On Writing was able to interview author Simon Thould who's book Dark Water we will be reviewing soon.
Simon was born in Somerset, England, where he went to public school and played rugby and cricket with more enthusiasm than he studied. He later managed to qualify as a chartered surveyor and practised for over twenty years in both public and private sectors in London and the south of England. Simon completed two Creative Writing night school courses and a Writers' Bureau correspondence course in his spare time. He also worked as a restaurant and bar manager in Hampshire before moving with his two black cats to a mountain farmhouse in Andalusia, southern Spain for a year and a half. There he wrote his first novel.
He moved back to the UK and worked as a resident housekeeper and groom in Kent and wrote a second novel.
Then he relocated to Charleston, South Carolina, USA for several years and worked in warehouse stock control, sold insurance and then artwork in a downtown gallery. Returning to the UK once more, he worked as a postman and in several retail positions and wrote a third unpublished novel.
Simon moved to the island of Gozo in 2014 and wrote, 'DarkWater', a thriller introducing Alex Rafter. After a lifetime of rejections from publishers and agents with only minor success with magazine articles, Simon made a final push to try and get published. He sent the synopsis and three chapters to more than fifty UK agents before being lucky enough to be taken on by David Haviland of the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency in London. 'Dark Water' is being published in August 2017.
Simon's passions, other than writing, are reading hard-boiled, noir novels, watching classic movies, travel and following National Hunt horse racing. He has been married twice and has a daughter, Lucy. He currently lives in Almunecar on the Andalusian coast and has just completed the first draft of a second, 'Alex Rafter' novel.
What is your favourite genre to write and why?
I have tried to develop my version of the hard-boiled, noir genre, as I have been a long-time lover of these American writers from Dashiell Hammett to Elmore Leonard (my all-time favourite) and I follow Elmore Leonard's, 'Rules on Writing', as using narration to characterise the people in a story and move the plot along really appeals. He says all the information a reader needs comes from dialogue and I agree. I do not like the over-long, 'purple prose', type of writing as I am keen to get on with the story. Since writing for me is a very visual process - see below - being able to visualise characters makes reading a much greater pleasure. Also, I find that this sort of writing lends itself to great movie adaptations and I am a big fan of the old, black and white classics, such as the Phillip Marlowe ones, Casablanca, etc. I remember studying for a long time DH Lawrence's books as I was amazed at how he got so much information on the page from seemingly such simple words - genius.
What kind of sources do you take inspiration from?
As an introvert and great, 'people watcher', I can be inspired by such things as the way someone uses their hands to 'talk' on a bus; the way clouds move over a setting sun; overhearing a funny remark or other comment. These things seem to trigger something in my brain that then goes, 'What if...?' I think this one thing, imagining a future event, is key to fiction writing. I guess it is just the way writers' brains work that practically anything seen or heard will produce a sentence or two that is then written down in the notebook that is always carried. This will be the germ of an idea that thought, both conscious and unconscious, will develop into a story carrying a theme that is interesting to me. Dark Water was inspired in part by my concern for the struggle ex-military personnel have in adjusting to civilian life from the 'battle' mindset.
What does your writing process look like? did it take you a while to develop?
Following on from the previous answer, having got an idea, the most important first step for me is find photos or pictures to represent the type of personalities I want my characters to have. Then I develop extensive background character charts for all the main characters in great detail so I really know them, and do extensive research down to the type of watch a person wears. I have a storyline in mind that I plan on a large piece of A3 accounting paper, writing longhand basic notes for the first chapter - format will be for 80,000 words in 1,000 word chapters. Then I place my characters in the situation of the story and watch and listen to how they act and write it down. I will write early-ish in the morning until I have a chapter/1,000 words, then make notes for the next chapter to write the next day. I have done several writing night school classes and correspondence courses in the past and read how authors whose work I like actually go about writing and discovered that what comes naturally to me - as above- is pretty much how Robert B. Parker, another of my favourites worked. I seem to recall that when I started on my first full-length novel, many years ago, planning a framework for the book was necessary to stop me rambling off point and, literally, 'losing the plot'!
Do you take criticism hard or do you have a thick skin? Have you ever received criticisms that you felt were unjustified or too harsh? Are you your worst critic?
I imagine that, to be able to persevere as a writer, developing a thick skin is essential for emotional survival. I have had ample opportunity to do just that since I have been writing for over fifty years and have the rejections to show for it! You just have to tell yourself that you can't please everyone and soldier on. My mantra is, 'never give up - never give in', and now, it has finally paid off. I had one 'professional' criticism of Dark Water from the reader of a big publishing house to which my agent had submitted the book, where it seemed pretty obvious that he had not properly read the book as his remarks were so far off the mark and irrelevant. This irritated me as being disrespectful and rude bearing in mind the years of hard work that go into writing a full-length novel. I try to be the first critic of my work by reading it aloud, as a wrong word of sentence will jar immediately on the ear. Otherwise, I'm not afraid to congratulate myself and buck myself up!
What would be your advice for aspiring authors?
Believe in yourself, work at the craft of writing as much as the storylines, plotting, etc. Read a broad spectrum of genres and writers, I read at least a book a week, and write as often as you can. Always carry a notebook as you never know when inspiration will strike. The best book I've ever read about writing fiction is, 'The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction', by Barnaby Conrad and the staff of the Santa Barbara Writers' Conference. Every budding writer should get a copy as there is a wealth of hints from many famous writers inside. Also, Stephen Kings’ On Writing, is well worth a read.
To succeed in writing, if you aim to one day get published, you should be prepared for the long haul - overnight success stories are very rare.
To learn more about the Simon Thould, click here.
To buy "Dark Water" click here.