Hi Trevor! Thank you for this interview today. We are excited to have you and to share your passion, learn a little about yourself and a whole lot about your novel and writing.
Let’s get started with a few questions to allow us to get to know the author behind the novel.
A LITTLE ABOUT YOU…
Coffee or Tea, or something else?
Coffee to wake me up and get me going and tea to help me relax.
I am a tea drinker (extraodinaire) and a lover of water.
City Fella or Country?
I would say a bit of both. City to have a social life, but I do appreciate the peace and quiet that the country can give.
What were you like at school?
At school, I was studious, but mischievous. My friends remember me for always cracking jokes and trying to have a good time.
Were you good at English?
Yes. I grew up speaking English at home and I did well in exams and also in writing essays. I liked to read a lot and I developed a good vocabulary and always tried to learn new words. My parents and grandmother always insisted that I speak correctly and not use slang or casual language.
I love hearing how parents and grandparents can shape a person! I only had one grandparent, as the others had passed away before I was born. The only thing my grandmother imparted to me was how to make a good pie crust. That may be helpful if one day I write about a baker.
Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?
I always knew I liked to write, but I developed my talent for writing only when I was in my twenties. I like to draw and also design things. I came up with the ideas for my book cover and people tell me that it looks great. People also tell me that I can cook very well, but that depends on what I cook.
A writer, an artist, a cook as well! That’s a lot of talent. And I would have to agree that your book cover does look great. It has to be extra special writing the story and creating the book cover too.
What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you?
Well, when I first began teaching at a four year university, my boss who was the chair of the department gave me the textbook. I prepared for class using that. I taught the whole class and only towards the end the students told me that they had no idea what I was talking about because they had bought a different text book which had some similar content, but not all of it. It turned out that my boss gave me the wrong textbook and the first chapter in my text book was different from theirs. I was embarrassed, but then my students and I thought that it was very amusing. Later, my boss gave me the correct textbook.
Haha! That’s hilarious (now). I suppose you were very glad to get the correct textbook.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I have many ideas and would like to use those ideas to write more novels. Everyone is aware that time is a major factor especially when one has to work for a living. When I was getting my degrees, I had to concentrate on my studies and writing my first novel, ‘Fateful Decisions’, took seventeen years to complete. I had to put aside writing my novel even when I was teaching. Now that I work for a company, I have more free time to write. So, I would like to put all the ideas that I have into writing novels. It remains to be seen if I become a famous author. Since I love history and writing novels, I would like to merge both to educate people on history in an interesting and fun manner.
17 years to finish your novel! That’s dedication and I would suspect a great encouragement to others who are working full time and writing on the side.
Which writers inspire you?
I grew up reading Agatha Christie, Sidney Sheldon, Jack Higgins, Franklin W. Dixon, Enid Blyton and others. Agatha Christie and Sidney Sheldon played an important part in inspiring me to write novels. I liked the way they weaved mystery and suspense to produce an interesting book. I draw my inspiration from them.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors.
I used to read a lot. Now that I am working full time and busy writing my books, I spend more time on research and also marketing my current novel. I try and read when I can. Favorite authors are Agatha Christie and Sidney Sheldon and I think I have read most of their books. I like Brad Thor and James Patterson, but wish I had the time to read more of their books.
Which famous person, living or dead, would you most like to meet and why?
Agatha Christie, since her books gave me a love for reading and writing. I used to read a lot before I discovered her books at the age of fourteen, but her books were the ones that really instilled in me to take up writing as a hobby and maybe make it a second career.
I love quotes! What is your favorite quote?
“Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.” Winston Churchill
That’s a fantastic Quote! I shall add it to my collection.
A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR WRITING HABITS…
Pen or type writer or computer?
Now it is the computer, but at one point in time it was the pen.
Do you write alone or in public?
Alone. I like to write in peace. The quieter the better.
I am a mixture. When I really want to focus, I go to our local Starbucks for the day. That way my family (children and animals) cannot interrupt me. Otherwise, I write at home.
Music or silence
Silence, as it helps me focus. Sometimes I have the television on, but when I need to concentrate, silence is absolutely necessary. Never music, as I get engrossed in it.
Why do you write?
I write because it helps me destress and relaxes me. It takes me away from the harsh realities of life and soothes me. Since I love history, it is a perfect way to help people to learn history from a novel, which most people like to read in their spare time.
Goals of certain # of words a week or when inspiration strikes
Usually it is when inspiration strikes. Unfortunately, due to the nature of my work, I cannot always jot down ideas, but I have to try and remember the ideas I had at work and then try and build up on them.
What tactics do you have when writing? (For example: outline or just write)
When I am trying to build up on the story and not sure about the details, I just try and write an outline. That is the skeleton of the novel and then gradually, I add and delete stuff. It is very crucial that I know what I want the ending to be and I write the ending after being sure about it. I then manipulate the various twists and plots within the novel to come to that ending.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
I would say the hardest thing about writing is trying to make everything fit in and come together. Also, you may have a great idea for a plot or scene, but finding the right words to fit into a conversation and also make it interesting to the reader is hard. To me as a writer, what I write may be interesting, but each reader is different. So, trying to make it interesting for all is a big challenge.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
The easiest thing about writing is that once you know what you want to write, words just flow easily. You have got to use that opportunity and write or you will lose that inspiration for that particular part of the novel you are writing.
Best writing advice you ever received?
I did not know any writers personally, so I never got any advice from anyone. The only time I got to know writers was through my publisher’s face book page. They only gave me advice on getting the novel ready for publishing. Before that, I had to research and learn from others. I would say, for me, the best writing advice I got from one of my fellow writers was this: “Give a brief description of the characters when they are introduced in the scene. It is very important that the readers have a mental image of the characters.”
How long did it take you to get your work published?
It took me nearly two years to get it published. I started in November 2015. I learned to write query letters, and I sent it out along with sample chapters to many literary agents and publishers. Since I was a new, unknown author, many agents were not interested in taking the project. Along the way, I revised my novel, reducing the word count and also subject matter. Some agents told me what they liked and did not like about my sample chapters and I really appreciated that. I listened and made the necessary changes. Finally, in April 2017, Black Rose Writing sent me an email and I saw that email while having breakfast, before going to work. I talked to the publishers and signed the contract. The rest, as they say, is history. It finally got published in October 2017.
If you were running the 100 yard dash with a new writer. What writing, publishing wisdom would you bestow upon him/her before you reached the 100 yards?
Always research the subject matter you are writing about thoroughly and make sure you have an interesting start. Also, make sure your novel is concise and easy to read.You do not want to bore the reader with too many details. Get to the point quickly. When seeking a publisher or a literary agent, many of them may not tell you the reason they will not pursue your project but will write a generic statement in an email rejecting it. Those that do tell you, please listen to their constructive criticism and do as they say. They may not take it up again after turning it down, but somebody else may. Therefore, it is important to take advice. Place your best foot forward when trying to get an agent, publisher or while marketing your book.
This is very good advice, and resembles the advice of William Faulkner who once said, ” In writing, you must kill your darlings.” Criticism is hard, but we must be open to it so we can grow as writers and create publishable work.
NOW, ONTO YOUR NOVEL
Where did the seed of inspiration for this novel come from?
I always loved World War-2 stories. I got the love for military history, stories and movies while watching World War-2 movies sitting on my late father’s lap as a child. I love old Hollywood movies and I watch a lot of them. I decided that I would write a novel on the history of the early twentieth century since World Wars I and II occurred and also include the Russian Revolution, the Great Depression, and Prohibition. It took me seventeen years to write this novel since I was getting my degrees, but all the while I kept collecting material, which I felt would give me ideas. Some ideas came from watching historical documentaries and also historical dramas like ‘Downton Abbey’ and ‘The Godfather’. Therefore, it was just not one idea, but a collection of various ideas that inspired me to write this novel.
How much research did you do for this novel, and how did you find reliable sources?
Plenty of research. Since it is based on history, facts have to be accurate. The characters can all be your own making, but when history is involved, the author has to stay true to the facts. I used books, internet sources (google is your friend, if you know what I mean), documentaries and also magazines. I went with internet sources that were from government websites, historical societies or from valid historians. In one case, while getting the novel edited, I had to contact this university in Paris to get the year it closed down during WW-II. The year on the internet was wrong and then the article was not available on the internet. Therefore, the author has to be very proactive when writing a historical fiction novel. For other types of genres, I guess it depends on what you are trying to write about.
I love research! I have to be careful not to get so lost in researching that I forget to put my story to the page.
What was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story?
My novel is set in the early part of the twentieth century between 1915 to 1946. There is a flashback to 1912. I would say that time period enhanced my novel very much since that time period was a very turbulent time for the twentieth century around the world with two world wars and the Great Depression. There were so many stories and experiences from which I could get inspiration and that helped me produce my novel. I loved researching that time period and learned a lot about history that was not taught in history class.
What specific themes did you emphasize throughout the novel?
My novel, ‘Fateful Decisions’, is about how a decision by the protagonist Rachel Williams to marry one of the two men that proposed to her brings about a series of events that lasts for thirty years. It also shows how different characters get involved with events of the early twentieth century and how their decisions to love, forgive, betray and reconcile have an impact on them.
In our lives, we make several decisions if not for ourselves but also for others and all those decisions have consequences, which we have to deal with. That is the main theme I wanted to emphasize.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special?
Rachel Williams is the main character of the novel. From a shy naïve girl from Vermont, she becomes the owner of a group of hotels. Her decision to marry one of the two men that proposed to her brings about a series of events that involved her, her family, and strangers through major historical events of the early twentieth century. Later in the novel, she has to come to a conclusion if the decision she made was the right one and whether the consequences were good or bad.
Is there any moral or a lesson you are hoping your readers discover through your novel?
The novel is filled with morals. It helps the reader to learn not to make light of their decisions and to think carefully about the consequences. Also, it has a lesson about how good things come back later to help you or your family and that forgiving others, especially when they ask forgiveness, is what will bring peace.
What is your favorite part of your novel?
My favorite part of the novel is when Rachel learns the truth about her parents’ sacrifice and how their sacrifice helped her and her son for many years in the future. I am afraid that is all I can say since I do not wish to give out too many details.
Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
Yes, my second novel is a murder mystery set in England in the late 1920s during a heat wave. I will be introducing a new detective in the novel. The detective has to use history and also memories of older people to help solve a series of murders currently taking place in his hometown while he is on vacation.
What advice would you like to give writers who are struggling with their first novels?
Your first novel is like learning how to walk. You will make mistakes and get frustrated. But just like walking, you have to take baby steps to start with. In the same way, you have to be persistent and keep at it. The mistakes you make will be a learning experience, and when you write your second novel, you will learn to avoid those same mistakes.
Is there something you would like to share with HFA readers about yourself, your novel or writing, in general?
To write a novel, you have to read a lot of books, articles and magazines; talk to people that are knowledgeable on the subject you are writing; research and also watch movies and documentaries. The ideas you get will help you come up with a concept and you can expand on that concept to include various scenarios. We live in an age of instant gratification, so your first few pages should be interesting and catchy. That will help grab the attention of a literary agent, publisher, and eventually your readers. So, that is the key to getting people interested in your novel. It is very exhausting, but when you write a novel, you have to be open to criticism and new ideas. You may have to go back to the drawing board and change your novel and also write the novel all over again, but that is what the learning experience is about. It took me seventeen years to write my novel, but I kept collecting information I thought would be helpful. I learned a lot about grammar, history, and the publishing industry. To me it is well worth the effort.
Thank you so much for your time, thoughts and insights. We wish all the best with Fateful Decisions and hope to feature you again when you next novel is published.
Until Next time…. Keep Reading and Writing!