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Friday, 16 August 2013

Lakshmi Raj Sharma interviews me!

INTERVIEW OF ME BY PROFESSOR LAKSHMI RAJ SHARMA

Richard, we've known each other for 2 to 3 years now and I've only known you as an author, but what made you decide to be a writer? Did you have the desire to write since childhood or was it something you added on to your list of interests later in life?

I’ve always loved books, Lakshmi. There’s a magic in them that no other media has and when I was younger I was an avid reader of just about everything from fiction of every genre to biographies. Currently my two favourite authors are Terry Pratchett and Bernard Cornwell. They have written nearly a hundred books between them and each one is a joy to read.
I can remember first trying to write a book when I was 10. It started with the words “It was a dark and stormy night” which I rather feel may have been used elsewhere! I got to page 3 and was at a complete loss as to what happened next, so played football instead!
Some 12 years ago when I was a Scout leader, I helped write the script for the Millennium Scout and Guide Gang Show. It was great fun writing for 80 kids on stage and I wrote and produced the next 4 Gang Shows. Each show had a stronger plot and became more of a story the audience could relate to and follow. The third show I wrote was called Timescape and had a storyline that I felt could easily be adapted into a book. I was very naive! It took eight years and many, many edits and versions before the eventual book called Leap of Faith was published as an eBook.
I must admit I also became more involved in writing when I flew to India from the UK several times a year. It was a great way to pass the time!


You told me before you've been to India and visited a number of towns. Have you been to my country very often?

15 or 16 times I believe, on business, but never as a tourist. As a result I have many very good friends in India and I love the country. Because I wasn’t there to see the sites, I probably saw more of the natural India as opposed to the parts tourist companies want you to see. I also have many Facebook friends in Allahabad, most of whom, of course, are students or friends of yours!
I have to admit I have never even seen the Taj Mahal, though I have seen many of the back streets of Bombay and visited the Mahatma’s house!


I know you also have a website and blog. Do you use them much?

I created my website with the help of a very talented friend of mine 2 years ago and I have to admit I haven’t had to update it very much since then, except when I changed my publisher to Crooked Cat in the UK. My website is really there to inform my readers about me and my books and to direct them to  book sellers and their sites, as well as of course to my blog, which I do update at least once a week.
Bernard CornwellI use my blog to post interviews with other authors, many of who are very famous such as Sue Cook, Bernard Cornwell and Helen Rappaport, though I find first-time authors equally fascinating when I hear of their struggles to get published and how they came up with their plots in the first place. Currently I try to post an interview every Friday at 6.30pm UK time and at the moment I get around 2,000 views a month. If only those views translated into book sales, I’d be very happy! It does however give other authors the chance of exposure.


Those are tremendous viewing figures! Now, please tell me a little about your books.

I won’t tell you too much, Lakshmi;  just enough I hope to make your followers want to find out more and buy my books!
I’m currently writing a humorous adventure series of books called The Temporal Detective Agency for Young Adults of all ages. The main characters are Unita and Tertia, two of Merlin the magician’s apprentices. Together with Marlene, Merlin’s sister, they start the Agency and move it to the 21st century because the cases will be more interesting and the toilet facilities far better. All the main Camelot characters appear in both books, but not as people know them from legend. For instance Merlin is a very well disguised woman and madly in love with a very puzzled Arthur, while Galahad achieves what he’s always wanted to be… a celebrity chef.
The Temporal Detective AgencyIn the first book in the series, Leap of Faith, the Agency solves the disappearance of Nelson’s statue from Trafalgar Square, the theft of the Koh-i-noor diamond. Tertia and Unita also meet new friends and old enemies before they win through against great odds.
The second book, Trouble with Swords, has the Agency travelling through time to Shakespeare’s London, Cleopatra’s Egypt and Ancient Rome. Excalibur has been stolen and without his talisman sword Arthur is powerless. The Agency once more comes to the rescue with a big showdown in the Roman Coliseum!
I’m half way through the third book, provisionally called The Bigger Bang Theory, where the Agency is involved in the kidnap of three of America’s best known presidents. To be honest, I’m having great fun writing the Temporal Detective Agency books, and as long as the characters have fun being detectives with a difference I’ll carry on bringing out the books.
Although the first two books have been available on Amazon and other eBook sites for a year or more, both are now being published in the UK by Crooked Cat Publishing and will be available as eBooks and paperbacks around November time. My agent in America, Caleb Mason, and I are working together closely to expand the marketability of the series.


It sounds as though it could go on for years! Tell us something about the genre which you have chosen. How is writing for children different to writing for adults and do your books target both age-groups?

Many people assume that writing for children and the Young Adult age groups is far easier than writing for adults. It’s not! Kids are very critical and extremely discerning. They know when a writer is being condescending, or when a book has been put together without any thought process for the characters, and especially the plot. I therefore have great respect for authors like J K Rawling and especially Terry Pratchett who successfully writes for both kids and adults.
Kids love adventure and humour, but above all they want to be involved in the action and be able to empathise with the characters. I try to make sure that my books have all those qualities and when writing and editing I always do it with the mind of a Young Adult. I also remember what a literary agent I once worked with said to me. She told me to put a piece of paper as near to my computer screen as possible with the letters GOWTS on it. They stood for Get On With The Story, and it was the best advice I ever had in writing for any genre. Too many authors ramble and lose their audience.
I try to make my books attractive to all age groups, I believe it’s called cross-over. I’ve often thought that an author who says their books are for adults may be targeting the wrong age group entirely. As for the genre, well I hate being pigeon-holed, but if I had to say which one my books fall under it would be Young Adult / Humour / Adventure / Fantasy, which I’m afraid is lots of genres!


As you say, you're first two books were initially only published in eBook format. What do you think about the future of e-Books?

I must admit I don’t own a Kindle, though I do download books and read them on my iPad. All my books were initially available only on electronic format on all the major electronic distributors, such as Amazon, Kobo and Barnes & Noble, as well as in Malaysia on eSentral, but like most authors I wanted them to be available to a wider audience in paperback. Crooked Cat publishing, coupled with my agent Caleb Mason have given me that opportunity.
I love opening a new book and the anticipation and smell of a newly printed volume is as exciting as that of a brand new car with leather seats! I have shelves in my study full of hardback and paperback books, many of which I have yet to read, but all are like old friends waiting to be greeted. I could never say the same of an electronic book.
In the Western world the Kindle has certainly made buying books easier and definitely cheaper. The downside is that people are no longer as discerning about which books to buy and enjoy. Instead I know people who will buy 5 or 6 a week instead of the 1 they have waited for ages to be published and then only read the first 2 to 3 pages before discarding each one because they “couldn’t get into it”. The disposable society has reached the book and that is a major shame.
In addition there are still many countries where the major part of the population do not have credit and debit cards, so they are unable to buy books on-line. Equally many kids don’t have them either, which makes it problematical for me to sell to my chosen age group! 
Worldreader
I believe the eBook has certainly made literature more accessible and the low pricing means that more people buy more books, but that really helps Amazon, while book shops, printers and all those associated with traditional book publishing will see a diminishing market and many will go out of business as a result.
Then there’s the poor author! One of the greatest thrills any author can have is to be asked to sign one of their books by a fan. Signing an eBook is not an easy thing to do! The relationship between the writer and his audience is therefore widening and that is definitely not good.


Your books are detective stories, but that type of story isn't normally associated with Camelot. What decided you to bring Arthurian characters into your books?

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is a legend known right around the world by children and adults alike. If Arthur actually lived though it would have been around the 5th century AD and he and his knights certainly wouldn’t have worn medieval shiny armour and lived in castles. They would have lived in villas left over from the Roman occupation, or two-storey (at most) wood and stone buildings with no heating and none of the amenities we expect today. It always occurred to me therefore that because we know little, or nothing about Camelot and the characters of legend that the “what if” factor could be used to explore their lives in more detail and bend legend slightly to make it relevant and exciting to a new generation.
I’ve created some additional characters such as Tertia, Unita and Marlene, the three mainstays of the Temporal Detective Agency, but most of Arthur’s original followers are there, although doing slightly unexpected things. Of course, as a Temporal Detective Agency my characters can go anywhere and do almost anything which gives them a rather special status, though as they operate from Merlin’s cave Although as most of the adventures start in the 21st century, Camelot is still a theme throughout the series.



Have books like Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and Lord of the Rings fascinated you?

I read them all when I was a kid and loved the magic in their stories. They were pure adventure escapism away from the world of adult reality.I have to admit I read Lord of the Rings when I was fifteen, though I did read The Hobbit when I was a lot younger. Reading Tolkien now I admit I find his writing a little pompous, but still full of wonder and dreams. His ability to create an entire world with a massive past and a future, as well as different languages and scripts for the different races of Middle Earth was an amazing talent and it’s to his credit that his books are selling in greater numbers now than ever before. Of course, Peter Jackson’s films helped to a large extent.
There will always be children’s book classics that (I hope) will be enjoyed for generations to come. Unfortunately many children’s classics are bought for kids by aunts, uncles and grandparents who read them when they were young and give them as presents at Christmas and birthdays. The eBook will change all of that. Giving an Amazon voucher is not the same and probably won’t be spent on a book!
The books you mentioned, Lakshmi, have charm, wit, adventure and the ability to teach right from wrong. They also taught many people how to read and we are in danger of losing so much to this electronic world.


What is your next book going to be about?

I’m  currently working on the third Temporal Detective Agency novel as I mentioned earlier and I have very definite plots for the two books in the series after that. In addition a friend of mine who writes vegan cookery books is going to collaborate with me on creating the Sir Galahad Celebrity Cook Book. The intention is to have a 3 course recipe from every century from the 5th to the 21st and see what people really ate in days gone by. I’ve seen some of the ingredients and they’re pretty revolting… which means kids will love it!
I would love to write an adult novel, though I have no plans at the moment to start it, nor do I have a plot in mind, so that’s a project for the future.
Right now, I want to finish the third book in the Agency series, start on the fourth and get the first two published as paperbacks in the UK and America. That seems enough to be going on with for the moment!


Many thanks for joining me, Richard, and good luck with your book series.

Many thanks. Lakshmi.
Incidentally my books will be available as both eBooks and paperbacks through the Crooked Cat Publishing web site and through Amazon in November



And my blog is http://richardhardies.blogspot.co.uk/ Please join as a member of my blog and all my posts will be sent to you automatically. 

5 comments:

  1. Brilliant interview gentlemen!!

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  2. Many thanks, Carol
    Looking forward to reading your blog post tomorrow!

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  3. Thanks and I am glad you liked it Carol. With Richard at the replying end it had to be good.

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  4. Brilliant interview, thank you Richard and Lakshmi. I'm really looking forward to the next adventure of the Temporal Detective Agency.

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    1. Hi Teresa,
      Many thanks for that! I have to admit I'm looking forward to the next adventure as well. It's going well and looking exciting!
      As to the interview, with Lakshmi (one of India's leading academics and authors, it was bound to be searching and interesting!
      Richard

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