What is your writing process?
I am basically a reader of non-fiction. As such I read and gather information every day. Once I have an outline of the book and each paragraph I try to gather the essence of my sources and put them in folders with descriptive names onto my desktop. To write well I need to be well rested and undisturbed for 5-6 hours. Then its bit like juggling and attempting to keep 15-30 balls airborne at once. Another way of thinking of it is like creating a sculpture – the first stage is just getting the initial shape in place – a head, two legs etc. That stage needs intense concentration.
After that, there is cut and paste, adding, and lots of polishing and diving into my thesaurus. That stage is very time consuming. Near the end I have to get ruthless and cut sentences and sometimes paragraphs, even if they took a long time to write, if they do not contribute to the story. I also pay a lot of attention to ‘flow’ making sure that the text carries the reader along. Finally, there is a “hunt the typo stage” which is drawn out and boring – I enlist friends to help out here. This last stage is also finessing over tiny details, and sometimes updating information.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Quite honestly I don’t. I began buying books for myself when I started art school age 19 in York in the UK (Pierce Brosnan, former 007, was the assistant stage manager at the Theatre Royal just across the road from the art college. We must have passed each other in the street many times.
How do you approach cover design?
Well, this is my first book. I do have an art and graphic design background, and knew that readers spent 5-7 seconds maximum while looking for a book, so it had to be something that captured the essence of the book and did so forcefully and quickly. I have had lots of positive feedback about this cover so I’m pleased with it.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Hard to pick just five, and my choice may be different next week but for today:
Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson. This book will always be in my top five. I’ve had five copies of this book – I keep lending it to friends and not getting it back. Wilson was great thinker, agnostic, humourist and writer, and was heavily influenced by Alfred Korzybski, James Joyce, Timothy Leary, William Faulkner, and various 20th century scientists, not to mention LSD experimentation. The idea of being constantly sceptical and avoiding certainty and ‘black and white’ rigid thinking, together with the idea of tunnel realities, is a big personal influence from RAWs books.
Seeds of Change by Henry Hobhouse: I like this book because it suggests that, rather than individuals changing society, six plants have done to. These six are quinine, sugar, tea, cotton, the potato and the cocoa leaf in the form of cocaine.
Next book is A guide to the Gardens of Kyoto by Marc Treib and Ron Herman. This was published in 1980 but despite that has a way of making Kyoto, its history and culture come alive. Kyoto is my favourite city in Japan. Zen arts and culture had a big influence on me when young and were what attracted me to Japan long ago.
Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox. This book is well written, but its the intensity and drive of Alexander, together with his insatiable curiousity that made me love this book. A remarkable man.
NLP: Neuro Linguistic Programming has been a big part of my life, since I studied it in the 1980s. One of the creators Richard Bandler is a major force in NLP but I prefer books by Steve Andreas, so my choice of book is Heart of the Mind written with Steve’s wife Connirae. It gives a good flavour of what NLP is about, written in a clear unjargony way.
What do you read for pleasure?
Non-fiction, mostly as preparation for my next and final book. For the last 10 years I have changed my internal question from ” whats going on?” to ” what is the big picture?”. I believe we are living in a fin de siecle period, where the current economic paradigm is broken and does not match 21st reality. You can see this in the grotesque greed and abuse of power, the sixth extinction of species, the punishment of those at the bottom of society by austerity while the rich squirrel their wealth away in tax havens. We need to change and soon, so much of my reading is focused on showing how the current path leads to collapse, and for alternatives that may lead to a fairer and sustainable future. Its not all for pleasure (particularly reading about economics!) but I feel like this will be my contribution to helping move the world from its present disastrous course.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I am on Quora pretty much every day and find that it directs a few people to my websites each day (fukushimatokyoquake.com and tokyotales365.com). I intend to pay for some social media advertising once the book is out in print and audio.
Describe your desk
Small – I live in Tokyo so of necessity everything is small. Just a basic computer desk. If i need other papers or books on hand I place them on chairs near me. Dictionary and thesaurus are behind me but within reach. If I look to my left in winter Mount Fuji is there, beautifully white against a blue sky. Behind me is my stereo system and I sometimes use ambient music while writing. For example when I was written about the Fukushima meltdowns and the effect of radiation on human health, I found playing the CD Stalker by Robert Rich – ambient but ominous – was helpful. No beats or vocals allowed. too distracting.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in the UK, moved to Dublin Ireland at age 7. Moved back to the UK at 19. I have dual nationality but consider myself Irish, though I have lived in Japan for longer than either of those countries. The British used to look down on the Irish when I was a child, and during the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, so I think that gives an instinctive dislike of pompousness, and a tendency to support the underdog.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
In the case of my only published book I had lived in Japan a long time so I wanted to ‘trade on’ that knowledge and experience. I also thought it might lead to getting work teaching at a university, but that won’t now happen as I intend to retire to Europe in a few years.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I do research for the next book every day, so read the Guardian, Independent and the Irish Times daily, the my emails come from various forums and sources, again mostly related to the next book.
Aside from that I am a Manchester United supporter so watch Premier League games, also listen to music, cook, do swimming and yoga. Once we decide if France is where we will retire I will beginning learning French. The provisional title of the new book is ” Inverting the pyramid”. It will have subtitle too which should come to me as I write the book.
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