Friday, 16 January 2009

An interview with author, David Coles

David Coles

  • I’d like to introduce you to author, David Coles. Hi David, let's start with a short take - so readers can get a general feel for who you

Hi AJ, I’m half of ‘David Coles & Jack Everett’ and half of ‘Everett Coles’ – between us, we have four published books, printed, eBooks or both, one is currently out of print. There are a few short stories out there written by me alone.
I’ve retired from the daily grind. Now I seem to work harder at writing than I did as a computer systems analyst & designer, a profession I’ve spent most of my working life in until a takeover made me redundant – let go, as US parlance has it – and I spent the last five years at the sharp end writing software for a UK bank.
I still write computer programs for fun. I have a great interest in simulating artificial intelligence – not real AI but cheating at it. I sometimes spend an inordinate amount of time on such projects.
All our novel length works carry a joint author name – whoever is the principal writer, whoever came up with the idea. After discussing the plot and sequence, Jack writes the first draft with me following on a week or so behind, re-writing and adding 10%-25% extra material, checking facts, researching and polishing. Once that process is over, the manuscript goes back and forth four, five, six times for proofing, checking phrasing, use of words and so on.
The usual stuff: married, four grown up daughters, a pet laptop, a home in Yorkshire, England.
  • What compelled you to write your first book?
I started off writing short stories and was fortunate enough to come first in a science fiction magazine competition, it was published along with my address. Jack Everett, now my co-writer, lived in the next village, he gave me a call and it was he who ‘compelled’ me to write our first book. We never sent it anywhere, it was pretty rough but writing it was a laugh a minute – the Romans hired an itinerant tribe of Irishmen to dig a tunnel under the English Channel!
  • And have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes. From about fourteen, anyway. My first attempt was hand-written in pencil, the editor was courtesy personified.
  • So tell us a little bit about your books. What are their titles; which is your favorite if you have more than one, and briefly let us know what they are about.
Our most recently published book is ‘the Abbot and the Acolyte in Death & Taxes’, the first in what we hope will be a series. A medieval mystery set in southern France in and around a real abbey in a real village using real geography – a theme we hope to continue in any sequels. The Abbot is a traveling auditor for the Papal office, a job he was given because he was a nuisance. In Death & Taxes, he rescues a youngster from a dreary monastery and together, they eventually solve the murders of twin monks, one big clue being provided by a goat which could eat almost anything. The story is gently humorous, as true to medieval life as possible and, we hope, true to its genre.
The first story we had published was a fantasy in the classic tradition. The hero was a thief, manipulated into performing a quest by a sorcerer who held the love of his life imprisoned. The hero succeeds only to find that though the woman was real, the love which drove him was purely artificial and vanished in the moment of success.

  • Are you currently working on any writing projects our readers should watch for release soon?
Our latest book has just been accepted by Libros International and will be going through editing very shortly. ‘Jihad’ is a political thriller, it describes the changes in society and political scenery following a huge act of terrorism in the UK. It is not a nice book, despite individual altruism and understanding, the UK is not a nice, fair’s fair, place to be. There is light towards the end, however; signs that a more liberal outlook is returning.
  • How did you feel the day you held the copy of your first book in your hands?
AJ, that was pretty good. Early 1980’s and we knew that, for that instant, we were the newest author in the world.
  • I know just what you mean, David. Just what is it that inspires you and motivates you to write the very most?
Other books, even the jacket blurb on a new book in the store can conjure up a complete idea for a story. And conversation, especially of the ‘what-if’ kind.
  • The main characters of your stories - do you find that you put a little of yourself into each of them or do you create them to be completely different from you?
Absolutely: not necessarily the self that I see in the mirror nor the person that others know because inside my mind, I am at least a head taller, ten pounds leaner, with a full head of hair and an awesome intellect.
A little less tongue-in-the cheek: it’s still ‘yes’. There’s no one an author knows better, no one else he can be so certain of and for those of us who still try to be a better person, the author knows too, how that better person should react to situations.
  • Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your own writing? Do you have a writing mentor?
I probably admire Jack Vance’s writing most of all. His stories are filled with weird characters, odd situations, new ideas, sweet and sour plots. But Roger Zelazny has always been a favorite, particularly the way he handled the first person view-point in his stories.
As for a writing mentor, I’m quite proud of the fact that I spent two separate weeks being tutored by the English fantasy author, David Gemmel and the humorous fantasy writer, Terry Pratchett. These weeks were organized out in the Norfolk farmlands and were something out of laugh-out-loud fantasy themselves. Damned hard work though.
  • And what about now, who is your favorite author and what is your favorite genre to read?
As with writers I admire, Jack Vance and Roger Zelazny are favorites. But there are so many others and I notice in making the list, that so many are from way back, in no particular order…
Theodore Sturgeon, Hal Clement, Neil Gayman, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Richard Morgan – not a complete list, just a few.
  • Hey, let's get morbid. When they write your obituary, what do you hope they will say about your book/s and writing? What do you hope they will say about you?
‘His stories were entertaining, some were beautiful.’
  • And I’m sure they will. David, location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now - city? Suburb? Country? Farm? If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be?
I grew up in the English countryside, in Lincolnshire. Born in 1941, my Dad was wartime ground crew at an airfield, some of my earliest memories are of being bundled into the boot cupboard next to the chimney breast when German bombers were trying to hit the airfields.
Older, it was a terrific place to grow up in. Acres of fields and woodlands to play Cowboys & Indians, Robin Hood, Cops & Robbers and yes, to re-fly sorties against the wartime enemy.
Older still, not so good for careers, my family moved to the county city of Lincoln. I still go back to school reunions, though.
Favorite place to live? Maybe the Greek Islands, but a new language at my age? Maybe not.
  • Do you watch television? If so, what are your favorite shows? Does television influence inspire your writing?
Usually very little TV, apart from the news. I have watched some of the longer series of whodunits where the attention to detail is so good and I have to admit that I’m quite a fan of the US series ‘The Closer.’
  • What about movies?
I go to few movies, just the exceptional ones. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was superb both in its adherence to the books which I read in hotels as a roving trouble shooter in the 70s and for the beauty of scenery and the armour, weapons and clothing. Attention to detail again: dirty fingernails, unshaven chins, and red-rimmed eyes until they reached a place of rest.
A similar attention to detail is evident in ‘the Golden Compass’ and here, Philip Pullman asks some intriguing questions.
  • Is there anyone you'd like to specifically acknowledge who has inspired, motivated, encouraged or supported your writing?
Primarily, my wife. Although Jan is an academic and her writing is educational, we met at a writers’ circle. Both of us were fairly recently divorced, a situation that we quickly put an end to; the registrar who checked our divorce decrees looked up at us and asked ‘You sure the ink’s quite dry on these?’
  • Thinking about your writing career, is there anything you'd go back and do differently now that you have been published?
Do it earlier. We published our first book and then got tied up with growing families and shrinking incomes; doesn’t do creative stuff much good. And it was all so much easier then, finding a publisher, getting on the shelves, publicity: lost opportunities.
  • Have you ever had a character take over a story and move it in a different direction than you had originally intended? How did you handle it?
Quite definitely. The Abbot in ‘Death & Taxes’ was supposed to be a stuffed shirt taking all the credit for the work done by the Acolyte. He turned out to be a mathematical genius, prepared to stand up to his superiors and rather more forward-thinking than good religious were supposed to be.
  • Is there any lesson or moral you hope your story might reveal to those who read it?
If there is any lesson or moral, it is on what shaky ground the Christian Church is built, but it’s not an in-your-face issue.
  • It's said that the editing process of publishing a novel with a publisher is can be gruelling and often more difficult than actually writing the story. Do you think this is true for you? How did you feel about editing your masterpiece?
I’ve no problem with editors. I’m as liable as the next person to miss a typo or a dangling participle. Pete Moore did an excellent job for us on ‘Death & Taxes’, there was only one point of slight contention, which concerned ‘breath smoking in the cold air’ – Pete thought it anachronistic, we worked out a different form of words.
The only time I was disgusted was a story years ago, which finished with the main character up to the neck in a Jurassic swamp. I said the ‘sun stank into the west’ – the editor took out the ‘T’ in ‘stank’.
  • David, is there anything you want our readers to know. Such as where to find your books, any blogs you may have, or how a reader can learn more about you and writing.
There’s a personal page on my web site that gives a little information about me, probably no more than there is here, though. Just for the record; I’m atheist, politically a little left of centre, mostly against war and very against nuclear weapons, pro-scientific and consider the intelligent design movement on a level with flat-earthers. Anyone else I can offend?

Books available…
Merlin’s Kin YA fantasy
Kindle eBook and paperback at Amazon (Archimedes Presse)
The Last Free Men Historic (Roman period)
Kindle eBook at Amazon, soon to be paperback (Virtual Tales)
Death and Taxes Medieval Mystery – 1st in series ‘the Abbot and the Acolyte
paperback at Amazon (Libros International)

Books at publishers…
The Tourist Psychological Thriller eBook (Virtual Tales)
Bright Shadows Fantasy from the last days of Earth eBook (Virtual Tales)
Jihad Political Thriller paperback (Libros Internl)

Books in progress…
Deceits Thriller – secret service hunts Machiavelli’s modern descendant
Last Mission WWII – German attempt to steal an atom bomb at Los Alamos
Faces of Immortality SF Interstellar Crime

Web Sites…

  • That’s been an interesting interview. I always enjoy an insight into how other authors work and think. David Coles, thank you. I wish you all the best for the future.

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