Thursday, March 5, 2015
Author Spotlight - P.C.R. Monk on his award winning title Strange Metamorphosis
WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER AND WHY?
As a boy I was always fascinated by words and their musicality and, like many kids, I used to write poems. Coming from a modest background I was embarrassed about my secret emotions and would hide the poems under my mattress until one day my mother unearthed them. She thought I either had lots of girlfriends or a fertile imagination, either of which were quite worrying! My desire to write grew until one day I wrote a page of text which I imagined as part of a whole book. To think you can actually create a whole world with just words made me realise their countless possibilities! From that day on I wanted to be a writer.
AS A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU ASPIRE TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?
I wanted to be a footballer (or a soccer player) and then a songwriter. I suppose both sport and music offer the have-nots the most accessible way to success. But I gave them up when I really got into writing, and I have never since wanted to be anything other than a writer (of poems, plays, novels and even video games!).
HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR YOUR AWARD WINNING TITLE?
I started taking notes for Strange Metamorphosis a long time before I set to writing the book. I ended up living in a tumble-down country house in the south of France with a splendid park that belonged to my wife’s deceased grandmother, the Countess d’Armagnac de Castanet. Sounds posh but in fact the house, though very large, had holes in the roof and no heating. I lived there with my wife for two years and loved every minute of it. I had also developed a passion for bugs and my imagination was really fired when I read from the house library the works of a naturalist who wrote, not like a scientist, but like a poet, with gusto, humour and personality. His name was Jean Henri Fabre and he died in 1912. So I had the setting and the insect characters of my story. When my first son came along I decided to write the book for him. Then he was joined by his brother, and then another brother. So the book grew around those to whom it is dedicated.
TELL US SOMETHING RANDOM/INTERESTING/FUNNY ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WRITER:
I was writing the book when one sunny afternoon my eldest son, then only 5, came indoors proud as punch having found a shiny rhinoceros beetle perfectly intact but quite dead. He was mighty surprised at its lifeless state. So, to give it a new lease of life, we named it Rhino and it became one of the main insect characters of Strange Metamorphosis!
WHICH AUTHOR HAS MOST GREATLY INFLUENCED YOUR WRITING STYLE and WHAT BOOK HAS HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOUR LIFE?
When my mother understood I was interested in reading and writing she had the brilliant idea of buying me Marshall and Cavendish’s The Great Writers, a collection of English language classic works of fiction, which she diligently collected over two years. So I have been influenced by all those wonderful books from the Canterbury Tales to Huckleberry Fin. Then I moved to France and discovered French literature which I loved, and to some extent, Spanish literature when I lived in Spain. But my first favourite book as a young man was Dylan Thomas’s collection of short stories under the title of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. This is one of the books I had in my rucksack when I left England. My second son bears the author’s first name. In another vein The Alchemist by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho is simply beautiful, full of wisdom and fantasy.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ACCOMPLISHMENT?
I recently moved back to Cambridge, England and was surprised and overjoyed when two of my plays were selected to be staged script-in-hand. I hope to get them into full production someday. But my proudest literary accomplishment to date has to be Strange Metamorphosis because it is my first published novel.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF BECOMING PUBLISHED AND ANY TIPS YOU MIGHT OFFER FOR OTHER ASPIRING AUTHORS?
As an unknown author I chose not to take the long and traditional route and instead decided I would indie-publish my novel to see first if it had any chance of people liking it. Just because I was publishing it myself, though, did not mean I wanted to take an easy way round. No, in fact, I joined an online writers group which enabled the first 10,000 words to be critiqued anonymously by other writers. In return I critiqued other writers’ work, anonymously of course. This is a terrific exercise that both sharpens your literary skills and gives you great feedback about the beginning of your book. Then once I had completed the manuscript I decided to pull it apart and go through the structure rather like you would a screen play. This enabled me to get the pacing as I wanted. Once I’d finally got something I was happy with I paid for a professional evaluation. This led to another rewrite and a reduction of the text. I then submitted it to two more editors both of whom loved the manuscript and the characters and considered it ready for market. So I went ahead and self-published it.
As a tip, I’d say rewrite and rewrite until you know deep down that it sounds right. Another tip, if you come with a passage that turns out like a bag of knots, take your pen or pencil, plan the piece and then write it again manually. I always feel that drawing each curve of a letter gets you closer to the text than typing it out fully formed.
CAN YOU OFFER ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS ON HOW BEST TO PROMOTE THEIR BOOK?
I published my book really to test its likability and commercial potential. To do this I needed bona fide reviews. One way of priming the pump is by doing a Goodreads giveaway. I also contacted industry people like Kirkus and, of course, CLC. I know there are other ways of getting word out about your book such as doing a virtual book tour but, as I said earlier, my goal was to find out if other people would like my book. My next step now is to find an agent. Winning the Eloquent Quill award will certainly help towards this.
DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW BOOKS IN THE WORKS?
I have two books on the go, the sequel to Strange Metamorphosis and a historical fiction set during the age of sail. 2015 is going to be a really busy year because further to my novels I shall be working on the story of an Assassin’s Creed videogame.
The sequel of Strange Metamorphosis takes place a few years later, with Marcel as a First World War pilot.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS?
Just to say a big thanks to CLC as well as to those who have taken the time to leave comments on Amazon and Goodreads. You can’t imagine the boost it can give to a writer when someone has taken the trouble to write a review.Being approved by an independent body gives you confidence, and also validates your book in the eyes of the reader, especially if you are an indie author. What a surprise it was when I found out Strange Metamorphosis had won the Eloquent Quill! When the general email came through announcing the winners I looked to see the winners list and to my immense surprise I saw my book right up there and I just sat there gazing, joyfully speechless.LITERARY CLASSICS Book Awards & Reviews International Book Awards • Top Honors Youth Book Awards • Seal of Approval http://www.clcawards.org