I’d like to introduce you to the fifth interviewee in my ‘Meet the Author’ series. He is author John Holt.
QUESTION: Hi, John! Welcome to Susan Finlay Writes blog site. Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer?
ANSWER: Hi Susan, and thak you so much for having me here. There’s not really a lot to say about my background as a writer. Although I had always wanted to write a novel I came into very late in life. Having said that I used to write articles, back in the early sixties, for a couple of Blues magazines, sadly no longer existing. We would go to sveral of teh clubs in London, the Marquee, Flamingo, The 100 Club, The Scene, Studio 51, and see a lot of the rock stars, and the blues singers – Chuck Berry, John lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and many others. I was fortunate enough to get to interview many of them and write a piece for the magazine. How I wish I still had those articles. As for becoming a novelist, that came about following a holiday in Austria. We stayed in the lake district near to lake Toplitz. This lake was used by the German Navy in the Second World War, to test torpedoes and rockets. This became the basis to my first book “The Kammersee Affair” published in 2006.
QUESTION: You have five self-published novels available online. Do you have a favorite, or one that is more meaningful to you? Are your books related, or is each independent of the others? They were published fairly close together—between August, 2012, and March, 2013. Is any single book of yours outselling the others?
ANSWER: Apart “The Kammersee Affair” the other four books all feature my private detective Tom Kendall. Although the four books follow on from each other, they are all standalone. All five books were self published between August 2012, and now under my own banner PHOENIX, but they have all been previously published. “Kammersee” 2006; “The Mackensie Dossier” 2008; “The Marinski Affair” 2009; “Epidemic” 2011, and “A Killing In The City” in 2012. Is any one book outselling the others? Well all books are doing reasonably well on amazon.com, with “Marinski” being ahead, although “Kammersee” is a close second. On amazon.co.uk it is a different story. There “A Killing In The City” is in the lead, with the newcomer “Epidemic” coming up fast.
QUESTION: Can you tell us a bit about your newest book, Epidemic? What inspired you to write it? How did you come up with the title?
ANSWER: “Epidemic” was inspired by the Swine Flu that was sweeping the World a few years ago. The media spoke of nothing else for day after day, week after week, month after month. There were details of where the virus had spread; the expected death toll; what the World Health Organisation was doing; and, of course, the progress the pharmaceutical companies were making in the search for an antidote. Then, quite suddenly, it was over. There had been a number of fatalities, but nothing as bad as had been predicted. They say that there is no such thing as bad publicity, only publicity. They also say something about ill winds. Well it seemed to me that the swine flu epidemic was an ill wind that blew something good in the direction of the drug industry. If they could come up with a cure they stood to make billions of dollars. I started to think what if the drug industry was behind all of the hype. Then I thought what if they already had a vaccine in place, but just needed a virus, possibly a mutation of a known virus. In other words, what if they had deliberately started the virus themselves? What if a young reporter found out and was silenced?
QUESTION: Where do you get your book covers? Do you design them yourself?
ANSWER: I design all of my own covers. I keep them simple but to the point. I decide on a scene, or a theme, of each book, then I do a Google search of images to find something suitable. I never pay for an image, but I do seek permission from the owner, and give them a credit in the book. For example the image of a large Ruby necklace on “The Marinski Affair” came from a jewellery shop in California. They were happy to give permission, and we are now good friends. I take the image into Photoshop, edit the picture to suit, add the title and there you are.
QUESTION: There’s a lot of information out there about how to self-publish. What was your experience like? How difficult was it for you to self-publish with Amazon Digital Services? Will you continue publishing through Amazon?
ANSWER: Self-publishing is now so easy, and there is no charge. With sites like Lulu.com and Createspace it is easy to arrange for a paperback of your novel. Then for the ebook there is Smashwords, and Kindle Direct; once again at no charge. There is no excuse for not getting your work out to the public. Will I continue to use Amazon Digital services? Certainly I will, and I will continue to use Lulu for the paperbacks.
QUESTION: How does it feel to be a published author? How are you dealing with marketing and advertising? Have you done any public launch parties, book readings, or book signings? Have you met any fans in person?
ANSWER: I am a realist to know that the chances of a million seller are pretty remote. I am also willing to admit that my writings are pure entertainment. I have no hidden messages, no profound statements to make. Nonetheless it is good to see your work out there for the public to enjoy (hopefully). Of course my work doesn’t please everyone, and I have had my share of terrible reviews. I know I cannot please everyone all the time. Therefore I write to please myself. As long as I’m happy that’s fine. If someone else likes it, that’s an added bonus. I have had two book signings. One arranged by Waterstones when they were interested in local authors. (Sadly no longer the case), and an afternoon arranged by my local library. As for marketing I rely on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Although it is unlikely taht I will ever meet them, I have made many friends on these sites. Friends who gladly support me by twittering, sharing, and blogging. It is a constant round of promoting, and may get on some peoples nerves, but it has to be done.
QUESTION: At some point or another, all writers come across the “rules” of contemporary writing: no adverbs, no dialogue tags, show don’t tell, etc. In your opinion, how important are they to writing? Are there any that you particularly adhere to?
ANSWER: I have to say that I’m not one for worrying about too many rules. To be honest I don’t fully understand a lot of the buzz words – Show don’t tell; POV. To me these rules aren’t that important as long as the plot is interesting and holds up. People do not speak correctly in real life. They leave out words, they use slang, sometimes their grammar is wrong, sometimes they use the wrong tense. So why on earth should they be expected to be grammatically correct, 100% of the time, in a book. If someone dislikes my work because it really isn’t their kind of a read, fine I can accept. But if someone dislikes my work because my sentence is too long – then tough, I’m sorry for you.
QUESTION: What is your favorite or least favorite part of writing? Do you have any writing routines—special places where you write, a particular time of time, music that you listen to while you write?
ANSWER: My favourite part of writing is creating a character and developing that character. To set a scene, or an event. To look back at what I have written and saying “Hey that’s not half bad”. The least favourite part I suppose must be those awful reviews who just didn’t get it. As for a special place, well that is in my “office”, although I can be anywhere when an idea suddenly comes to mind. As for music I like Classic FM. I certainly don’t want anything to sing along to, or anything too loud.
QUESTION: If you could meet any book character, who would it be, and what would you do with them?
ANSWER: My all time favourite book out of millions is “A Tale Of Two Cities”. I suppose I would like to meet Sidney Carton, and just talk to him about how life was back in the 18th century. Or maybe Poirot. I would love to know what he thought of my detective Tom Kendall.
QUESTION: Of everything you’ve ever written, whether it’s to be published or not, what’s your favorite piece or scene?
ANSWER: That’s difficult. I have now completed five novels, containing over 500000 words. I am also working on four others containing another 150000 words too date between them. Amongst those words are so many different scenes. Some funny, some less so. Some dramatic, some scenic. But if you press for an answer then maybe the first paragraph of my first book “The Kammersee Affair” –
The lake was flat and calm with barely a ripple. Its dark waters glistened, reflecting the moonlight as though it were a mirror. A myriad of stars shone brightly in a cloudless sky, their shimmering light dancing across the surface of the water. Around the perimeter of the lake were tall conifer trees. Slender, and majestic, they grew, stretching high into the air, competing with each other for the available natural light. Surrounding the lake were sandy, gravely, banks of earth, which extended down to the water’s edge. Beyond, the land gently rose up, the slope gradually growing steeper and steeper, climbing up high along the limestone face to the side of the mountain. In the moonlight the white limestone glowed eerily, contrasting with the blackness of the shadows of the trees.
QUESTION: What books are you currently reading?
ANSWER: My reading likes are, I’m afraid, limited. I don’t like horror. I don’t like fantasy, vampires, zombies. Generally I tend to read crime thrillers, and adventure only. The two genre that I work in. I mainly read books by other Indie authors that I know on Facebook. I have recently finished Tom Winton’s “Four Days With Hemingway’s Ghost. However I am currently reading a book that was written at the time of Sherlock Holmes. The main character Arsene Lupin the Gentleman Burglar. Written by Frenchman Maurice Leblanc and recently translated. Although sounding slightly dated I am enjoying it very much.
QUESTION: Please list any websites or social media links for yourself or your book. Thanks!
The Kammersee Affair