Thank you everyone for your patience, while our family celebrated Mother's Day! I hope everyone had a joyful holiday, as we did.
Back to business! We have a guest interview today with author, Geoff Nelder. Thank you, Geoff for answering our questions!
1. What inspired you to write XAGHRA’S REVENGE?
Pronounce it like the English do – Zagra – unless you’re Maltese and you know how to utter guttural sounds with the back of your throat.
Answer: Who doesn’t love a juicy revenge, especially with a bite of fantasy on the side? In this case real people were outrageously wronged, yet no one cared for nearly 500 years until I strolled onto their island and wrote their story.
2. Can you tell me about XAGHRA’S REVENGE?
Answer: In 1551 pirates abducted the entire population of the Mediterranean island of Gozo. 5,000 people were forced onto 150 galleys, and taken to slave auctions in Libya and Constantinople. The loudest crying babies, the sick and old were thrown overboard! Lidia was taken to a harem. Separated from her husband, she swore to escape partly because she experiences more than a good catholic girl should. Her husband, now a slave, also seeks escape to reunite with Lidia and their baby son hidden by her father on Gozo. Meanwhile, in present-day France, a man and woman are thrown together by ancient spirits. One is descended from the abductees, the other from the pirates, but which is which?
3. What is your writing process like?
Answer: haphazard. The most undeleted words are created on writing retreats in the Mediterranean.
4. What did you learn when writing the book?
Answer: That writing historical fantasy is a real turn on.
5. What surprised you the most?
Answer: That so many people on Gozo don’t know their own history.
That no one had written a historical novel about this shocking event.
6. What does the title mean?
Answer: Xaghra is a real town on Gozo. The oldest building in the world is there – Ggantija – I get a buzz when I hug those giant stones. On reflection I should have just called it Revenge, or Gozo’s Revenge. No one can say Xaghra unless you live there.
7. Were the characters inspired by real people?
Answer: The main characters were inspired by the 5,000 victims who suffered their abduction and the pirate-Ottoman buccaneers who were merely doing what many sea-faring people did then. Some still do.
8. What do you think happened to the characters after the book ended?
Answer: they changed history.
9. What advice do you have for writers?
Answer: Take up knitting with barbed wire: it’s easier.
10. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Answer: both. As in what Robert de Niro said at the end of his movie “Dirty Grandpa” when his lover asked him, “Are you cumming or dying?”
11. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Answer: Before submitting your oeuvre pay a professional editor or join a critique group and listen to what they say even if you reject their advice. Learn the rules before you break them.
12. What is your writing Kryptonite?
13. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Answer: When I was a teacher I wrote a humorous thriller – ESCAPING REALITY. It had naughty bits so it was published under the name John Ambit. Surprising that Ambit isn’t an actual surname, anywhere. The older kids soon discovered it was me so the following editions were as Geoff Nelder.
14. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Answer: My readers expect me to be original. Damn them.
15. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Answer: Until this year only three of my books are related – the ARIA trilogy. Many of my surreal short stories have the same character, often occur in the same crazy house or town and all are on the edge of sanity.
16. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Answer: My first effort remains unpublished. Thank God. I was commissioned to write a series of science fiction novellas. One is about to be published – SUPPOSE WE – and its sequel FALLING UP is being written. Both give back to science fiction readers the adventure, romance and weirdness that’s been missing lately in the genre.
17. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Answer: Research is the best bit. All my novels and shorts set on Earth are treated to boots-on-the-ground trampling the scenery and taking in the smells, tastes and people. Maybe it’s because I was a geography teacher that I like place-authenticity where feasible.
18. How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
Answer: I’m only really a full-time writer now because I was ill-health retired out of teaching. I became too deaf and they said, “On yer bike, Nelder,” so I did. Love cycling solo journeys over several days. The extra oxygen feeds my brain with new stories.
19. How many hours a day do you write?
Answer: Some days 5, others none. I think about it all the time, although Mrs N doesn’t believe that when I’m standing looking out of the window, I am working.
20. What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
Answer: All ages even old adult and beyond the grave.
21. What did you edit out of XAGHRA’S REVENGE?
Answer: Some scenes of pirate v captives were experiments to see which worked best so not all were used.
22. How do you select the names of your characters?
Answer: Telephone directories for surnames, online news for first names. I also use a random name engine on http://www.ideas4writers.co.uk/
23. If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Answer: I taught geography for over a third of a century and IT for the last decade. If I didn’t write now, I’d like to be a harem tester for Trip Advisor, please.
24. What was your hardest scene to write?
Answer: Not written it yet. Probably because I love a challenge.
25. What is your favorite childhood book?
Answer: Oh dear, boring but it’s The Wind in the Willows
26. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Answer: two years to research and a year to write. Another to edit. I also write shorts and have a blog and editing other people’s work during that time.
27. Do you believe in writer’s block?
Answer: not when I can divert to other projects.
28. What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
Answer: I wrote my first novel by longhand and transcribed to typewriter. Never again. Computer now. A word processor is also a thought processor.
29. When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
Answer: I wrote skits and jokes as a kid. Still do.
30. How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?
Answer: Easier than standing to write. I hate standing.
31. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
Answer: I used to aim for 2,500 words. Now I’m happy to do 1,000.
32. Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
Answer: I do a rough outline but I’m happy for the characters to change the direction.
33. Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors?
Answer: For short stories I admire A,L Kennedy because of her lyrical prose. Lateral thinking too in Tibor Fischer and the literary tone of Julian Barnes. Favourite modern writer would be Claire North.
34. What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?
Answer: I’m supposed to say that a reader wants most to care about the characters. It’s true but also to have conflict and eventually, resolution.
35. How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?
Answer: Pleased. I’m hard of hearing and it’s damned hard getting their names and whatever words they want me to write.
36. Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?
Answer: Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet. One of a series by Eleanor Cameron
37. How much of yourself do you put into your books?
Answer: I’d say nothing but reader friends say all of me is in them if you piece it all together. I’m a jigsaw.
38. Who are your books mostly dedicated to?
Answer: My wife even though she thinks I should give up writing and try landscape painting.
39. Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?
Answer: my nephew Benjamin Bamber, who is also a writer. My parents enjoyed my short stories but their eyes were failing by the time my novels became published. My grandkids say they love the surreal illustrated stories I write for them. As for Mrs N and my own kids – I just don’t know. They don’t say. I feel like Bix Beiderdecke must have when he’d send all his jazz recordings to his parents but when he visited their house found the records still packaged up – unheard.
40. Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?
Answer: In my HOT AIR thriller set in Europe but mostly on the island of Mallorca, a lady features who claims to be a muse for Robert Graves when he lived there. She inspired him in bed, allegedly. Also maybe in just the idea of bed. She admired genius and he was urged on to rise to her expectations. I have a small bunch of regular readers and I belong to writing groups and their hilarious nods and applauds – often in the wrong places – are muse enough for me.
41. Another misconception is that all writers are independently wealthy, how true is that?
Answer: I get up early to make my wife breakfast and push her out of the door to earn us food money.
42. Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?
Answer: Of course it is.
43. Did any of your books get rejected by publishers?
Answer: Until I obtained two good publishers, all my books and stories used to get rejected many times until a wise one stumbled onto me.
44. Does it get frustrating if you are unable to recall an idea you had in your mind some time earlier?
Answer: It’s what paper and pencils are for.
45. Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts?
Answer: I was so dismayed by the rejection of my first novel that I destroyed it. I resurrected the main ideas in it in later novels and short stories. Ironically, that first novel received a long rejection letter quoting my phrases in praise. I had no idea that normally writers received form rejections.
46. Can you tell us about your current projects?
Answer: Flying Crooked. Robert Graves wrote this poem about butterflies. I learnt it as a kid. I and you are not allowed to quote it online or in print without copyright permission but I can give you a link to it on my blog because I paid for permission. Here it is.
I was outside in Greece writing my current project – SUPPOSE WE – when a butterfly landed on my laptop. So you want to be in my surreal science fiction novella do you? So it was. Of course it is an alien butterfly and not really a butterfly but it became a character even though it has no speech. It becomes attached to a French scientist, who calls it Papillon, of course. It has a chapter of its own in the sequel, FALLING UP.
47. Had any of your literary teachers ever tell you growing up that you were going to become a published writer one day?
Answer: An English teacher told me when I was 15 that I was such a good liar it should become my profession. Hence…
48. Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid?
Answer: My mother joined me to the Children’s Science Fiction Book Club and my dad illustrated science fiction magazines by night. Thanks mum and dad.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/xaghrasrevenge
Find it on Amazon: http://myBook.to/Xaghra
It’s FREE on Kindle Unlimited!
If you want a signed paperback copy get in touch with me via my web page at https://geoffnelder.com
Geoff Nelder lives in Chester with his physicist wife, within easy cycle rides of the Welsh mountains.
Geoff is a former teacher, now an editor, writer and fiction competition judge. His novels include Scifi: Exit, Pursued by Bee; The ARIA trilogy; The Chaos of Mokii; thrillers: Escaping Reality, Hot Air.
Recent: historical fantasy inspired by the mass abduction of the population of Malta’s Gozo in 1551 by pirates. Those 5,000 spirits need justice: Xaghra’s Revenge (July 2017)
Collections: Incremental– 25 surreal tales more mental than incremental.
Suppose We, a scifi novella out early 2019
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