Name Simon Palmer
I’m 42 and from a small fishing town in North Yorkshire, England, called Whitby.
Fiona: Tell us a little about yourself.
I worked in catering for several years, mostly as a bartender then a butler. I now am a screen-writer and new novelist who currently resides in Bangkok. I spent several months researching my first novel, ‘Lost Innocence’ which included visiting an Australian inmate called Mitchell Blake inside the Bangkok Hilton.
I was born in a small fishing town called Whitby in North Yorkshire. I had an interest in drama at an early age and attended the ‘Lee Strasberg School of method acting’ in London. My father was a lyricist/musician and I discovered I could also manipulate words.
I had written my own lyrics and poems since I was seven, but then discovered at acting school that I could write much more. After writing short stories, monologues and duologues, I went onto to write two screenplays that were both sold. I have now set my sights on novel writing and have two more novels soon to be released with a small publishing house called Spanking Pulp Press.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My first book ‘Lost Innocence’ is out in two parts on Amazon and all the other online stores and doing quite well. We’ve already made it to number one in the Political Fiction charts, number fifteen in suspense and number twenty four in Hoaxes and Deception.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I had written my own lyrics and poems since I was seven at my home in England. Why, because my father, a local lyricist, encouraged me to do so. I was always a story teller, but back then the story’s came in the form of songs.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Not until recently. I’d sold a couple of screenplays previously, but they were never made into movies. Only when I finally got the right edit on ‘Lost Innocence,’ got it out there and received a few raving reviews, did I consider myself a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
….Would you believe me if I told you that it came to me in a vivid dream? I had absolutely no interest in writing about a Thai prison. I knew very little about it and had never experienced time inside. Readers think I have, but my writing about it comes from research. I met a guy inside and he opened up to me. The rest came purely from my imagination and inspiration from previous True Crimes I’d read.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I’m pretty heavy on dialogue writing because I find that easy to write. I just put the characters in my head and let them talk.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It was always ‘Lost Innocence’ before I even wrote it. That title was given to me in my dream and then the story was alive.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There are several, but the main two would be to be careful when travelling to foreign Countries and everybody deserves a second chance.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Although ‘Lost Innocence’ is a work of fiction, I’d like to think that the book is realistic. There is nothing in this book that couldn’t happen and a lot of what’s in there did happen.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Some of the experiences are based on Mitchel Blake, an Australian convict who served seventeen years inside the notorious prison, nicknamed ‘The Bangkok Hilton’
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
‘The Damage Done’ was a pretty gripping True Crime novel that grabbed my attention at the time but ‘Private Dancer’ by Stephen Leather made me feel that maybe I could be a writer.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
If I had to choose and could bring someone back to life, I’d take Hemmingway.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m about to start the first book buy my new friend, Ani Alexander. It’s called ‘Highfall.’
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
New authors grab my attention all the time as I meet them all the time. Garrard Hayes, an American author is new. I think he will turn a few heads.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
‘Tales of the Land of Smiles’ is a collection of several Thai based books. ‘Lost Innocence’ has four parts, two of which are already out. Next will be ‘Working Girl’ based on a young Thai girl forced into prostitution. It’s a really sad story, written in her voice. Jim, my publisher at Spanking Pulp Press refers to me as a ‘method writer.’ It’s true, I do get into the heads of my character or they get into my head…I’m not sure which it is.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
You say not a family member, but my mother passed when I was young. She was my best friend and helped me to believe that I could do something with my life.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’d like to think so but we’re living in a free world right now where everything is either free or pirated. It’s difficult to make a living from writing books unless you are really doing well.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Sure. I was editing it for over three years. I could have spent a lifetime editing it more, but I needed to let it go.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Initially from my father being a lyricist, then from just enjoying writing stories at school. I’ve always love to entertain.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Sure. I’ll give you the first chapter:
LOST INNOCENCE PART ONE ‘THE ACCUSED’
I WAS lazing on the golden sands on the south-west coast of Thailand, the blazing sun beating down on my body. The view as I gazed out over the vast expanse of the Andaman Sea was breath-taking. The subtle, salty scent of the ocean engrossed me; the serenity of the still blue waters only broken by the sound of the waves lapping against the rocks.
I reached for my bag, searched for my book and was about to begin the latest Conrad Jones crime- thriller, when my eyes met those of a struggling hawker. She was well covered up and wore an old, straw hat over a tired, bronzed face.
A sharp pang of sympathy rattled inside of me. I didn’t have the heart to wave her away and found myself pointing to some fruit that I didn’t really want. I dug deep for some change, paid and smiled as she handed me some sliced melon in a bag with a pointed stick. She thanked me, gathered up her wares then strolled off on her way down the beach.
I returned to my book and was surfing through the pages when it suddenly felt hot. Can we turn it down to tropical? A bead of sweat rolled down my nose, stopped then dropped onto a page. I wiped it away, squinted up at the sun and strained my eyes. A rank stench in the air then aroused my attention and looking around I couldn’t tell what that was or where it was coming from.
My parched throat and desert-dried lips cried out for water. I scrambled in the sand for my bottle, but couldn’t find it. I stretched down for my things – my bag was gone and so were the melon and my book. I lay back for a moment when the back of my head brushed up against somebody’s feet. I turned to apologize, but couldn’t be more shocked; the beach was now packed. So many dirty, stinky, bodies, lying crammed together within so little space.
I covered my ears as a cacophony erupted in a language I didn’t understand. Then the stench struck again. It was stronger than before and this time I recognized it. It smelt like human waste mixed with stale sweat, repulsive body odour and cheap cigarettes. I glanced around to see who was smoking; everybody was.
Something smooth and oily ran under my right hand. It felt like a cockroach, it was a cockroach. I shuffled back and watched it scuttling off. I thought it was gone, but then another appeared and then more. I brushed them away and what was once golden sand was now a dark, hard, filthy floor. My body started to tremble – my nerves were on edge.
I glanced up at the sky but all I could see now, was thick black smoke. I coughed uncontrollably until the smog finally cleared and several stained panels emerged with flickering strip lights. It was as if the sky had transformed into a ceiling of a filthy, neglected cell, crammed completely to capacity.
Trauma and terror possessed me as I realized I had to face this reality and deal with the torment all over again. My mind had been playing tricks on me, creating a mirage of a beach, a mirage of freedom. I was in the worst-place-in-the-world. I was in a Thai prison. I was in Hell.
Horrid memories of this living nightmare began to resurface; that first day when the cell door swung closed; the complete helplessness of being locked up. I couldn’t have been more terrified as three heavily tattooed guards with shaved heads and beer-breath had taken a hold of me, dragged me outside, held me firm and stripped me. I hadn’t struggled. I’d just stood there naked; the fear of being raped had restricted any movement. I was bent over by two guards while the third parted my butt-cheeks, reached in and shoved his latex covered finger up as far as he could. I jerked forward, stifling my screams as somebody squeezed my balls, hard – it hurt. They had supposedly been checking for drugs but more likely just enjoying the sadistic infliction of pain.
A coughing fit brought me back to the present and I glanced up to see a thick blanket of smoke circling above me. Prisoners were smoking then dropping their smouldering butts between the cracks in the floor. They lay, still burning below me, smoke drifting up as I feared burning alive or suffocating from smoke. My throat felt sore and my pounding heart continued beating through every inch of my being. I needed water. I needed to get out.
I was the only foreigner or farang as we were known here and although we were packed in so tightly, I had never felt so alone. The heat was so oppressive and the stench was so rank, that I almost threw up – twice. A creaking noise distracted me and glancing up I saw a worn-out ceiling fan wobble as it spun round. It was hanging on by two rusty screws and looked like it could fall at any time. My sweat-dampened clothes clung to my body and the pain of lying on such a hard, wooden floor was horrendous. It was thick with dirt, covered in blood stains and other stains I couldn’t identify and didn’t dare to try. Most of the others had a bed-roll to sleep on; I only had the floor.
Bugs continued to torment me; it seemed they were waiting for me to sleep or die so they could feast on my body. I fought them off but it was exhausting and futile. Some sampled my blood while others defecated, leaving foul traces of their presence. My mind began playing tricks on me; it was as though even when they weren’t there, I could still feel them crawling all over me.
A man with a faded tattoo of an eagle on his chest was holding a syringe and sucking something into it. He stuck a needle into his friend’s arm, drew some blood, then combining the two substances, he injected the mix back into the emaciated arm; all the while his friend gazed, sickly into space.
After several long, drawn-out hours, the yelling subsided and I noticed most of the others trying to sleep. The thick fog of smog was beginning to clear and my fear began to yield to fatigue. As I closed my eyes, images of my family calmed me and for the briefest moment I had escaped. Amidst all this chaos, the thought of them may have been the only thing keeping me from going insane. I fell asleep.
A wave of guilt crashed down and woke me as I thought about my mother. It was her rule that this being the first time I was away, I would ring her every Wednesday. With all that had happened this week, I had forgotten to phone home.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Well I’m not a huge reader myself, so I feel my vocabulary is quite limited for a writer. Describing scenes takes a little longer than it probably should as I don’t always find it easy to find the right words.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I like many different authors for several different reasons, but rarely read more than one book from the same author. John Grisham shocked me with ‘The Testament’ by killing off his main character in the first chapter.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not yet but I hope to do so soon. I’ve met a lot of authors and readers in the USA, so I hope to go there soon.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The initial idea was mine, then enhanced by my friend James and his designer Yok at Pixel fox design.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Finally letting it go.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I’ve learnt so much but mainly that I couldn’t have succeeded alone.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
If you think you can write a book, have a go. Get it out there and not to just friends and family. Get some real critique and then if it’s still something you want to pursue, then follow your dreams and never give up.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thanks so much for giving ‘Lost Innocence’ a chance. I hope you liked it and if you do, find me on Facebook for a chat. If you didn’t like it, please tell me why. The next is coming soon….
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No, but there was a book I read at school that I’m still trying to find. It was about a young boy who was turned into a dog by black magic. Anyone know it? I’d love to read it again.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
A good joke or funny picture or quote makes me laugh.
A sad movie would make me cry. I cried at Titanic and the day after when I heard the theme song being played in a taxi.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would like to meet and why?
I’d like to meet my mum again. I lost her when I was fourteen.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I play tennis, watch movies and TV shows.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I recently watched ‘American Hustle’ which I thought was great. I’m following ‘The Big Bang Theory, Suits, The Good Wife, Grey’s Anatomy and ‘Silicon Valley’ to name just a few.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I live in Thailand and love Thai food and English food.
Blue was always my favorite color and I am listening to Cold Play, Damien Rice, John Legend and anything melodically pleasing.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I’d still love to be an actor.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Fiona: Thank you Simon and I wish you the best of luck with ‘Lost Innocence.’
Thank you, Fiona. It’s been a pleasure.