V Pete Simpson was born in Sheffield England, PhD University of Manchester – then emigrated to Laguna Beach, CA with wife Vanessa. A recent writer of screenplays, plays & TV pilots, “girls without parachutes” is his debut novel, written a decade ago, but left dormant – eclipsed by scriptwriting. Now re-edited and released. (scripts list at end).
Growing up with 3 older sisters in an unhappy home influenced his writing – an imagination for “escape” – especially for his mother. This became his writing motif – gravitating towards stylistic thrillers/ mysteries / action–adventure. Often women trapped in painful truths, who muster the guts & ingenious ways to escape or pursue their dreams, in the face of villains, big brother, terrorists or powerful pencil-pushers. Splashes of humor are never far away.
Pete loves being with his family in Southern California, movies, stroking cats, walking the hills above Laguna – and cliffs of Devon, thinking, writing, listening to poetry, bricklaying, savoring Carnitas and sipping Margaritas with family and friends. He and Vanessa split their lives between Southern California & Devon.
Scripts (year completed): Screenplays & TV Pilots: Outside Chance – Mystery of the Golden Arrow (2016); Going Rogue (2015); Spellbound (2014), Magic Boy (2015), The Coalminer (2013); Lagunatics (2014). Stage Plays: Ghost in the Machine (2015); Dancing in Santa Fé (2013), Harmony Junction (2014) & Paradise Junction (2015). More details at: www.vpsimpson.com
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book(s), but nobody has? Write it out here, and then answer it.
How do you manage to combine silly people and funny episodes with really serious stuff? Answer OK, I grew up in a family of 3 older sisters and mother in an unhappy home. Had to be silly to keep sane.
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’m a morning person (dead meat after 7 pm). So writing’s a daily thing – 6 am to 1 pm in my PJ’s, dressing gown & weird colored socks. Love to answer the door at noon to nosy neighbors, meter readers, Jehovah’s witnesses, frowning mail man. That disapproving look is a real kick. Keep meaning to have it monogrammed “Noel Coward” – get a cigarette holder.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Not really. Too much crazy stuff swirling around in my brain. If I do, I grab a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, stroke the cat and think great thoughts.
What is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Play the LONG game. Keep it a GAME of learning & growing. Be a magpie (pinch/store ideas). Read what I call “Craft” books (plot, character dev, pacing, 3-act structure, character arcs, peaks/valleys, etc, etc) on the side, so the “craft” eventually becomes automatic – freeing the “art” to come out.
What are your current/future projects?
Adapting my retro police procedural TV pilot “Outside Chance – Mystery of the Golden Arrow” into a novel. Trying to get Hollywood & London gatekeepers (ugh producers/agents/commissioning editors) to love my recent scripts. Fully developing more stories that are simmering on the back-burner.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
Kinda clueless about that. My upbringing definitely had a massive influence. Screenplays are faster/easier to write than novels – because there’s implied subtext – but no internal dialog. You rely on the actors and director to fill in the implied blanks.
What do you think is the future for independent authors and do you think it will continue to be easy for anyone to be a published author?
Alleluia – bypasses all the gatekeepers. OK, it’s the future, but many writers are clueless about editing and especially marketing – that it’s often far tougher than the writing. People do not beat a path to our door! So agents/trade publishers will always have their place for editing & promo.
Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
Self-published. Pretty simple on Amazon. I’m amazed it didn’t cost me a dime, although the hard/expensive part now comes – marketing.
Have you ever changed a title, book cover, or even the content of your book after it was published? What was that process like?
Yes. Also; I do it all the time with scripts. “Girls without Parachutes” was easy. New ISBN. I changed the title for 3 reasons – to match current zeitgeist – for current fashions – to make it zingy.
What opportunities have being an author presented you with and share those memories? (i.e. travel, friends, events, speaking, etc..)
The main one is being a member of a writer’s group. Not feeling lonely, being with friends who have similar feelings, interests and loves. As regards speaking events – who would want to listen to me?
What are your marketing, advertising, promotion strategies and which one(s) have worked the best for you? If you had to share your most valuable promotion tip, what would that be?
The rule of 6 has always guided my marketing. It states that, on average, most folks need to see a thing 6 times before it goes in and they act upon it (some get it in one – others take 12). So the dripping tap always works better than the big splash.
If you are a self-published author, which platform do you prefer? (Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, Author House, or something not mentioned), and why?
Amazon – not tried the others. Easy peasy.
What field or genre would you classify your book(s) and what attracted you to write in that field or genre?
Thriller/Suspense/Action adventure. Again, “escape” was part of my upbringing. Another profound writing interest is the search for meaning in life.
What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
Always carry a stub pencil in my change pocket. Paper’s always somewhere around.
Do you have a target amount of words/pages for each of your books or do you just know when enough is enough?
It’s 5 – 6 hours. Which can be 1500 to 3000 words. I write furiously, ignoring spelling grammar, syntax, chapter, scene breaks, etc. I can work with semi’s flying by, kids screaming.
How do you think you have evolved as a person/author because of your writing and do you believe your writing has helped others, how/why?
That’s easy. I now see other’s POV (Point of View). Much of the dogma/library of pre-conditioned responses have gone. Far wider tolerance and empathy for the human condition. I think the trick of a writer is to truly write the POV’s of ALL characters. And never let the reader figure out where your sympathy’s lie.
How much influence do you believe a title, cover, content, page numbers have in purchasing decisions of potential buyers/readers?
Title/cover have huge initial influence on launching the book. But then it’s up to how good it is. And nowadays, reader’s 5-star ratings are king.
Do you believe there is value in a Press Release, have you used any press release service, and what have your experiences been?
As part of dripping tap marketing – yes.
Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?
As part of the dripping tap – yes. But they’re now overrated. People are jaundiced over self-proclaimed gurus.
What are your thoughts on authors doing review swaps, paying for reviews, or reviews that just don’t seem right for the book?
Do you believe there are competitors or general readers out to sabotage authors with bad reviews and what are your experiences with this?
Never had experience of it. But with the bell-shaped curve of human outlook, there are bound to be the flakes.
Have you ever had an interesting, funny, or even bad experience during a live interview, reading, event, or autograph session?
Once had memory lapse and couldn’t remember the title of a screenplay. Whoa!
With self publishing being so easy these days, do you believe there is an over abundance of books out there and how do you sort through all the hype or copycats?
The clutter’s increased spectacularly – so massive marketing’s key + a good book. The key question is – does your book pass the clutter test?
What is your biggest fear about having a book published?
No one will find it! And if they do, they’ll hate my baby. Ugh!
If you have multiple books published what do you feel is your greatest work, why?
I think my latest mystery “Outside Chance – Mystery of the Golden Arrow” is my best so far, because I mix a lot into it Absorbing crimes, breezy humor, class/gender wars, love triangles, fun, excitement, sweet victories, upbeat retro mood, showcased in corners of Britain’s heritage with quintessential British cues loved by UK & overseas audiences British panache; Aristocracy wrangles; Heritage locations; Class/gender wars; Quirky characters; Quirky language; Retro mood.
What is the intended audience for you book?
From kids to old folks – equal gender who love solving a mystery, that has some quirky danger and humor.
Give us a fun fact about your book(s)?
In “girls without parachutes”, you learn about the eccentricity of software biz and characters – in a fun way without the techy blah.
If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?
Challenge everything. Learn and grow. Don’t become a library of pre-conditioned responses. Find meaning and think about God. (that’s 5 – duh, sorry).
Do you find it easier to connect with your readers with the advances in technology we have today like social media? What platform do you prefer, and why?
Seems harder if you’re a self-published wannabe, without big brother publisher. I use Fb & twitter – but sparingly as I’m tardy.
What makes a good story, why?
Life stretched to the limit. A really great CDQ – Central Dramatic Question – that grabs you by the throat and never lets go. A happy or bittersweet ending – BUT no art-house ambiguous ending.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
Very. Spend a lot of time on names. Try to match a name to character trait or standing. Often use nicknames, which exaggerate the trait. In “Outside Chance” I have a cheeky cockney, who gives everyone a nickname (often unflattering) that makes everyone else laugh.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
Yes. Savor the good ones and rant/burn the bad ones. As a great playwright once said “A bad review should spoil your breakfast, but never your lunch.” Once calmed down, I usually learn a lot from the bad ones.
What are some events you have attended or participated in that has been a positive experience/influence on/for your writing?
London screenplay conference – where very candid professionals bared it all – laying out the fickle cruel nature of the biz. Applies to novels.
What is the easiest/hardest scene for you to write, why? (Love, action, fight, death, racy, controversial, etc…)
Easiest is action/adventure, because it’s escapist fun. Hardest is a terrorist act, because it’s dark mindless violence. Mankind’s worst moments.
What would you like to write about that you have never written about before?
Theater of the absurd. With a deep meaning about life.
Have you ever had a book idea or characters come to you in a dream? What did you do about it afterwards?
Nope. My dreams are too weird and apparently meaningless drivel.
Do you have any characters you would like to introduce in other books or a combination of characters from multiple books you would like to write about in one book?
Never thought about that. My characters seem only fit for the theme of that book. They would, of course, show up in series or sequels.
Were your characters based off real life people/events or did you make it all up?
Most are stretched composites of people I’ve known – often mixed with one’s I’ve read about or seen on films/TV.
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
A brilliant idea. The shear guts to have your own “voice”. Shake off inhibitions. Read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” (his 10,000 hrs theory). Read, learn and grow from other successful authors. And early on – devour as many books as you can on the “craft” of writing, so it will allow the “art” to flow out. Reflect on the great 19th century painters, who first spent 5+ years as apprentices under master artists.
What book(s), author(s), or significant life event(s) have had a positive or negative influence in your life that inspired you to begin writing?
Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” (his 10,000 hrs theory). I’ve read and watched an awful lot from childhood, and would be hard pressed to single one out. Don’t think I’ve had a significant life event.
What are your thoughts about eBooks vs. print books?
Prefer hardcopy – but eBooks are more convenient, because I can carry a full library with me.
Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
A full-time career.
Were there any challenges (research, literary, psychological, or logistical) in bringing your book to life?
Unbelievable amount of re-writes.
Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you send them off to an editor? If you send them off to an editor, who/what have you had the best experience with?
Good at proofreading and have found some highly experienced close novelist friends who are very good at editing pointers.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of self or traditional publishing?
In self-publishing you have complete freedom/control, BUT it’s hard to be objective – plus most writers are clueless about marketing. Traditional publishers take control away and are so…. slow – but it makes up for it in objective editing guidance and often brilliant marketing.
Do you have a subject/genre you would never write about, why?
Horror. I’m too easily frightened.
What motivates you to write and where does your inspiration come from?
I feel I have to. Don’t know why. Inspiration comes along every day – grabbing me for reasons I don’t understand. Except that my mind is always open. Someone’s turn of phrase? Turning an idea on its head. Oddball snatch of conversation. Whatever. I immediately know it when it happens.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
Like them or not – they’re not dull. I’m lucky in having an extremely low boredom threshold. Books, newspapers, TV, movies, pub bores.
Do you design your own cover? If not who does, why?
Yup – front and back.
What is your most/least favorite part of the writing process, why?
Least Ugh – marketing and rejection. I need them both – but don’t want them. Best Having characters rise up, and come alive right in front of me.