– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds’ blogtour, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but b
About the Author :
Nick Albert was born in England and raised in a Royal Air Force family. After leaving College he worked in retail management for several years before moving into financial services where he quickly progressed through the ranks to become a training consultant. As a very passionate and reasonably talented sportsman, Nick had always wanted to use his training skills towards creating a parallel career, so in the mid 1980’s he qualified and began coaching sport professionally. After a health scare in 2003 and in search of a simpler life, he and his wife Lesley, cashed in their investments, sold their home and bought a rundown farmhouse in the rural west of Ireland – a country they had never before even visited. With little money or experience and armed only with a do-it-yourself manual, they set about renovating their new home, where they now live happily alongside a flock of chickens, two ducks and several unruly, but delightful dogs.
In 2017 Nick was signed to Ant Press to write a series of humorous memoirs about his life in rural Ireland. Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds (book one) was published in September 2017 and soon became an Amazon bestseller. Book two in the series was published on 1st June 2018 and book 3 in August 2019. Book four is due out in early 2020.
Nick is also the author of the twisty thriller, Wrecking Crew, the first in a series of books featuring reluctant hero Eric Stone.
Nick and Lesley Albert yearn to leave the noise, stress and pollution of modern Britain and move to the countryside, where the living is good, the air sweet, with space for their dogs to run free. Suddenly out of work and soon to be homeless, they set off in search of a new life in Ireland, a country they had never visited. As their adventure began to unfold, not everything went according to plan. If finding their dream house was difficult, buying it seemed almost impossible. How would they cope with banks that didn’t want customers, builders who didn’t need work, or the complex issue of where to buy some chickens?
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
You’re most welcome.
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell us something about yourself and how you became an author?
The story of how I became an author, is very much linked to how we came to be living in a run-down farmhouse in rural Ireland.
Back in 2004, my wife and I lived near Colchester in England. We were ‘empty-nesters’, our grown-up daughter had her own home and a great job, so Lesley and I only had to care for our two dogs and each other. Although our life was outwardly wonderful – I had a successful career, a lovely home, a desirable car and so on – my wife and I couldn’t get away from the feeling it was all just window dressing, a meaningless sham. Then, within a few short months, I experienced several upsetting events. My father passed away, a close friend was killed in a car crash, another friend was diagnosed with brain cancer and several thousand of my workmates were made redundant. When I had my own health scare, I found my perspective had altered irrevocably. That change in perspective jump-started a sequence of decisions culminating in my wife and I beginning a new life here in rural Ireland.
In search of a simpler way of living, we cashed in our investments, sold our home and bought a rundown farmhouse in the rural west of Ireland – a country we had never before even visited. With little money or experience and armed only with a do-it-yourself manual, we set about renovating our new home, where we now live happily alongside a flock of chickens, two ducks and several unruly but delightful rescue dogs.
Did I decide to put pen to paper just because of what happened? No. I’ve always been a writer. My first book, “The Adventures of Sticky, The Stick Insect,” was completed when I was eight. At just five pages long and sprinkled with spelling errors, it was not a big hit with the critics! Undaunted, over the next 53 years I have continued to write, gradually developing my skills, but not my spelling! What moving to Ireland gave me was the time I needed to write. Since then I’ve written hundreds of articles for the newspaper, a book on sports instruction and a twisty thriller called ‘Wrecking Crew’. In 2017 I signed to Ant Press to write a series of humorous memoirs about my life here in rural Ireland. Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds (book one) was published in September 2017 and soon became an Amazon bestseller. Book two in the series was published on 1st June 2018 and book 3 in August 2019.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
I have always been a veracious reader, it’s an absolute must for any aspiring author. As a child, I was introduced to the wonderful world of books by my sister, when she gave me her well-thumbed copy of Winnie-the-Pooh. A short while later, I discovered The Story of Doctor Doolittle, by Hugh Lofting. I believe I read all 13 books in the series in a month. Introducing a child to the joys of reading is the greatest gift anyone can ever give.
When I was a student living in Norwich, England, my first flat was next door to the best second-hand bookshop in the city. What heaven! Back then I read a lot of sci-fi books and thrillers, purely for the escapism. Because I was from a forces family, I collected hundreds of military biographies. Other favourites in my collection were Clive James, David Niven and Spike Milligan. These books were treasured possessions, I still have most of them now.
My collection is obviously somewhat eclectic, I’m not sure what that says about me. As well as piles of golf books, I have a library and dozens of stacked boxes bulging with biographies featuring authors from all walks of life, loads of thrillers, some sci-fi and the complete works of Sue Grafton, Lee Child, Tom Holt, Terry Pratchett and William Shakespeare. I’m never without a book. One secret I can reveal, if I’m writing comedy, I’ll only read thrillers – and vice versa.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I’d pick Beth Haslam. She’s the author of the excellent Fat Dogs and French Estates series. Beth is a fellow Ant Press memoirist and very much an inspiration to me as an author. She was brought up on a country estate in Wales. Her childhood was spent either on horseback, helping the gamekeepers raise pheasants, or out sailing. After a serious car crash, she set up her own consultancy business. As semi-retirement beckoned, Beth and her husband decided to buy a second home in France. This became a life-changing event where computers and mobile phones swapped places with understanding the foibles of the French, and tackling the language. Somehow, she found the time to write a bestselling series of memoirs. In many ways our journeys are similar. We’ve only chatted online, but I think she’d be great company over a glass of wine. I’m sure she could help me with my time management – in particular, how she balances her social media responsibilities with the demands of being a published author.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
I’d love to meet Arthur Dent from the fantastic Douglas Adams series ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’. I’m a huge fan of this sort of British tea-and-cricket escapist humour. Poor Arthur Dent is just a harmless nice-guy, who unwittingly gets sucked into this wonderful story. I’m sure he’d have some interesting stories to tell.
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
I like my routines and need to have a clear desk and a focused mind before I begin writing. Every morning after breakfast, I take my dogs for a long walk through the forest or across the moorland surrounding our house. After some exercise and a shower, I’m usually ready to write by around 11am. Ideally, I’ll start my workday by catching up with emails, fan mail, social media and other marketing tasks. It’s amazing how much stuff authors have to do these days, outside of research and writing. On a good day, my desk is clear and I’m ready to write by around 2pm. I have a strict rule not to work beyond 6pm, except for when my wife is away in England visiting family. If I’m close to a print deadline and feeling the need for a little more writing time, I’ll announce a period of ‘Digital Detox’. It’s rather a false economy as there’s usually a bunch of catching up to do when I go back online, but sometimes the writing has to take priority.
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
Obviously the books in my Fresh Eggs series are all based on real events, albeit viewed through the prism of my quirky mind. The characters are all real too, but I will admit to a little genetic manipulation, to save any blushes – and keep me out of court! When I’m writing thrillers, the places and characters usually have at least one foot in reality, but with a little spice added to keep things interesting. Do the people in my life need to be worried? Not really. I’ve never threatened to make someone a character in one of my books, just so I can kill them off. On the other hand, I haven’t finished writing yet…
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
I’m definitely a plotter. Before I start writing any book, I create voluminous lists and flowcharts. It’s a long and arduous process but essential to create the framework for my story. Once the fingers are flying and the words flowing, I can permit my butterfly mind to occasionally flit off-track, secure in the knowledge I will never lose my way. Having a plan isn’t restrictive, quite the opposite, it encourages creativity. When I was writing Wrecking Crew, there were a couple of times when I was astonished by an event that just popped into my head, particularly as it slotted perfectly into the storyline. About halfway through the book, the protagonist Eric Stone opens the trunk of a car and there was… well, I won’t spoil the surprise. I recall sitting back in astonishment as I really had no idea what was about to happen. Of course, it was just my imagination running along ahead for my fingers, something that could only happen because it had a clear path to follow.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
Before you write, read – a lot. Read what you enjoy. Read the kind of books you would like to write but be sure to observe the authors craft as you read. Take note of how they mix dialog with narration, how they paint their pictures and how they guide your mind. Try to look beyond the words to understand how the story was constructed. Do all this and more, before you put pen to paper.
When you begin writing, remember it is a craft, one that needs developing. No matter how talented you are at the beginning, your writing should always improve over time. You should expect your last book to be much better than your first. Never let anyone tell you that you are unworthy.
Understanding the difference between dreams and goals can make your task considerably less stressful. Dreams are the things we would like to achieve, but have very little control over – like winning the lottery. Goals are the steps we take towards achieving our dream – like buying that lottery ticket. Goals you control, dreams you don’t. That distinction is important. As a writer, you must focus your efforts and evaluate your success based only on the things you can control. Trying to do otherwise is a recipe for disaster.
Many excellent writers have given up because they made getting published their goal and failed. Trying to get published won’t make you a better writer, but being a better writer, and building a large social media following of people who like your work, will definitely help you to get published. Focus on what you can control.
What are your future plans as an author?
My ‘ideas folder’ is bulging with interesting storylines, but it would be a mistake to take on too much. Just now I’m writing the fourth book in the five-part Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds series. It is progressing well and due out in mid-2020. In the background I’m researching a book about my father’s fascinating life in the RAF. I’m also working on Stone Façade, the second in my Eric Stone thriller series. I am very excited about the twisty plot, which will bring Stone to Ireland in search of a missing journalist, but not all is as it seems…
I hope I’ll still be writing 30 years from now. If I am, perhaps my spelling will improve. If I can average a book a year until I’m 90, that would be something special to look back on.
Last, but not least: Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
Of course. This is how Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds begins…
With a deep sigh, Doctor David Harrison dropped my medical chart back onto his desk, where it threatened to overbalance several piles of papers. My GP looked around his cluttered consulting room and casually ran his fingers through his thick blond hair, momentarily pulling the wavy locks away from his forehead. This simple action suggested he was relaxed and confident in the diagnosis he was about to deliver. It also drew my attention to his clear blue eyes. Their normally humorous twinkle had been replaced by the steady gaze of someone who had something serious to say. Yesterday had been a bad day, my chest still hurt and the bitter taste of bile was burning my throat. Dave had my attention. Nevertheless, I noticed he changed his posture, leaning forward to emphasise his point. He gave me a thin smile, but his voice was serious.
“Nick, if you carry on like this, you will be dead in six months – or at best, in a padded cell with nothing but a packet of crayons to keep you entertained.”
He made a fist and brought it to his mouth, for a moment I thought he was going to burp, but he leaned forwards and firmly patted my knee with the heel of his fist to emphasise his point. One fist thump for each word.
“Sort – your – life – out, – or – else.”
I opened my mouth to respond, but for once words failed me. Dave gave a nod, acknowledging his message had been delivered, then he abruptly stood and strode to the door.
“Now, come outside and see my new car!”
This is where it all started.
For more than ten years, I had been a manager at a multinational pensions and investment firm. When they hired me, it was one of the proudest days of my life. They were a famous and respected brand, with a proud tradition of being one of the best employers in Britain. Now, it seemed like the lunatic accountants had taken over the asylum, constantly changing departments, reassigning responsibilities and outsourcing customer support, IT functions, and the office of spectacular cock-ups to some distant city in India. There the telesales staff have more qualifications than an astronaut, but cost less to keep than an anorexic hamster.
To add to the fun, I was frequently dragged halfway across the country for meetings that did little but add to my workload and frustration. Commuting in England had become a reoccurring nightmare of stress and delay. The traffic is appalling, the trains are expensive and unreliable, and the London underground can be horribly hot and overcrowded. There are few less pleasant ways of not getting around London than standing for two hours on a stationary underground train, with your face jammed into some fat guy’s sweaty armpit, whilst wondering how long it’s medically safe to hold on to a fart.
In a fast-changing world, staffing levels across our industry were being slashed repeatedly. I had been made redundant eight times in six years, but on each occasion I had successfully fought for one of the few remaining positions. Sadly, more than 6,000 of my friends and colleagues had been less fortunate, and many of them had been unable to find suitable employment. Now I was one of only six survivors from a staff off several hundred in my division. At times, it seemed like I was the last man standing on the battlefield, just waiting for the sniper’s bullet. I could feel that red laser dot itching at the back of my neck, as the accountants identified the next cost saving required to create the illusion of more profits.
The constant fear of forced redundancy, unemployment, and the catastrophe it could bring to our finely-balanced finances, was gnawing away at my sense of humour and undermining my previously robust health. In an effort to replenish our savings, I had begun teaching golf again. That skill was a remnant of a dream that fizzled out in favour of a proper job, not long after I married Lesley and she gave birth to our beautiful daughter, Joanne. Although it was nice to earn a little extra money, suddenly I had no spare time. Life didn’t feel like fun anymore; weekends and evenings spent giving lessons at the driving range left me little time for family, no time to play golf, and no place to blow off a little steam. And now the company was entering yet another round of cuts. It was evident that my job would soon cease to exist, probably within months, and I could either fight again for another position, or simply accept redundancy and try to get on with a new life.
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Nick Albert.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!