The author I’m featuring today has the ability to make me laugh out loud and keep my feet firmly on the ground by his uncanny ability to deflate any hot air from the balloon.
Hi Ian, thank you for allowing me this interview. 🙂
What did your parents think of you when you were little? Was you the accountant, or were you always this bubbly and generally fun person?
My mother had this unnerving tendency to stop, look lovingly at other, younger children and then say to me ‘I used to love you when you were that age.’ Then we’d walk on. I was very close to my mother (and vice versa, I think), and I’m very happy to say that I got the rare chance to become friends with my father during the last few years of his life.
That is wonderful Ian, I mean being close and becoming friends. A real thing to treasure, me thinks.
Have you always lived in the UK?
I was fortunate to be born into a family that was permanently on the run from the authorities. Erm, I mean, into a family that moved around a lot with my father’s work (he was an electronics warfare expert during the Cold War and after). The two most memorable places have been Hong Kong and the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. In Hong Kong we had the worst cholera epidemic of the century, the worst drought and the worst typhoon. On Lewis we had a couple of pet sheep. As a child I initially spoke only Cantonese and a little pidgin English, and it wasn’t until we moved to Scotland that I learned to read and write.
Wow! Cantonese, that’s great, I’d love to be able to order my take-away in Cantonese. Do you ever? Or do you cook? No, don’t answer that last one, because I’ll come back to that subject.
I did once have a Chinese Takeaway shop trained so well that I could just open the door, stick a thumbs-up over the heads of the queue and my order would be cooked straight away for me. I think I accounted for a big percentage of their profits. I can’t speak a word of Cantonese now. No-one else in the family spoke it so I didn’t hear it again after we left Hong Kong and it has faded away over the years.
Can you tell us a bit about your path leading to this writing loop we’re stuck in, and is writing all you do nowadays?
I think like most writers I’ve done everything else before getting to this point. I worked for the British Civil Service for some years (incredibly boring) and then worked for several big corporations such as EDS and AVIVA (incredibly boring). Then one fine day my suits and ties and I parted company and I set up a couple of my own business. After a couple of years the global financial nonsense tripped up my best laid plans and I hurtled into personal bankruptcy (and wasn’t that just fun, losing my home and watching my car and valuables literally being auctioned off). Now I live very simply indeed and earn my living writing and as an Edwardian photographer (bellows cameras, powder flash, velvet dark-cloth and suchlike).
Whoopidoo, that’s great! The photography I mean, not the auctions, although I do love a good auction. 🙂
What is the best thing that could happen to you on any given day?
I’m quite fond of waking up and finding that I am still alive. Both of my parents have assumed room temperature and shuffled into wooden overcoats, so I know that life is short. Since I’ve been both reasonably liquid and bankrupt and on benefits (with the latter a vile place to be, at the mercy of every government agency) I know that most of what people worry about just really isn’t important. Waking up with a working body and a working mind each day is rather splendid.
Again you manage to, with a few words, put things into perspective.
Thanks for answering my questions with such zeal. I love a man who can handle a bunch of words. Hahahaha. But that’s not all you are here for, is it? I guess you want to tell us about your writerly things.
So, what is the title of the book you would like to talk about?
Aha – the latest opus! The title is NGLND XPX. The title is a text message nod to Admiral Horatio Nelson and the message he sent at the start of that little rumble with the neighbours ‘England expects that every man will do his duty.’
AMAZON | SMASHWORDS
Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?
The title is a bit of a Sunday morning traffic cone in the dog’s bed – I have no idea where I found it. I did a lot of dithering between the text-message form and the proper English form, and decided that most folk would look at it and wonder what the heck it was, whereas with the proper English version they would probably think I was writing something historical.
Tell me more!
The book itself is a collection of ten very disparate stories but all with threads of humour, scifi and caricatured Englishness running through them. They are literally just whatever was playing in my head when I plugged in a fresh secretary and sat down to write them. We have some awfully English zombies (hard to tell the difference really with us English), an extinction-level comet (thwarted), a little robot accidentally meeting Mr Moses and issuing The Four Commandments, the Industrial Revolution re-imagined and First Contact, done by the Queen with tea and biscuits.
Hahahaha, that actually sounds like a book I might like, a lot even.
If you would have to change the genre in order to be able to publish it, what would it be then? i.e. would you conform to the market?
It’s difficult to tell with NGLND XPX whether it is humorous scifi or just pure humour. My trouble is that I see all of life as being ever so slightly ridiculous and have to write fiction in the same way. Life is too serious to be lived without a laugh, and I think that humour is a very under-appreciated and under-respected genre in and of itself.
But also a genre if not done right is very boring indeed. I guess with your sense of humour things can’t go wrong.
Can you tell me how you celebrate finally getting that tricky chapter (or para) right?
I usually giggle. No, but seriously, when a bit of storyline or some few lines just “click” it is a feeling that deserves to be greeted with an all-out chuckle. Not because it’s funny, but because it’s satisfying putting together pieces of the puzzle.
What don’t you like about writing.
I’m not awfully fond of the way that some writers take themselves so seriously. Writing is an essential part of the world, yes, but we’re not heart surgeons or front-line soldiers. Some folk just don’t keep it in perspective. At the serious risk of setting myself up for a fall I dislike poor grammar and experience physical discomfort when I see it. Since I try to speak and to write in fairly old-fashioned English rather than this new-fangled “global” English, I’m in pain quite a lot!
Ian, although I’m not a grammar nazi either I do know what you mean, especially when I’ve bought a book and the author hasn’t bothered to take out the simplest of spelling and grammar issues.
What do you think you are going to do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to books?
A couple of years ago I spent three months on a marketing course and it was impressed upon me then that I would have to do some very uncomfortable, overtly expressive nonsense in order to have a hope of selling a single book. The Black Adder-esque cunning plan that I have been following and will continue to follow is to find folk writing for markets that may contain people who like humour – and to then do everything that those other writers do!
Sounds like a plan!
Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?
Orange juice, coffee and curry. I can begin a day without fresh orange juice, and I can work without thick, evil coffee that has been soaked out of the living bean, but you’d rather not know me if I have to. Curry is the food of the gods, and I like mine to glow gently as though it is about to spontaneously combust. I’ve been vegetarian since my teens and vegan for the past five years – so you’ll never find animal guts, gristle or excretions on the menu in my books – unless I want to disgust the reader! I just make food either vegetarian or work around it.
What is your favourite dish and can you give me the recipe?
My favourites change daily, but I will perform circus tricks for a really groovy mushroom curry. I could give you the recipe but then you’d know where I buy my mushrooms and then there would be less for me.
Bugger! Still I bet with a bit of research I can find the right groovy mushrooms and cook up a curry with them. I’ll let you know when I have. 🙂
Would you be able to come up with a credible excuse why you haven’t written a whole day? Remember, I have to believe it!
S’easy! I have been out photographing a motorbike race or a car rally or some such. That’s one part of my other occupation that makes me forget that I should be writing. If I’m photographing a commercial event or am office party or a product launch or something I’ll actually be thinking about writing while I’m saying “freeze” and “hold still”, but if it’s a motorsports event then I’ll be concentrating too hard and having too much fun.
Okay now that we have the mandatory questions out of the way, shoot your mouth off. Tell me whatever you want the blab about. But please no cat’s, dogs, or children. Make me laugh, or cry, or even envious. Tell me something none has ever heard before from you. hehehe, love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂
Some things I’ll need to take to the grave, or at the very least to the graveside. Talking of which, I hope to be buried at sea with all of my various in-laws-through-the-ages standing around the graveside. Not for a while yet though.
Gossip and scandal eh? I was once formally accused of a hit and run about twenty years ago, that was quite an experience. My partner of the era was getting lots of grief from his lunatic neighbours and when one of them fell off a ladder in his own garden he, quite literally, dragged himself out into the roadway before calling for police and ambulance, and telling them that I’d mounted the pavement and mown him down deliberately. Now if that isn’t grim determination I don’t know what is. My – highly successful, and quite serious – defence was that my car was so utterly filthy that it was obvious I’d hit nothing with it since buying it years before, not so much as a car-wash. During the Police investigation they had to clean it to confirm what colour it was for the records. The “gentleman” in question actually later died of unrelated causes before I got a chance to use double-jeopardy laws to my advantage. All that I have now is an A5 letter hand typed on an old-fashioned manual typewriter advising me that no further action would be taken against me by the Police!
Hahahaha, that is hilarious. Remember not to wash my car ever again. Not that I have since I’ve bought it though. 🙂
Thank again Ian, and remember whenever you feel the need to share that recipe after all, or have other news to spread around, give us a holler and we’ll come running notepad in hand.
Until then, where can we find you online?
Geographical location: Usually just above ground level, Lincolnshire, England.
Website/Blog: The Diesel-Electric Elephant Company, on Twitter @dieselelephants, and on The Book of Faces aka FaceBook, but the Diesel-Electric Company has its own Facebook page too.
And readers can find me on my Amazon Author page.
As for the question of the day I’d like to ask the readers, “Do you think it’s important that characters in books eat and drink?”