interviewed on Feb 8, 2019
Q. How would you describe yourself?
I like to think of myself as an adventurer and, I guess, living and working on my boat whilst exploring the waterways of Europe and looking after boisterous beagles is proof of that! I am originally from the UK, was born in Chichester, West Sussex and educated there, studying art, design and photography at the West Sussex College of Design in Worthing and later Creative Writing with NEC, Cambridge. I consider myself to be artistic and creative and a lover of the natural world, all these things play a major role in my writing.
Q. Tell us something about the books that you have written and the story behind them.
For over 20 years I have contributed both words and pictures to leading inland waterways publications but only recently produced my first book. ‘Boating with Buster – the life and times of a barge Beagle' is the story of 12 years of travel through the waterways of England, Ireland and northern Europe as far as Scandinavia in the company of Buster the barge Beagle, who was also known as the Admiral.
Q. What place does writing hold in your life, how has been your writing journey so far?
Writing plays a major role in my life and despite finding it hard work at times, it is strangely compelling and gives immense satisfaction on completion. Writing a book, however, is totally different to writing magazine articles which is where my background in the industry stems from, and is all consuming.
Q. What is your writing process, a typical writing day routine?
As I live and work on a boat there are rarely two days the same for me. Throughout most of the year I am travelling so writing is limited but, in the winter, the boat is usually based in one place resulting in a more ordered daily routine. However, having a boat and a dog still means they take priority over my writing.
Q. What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I have tried to produce a book which stands out from the crowd and is 'different' from a standard paperback, this in itself has been a great marketing tool.
My marketing revolves mainly around the social media sites of facebook and instagram. I purposely restricted myself to two forms of social media in order to be devoted to them and, so far, this has worked well for me. My background in the magazine industry has also played a significant role in marketing my book.
Q. What do you think makes a book sell, or makes a reader buy it?
A colourful, attractive cover with an interesting title and a catchy, intriguing synopsis to entice the reader in are all key in helping to make a book sell.
Q. What's the most moving or affecting thing a reader has said to you?
I have been extremely lucky and received some lovely comments from readers. Being congratulated on having a rich ‘Dickensian’ descriptive style was one of the most gratifying as well as being congratulated on producing something different from a standard paperback, people have enjoyed the pictures and graphics in Boating with Buster.
Q. What are your favourite three books, and why?
As an avid reader as well as a writer, it is very difficult to select only three favourite books, but I suppose the ones which really stand out for me are, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee and Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier.
Q. Who are your favourite three authors and what do you like the most about them?
Laurie Lee for his wonderful descriptive prose. Margaret Atwood for her ability to weave a complex storyline and Charles Dickens for his dark earthy portrayal of Victorian, industrial squalor.
Q. Tell us about the books that you are currently writing and their progress.
I am not currently writing another book however at some stage in the future there maybe something about my boating adventures in Scandinavia with my new beagle puppy, Maksimillian. For the time being my magazine articles are taking priority.
Q. What challenges do you think are faced by writers, what's the worst thing about the book industry according to you?
I had very clear views on how I wanted my book, Boating with Buster to look. However, wanting to include over 160 full colour images (digital photographs) and not use standard fonts I was constantly met with resistance to change and/or a “We don’t do it like that!” attitude. Publishers appear to have very set ways on how to do things, therefore if you are a writer looking to produce something different or outside of a publisher’s ‘normal’ remit it may prove frustrating and challenging.
Q. Apart from writing, what goals do you want to achieve in life?
Be happy and enjoy life, to travel as many of the waterways of the world whilst I am hit and healthy enough to and promote their use through the written word and my photographs.
Q. What message do you want to share with budding writers?
Always be true to yourself, never give up or settle for second best – focus and see your writing project through to the end! Writing a book takes much longer than you may initially think so be prepared to pitch in for the long term.