My life story goes something like this: conceived in California, born in Zimbabwe, schooled in South Africa, emigrated to Australia, worked in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, China and now living in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
With a background in psychology, and a career as a copywriter and creative director in the Mad Man world of multinational ad agencies, people watching and understanding the human spirit have always come naturally to me.
10 non-fiction books published to date, with sales over 100,000.
I write military history (WW 2 books), business behaviour (especially creativity and cognitive skills), Asia expat books (some would call it beer and bullshit), and travel.
My bucket list is mostly comprised of two-wheeled motorcycle adventures in remote parts of the world. Riding and writing – that’s my thing.
What inspires you to write?
The need to purge a story. After all the infatuation with a new topic, the joy of stumbling across elusive but valuable nuggets in the research phase, and the unfettered dreaming of global domination of the best-seller charts and 7-figure Hollywood film rights, finally finishing a book is probably best likened to child birth.
It's great to finally get the bloody thing out.
I love the detective work and the fact that I get to fully satisfy my curiosity on any given subject. But that itch still needs scratching till the whole thing is complete and purged and you move on to the next topic.
Tell us about your writing process.
For me, writing starts with the feint sniff of a story angle. A topic I'd love to know more about, and love to share with my readers. Regardless of whether it's something historical, or something which I'm going to create from zero.
At any one time I've probably got 10 books on my long-list to tackle. Of those probably 4 are in various stages of progress at any one time. I'm quite methodical in mapping things out, ie chapter orders etc, less so in organizing all my research paper, but the real storytelling doesn't start until I know what those first few paragraphs are going to be.
Mostly, I'll start with the most emotional event within a story to get us off to the races with a bang … then work backwards to explain how we got there.
Sometimes on a longer book I might feel I need some instant creative gratification, so I'll set it aside and write a shorter book quickly just to get the creative fix.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Having vowed I'd never write fiction, I did start writing one (a historical fiction set in WW2 Singapore, so not a big stretch for me) a few years ago.
The characters did start talking, and taking on definite characteristics, until they got louder and louder so I had to start purging them. I fell in love with the heroine, and the storyline and characters are still busy in my head, even though I've set that script aside for now. But they will come to life one day. And I can't wait to meet her.
Who are your favorite authors?
I'm not a big fiction reader, but I'd say Noel Barber's Tanah Merah is probably the most emotionally engaged I've been with a fiction book. I also respect his non-fiction works, such as Sinister Twilight, greatly.
I went to the same primary school as Wilbur Smith in South Africa, and grew up with his wonderfully descriptive (and well-researched) novels of action and adventure in exotic settings.
But I probably read 20 non-fiction books for every fiction that I read (on average I plough through 50+ books a year).
I love musical biographies and autobiographies. Loved the authentic voice of Keith Richards' Life. (It was just like Keef speakin' to me.) Just finished Bruce Springsteen's autobiography too. What a great work ethic, and he deserves all the success that came his way.
I also devour behavioural economics and pop psychology books in great quantities. Gladwell. Dan Ariely. The Freakonomics gang. Robert Cialdini.
And military history. The Japanese theatre in World War 2. Especially Singapore, Malaya and the Thai-Burma Death Railway in Kanchanaburi. I'm a special interest military history tour guide and have become something of an expert on this. I can learn at least one new thing from each military history book that I read.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
At first self-publishing was to challenge myself and see what was involved in publishing. Turns out the skill sets were what I'd learned in advertising: photography, design, typesetting, and print production, and marketing (read: sell, sell, sell). The only really new things were bar codes and library catalogs and distribution. So it was a fun learning curve.
Since then I've mostly self published but some titles such as Gone Troppo (travel) and The Missing Years (military history) I went with specialist publishers.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
The good news is that it's easier than ever for a writer to get published. The bad news is that it's easier than ever for a writer to get published.
But amid the saturation, there's always room for original and engaging voices.
What genres do you write?
war books, travel, expat, business, psychology
What formats are your books in?
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All information is provided by the author and is presented as it was submitted so you the reader get to hear the author’s own “voice” in their interview.