What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?
One of my favourite movies growing up was about time travel. Many of my short stories revolved around that also. When I took the character back in time I would also study the time period carefully. This only added to my interest and passion in history.
I started to collect antiques and visit museums, I wanted to surround myself with something that means so much to me. I would love others to see how fascinating history is and that is why I write historical fiction.
How important is research to you when writing a book?
There are countless hours of research and fact checking when writing historical fiction. There are interviews with other historians as well as survivors of wars and horrific events like the Holocaust. It is extremely important prior to start writing a book that an author gather as much information as possible. Never rush into starting a book. A book can fail simply because not enough effort was put into the initial planning.
With historical fiction it is a necessity to gather as many points of views as possible. The reality is with history there have been many contradictions so the further your research goes the more accurate the book will be.
When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
When I first started high school I was constantly writing short stories during my lunch break and when I got home. I had hand written so many my father had to buy a filing cabinet to store them. Eventually they become longer and when I was given my first computer I began to expand my writing. This included poems, newspaper articles and reviews on various movies and TV shows.
I was always going beyond what was asked of me in English class. If the essay was to be 1000 words then I would do 2000 and so on. This caused much annoyance to my teachers who had to keep reminding me to keep it at the agreed number of words. However after a while they just gave up and allowed me to keep writing how many words I wanted. When I submitted a short story to my teacher she entered it in the young writers of the year competition in 1994 and 1996.
I loved watching people read my stories and telling me how much they loved them. I knew then the only thing I ever wanted to be was a writer.
Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?
I have no set schedule, I often write early in the morning and sometimes late at night. There is no such thing as a “normal work day.” Outside or inside my home, at the local park or on the steps of the museum, I will write anywhere and at any time.
Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?
A few times I have, the time varies from a few minutes to a hour or so.
Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?
Step away from the computer or typewriter. I find just getting some fresh air by going for a walk or a swim can help immensely. It is important not to become too stressful if you find you cant get over it. Take a break even if it is a few days, a refreshed mind does wonders.
Have you ever designed your own book cover?
I had the idea in my mind for what wanted for both my book covers. I had the help of a fantastic designer to help me create it. Hands on I never made the covers but they were created from my original concepts.
Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?
I read every one of them and I am very appreciative of those who take the time to write reviews about my books.
Does a bad review affect your writing?
No it just drives me to keep going. I take the negativity and use it to improve myself.
Which book inspired you to begin writing?
Anne Franks Diary. I read it so many times in school and watched the original movie. I remember thinking that this girl who was experiencing such pain and suffering was able to write something like that and at her young age. The influence and success of this book inspires me.
Her diary affects people in so many ways and that is what I wanted my books to do. I actually sent my first book to Anne Franks best friend and she replied with a very nice letter. I read that letter often and I am so grateful that someone who was a part of such an iconic persons life took the time to read my book.
Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?
I write from the perspective of the main character and by doing so I try to capture the readers attentions immediately. It is their first hand experiences and emotions that creates the inspiration and sadness which I know sets me apart from other authors.
Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
I am currently writing my third book and I think readers who were shocked and saddened by my first two will be even more so with this one. I bring to life many aspects of the past most of which are based on times we wish we could forget. I will not back away from a topic that may be distressing. I write about all aspects of history, good or bad.
How did it feel when your first book got published?
I remember receiving my very first copy of my book in the mail and I was in tears. All that hard work and sacrifice was worth it. I was overcome by the pride I felt and the first thing I did was kiss the cover. I can’t remember how long the smile on my face lasted but it certainly was a long time.
How are your relations with your family? Do you like to stay in touch?
I am very close to all my family, without their help and guidance I don’t think I would be where I am today. I love them very much and I will never forget what they have done for me.
Which book would you want adapted for the silver screen?
That’s a difficult question because I want both of them to be seen on the big screen. The reviews so far on my books really sum up what I wanted to achieve with my writing. They bring to light different aspects of the past and I think those who would watch any movie based on them would walk away from the cinema knowing they have seen what I hope would be Oscar winning material.
Were you a troublemaker as a child?
Not at all, I suppose I was a nerd. I read a lot and was always writing something. I think my parents waited a lot for me to rebel but it ever happened.
What is the secret to becoming a bestselling author?
Believe in yourself, your writing and never give up. Be prepared to put in many hours of hard work and never let bad reviews set you back. Get out there and promote your work and more importantly you must not at any stage procrastinate. Every spare minute you have you must promote, promote and promote some more.
Was there a time you were unable to write, At All?
I have never had a moment when I just could not write. Every day I wake up, I want to write something. It may seem hard to believe but it is the absolute truth.
It is often said that in order to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?
Yes 100%, I have met writers who write a genre because it is popular and nothing more. Most of it was very bad and not published, you have to write what you love and what is your passion. If a writer only writes with such narrow minded values then they will never succeed.
How active are you on social media? And how do you think it affects the way you write?
It does not affect the way I write but it certainly has made marketing and promotion much easier.
What is that dream goal you want to achieve before you die?
To be walking down the red carpet at the premier of a movie based on my book.
How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”?
I love classical music and it relaxes me either before writing and after. I never listen to music during writing because all my attention is focused on every word.
Poets and writers in general, have a reputation of committing suicide; in your opinion, why is that the case?
Like acting or directing, writing is a difficult industry and so much time and effort is put into it. The financial side of things is so high also and most unfortunately don’t make it. I have always believed that failure should only serve to encourage someone to keep going. If someone tells you something is too hard then you must set out to prove them wrong. I have heard so many stories about writers committing suicide and often wonder how to prevent such a tragedy. I think more awareness of the risks involved is important because most have unrealistic goals when they first start out.
Who are your books mostly dedicated to?
So many people, those who risked their lives for their country. Those who did so much so save many lives and to whom we may never heard of. Of course my family and friends.
How do you see writing? As a hobby or a passion?
A passion no doubt, when you wake every morning loving what you do then that is a passion.
What other genres do you enjoy reading?
Non Fiction including auto biographies and of course history.
Is today’s generation more aware of the literary art or less?
Less, I think if we asked many young people today how often they visited a library or museum, not many would have. I always try to have people under the age of 25 read my hardback or paperback rather than the eBook.
Did you have a lot of differences with your editors in the beginning while you were still becoming used to getting your work edited?
I was always open to suggestions when I was starting out. My editor and I spent so much time discussing my first book but I stood firm on things I felt should stay as they were. In the end they had told me I made the right choice on all of them.
Have you ever made a fake account to interact with fans over comments online to get some insights?