1 - First things first. The stove’s hot and the kettle’s just boiled so what are you having? Are you a latte or a lemon tea? A flapjack or a fruitcake? Or can I tempt you with something from the specials board?
PT - A cappuccino please, Babs. And there was some mention earlier about chocolate, cherry and walnut cake, warm, with fresh raspberries and double cream … is that still on? Good. But just a big bit, please.
2 – Paul, let’s get to know a little bit more about how you ended up here on my sofa. Are you a full time writer or do you have an additional occupation that drags you away from the keyboard. If you moonlight as something particularly exciting, dangerous or downright dodgy, we want to hear about it...we really do! And with all those books to your name, how on earth do you squeeze enough writing time into your busy day?
PT - Sadly, no, I’m not a full time writer. I and my family would starve if I was. My ‘day job’ (which, due to shift work and call outs can be any time of day or night) is as a Crime Scene Investigator for a UK Police Force. Yes, a CSI, though (as I say at least once every working day) it’s nothing like you see on TV! Not nearly as exciting. I actually prefer the older job title of SOCO (Scenes Of Crime Officer) but no one asked my opinion.
Fitting in writing time is difficult. Most of it has to be done on my rest days or when I’m on holiday. Sometimes I get a bit done in the evenings, or in the morning if I’m on a late shift, but I’m often busy with other commitments (Dad’s taxi, for example!) or just too tired. I often find it immensely frustrating, not being able to write when I want to. But, to look on the positive side, I do get plenty of opportunity to think through story details before I finally get it written down. Which can be good. I’m currently trying to put together a military SF short story and have just about got to the end – but that end bit has already been re-written several times in my head! Hopefully, it’ll be right when I actually type the words!
3 – How did you get into writing? Perhaps you’re lucky enough to be a member of a writer’s group. Or maybe you just fell into it by accident.
PT - Babs, I was a writer before I could write! Or perhaps I should say I was a story maker. Some of my earliest memories are of making up stories and telling them to myself as I lay in bed at night. Not a habit that’s easy to break, even if I’d ever seriously tried!
Later on I began writing things down. I’ve never stopped. In fact, if anything it’s got worse!
4 – What was the first thing you had published and how did you go about it? Did you run the gauntlet of the query letter? Enter a competition or decide to self publish?
PT - I think the first thing I had properly published was probably a story called ‘Dry Murder’, an SF story that was accepted by a small magazine called ‘Threads’. (You can read it on my website, if you like – link below) The feedback I got was immensely encouraging, and I submitted several more stories there over the years, before it sadly closed down.
I haven’t had a great deal of success with publishers since then, or with competitions, though I’ve tried both. I’ve had some stories appear in on-line magazines, most noticeably in ‘Welcome to Wherever’, produced for several years by my virtual friend and another good indie writer, Mandy Ward. She’s had to give that up now, though.
When I got fed up with rejection letters from publishers, or no letters at all sometimes, I took advantage of the digital revolution and started self-publishing. My first e-publication was a crime novel, ‘Can of Worms’, based on my CSI experience, and that went out on KDP in August 2011. Since then I’ve self-published ten titles of various sorts.
I’m still open to going down the traditional route, though, if someone wants to make me an offer!
5 – From your own experience as a writer do you have any tips for those not yet published?
PT - Just keep writing! Get as much feedback as you can (I’ve currently got some chapters of a work in progress on ‘Youwriteon’ and the reviews have been very useful), learn from them, and write more. When you’re happy with what you’ve done, look at self-publishing by one of the many possibly routes open nowadays (I’m using Draft2Digital now, which has proved very good so far), unless you’re absolutely committed to finding a traditional publisher. Then go and write something else.
6 – Paul, I love to genre hop, and I’ve a feeling you do too? Which is your favourite and why? Is there a particular genre or type of scene that you would avoid and if so why?
PT - Like you, Babs, I’ve mostly worked in crime and fantasy. I’m probably most drawn to fantasy, because that’s the genre where my imagination has the most scope. No limitations imposed by awkward facts getting in the way of the plot! If you can imagine it, you can write it (though it does need to stay consistent with itself) – and you don’t have to do a lot of research, either! I’m not good at research …
In fact, I probably wouldn’t have written any crime stories if I hadn’t had the background and information presented to me on a plate by virtue of my job! Even there, I stick quite closely to what I know, that is the CSI side of things.
I also like SF, but I’m limited by my lack of real scientific knowledge. So my SF stories hover in the fuzzy boundary between ‘hard’ SF and ‘pseudo-scientific fantasy’ (to coin a phrase).
Some things I do avoid. Though I work in fantasy, I’m wary of anything that seems too ‘occult’. That might seem strange, being as I’ve published a novelette featuring a demon! (The Orb). I would find it hard to define exactly where the boundary is. It’s a personal thing: I just won’t go where I feel uncomfortable! Likewise, I won’t do any graphic sex scenes or erotica. As a Christian, I don’t think that would be compatible with my faith.
Other genre’s I’m open to, if the right story comes along, but always remembering my aversion to research!
Any more of that cake, by the way?
Fear not, Paul. At The Coffee House there’s never a shortage of cake!
7 – There’s been a lot in the press lately about the reducing number of children who are read to/with at home. Were you read to as a child and did that develop your love of books? As a child which was your favourite book? Do you have a favourite book and author now? What are you reading now?
PT - I can clearly remember my Dad reading to me when I was young. He’d come up every night when I went to bed and read a few chapters. Usually, he read ‘Biggles’ books. I don’t think they’re much known now, but they were wonderful adventures featuring a group of pilots (aircraft, not ship!). Written by W. E. Johns, a marvellous story teller, who had been a pilot himself in the First World War.
That must have had a big influence – as I said before, I was making up my own stories before I could even read myself, let alone write! Good father-son bonding as well. I think that Dad was a little disappointed when I learned to read myself and no longer needed his services in that area! But I can still remember that the first book I read on my own was one of the ‘Biggles’ books.
Another big influence (and this is something that only occurred to me whilst thinking about your questions, Babs) was my church background. The Bible, of course, is full of stories! But perhaps more significantly, it was through church and Sunday school that I came to understand that stories have a value beyond just entertainment. Stories can mean something. They communicate ideas, explain things, have an influence. There is more in a good story than just what happens to the characters.
To me that’s one of the most important aspects of writing. And whilst I wouldn’t want to preach at people through my stories (I’ve seen that happen, and it doesn’t work) I hope that some of the things I believe in do come through in my writing. ‘The Orb’ for example, explores the nature of evil. And in ‘The Empress’s Lover’ (a fantasy novel) the power and importance of love is a key element.
I think Tolkien said something like ‘I am a Christian, and what I believe is inevitably reflected in my writing’. I can’t find the quote to confirm it, but I would hope that that is true of me as well.
Sorry, I do waffle on – what was the rest of the question? Oh yes! My current favourite authors. Too many to list! A lot of my reading nowadays is of ‘independent’ authors – like myself! We network a lot, and try and support each other’s work, and there are some very, very good writers amongst us! I’ve just recently finished ‘Salutaris’ by Gev Sweeney, a really beautiful and original variation on the Vampire theme. Before that, I read ‘The Rothko Room’ by Russell Cruse, a brilliant spy story and a marvellous parody on the traditional spy genre. There’s been some other excellent indie books this year. ‘Bedlam’ for example! Now who wrote that?
Ha ha... I wonder. I like Gev Sweeney’s work too. I read The Grave Coverist recently and would recommend it.
9 – Okay, Paul, time to tell us a little about the books you currently have published.
PT - OK – I’ve already mentioned a few. Additional to those, there are the ‘Dragon Slayer’ stories, twelve in all, currently published in four e-books on Amazon. Kindle only at present, but one of my projects is to put them together in one volume and distribute them more widely. (Draft cover idea on Facebook, on my ‘Paul Trembling – Writing’ page).
Then there’s ‘A Pattern of Murder’, five CSI short stories: and my most recent publication is ‘Minutes of the Reality Escape Committee, Volume One’, a collection of fantasy and horror short stories. Both of these are on all the major e-book platforms and also available as paperbacks.
I’ve also written a children’s fantasy, ‘Trouble in Toyland’, under the pen name of Henry Linden (Kindle or paperback).
Phew! That’s a lot of books, Paul.
10 – If it’s not a closely guarded secret, can you give us a hint at what you have planned next?
PT - Well, there’s the Dragon Slayer collection as I said. I’d like to write another story to go with that as well. And my main WIP is ‘The Hidden Libraries’, a fantasy set in the same place as ‘The Empress’s Lover’. It also has some of the same characters. That’s been progressing slowly, but I need to do a little re-writing, as certain aspects of my main characters background have now come to light! That’s the one that’s up on ‘Youwriteon’. If anyone’s using that site, please take a look and let me know what you think.
Apart from that, I have a folder on my hard drive marked ‘The Back Burner’, full of ideas I haven’t got round to yet! Frustration, again! I really want to finish that Military SF story I mentioned earlier, but I’m not sure when I’ll get back to it.
11 – And tell us even more about the one you’ve brought with you. I did explain about reading an excerpt later didn’t I? Oh good. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, or coffee, for that matter…
PT - I’ve decided, after some deliberation, to bring along ‘The Empress’s Lover’. It’s about an Empire in crisis, about the unlikely relationship between a lowly member of a religious order and the all-powerful Empress. It’s about the conflict between the ruling classes – the First Order – and those they rule – the Second Order. And of course, it’s about love.
12 – Pick one of your characters and sell him/her to us in twenty words or less.
PT - Thylan an’Darsio is a young Friar who teaches the children of the Palace servant’s, and falls in love with the Empress.
13 – While I go and get your coffee topped up, would you like to read a short excerpt from your book?
PT - Certainly! This is from Chapter Nine. The Empress has just received some serious news, and must react quickly …
Across the courtyard now. Thylan half running to keep up as they entered the Great Hall of the Emperors. Gestavin was matching her stride, nodding attentively as the flood of orders continued.
“I want all the troops along that border alerted, against any interference from Murkarin. Not that I expect it now, but we’ll give them no temptations! Their part in this we’ll deal with later. That doesn’t include the West Fornessy Garrison. Stand them down until we’ve had time to sort out the good fruit from the rotten. Confine them to barracks. Tough on the loyal ones, but we can’t take chances. Move a regiment of the Guards out there to cover. Neighbouring Garrisons to provide support to Lady Gerrian until the Guards arrive”.
Up the Grand Staircase, along the Corridor of State. Servants and guards all round, some rushing ahead to open doors, others darting off to carry out errands. Amazingly, Thylan saw that Gestavin was not only listening to Anatarna, but also managing to pass orders of his own. Brief snatches came to the Friar’s ears “…wake Captain Dekker, of the City Watch, to my office at all speed… Secretary to the Council, tell him to prepare for an extraordinary session tomorrow… Guard Colonel Thorance, his regiment to go on full alert and him to report to me directly…”
Even more amazing, Anatarna, without breaking either stride or flow, heard Gestavin’s own asides and responded to them.
“Tell the Secretary that I will address the Council at midday. A full session, mind, and no excuses will be accepted!”
They exited the Corridor of State via the Diamond Chamber, skirted the Lower Lawns and charged through the Battle Room.
“Tell Lady Gerrian to take what samples she deems necessary and then burn the rest! I want the whole filthy crop reduced to ashes, right down to the roots! She can use the Murkarin slaves – they can be promised their freedom in return, and full citizenship in the Empire. Or repatriation to their homes if they prefer.”
They were approaching the North Wing, where the Grand Chancellor’s small army of administrator’s laboured. Gestivin’s own office was there also. Anatarna paused, or at least slowed her pace fractionally, as they came to it.
“I will speak to Vordivan immediately after breakfast. We’ll see if he has anything to say for himself before we bring the formal charges. Which will be immediately after I have addressed the Council.” She nodded. “When you have everything in order, My Lord, please attend me in my office. We have much to discuss.”
Gestavin bowed and turned away. Anatarna, resuming her march towards her own office, called back over her shoulder, “And a copy of that list to me as soon as possible, My Lord!”
Gestavin’s departure did not put a stop to the Empress’s torrent of commands. “A message to the Murkarin Ambassador… I want him in attendance within the hour! Not that I intend to speak to him until later…”
She turned a corner, strode through her Outer Office and finally entered her inner sanctum. “Send for the Steward… mulled wine, and something suitable to eat with it. And someone get me my slippers – my feet are freezing!”
14 - And let us know where we can find it?
15 – And where we can find you
PT - My website is ‘Yearning Blue’, and it has some more about me and my writing, along with links to my published books and some samples of my writing – short stories, poems, and extracts from novels. You can find it here
My blog ‘The Reality Escape Committee’ is also on that site.
I also have some SF short stories on other sites: you can read ‘Stumble Jack’ at Wattpad
You can get updates on my current writing activities from Facebook
Or check out my latest article for crime writers Here
16 - And finally before you leave, a test for your imaginative, story weaving skills. We’re playing a little game that I hope all my guests will contribute to. Can you give me 100 words of your choosing to follow on from this last line from Karen Charlton? Your last line will be picked up by the next guest... and so on:
‘The – the what?’...
Peter opened his mouth to reply, and froze. The girl froze. Everything stopped.
Marcus swore impotently at the unmoving image, then turned to the girl on the couch.
“Always at the same place! The memories always stop just at the most crucial point!”
She opened her eyes, reached up to adjust the device strapped to her head. “Use more power!”
He shook his head. “Too dangerous. It could …”
“I know what it could do!” she snapped. “And we both know the consequences of failure. We must learn what happened to me. We must find out about the Grey Woman!”
You can catch up with the "story so far" Here
PT - Thanks for the coffee, cake and chat, Babs!
Thanks to you, Paul. It's been great to while away an afternoon in your company. Continued good luck with your books. Do let us know when the next one is available.