Saturday, February 16, 2013

Interview with Author Philip Neale

Give us a quick introduction on yourself and your book. I am Neal James, UK author, and I began writing in 2006. By day I am an accountant, and all of my writing to date has been completed in whatever spare time I have outside of that employment. Since 2008 I have through Pneuma Springs Publishing released three novels and an anthology. In 2013, my fourth novel 'Full Marks' will join the growing portfolio.

What inspired you to write your first book? I had been writing short stories on a couple if US writing sites, but one of them seemed to have the potential for a much longer piece of work. That was 'A Ticket to Tewkesbury' (ISBN9781905809349), and followed the love story between a soldier returning from France in 1945 and the nurse whom he met at a recuperation hospital in Kent. The novel itself evolved into a spy thriller and the chase for a set of highly secret documents.

Do you have a specific writing style? No, although the novels so far have all been crime-related. The anthology, however, is a real mix of romance, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, crime, and humour. 2015's novel, 'The Rings of Darelius' is a science fiction work of some 80,000 words.

How did you come up with the title? Full Marks? The 2013 release stemmed from a number of short story case files involving my detective, Dennis Marks. It's a full account of his career, hence the title 'Full Marks'.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Only that good will come out in the end most of the time, but that there is always a trial to go through before the hero emerges vindicated.

How much of the book is realistic? I write about what I know, or what I can reasonably find out. The legal and forensic aspects are realistic, as are the personal circumstances of all of those characters involved. There are a number of factual scenarios which lend credibility to them plot line, and I don't speculate on what may or may not happen - there are no 'what if' situations.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? Sometimes. I may use aspects of the character of several people I know to make up a single player in a book. There are also parts of me in some of them, although I will not tell you which one. Events can be, and in some cases are, drawn from experience, but the overriding theme is one of fiction.

What books have most influenced your life most? I suppose the Wessex novels of Thomas Hardy have, from my time at school, been a huge influence on what I read and write. He was a master at descriptive text, and I've not come across another author to match him for that.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? In terms of what I write, James Patterson is someone who I would hold up as an example of a great crime author. His punchy style, allied to short chapters, force you to keep on turning the pages.

What book are you reading now?
'A Place of Execution' by the British author Val McDermid. It's a gritty story set in my own back yard of Derbyshire.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? I've been working on collaborations novels with a couple of writers in the USA. Nathan Weaver from Missouri, and John Cesarone from Chicago, both hail from my days on the Storiesville writing site, and their styles are not dissimilar to my own. It makes for very easy reading.

What are your current projects? 'Day of the Phoenix', the sequel to 'A Ticket to Tewkesbury', is complete and scheduled for next year. 'The Rings of Darelius' will follow in 2015, 'Short Stories Volume Two' will come in 2016, and there are novels planned each year up to and including 2020.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members. Pneuma Springs, my publisher. They took a gamble back in 2008 and we've been working together ever since. They are hugely supportive and go the extra mile, sometimes without being asked, to give that extra something in the world of literary fiction.

Do you see writing as a career? Perhaps, when the time comes to hang up the accounting gloves. I will then have more time to devote to it without the distraction of having to earn a living .

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? No. Having read, re-read, and read again the manuscript and proofs, it would be a waste of time and resources. Editing something to the 'nth degree' never gets the returns which the effort involves. Sometimes you just have to close the book and let it go.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? At school when I was about ten years old. I always loved English Composition, and could turn a story out from practically anything.

Can you share a little of your current work with us? Here's the teaser from the back of 'Full Marks': Dennis Marks thought he had seen it all. That was before Solomon Goldblum crossed his path - after that, things were never the same again. The trauma which the old Jew had inflicted upon him had brought about a near psychological collapse. That the DCI had been able to conceal the fragility of his mental state from the shrink whom the Met had forced him to see had been down to his sheer determination. Now, all of that effort was about to be challenged by one of the most daunting figures at New Scotland Yard - Superintendent Eric Staines. The Independent Police Complaints Commission were about to take Marks' life apart, professionally and personally, and Staines, as one of its fiercest inquisitors, was not a man inclined to show mercy. A month was all that the DCI had to prove his innocence of a range of charges dating back to his days as a detective sergeant. A career spent putting away the dregs of London's criminal world was to hang in the balance, and he was, he believed, for the first time...alone.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Making the time to write when the ideas flow. The two concepts do not always match, and then it's a case of trying to remember exactly what was the fantastic idea I had the previous evening before I went to bed.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? Thomas Hardy - his portrayal of rural life in 19th century England is awesome. I've lived in Dorset and Hampshire, so the descriptive narrative means that much more to me than it would to a stranger to the area. You get a real feel for the hardships which the country folk had to endure, but also the way in which they alleviated that with the festivities which dotted the year.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)? No, as I said, I write what I know, using places where I have actually been. The only difficulty sometimes lies in writing about a place and time from some decades back. The you rely heavily on memory.

Who designed the covers? Mainly my publisher, Pneuma Springs, although 'Two Little Dicky Birds' was done by Onyx Dragon Productions of Rolla, Missouri. Part of the backdrop of 'Threads of Deceit' was produced by Dennis Eldridge, a photographer friend of mine.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? Finding the time to actually sit down and get the thing written. When the ideas start to buzz around the brain, it's sometime s difficult to keep up with them.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it? Forensics - there's no substitute for research, and without the internet it would simply have been impossible.

Do you have any advice for other writers? Never try to edit your own writing - it doesn't work, and you merely see what you expect to be there. I've seen some good novels ruined by bad spelling and grammar. Get yourself an independent editor - a fresh pair of eyes - and listen to what they say.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? Buy my books. The reviews on Amazon have been highly encouraging. Look what I have done over the past five years - I've come from nowhere and am now a published author with books in High Street retail outlets and libraries up and down the country.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
All of the above. I had to check, and recheck all of the background material to ensure that it dovetailed perfectly, and that there were no loose ends which I had not intended to leave lying around.