An updated version of an interview that first appeared on Awesome Gang...
Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written. I’m a writer, composer and pianist, as well as being a father of five and grandfather of twelve (with a thirteenth due later this year). Though born in Melbourne, Australia, I’ve lived in Dunedin, New Zealand, most of my life. I’ve written for as long as I can remember, but only really began to be serious about it in the early 90s, when I took a course that encouraged me to write articles for magazines and newspapers. As a result I had a number of articles published, went on to write a column for a local newspaper for five years, and have been blogging incessantly ever since. I’ve written three children’s fantasies (for Middle Grade readers) and a nonfiction book based on blog posts I wrote when I was struggling with prostate issues back in 2009.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it? The latest book one to be published is The Disenchanted Wizard, and it was intended to be the third book in a series of children’s fantasies under the general title of Grimhilderness. In fact it's turned out to be a standalone, with little connection to the previous two books. I'm currently writing a fourth children's fantasy, which is actually going to be number three in the series. In 2012 I co-wrote the script of a musical called Grimhilda!, and composed the music. Young audience members who attended the show asked: When is the sequel coming out? So I turned Grimhilda!into a book, and then that was followed by another…and then another. The original story of Grimhilda had begun way back in the 70s. So it was an idea with a long gestation!
Do you have any unusual writing habits? Not a single one that I can think of!
What authors, or books have influenced you? Among many other things, I’ve always been interested in fantasies. I read the Narnia stories way back, and Tolkien, of course (though I found when I read it again a few years ago that it was pretty hard going!) Diana Wynne-Jones’ stories intrigue me: her imagination is huge. I like stories that start out in the ordinary and take off into fantasy, and that’s what my books do. I’ve recently discovered Nate Wilson’s books. He has more imagination than he knows what to do with, I think!
What are you working on now? As I mentioned above, I’m working on another book in the Grimhilderness series. It's taking some time to complete, as writing is only one of the things I do. I've spent a lot of time working out the plot, writing endless notes and early drafts. I have to get to know the characters and elements of the plot before I can sit down to produce a final draft. It involves a lot of writing, but it’s worth it. Even if I don’t think so at the time (!)
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books? This has been a process of discovery; I’m finding there are all sorts of sites and options that weren’t available when I started writing. Most successfully, over the last several months, I've been advertising on Amazon Marketing Services. This has produced more sales than I've had any other way.
I also use Twitter a lot, am involved in a very helpful Facebook Indie publishers page and two groups run by Brian Meeks - who focuses on the AMS ads.
Do you have any advice for new authors? Don’t be satisfied with the first thing you write. Be willing to be critiqued to within an inch of your life. You’ll hate it, but it’s good for you in the long run. I’ve read a number of books since the big ebook revolution and some of them are desperately in need of a firm hand, but plainly haven’t had it. Let someone else in on the book, otherwise – unless you’re a genius – you won’t be putting out your best work. And keep on writing…
What is the best advice you have ever heard? You can cut any piece of writing in half without losing what’s best about it. Most of us write too much.
What are you reading now? Just finished reading The Experiment of Professor Polgas by Sarah Brownlee. Another very imaginative writer. She produces several big scenes in her book and has some strong characters.
What’s next for you as a writer? Amongst all the other bits and pieces, I’m now close to writing a proper first draft of the new Grimhilderness book. But that will be fitted in with playing for the rehearsals of a production of The Mikado, and for young singers in Competitions next month...and so on.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring? The Bible, because it’s a book that’s not only taught me about the Christian faith, but its words have got me through some dark nights. I’ve memorized a number of passages in it, so even if I lost it, I guess I’d still have some of it in my head. I’d take one of Dickens’ best books, such as Pickwick Papers, or Great Expectations. One of the books by Dale Ralph Davis. He’s one of the most accessible commentators on the Christian faith that I know. And perhaps The Last Battle by C S Lewis. Even though it takes a bit of time to get going, it has the greatest ending of any of the Narnia stories.