Steve was the grandson to a Thames-Docker, and son of a schizophrenic, alcoholic mother. Life on the streets of East London in the 60s was a testing time for him. In 1971, he moved to rural Essex aged 14-years. At 16-years old, he was in a house fire, leaving him with life-threatening injuries, which resulted in nine minutes on the other side. He believes he was given a second chance to write about Rebecca.
He went on to work for Royal Mail for 32 years, retiring at the age of 52. He then turned his attention to writing, aiming to improve his use of the English language. It took him five years to recognise his literary voice was a feminine one. Unbeknown to him, Rebecca had been waiting patiently.
Time to chat with Steve!
Is your recent book part of a series?
I only ever intended Rebecca & the Spiral Staircase to be a one-off story chronicling the adventures of a 15-year-old girl. I had finished – or so I thought – and was preparing my novel for a launch date. Then from nowhere, my beloved Rebecca called me for one final chapter. This chapter changed everything, and opened the door for Rebecca, A Way Back, and more…
Do you write under a pen name? If so, can you tell us why?
My name is my name. I write with a feminine voice, but even son, a guy writing about a 15-year-old girl raised a few eyebrows. It was suggested I changed my name and instead choose a female pseudonym. I wasn’t comfortable with that, especially as it is so hard to spell ha ha.
How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?
Aha, that’s an interesting, and in my case, fascinating question. When I first decided to get some words down on paper, a manly sci-fi novel seemed to be the obvious choice. After a couple of years of trudging my way through this story, I realised that either I didn’t fit it or it didn’t fit me. I tried some alternative styles with little joy. I was seemingly lost in literary oblivion. Then from nowhere, Rebecca called me. The moment I started typing she was there waiting. I had found my voice, and genre. Rebecca chose me.
If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?
Adults lose their ability to see.
How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?
My girl closes the front door and always turns left. Even though I have a set route or plan for Rebecca, she’s rarely prepared to be led, and instead chooses an unforeseen direction. When she speaks, however, I know how she thinks and responds. Either, I am in her head, or she’d in mine, so there’s rarely a surprise.
Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
Oh, if only it were that simple. With an individual like Rebecca, there is no way she’d allow me or anyone else to pre-empt the ending. As with her first chronicle, just when I thought it was done-n-dusted, she shouted an alternative conclusion.
How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?
That’s quite a provocative question. Generally, the personalities of my characters or their roles within my novel will ultimately determine their name. I can see everyone’s individual’s facial expression, appearance, and characteristics, which mostly results in a perfect name fit. Sometimes though, I have no choice but consider era appropriate names as with Meredith, a lady from 1853. Rebecca, however, picked her name, and I went along with it because it suited her perfectly. I subsequently discovered that Rebekha was the wife of Isaac in the Hebrew Bible and one of the four original female names.
There are so many conflicting opinions out there about everything related to publishing: e-book pricing, book promotion, social media usage etc. How do you sort through it all to figure out what works best for you?
At the get go, I struggled deciding the right publication route for my novel. Initially, I believed the conventional road via a literary agent was the only way for my girl. I soon realised that in these times of austerity, a new author book deal was always going to be a difficult direction. Literary agents receive an endless list of proposals and invariably your beloved novel, can, and will end up on the ‘slush-pile’, even if your story is outstanding. I tried six agents and although their response was positive, there was always a, “at the moment, we cannot consider new authors.” Interestingly, I didn’t get one auto “thanks but no thanks” reply. Although frustrated, I was actually spurred on by their positive comments. I then looked at the e-book route, and decided to let Rebecca loose on the world. Ultimately, the readers decide if your tale is good enough, and so it has proven with a phenomenal response.
I do use social media as a platform for my novel and this has had a mixed response. I write an angling blog, and with a constant world-wide audience, I used that to promote my novel. Although my fishing blog employs a somewhat different literary voice, it led to a few sales. I also run an angling forum via Facebook, and this platform produced a decent level of sales. Of interest, all the female anglers who read my book openly shared their enjoyment. The male anglers, however, showed their pleasure via private messages. Mostly though, Twitter has been a fantastic method of promoting for my novel. I believe that providing you are proactive and engage your followers, then they will – it would seem – purchase your book once they get to know you.
I spoke with an employee of a large UK book store, and he had an interesting view on independently published books. He explained that while at university, he was tasked with exploring the indie author route. He suggested that over ninety-five percent of e-books are “rubbish,” and that if you have a good story, and it is well written, then it will, in time, rise up through the ranks. His view was that reviews, an attention grabbing cover, a fascinating tale, and believable characters are the keys to success.
Are you a fast typist? Does your typing speed (or lack of it) affect your writiing?
Even if I could type five-hundred words a minute, Rebecca’s tale manifests itself at her pace, with the hands of the clock seemingly motionless. So no matter how fast I want to go, she keeps slowing me down, allowing her time to consider her direction.
Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?
As I said earlier, I write an angling blog. Interestingly, readers often say they feel they have been on a fishing expedition with me. Many have said that Rebecca takes you by the hand and leads you through every turn. Although the two are written with a slightly different literary voice, it appears, they both engage the reader in a similar way.
How would you define your style of writing?
It has been said on a number of occasions, by many, that I have a feminine voice. My intended style is to engage people with thought provoking, between the lines, suggestions. I hope my readers are left unsure, wondering if the events surrounding Rebecca’s journey actually happen. Ultimately, I trust them to find the alternative, unforeseen conclusion. After all, I didn’t see it coming…
Have you ever wished that you could bring a character to life? If so, which one and why?
I don’t know what you could possibly mean. All my characters are alive, thriving, and very well, thank you for asking.
A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?
Reviews are king of the hill… Readers trust independent opinions. Today, the internet dominates people’s decisions. Those going to a new restaurant, holiday resort, or hotel, will check reviews first. Why would it be any different for a book?
Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?
I currently live with my wife in Essex, just north of London. We hope to move soon to rural Suffolk, known as ‘Constable Country’. It is a beautiful county, with lovely people, an amazing history, and stunning old houses.
Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?
We prefer boats, or in our case, ships. My wife and I love to cruise and have most recently returned from a fifty night cruise that took us from Southampton, across the Atlantic, around the Caribbean, Latin America, along the coast of North America, and back home. We cannot wait for the next one, so buy my book 😉
What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?
A two way road of honesty and compassion without an agenda is important to me. Knowing they are there for you no matter what, and that you feel the same.
Care to brag about your family?
I have been married to Jacqui for 38 years, and she is still my best friend. Before she retired, she was the court manager at the world famous ‘Old Bailey’, Central Criminal Court, in London. Our son, Ryan is currently resident in Vancouver, Canada living the dream. He is super intelligent, getting his brains from his mother, a fantastic footballer (soccer), and an honest individual.