As an aspiring author, it’s always good to hear stories of other people’s success. They inspire us to not procrastinate, and reassure us that there is a light at the end of that proverbial tunnel.
This week we hear from Chris Gray, world traveller and author of The Flight of the Griffin, who tells us about the mixed bag of travelling, fatherhood, writing and rain forest preservation work that is his life.
Location and one thing you love about living there: I currently call the region of Barcelona home, my house is about half an hour outside the city in the middle of the forest with just the wild boar for neighbours. A lot of people that visit think living in the woods is creepy and scary, especially with the boar crashing through the trees at night, but my family and I love it, lots of people have grown up with the need for the constant hum of the city but its no longer the choice for me, nature is the place where I can relax and I love it here. Before coming here, I lived in Asia for many years in big cities like Hong Kong and Manila, I also traveled around a lot and I think a lot of the places and experiences I've had out there come through in my writing.
Author of: The Flight of the Griffin
Book available: It's available as an ebook and also as a paperback. Both are available on Amazon but you can also find the ebooks on Smashwords.com and the paperback version on Lulu.com I've kept the prices quite low so go check it out!
Website: I currently have a blog which is http://flightofthegriffin.blogspot.com and I can also be found on Goodreads.com and twitter(@cgray129)
Tell us a bit about yourself: Hi Sarah, thanks so much for inviting me I'm thrilled to be here. I'm an Englishman but I've been lucky enough to call many places and countries home over the last...few years! Barcelona Spain is now home. I've had a whole bunch of jobs over the years, from church organ builder and carpenter to stockbroker. I currently raise both money and awareness for a company that is attempting to replant the rainforest's, which I find very fulfilling, but I'll happily go to full time writing just as soon as I can!
Why did you leave England? I was 19 and a carpenter, working outside changing people's windows and doors. It was February and really cold with snow and sleet; a real British winter. At the end of my contract I decided I needed to go somewhere hot to thaw out, so went into a travel agents and asked for a ticket to a hot and interesting country...they sent me to India. I had never had a curry or anything spicy before I arrived there and had no idea what I was heading into. I spent the first few weeks staying pretty close to the toilets, trying to acclimatise to the food and the heat! I ended up adoring the food and loving the open friendly people. It really was the hot interesting place I had asked the travel agent to send me to!
I stayed seven months and traveled all over, India opened my eyes to many things. I finally ended up in Nepal on the Tibetan Boarder in a Buddhist monastery. No I didn't stay and gain enlightenment, maybe I should have, but after being turned back at the Tibetan border I returned to the UK, looking a lot more like Gandhi than the person in my passport photograph!
What’s the most important thing travelling the world has taught you? That despite us all being different, we're all basically the same. That there are an awful lot of really nice, good people out there, but there are also a few truly nasty people who are best avoided if you can. Most importantly, traveling has taught me to push my horizons and always look beyond that next hill, be it a physical challenge or an emotional one.
What sparked your passion for books and the art of a good story? Since an early age I have loved to read. I grew up surrounded by books of all sorts and it was perfectly natural for me to read one after another after another. We all hear that we have a book or two inside us and I had been meaning to try writing for several years. The thing that finally pushed me over the edge into writing out that first sentence was television. I realised one day that I wasn't actually enjoying an awful lot of the programmes and often couldn't remember what I had just been watching! (Try that yourself sometime. When the commercials come on, think to yourself, 'what is it that I'm watching?' it might scare you.) the final nail was when my wife really got into the reality TV shows, I had to leave the room and start writing!
Is there a particular book that changed or affected your life in a big way? When I got my hands on a scruffy old copy of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck I discovered a true literary artist. Every word was in the right place, you wouldn't want it written any other way, it was fantastic. We all have our own tastes but the works of John Steinbeck are the very best for me and they gave me an even greater appreciation of the 'art' of writing.
What was the seed of inspiration for your latest book? No real seed. I always start off with a first sentence, something that interests me, and then see where it takes me. I write for my own entertainment and it's a little like playing a video game for me. One that I'm guiding, and if it takes a turn I find uninteresting then I can retrace my steps and take another way, but most of the time I'm swept along merely reporting on m the movements of my characters. That for me is fun, I couldn't write from a structured synopsis. Even the sequel which I'm writing now has been written till now with no real idea where it's going, but it's going really well!
Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp? I haven't written it with the idea of putting over some great wonderful message, however, I think it is about loyalty to ones friends and to the ideals you have in life. One of the things I try to live by is to make every choice in life a conscious decision and not to get swept along in the flow around you.
What challenges have you faced in your writing career? Like many authors I tried the 'traditional' route of trying to get an agent and then a publisher. I finally got an agent and she was trying to get me publisher. I was delighted when told that two very well known publishers were interested in my work and were asking for US rights as well as UK rights, then film rights, it was very exciting...but then it all fell flat on it's face as both apparently pulled out. It left me dazed and confused. I could get no reason for the change of heart from both at the same time, it was a real kick in the teeth. I'm really happy to going the 'indie' route now. Sales are picking up and I have a great following of people leaving me great reviews and asking for the next book as soon as I can write it.
What has been your best moment as a writer? I think finally writing 'The End' at the final page of my first draft. I had actually finished a book! I didn't know anyone else personally who had written a book and I was very chuffed. I had no idea that the next stage was to edit, I hate editing!
What are the advantages of self publishing and e-publishing? I think the advantages are that I can go at my own pace. There is no deadline for the sequel to The Flight of the Griffin, I don't have anyone breathing down my neck so I can still enjoy the writing process. The advantage of e-publishing is huge. For one I can get my work out to readers at a very low price on Amazon and Smashwords. At this stage of my writing career I'm not looking to make money, I want readers, reviews and the chance to shout 'HERE I AM!' on wonderful blogs like this!
Who is your author idol? I've already mentioned John Steinbeck, but am also a great admirer of Manda Scott or M.C.Scott as she seems to call herself now. I loved her big thick novels about Boudicca the warrior queen of the Britons who threw the Romans out of Briton. I've just finished the first in her Rome series and was delighted to find they carry on from the first series. If you haven't tried them, do.
Do you see yourself in any of your characters? I see myself as setting off to sail away with friends in a boat for a lifetime of adventure and thrills. I'm a bit old for that now so I adventure with my kids and through the adventures of my protagonists in my books.
Do you feel like your dream has come true or is there much more to do? Part of my dream has come true in that I now sell books, have people reading my stories that give me great feedback that let's me know I'm doing someone right! I don't think that readers realise how much an author needs to hear if they enjoy a book, it's hugely rewarding to get a great review and inspires greater efforts. If you read a book, be it one of mine or someone else's and you have enjoyed it, leave a short review and a few stars.
The only other thing I need to do is sell enough books consistently to write full time, I would then be deliriously happy (please go buy one of my books:-)
What is your personal cure for procrastination? I never procrastinate...
What does your workspace look like? I write on a laptop so I get to write wherever I can find some peace and quiet. With two kids and two dogs it isn't always easy. I tend to write late at night when everyone has gone to bed. Ideally I would love a study, with a lock on the door, overlooking the woods. But then to be honest I would miss the noise of my family so I would still write there late at night when they slept. I'm very happy being a dad and don't want to miss anything of them. My son, Dylan, is my greatest fan and on reflection probably the greatest moment in my writing career so far is when he told me The Flight of the Griffin is the best book ever written, 'honestly dad!'
Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer? I'm told people get writers block, but I'm probably more prone to writers diarrhea. My ideas tend to tumble out all over the screen. My first draft of any chapter tends to be something only I can read because it comes out so fast! Possibly the only other hazard would be that the need to write drives a writer into seclusion, but I love my family far too much for that to happen, I'll just keep losing sleep and write at night!
Have you ever had a day when you just wanted to quit? Only the day I was told that the two publishers that had been bidding on my book for a month had both backed off and dropped it. But I was writing again a week later.
What do you do when you’re not writing?Well, my day job is raising money for a company that replants the rain forests. It's really interesting and very rewarding, but I'd rather be writing.
I have practiced the martial art of Aikido for the last twenty odd years and now my son has joined me which is fantastic. I'm no Bruce Lee, Aikido is all circles and movement with energy flowing back an forth between like dancers if your doing it right. I also love to walk the woods and mountains of Catalunya with my family and dogs, and of course I love to travel. I'm writing this on a flight between Johannesburg and London!
What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer? I really think being a little insane helps. Sane is boring isn't it? Show me an eccentric and I'll show you someone who has a grip on life, even if it doesn't look like it. Break the mould and be an individual! Wear purple and dance!
What was the greatest thing you learned at school? I was rubbish at school, I couldn't understand why I had to learn all this dumb stuff. Then someone explained to me that although certain things might not make sense while we were learning them, think of everything as press-ups for the brain. Simple, but it struck a cord and I didn't flunk out as bad as I might of!
Did you have a moment when you realised you were meant to be a writer? When I started to get good reviews from people that I didn't know. It's nice when your friends write nice stuff about your book...or my dear old mum, bless her...but when a total stranger writes that this was a simply awesome book it suddenly becomes a whole lot more real and the dream of what if? becomes let's do it!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors? Have fun. Give it a go. It doesn't matter if it's any good because whatever happens you will learn something about yourself. I would also suggest just writing. Start with one line. All cool books start with a cool line, start there and see where it goes. Throw the 'how to' books out of the window and just be you. Oh, and it's very important that you buy my books and read them...there are...errrr...secrets in them ;-)