I am an English born bi-lingual Francophile and a Humanist at heart, happily married to a French wife, and we share our lives and interests between the UK and France. I did most of the writing in France and since I wrote the novel ‘A Clean Pair of Hands’ there has been more boldness by the media in France and elsewhere in opening up a debate on how much the attitudes of national leadership influence the moral base for whole populations.
1.What got you into writing / what made you sit down and actually start something? Writing was always a pleasure for me. I made my first attempts at school by contributing to the school magazine.
We also used to write to American jazz musicians of the late 1950s. That was exciting! Especially as some replied! I initiated some of that correspondence, which sadly has not survived as far as I know. I say sadly because our main point of contact was Ella Fitzgerald and when she came to London we met and she introduced us to Oscar Peterson and Dizzy Gillespie. You can imagine the effect that had on a small group of 15 year old jazz fans.
I am an avid reader and enjoy a wide spectrum of subjects from history to scientific discoveries and to current affairs and I am a keen observer of human behaviour, but I never set out to be a writer, though during my business career I wrote some magazine articles for business and professional publications and for a while I was a business book critic!
The lightbulb moment occurred when, having puzzled for many years over the apparent acceptance by the French public of the corrupt behaviour of their leaders, deeper and more daring investigating journalism brought amazing facts to the surface which confirmed my suspicions. The cat was out of the bag and I decided to create a suspense novel which would look under the veil of respectability and follow the saga of a fictitious French family under the leadership of its egotistic patriarch, Michel Bodin. That is what became ‘A Clean Pair of Hands’
2.What is a usual writing day like for you, how is it structured? I don’t structure a writing day or have a routine as such. I make a plot plan from note books and then work on characters and think about them in scenes. I then research facts, geography and other items of relevance, to establish accuracy where needed. When I have a chance to write I refer to the note books, plot plans and research notes. When I start writing a scene I just let it flow, then usually have to make challenging cuts to stay within the plot. I probably discard 50% of my manuscript.
3.Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it? Remember this is my first book, so writer’s block is something I haven’t come across yet. I have a larger inventory of notes and book plans than I can assemble into novels at the moment. Maybe when I have published ten books I will have to start scraping the barrel, but life is very generous in providing ideas. The challenging part is linking up all the components to make it interesting to my readers. <br/>
4.Are you a plotter or panster when it comes to writing a story? Is it pantster with a t as in flying by the seat of your pants, or panster as in frying pan? I had never heard the word before.
Coming from a business background, I am used to starting with a vision of the end results and working my way back, so I guess that is planning. However, I have a part-written novel which at the moment has no ending, so I defer to Napoleon when he said, “I have never had a plan of operations. … No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.”
- Are you traditionally or self-published, and what was the publishing process like for you? Any advice to aspiring authors? I was warned before embarking on this project that writing a book was the easy part, and I would reiterate that warning to any aspiring authors. My single experience was predictably met with, “Thanks but not for us.” From a bunch of selected agents, and I fell into the clutches of a hard-selling but poor delivering self-publishing house. That was a complete waste of time and money. Then I was approached by Authoright and the relationship with them has been more professional and productive.
6.What has been your highlight since becoming a published author? The sparkles in my wife’s eyes when she saw the first copy of my published book… and my own surprise/bewilderment at seeing a book I had written sharing space with world renowned authors, not only on own my bookshelves, but on Amazon and other on-line booksellers, and receiving warm comments from readers from Australia, Africa, the USA and of course nearer home… Very encouraging… and humbling!<br/>
7.Can you share a little of your most recent book with us? And any other books of yours, if you wish. Here is a short quote that gives nothing away about the plot:
A REAL EYE-CATCHER
‘George thought she was a bright, stylishly turned-out girl just as you would expect from a French middle-class family. He also noticed that she was taller and more voluptuously built than her mother, and her face was quite different. It was extraordinary and quite hard not to study it to a point of embarrassment. Beatrice had large pale grey slanting eyes, which she emphasised with make-up, high, apparent cheek bones, and a natural pout, which she used to effect. George imagined that some women would spend a fortune on cosmetic surgery to try to get their faces to look remotely like this. As she spoke, Beatrice’s pout opened into a wide smile revealing perfectly even white teeth, an opportunity to advertise what corrective dentistry could achieve, except she had it naturally and she smiled a lot. George’s conclusion was that in some cultures where it is considered normal for men to have no self-control, and where men make up the rules, this young woman would definitely be covered in a black tent or punished for disturbing the peace by raising blood pressures.’
8.What audience is your book targeted for, and what genre does it come under? I have little knowledge of genres and how they are defined, but I would guess that ‘A Clean Pair of Hands’ crosses between several descriptive boundaries. It is a novel about real life decisions, free-will and inevitability, and how they play out for the book’s characters.
We are all faced with dilemmas at some time in our lives and we can’t always blame society or governments for our own decisions.
The target audience would be literary Francophiles, people who love intrigues and dilemmas in relationships that they can relate to, and generally people curious to penetrate the character of a French story with some depth. <br/>
9.Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time? Living life is my second passion after reading books.
I would like to spend more time doing very little, enjoying the company of friends and family in the sunshine of bucolic South-West France and developing my limited culinary skills in this cradle of French gastronomy.
Then I might exert my modest energy helping my wife to discover hidden properties with development potential.
I have several other book plans awaiting development, but the fact that I could write them doesn’t mean that I will. I need to know that there would be an interested readership before I go through the process again. Otherwise it would be just an indulgence. Meanwhile, I can focus on marketing this novel and on my other interests, which are varied.
I value comments from my readers and if some of your audience read A Clean Pair of Hands and would like to share their thoughts with me, please do. I can be contacted through my website www.OscarReynard.com
10.What tip would you give to new authors when trying to build a fan-base / get followers and market their books? (What to do and what not to do.) My experience is too limited to be of much value, but you have put your finger on the aspect of book publishing that I am most reluctant to dive into. My attitude to marketing, and especially fan-base building, is similar to Woody Allen’s relationship with gardening. He said, “I love gardening. I just don’t want to be around when it’s happening.” I feel that I am remorselessly being drawn over a threshold from privacy into the world of websites, blogs and Facebook.
If a fan-base were to be established (and that’s a big assumption) I would welcome contact and perhaps some debates and I would try to be active in responding to some posts, but it requires more work before we reach that stage.
Internet technology offers an array of possibilities which we are actively exploring. I may be in a position to give better advice in a few months’ time. Meanwhile, I would say, don’t believe all the advice you get. Draw your own conclusions by checking some facts and go for it.<br/>
11.How much of your books are realistic / based on true experiences/ people? Mark Twain said that truth is stranger than fiction, and I agree with him. My fiction is based on observation of the bizarre and illogical ways we humans talk and act.