Saturday, March 24, 2012

Author Interview: Simon Royle

"...writing is not a business. Publishing is a business. Writing is a compulsion."

The short biography on Simon’s website says he was born in England, but now lives in the suburbs of Bangkok. It mentions jobs as a yachtsman, advertising executive, and in senior management at a software company. To me, this paints a picture of someone who is a risk taker – a person who is unafraid of trying something new. It also paints a picture of someone who succeeds at what they set out to do. Last, it prompts several questions.

What causes a person to move from England to Bangkok?

There were a few countries in between. I grew up in Cape Town, New Jersey (for a couple of years), back to England, and then we moved to Hong Kong when I was sixteen. I lived in Hong Kong for ten years before moving to Thailand. I had been coming to Thailand on both business and holiday trips and when the urge to move came, it was the logical choice.

Switching industries from advertising to software seems like a strange career path. How did that happen?

I was a bit of a pioneer in advertising in that I brought desk top publishing to the ad world in Hong Kong, investing in the Apple CX line of computers when it first came out around 1986. Rapid turnaround of creative led to gaining clients fast. Through that, I got more and more involved with the computing side of things until one day I found I was much more interested in software than advertising. For the little guy there’s also more opportunity in computers than advertising – the only exit strategy in advertising is to be bought out by one of the big guys; and then you have to work for them for five years. If someone ever created a “business insincerity poll,” I’m pretty sure advertising would rank real high. Of course, finance and banking would probably rate highest.

What influences, positive and negative, do you think your past work experiences have brought to your writing career?

On the positive side, I’ve always been an entrepreneur, so indie publishing was a natural fit. Also through the advertising gig, I have a pretty good eye for design which helps with book covers. No negatives that I can think of other than knowing that writing is not a business. Publishing is a business. Writing is a compulsion.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

That’s a tough question because I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to “be” anything. I just am. I hope that doesn’t sound too out there, but it really is my approach to life. Want to do it? Then do it.

Your first book, Tag, is a “futuristic techno-thriller” set almost one hundred years in the future. Tell us about this book and what inspired it.

I read an article about nightclub patrons being embedded with a chip. At the same time, I was also doing quite a bit of work on long-term technology strategies for clients. The two combined into an idea of what the world might look like a hundred years from now and the implications for humans.

Then I just started writing. I’m not a plotter, so I had no idea where the story would go, but soon I was lost in the world that I had created. I never really understood what people meant when they talked about a “muse.” I understand really well now – it’s that point when you’re writing where the story has come alive and you’re simply the medium through which it is passing.

I did have some general ideas that I wanted to use. I didn’t want the typical ex-CIA “super hero” type of protagonist. I wanted someone “normal” with the usual human failings and weaknesses. I wanted to put that person in incredibly difficult circumstances. I wanted the erosion of personal privacy to be seen as something that was natural (much like what is happening today); a little bit at a time, until the populace through fear of the unknown, accepts a “known,” which is in fact the greater threat.

Another idea is that countries are merely a modern extended form of feudalism; entirely unsuited to the world we live in. I listen, with despair, to so-called “agents of change” talk about making their countries #1, again. Old-fashioned thinking that breeds jingoism and a false sense of security. I firmly believe that for humans to survive the challenges that are ahead of us we must unite as one. I doubt it will happen in my lifetime but I can hope.

Your second and most recent book is Bangkok Burn. This is a noir thriller, set in contemporary times. Tell us about it.

I’ve lived in Bangkok for over twenty years, and the events of 2010, where the center of Bangkok became a war zone, was too fertile a backdrop for me, as a writer, to ignore.

I’ve always loved Raymond Chandler, and later, W. R. Burnett, whose novels were turned into noir movies directed by John Huston. I wanted to create something like that but contemporary. Gritty, and realistic with betrayal, human frailty and faults, set within a framework of Thai culture, against the backdrop of the riots.

What challenges does an author have setting a book in Bangkok or other city that is unfamiliar to most of his potential readers that someone setting a book in London or New York doesn’t have?

The main issue is with translation. I speak Thai so for me it’s easy to say Thai names and forget that most readers will not know what a “soi” is. Adding that layer of understanding without sounding like a travel guide or a phrase book is a challenge.
What do you think the biggest challenges for Indie authors are?

Visibility and building a “platform.” Apart from that, my biggest challenge is finding the time to write while also maintaining the constant marketing drip.

Tell us about the route to publication for your books, and why you chose the route you did.

When I was writing Tag, I got about 75,000 words in and realized I needed professional help. So I hired a Developmental Editor, Alan Rinzler, (who is great and highly recommended). When we had finished the first draft of Tag we shopped it around to a few agents. This was back in mid 2010, and while there was interest, the amount of time that would have passed between getting an agent and then published was just too long. Alan recommended I self-publish and so I took a good hard look at the options. It was the right move. Traditional Publishing will morph into something else; marketers, book packagers, foreign rights specialists, you name it – it’s a great time to be an author; and many changes are on the way. This is very much the start of something big.

What books do you have planned for the future?

I’ve got a scrapbook folder filled with ideas for stories that I’d love to write. I’ve got a sequel to Tag that is in process, another “Bangkok” novel, and a historical fiction piece that I’d love to get going on. Also a Western at some point…

Along with your day job and your own writing career, you’re the proprietor of The IndieView. Tell us about the site and what your goals are for it.

I see The IndieView as part of the indie ecosystem. A place for Reviewers, (and I’m not sucking up to you, BigAl, but reviewers really are the unsung heroes of our revolution) to strut their stuff. As well as for indie authors, new and old, to get noticed, and for readers of indie books to find good reads. It sounds corny but I’ve had so much help and kindness shown to me by “old hands,” that the site helps me to give something back.

What do you like to do in your leisure time?

LOL – what leisure time? Seriously I don’t have any and I like it that way. I do make time for family and friends but I sleep real well every day. A typical day starts at 5:30am and finishes at midnight or 1am.

Who are your favorite authors.

I don’t have any favorites exactly. I’ve read so many great books that to name just a few authors seems wrong. Also, I know my tastes have changed massively over time. For me every book must stand alone and just because you wrote a good one last time doesn’t mean you’ve earned the right to my time.
I assume if you’re helping prompt your fellow Indie authors with The IndieView, that you’re reading some of their books Can you tell us what your two or three favorites have been?

Vicki Tyley’s Australian mysteries got me back into liking mystery and suspense novels, she’s definitely a favorite. I’ve read all of her books and will buy any she writes. J.D. Rhoades’s Storm Surge was a great fast read and intense. The Kult, by Shaun Jeffrey surprised me because I thought it was one thing and it turned out to be another. Key Lime Blues, by Mike Jastrzebski, is another that comes to mind. One of the big regrets I have about writing is the amount of time I have lost for reading; there are so many fantastic books being written and published every day that I really do miss that reading time.

Tell us one thing about yourself that you think would come as a surprise for most people to hear.

I’ve been pirated by real pirates, at sea.

Authors interested in participating in our weekly interview series can find the details here  

For More Simon:

For more, visit Simon' website and blog. Also visit The Indie View for Simon's interviews with authors and reviewers along with links to the latest reviews of books by indie authors.


Tag                   Review  Amazon US  UK  
Bangkok Burn                 Amazon US  UK

Also mentioned:

Books by Vicki Tyley:
Thin Blood                                     Amazon US  UK B&N  Smashwords
Sleight Malice                                 Amazon US  UK B&N  Smashwords
Fatal Liason                        Review  Amazon US  UK B&N  Smashwords
Brittle Shadows                   Review  Amazon US  UK B&N  Smashwords

Storm Surge by J.D. Rhoades              
                                                     Amazon US  UK B&N  Smashwords
The Kult by Shaun Jeffrey      
                                 Review  Amazon US  UK B&N Smashwords Paper
Key Lime Blues by Mike Jastrzebski   Amazon US  UK                   Paper


Barbara Silkstone said...

Thank you for Simon's interview. I've been a fan of his books but also had the feeling there was a decent and interesting fellow behind them. Now I have a complete picture. What a nice guy.

Lyn Horner said...

Fascinating interview, gentlemen! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your varied work experiences, Simon. I was pleasantly surprised to learn you plan to write a western, since I write western romances with an emphasis on action and a dash of Irish magic. Tag sounds intriguing. It's now on my TBR list.

Beth said...

"I’ve been pirated by real pirates, at sea."

Great teaser. Now I HAVE to know more.

Simon Royle said...

Barbara, thanks :)

Lyn, that sounds like an intriguing mix. I have always liked Westerns, from the Mountain Men to the turn of the previous century; with the Civil War in the middle - it was a fascinating time. Just have a bit of work on the TBW queue first :)

Beth, I plan to include that particular episode in a story sometime. Short version is in 1990 I was sailing a yacht off the coast of Vietnam (but in international waters) when we were fired on and chased down by two fishing boats filled with pirates. I spent a night in their company anchored just of Con Son island (made infamous by the Tiger cages used by the US and South Vietnamese army in the Vietnam war); later they transported me and my yacht to Vung Tau where I was charged by the People's Committee with spying. All of this was part of an elaborate system of piracy and then ransom. I finally got out about two weeks later after paying a ransom of US$500 per head for me and my crew. I don't harbor any ill feelings to the Vietnamese people because of the event, but if I met the pirates again I'd happily toss them in a pit with a few hungry crocs.

BigAl, thank you for the opportunity for the interview.

Linda McK said...

I will say it again, Al I am loving your interviews! It is great to learn a little about the authors and makes reading their books more enjoyable, and a little more personable. It also helps move books up in our queues.

I have TAG in my TBR list and look forward to reading it. Thank you Simon, for sharing with all of us! Your life sounds intriguing and the fact that you live in Bangkok made me giggle a little, it’s an inside joke and probably shouldn’t have mentioned it. My bad. :)

Joansz said...

Very interesting interview and I'm glad Beth saved me from having to ask about being pirated at sea.

Given your history, I'm shocked you chose Bangkok over New Jersey--home of Snookie. What were you thinking? ;-)

On a serious note, I'll be joining The IndieView ASAP.

BooksAndPals said...

Thanks for all the comments, especially Beth for asking about the pirates. I was going to, but thought I'd let one of you since I'd buried Simon in questions already. :)

Vicki said...

Insightful interview, guys.

I’ve got a sequel to Tag that is in process, another “Bangkok” novel, and a historical fiction piece that I’d love to get going on. Also a Western at some point…

That blows me away. I wish I knew your secret.

Simon, I'm honoured to be one of your favourite indie authors. Thank you.

Simon Royle said...

Linda, it makes me have a little giggle on occasion as well :)

Joansz, one thing I didn't mention is that I don't like the cold - if you can't grow a palm tree - I'm not interested in living there - Snookie or no Snookie. Look forward to seeing you over at The IndieView.

Vicki - no secret, sayin's a lot easier than doin' :)

BigAl, thanks again.