Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi Fiona. My name’s Graham Watkins and I’m sixty-five years young with an eighteen-year old’s mind, a slightly worn out body and an old man’s experience.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I come from Welsh stock but was raised in Luton, England. My grandparents moved there during the 1920’s depression.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I left home at sixteen and went to sea, travelling the world and learning that, like all teenagers, who believe they know everything, I really knew very little. Eventually I, fell in love, married and came ashore. It was a good decision – forty something years later we are still together. These days we live in a remote farmhouse on The Black Mountain with a lunatic dog and an assortment of animals. My neighbours call me, not unkindly, a hobby farmer.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
That’s a great question. How long have you got? Last month I published ‘The Enemy Within’ a dystopian thriller – think computers, big brother government, terrorists and an ordinary man trying to discover the truth about his past, of George Orwell writ large in the 21st Century. It’s a tale of today’s world with a Welsh twist.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Like most people, I started writing at school but it got more serious in 2004 when I published my first book ‘Exit Strategy’ explaining how my wife and I sold our business to a PLC and ran away. We’d started the company from our house in 1989 and sold in 2003 when the business employed 32 people and was turning over £5m a year.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
At that point, despite publishing a book, I didn’t really consider myself a writer. My skills needed a lot of improvement so I enrolled on a course and tried to learn how to write properly – I’m still learning.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I write in a variety of genres and particularly enjoy writing historical fiction because it gives me the excuse to research and to travel. Researching has taken me across Wales for a series of five books about Welsh legends and to Merthyr for my historical novel ‘The Iron Master’, to Sicily for my novel ‘The Sicilian Defence’ and to South Africa researching ‘A White Man’s War.’ More recently, I’ve been in North Carolina and Virginia gathering ideas for the sequel to ‘The Iron Masters’. Particularly the exploits of the Confederate Navy whose ships and guns came from the UK. It’s a story of Federal spies, smuggling weapons to The Canaries and raiders like the S.S. Alabama captained by Englishman Ralph Semnes. Researching is fun and my wife and I always include some ‘us’ time on our travels. As they say, “You should always smell the flowers on the way.”
“So do you like holidays?” you might ask. Well yes.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
That’s the beauty of historical fiction – it gives you plenty of plot lines and ideas.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Of course. As I said earlier, It’s half the fun. My next expedition is to Australia and New Zealand in October and November.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
It depends on the publisher. The covers for my walking book were arranged by the publisher. Others are by a graphic designer who is a family member and a couple I’ve done myself. Having said that, I would add that the quality of the cover is key – You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I’m not on a crusade. Just sit back, buckle up and enjoy the read.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favourite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Two authors I greatly admire are Alexander Cordell and David Howarth. They are both brilliant writers and bring the story to life. I’ve also just finished ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern. I’m not sure what circuses are like in Marshfield, Massachusetts but her descriptions and the scenes she paints with words are breathtaking.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
My good friend Dave Riches encouraged me to publish my first book ‘Exit Strategy’ and I’m glad he did. Subsequently, he sold his business and wrote that ‘Exit Strategy’ does exactly what it says on the cover. It was a lovely comment.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Is writing a career for me? Not really – I write principally for my own pleasure. If people like and buy my books that’s a bonus. Fortunately they do which helps pay the electric bill.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Not so much in my latest book but some of the earlier ones, hmm! As I said earlier, I’m still learning. If you ask me the same question in a year’s time I will probably say the same about ‘The Enemy Within’.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Researching ‘The Enemy Within’ I realised how dangerous a world we live in when ordinary people are so vulnerable to corrupt politicians using technology to subvert the system and control them. A Harvard professor recently declared he could alter a person’s DNA with a simple CRISPR kit. – You can buy them on Amazon for $130 and a company in Sweden is today injecting it’s staff with a microchip. Imagine that, and it’s not some future dystopia, it’s happening today.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Martin Sheen would be a good choice. He’s the right age and has the presence to play the part of Simon Reece, the main character.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
If you are starting out it’s a long slog. Be prepared to keep at it. Write every day even if it’s only a couple of hundred words and when you’ve finished a manuscript put it away for a month before you return to do the next draft. That gap is so important. You will have fresh ideas and a new perspective on what you have already written.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s a mighty tome but worth making the effort to read because it’s so thought provoking.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
It was probably a ‘Janet and John’ school book.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Politicians make me laugh, cringe and cry at the same time.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I have a wood turning lathe that I’m learning to use. I find it therapeutic and absorbing working with wood – an escape from everyday life.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I enjoy period dramas, bodice rippers, swash-buckle adventures and some detectives.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
The answer to that question is to do what author Enid Blyton did. I would dictate the words and if I couldn’t do that I would sulk.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Tidying up my affairs, saying goodbye to loved ones, apologising, taking up religion – in case there really is a God and he’s not just a human construct and wondering what wonderful things I would miss out on in the future.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I’m not sure so I asked my wife. She said she’s going have these words put on my grave. “Here lies the body of my dear husband, Graham Watkins. May he rest in peace – until we meet again.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Readers can learn more about my books, sign up for news about my writing and download three free eBooks on my website at https://www.grahamwatkins.info/
Amazon Authors page UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Graham-Watkins/e/B005WTLIQ4