Grimly Darkwood was born in the year nineteen hundred and blinkety blonk, which was a very long time ago. In those days, things were very different from how they are today. Carts were more common than cars, mobile phones had not been invented, and if you were very lucky, the highlight of your day was to find a free plastic spaceman in a packet of corn flakes.
Grimly thought that the sights and sounds of such days were gone forever. He was therefore surprised when, while studying the night sky with his telescope, he began to observe life on a planet which had much in common with those distant days. That he could see this place so clearly was remarkable in itself. Normally, only the brilliant stars which provide such planets with light can be observed at such a distance. But Grimly found out that he could see the planet because it possessed a phenomenon called strangeness, of which he was soon to learn a great deal more…
The Shop on Peculiar Hill is the first of Grimly’s accounts of life in a part of that distant planet, a vicinity known as The Vale of Strange. He is determined that more such tales will follow, in spite of attacks from mysterious ‘intergalactic forces’ which, he says, are trying to sabotage his telescope and clog up his ball point pen.
What question do you wish that somebody would ask about your book but nobody has?
How many types of monster are there in your books and what are they called?
At first glance, there are two types of monster in The Shop on Peculiar Hill. There are bogeys, which fly around, bite you and drop fizz on your head, so because of that, you should always wear a hat!
There are also heeble-greebs, which come rolling out of the long grass and bite you in the leg (unless you have your sturdy boots on) – so that is two types of monster but if you count plants as well, there are three types of monster in the book because there are also giant jamjam plants, which trap you with their feelers and slowly digest you by squirting you with something that looks like jam and tastes like curry.
There are also creatures called lifkins in the book but they’re not really monsters. They look after bogeys and sometimes bring them food, so if you get into an argument with a bogey, don’t expect a lifkin to help you out any time soon. And thinking about it, once you include jamjam plants, you should also really include exploding hooplas and bendy trees, so I guess the answer is there are lots of monsters in The Shop on Peculiar Hill and there will be more again in Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill, which will be the second book in the series. And then in the third book… well let’s just say we won’t run short of monsters any time soon.
What are your current/future projects?
I am writing a series of children’s fantasy novels set in a place called Peculiar Hill and the nearby Vale of Strange. It is all about a boy called Peter who comes to live there and the weird things that happen to him and the friends that he meets including a girl called Amanda who likes playing tricks which get them both in a lot of trouble.
The first book is called The Shop on Peculiar Hill and it came out in December 2018. The sequel is Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill and that will come out in November 2019 at the latest, unless you are reading this in the future, in which case it may already have happened.
Did I remember to mention that the books have monsters in them? Well they do, lots of them. And the other important thing you need to know is that the books are funny as well as exciting, scary and mysterious. And full of monsters.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine or do you have any weird, funny, or unusual habits while writing and what are they?
I have the habit of doing something else instead of writing. Anything else. Like taking the contents of the garage to the tip, buying paint to decorate the spare room even though I have the paint already and don’t have a spare room, filling up the car with fuel, going on vacation, visiting the local museum etc etc. I would say that these habits are unusual except most of the people I meet when I go to these places are also writers not writing their books. I have formed the opinion that if it were not for all the writers avoiding writing, nothing would ever get done at all. So thank goodness for us.
Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?
OK, I’m going to be serious for a change. It’s weird. I find that if I seem to be blocked from writing, it’s because there’s something structurally wrong with the plot. It’s like a subconscious warning bell that I’m taking things in the wrong direction. If I look at things again and rearrange the plot the way it’s supposed to be, the characters start talking to me again. At least that’s what’s happened so far. I’m keeping my fingers crossed…
Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
I am a British writer who has finally achieved publication through a wonderful small publisher in Las Vegas, USA, so you can’t call it entirely traditional, yet my publisher takes care of the nasty stuff like paying the publishing costs, formatting, and probably dozens of other things which I fortunately don’t need to know about. I do however have to do most of the marketing myself and I’m learning – very slowly – on the job. To get published, I had to go through an arduous process of getting turned down by every agent in England. I then let the book fester on my hard drive for a decade or so before mentioning it on a whim to my mate in Las Vegas who surprised me by saying his wife ran a publishing house…
What is the most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Don’t give up! (Unless you want to.) Look at me: I published my first novel at age 65 - and I have Parkinson's Disease! If I can do it, so can you (probably). At any rate, don’t let something like getting old get in the way.
Why have you chosen to write in your particular genre?
I have always written science fiction or fantasy. At the moment I’m writing a children’s fantasy because my nephew brought me a book by Philip Ardagh which he really enjoyed. I loved it too and decided I would like to write in a similar style. I don’t know if I really write like Philip Ardagh but I really like his books and that’s what started me off on the Vale of Strange series..
Which marketing strategies have worked best for you?
It’s very early days for me. It’s all about getting noticed of course. I’ve mainly concentrated on getting honest reviews. But reviews are only any use if they’re read by genuine readers. Some organisations seem to produce reviews which may be well written but are mainly seen by authors alone. What you need are reviews of your book appearing where readers who are genuinely looking for a good book to read are going to see them. I’ve found one service so far that produces such reviews and it’s making a genuine difference to my sales. I’m new to Author Shout so it’s too early to judge yet but you seem to have some good ideas too and at a reasonable price. So you may be another good firm I’ve found. Review bloggers also deserve our support of course and I’ve had one great review but it’s time consuming writing out to them all and most of them haven’t written back.
What are your thoughts on authors paying for reviews, doing review swaps etc.?
People have tried to misuse the system so I understand why there is an incentive right now to try to make things fairer, but really at the moment the whole business of reviews is very confusing for the new writer. Just yesterday, I came across a blog article from a bright-eyed young writer telling everyone that paying for reviews was patently morally wrong, then I clicked on the next link to be presented with a post from no less reputable a journal than Publishers Weekly with a list of the top five best sites for paid reviews! It is all very confusing. New writers want a chance to be seen but also most of them want to play by the rules. The trouble is it is not at all clear what the rules are. It seems to be ok for writers to pay for reviews in some circumstances but not in others but what the rules are and why they are made as they are is uncertain. It is enough to make you tear your hair out. For instance, it seems to be ok for Kirkus Review to charge over $400 for a review that is 90% plot summary with a sentence or two of comment – not always grammatically correct- joined on at the end. Whereas if two people give honest reviews of a book but they happen to share the same address then that is not all right and both reviews are removed. There might be very good reasons for these rules but they are not always clear to the newcomer. Would it not be possible for, say, half a dozen interested parties representing online retailers, publishers, writers and readers to get together to devise a system of rules which is clear and consistent and also fair so that everyone knows what they are doing? Just asking…
What is the intended audience for your book?
8-12 year old (i.e. mid grade) children are the target audience but I know of several 7 year olds and a great many adults who have enjoyed the book. I wrote it intending that adults would enjoy it as well as children – and I think I’ve succeeded. Give it a try and see what you think!
Have you ever had a book idea or characters come to you in a dream? What do you do about it afterwards?
Such ideas or even significant twists of plot are very likely to come to me at such a time or while dozing or meditating. It may be something I’ve been mulling over during the day, and then my brain throws up the answer when it calculates that I am inconveniently distant from a pen or other writing device. Experience has taught me that it is vital to write it down however, or otherwise I will definitely forget it. That’s probably why I don’t get very much sleep.
Do you proofread/edit your own books or send them off to an editor?
You have to get your book checked over by someone else because we all have holes in our heads through which the mistakes leak. Fortunately other people’s heads have holes in different places so they can catch the mistakes you’ve missed. Professional editors are the best people to use because they have at least 80% fewer holes in total than other people.
If you had the chance to get one message out there to readers all over the world, what would it be?
Please find a way to get along with each other – but not so well that we all get bored.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
A great cover.
Unfortunately I can’t draw, so its great that my friend Pete Lyon can do it so well.
On second thoughts, a great title is also important.
Fortunately I have one of those too.