How would you describe yourself and how does your description translate into the way you work?
I am interested in peoples struggles, be they for freedom, inclusion or to be loved. I also like to travel, when possible, and learn about different cultures. This has led to incidents from around the world generating ideas for my stories. They are stories where the main characters come under immense pressure to achieve an aim, but they will always have some flaw in their makeup which holds them back. I want to see if my characters can make enough emotional change in time to save themselves from some catastrophe, and learn if they have anything to tell us about ourselves.
Did you always want to be a writer?
It was probably in my subconscious somewhere, but I didn’t recognize it. Not when I was pretending to be a radio, where my brothers could switch channels for me to tell them a different story. Not when I wrote an essay at school about India, and the English teacher asked me if I had really written it, or if it was something we had learned in another class. Years after I left school, I found ideas for stories kept jumping into my head—a bit of dialogue, a character, a story outline. I would jot them down on my hand, any scrap of paper I could find, and work on them when I had inspiration. But it was only some years later that I got out of the inspiration habit and started to set aside time to write seriously.
Carnival Of Hope is a wonderful book that I truly enjoyed, where did your inspiration come from for this story?
Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it. When I get the opportunity, I watch a lot of documentaries. These have, over the years, included accounts of kidnappings of people in Northeastern Brazil to work as virtual slaves on plantations and their rescue by government agencies; the ‘cleansing’ of street-children by law enforcement agencies, and other matters. These have stuck with me. But Brazil is also a country which fascinates me because of the beautiful football, the colorful carnival, and the vibrant blend of people and religions. All these documentaries began to merge into a compelling story about Tomas, a poor idealist forced to teach in secret, and reluctant to abandon his mother, and Thereza, a determined young woman, desperate to escape the struggles and tragedies of a dangerous Brazilian shantytown. A carnival dance competition offers hope of a better future in the South. But there are sinister practices at carnival, and former winners of the competition have disappeared. And as we both know, as the competition spirals into a corrupt and perilous deception, it plunges the young loves into a fight for their lives.
What process do you go through to define your characters?
Generally, I like to define the major character traits of the main characters before I begin to write. This includes: character’s main goal/need, greatest strength, and most importantly, their biggest flaw. Once I have this information, I can set up a protagonist who has some admirable human qualities, but they also possess character flaws which they may need to overcome in order to achieve their real need (I make a distinction between a character’s material need—that is what the character thinks they want, and their real need—which is what the reader will come to realize the character really needs in order to move forward.) In the film I Tina, Tina Turner’s main flaw was that she kept returning to an abusive relationship. At that stage, her material need was to be the singer that Ike wanted her to be. But we the audience realized that her real need was to get out of that relationship so that she could lead a happier life.
Sometimes I use images or real people to help me visualize what a character looks like, and as I write each scene, I am keeping track of each main characters major traits, history and emotional development, to ensure that they are presented in the novel as fully rounded people. I have even been known to get up and walk across the room in an attempt to mimic a character’s movements, so I can describe it better—you might say method acting has come to the creative process for the novel.
What do you hope readers will experience while reading your books?
It will make me happy if the readers’ first reaction is one of enjoyment. I also want them to feel the emotional highs and lows of the characters. Then, with Secrets From The Dust, and Carnival of Hope, I hope that readers find the unique cultures described in both novels as fascinating as I do, and maybe want to learn more. I managed to achieve both these things with reader Gretchen, who wrote: “I just completed Secrets From The Dust by George Hamilton. Your recent review encouraged me to order it and I had trouble putting it down! I am going to write a review for goodreads (positive!) and I am anxious to read more books about Australia.”
Do book reviews have an influence on your writing?
First off, reviews are a great way for authors to get feedback on how their books are perceived by readers, and I’d like to thank you and all the reviewers who put in so much time to do this fantastic work and bring us to the attention of others. So far, most of the reviews that I have received have been very positive, and they do have an influence in letting me know that readers enjoy my books and style. This is helpful when it comes to writing the next book, as I have a better idea of what works. I do however need to be careful not to restrict myself to the type of books reviewers have liked in the past, as I am planning other stories which will be quite different.
What advice would you give to a first time author?
When I first started to write, I had this idea that I would only write when I had inspiration. Well, as you can guess, inspiration didn’t come often enough to complete anything. So one day I sat down and calculated how long it would take me to write and rewrite an average sized novel working the way I did. It came to more than twenty years (I was doing over a dozen rewrites at that time). I quickly realized that I would have to change the way I worked if I was to finish a novel. So my advice to first time writers is to set aside some time each day, several times each week, whatever suits your schedule, to sit down and write. Also, the speed at which we can now publish on platforms like Amazon Kindle and Smashwords means that some authors are completing their work and putting it straight out there. It’s a good idea to put it away for several weeks, months if possible, because I can assure you that when you then proofread it, you will find you are correcting errors you had not noticed before. And don’t forget the editor.
What advice did you receive that was most beneficial to you?
I have received much advice over the years that has been beneficial. One came from an agent, who felt my characters could be stronger, so I went away and developed that aspect of my writing. Another came from a manuscript reviewer, who felt I needed to develop a major point of difference between my main characters, and that technique is now very important in my writing.
Are you currently working on another book?
I have been trying to decide which book to work on next. I have several completed screenplays that I considered rewriting as novels, and I have also looked at some of my early unpublished work. But it’s often easier to construct a new house rather than refurbish an old one. So, I may need to write a new story to get the creative juices flowing, and I have been plotting out some scenes this morning for a suspense novel set in an Eastern European dictatorship. All I can reveal at the moment is that a doctor and her estranged daughter must set aside their bitter differences if they are to prevent a catastrophic number of deaths, against the backdrop of a state that seems at best indifferent.
This is your chance to speak directly to readers who haven’t discovered your books. What would you like to say to them?
Firstly, I’d like to say thank you to those readers who have read my books, reviewed them, and told others about them. Whilst I describe my works as drama on Amazon, both books really cross-genres, with Secrets From The Dust including historical and adventure elements, and Carnival of Hope having a high degree of suspense. So I hope readers won’t restrict the categories of books they are prepared to read, and they may just be surprised. A 5* review given to Secrets From The Dust by Joo at Kuforum illustrates the point: “I was offered this book to review and rather than decline it outright as it's not "my kind of book", I politely said I'd check out the sample first. And I'm so glad I did as even though I thought I wouldn't like it, it was a superbly written, thought provoking book that I just didn't want to put down. In fact I was late for work this morning as I wanted to read 'just one more chapter'.”
My Review - Carnival Of Hope
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