Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Daniel Kemp whose latest novel, The Secret, was published earlier this month.
Hi, Daniel, thank you for agreeing to this interview, tell us a little about yourself and your background?
What were you like at school?
Distracted! Mainly by sport, but also by girls. I was caned more often than praised and this showed in my exam results. I took nine ‘O’ levels and succeeded in only five. I could have gone on to college, with a view to gaining entry to a good university, but other things got in the way.
Were you good at English?
No! I hated every comma, full stop and apostrophe with a vengeance bordering on savagery. When it came to English Literature I would cringe at my desk hoping to be swallowed up under its lid on the mention of Shakespeare, or other long perished writers who wrote using – thou’s, wherefore’s and long forgotten idioms. Poetry was for ‘girls’ and rugby and cricket came before any book reading.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To be read, enjoyed and to be perfectly honest; spoken of..
Which writers inspire you?
When I was in my mid-thirties I was a voracious reader. Through choice, I had no TV and would read at least one book a week. I read everything I could get my hands on from Russian authors to American, not forgetting my own country and our immediate neighbours. (as your readers are now aware I’m English and use the letter ‘u’) But it would be unfair of me to name a single writer as my inspiration as I truly don’t believe there is one.
So, what have you written?
Three full novels, each over 100,000 words: The Desolate Garden. Percy Crow (the sequel to that first book of mine and – The Secret, my latest.
A collection of three short stories; entitled Reasons.
Two novellas: ‘Why?’ and ‘A Shudder From Heaven’.
A children’s series of three books in the Teddy And Tilly’s Travel Stories.
Where can we buy or see them?
All are available online through Amazon and other outlets, as well as some being stocked by Waterstones and other real bookshops.
What are you working on at the minute?
A novella titled (I think)”The Balcony.” Somewhat like- ‘An Inspector Calls’. I have lofty ambitions for it, aiming at “The Lady With The Dog” by Anton Chekhov. If it becomes a tenth as good as that short story I’ll be very happy indeed.
What’s it about?
The uncaring, selfishness of a human soul!
What genre are your books?
Mystery and thrillers with a bit of love thrown into the mix.
What draws you to this genre?
When my father left the army, after the second world war, he was employed in The War Department. As a young child, I attended many functions in Whitehall, meeting people from government departments who were in several ways involved in intelligence work. On my father’s death, when I was sixteen-years-old, I joined the Police as a cadet. As time went by I too became connected to intelligence work.
How much research do you do?
An immense amount for the full blown novels. Everything must seamlessly fit the time period covered. For the other stories, I rely on my own knowledge.
When did you decide to become a writer?
Following a very bad traffic accident I was innocently caught up in. The year it happened was 2006 and I eventually returned to paid work in 2010. It was during those four years that I wrote a story that found a literary agent but unfortunately never found a publisher. That agent advised me to write another, which I did; The Desolate Garden being the result.
Why do you write?
Simply because I love it!
What made you decide to sit down and start something?
Having nothing else to do.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
Due to ill health, I can no longer work, so, as I’m retired, time allows me to do both. I can pick and choose as the mood suits me.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
When I do decide to write I like to knuckle down for two-hour stretches at a time with fifteen-minute breaks in-between. I will do that for five days. For the other two, I concentrate on the research that I need. I have a ‘shed’. On one side of which is my desk.
There is electricity in there with a heater for the winter. It is a great place to escape to in order to write. I normally do a ‘story-board’ after roughing out the story outline. The board is my bible in a sense. On it are all the dates of birth, relationships, dates of important events etc. Without that data being easily accessible mistakes are inevitable.
Where do your ideas come from?
Mainly from my life as a police officer, a London taxi driver, a mini-cab business owner, and a pub landlord. I was the tenant of three English pubs in one of which I was arrested for attempted murder after a disagreement I had with a bunch of customers.
Do you work to an outline or plot, or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I find an outline a great help, but it doesn’t have to be rigid in every detail. For example, I have never had an ending for a story.
I find that as the story develops various endings are possible and I think, and hope, that if I have no idea how it will end then how will a reader guess!
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Being ignored by everyone close to me. There is no one I know who is the least bit interested in reading a book let alone one of mine!
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Part of it is based on fact. I had to disguise the actual events because of commitments I’d given.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
Good question, Lawrence! I’ve never given that a thought before. In its purest form writing is escapism and who doesn’t need somewhere to escape into?
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
From start to finish for all three novels about seven months. It is not only the writing that takes time, it’s all the other things. Rereads, proofreading and editing, cover selection and then, of course, there’s the publishing.
Do you ever get writer’s Block?
Do you proofread/edit all your books or do you get someone to do that for you?
I did at first and that was a mistake. Nowadays I employ a professional.
Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
No! I prefer to do it three ways. Every evening I go through what I’ve accomplished that day, editing and checking. I like to use a PDF file to retrace events and to correct any misspelling of characters names. Then I like at least three read-throughs when the whole work is finished, so that apart from commas, apostrophes and the like all’s ready for the proofing. Once it’s back I go through all again. Often I’m tempted to add bits!
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
A very important role.
How are you publishing this book and why?
I published the Kindle and a publishing house is doing the paperback. I would prefer to do it all myself, and in that way control all the pricing, but I found it too time-consuming and complicated.
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
There is no panacea is there? Both are good, as long as all the rights to the publication remain in the writers’ hands.
How do you market your books?
Badly! I only wish I knew how to effectively do that.
What do you do to get book reviews?
Hope I get some, Lawrence.
How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
Not very. Initially, because of the filming contract The Desolate Garden had, they came thick and fast, but that slowed dramatically for Percy Crow. I have yet to find out if The Secret receives reviews as at this time it only has one.
Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers?
Apart from crossing my fingers and praying, then no.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
I’ve never had a ‘fair’ bad review. The only bad one I’ve had said….. “I knew the ending after the first chapter. I never wasted my time in finishing this book!” That was slightly gibberish to me.
Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?
I was engaged by Waterstones, the largest booksellers in the UK, to do twenty-two book signings for them. At one stage I was with Lee Childs and some other best-selling authors on a crime writers tour around the middle of England.
On one of those, at Nottingham, Waterstones put me on a lovely table surrounded by vases of flowers and my books spread out before me. After about thirty minutes of being there, I had signed a few copies and some had been reserved by phone when a well-dressed lady in her fifties approached my table.
“Good morning, Madam,” I said adding, ‘and how are you today?” I never had a chance to draw breath.
“Do not speak to me. Just sign the book.I’m not here for a discussion!’ She shouted, as all the staff and other customers looked in my direction. She was, apparently, well known in the store.
What’s your views on social media for marketing?
Mixed. If it wasn’t for Facebook then I would never have that first review of The Desolate Garden from a Scottish school headmistress who likened it to The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan. I had never read that book, but I had seen Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation many times. It was one of my favourite films.
From that review came the film producers interest and subsequent invitation to lunch in the West-End where he presented me with a £1000.00 cheque, along with a twelve-month contract to render my story into a $30 million film!
That contract was renewed every year until this one (four in total) when distribution became a hurdle his company could not bridge. Sadly my dream of seeing – Based on the novel written by Daniel Kemp – on the big screen will now not happen. But it was a splendid journey whilst it lasted.
Did you get interviewed by local press/radio for your book launch?
Not for the launch, no, but I was on prime-time television when the film contract was signed.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
I do not believe that it does. The first two tales in the Teddy And Tilly Travel Series took me two Sunday’s to write and I easily uploaded them as Kindles then gave them away free. They both reached the top five children stories on Amazon com and Amazon UK, receiving good reviews as well. When I similarly published the third and final instalment I put a charge of 99p on it. I think I sold one!
There are too many free downloads. So-much-so, they have a dedicated following who will never pay for someone’s hard work.
How do you relax?
If I’m able then I go to art exhibitions both locally and at the National Gallery.
What is your favourite motivational phrase?
Although it has only two words, you wouldn’t print it, Lawrence!
What is your favourite positive saying?
“If you aren’t in the game you can’t win it.”
What is your favourite book and why?
It changes as I grow older. Right now it would be – Three Men In A Boat. Why? I fancy a boating holiday in good, hilarious company discussing nothing of a serious nature.
What is your favourite quote?
“I’m following a dream, and as far as I know, there are no rules in a dream.”
What advice would you give to your younger self?
“By all means play rugby, but leave the girls alone until you’re much, much older!”
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Sir Winston Churchill. To gain an insight into his great oratory skills.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
Any book read by a well-placed celebrity like the President of America reading Tom Clancy’s The Hunt For Red October.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Do what your heart tells you to do.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
All the links to my online presence are shown below.
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
It was a pleasure. Thank you for your kind invitation to take part, Lawrence.