Name: James Minter
Where are you from:
Near Oxford in the UK
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I’m the youngest child of three and the only boy. My parents were both nurses, and we lived in a rural hamlet of 4 houses on the hospital ground. I was always outdoors running riot with my imagination.
I first moved into an urban area when I went to university – Manchester and then Salford where I studied the social sciences, focusing on technology and how it would impact jobs and work.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’ve been signed up by Booktrope in the USA, under their UPrush imprint to publish my series of eight traditional story books designed to aid 8 to 11 year old children develop positive values. The Billy series focuses on a 10 year old boy and his interactions with his friends/peers, and important adults in his life.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Summer 2009. It was an accident. I took a notebook away with me on holiday, and for no particular reason I started writing a story about “Hole” farming. I completed 40,000 in three weeks before I was able to draw a breath. In the following months I wrote a further 70,000, and my first novel was born – The Hole Opportunity – a very English humorous book, a typical British farce of the Tom Sharpe or PG Wodehouse style.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
After getting a raft of excellent reviews and an award for my first book.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My mother inspired me – when I was 4 years old she would told me a story about a farmer who had a hole on the back of his lorry. Going uphill the hole it fell off. The lorry stalled and rolled back into it. That small snippet stuck with me nearly 60 years until that holiday when it gushed forth and is now on its way to be trilogy of novels.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I use a lot of dialogue – the characters tell their story. I see and hear them holding conversations, and then my pen commits it to paper. I write all first drafts longhand.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I actually start all my books from the title and work forward. In this case the farmer (the main character) is down on his luck and looking for a new way to make money – a new opportunity. He realized everyone needs holes all the time, and he’s right if you think about it. For example, how would you put your coat on it there weren’t holes to your arms in to, and someone has to provide the holes. Hence the Hole Opportunity.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
This series are pure fun, entertainment, appealing to the inner child in all of us, I do however, take digs at the newspapers and media, and government bureaucracy, and the British class system, but I’ve no pretentions to change the world.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
The events are fictitious but are plausible – if you suspend belief. I’m a fiction writer, I make things up.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
All the characters exist in real life. They are people I know but in the book they are an amalgamation of personalities and foibles. I’m not sure anyone reading it would pick themselves out. My characters are inflated stereotypes.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
As far as my humor writing is concerned it has to be Tom Sharpe’s Riotous Assembly, his Wilt series, and in fact most things he wrote. Spike Milligan, PG Wodehouse, Noel Coward, David Lodge and TV writer John Sullivan, creator of Only Fools and Horses
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
“A Boy Called Hope” by Lara Williamson. A much acclaimed debut novel of an 11 year old boy who just wants to be loved by his father following a divorce. It’s about love, families and making sense of life.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Lara Williamson, David Walliams and his “The Boy in the Dress”
– though not so new now, and Joe Cawley of
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I have 3 books on the go at present – Project 1 is book 6 of my Billy series – “Billy Doubts Himself” and is about self-belief, or lack of it; Project 2 is Book 7 of the series “Billy Wants it All” and is about learning the value of money; and Project 3, is the third in my Hole Trilogy – “Marmite Makes a Sandwich and Dynamite Makes a Hole”— in which Colin and Izzy are held prisoner in their own how by a south London gang until they reveal the whereabouts of paintings they had the good fortune to find.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The Alliance of Independent Authors – a must join organization for all new and aspiring writers. Support is available in all shapes and sizes – not only the writing process but everything surrounding getting your books into the hands of readers. Openness, trust and sharing are three key principles of the group.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I was in IT industry for thirty five years – I now see myself writing for the next 30 years, health withstanding – I’m fit now, but when I’m 93 who knows.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I have, and that’s the nature of writing – the first draft is really a detailed aide memoire. Once it’s down you can then see the plot arc, the strengths and weaknesses of your characters, repetitions, slow passages, poor descriptions or over-egged descriptions – all these things crying out to be changed, and that’s before your editor has done her/his worst.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Fiction writing came as a complete surprise to me (and my wife). I’d never said or alluded to wanting to write. As a father I’d told my children stories when they were toddlers but no more than that. My holiday when I wrote 40,000 was the first anyone, including me, knew anything about me as a writer.
Actually as the pages of my notebook filled I watched in complete surprise – my subconscious and my right hand holding the pen had a relationship that seemed totally separate from me. I just watched the story unfold, laughing at the absurdity and jokes as they appeared on the page.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
This is the first scene in Book 6 of the Billy series in which Billy lacks self-belief:
Miss Tompkins, Billy’s year five form teacher, passed around a heap of books—play scripts—for their end-of-year production. ‘Please take a copy … quickly and quietly.’ She watched until everyone had one. ‘Now turn to page two and read the section headed Directors Overview.’ She stared at the class over the top of her glasses. As each child noticed, they fell silent and read. When Miss looked over her glasses she appeared serious, if not scary, and nobody wanted to be called out for talking or not doing their work.
‘Miss …’ Khalid said.
‘Khalid, how many more times, no shouting out. Put your hand up first.’ She scowled.
‘Sorry Miss.’ He pretended to zip his lips before putting his hand up.
‘Yes Khalid, what’s your question?’
‘Why are we reading this?’ Khalid waved around his copy of the script.
‘Good question, can anyone help Khalid? Miss gazed at her class. Three hands went up, including Tom’s. ‘So Tom what do you think?’
‘For our year end production.’ Tom sat back in his chair; he folded his arms across his chest and beamed a smile.
Tom shared a table with his two best mates Billy and Ant.
‘We all knew that.’ Ant spoke around the back of his hand so Miss would not hear.
‘We have eight weeks until you finish in year five and move in to the last year at this school,’ Miss Tompkins continued, ‘and by tradition we will entertain the whole school to a play. This year we are performing The Keymaster by Nick Perrin. From reading the overview you should know it’s about time travel, going back in history, 1066 and all that.’ Miss saw a hand go up. ‘Yes Billy.’
‘But Miss, it’s a musical with singing and stuff. That’s going to be really hard.’ Billy looked to Ant and Tom for support. They both nodded in agreement.
‘Well Billy you are near the end of your time in year five, as are all of you, from my experience I think you’ll do a great job, possible the best the school has seen.’ Miss stood and walked around to the front of her desk. ‘We need to cast, that means choose who will play what part. We also need scenery painting, costumes sawing and props making. This production will involve the whole class, and for the main characters, rehearsals late afternoon once school has finished.’
A buzz of excitement came from the children, and Khalid burst into song.
‘Doe, ray, me fa, so, la, ti, doe’ He held the last note for as long as he could.
‘Okay Khalid,’ Miss clapped her hands, ‘there will be plenty of time for that. For the rest of this lesson and homework I would like you to read the whole script and decide who you would like to be. If there are several people wanting the same part like the Keymaster or one of the other four leading roles, we will hold auditions, or I will have to choose.’
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Remembering how the mind of a 10 year old works, but not wanting to be too ‘street’ or sound patronizing.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Ian McKwen – because of his mastery of words, and his ability to craft stories with a balance between research and imagination. I have a long list of books I want to write falling outside books for children and books for the inner child. For example, paranormal, crime thrillers that sit between the real and the imaginary. McKwen, is a contemporary writer who delivers quintessentially English books which I aspire to writing.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Currently no, but from next year book tours / meet the author / attending book festivals / book signings will feature in my life to a far greater extent than they do at present.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
A designer named Paul Shinn – whom I’ve never met but we have worked together for the last 4 years. He’s a freelance illustrator living in London, and a cover designer who worked in traditional publishing for a number of years after graduating.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Not trying to rush books out to quickly – the trick is to take the Zen approach to writing: patience – the process of writing and editing, proofing, reediting, beta reading can seem painstakingly slow at times. Therefore, cultivate an attitude of patience toward the writing process, and put the ‘finished’ manuscript away for several weeks before each step, and only show it to trusted people (trust in their opinion) for constructive feedback. And of course find a first-rate editor to work with.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Yes – that I have so much to learn about the craft of writing, about the English language, and that I should have payed more attention at school. We all talk and use the written word every day, but writing a novel is way, way harder.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Being a successful fiction author requires a skill-set which is wide and diverse – the actual writing process is a small, albeit significant part of the overall process. Get to know the industry you are going in to. Talk to anyone you can, and read ‘How to …’ books to short-circuit the leaning process, saving making the same mistakes and stand on the shoulders of those who’ve gone before. Don’t be isolationist, or precious, and develop a thick skin. And remember, success won’t happen overnight so keep going. Believe in yourself, you can do more than you might think.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
There are ‘rights and wrongs’, as well as ‘could do betters’. Remember this when reading a typical one hundred thousand word novel. Writing is a mammoth undertaking, a complex interplay of characters, plots, sub-plots, events, and reactions. At minimum the author will have spent six months working on the book. If you come across a typo or a phrase you disagree with, think the author is human, fallible, and of course, the English language, meanings and grammar are not fixed, a singular set of tools to work with but a variable feast.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
My first real book with more words than pictures was ‘Winnie the Pooh’ by A.A Milne; a book which has stayed with me to this day. The Pooh books are must-reads for every child and adult, and not once but many, many times. They work their magic especially if things aren’t going to well, and you need bringing back to a sane place – well sort of sane, if Pooh is involved.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh at jokes with unpredictable endings – I love the surprise of the twist.
I cry at the expression of true feelings, where a person is genuine and authentic, and cannot disguise how they truly feel.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
My mother and father. They died together on the same day when I was only 23 years of age. I’ve miss sharing the rest of my life with them.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
‘Don’t mourn my loss. My leaving brings you closer to the loved ones
I have left behind, and all the joys the future holds.’
My death is inevitable, and shouldn’t define the lives of the living. You only get one chance, one life, and need to make the most of it.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Photography, walking, reading, wine and food (I live in the south of France)
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Breaking Bad, Big Bang Theory, Suits, Lost, The Good Wife, any well written dramas
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Foods – most things – it really annoyed my children when they said ‘Dad, what’s your favorite …’ and I couldn’t give a single answer.
Colors – blue and white.
Music – Sax – players like Candy Dulfer and Mindy Abair
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Natural history photographer – my collection of bug images makes my family squirm.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
- FaceBook fan page – https://www.facebook.com/author.james.minter
- Amazon author page – http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00735B54U
- Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6580478.James_Minter
- Twitter – https://twitter.com/james_minter
- Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/pub/james-minter/7/a89/221
- Amazon Reviewer – http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/pdp/profile/A2EX1NIVAENBHZ
- Website – http://www.jamesminter.com/
- Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/james-minter-2
- Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+JamesMinterAuthor/posts
- Pintrest – https://www.pinterest.com/JamesMinter1/