Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I was born in Leicester, UK, sixty years ago. For the last thirty years I’ve lived in Eastbourne, a lovely town on the south coast of England, with my wife and various rescue cats (we currently have three). I work as a software consultant these days but was an accountant prior to that. The past 10 years I’ve been self-employed and that has given me much more freedom to pick and choose the work I do.
Although I have published four different books, I have only ever actually written one. That may sound confusing so let me explain. The first two books I published were the initial sections of a larger book, Fred’s Diary 1981, which I also subsequently released. That makes three. The fourth one is a recently released book that I edited, rather than wrote. It is called Travel Stories and Highlights. This wonderful collection of 30 travel stories and 25 travel highlights has contributions from 34 different authors and writers.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia
My book is the edited version of a handwritten diary that I kept during my travels in Asia.
This was the only time in my life that I recorded almost everything I did. The trip lasted 158 days and I travelled through Hong Kong, Thailand, India and Nepal.
The second part of my diary was released in 2009 and its title, Time in Thailand, probably indicates to you that things didn’t go as planned. £99 to Hong Kong was published in 2011 and covers the first part of my trip where I did some work as an extra for Chinese television. The complete version, Fred’s Diary 1981, was made available on Kindle and paperback in December 2013. The second edition was published in October 2015.
I am not sure what inspired me to write the diary way back then but the editing of it in recent years has given me great pleasure and bought back a lot of memories. With the advent of Kindle it has been great to be able to self-publish and share my experiences with so many people.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I can only really talk about the way that Fred originally wrote his diary, as these would seem very unusual writing habits to people of today.
When Fred landed in Hong Kong in that February he had two small carbon copy books of 100 pages each and he started writing everything down about his impressions, the people he met, the things he did and thought, what he ate and what things cost. As his journey developed the diary became almost a mission of its own, especially when the unexpected happened in Thailand.
The first two books lasted two months and Fred had to buy additional copies along the way, all used with carbon paper. Every few weeks he would send the originals back to his friend Jan, in Frankfurt, Germany. She collected all the pages in an A4 folder and luckily they all made it back safely. Fred kept all the copies with him as a backup.
After returning from his travels, Fred settled again in Frankfurt and stayed there for five years. He then returned to England and took the A4 folder containing the diary with him. It was almost forgotten for many years, only making an appearance when friends asked to see it or to read it.
It wasn’t until around 2005 that Fred decided to start typing up the diary onto his computer. He managed to get the first two months done but then ran out of motivation.
A couple of years later there was an article in a PC magazine about Kindle and self-publishing that sparked his interest again.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
From schooldays, although not strictly a book, The Wasteland by TS Eliot
More recently, Frank Kusy. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed all four of his travel books: Kevin and I in India, Off the Beaten Track, Rupee Millionaires and Too Young to be Old.
What are you working on now?
My father’s memoirs
John passed away back in 1993. I helped him compile a book about his life during those final few months and this helped bring us closer together. A limited edition of the book was published several years later but was only ever distributed around the family. It was only recently that I discovered from my mother that one of his final wishes was to have the book published properly. I am now aiming to make his dying wish come true.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
In February last year I started a blog fd81.net. I serialised the diary on the exact same days as it had been written 34 years previously. At the same time I ran a Travel Story competition with monthly prizes and an overall winner. The site has been quite successful with over 200K page views. The best method I have found was to post a blog and then tweet an extract along with a link back to the blog. Images seem to help the retweet rate as well.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
They’d probably have a lot of advice for me to be fair.
My only piece of advice would be to persevere, whether it be with the writing, editing or promoting of your book. Unless you become a top selling author don’t expect to make much money but enjoy the journey.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
If you can afford it, get a professional editor and cover designer.
What are you reading now?
The book I have just finished reading is Instant Whips and Dream Toppings by Jacky Donovan. An eye-opening read.
I have several vying for attention on my Kindle. Will it be John Searancke’s Prunes for Breakfast, Charlotte Smith’s Paw Prints in Oman or Xamnesia by Lizzie Harwood? I’ll let you know.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I am going to concentrate on getting my father’s memoirs ready for publication later in the year. After that I may write another memoir myself, this time about the summer I spent on the island of Ibiza back in 1977.
What is your favorite book of all time?
That’s a tough one. Nothing really springs to mind from earlier in my life but of the books I have read recently it would have to be The Lullaby Illusion by Susan Joyce.