I’m so excited to have author Huw Thomas as our Saturday Coffee with Authors guest. But the coolest thing is that Huw is doing a great fundraiser in aid of ShelterBox. Huw says, “I’m trying to raise £1,000 in order to provide emergency help for families who have lost their homes following natural and other disasters.” There are awesome prizes, including Amazon gift cards, signed copies of Huw’s books, and other goodies! Entries cost a minimum of $1 and all proceeds to go ShelterBox – click the link to enter!
Tell us about yourself.
Hmm. Hardest question of all. Basics: 48, married, British, 6ft 1in and devastatingly handsome (although now going a bit grey and ‘rugged’ around the edges). Loves: stories (reading or writing), travel, life. Hates: suits, crowds, injustice.
When did you start writing and what made you start?
I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember. Apparently, I wrote my first ‘book’ when I was still at primary school. Sadly I don’t still have a copy so I can’t see if I’ve improved over the years.
Tell us a little bit about your latest books.
The Vault is a mystery thriller based around a young schoolboy called Adam Strong and his battles with a gang of local bullies.
Woven around Adam’s story are three other strands involving an armed attack on the home of a reclusive billionaire, the discovery of three dead bodies in a lake and a sex offender who goes on the run after breaking his parole.
I published the book in aid of the disaster relief charity ShelterBox, which gets half of all royalties.
Where did you come up with this idea?
It began with a scenario involving a night-time kidnapping for a possible fantasy story. This mutated into a contemporary setting and gave me the basis for the armed raid, which links to the vault in the title and this then connects to the other strands.
Who did the cover art for your book?
The current one is my own design – but I think I need to find a professional as I’m not completely happy with it!
Did you learn anything about yourself or your writing while working on this book?
This book took a couple of attempts to get right. I originally got about a third of the way into the novel then ground to a halt. Around that time, I went on a screen-writing course and decided to have another stab at The Vault as a film script.
Looking at the story in terms of film scenes and thinking about how viewers would see it gave me a new perspective. I then went back to the novel format and had no trouble working out the rest of the plot.
I think the moral here is both to persevere and to be unafraid of stepping back from a project and trying an alternative approach.
Who do you find to be a huge inspiration for your writing? And why is that?
I draw my inspiration from all kinds of people, places and situations. I don’t think I could identify any one thing that drives me – other than perhaps my subconscious! A lot of ideas pop into my head without me really knowing where they’ve come from.
Which one of your characters would be the best to meet in real life?
There’s a few characters in The Vault I definitely wouldn’t want to meet! There’s definitely a bit of me in Adam, although he’s probably a bit braver and even more stubborn.
I think the most interesting of my characters to meet would be Findo from The Tale Of Findo Gask – he’s a young boy who develops into a master thief. He has a very challenging and interesting life!
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading a novel called A Death On The Wolf by GM Frazier. I’d not heard of the author before but – so far – it’s a very readable tale of growing up in Mississippi in the 1960s, although I’ve got a feeling something sad is on the way.
Besides the genre you write, what genres do you like to read?
I’m very flexible with my reading matter. I read a lot of general fiction, thrillers, sci-fi and fantasy, historical dramas and biographies. Basically, if it’s got a good story or something to hook my interest then I’ll read it.
What is the most embarrassing mistake you’ve made as a writer?
Hmm. Should I admit to them? One of the characters in The Vault lost two fingers as a boy. My editor pointed out that – in an earlier draft – I had his father giving him a piano a year later, which seemed a little heartless!
However, my biggest error has probably been to self-publish a couple of my books before they were really ready. I originally put Findo Gask out with a very bad cover and uploaded an older version to Amazon that had all kinds of proofreading errors! Luckily, I’ve been able to rectify both of those mistakes.
If you had to pick one trait that makes you a better writer, what would it be?
Learning from mistakes! I now know not to rush the editing process. As a reader, I’ve seen too many ebooks that are badly formatted or contain silly errors. I wouldn’t claim my books are perfect but I do try not to rely on spellcheck programmes to edit my novels for me.
I wasn’t taught grammar at school but retrained a few years ago to teach English as a foreign language. I now know a lot more about the ‘nuts and bolts’ of our language and that’s made me think more about how I communicate with readers and get ideas across in the most effective way.
What is the one thing that seems to always get in the way of writing time?
Oh, so many things! Life… and procrastination mainly.
I’ve always got lots of projects on the go. Plus I’ve just moved house and getting that – and the garden – how I want it will take a while. But it’s variety that makes life interesting. If I just sat at my computer all the time I don’t think my writing would benefit.
When you are not writing, what are you doing?
Unfortunately, I still have to work part-time to support my writing habit. I juggle several jobs – teaching English, gardening and sub-editing for a local newspaper – but I’m my own boss and that’s very important to me.
I’ve got a wonderful wife – Carolyn – and we spend a lot of time walking, cycling and generally enjoying life together.
I also spend a lot of time reading – one of the best things about the invention of the Kindle is that it’s much easier to read one-handed while doing other things like cleaning my teeth, stirring a saucepan etc.
What is one of your favorite places to write?
The place isn’t important. Once I’ve begun I can lose myself in what I’m doing and my actual environment fades away.
What is one of your favorite places in the world?
Inside my own head – anything is possible. In the real world, though, I love Portugal. Carolyn and I spent several years living there as teachers and we’re about to go back for our first visit. Can’t wait.
What is one thing about you most people find interesting (or unusual etc.)?
When I tell people Carolyn and I did a year-long tandem bike ride in aid of ShelterBox. We rode nearly 11,000 miles across 10 countries – and raised almost £50,000.
It was my crazy idea and I planned the whole thing. Most people can’t imagine riding 50 miles in a day. We did that for day after day… and it was the best adventure we’ve ever had.
Are there any more projects you are currently working on? Do you know when we might get to see those?
I’ve just finished the first draft of Church of the White Rabbits. It’s a bit more offbeat than my other books – about an eccentric collection of characters living on a remote island in the Atlantic. I’m not sure what genre it fits into but I had great fun writing it.
The book’s now in the hands of my beta readers. I’m hoping it might be ready for publication either at the end of this year or early in 2014.
What is your favorite quote?
‘It’s dinner time.’
What secrets would you share with aspiring authors?
Write what you want to write not to someone else’s formula. Don’t worry if inspiration dries up – the more you stress about it, the worse it gets. Use the time to read, edit… and get out there into the real world.
Don’t rush to publish something before it’s ready. Much better to take your time and put out a good book than a flawed book.
Name one author you’d love to meet and tell us why.
JRR Tolkien – just because I loved LOTR and The Hobbit so much when I was young.
You’re throwing a fiction character party. What fictional characters would you like to invite (name and where they are from (book/TV/Movie/etc.) and why?
James Bond (as played by Sean Connery) for a bit of class and danger.
Antoine Batiste from Treme to get the party going.
Gandalf for a bit of mystery – and his fireworks.
Vianne Rocher from Chocolat for her chocolates.
Lyra Silvertongue of the His Dark Materials trilogy for being a wonderful feisty heroine.
Harry Flashman for some bad-boy charm and the Gruffalo just because.
Now for some This or That:
Hot/Cold – somewhere in the middle
Summer/Winter – as long as it’s not raining I don’t mind
Coke/Pepsi – red wine
Cat/Dog – dog
Water skiing/snow skiing – cycling
Beach/Mountains – both!
Romance/Action – both!
Convertible/SUV – bicycle or foot
Flip Flops/Dress shoes – flip flops
Vampires/Zombies – elves
Historical/Futuristic – both
Lara Croft/Jason Bourne – Jason Bourne
Marvel/DC – 2000AD (old British comic)
Thor/Loki – Sjofn (goddess of love and passion)
London/Paris – Paris
Beer/Wine – both
Find more of Huw here: