After a nightmare of a weekend with no internet I can finally introduce you to Derek White...
Born Bradford Yorkshire 24.04.1936. At Worcester Royal Grammar School took 5 ‘O’ level and 4 ‘A’ levels at one sitting, the A’s being Chemistry, Maths, Physics, Biology without ever taking a book home. (I always managed to do all homework within the school day. At Leicester University (hard though this may be to believe) I tried to do the same, remembering every word taught etc. Unfortunately no one told me that 60% of the syllabus had to be studied by me alone. So I failed end of year exams and though offered the chance to continue I declined as I would always be the guy who took 4 years to qualify instead of 3
National Service, during which I qualified as Dance Teacher, was followed by teaching and then running my own school. Dancing used to be the traditional way of meeting the opposite sex but discos replaced dance halls and schools so I lost everything, then took up selling double glazing, working with my father-in-law as a general builder, ending as a conservatory surveyor until the three firms I worked for went out of business due to the recession. Now retired except for writing.
1974 I married Maureen (10 yrs my junior and one of my part time teachers) and
we have a daughter Melanie, my editor, and a son Matthew an IT expert par
excellence who works for KPMG. Melanie lives in Rochester NY, Matthew and his
wife in Snodland, Kent
And now the interview...
Do you write as yourself or under a pseudonym? Why?
I write as myself. I would only use a pseudonym if there was a reason.
What made you want to be a published author?
Originally I wanted to be published in paperback and had the usual story of rejection slips even though I had as connections the Editorial Director of Harper Collins and an introduction by Anne McCaffrey to her agent. I eventually fell for the con-artists PublishAmerica and signed a contract. Publicity was only what I chose to do and pay for, so very little. I originally wanted to get rich, apart from enjoying writing.
What genre do you write in and why?
I write halfway between Sci Fi and Fantasy as that is what comes naturally to me. When a child/teenager I read mostly technical sci fi (Asimov etc) until I found the works of Anne McCaffrey and have now read everything she has written.
If you could talk to your 12 year old self, what advice would you give?
I would advise my 12 yr old self to give up the idea of getting a Chemistry degree and researching plastics as I would never finish the degree course and would become a professional ballroom dancer
Have any other authors influenced your writing through theirs?
As two separate reviewers on Goodreads compared my work with Anne’s I have to accept that she has influenced me (She personally liked the first two books in paperback and they are probably amongst Todd’s possessions now) I also enjoyed the Blue Adept series (7 books) by Piers Anthony, which were also both sci fi and fantasy, but with a few exceptions his other work I don’t enjoy.
If you are a self-published author what made you take this route and what was your experience (good or bad)?
My daughter advised letting the PublishAmerica contract expire and then try the e– book route. She edits and publishes for me.
How would you rate your writing?
I don’t rate my writing – that is for others, but I will be very surprised if you find spelling, grammar or continuity errors, especially if Melanie (my daughter) has been involved.
How do you react to poor reviews of your book?
Poor reviews are rare. If someone doesn’t like the book why should they review it? I have enough good reviews that the odd bad one I ignore.
What influences your choice of book covers?
Covers I leave to Melanie. The two that were in paperback; the covers were done by the art department of publisher.
How do you balance your writing with your real world responsibilities?
As I am retired, balancing writing and work does not arise.
Do your characters drive the plots of your stories or do you plan out your plot?
I used to allocate a time for writing and I stuck to it. I had the outline of the story of what became the whole three books in my head before I typed the first word. It was a trilogy as my contacts advised that about 80,000 words was the ideal for a first novel. The story naturally breaks into three sections as you will agree when you read them.
Do you ever write what you dream? Give an example.
I am sorry to say that I do not remember my dreams.
Do you market yourself or pay a professional?
As covered above, it is done by my daughter. Currently the earnings from the books she mostly ploughs back into publicity. The balance I donate to her as pay.
What are your tips for editing?
Be very self critical. First read through should pick up all grammar or spelling mistakes (assuming your English is good enough – if it isn’t you shouldn’t be writing.) Next read through look for continuity errors and inconsistencies. Then when you’re satisfied give it to your editor and be prepared to listen. Personally I do the above chapter by chapter as I write.
What inspired you to write your current WIP or current published work?
Two readers who had finished the trilogy pointed out that my statement in Book III that Refuge and its unicorns were now safe was untrue. The story is now completed with Unicorn Witch IV (at present being edited by Melanie). I am also writing short stories for my blog which are serialized, usually in four parts. They feature characters from the Trilogy and often are in answer to readers’ questions.
Do you prefer to write stand-alone novels or a series? Why?
As I prefer long stories when reading, I obviously like writing a series.
If you could change one thing in the publishing process what would it be?
I would ‘uninvent’ the word processor and go back to the days when a publisher (I am quoting my friend at Harper Collins) would get for each reader twenty at the most manuscripts per week. Now when it’s so easy, everyone thinks they can write. Result- - - - they get two thousand per week to read.
What advice would you give to a new author?
Remember that if someone opens a bookstore and stocks every book currently published, they will need forty six feet of extra shelving next week, and the week after etc. So if you can’t get published it is not necessarily because your work is not good enough. The most important paragraph in your book is the first one. It absolutely must make the reader want to read on.
Share a favourite quote from your book.
previous answer. I did dozens of rewrites until I thought I had done this for
my first book. Here is the first sentence:-
The eighteen year old girl riding slowly down Midwitch main street would
have attracted the attention of every red-blooded male and the admiration or
envy of quite a few of her own gender even if she hadn’t been riding a white
Books any one?
I put together two things under the heading ‘what if they were both true?
First, wherever you go in the world there are legends of unicorns, dragons and others.
Second, wherever you go there are legends of Gods amongst men, particularly in the Norse regions and the Greek Islands.
I postulated that many thousands of years ago Earth was visited by a space-faring race and their visits account for one of the above. There really were unicorns etc and as they were hunted to extinction my race, The Godhe, established colonies of them on a distant world now known as Refuge so that they would not be lost. When a mutation of homo sapiens started showing telekinetic powers and they too were hunted as witches they too were taken to Refuge to save their lives.
This is still going on, accounting for the occasional disappearance and/or flying saucer sighting.
At the beginning of Unicorn Witch dozens, mostly teenagers have been waking up having lost their ‘magic’ powers. The job of investigating is given to Tyana Counter, unique in that she is the only witch on the planet to have a unicorn as a familiar. It turns out that a hormone is being stolen from the victims and sold as a drug by Godhe criminals. Tyana and Marcus (ex detective sergeant from Chicago) solve the problem. They contact the Godhe homeworld and the criminals are sent for rehab. In Unicorn Witches seven years later the criminal mastermind comes back, having avoided rehab, and his intention is to harvest all the theurgen on the world and kill its inhabitants. There is a battle between the advanced weaponry of the Godhe and the inherent magic of the Refuge witches. (No prizes for working out who wins.)
Book III (subtitled return to Earth) sees a party return to recruit a geneticist to cure a problem the Godhe males have. Also Marcus gets to deal with the mafia boss who put a price on his head and indirectly caused him to be taken to Refuge.
IV (with Editor) Our heros realize when they deal with a threat to the
stability of life on Refuge that it will be necessary for them to take control
of the Galactic Patrol and make it and the council of twelve Old Ones
incorruptible. Only then will Refuge and its unicorns be safe.
Twitter - - - @authorderek
Facebook- - - - www.facebook.com/unicornwitch
Goodreads – my author page. Here is a link to this week’s blog.