I have always written down notes about my travels around this world of ours and transcribed conversations with people I have met. My first idea for a book was a selection of travel stories called Julian’s Journeys, which I wrote over many years having visited a few countries in that time. These stories fitted into a broad general pattern and were similar in nature. I had written some other stories too, which didn’t quite fit into this book, and these became an eBook entitled, Ten Traveller’s Tales. This was the first book of mine published.
What was your initial foray into writing fiction?
My first work of fiction was 40 Humourous British Traditions, a spoof of some of the events that take place in Britain on an annual basis. This book took me about two months to write and I was quite pleased about the stories I wrote on traditions such as Thimble Throwing, Animal Gambling, and Turtle Rinsing.
My first novel was called The Goat Parva Murders and was inspired by many years of watching programs such as Poirot, Miss Marple, and Midsomer Murders as well as reading Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Dorothy L Sayers.”
We both have a love of travel. One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness.” What would you say is one of your favorite travel experiences?
The best travel experiences are those that help me understand how other people think. These insights are invaluable for me as they do away with some of my misconceptions about other people and other countries. My favorite experiences are having conversations with people, such as speaking to a stall-holder in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul about Islam and about what role Turkey can have in the modern world. On that same trip I met a waiter who was convinced that because I was British I wouldn’t like turnip juice.
Other favorite experiences include the baggage man at Tehran airport who helped me through customs in double-quick time and all for one dollar. There was a nun at a bus stop in Catania, Sicily, who was incredibly knowledgeable about the local delicacy, mortadella. Another time I became slowly inebriated in Bulgaria, when one of the locals offered me the opportunity to sample his homemade slivovitz in his garden – all the while we wrote down football results on a piece of paper.
What sort of feedback have you received from your travel writings?
My stories are about people, landscapes, architecture, food, museums, and me. When the reader reads the stories I hope they can see themselves where I am, doing what I am doing – ultimately I want people to feel that they can do what I have done. If this happens, then I will have succeeded. The feedback about my travel pieces is mainly that people would like to go where I have been. My belief is that the traveler should see the sights in the travel guide by all means, but make sure you meet some people, too."
You’ve also branched off into writing mysteries. What was your inspiration for writing the Inspector Knowles Mystery Series?
“I’ve always read mystery books. The characters in the first books I ever read - Enid Blyton’s Famous Five - solved mysteries and I continued from there with the authors I’ve already mentioned. And then I just thought one day - I should try writing a mystery story and see what happens. So, I did and now I am writing my third one, which is set on a steam train.
I think after the train mystery novel, there’s one more left - the setting will be where people are together in a pub or old house cut off by snow and some of the characters try to reach the local village to get help. The problem is with modern communications being so good, the characters would just phone for help, but there must be a way around that with the murderer taking the devices.
Who are your favorite mystery sleuths?
The favorite sleuths are Poirot, Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, and Jim Stringer.
What writing credentials did you have prior to writing this book?
I really didn’t have any other than the Print Futures Professional Writing diploma from Douglas College, in New Westminster, Canada.
How long did it take you to write your first book?
The collection of stories in Julian’s Journeys are from holidays taken over a period of roughly six years. 40 Humourous British Traditions took two months in total and The Goat Parva Murders was written in about ninety days.
Who helped you with the editing?
The editing for Goat Parva was done by my friend Jacqueline Martin. Mirador also had an editor look at the book as part of their editorial process. I am not a good self-editor as by about the fourth reading through of the manuscript I am just skimming the words and they’re all merging into each other.”
How many publishers did you research before choosing Mirador to work with you? What do they do to help you market your book?
I researched around 90 publishers and sent off emails to all of them, plus attachments, before Mirador contacted me. The difference with Mirador was that they were willing to publish two of my books, Julian’s Journeys and 40 Humourous British Traditions, rather than just one. Of those 90 publishers, perhaps only five replied. Mirador provide plenty of help marketing my books, but it is up to me to follow their advice.
What type of publicity do you do to promote your book?
Social media is my main means of promotion especially my blog. All my posts are sent to my Twitter and Tumblr accounts, plus Facebook and GooglePlus.
How do you write? Did you do individual character development before doing the full plot?
For the murder/mysteries I tend to have outlines for the main characters before I start. My books of fiction tend to have lots of dialogue, so my main concern is that characters should have their own voice and I try and make them sound different from each other. They have their own expressions and own way of phrasing sentences.
What do you know now about writing/publishing that you wished you had known sooner?
That the marketing of the book is actually more difficult than writing the book. At least the writing process is within my control, but it seems like I can’t control or have any effect on people buying the book when it’s published.
What is the best advice about writing you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
Don’t start editing until you have written everything down. If I start editing a piece before it’s completed, then I feel I'm not that interested in what I'm writing. Generally, you have to believe in yourself and your abilities. The chances are it will take a long time for your books to start selling and for you to feel you’re actually achieving something that is commensurate with your efforts. Don’t give up on yourself or your books. Keep going.”
What other books do you have in the process now?
My next book of travel stories called Scottish Highlands, Caribbean Islands, and more is going to be published as an eBook this month. I am writing the third Inspector Knowles Mystery called The Kenton Waterless Murders now and I hope this will be finished by April.
That's all for today's interview. If you would like to learn more about Julian's writing or buy his books, here's a one stop link to give you access to all his books.