Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
I started writing in 2010 at the end of a business career as a serial entrepreneur. I had sold my last business which I had built from start-up and the new owners required me to continue as acting CEO of the company for the next twelve months. My presence was hardly justified and so I filled my time by writing a memoir of my business experiences in the UK, Canada and Australia, which resulted in 'Toughing It Out: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur' being published in 2012.
What makes writing your passion?
Before completing my first book, I uncovered the fascinating life of my great great grandfather who became a famous missionary to China. Uncovering his 40 years of adventures through Asia and China, including his most notable achievement of translating the Bible into Chinese, became a passion for me. The result was 'Mission to China: How an Englishman Brought the West to the Orient,' published first in England, followed by a Chinese edition in Taiwan.
I became very passionate about researching the life of a famous person from 150 years ago. I realised that I have a strong interest in history and discovered a new reason to travel the world, walking where my subjects had walked before me.
How long have you been writing?
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
Not so much with my first book, because I became so quickly obsessed by the writing of my second book. I live in Australia and my publisher was from England. I remember clearly visiting their offices on the day that I first held my new book. It was hard cover with beautiful illustrations and it felt like a million dollars that day.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
I have been lucky in finding two of my ancestors who have led interesting lives, leading me to become their biographer. My third book is about the grand niece of the person I wrote about in 'Mission to China.' She was born in England but her family left to become pioneers in the American west. She went on to become one of the leading suffragists, helping to win American women the vote in 1920. The book is called, 'Clara Colby: The International Suffragist.'
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
That is a hard question to answer. I suppose if I relied upon a writing career alone for income, that would be the most challenging thing.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
Sometimes I just take a break. Other times I just have to discipline myself to press on and just write whatever I can. The results are sometimes surprisingly good.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
Write whatever and whenever you can; be persistent but be patient. Write for whatever reason you can and don't limit your writing to a book you are dreaming about. Every writing experience including family letters, business reports and daily journals are all valuable ways of improving your skills.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Write a daily journal.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
Yes. I have not received any really bad reviews. Some have made a point to find something negative, even if it is only a question of grammatical error or a formatting problem.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
A good review is like gold. Use it whenever you can to promote interest in the book.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
As a biographer, this question does not apply. However, I always try to place myself in the period about which I am writing and I think about how I would react to certain events at that time. Then I try to describe the reaction of people I am writing about to the events of their time.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
Does not apply to biography.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
The book cover is very important and should grab the attention of a potential reader. In the case of a historical novel or biography, it should represent something of the period in which it is set.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I love to communicate with readers.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
I think this is what many of us writers are seeking.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
Robert Harris because he is a master of the historical novel. His books include Pompeii, Imperium, Fatherland and Enigma.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
Edward Rutherfurd, another writer of historical fiction based upon cities and places. eg. Sarum, London, New York and Dublin.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?