On Writing

Please tell us about the latest of your highly sucessful Jack Hamma books: Miss Marple Struts Her Stuff is the latest of the successful Jack Hamma books it is a relentless and, dare I say it, humorous thriller where every move is a false start and every clue is a red herring. Private eye, Jack Hamma, faces the Hong Kong Mafia, better known as the Triad, and gets mixed up in a deadly turf war where knives and cleavers are the order of the day. Engaged to protect a beautiful Chinese girl, February Ling, daughter of the Triad Dragon Master, Jack fouls up big time, can he pull everything together and sort out the mystery or will the Triad’s infighting see the end of our indomitable hero.

So what I and your readers would like to know is when did you decide to become a writer? I have always written. As a small boy, who couldn’t read or write, I used to write pirate stories. These stories happened in my head and as I didn’t know words or how to write them I used to make up words by combining letters, any letters from the alphabet or I’d go to books and take words and copy them out. The teachers would have found my stories strange to say the least, if I read them now they would seem surreal.

What genre do you write in? When I read a book I like it to move not to plod along so I call the books I write electric. I want books to be alive, I want them to race along and at the same time give the reader the feeling that they are there, that even if the story is not happening to them, they are standing in the wings watching. To put it more conventionally I write factual books such as my book on cider, humorous whodunits, romantic travel adventures including Sex Sardines and Sauerkraut and my latest series of slightly humorous action adventures, Shakespeare on the Roof and In Bed with Jane Austen.

What inspired you to write in this genre? I think ebooks need to move and be fast paced, they shouldn’t be overblown, now that publishers are taken out of the mix books don’t need to be any longer than they need to be, all a book needs is to introduce the characters and to tell the story with style and flair.

How long do you take to write a book? I don’t like writing long, long books so I write about 150 pages plus and that can take me up to six months. My books may be relatively short but they are packed full of life, action and dialogue, I don’t spend pages describing irrelevant things.

Do you put aside a special time to write each day? I believe that if you want to write you first have to live otherwise you won’t have anything to write about. A writer shouldn’t be a nine to fiver with set work patterns but should go out there and live life and then write about it. So yes, or should it be no, I do not have any set patterns. I write the book inside my head and then sit down and get it down on paper or the PC as is the modern way.

Do you work to an outline or plot when you write? I like to get an idea for a situation and a character or two and that is my starting point. I develop a vision of where the whole thing is going and then I start writing letting the characters have their own voice and the situations develop organically.

Any advice for aspiring authors? The main trick to being a writer is not to talk about being a writer but to sit down and write. I think if you have just finished school or university then really you may be able to put pen to paper but will it be interesting? First and foremost you have to develop the person within, get some life experiences and then you can write something interesting, pertinent and your own. My other piece of advice is to find a good editor, a good editor will turn the ordinary into a masterpiece.

You mentioned you’re writing a new story. How about a teaser? My latest story is Hi Jack. It’s the fifth Jack Hamma action adventure and is being edited right now. Here’s a little bit from Chapter One of Hi Jack:
I was out cold until I hit the water. It was freezing and I immediately awoke. My senses had no time to figure out what was going on, I was in the sea, it was cold, I was heavy and sinking fast. I desperately needed to breathe and before I could take control of myself my mouth automatically opened and in rushed the sea. I coughed and spluttered, if you can do that under water, the sea raced up my nose and ran down my throat. Drowning, it is said, is a lovely way to die, believe me it isn’t. My throat was retching painfully, I felt like I had swallowed a glass of tiny pins. I was dying, I was lost and there was nothing I could do. I had a chain attached to something heavy and also attached to my legs and my hands were bound tight, there was no solution to my dilemma, I was sinking and I realised that I would sink forever. I kicked and kicked and kicked out anyway, it was hopeless but I kicked some more.

Who is your favorite character in your book and why? Jack Hamma is one of my favorite characters possibly because he is a laid-back Australian. Jack never takes anything seriously, not even dying, and he often looks death in the face. Jack is a bit of a rebel, he doesn’t get on well with authority, he’s fair minded and doesn’t like to jump to conclusions. He’s also a sucker for a pretty face which gets him into trouble along the way. In one story, Miss Marple Struts her Stuff, he even gets hijacked by February Ling the daughter of a Triad mobster.

Do you have any tips you’d like to recommend to aspiring writers? I believe writers need to develop their own style. I guess mine is direct, electric, fast moving, first person, with rapid-fire dialogue. I wasn’t taught this I developed it, you can’t be taught how to write you have to find it from within.

You come up with so many ideas and characters in your stories where do you come up with them all? First I get an idea for a character and a situation. Sometimes from talking to people, sometimes from watching people in a café or at a market, I guess I watch and listen and absorb influences from the world and then scribble them down to create my stories.

What do your fans mean to you?
My fans are the core support system of who I am as a writer. I write to be read and a fan is someone who loves what I write so fans are a great ego boost and we all have egos that need boosting. To put it simply my fans are my best friends, I owe them everything.