So tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born in Paddington, London and have spent most of my life in South London , where I still live. After graduating with a BA in Modern Languages, I taught English (as a foreign language). Although I enjoyed teaching, it was hard to find the time to write by doing so. I embarked on several short term jobs to sustain myself and somehow found the drive and motivation needed to start and eventually complete my first story.
As a child, I had many hobbies and interests but my biggest passion was judo. From nine years of age through to my early twenties, I participated in this sport and was fortunate to have fought in major local and national competitions. I soon grew to love other martial arts, including kung-fu but unfortunately various injuries soon put an end to my training. I’ve tried to incorporate my passion for these sports in my book.
When did you decide that you were a writer?
I’m not too sure if I ever have to be honest! I’ve always been a reader and find myself thinking up alternative endings for stories I have read or films I have seen and then my imagination takes over and before I know it, I’ve created an entirely different story in my mind. I hold my parents responsible for this as I remember doing this often whilst they would be watching something ‘grown up’ on TV that really didn’t appeal to me as a young child! As for being a writer, I think I’d more consider myself as a storyteller and as I have always found that I express myself better on paper, this for me, is the most natural way to communicate my stories. It is something I really enjoy doing so would love to make a career and living out of it… so here I am trying to make it happen!
What’s your novel about and who is aimed at?
I wanted to write something for children which I hoped would not only entertain but also inspire and motivate them. One of my favourite books is ‘The Alchemist’ written by the fantastic Paulo Coelho. His book can be interpreted in so many ways but fundamentally it has such a strong and positive message to his readers. I wanted to write something that I hoped would hold a similar message without preaching to kids. The message I wanted to present is that regardless of background or beginnings, we are all capable of succeeding with our dreams whatever they might be and that through self-belief, perseverance and commitment it is possible to overcome inevitable challenges to achieve these dreams. The actual storyline has a fantasy/action theme to the age old issue of ‘good versus bad’.. It is basically about a group of children who have been especially selected to become warriors by unknown powers. They are based on the planet Ricon and have to undergo a series of challenges to successfully complete their training. Once they have done so, they then go back to Earth ‘undercover’ to protect certain children who have been targeted by the ‘baddies’.
What has been the most challenging aspect of writing a novel and getting it published?
Writing it was the easiest part! Getting published was very hard! I tried the mainstream route of sending it to agents but was unsuccessful and as most publishing houses will not look at manuscripts unless they come via an agent, it was a matter of continuing to try and find an agent who would be interested in my work. I think the toughest part of this process was having to work during the day in poorly paid temp jobs that really did not challenge me at all and as it took around four years to get published, there were plenty of times that I really did wonder if I was doing the right thing or not. I was seeing so many of my friends and my family progressing in their career paths, buying their first home etc but here I was still living with my parents and chasing a dream that might never surface. That said, I love writing and I haven’t experienced anything else that I have been so passionate about doing career wise and I was determined not to give up. My book was published thanks to a new scheme that a website youwriteon.com embarked upon and fortunately for me, children (and adults) really seem to have taken to the story. The feedback I have on Amazon.co.uk and from my website has been mind blowing and this is what continues to drive me.
As for the mainstream route, since getting my book published, I have had heard some very interesting comments from people in the industry that I was completely unaware of. At the London Book Fair, this year, I listened to a seminar regarding ethnic minorities in publishing. One of the guest speakers was Hardeep Singh Kohli (comedian/presenter and writer) and he pointed out that ethnic minorities are generally expected to write stories that somehow incorporate their culture/experiences and that it was very rare for someone from a minority background to have had mainstream fiction published. I was extremely surprised by this and at the end of the talk, I put my hand up and explained that what I have written has absolutely nothing to do with my cultural background but was more-so influenced by my experiences of life and in particular the sports I participated in as a child. The characters in my book, I have deliberately created from all races but I haven’t focused on this at all. It was just a natural thing for me to do as it is a reflection of whom I have as friends in my life.
I’m not entirely sure how true this maybe. However from my experiences, I know that when I go into schools and talk to the children, the response has been fantastic and especially from boys who generally are not as interested in reading as girls are but as soon as I mention the storyline and my previous interests in judo and kung-fu, they seem to come alive and are full of questions at the end of the talk. The colour of my skin nor my ethnicity has hindered my rapport with any of these kids, if anything, I think it has been more of a positive attribute. So if what I have heard is indeed the case, then my experiences lead me to believe that the industry is losing out by doing so especially in regards to the children’s market. On a personal level, if this is the case, then it just adds to the other challenges that I’ll somehow have to overcome as I would need to be taken on by a larger publishing house for the book to be more easily available.
The book tackles coming of age issues? Did you start off with the intention of writing this for and about young teens?
My main reason for writing this book was my little sister Tania who is twelve years younger than me. She was about twelve years old when I first put pen to paper and then when I picked it up again two years later, she was at a crucial point in her school life and I too found myself at a crossroad in my life. The issues that arise in the book, I think can be related to all ages but my target demographic when I was writing the story was the pre-teen market. I tried to address certain topics that I had encountered at her age and that she had also relayed to me.
What’s the response been to your book so far?
The usual remark I hear is ‘Have you written the second book?’ and at this point in time, I cannot think of any better response! I’m actually overwhelmed and feel very blessed for all of the feedback I have had as it has been extremely encouraging and made all the challenges and difficulties that I have encountered worthwhile.
Tell us what you’re working on at the moment. You hint at the end of the novel that there will be a sequel…if not sequels, so what are your plans for the future?
I am working on the second part of story, I have an idea in mind for a third as well but for the moment I am focusing on book two.
As the book was published via the scheme I mentioned before, it is only available on-line and all the promotion and marketing is solely up to me. As soon as I have completed book two, my next goal will be to get a publishing deal with a bigger publishing house so that it will be available in shops as well as on-line and whilst doing that, I’ll start visiting schools again to promote the first book.
Finally what advice would you give to aspiring novelists?
Be certain that this is what you want to do and that your reasons for doing so will stand strong though the hardships you are more than likely to encounter and once you are certain, believe in yourself and do not give up! Keep in mind that what you write will not appeal to all so do not be deterred by any negative comments but at the same time you need to be a realist. If you continue to receive the same feedback, then perhaps you might need to re-evaluate what you have written… persevere and don’t ever be defeated!