When and why did you begin writing?
I’m not sure, but I think I was about 16. I was the secretary of a sporting club – a cricket club – and there was a social event to end the season. I had to write a notice about the event and included some doggerel. Why? I guess because I could. I left school and started work and in my breaks would go up to the roof of the building and write songs. Lyric writing just happened. I was never taught although singing songs must have had some subliminal effect. From doggerel and lyrics, I progressed to radio scripts because I was asked to do so. I was 17 and writing a lot without ever thinking, ‘Oh, I’m a writer’. For me, it just happened.
Are you a full-time or part-time writer and how does that affect your writing?
I became a teacher but was writing a lot in my spare time. In 1984, after I had written and sold many plays, musicals and non-fiction books, I took the plunge and became a full-time writer. Now when I say full-time, that needs clarification. I’m also the publisher and marketing ‘guru’ of my work. So yes, I have more time to write but what I write has to be edited, printed, published and promoted. Hopefully, I continue to improve both as a writer and in all the other associated fields.
What have you written so far?
A lot. I have a large body of work. I’ve written many radio scripts including 24 episodes of The Invisible Radio Show. I’ve written more than 50 plays and musicals. My most popular musical is Germs which is set inside a human. My most popular play is Agatha Crispie, a spoof on the great writer and her characters. I’ve written about 100 mini plays and musicals plus 10 Christmas musicals. I’ve written several non-fiction books including How to Stage a Successful Show and How to Write and Sell Your Own Plays. With fiction, I’ve written a series of 5 books for young readers about the Schoolboy Sherlock Holmes. I’ve also written a trilogy of plays about Sherlock Holmes and have a novel about the great detective due soon. I’ve written two novels in the literary/historical genre – A Plum Job (a WW2 theatrical thriller) and Cassocked Savage (a novel about the Bronte family).
Do you work to an outline or plot sketch, or do you prefer to let a general idea guide your writing?
I have never worked without a detailed plot established beforehand. I have never been brave enough to start with, ‘It was a dark and stormy night …’ and go from there. I have detailed notes with what happens in sequence. Of course, the detailed notes get additions during the writing. An idea for a plot twist later in the play or novel gets added during the writing process. The notes include dialogue. The more detail I place in these notes, the easier it is to write. Not everything in the notes gets included and ‘killing your darlings’ often occurs. But after more than 50 years of writing, I’m sure I will never write a play or novel without first creating detailed notes re characters, plot, and dialogue.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Just write. The longer you aspire, the longer it will be before you switch from aspiring to practicing. And the longer you aspire, the less work you will produce and the longer it will take for you to learn the craft. I support the ancient advice of writing about what you know.
Pick your favorite hobby, something you are passionate about and write.
At first, the quality of your writing is not important. What is important is the fact that you are writing. Just do it.
Can you share with readers a little bit about your latest book?
I’ve been planning this novel for some time. The main character is Bernie Slim (who isn’t well named). Bernie’s an industrial chemist who accidentally invents a new drug which, when taken, causes people to behave in a way which is the exact opposite of their normal behavior. The novel concentrates on three unrelated people who happen to ingest this drug. Their ‘new behavior’ is dramatic. But when Big Pharma wants the formula of Bernie’s invention, life for Mister Slim becomes a tad scary.
What role does research play in your writing?
It’s everything. Because so many of my projects are historical, doing the research is vital. The most pleasing reviews I’ve had are when experts comment favorably on my research. My latest novel, Cassocked Savage, about the Bronte family, is largely set in Victorian England. Now a novel is not a biography but if you are using settings and characters (real people in this case), then you simply must get your facts right. Even if I am writing something with a contemporary setting, researching the subject is hugely important. And often the research prompts a new plot twist or event.
Tell us something unique about you.
I have never heard of anyone with my name. Cenarth is the name of a Welsh village but I know of no person called Cenarth.
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