I was born and raised in a working class family in north London. I didn't distinguish myself at school and was considered a dunce, if not retarded. Needless to say I left school without any qualifications. My first love was Art and I found a job in a commercial art studio. I loved it and it was the only job I've ever enjoyed. After a couple of years my second passion kicked in. The urge to travel reared its ugly head, so I left my job and off I went. I didn't go too far, but I stayed away for over a year and loved it! I was hooked, but found that when I returned to England I couldn't break back into the art game again. That started a pattern that lasted for years. Find any kind of work, save up money and leave again. This was years before personal computers and the internet, so there wasn't any hope of working and travelling at the same time like nowadays. Also, only speaking one language didn't help either. Because of that I've done a variety of horrible jobs, from pearl diving(dishwashing) to English teacher. Each time I came back it became more and more difficult to find work, so I had the brilliant idea of getting myself a qualification that I could take with me. I decided on social work and to cut a long story short, I unintentionally ended up studying for a degree in social science as a mature student. Of course, I loved the student life, but when I graduated(1990) England was still in the grip of recession and I couldn't find a decent job. I finally found a crap job in a warehouse, saved my money and returned to Guatemala. It was my third trip to Guatemala, the first as a traveler and the second as a exchange student on my university gap year. The second time I met and fell in love with the woman who is now my wife. Anyway, the only work I get there was teaching English and so I did that for the next 15 years. First working for someone else, then privately and finally employing other people. When that collapsed due to the bad economy I returned to England with my wife. Although I had intended on staying only a couple of years circumstances led us to stay for five. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy being in England again and neither did my wife. With relief, we returned to Guatemala about three years ago. since then we have bought a house and opened and closed two businesses. It has been a very busy three years. Now I am hoping to concentrate on promoting and selling the books that I have written.
Tell us about your latest book.
My book, The Adventures of Jojo Smith came about more as an experiment than as an attempt at serious writing. I wanted to see if I was really capable of writing a decent story. Although an avid reader since my teens I've never had the compulsion to write myself, but after I got back into education I was encouraged by several tutors to try my hand at it. I didn't bother until after I had graduated and one day sat down and wrote the first six pages. Unfortunately, I caught a severe case of writer's block and couldn't touch it for the next two years. Fortunately, I took those six pages with me when I returned to Guatemala and was able to finish it there. As I was surprisingly pleased with the end result, I continued to write. One of the pieces of advice about writing you may hear is write about what you know and that's what I did. I wrote fantasy because I like to read it and it gave me scope to use my imagination. The medieval setting came about because I love the Arthurian Legend and other types of sword and sorcery tales. The main character of Jojo was based on ordinary blokes like myself and those that I grew up with. I was fed up with reading stories where the main character or hero has special qualities or abilities to deal with the situations they find themselves in. I wanted to see how a normal bloke would feel and react to being transported to another world in another age. I know the thoughts and reactions of an ordinary bloke. My main character came first and all I did was find a setting in which I could have some fun with him. The story is written with a dash of humour because I don't take myself too seriously and I wasn't about to take my first attempt at writing too seriously either. I had a concrete idea how to start the story and knew that there would be a happy ending, but the bit in between was very vague. It developed without a set plan, as ideas hit me.
What do you have coming out in the future?
The next book that I wish to publish is another fantasy which is also set in a medieval world, but the hero is part of that world. It is about a shape-shifter. A jester that is host to two other human spirits. The host is unaware of the other two and they are also unaware of each other. All live fragmented lives until the barriers separating them begin to break down.
What genre do you enjoy writing the most and why?
I write fantasy because that is what I like to read and it also lets me use my imagination. Some characters are pure figments of my imagination, others are based on real people, but in general, not in particular. I think that there are many authors that have influenced my writing as I have read very many books over the years. Most of those books were not by famous authors and I can´t even remember the titles now. You can usually find some little gem in whatever you read. Probably the most impressive for me was Tolkien, as he created a whole world for his characters and it was the first of that kind work that I had ever read.
How have your real life experiences influenced your writing?
One day I realized that there was one thread that ran through all my works and that was the idea of change. My main characters always go through some sort of change during the course of the story. That probably reflects my own life. I have changed the expected course of my life and it´s a lot different from what it was supposed to be. Some of the changes have been deliberate and some seem to have come about randomly.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
My road to publishing has been a bloody nightmare. For many years I just wrote and wrote without any great ambition to publish. It was a vague idea floating around in my head. Although I was quite pleased with the stories that I produced I wasn't sure that anybody would be. On the other hand I'd read some really dreadful books in my time and have wondered to myself if this crap can be published 'why can't someone publish my crap?’ Anyway, at some point I decided to try. This was a long time before I had a computer and didn't really understand how the internet worked. To cut a long story short I found a list of agents and publishers and started sending off query letters by post from Guatemala. It was a long drawn out process. Most agents and publishers didn't reply and those that did were rejection letters. This took place over several years. Some letters took as long as nine months to reach me. I had just about given up when one of the publishers I had sent a letter to finally replied and told me that they thought my book was wonderful and they would love to publish it. Apparently, during the time my query was sent the company had been taken over and there were lots of changes, so that accounted for the delay in getting back to me. What I didn't know was that it was an online publisher. I was looking for a traditional publisher and hadn't considered online publishing before, but by this time I was desperate as I had put in a lot of time and effort. They sent all the literature about their company and pointed out how easy it was. They were all very friendly and so I signed a contract. As soon as I signed the contract they turned into a right nasty bunch. What I didn't understand until it was too late was that they would only print the book on demand and I had to market and sell it myself. Also, I had to buy the copies of my book from them to sell it. I was ill equipped to do that, so the book stagnated with them for many years. Finally, they released it back to me. Sometime later I stumbled across Amazon and have put my book there. I was so excited to find some place where I could publish my book without the consent of anybody else that I rushed into it and of course, made some mistakes. Now I have corrected the mistakes and realized that I have to promote the book myself. Before I didn't have much time or ideas how to do that, but I am beginning to learn.
Is your book a stand alone or a series?
This was written as a stand alone book as I thought at the time that I probably only had imagination enough to write one book, but it seems I was wrong, seeing as I have gone on to write other books. I was so happy with my story that I wanted to invent other characters and situations, but if there was a demand for it I would be quite happy to feature Jojo Smith in other stories.
Have you joined any writer’s groups?
I have joined a group on Goodreads and Bookblogs.
What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
The hardest part of writing seems to change as I go along. At first it was about screwing up my courage enough to actually sit down and try to write. The first few pages that I wrote were agonizing and then I came down with writer's block. After I had got over that hurdle and found that I could write if I wanted to, the words generally flowed. It isn't always as easy as I make it sound here, but I know that I can write when I’m in the mood. Then came revisions. After I have come to the end of a story, I've had enough and don't want to touch it again. Unfortunately, you have to, but I find that I have to force myself to sit down and go through it all over again. Now I'm on the promoting and marketing stage, which I’m not too happy with either.