Tell your readers a little about yourself, where you grew up, where you live now, where you went to school etc. Let them get to know the personal you.
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I was born in Kingston hospital and lived in a town called Surbiton until I was 13 years old; if you happen to watch an old episode of Poirot you can see they use the entrance to the train station when filming some scenes as it looks a bit 1950s! I had a great time growing up there and was really happy at school and in playtime, often with the same friends in both these parts of my life. At 13 then, we moved to a village nearby called Claygate; again, I really liked living here and although my sister went pretty quickly to university after we arrived, I was able to spend lots of evenings with my parents watching TV, and especially sport; I remember one year we were transfixed by the BBC highlights of the US Masters golf tournament, the time Ian Woosnam won it. I mention all this with great fondness and in detail because after such a wonderful childhood I grew inexplicably ill, really badly, with mental illness. But that's to come when I talk a bit more about my book; for now, I'm having a great childhood and I went to two really good schools, the second one where I was taught English & Latin by two really expert teachers. Again, I tell you this because the experience I gained from their instruction is key to my becoming a writer who was able to put pen to paper in A sufficient manner, the subject Latin often testing where you put words in a sentence and English, of course, helping you learn what those words mean in the first place! Anyway, after school, I was lucky enough to go to two universities, one at Bristol where I continued studying English and then one at East Anglia where I learned all about how to write creatively. This was quite a hard time for me - I'd decided I wanted to be a writer and to do that I needed to support myself with everyday jobs, mostly working in book shops at the time. But the pay was minimal, and I had to live in pretty shabby accommodation. Well, all that changed when I met my wife and we now live in a lovely house with our five-year-old boy and two cats, one ginger and at the start of his life, the other black and a wise old owl in her dotage! I have a job supporting sixth formers at a local school, probably the best job in the entire world as I get to help them in their studies and spend time with colleagues who are by nature good. Several years ago, I decided to self-publish all my writing with Amazon, novels, poetry, a short story collection, and of course, Rick With A (Bipolar) View. Come on, I'll tell you more about it below...
What inspired you to author this book?
My own diagnosis of bipolar disorder when I was a young man; I'd worked through quite a lot of mental issues in my first book Temples of a Fantasy Revenge (previously Saman's Revenge) but the well was by no means exhausted and so one day I decided to commit to paper what was happening then in my life, chilling out with friends whilst enjoying relatively free time after the end of university. A big influence was Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye which I happened to be reading at the time; I absolutely loved Holden Caulfield and his tired, weary but penetrating outlook on life, and the hero in my own piece is based mostly on him (with a bit of me in there too!).
I also had the film Trainspotting much in mind and Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse whose stream-of-consciousness style I imitated in my own creation. So all that stuff was whirling round my head, but I also wanted to pay tribute to my great friends at the time who had helped me deal with a lot of stuff, and so, I created Jimmy, Rick's foil if you like, Paul his posh mate, his sister Jenny and his girlfriend for about five seconds, Lucy!
Now, there's one other element missing from all this which is of utmost importance - electronic music. You see, I was quite academic at school but for one reason and another when I was working my way through the university course I began to fall out of love with my subject because two others were muscling their way through, creative writing as before mentioned but also dance music. I mean, by the end of my first year at a tertiary level I just wanted to become a DJ; we'd all spent loads of time in the city's best club, Lakota, and it was so freeing, I mean I looked ahead to a life spent in the office and it seemed so unappealing, so constricting, it would have made me miserably unhappy I'm sure, but the sounds of repetitive beats, well that just made me come alive.
So, I learnt how to mix at the end of my second year, made loads of mix tapes through my third year and beyond, and then when I'd finished university actually had a go at some house parties and even one club on the biggest night of the century, Millennium Eve! I powered a 7pm - 7am set of commercial and underground house, but I'd always wanted to just play trance and so in this book my hero gets to fulfil his dream of doing just that, with all his friends present and a tremendous atmosphere in which to flex his DJ muscles. Have I done so in real life? Not quite, although I still keep avid interest in the music.
Where did you get the inspiration for your book’s cover?
Hands in the air - what more is there to say? Oh yeah…wave ’em like you just don’t care!!
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Who has been the most significant influence on you personally and as a writer?
Apart from my wife of course (had to get that in!) it would have to be the same person both personally and as a writer - my dad! Dad is an incredibly intelligent man who at this time is unfortunately suffering from dementia, so I'd like to celebrate his character and influence on me right here. You see, as with most boys I should think Dad was my hero when I was growing up, playing video games together, all kind of sport in the back garden, watching F1 on the TV you know things like that which just bond you with someone, he worked really hard up in London during the week but at the weekend it was always family first and we'd take a trip to the rubbish dump where I'd get out of the car and try to keep alongside it as the queue quickened towards the front, I'd help fill up the petrol tank, we'd have lunches with Mum and my sister, he'd be out mowing the lawn and tidying up and then he'd push me along on my bike until one day the stabilisers were off, I thought he was still pushing and I realised I was cycling by myself, on my own, without help. Winters were tougher back then in the eighties and when it snowed he'd take the day off work and we'd hurtle down Box Hill on trays and toboggans; after the Great Storm of 1987, he did a deal with the clear-up operators to take all our massive branches which had fallen down from the big willow tree we had in the garden. I could go on but I hope that gives you flavour of just what a loving dad he was, no more so than when I decided I wasn't going to get a 9-5 career and that I wanted to be a writer instead; you see, Dad had worked for Collins in Glasgow, he knew what a novel should look like, read like, feel like and after I'd written Temples of a Fantasy Revenge he told me this wasn't the one which would make me but future efforts would; and he was right, I mean I love Temples but I do think I've written much better stuff than that now over the years. Anyway, Dad carried on reading and feeding back to me on my books as I progressed with improving my craft whilst I worked in low-paid jobs to support myself, and it's just so sad that in my latest efforts he hasn't quite been able to read through or wholly get to grips with them because of his worsening illness. However, he still keeps a copy of each of my books on his desk and I want anyone who reads any of my material to know that it simply would not have been produced without his love, support, and indeed encouragement to keep going whenever I wanted to pack it all in!!
What were the struggles or obstacles you had to overcome to get this book written?
Many, and varied, and yet when my life started you wouldn't think anything like them would have affected me at all; I mean, I had a really happy childhood in Surbiton where I went to a great school round the corner and rose up the ranks to be high-achieving in sports and academia, then I did the same thing at big-boy school whilst loving living in Claygate with a happy family, and then well death intervened actually so that by the time I was even in my first year at university there'd been a lad at school killed in a car crash, my sporting hero Ayrton Senna similarly, an uncle on my Dad's side, two athletics coaches at the same club in the same period, and I don't know the whole thing just got completely on top of me and I ended up drinking too much at a stage in my life when everyone around me was drinking hard too which just exacerbated everything until I got so depressed that my brain kicked into gear and sent itself the other way to save itself, hence bipolar disorder in which one minute I'd be absolutely deflated, demoralised, done in really and then there'd be this amazing swing like you're at the fairground and suddenly I was jubilant, ecstatic, just so happy with all that was going on, and I'm still only in my second year at university. Undiagnosed, with this illness raging inside me taking me one time high one time low I finished my finals and came home, only to cart myself off to another university where I got even sicker. Eventually, the doctor said I had this serious mental illness and my whole world collapsed inward in the instant. It was dreadful news to take because I'd always been such a happy and contented boy with all the gregarious nonsense flung in with that and suddenly, I'm facing a condition which if untreated can often cause the sufferer to commit suicide. It was a tough vibe, but slowly with professional intervention and my own determination to get better I did improve, yet the fingerprints of this time can be found all over my first two books at least, and maybe in William Ottoway's Utopia too. You see, even though the words came easy these were still books to write and it does take the energy from you when you compose. I messed that up completely with my fourth novel which to this day I can't find anywhere in my compositional material, but I have to say that overall, the strength of struggle and obstacle I had to overcome when writing Rick's narrative helps I think to give it legitimacy and credence; I poured myself into it.
Tell your readers about your book.
Oh no, I’ll let my readers tell you about it (preferably in a snazzy 5-star review!).
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Who is your target audience, and why?
I write for anyone and everyone; target sounds like I’m trying to kill my audience, not invite them to read my material!
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What do you consider your greatest success in life?
When I was studying Maths for GCSE, the top set (of which I considered myself lucky to be a part) moved on and also took Additional Maths in Year 11. Now, I’m Arts all the way through, I went on to take English, History & Latin at A-Level so this was a tough ask for me. In fact, all along the way, I failed and I failed in test after test until one day I sat myself down and devised a strategy for the exam which would see me target several questions only rather than attempting the whole paper. My score in that final was a ‘D’, way up from the flat ‘F’ grades I’d received all through practice. That’s my greatest success in life because I thought myself around a problem and improved myself by so doing.
What one unique thing sets you apart from other writers in your genre?
Nothing. Writers are cut from the same cloth. Choose to read me, choose to read others, and hopefully, we can all give your imagination a good story.
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