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Tuesday, 13 August 2013
Guest Author - John Paul Davis
1. When did you start writing and was there any particular event that drew you to the pen?
When I was young, I used to love making up stories; sport aside, it was the best thing about school. I attempted writing a few short stories, both in and out of the classroom, when I was about 10 or 11, but I didn’t keep it up. I started again after graduating uni: I did a bit of travelling on my gap year, which included trips to Italy and the USA. Rome in particular left me simply transfixed. I’d read Angels and Demons a year earlier and several of Ludlum’s in the past, many of which were set in Rome, and the real life locations really struck a chord. The churches and museums of Rome, notably the Vatican, really stimulated my imagination and later served as fodder for The Templar Agenda.
2. Do you have a favourite character from another author’s book?
You mean besides Matt Drake? In truth, I have quite a few. I’m a huge fan of Ludlum and Grisham: their novels always have brilliant characters. Jason Bourne is definitely one of the best, while Grisham’s Darby Shaw and Mark Sway are also standouts.
3. Do you pre-plan your stories or are you a take-it-as-it-comes writer?
I always pre-plan – these days I won’t even start writing the book until I have the skeleton of a plot in place. When I started out, I took it as it came: as a result, it took me five years to complete my first novel. I think there has to be some leeway for exploring a book’s potential – not only is it a natural part of writing a novel but it’s also half the fun. That said, it’s important to keep the end in sight. As soon as you lose sight of the destination, you become something of a hostage to fortune.
4. Where does your inspiration come from? What motivates you?
All of my books have been influenced by my real life experiences. History and travelling are two of my greatest passions, and I would credit my experiences in life as having the greatest impact on my writing. Where possible, I try to visit every location I use in a book first – see the sights through my characters’ eyes, so to speak. I particularly like to target mysteries and enigmas, or else look into elements of history that aren’t well known. As for motivation, being a writer is a dream job which I would love to sustain. At the moment, that’s all the motivation I need.
5. Do you have set schedule to write to or do you grab the time as it comes?
I don’t have a set schedule but I do try to write every day – or at least do something productive, like reading or research. When that’s not possible, I’ll just make sure I’m back on it the next day.
6. How do you take writing interruptions?
At the end of the day they’re just a part of life. I always set goals, and try my hardest to keep them in sight. As long as I meet my goals, interruptions don’t worry me.
7. What do you enjoy and what do you hate about writing?
There is so much to enjoy – for me, it’s a dream job. I’ve always enjoyed the role of storyteller; in my opinion that’s the best part of being a writer. Whether I’m working on a thriller or a historical biography I always write about the things that interest me, so I’m always doing something I’m passionate about. It’s a great learning curve as well. As a non-fiction writer, there are other perks as well: like being interviewed for a major newspaper, or being asked to appear in a documentary. They’re more rare than frequent, but they do happen.
There’s nothing I really hate about writing. The editing stage is probably my least favourite. It’s also the bit which takes me the longest. For the biographies, this is particularly critical as it’s imperative that the facts don’t get lost in translation.
8. Mostly for our other authors out there, what’s your advice as to how to handle a bad review?
All you need are two things: their address, and a good hitman...not really :D
Every author gets bad reviews – usually the best get more than the worst. Just look up Dan Brown, Robert Ludlum, Stephanie Meyer… The list is endless. If your writing is original, it will take awhile for you to figure out who your fans are. If you’re successful, the scrutiny will be big. But it’s also a sign that you’re doing something well.
I guess the important thing is to look for the trends. If some people are criticising what other people like, the best thing you can do is stay strong – long-term these people will become your core fan base, while the critics will leave your future work alone. I agree with John Locke when he said that the more hostile the review the further they are from your intended audience. If, on the other hand, the trend is more negative, but also written in a considerate way, then there might be something you can improve on. In which case, swallow your pride. No matter how gifted an author, the art of writing can never be mastered straight away.
9. What other projects do you have on the boil?
I’m currently working on the next thriller, which should be out within the next six months. I do have a couple of side projects as well, but mostly I’m concentrating on my writing.
10. Do you have any advice to offer other Indie authors about self-publishing?
In essence, decide what you want to write, persevere with it and have fun. I find it extraordinary how many Indie authors seem to write one novel and spend the rest of their time on Twitter spamming their followers. Readers are much more likely to take a chance on your book if you have more than one out there. Worse still, you could go to all the effort trying to get people to buy your book, and even if you succeed, once they’ve read it, then what? By the time you’ve actually got round to writing the next one, that reader might have found a new favourite.
I think the best advice, which personally I have found invaluable, is to study the careers of authors who have already made it. What did they do which worked so well? There’s a famous saying by Charles H. Fowler, The best teachers of humanity are the lives of great men. I think that statement is true for every skill/craft as well. Who is your role model? If you don’t have one, find one. Take the time to learn from the success stories.
11. Does any particular strategy work for you to boost sales?
At present, I’m still concentrating on writing rather than marketing. The best strategy, in my opinion, is to come up with a book that people want to read. Writing about a good subject is worth a century of daily auto-tweeting. After that, people shouldn’t underestimate the importance of a good title and cover.
12. Does social networking improve your sales?
Twitter has been great because of the connections I’ve been able to make; and I’m sure that it has also helped me get my name out there, too. In the early days it probably helped with a few sales, but not so much now. That said, I am convinced that the John Lock strategy works so I haven’t given up on it. At the moment, I only really use it for the enjoyment.
13. You write both fiction and non-fiction. Which do you prefer?
I genuinely love both.
14. Both The Templar Agenda and The Larmenius Inheritance have been successful on both sides of the Atlantic. Do you have any plans to develop either book into a series?
I have plans in place for well over 20 novels, most of which are standalones. Personally, I prefer coming up with characters that fit the plot, rather than putting the same character in the ‘right place at the right time’. I love Ludlum and Higgins, in particular, in that regard because they only wrote a series when there was a logical progression. I think it’s possible Frei/Mãder and Anson/Stocker could have another encounter but only if I was convinced it was in the best interests of the book.