Welcome to my weekly blog series – Author Interviews.
I spend a lot of my time pestering amazing authors and getting them to agree to an interview on my blog.
These interviews provide my readers with valuable insight into a writers’ life. I get to understand how they overcame tough challenges whilst writing their books, what learnings they have for aspiring authors and most importantly what they wear whilst writing their literary masterpieces.
This week I have managed to persuade author Ian Probert to sit in my chair.
Ian is a ‘fighter not a writer’ and on his website describes himself as ‘incredibly handsome. Indescribably intelligent. The most brilliant writer since… Since… Since… Well… William Dickens or Charles Shakespeare’. He used to play guitar in the Beatles. he’s an opera singer. Beyoncé is his stalker (she’s so irritating!). He played football for Real Madrid. He has an Olympic gold medal for water polo. Andy Murray used to be his ball boy. He played clarinet with Lorraine Bowen and is the secret love child of Marlon Brando and Tessie O’Shea!’
I love his imagination! Almost as good as mine 🙂
Ian knows a bit about boxing, so I am putting on my virtual boxing gloves to do this interview.
Ian – welcome! Please take a seat in my red chair..
Tell my readers about yourself and the book / books you have written
Over the year I’ve had eight or nine books published. These range from children fiction, to teenage fiction, to adult fiction and autobiography. I’ve even had couple of book on photography; kid of a hobby of mine.
When did you write your first book?
My very first book would have been when I was about 12, although you’d have to call it a novella. What I used to do was hand in stories that were several exercise books in length to my bemused English teacher. The poor woman would then have to read them – she must have dreaded giving me homework.
How long did it take to write your first book?
My first published book was called ‘Internet Spy’. That was in 1995. It took about a month. It wasn’t very long.
What was your motivation to write your first book?
What basically happened was that I pitched a teenage fiction series to Kingfisher and they went for it.
I was then commissioned along with people like Terry Deary to write the books.
What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?
Well apart from the obvious one of typos, which I still don’t understand the psychology behind our ability to totally miss them, it’s always about making things interesting enough for readers to want to carry on reading. Obviously it is. I used to try to get a handle on this by drinking alcohol at the end of the day and then reading what I’d written. I was hoping that I could see things from a different point of view. I don’t think this approach was particularly successful. Although I did used to get very drunk.
Did you go through any bad writing patches during writing your book – what kept you going?
I went through a 15-year long bad writing patch, in which my brain was in a complete fog due to undiagnosed hypothyroid disease. This is one of the many symptoms of the disease – the inability to concentrate. And nothing kept me going – I eventually stopped completely until three years ago, when my condition finally diagnosed.
Are you a plotter or do you just write / see what happens?
I like to have a basic framework or premise and then see where it takes me. If I can surprise myself then hopefully I can surprise others. In the kids book I did a couple of years ago – Johnny Nothing – I actually had no idea how it would end until suddenly the book was finished.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
To be in control of the entire universe.
What is the worst thing about being a writer?
To have no say whatsoever in the universe you inhabit.
Also, no sick pay or paid holidays.
Have you ever considered quitting writing, and if so how have you worked through this?
Apart from my 15-year enforced hiatus, not really. I’m at the age where there’s nothing else I could do. I don’t see anyone suddenly offering me a job. Unless it’s an unpaid one at the local Oxfam.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Start around 8:30 when everyone has left the house. Write until about 1:00 or 2:00. Then try to do marketing, household chores, etc.
Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?
Erm… Well… I… Um… Let’s see… No, not at all.
Which is more important – plot or characters and why?
I don’t see either being any more important than the other. It’s no good having a great story with rubbishy characters. And it’s equally useless having great characters with a crappy story. You gotta go for both at the same time.
What have been your 3 biggest learnings during your writing career?
1. To be honest.
2. To read your work aloud to others – that way you’ll soon discover if it’s of any value.
3. To learn to accept criticism.
How do you manage social media as a writer?
It’s a necessary evil these days. Although I’m unconvinced that I’ve ever sold a single extra copy as a result of a tweet or a Facebook post. However, if you want a publisher to take you seriously you must have a pretty noticeable web imprint.
As well as a personal website and the obligatory WordPress blog, I tend to do everything. My motto is ‘Facebook for friends and family; Twitter to swear at and insult people you don’t know…’
Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?
Don’t do it. Seriously. Don’t. There are plenty of other ways out there to earn enough money to have a varied and full life.
Writing is like acting and music – only the top 5% make any money, the rest are waiters. And, of course, the fewer people decide to write the less competition there is out there for me!
Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so how do you overcome?
I’d say my entire life is a case of writer’s block. The only time I can manage to squeeze any words out of me is when i have a deadline two days away.
Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?
Yes, sometimes. In Dangerous some of the writing was done at my daughter’s hospital bedside while she fought for her life.I also blogged about it a lot, which the hospital found out about. They then asked me if I’d write a kids book to raise money for the hospital, which is what I’m working on right now.
What do you wear to write?
I’m always completely naked. This stops unnecessary interruptions and intrusions. Believe me, nobody wants to see me naked.
If readers want to get in touch how do they contact you?
The usual places: Twitter, Facebook, and there’s an email address on my personal website. On Thursday’s you’ll often find me in the Flask in Highgate.
Ian’s new book Dangerous came out on 15 September 2016.
Wow Ian – what an intervew! So many things to think about:
- I totally agree about typos and our amazing ability to miss them or in my case ignore them!
- I love the idea of being in control of the entire universe.
- Your learnings are great – especially the one about being honest!
- Love your approach to Facebook and Twitter.
- So many authors are writing naked nowadays – feel like I am missing out. Do edit naked as well?
Thanks for a great interview!
If you are an author and want to appear on my blog please leave me a message below in the comment box and I will get in contact 🙂
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/79577679@N00/5448848999″>the chair in the attic</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>