The hefty tome of author interviews compiled by author Alex Pearl during the Covid epidemic is now available from Amazon in three paperback volumes. Within these pages, you’ll find authors from diverse backgrounds writing in a range of genres. Here, new and rarely heard voices mingle with well-established bestsellers. But what each and every one of these writers has in common is a passion and dedication to their craft.
“I wanted to hear from any writer who cared about writing. I wasn’t too bothered if they had made a name for themselves or not. And it was of no interest to me,” continues Pearl, “if they were self-published or published by the world’s largest publishing houses.”
As a result, the book provides a level playing field for authors from the UK, the US, Sri Lanka, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to wax lyrical about their motivations, backgrounds, working methods, and interests.
Aside from the practical details concerning the writing of stories, which in itself is fascinating and illuminating, there is much humour to be found among its pages.
Charles Harris, the crime writer and film director, for instance, has a nice turn of phrase when talking about his early interest in writing and directing:
“I remember one day my English teacher praised me for a comic piece I’d written, which he said was a sharp spoof of Hemingway’s style. I rushed off to find out who this Hemingway guy was!
“I was also very keen on anything visual or musical – photography, film, painting, piano (though I was a hesitant pianist and froze if anyone was listening). I became an amateur film-maker when I persuaded my dad to give me an 8mm camera for my barmitzvah and decided I was going to be a film director. I had no idea how a normal human being became such an exalted person. The father of a girl I knew was a screenwriter. He advised me that the best way was to write screenplays. So I started doing that.”
Regina Puckett is a prolific multi-genre author who has been writing for 48 years. She has a stack of awards to show for it and simply can’t stop. “The only way I can shut my characters up,” she says, “is to write their stories.” But it took a great deal of determination on her part to make a go of it.
“It wasn’t until my daughters were both born that I tried my hand at writing a full-length book. Unfortunately, those first two books were weak on substance and quality. Of course, I thought they were masterpieces, so I submitted them to a few publishing houses. But alas, it didn’t take long for the rejection letters to arrive.
“While those books might not have been great fiction, they were excellent practice runs. I have to admit those rejection letters weren’t any fun to receive either, but they helped to thicken my skin.
“After my youngest daughter entered the first grade, I enrolled in classes in a local university. Between helping my daughters with their schoolwork and my own studies I had little time to write, so I didn’t pick it up again until after I graduated from the university. Those years helped to reshape my outlook on life and that in turn improved my plots and skills. It still took a few years to receive an acceptance letter from a publisher, but it was such a sweet victory when it finally happened.
“I had no idea when I started my writing journey that I would succeed. While it is true, I’m not a famous writer, I have several books published. I’ve held them in my hands, and I have been lucky enough to have a few readers who loved reading them.”
Mrs Puckett is a tad modest. She may not be ‘famous’ but she has no fewer than 113,000 followers on Twitter – a number the vast majority of authors can only dream of.
Of his childhood, the Sri Lankan novelist, Ashok Ferrey writes the following:
“I had kind of a weird upbringing. Born in Sri Lanka, left for Mogadishu (Somalia) at the age of 8, shunted off to school in Nairobi for 3 months, then back to Somalia; finally, at the ripe old age of 11, packed off to boarding school at a Benedictine Monastery (Worth Abbey) in the UK. Did I get the feeling my parents were trying to off-load me? Not really. I guess they were of their time – ruthlessly old-fashioned! – believing that a child had no option but to go where the education was, not where his parents were.
“I started writing at the age of 42, which only goes to show that if this idiot can do it, any idiot can.”
100 Ways to Write a Book is peppered with countless gems from a wonderful cross-section of authors. Each of their stories are fascinating and illuminating, and can be dipped in and out of at leisure. Some will prefer three bite-sized volumes to the hefty tome. While those keen ebook fans can fit all 684 pages in their pocket for a ludicrously low price of £1.49.