Could You Tell Us About Yourself ?
I, Wallace Briggs, was born into poverty and became the eldest of a family of four children. My father, who was never in good health after WW2, passed away when I was only seventeen, after which mother did her best to provide for her children.
Despite their circumstances, I was determined to make something of myself. Father had always insisted I would make a living using my head, rather than hands. I worked hard and eventually, after a long career in technical sales, only when I retired, could I devote the time to become a successful author.
Born and raised in Durham City, I married his childhood sweetheart, Pat, who I first met at the age of eleven, in 1964, and we spent 40 happy years together in North East England, before my job almost took the family to South Africa. However, plans changed at the last minute and the company moved us to East Sussex instead.
After 20 years working in southern England, we moved to rural Lancashire in NW England because of the relocation of the company I worked for. We have lived there for the last twenty years. Pat is severely affected by arthritis and I was her primary carer until her widowed sister, Denise, moved in to assist.
Lately there is rarely has enough time to devote to playing my Hammond organ, but I’ve learned to accept that my mechanical skills are declining. Painting scenes on pottery and kiln firing is a pastime that only came after retirement. Now I can call myself a published author of a 5-part series of children’s books that follow the adventures of the main character, Jimmy Crikey.
Imagination was never in short supply and I had stories to tell even when still a kid, but rather than encouragement, I was admonished for confusing imagination with reality. At school I was fascinated by the stories of other children who had been fortunate enough to travel further from home on he had. We never experienced a proper holiday, other than staying a few days with local relatives. I listened with envy to tales of week-long stays in Devon and ten-day tours of the Scottish Highlands. When it was time for me to write my own holiday story, I based it on an imaginary voyage to Australia (an uncle had recently married and moved to Australia the same day). I couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than emigrating to Australia, and I loved writing about it. I might have started writing much sooner than I did if only I had been encouraged to do so.
What is the first book you remember reading ?
Books were in short supply in my childhood days and no one ever read stories to us at night time. I don’t even remember listening to any sroytimes on the radio. The only books I can remember reading were Grimm’s Fairy Tales (the attraction was the brightly coloured illustrations) and The Adventures of Rupert Bear in both poetic and prose with comic book illustrations.
What is your favourite book ?
How can I possibly choose between Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Wilbur Smith’s When the Lion Feeds. But I cannot deny the influence of reading The Bible in my youthful days
Who is your favourite author and why?
Wilbur Smith is my all-time favourite author. The breadth of his work is fantastic and I rate him the literary superior of James Patterson, who’s work I also relish reading.
How many hours a day do you write?
Highly variable depending on family circumstances that particular day. If either of Pat or her sister, Denise, require transport to e.g. doctors or hospital, I am the only capable driver.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Very difficult as both of my pastimes are ‘artistic’ and satisfying. I suppose during the colder months I might sacrifice playing the organ because it is located at the furthermost point in our bungalow hence the least heated.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Mostly the process of writing is inspirational and not at all difficult. The problems begin once the writing is over, and promotion is needed. Despite being a successful technical sales and marketing specialist, I am hopeless at promoting self and my stories.
If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose and why ?
I would love to spend a day with another favourite author Lee Child creator of the Jack Reacher series. Perhaps I could pick up some tips about keeping a story moving with page turning ferocity
What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
As long as I am sitting comfortably, semi reclining, with a drink (coffee or juice), nothing distracts me except perhaps the door bell, because the ladies have difficulty reaching in a timely manner.
What’s your favourite writing snack or drink?
As previously mentioned, filter coffee or fruit drink, but after 20,00 hrs a good malt whisky or two certainly hits the spot.
How do you celebrate when you finish your book?
The usual shot of malt may become a shot or three.
Do you listen to music while you wrote your book (s) ?
I need some noise in the background but I don’t actually listen to it.
Where do you get your idea (s) for your book (s) ?
I pick up my pen (figuratively) and out of the ether flow words. Sometimes I can’t keep up with the flow and there are an awful lot of corrections needed. Rarely, nothing comes, so I play the organ for a while. If nothing happens, I give for the day and catch up on the housework. That used to be the case but we have recently started to a have a cleaner, once a week for an hour or two.
What is / was your writing process like?
I don’t preplan or work to an outline. Some call it ‘pantsy’ (writing by the seat of your pants). I suppose I can only call it ‘inspiration’.
Do you try more to be original or rather give readers what they want?
If I wrote what the majority of readers want I would be writing ‘romance’, so I claim to be original. But some would say, ‘There’s nothing new in the world’ and any writer must be influenced by prior experiences, which are rarely identical for any two people.
How did publishing your (first) book ?
On and over over the last two decades I had submitted to the established publishers with only the very occasional request and complimentary ‘love you book but it doesn’t fit into our current programme’.
Once I retired I explored self-publishing but ended up using a ‘hybrid’ publisher at a cost of a few £00’s. After 6 – 9 moths of inactivity I bought back the rights and began my own journey in the world of Amazon/Kindle/KDP and self promotion.
What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I suppose that is the attraction and the beauty of writing fantasy, the writer can make up the rules as you go along. But I do also include a smidgeon of Sci-Fi and even if the book will only be read by children, I need to get facts right and the fantasy feasible.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
It sort of develops as I write. I may have a broad idea but the detail comes as I write.
What’s your favourite and least favourite part of publishing your book (s) ?
The favourite part of the process is in the creation of something new and the satisfaction that several 5* reviews bring.
The least favourite and almost equally time consuming element is the researching of promotional adverts/press releases/costs of marketing via the ‘experts’.
What part of the book was the most fun to write?
I can’t think of any part that was not fun.
How did you come up with the title for your book (s) ?
The title came out of the main character’s name.
Would you and your main character get along?
Jimmy and I would get along pretty well because I tried to set him up as an ideal example of a kid who does good, as far as he can, and puts others before his own needs. Jimmy hits problem after problem but always finds a way to overcome, usually without violence.
If you could meet your characters, what would you say to them?
Normally I would not respond. The characters I create are figments of my imagination, but… There was a recent exchange between me and Jade, the apprentice witch. I recounted the conversation to my FB friends:
Do you recall a conversation I had with one of my Jimmy Crikey characters earlier this year? Jade, the young niece of Gemma, was concerned that because if I wasn’t writing about her, she would die. Long story – short. I was moved by the normally ebullient Jade to begin writing the next adventure story in the Jimmy Crikey series.
Jade belongs to that race of tiny beings known as Diamites, who live in Lithnia, the cliffside cave world at the edge of the underground kingdom of Roombelow. More than a year or two ago, the green clad Gemma, always the explorer, was swept over a waterfall in Lithnia and ended up at the bottom of the well in Roombelow, not knowing who she was or how she got there.
Jimmy saved Gamma and eventually reunited her with her family in Lithnia where Gemma’s young niece, Jade. adopted Jimmy as a surrogate ‘uncle’. During a visit to Roombelow she was introduced to another of Jimmy’s friends, Matilda the witch and Matilda detected a kernel of magical abilities in the youngster from Lithnia. With the consent of Jades parents Matilda began the tuition of Jade
To satisfy the young witch acolyte I was persuaded to start writing the next chapter of her life. It’s not coming easily but Jade keeps pushing. “What is the title of my book, Mr Writer?”
I don’t have a title yet, Jade. I have hardly written two chapters but it’s not just about you.
“But you will write more. Won’t you?”
How can I not?
“You have to give it a title.”
That’s true, Jade. But let me write it first. Please
And that is the way it felt as I began the fifth book in the Jimmy Crikey series
Which of the characters in your book (s) do you relate to the most and why?
Primarily I relate to Jimmy. I too was bullied at school and it was only with my father’s advice that I overcame their taunts and physical superiority. Mothers and fathers did not report bullying to the school. It was deemed top be a part of life. “The only way to overcome them,” he said,” was to stand up to them. Let them see that if they target you, you bite back. You might suffer some retribution but take it on the chin, and the next time they bully you do it again. They’ll soon lay off if they find out you retaliate.” It was a painful process, but it worked. I won’t pass on what dad taught me before I put his plan into action.
After which he encouraged to work hard at achieving academically.
What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft?
In one respect only: the person marooned at the bottom of the well started life as Freddy, but I realised I needed a female interest to attract both boys and girls. Hence Freddy became Gemma.
How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?
I wrote the story for the MG group and discovered that my books were being read by early teens and even adults.
What did you edit out of your book (s) ?
In the beginning I deleted the character Freddy
What was your hardest scene to write?
In my fifth book I wrote out one of my major characters, Matilda the Chief Witch. I actually shed a tear.
How long did it take for you to write a book ?
Very variable but approx. six months. The actual writing of first draft is about half that time.
What do you hope your readers take away from your book (s) ?
My intention is to teach young readers a very important life lesson from The Adventures of Jimmy Crikey self-acceptance, a key part of mental health. It’s defined as “an individual’s acceptance of all of their attributes, positive or negative”. In other words, self-acceptance is about embracing every part of yourself, not just the positive things.
If I can teach the children good morals without ramming the message down their throats that there are many times in life when self should be submerged for the greater good.
What was the hardest part of writing your book (s) ?
Starting again after a break.
Did you get some negative feedback on your book ? and if so how do you deal with that ?
I accept that my story will not appeal to every one but I can only recall one instance of negative feedback in many years. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and writers put their work out and invite critique. All critiques that I have ever received are useful feedback which help me to improve.
How did you feel when you first published your book (s) ? Scared ? Excited ? Nervous ?
Nervous and exited – not scared. More elation than any other achievement – almost!
Where can people who are interested in your book, buy your book ?
My primary route to market is via Amazon, but my two audio books can be purchased at Amazon and also iTunes and Audible
Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?
Currently almost totally involved with seeking promotion opportunities for my most recent release. Frequently interrupted by ‘other’ duties
After writing your book (s) what is your advice to people who want to become writers?
Start actually writing instead of thinking about it. You can’t improve your skills to write a story if you don’t practice your craft. And be prepared to jettison a project if it isn’t working, think a while and then pick up the pen and start writing again on your new idea.
What are common traps for aspiring writers and have you faced any of them ?
Being drawn into unscrupulous “publishers” and being charged for the production of a second rate product with little marketing support.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good feedback?
Yes! I read them fervently and glow when they are (mostly) positive. Bad reviews can be constructive, if they are destructive I ignore them.
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