– ‘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 ‘Homeward Bound’ blogtour, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but b
About the Author :
Richard Smith is a writer and storyteller for sponsored films and commercials, with subjects as varied as caring for the elderly, teenage pregnancies, communities in the Niger delta, anti- drug campaigns and fighting organised crime. Their aim has been to make a positive difference, but, worryingly, two commercials he worked on featured in a British Library exhibition, ‘Propaganda’.
Homeward Bound features 79-year-old grandfather George, who didn’t quite make it as a rock star in the ‘60s. He’s expected to be in retirement but in truth he’s not ready to close the lid on his dreams and will do anything for a last chance. When he finds himself on a tour of retirement homes instead of a cream tea at the seaside his family has promised, it seems his story might prematurely be over.
He finds the answer by inviting Tara, his 18-year-old granddaughter, to share his house, along with his memories and vast collection of records. She is an aspiring musician as well, although her idea of music is not George’s. What unfolds are clashes and unlikely parallels between the generations – neither knows nor cares how to use a dishwasher – as they both chase their ambitions.
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Well, I’m in my eighth decade and the greater part of that has been spent making films. That’s meant TV commercials and documentaries and later, with my own company, public relations films, internal communications, education, training . . . all sorts of things. The trick was always to find a new way to catch people’s imagination and give them a new perspective on what they may already think they know about. I used to joke it was propaganda until two of my films turned up in a major national exhibition called ‘Propaganda’! So I’ve written hundreds of scripts but I’d always wanted to write a novel, and it’s taken this long to free myself from writing for others to write for myself.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
I remember the librarians in my local children’s library would say, ‘What, back already?’ because I would devour Arthur Ransome and Wilkie Collins at a rate of knots. As a teenager, I remember my mother’s reaction when she saw me with Anthony Burgess’ The Wanting Seed that she must have thought unsuitable, and my secret copy of Lady Chatterley was discovered and taken from me. Then life, and 100% commitment to work, meant I became a summer holiday-only reader. That left me with a quick browse of the library before going away or at the airport, and it means I can end up reading almost anything. Not very helpful, I know but that’s how it is!
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I would listen to anyone because we all have stores to tell and experiences we can share and learn from. But advice? It’s dangerous to give and even more dangerous to follow! We have to follow our own instincts and take the chances when we can.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
The thing about fictional characters is that they all have character flaws and their own traumas. Why would I want them at a party? Anyway, they’ve got enough to contend with in their own stories, so they don’t want to be getting caught up in my real life dramas!
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
I discovered I need a discipline in order to get anything done. I need to get out of the house and away from distractions – preferably the Reference section of a library – with the succour of a coffee and Danish en route to get me started. And I will stay at work until my laptop battery dies – even if I’m composing using pen and paper (as I always do for first drafts). The computer battery is my time clock!
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
Ideas can come from anywhere any time. The starting point is invariably something I’ve witnessed or feel strongly about. But who experiences it depends on how I see the idea developing. From a germ of a story, I work out what character traits are necessary to make it believable. The characters then shape events and the events shape the character. Whatever characters I create, I always look back and ask myself, ‘Would I or would anyone react in this way? And if they would, what elements of their character do I need to make clear to the reader so that those reactions come across as genuine?’
Should anybody reading my book worry it’s about them? Not really. I want my characters to be real, and to be real I have to believe in them, so I’m inevitably going to be influenced by people and incidents I’ve experienced. The odd reaction, mannerism, figure of speech. But is any one character based on a single person? No. It’s my imagination extrapolating from life. If you think it’s you, it means I’ve succeeded in making the characters believable. But it isn’t you! Or me, before you ask!
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
I have a beginning and an end when I start writing, with the outline of a lead character and maybe a couple of key incidents along the way, but what exactly will happen in order to get to the end, who he/she will meet on the way and how those characters will flesh out and develop, I don’t know at the outset. An editor, after reading my first three chapters, showed me the complex plot matrix from a major novel and suggested I did the same. I think she must have thought I hadn’t got a proper grip on the structure and direction for what I was writing. So I tried, for her, but I couldn’t do it. I find my characters grow as the story grows. Natural responses to incidents open up character traits I hadn’t considered at the start and those lead into consequences I might never have considered at the outset. So rather than shoe-horning characters into a structure, I have a basic outline and develop the characters to determine the route to the finish. We grow together! Plus as scenes unfold, I can sense where twists and suspense need to be added. I got that from making films. I used to watch the audiences at my rough cuts and see where were gripped and when they fidgeted, so understood ebb and flow. I can’t do that in advance when writing. Only as the action develops do I get a sense for when something needs to upset and challenge the characters!
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
I’m still something of a novice writer. I have only Homeward Bound. So I’m not really in a position to be a sage. In that I came really late into writing a novel and had been doing a full-time job up until then, I suppose I can give some hope. I can sympathise with those trying to write and hold down a job. If it’s as demanding and full on as mine was, it’s almost impossible. In my experience, you need a concentrated period to write, without distractions. You have to live the events and the characters, and spending a day in the real world makes that almost impossible. Perhaps detach yourself for a couple of weeks – though if you have family and commitments, that’s hard too. So my only tip is not to give up, keep filing away those ideas, then when you get a chance to settle on writing, at least you have the material to hand. And I prepared myself when I knew I was close to really doing it by taking writing courses and looking for professional editorial services. An independent person to read what you’ve done is vital. Friends won’t want to do it – nor want to jeopardise your friendship by being brutal! Get a professional who can help you take it forward and ready to publish.
What are your future plans as an author?
Well, while I was writing Homeward Bound, I had another idea that I have now converted into a first draft, full manuscript. After I’ve done this blog I should go back to it and see if it’s any good! I’ll then spend the next six months rewriting it. And In the meantime, I woke up in the night with another idea that I’ve scribbled down on a notepad in the bathroom – I haven’t looked at it since but I’m hoping when I do, I can decipher it and it’ll make the germ of a third novel.
Last, but not least, can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
“Do I have to stop loving music because I’m old and decrepit?” seventy-nine year-old George asks his nineteen year-old granddaughter Tara. “I didn’t stop loving music when the sixties ended. The decade, or mine. Nothing’s new. Things get changed, sometimes improved.” He pauses before adding ruefully, “But not often.”
George’s daughter wants him to move to an old folks home, but he believes he’s too young, he can cope, and he has his music. He has been a musician all his life, but never made it to the big time. Tara is heading off to uni in London and lodging with her grandfather looks ideal. But can a uni student follow her course and have a social life under the subtle eye of her grandfather, who is getting frailer, even if he doesn’t like to admit it? Might they muddle through together?
Thus the stage is set for a tale of family, generational differences, deceit and music references!
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Richard Smith.
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!