ series. While ‘Murder Durnovaria’ was set in Roman Dorchester, the third book is set in a small town near a river which is roughly located where modern day Blandford is. It’s midwinter and Lucretia’s nephew Fabio will do anything to avoid being forced into an arranged marriage, even look into strange goings on in a small town where it’s hard to know who’s on whose side.

11. Tell us three fun facts about youI can make something out of next to nothing whether it’s a meal or a costume; I don’t take myself remotely seriously; according to family legend I have a medieval ancestor who caught a ‘whale’ off London bridge.

12. What is the best advice you could give to aspiring writers?

Don’t give up. Keep writing things even if you don’t finish them, they may come into their own one day and if not then they’re worth it just for the practice. Maybe today is the right day and maybe it’s not. One day you’ll just get on with it, regardless of whether you really have the space or time. Everything you experience, witness and live through can inform your writing whether it’s serious or funny or thought-provoking. Within legal limits – be a people watcher!

Thank you so much to Paula for agreeing to be interviewed on my blog! |If you would like to find out more about Pauls and her books, her bio and links are below!

Paula Harmon was born in North London to parents of English, Scottish and Irish descent. Perhaps feeling the need to add a Welsh connection, her father relocated the family every two years from country town to country town moving slowly westwards until they settled in South Wales when Paula was eight. She later graduated from Chichester University before making her home in Gloucestershire and then Dorset where she has lived since 2005.

She is a civil servant, married with two children at university. Paula has several writing projects underway and wonders where the housework fairies are, because the house is a mess and she can’t think why.

https://paulaharmondownes.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/pg/paulaharmonwrites

viewauthor.at/PHAuthorpage

Murder Britannica

It’s AD 190 in Southern Britain. Lucretia won’t let her get-rich-quick scheme be undermined by minor things like her husband’s death. But a gruesome discovery leads wise-woman Tryssa to start asking awkward questions.

Murder Durnovaria

It’s AD 191. Lucretia last saw Durnovaria as a teenager. Now she’s back to claim an inheritance. Who could imagine an old ring bought in the forum could bring lead to Tryssa having to help local magistrate Amicus discover who would rather kill than reveal long-buried truths.

The Wrong Sort To Die

London 1910. Dr Margaret Demeray is approached by a stranger called Fox to help find out what’s killed two impoverished men. How can a memory she’d buried possibly be linked to the deaths? And how come the closer she gets to Fox the more danger she faces herself?

The Cluttering Discombobulator

Can everything be fixed with duct tape? Dad thinks so. The story of one man’s battle against common sense and the family caught up in the chaos around him.

Kindling

Secrets and mysteries, strangers and friends. Stories as varied and changing as British skies.

The Advent Calendar

Christmas without the hype says it is – stories for midwinter.

The Quest

In a parallel universe, Dorissa and Menilly, descendants of the distrusted dragon people, are desperate to find their runaway brother in a fog-bound city, which simmers with unrest and deceit.

The Seaside Dragon

For 7-11 year olds. When Laura and Jane go on holiday to a remote cottage, the worst they expect is no wifi. The last thing they expect is to be battling strange creatures with an ancient grudge.

The Case of the Black Tulips (with Liz Hedgecock)

When Katherine Demeray opens a letter addressed to her missing father, little does she imagine that she will find herself in partnership with socialite Connie Swift, racing against time to solve mysteries and right wrongs. (This is the first of six Caster & Fleet Mysteries)

Weird and Peculiar Tales (with Val Portelli)

Short stories from this world and beyond.

My Life In Dogs…

One for my fellow dog lovers! Not so long ago I wrote a blog post which was basically a goodbye letter to my dear lurcher Skipper who died on 31st January this year. I had a lovely response and it got me thinking about all the other dogs that have impacted my life so I thought, in tribute to them and to Skipper, I would write this post.

First let me just explain something about me as a child. I was a dog lover from a very early age. I was totally obsessed by dogs. As a child, I begged and begged my parents for a dog but the answer was always no. We had a cat and that was all we were allowed. She was beautiful but very timid. Not really best buddy material. I had to console myself with my growing collection of toy dogs. There is a picture of me as a toddler playing with one of those wooden dogs on leads. I remember that I absolutely loved that thing. My Nan had one of those classic dogs on wheels that you ride on at her house. It went around the grandkids for years and years. Must have been an antique. I adored it and spend many hours riding up and down the path in the garden on that tatty old thing. Every birthday and Christmas as a child I asked for a new stuffed dog to cuddle. They all had names and their own little collars and leads I used to drag them around on. Remember Pound Puppies? I loved those! I was the same with TV. Littlest Hobo? Lassie? Benjie? I loved them all. I loved all animals and once I was old enough to read and write I devoured animal stories and then wrote my own. The first little book I ever wrote and finished was about some abandoned dogs. I still have it! I had a den behind my bed dedicated to dogs. Posters and stickers and books. A set of dog breed Top Trumps! I was a very strange kid.

Laddie – The first dog I ever remember was my Uncle Colin’s collie Laddie. We didn’t see my Uncle Colin that often but whenever we did, he would have Laddie with him. He was mostly black, if I remember correctly, perhaps all black. Laddie was obsessed with Uncle Colin, that’s what I remember most. He would bring him to my Nan’s infamous New Years Day parties and I would spend the whole time crouched next to him, giving him fuss. Sadly, he only really ever wanted fuss from Uncle Colin. My heart yearned for my own dog even more. I saw the way Laddie looked at Uncle Colin and longed for that love of my own.

Rufus – When I was around 8 or 9 my mum made contact with her estranged father and luckily they got on very well. He actually lived very close to us and I was delighted to discover he had a dog!! I expect the first time we ever met him I spent the whole time fussing the dog. Rufus was a tan coloured Staffordshire Bull Terrier. What I remember most was that he had his own ratty arm chair in front of the fire and he farted. A lot. I also remember my Grandad letting me take him for a walk and showing me very carefully how to hold his lead properly, so that the loop was around my wrist and my hand clutched the lead. I’ve never forgotten that. Or how happy I was that someone was letting me walk their dog! I was so upset when Rufus died of old age.

Gyp – I remember once when I begged my mum for the millionth time for our own dog she winked at me and said ‘never give up on your dreams’. I guess, looking back, she had decided by then that we would get a dog. Perhaps she had already found the litter of puppies. One day she told us we were going to get a new kitten. By this point we had three cats and some guinea pigs. I loved them all but still none of them were best friend/faithful companion material! We drove out to a farm to look at the kittens and in the farmhouse kitchen was a beautiful Border Collie lying in her bed with her newborn pups. I remember being utterly confused. But my mum explained, in what must have been a hugely exciting moment for her, that she had been joking because we were not there to choose a kitten, we were choosing a puppy! Our own dog! At last!! I was 10 years old. I can still recall that feeling of utter joy. We chose a beautiful boy and my mum named him Gyp. We collected him when he was 8 weeks old and I was probably the happiest kid in the world. I had a dog! I started trying to train him, using the books and leaflets I had collected over the years. The only downside to finally having a dog was that because my mum obviously did all his walks and gave him his food, he bonded to her and absolutely adored her. Collies are immensely clever and loyal dogs. He was great with us but it was my mum he didn’t take his eyes off. It was like Laddie and Uncle Colin all over again.

Joey – At that point I think my mum became a magnet for any unwanted animal going. Basically, the flood doors opened and a menagerie was formed. When a friend at work told my mum her neighbours had an unwanted puppy they were going to dispose of, my mum agreed to take a look. The friend brought the puppy to work, so of course my mum could not say no. Joey was a small black and white Jack Russel Terrier. A little man with a big personality. And of course he was instantly and utterly devoted to my mum, just like Gyp…

Carrie – When I was 15 my sister and I were out walking when we spotted a tiny dog ahead, one so small we assumed it to be a puppy. On closer inspection we discovered a tiny Yorkshire Terrier in a horrific condition. It was an alley on another estate to ours, one we did not usually cut down, so I always felt like fate was at play that afternoon. The little dog was holding up a twisted and useless back leg. Her fur was matted and greasy. Her ears were bald and covered in black muck. She seemed to have no teeth, and a protruding tongue due to lack of a lower jaw. She had a lower lip, but it just sort of hung. I immediately picked her up and declared that we were saving her. No one who had allowed a dog to get into that state deserved it back. We did the right thing though and took her straight to the police station. They filed a report and told us no one had reported her missing so we could keep her if we wanted. We were overjoyed! We then took her to the vets who told us she was in fact elderly, not a puppy as we had assumed. Her back leg had been broken at some point and left to heal on its own. Her teeth had nearly all gone which was why the lip hung down. We took her home and of course Mum said we could keep her! After a few washes, some good food, and lots of TLC she blossomed into a beautiful little girl with soft, silky fur. I loved her so much. She would walk about on all fours but if she wanted to go faster she would tuck the twisted leg up under her belly and run on three. I called her Carrie and she was mine. She trotted into my bedroom on the first night, slept on my pillow and that was that. I finally had my own dog! I took her everywhere with me, usually popping her into an old army satchel with her head poking out because she couldn’t manage long distances. She came on sleepovers with me. Me and my friend even snuck her into shops so we wouldn’t have to tie her up outside. I only had her for 10 months. She died suddenly when I was out one day and we never knew what happened or why. I was devastated. It was my first experience at losing a dog, a best friend and I was gutted and could not stop crying for months.

Robbie – Luckily for me, the loss of Carrie was made easier by the presence of Robbie. A few months before Carrie died my mum’s brother’s wife asked if we could rehome another Jack Russel. Her niece had a new baby, post-natal depression and the 3 year old dog was not getting any attention. Mum said yes and Robbie came to stay. He was originally called Archie but I changed it to Robbie. No idea why, he just looked like one. He was a tall JRT, looking back now, he probably had some Staffy in him too. He was overweight but I soon walked that off him and yes, for the second time, a dog chose me. He was mine from the first moment he came into our house. He ran around the house chasing all the cats and pulling fur from their bums. He soon got used to them but getting on with Gyp and Joey was another matter. They fought and they fought nasty. I don’t know how we got through it but somehow we did. It never crossed any of our minds to give up on him or pass him on. He was never exactly pals with the other dogs, but the fighting did stop and he was always fine with Carrie. When she died I was so grateful to have him. He was a bundle of mad cheeky energy and very smart. I loved walking him around the estate and felt like I finally had a proper dog. Robbie even came to University with me and moved in with me and my husband who was then my boyfriend, into our first home. I still had him when my first child was born but when I was pregnant with my second he suffered a stroke out of the blue at thirteen years old. We rushed him to the vets and kept him going for a few weeks after that but he was never the same. His head was tilted and he would turn in circles. He didn’t want to go for walks anymore and he started to get a bit aggressive.. I had to make the decision to have him put to sleep and it was horrendous. I still miss him now. He was such a character.

Skipper – It would be a long 5 years before I became a dog owner again. During that time we moved around a few times, had three children and were not allowed pets in any of the rented homes we had. I hated not having a dog. To me, a home is not a home without a dog. When we finally got Skipper I was so excited, because I finally had a puppy that was mine to train and socialise. I’d not known Carrie and Robbie as pups and the other dogs had been very much my mum’s. Me and Skipper had a bond from the get go. We had ten years of long walks, gentle hugs, deer chases and injuries, stealing food and spreading rubbish and oh so much love. He was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in February last year and struggled on until 31st January this year. He was the most gentle and loving and kind dog I have ever known and my heart still aches for him daily. I still expect him to come back. I still feel like he is not gone for good. Maybe that’s a good thing. He is still with me.

Tinks – After Skipper, I started fostering for a local dog rescue. My 15th foster dog was a tiny brindle lurcher pup the Irish rescue had nicknamed Tinkerbelle. We were never meant to keep her but she broke her leg when she was with us (she managed to climb up onto the worktop to steal some food and fell off) so she ended up staying a long time while the leg healed and of course we fell in love with her. Skipper tolerated the foster dogs but he was never that keen on most of them. With Tinks though, he was different. That was a sign. And on the day someone phoned up to ask if they could come and see her I realised I could not do it, I could not let her go. It would be like giving away my own dog. So we kept her and tried to come up with a new name but we never managed to agree on one, so Tinkerbelle stuck. Though she is mostly called Tinks. The smooth haired brindle pup evolved into a shaggy, grey blur. She probably has some Deerhound in her somewhere. I think she is beautiful. Inside and out. She has always been a an easy dog, In fact over the years she has been so good you could almost forget she was here. Skipper was so much more demanding of your time. She’s a gentle soul, silly and puppyish and funny and very loving. I adore her. She has stepped up since Skip died, almost maybe realising how much I need her…I feel like our bond has really grown deeper since he died. She’s just such a good girl and brings me so much joy.

Jesse – As a family, we started talking about getting another dog when we realised Tinks was very obviously missing Skipper. I like having two dogs as they keep each other company and enjoy playing together. Plus, as Tinks is nine years old now, the thought of something happening to her played on my mind. I could not bear it if something happened to her and I did not have another dog here to soften the blow and keep me going. I started looking at adverts and at rescues for another lurcher. We decided it really had to be a puppy again, as it wouldn’t be fair to expect Tinks to adjust to an adult dog when she spent so many years being pushed out by Skipper. The rescue I used to foster for no longer operates and the lurcher rescues have strict criteria about six foot fencing and young children. I looked and looked but it soon became obvious that the rescues don’t often have lurcher pups in and we wouldn’t be able to meet the criteria anyway, with a 5 year old child and fencing that is not six feet high. I do understand that criteria, but in all my years owning and fostering sighthounds not one has ever even tried to jump our fences, partly because they are surrounded by thick hedging and partly because after a few good walks most sighthounds just want to sleep!

I did feel guilty looking at breeders but also I very much knew what I wanted this time and I do think if people have done the research and know what breed would suit them, they should do so as long as the breeder is reputable. I wanted a dog like Tinks. Rough haired, some deerhound in, maybe some collie too. I wanted to know what was in the dog so that I could work with it better. Anyway, to cut the long story short I found an ad that seemed perfect for us. A litter of puppies with very careful breeding, mum a deerhound/greyhound/smithfield collie/bedlington terrier and dad a pure whippet. The pups were not due until March and would not be ready until mid-May which was when we had thought getting a new puppy would be a good idea. I spoke to the breeder and was put on the list. It was lovely to be part of the journey from the start, awaiting the pups birth and watching them start to grow and change.

We picked Jesse up last Sunday and a new journey began for us. It’s been a long time since we had a puppy in the house and I’m absolutely loving it. It’s early days to say what kind of dog Jesse is going to be but all I can hope for is a long, happy life with him. I am sure this little fella will have just as much an impact on me as the rest of the dogs in my life.

What about you? If you’re a dog lover, can you remember the first dog you fell in love with? What was the first dog you ever owned? Tell me about them, I would love to hear your comments.

Indie Author Of The Month; Mick Williams

Welcome to another Indie Author of The Month post! At the end of every month I will be interviewing and generally drawing attention to a fellow indie author I have come across on the internet. For April, I welcome Mick Williams to the blog. Mick is an author I have had the pleasure of knowing online for a few years now. I’ve read a few of his books and he has also read a few of mine. Mick is a very versatile author who writes in multiple genres. He really does have something for everyone! His books are fast-paced and full of adventure. Read on for more.

1. Tell us about your latest release. What is it about and who is it aimed at?

My latest book is called Hope’s Game, a story about a man named Charlie who has lost everything and is offered the chance to earn £10,000 by taking part in research for a new Artificial Intelligence project. Of course, he has no choice but to take part and goes on a life-changing, sometimes harrowing journey. If I had to categorise it, I’d say it’s a little like the Black Mirror TV show… it seems like it should be sci-fi, but it really isn’t, it has all kinds of things in it. Based on that, it’s aimed at pretty much anyone, although I wouldn’t want younger readers to see it, Charlie goes through some tough times!

Hope's Game by [Mick Williams]

2. Tell us about your publishing journey so far.

I’ve been writing forever, and it wasn’t until I attended a conference in America that I plucked up the courage to go for it! My first book, A Reason to Grieve, was self-published and, if I’m to be honest, was written as a dare since I’m a fan of action and it’s more of a romantic comedy! Something must have worked, though – it’s still my best reviewed book and people still mention the characters to me and demand a sequel! After that, I finally wrote an action/adventure book called A Guy Walks into a Bar. When it was completed, I printed out two copies (old style, at home!) and handed them to two people who had offered me a ton of advice. One of them was the wonderful author, Tony Acree. Little did I know, he also ran a publishing company. We met for lunch, where I expected some nice food, company and advice, and I walked away with a contract! I now have four books published through Hydra Publications.

A Reason to Grieve

3. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

At junior school. I’ve always written. English Language was my favourite subject at school and it followed me home every day. I made my own comics, short story books, magazines – you name it, I tried it. I can’t begin to explain the feeling I had when I opened the box that contained my first ‘proper’ book, and it still gives me chills after a further five!

4. What is your typical writing day like?

Ha! I would LOVE to be able to say that I have a typical writing day. Unless I’m on holiday, no two seem the same. I work a full-time job, so I have to MAKE time to write, otherwise it doesn’t happen. As I write this, we’re (hopefully) in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic. Out of all the horrific negatives that come with it, the first positive I considered was that I might be stuck at home with the entire day to write but, no, my company has me working a full week from home! So, I set the alarm for as early as I dare and write before I get ready for work. It can get frustrating, since my brain never shuts off and I usually get my best ideas when I can’t do much but jot them down.

5. What is your writing process? (how do you plot a book, come up with characters, find motivation etc)

The honest answer is that I don’t really have a process! In terms of plot, I think I’ve tried something different for every book I’ve written. I do TRY to put together an outline (Reason to Grieve, Exodus and Hope’s Game were done on an Excel spreadsheet, Whatever it Takes and A Guy Walks into a Bar were a bunch of handwritten notes, and Callie’s Eyes was a pile of research and a ‘wing it’ approach!). I’m currently playing with the corkboard feature in a program called Scrivener for the sequel to Exodus, which is cool since I can swap, shift and change things as I go and see the whole picture, but I’m also ‘winging it’ on another story, AND writing random scenes for the sequel to A Reason to Grieve!!

Exodus: An Old Farts Club Story (The Old Farts Club Book 1) by [Mick Williams]

Characters are everywhere! Some are people I know, or see when I’m out and about. I sometimes ‘cast’ my characters as if they were in a film, then I can play their scenes in my head and have an idea of who they are and how they’d react to different situations. A couple of the characters in Reason to Grieve were based on characters from a show called ‘Coupling’, and the lead character in Whatever it Takes is based on a customer who came into the store I worked in when I lived in Kentucky. He loved to hunt and was a perfect Cory Keller!

Since I normally know my characters before I start writing, a lot of the time their actions are dictated by what that their personalities would actually do. I have an idea of where I need them to go, but I let their actions take them there… it seems much more natural to let them take over than have me try to force them. If they sometimes surprise you when you read them, you should have them in your head when you write them!!

I remember an author friend saying ‘vomit your first draft onto the page and then sift through the chunks’… I struggle to do that. I normally write a chapter, then go over it and nit-pick it to death. It slows me down but, by the time I’m ready for the next chapter, I’m fully immersed in that world and those characters. It also helps with continuity. Once I’ve completed the first draft (in my fashion), I’ll go through it again and flesh it out with description and emotion. Then, I’ll go again and check it for grammar, punctuation and the dreaded typo. Typos ALWAYS slip through, so then I’ll send it to trusted readers who’ll send back their thoughts. I’ll go through it yet again and either make necessary changes, or decide that what I’d written originally is still the best way to say what I want to say. After that, it’s about as good as it can get at the time, and it’s time to let go and send your story into the world.

6. What has been the most positive thing about your publishing journey so far?

Two things. Mainly, the people. I’ve met some amazing people on this journey. Writers are, for the most part, incredibly supportive of one another. More so, I think, than in most other professions. I have a ridiculous amount of writer friends who are always there for support, encouragement and, as importantly, honest criticism. I’d be lost without them. I’ve also gained some really cool readers who stay in touch to see what I’m up to and, again, offer support and encouragement.

Then, there’s the writing itself. Some days it’s easy, others it seems impossible, but it’s always there. Being able to sit and tell stories is something we’ve done since time began – I get to do it whenever I can. The feeling of opening a new completed book, of seeing a review on Amazon, of writing a particularly satisfying scene… they’re all incredible feelings and something that never gets old. To be able to transport someone from this world into another, even if only for a short time, is fantastic. We read books so that we can check out different worlds without moving. What a gift to be able to supply that world!

7. What has been the most negative thing about your publishing journey so far?

That’s easy – marketing! I love to write but each time I release a book, with the exception of my loyal readers, few people see it and it vanishes into the ether with the tens of thousands of other books that were released at the same time. I love the writing process, but really struggle with advertising and pushing things about me and the fact that I have a new book out (just so you know – I HAVE A NEW BOOK OUT… the link is here somewhere!). I’ve signed up for so many courses and programs, and have so many books on the subject but, when I release a new book, I’m so eager to get stuck in to the next one that I neglect to let folks know about it.

8. What can we expect from you next?

Scarily, three things!! I’m working on a sequel to the award winning Exodus, an adventure/thriller series about a group of army veterans called The Old Farts Club – think of an ‘up-to-date A-Team’! I also started to write a first-person story about a guy who works in retail and gets tired of the abuse the public throws at him – so he embraces his dark side to deal with it. That one came to me after binge watching ‘You’ on Netflix! And, after so many requests, I dipped back into the world of my first book, A Reason to Grieve, to carry on the story of Tom, Emma and their friends; a complete contrast since it’s a romantic comedy. I have enough words between the three of them for a complete book, but my publisher has suggested that I concentrate on one at a time, so Sarge and the rest of The Old Farts are currently engaged on an adventure and have flown from Kentucky to deepest Scotland to save a friend’s life

9. Who is your favourite character and why?
That’s a tough question!

Doris, from A Reason to Grieve, is the only character that I’ve shed tears over, so that must mean something. I truly love her spirit and her blunt way of giving advice to the younger characters. If i can be like Doris when I’m approaching seventy (but without the blue rinse!), I’ll be a happy man.

I do also love Paul Howard from A Guy Walks Into a Bar – he’s just an average man who finds himself in an extraordinary adventure. He’s resourceful and witty…and he gets to hang out with the other cool characters.

Then there’s blind Callie from Callie’s Eyes, and Hope from Hope’s Game…did I mention this was a tough question?

Callie's Eyes: How do you convince someone you can see the future, when you can't see at all?



10. Where do you get your ideas from?

Everywhere! News and magazine articles, people watching, overhearing things people say (not eavesdropping, mind, overhearing; apparently, there’s a difference!) and, in the case of Callie’s Eyes, a dream. Most of the story, including Callie’s name, happened in a dream and it was one of those fortunate times when I woke with it still at the front of my mind. I jotted it all down on a Post-It note and picked it up in the morning. Hope’s Game is based on a screenplay from a very good and talented friend of mine, Craig Ostrouchow. Whatever It Takes came out of a conversation with a hunter in Kentucky. A Reason to Grieve came from an old workmate who’d browse the obituaries every morning before work to see if he found anyone from his old school in there. A Guy Walks Into a Bar came from people watching – in a hotel bar, and Exodus came from a holiday in Jamaica when we visited Bob Marley’s compound and got to drive through the Jamaican townships and countryside.
So, like I said…everywhere!

Whatever It Takes

11. Tell us three fun facts about you

Haha – what was I saying about pushing ‘me’?? Erm… okay –

1. I LOVE music. Alongside reading, writing and family, music is everything. Genesis are my favourite band, and Jude Cole is my favourite artist. If it wasn’t for Jude Cole, I would not have met my wife (if you’d like the full story, join my FB page ‘mick williams author’ and message me and I’ll tell you, it’s a long story!). Truth be known, there isn’t much music I don’t like, I go from punk and pop to rock and reggae and everything in between! MP3s and streaming mean that music is everywhere now. The only thing I miss is the album format. Now that we can stream everything, music seems to be piecemeal where, before, a good album was constructed to flow and have peaks and troughs. Just like books.

2. I have two very cool cats name Thud and Crash. Thud adopted me when we lived in Kentucky. My American brother and my adopted second wife have a house that overlooks a golf course. One cold winter, after a Mexican meal and one or two (or five or ten) drinks, we were hanging around in the kitchen when my wife heard a noise outside. I went out to check it out and was eventually ‘ankle-bumped’ by a dirty, freezing-cold kitten. The end of his tail was broken, and his ears were riddled with mites. At the time, I wasn’t really a ‘cat person’, but our option was to either take him home or put him back into the cold. When we found that he’d been dumped, we had no choice but to adopt him, and now he’s my writing companion (he’s actually on my author pic on A Guy Walks into a Bar!). I call him the OC (Original Cat) since we also adopted another furry fella from the animal shelter to keep Thud company. This ginger tabby is the most lovable animal I’ve ever met and has a habit of nuzzling against you and then falling over to let you fuss him. We had to call him Crash. I should really put their pictures on my FB page and website!!

3. I’m not an army brat, but I’ve lived (I think) in thirteen different places, on either side of the Atlantic, and I’m getting ready to move again once restrictions are lifted! I think this time, once we find somewhere, that’s it! I’m ready to sit still now!!

12. What is the best advice you could give to aspiring writers?

Write what makes you happy. I read a lot about ‘writing to market’, but a) markets seem to shift constantly and b) that seems too much like work! I love to write, and I write what’s in my head, not what I think people might like to read. I’ve been fortunate to find people that like to read what’s in my head which, I suppose, makes them as crazy as me! It won’t ever fund my retirement, but it’ll make my retirement a lot more fun.

Read. A lot. Reading is writer homework. See how the books you enjoy actually work. Why did that scene make you smile? Why is your heart pumping a little faster after finishing that chapter? Good writers don’t hide how they make their magic, it’s right there on the page. Love or loathe him, but no one creates worlds better than Stephen King. How? Description and character. By the end of a SK book, you’ve lived in that town and you know those folks. They’re as real as you and I… that’s why it bothers you so much when he does nasty things to them! Learn from the best.

And, remember that rules are made for bending. While there are definite do’s and don’ts, no one will write your story the way you will. I remember reading somewhere that sentences should vary in length (which I agree with 100%), but that they shouldn’t be overly long. I’ve just finished the latest number one bestseller by Lee Child. There’s a sentence in there that runs at over ONE HUNDRED words (his previous best was 81 – I counted!). This breaks every rule under the sun, but it worked. And Reacher still had time to get the job done

And, finally – just enjoy it. If no one else reads a word of what you’ve written – you have. And I’ll bet it felt great.

Thank you so much to Mick for doing this interview! If you would like to find out more about Mick and his books (and I highly recommend that you do) you can follow him here;

Get in touch: Website – http://www.mickwilliamsauthor.com

Facebook – mick williams author

Twitter – mickwilliamsauthor

Email – mickwilliamsauthor@gmail.com

Weird Is The New Normal and It’s Okay To Be Constantly Confused

Yesterday in the UK we heard the news that lockdown will continue for at least another three weeks. It’s probably what most of us were expecting. It also seems the most sensible and the safest course of action in light of the fact deaths are still rising.

The last few days I’ve been struggling with a constant mix of emotions and from what I hear on social media, this is a very common way to feel. In a weird way, we have all adjusted to lockdown and for the most part, we seem to be making light of it and digging up our sense of humour to survive. I think most people would rather stay at home while the virus is still rife, if only to protect their loved ones.

I was thinking the other day how quickly we have got used to things that would have been very weird to us a few months ago. On our daily walk or cycle ride, we’ve got into the habit of looking out for other people. It’s only so that we can change direction if we need to, or move to make room and allow everyone enough space to pass. Ideally, we don’t really want to see other people when we are out because it has become very awkward and strange. No one really knows what to say. Everyone starts moving out of the way and it feels weird, like we are all diseased or dangerous or something. I start feeling like I’m living in a film, a post-apocalyptic one, where strangers usually mean danger.

I’m worried about causing anxiety about strangers in my youngest. I suddenly realised the other day how many times I say phrases such as; ‘let’s go early, so there’s no other people,’ ‘let’s go this way, because I can see people coming,’ ‘there’s people coming, so move over here.’ Scary, really. I have obviously explained to him why we are doing this and so far so good, he is five and seems to have adjusted to this better than the rest of us. But it’s unnerving in a way, how quickly weird things have become normal.

Like avoiding people. Like not going to work. Like not driving anywhere. Like not doing the school run. Like staying at home and making the most of the house and garden and our imaginations. Like eating slightly odd dinners based on the fact we can’t always get what we need in the shops. Like constantly wondering what the fallout of all of this will be on society…

It’s weird, but it’s become normal. We’re getting used to it. The other thing is the constant confusion, and by this I suppose I mean confused emotions. I’m an emotional person at the best of times, so this is playing havoc with me. I’m up and down and all over the place. I have such mixed feelings about everything. I both love and hate lockdown. I both long for ‘normal’ life and fear it returning. I’m thinking a lot about a lot of things and that’s pretty exhausting.

My own confusion is hard to understand, although I think I’m getting closer. I will probably delve into it in another blog post.

But from what I see and hear around me, feeling constantly confused during this strange and scary time is perfectly okay. Maybe our confusion is the most normal part about this. No one really knows what is going to happen. Everyone is scared on some level. Everyone is doing their best and putting a brave face on as much as they can. But it’s weird that weird has become normal and we are definitely very confused.

See you next time and stay safe xx