“May I help you? What are you doing here? Oh you’re looking for Terry? You’re early.” I gaze at the clock: “Oh my, I’m running late, you’re on time. Here, help me drag out the chair.”
“There, that looks good. Lets bring in Terry, do you know he’s the author of The Catalytic Programme and A Lucky Break. Psst. He’s a Brit, he has that funny accent. Let’s see if he keeps a stiff upper lip. Okay bring him out. Don’t worry, he won’t bite, kick or scratch… I think.”
JAZ: When you were a kid, did you like English class? Did you ever imagine being a writer? When did you pen your first story? Tell us about it.
TC: I accepted the fact that I had to go to school so was ambivalent about most of the lessons. I enjoyed the practical stuff, woodwork, metal work which is probably why I trained as an engineer after leaving school. Mr Smith my English teacher once said my talents lay in other directions, so the thought of being a writer never occurred to me. That is until about 45 years ago when I penned my first novel “When?” It was about racial riots in London. I submitted it to various literary agents and publishers and they all said it was too far fetched. Unfortunately a few years later police constable Keith Blakelock was murdered during just such a riot in Broadwater Farm Estate, Tottenham, North London. After the fact would have been pointless and unfortunately I lost that manuscript during a house move.
JAZ: Does you locale influence the setting(s) for your works? If yes, how so? If not, why not?
TC: My first published novel “The Catalytic Programme” was set world wide, The USA, UK, Spain, Hong Kong, The Philippines, Canada and back to the USA. My second novel “A Lucky Break” was set in London and the North London suburb of Kentish Town in the year 1647. I’m an expat Brit (born just outside London) living in Spain but so far nothing of a Spanish story has entered my mind. Perhaps one day? They do say you should write what you know so where I was born has probably been where the influence came from.
JAZ: If you could pick the mind of one of the greats, who would it be? What would you ask them? Would you ask them to critique your work?
TC: I assume by one of the greats we are talking about the classicsauthors, sorry but I’m not into them at all. If I could speak to a contempory writer it would be Robert Ludlum and I would ask him, why, when his early books were so good did he pump out such rubbish later on, silly plots, ridiculous escapes etc? Tom Clancy is the same, one of his stories, the title was forgettable stated, “this will make the Spanish Civil War look like a tea party” which if he had done any serious research he would know was a major conflict in which hundreds of thousands lost their lives. The book was an insult to the entire Spanish nation. Martina Cole an English novelist is the same, repetitive pap and I’m sure there are many others. That is why I like books by self published authors, new, original stories.
If we were talking about Greats as in non-writers (although I don’t consider this person to actually be great) I’d like to sit down with the British Prime Minister David Cameron firmly strapped to a lie detector and ask him why as the P.M. he has abandoned democracy for a five year dictatorship, still I guess a lot of so called democracies suffer from this. After what I’ve said I definitely wouldn’t want them to critique my work.
JAZ: Speaking of your work, tell the readers about it in twenty words or less. Ready, set, go!
TC: Book one is an international thriller, book two is a time travelling romantic comedy. Chalk and Cheese
JAZ: What do you believe is the most important element of style? Do you focus on a particular element over another?
TC: I don’t believe I have a specific style, I’m not conscious of having one. I concentrate on making my writing, readable and enjoyable for the reader, no plot holes particularly and characters that you want to root for.
JAZ: What is the most difficult element for you?
TC: At the moment simply finding the time to write.
JAZ: If you were to dabble in a new genre, what would it be?
TC: I keep getting ideas for new books and quickly abandoning them, but for a while now I’m planning a futuristic novel, (the next thirty to forty years) based on fact from the present day. I’ll say no more as I don’t want my idea stolen.
JAZ: Lots of people enjoy well-crafted first sentences, others enjoy last sentences. Do you give any extra attention to either? What do you feel is more important? Tell us your favorite(s).
TC: I believe every sentence of every paragraph should be well crafted, although I accept the first sentence should be an attention grabber and therefore should be the most important.
JAZ: Stephen King said he writes for a particular person, in his case his wife Tabitha; do you write for a particular reader?
TC: If anything I write for myself, that sounds selfish but it is the truth, oh and for the seven billion other people who live on this planet we call Earth who might enjoy my stories.
JAZ: Do you have a muse? What is your relationship with it? Describe him/her to us.
TC: No I don’t have a muse; I do have a baby however. Six months ago I created Books and Novels to Read.com a website dedicated to the marketing and sale of self published and indie authors books and novels. I didn’t realise then what a monster I was giving birth to. BNR takes up four or five hours of every day but the reaction from authors is tremendous and inspires me to keep going. I’ve sold some books through the website which is gratifying and makes the effort worthwhile. I just need to make the book buying public more aware of the website. Perhaps this interview will help in that direction.
JAZ: Have you ever written anything that is diametrically opposed to your personal believes? Was this difficult for you? If so, how did you overcome the obstacle?
TC: So far my writing has coincided with my beliefs and was therefore easy to put down on paper. Once again I know in my new book I will have to write things that are in extremis to my views. I don’t think I’ll have a problem with it however as a balanced view no matter how extreme is needed in all aspects of our lives.
JAZ: Of your work(s), what/which are you the proudest? Tell us about it?
TC: I believe my second published novel “A Lucky Break” is my favourite. I’ve always felt that time travel is a fascinating subject and bringing someone from the past to the present would be such a blast. In “A Lucky Break” I bring Esmeralda from the year 1647, the time of Charles II and Oliver Cromwell to the present day and play with her feelings and emotions as she sees what the 21st century has to offer. There is a serious message at the end of the book, Esmeralda realises that our time has so much to offer and says.
“I’ll have some of that.”
Different words from our present day youth who clearly believe there is nothing to do, life is boring and all the rest of the platitudes that youngsters are given over to.
JAZ: Tell us about your writing habits:
TC: As and when I can. Books and Novels to Read has taken over my life at present and then I have to be in the mood to write. Steven King supposedly writes a minimum of eight pages per day even if he’s on holiday. I could not do that, my writing has to flow and can’t be forced.
JAZ: We’ve all seen the disclaimer: Any similarity to a person living or dead is purely coincidental; have you fallen back upon it or do you disguise your character’s influences? Give us an example of a person in your life that you’ve used for inspiration as a character.
TC: I think my characters are more about who I’d like to be rather than any specific person I know. I believe us writers pick and mix our characters from all the thousands of attitudes, mannerisms etc that we come across in our everyday lives, at least I do.
JAZ: If one of your characters came to life and wanted to meet you, which one would it be and how do you imagine the meeting?
TC: Esmeralda from “A Lucky Break” would be the lady I’d like to meet. A woman from the past, can you imagine the stories she would have to tell, it would be wonderful.
JAZ: Every writer has fantasizes of being on the New York Time’s Bestseller list. In ten years, do you believe the list will be relevant? Why or why not?
TC: Lists will always be relevant. For some strange reason people love to consult the top ten of this that and the other, why I don’t understand. Just because ten thousand people buy a book or see a film doesn’t mean it will be to your liking. I say go with what you like.
However since running BNR and doing book reviews in a variety of genre outside my comfort zone, I’ve discovered you should look at other things, so perhaps looking at the NYT top ten list is a good idea after all. How’s that for a confusing answer?
JAZ: I know I missed something, answer any question you’d like. (Insert shameless plug(s) here if you so desire – remember, shame is a five letter word.)
TC: The traditional publishing industry needs to make a profit, it therefore, for the most part goes after “Sure Things” established authors and so called celebrities. Since running Books and Novels to Read.com I’ve discovered there are thousands of new fresh writers out there who through the internet are able to get their stories out to the book buying, reading public. So many established authors have run out of ideas and their work becomes stale. These new writers who don’t stand a chance of being traditionally published have new twists, interesting characters, and exciting plots. Have a look at Books and Novels to Read.com to find the latest in self published books by indie authors, you know it makes sense.
JAZ: Post a snippet or first chapter of any of your works. Brownie points for including the first and last sentences.
TC: Here is Chapter One of A Lucky Break.
To read this story correctly you will need to read it with a slight Scottish brogue, Sean Connery-ish. So, to start with my name is Campbell, James Campbell, I’m thirty, tall dark and handsome, some people say I’m a bit of a ladies man.
Sorry, this isn’t going to work, I’ve got to come clean and tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I’m not really a Jock, no offence meant to any Scots reading and plus I’m pretty medium in all aspects of my life, medium height, medium build, mousy hair, medium complexion and a modicum of success with the fairer sex. I’m a Londoner born and bred loathe as I am to admit that, I don’t want to put off half the potential readership with them thinking here’s another book by some Southern nancy boy. I like Northerners, went out with a girl from Blackburn in the heart of Lancashire for a while. Olive skinned Shahirah with big dark almond shaped eyes, she was a great lass but cultural differences got in the way of our relationship. She supported Blackburn Rovers and liked Lancashire Hot Pot whilst I favoured West Ham United and pie and mash, but it was the socio economic differences that really began to tell. Shahirah couldn’t get over the fact that down South we had all the jobs and all the money and she claimed we Southerners rode on the backs of the productivity of Northern factories. Having said that, the time I spent up North was very entertaining and they are for the most part nice people. Like most of us from down South I thought there was a mill at the end of every street and everyone wore clogs. That’s not the case, it really is quite lovely up there, reminded me of some of the countryside in the Garden of England, that’s Kent if any of you are geographically challenged, but I digress. One more complete truth, I’m not in fact a true Londoner, I was born and raised in Bexley a commuter town thirteen miles from Charing Cross on what was British Rail’s Dartford Loop Line. I moved up to the big smoke soon after I started work. That’s it I’ve come totally clean and my name really is James Campbell, Jim to my mates but in truth I’m really Billy no mates but that’s another story.
So what is this yarn all about? I’ll tell you. It all started about eight months ago when a funny thing happened to me on the way to a job interview. What you might ask was I doing going to a job interview, well I’d become one of the great unemployed, a victim of the credit crunch. I worked for a bank.
“Serves you bloody well right then.” I hear you all say.
I wasn’t one of the people who caused it, honestly. I was a mere lowly messenger carrying bits of paper from one bank to another in the City of London. If you want my considered opinion the few thousand bankers throughout the world who caused the financial crisis should be stripped of all their assets then lined up against a wall and shot, enough of that. So as I said I was on the dole and quickly running out of money. There had been no big bonuses for me or huge salaries come to that, a modest income for a modest bloke living, well, modestly. The little savings I had were dwindling fast and the dole, well for a single bloke, it wasn’t much. I had applied for loads of jobs against a lot of competition and finally I was on my way for an interview, when IT happened, an event so unexpected, so tumultuous, and so overwhelming that it changed my life for ever.
I’ll get to the event in a minute. On the day in question I was wearing my best pulling suit, it had cost me a small fortune at Burtons, double breasted, wide lapels, clean white shirt, a reserved tie, black shoes and my gold cuff links. I felt the business when I wore it, possibly it was bit over the top for a job as security guard at the new shopping precinct I know, but I felt I had to make the effort. I’d caught the bus from my crummy bedsit in Highgate to change onto the tube to get to the precinct, cheering up Gordon Brown and all the Greenies, doing my bit for the environment by using public transport. Actually my personal transport was an old Lambretta and it had started to spit with rain so I didn’t want to turn up looking like a drowned rat.
Anyway I was walking along minding my own business when two guys standing at the entrance to a narrow alleyway between two buildings called me over. Now I like to think I’m a bit street savvy, but for some reason I went over to see what they wanted. One was a tall black guy well built with the latest designer hoody, loose jeans and a pair of trainers that looked like they had cost the best part of my last week’s wages. His mate reminded me of a Rottweiler, short squat and as ugly as sin.
“Want some gear mate?” The tall one asked.
Now I’ve smoked a couple of joints in my time, but to be accosted on the street like this in broad daylight totally out of the blue knocked me sideways, but not half so much as the push in the back that another of their mates gave me while I was stood open mouthed following their business proposition. I ended up ten feet up the alleyway on my hands and knees. Two hands grabbed the shoulders of my jacket and dragged me further up the alleyway behind a couple of wheelie bins. All I could see were two shiny black calf length Doc Martens with dark blue heavy cotton trousers tucked into the tops, for some obscure reason I was reminded of the Policía Local who wandered around the Plazas in Torremolinos, looking hard in their Ray-Ban’s, during my two weeks there last summer. Next thing the boots and trainers were flying into me from all directions. I managed to curl up into the foetal position and gave a bit of protection to my head and face. The kicking felt like it went on for two hours and fifty six minutes but it was probably only a few seconds. Then hands were searching my jacket pockets, they pulled out my wallet then my mobile, and then thankfully all I could hear was the sound of running feet and laughing.
I sat up slowly with my back against the wall and carefully checked myself over. It bloody hurt. I didn’t think anything was broken, but the state of me. My suit was ruined, there was a big tear under one arm pit, it was wet and muddy from the rain, plus it smelt. I think the lads had dragged me through something rather nasty. My head was swimming. I stood up and that was when ‘IT’ happened. I didn’t realise ‘IT’ had happened at the time, that came later. I didn’t know what ‘IT’ was until later, but believe me ‘IT’ did happen.
Terry is a hardy soul, he didn’t even break a sweat, not even the bright lights made him flinch. Terry, good luck with your endeavors and a big thanks for regaling us with your presence.