An Interview with the Author' • You probably enjoyed reading as a child. Tell us about that. What were your favourite books growing up? What do you enjoy reading now? Oh, indeed I did, I read anything I could get my hands on, doing English literature in school I had a reading list of a hundred plus books, I went through these and more. As for a favourite there were so many. Adventure books like H Rider Haggard, Ian Fleming, Nevil Shute. Fredrick Forsythe, Arthur Conan Doyle. All the classics too, from Wind in the Willows to Huckleberry Finn… I could go on and on.
• Have you always enjoyed writing? When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Well yes, I have always enjoyed reading and I think writing comes as a part of that enjoyment really. You get to a point I think where you too want to be able to express yourself or your interests in words. I don’t think there is an accurate answer as to ‘when’ exactly, it just happened, I started writing about what I was interested in, writing for magazines etc and it just snowballed from there.
• What do you enjoy most about writing? Expressing myself, I think, I am not so great at expressing myself talking, being a little shy I suppose, and writing takes away that vulnerability, it’s a bit like hiding behind a pen (or keyboard).
• How would you describe the writing of your first car book, ‘Buying and Maintaining a 126 S-Class Mercedes’ Was it an easy or a difficult book to write? Well, I have bought many ‘coffee table’ car books over the years but what I wanted to do was to make it informative as well as letting the passion show, so many ‘car books’ are just factual but have little heart. I wanted the reader to feel as enthusiastic as I did about doing a job on their own car. Not difficult at all, it came very easily to put the words down to explain the item concerned. It was a little too easy really as my publisher had to ‘cut’ some of my ramblings to fit the book.
• How long does it take you to write a book? My ‘Buying guide’ took me around six months but subsequent ones have taken me a year. This is more about prioritising though.
• Do you want each book to stand ‘on its own merits’, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? Both really, I am writing about Mercedes-Benz mostly, so each subject is as individual as the cars themselves. Although I want each book to stand on its own merits, once again though, I want the connection to be that I have told the story, not just the facts
• What does your family think of your writing? My wife is very supportive, writing can be very isolating if you let it and there have been times when I have immersed myself in it for hours without talking or taking a break but mostly I try to share it through my days. I built my office space on my mezzanine balcony so I can still be visible in the room. I also must have an old chair next to me especially for my Spaniel Troilus as he likes to sit with me.
• How many books have you written? Which is your favourite? I have written 5 to date (March 2020) and am contracted for two more which I am writing now. Not including the novel, I haven’t finished yet, which also happens to be my favourite one.
• Oh, you kept that quiet, tell me more? I have been writing a ‘Fiction adventure book’, for several years now and I am threequarters of the way through it but have had to stop for the ‘deadline priorities’. It’s called ‘Magnum Opus’ as a working title. The protagonist is Jack Thompson, named after my grandad. I don’t want to give too much away but it involves murder and mayhem involving mystical Immortal women, a bit of alchemy, historical France and Merovingians.
• Where do you get your ideas for this book, it has nothing to do with cars? Well, I write about what I know for all books, I have always been into history and adventure, so I have put the two together, Jack is also a classic car collector, so they feature. I have also read many Clive Cussler books with Dirk Pitt as the hero protagonist and I just wanted to have a go at writing my own style of hero.
• How do you write, do you use a story board or set it out beforehand? Oh no not at all; I call it ‘free writing’, sometimes I can sit and write 10,000 words without going back to see what I have written or to edit it. Obviously with the Mercedes-Benz based books I have to make sure the information is accurate, so I tend to read a lot of information and then put it all together, to tell the story.
• What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? Reading, reading, reading. I have also been giving access to the Daimler archives both physical and on-line which is an incredible resource, so I like to go to Stuttgart a couple of times a year. I have also been able to meet many ex-employees or families of prominent designers and engineers of Daimler who have helped with accurate information. I also tend to research as I go along more than storyboarding. It helps with my ‘freewriting’ as I mentioned earlier.
• When did you write your first book and how? My first officially published book was the ‘False Accusations; Guilty until proven innocent’; I didn’t even set out to get it published, I wrote it as a cathartic way to get me through something that happened. A friend read it and said it should be published. It was snapped up immediately by an American based publisher.
• You mention on your author website that you are ‘award-winning’. What was that for? It was for the ‘False Accusations book’ It was entered into a US based competition by the publisher and won ‘Best Non-Fiction’ in its ‘Memoirs’ category.
• How did that feel? Amazing actually; I wrote how I felt and to have a board of people I don’t know, decide it was worthy of an award made it all worthwhile.
• What advice would you give to writers looking to work on a non-fiction project? Start today. Write about what you know and how you feel about the subject; even in short bursts, perhaps 1000 words. If you can string a sentence together of something you are interested in, you can write a book. It’s just a culmination of a few short sentences.
• Do you believe in ‘writers block’? That’s an interesting way to phrase it! No; I don’t think I do; we all have times when we stare at the screen wondering how to start a paragraph or Chapter, or even a single phrase but for me that’s usually a time to make a cup of tea.
• What advice can you offer someone struggling to write? Be kind to yourself, the more you push yourself the more difficult it will become. Writing should energise you, not exhaust you. My advice if writing a Non-Fiction book is to ‘move to another subject section; it’s easier as you have many different subjects of which need to be addressed and it doesn’t need to flow immediately to complete a story. You can always come back to the subject later. If you are writing a work of ‘Fiction’ and get stuck I would say its similar, sometimes it’s just a brain block so write about something different, even if its about something you did last week. It will move the brain into its creative side again.
If all else fails, go and have a cup of tea.
• As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? A Barn owl. Wise and alert with stature. Silent and stealthy. I believe my books should be accurate in knowledge, highlighting the historical integrity while silently instilling the wisdom to the reader without the reader struggling to understand.
• You mentioned you are writing ‘two more’ what are they about? It’s a two volume series on the Mercedes-Benz Coupé for Crowood Press. The first book details the history of the ‘Sport-Light Coupé’ and the second is based upon the Saloon Coupé story. They have a deadline of six months apart. • What book are you reading now? Daimler-Benz in the Third Reich by Neil Gregor.
• Who is the author you most admire in your genre? Most definitely Harry Niemann, extremely knowledgeable and he set up the archives for Daimler. He also writes with the passion I can only aspire to.
• If you could invite one person to dinner, who would it be? Related to what I write about, it would have to be Bela Barényi, designer, engineer and pioneer of safety for Daimler-Benz. His inventions and innovations have saved millions of driver’s lives.
• So what’s on the agenda for the future of the ‘Mercedes writer’? Well, I have been in talks with two Auto-book publishers with a few ideas, but we will see. I don’t like to pre-empt anything, I just do this out of the fun of it
Well Nik, Thank you for your time and the best for your coming books. I will keep an eye out for them but keep me informed