Friday, October 5, 2007

[Interview_1] David Hough

David Hough was born in Cornwall and grew up in the Georgian City of Bath. He now lives with his wife in Dorset, on the south coast of England.His novels include Scent of Spring (Robert Hale, 1989) and Ride Upon the Storm (Robert Hale, 1990) which he wrote under the name Tracy Davis and which are also available in large print from Ulverscroft publishers. In addition to these, Hough has published A Tangle of Roots (BeWrite Books, 2004); The Vanson Curse (BeWrite Books, 2006) and King’s Priory (BeWrite Books, 2007).

Three more books, The Gamekeeper; The Gallows on Warlock Hill and The Washington Incident are due to be released shortly.

In a recent interview, David Hough spoke about his writing.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

At age forty I had a heart attack and my future prospects in my day job (I was an air traffic controller) became limited. As soon as I was able, I went out to buy an electric typewriter and signed on for a correspondence course in creative writing.

That was twenty two years ago.

The majority of my stories are historical romance with grit. The Vanson Curse was the first of these. The grit is important, probably more than the romance. Although I began by writing light stories, I do not wish to be known as a fluffy romance writer. So I include romantic elements in my books, but I tarnish them with hard realities. I also enjoy writing two-period stories such as King’s Priory.

Who is your target audience?

Male and female readers who enjoy a rattling good yarn with a dose of hard grit.

I write the sort of story I enjoy reading. I love historical novels but I also enjoy well-written novels that have stories-within-stories. Think Nevil Shute and A Town Like Alice or Requiem For A Wren. Each novel had a second story embedded into the main story and narrated by a character in the main story.

I used that technique when writing King’s Priory. The main story is set in the twenty-first century and the embedded story is set during the Second World War.

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

Daphne du Maurier and Nevil Shute. Du Maurier because she wrote so amazingly well and Shute because he wrote the kind of book I enjoy reading.

How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?

Being on the wrong side of sixty, I have had the pleasure of meeting a lot of people, with countless different personalities. When I create a new character, I think about the people I have known and imagine how they would behave in the situations I have created. Sometimes that leads to my characters doing the right thing… and sometimes the wrong thing. But that’s life.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

I would like my readers to see my characters as real people. I go out of my way to make them human with human failings and frailties. I have never created a character who was anything near perfect because I have never met such a person in real life.

What would you say are the biggest challenges that you face?

Getting recognition. Like so many other writers, I have been rejected by virtually every major publisher and agent, but I have faith in my writing.

How do you deal with these challenges?

I decided to tackle the problem by working my way up from a small start. I approached a small press, BeWrite Books, who pulled me from the slush pile and published my first real gritty novel, A Tangle of Roots. I will always be grateful to them for that. They allocated me a marvelous editor called Carole Spencer who probably taught me more about writing than any other single person. With her guidance I went on to write the book that will probably always remain my favorite, King’s Priory.

When Carole left BeWrite she invited me to submit a manuscript to her new company in Canada, Lachesis Publishing. That story will be published in North America as The Gamekeeper. In the meantime I am slowly building up a stock of good reviews and recognition from the people who read my stories.

Do you write everyday?

I aim to write every day, unless circumstances prohibit. After waking, I usually lie for half an hour turning over in my mind my current project. I then get up, make a cup of tea, and sit at my computer, typing while my thoughts are fresh. This is often when my mind is at its best.

When I meet a natural pause, I have my breakfast and get dressed. I then think about the next piece of prose and go back to the computer only when I am ready to start typing. I never sit in front of my computer wondering what to write, I consider that wasted time. If I cannot find the right words, I switch off the PC and go for a walk or do something around the house. By the time I get back to the computer, the words will be ready and waiting inside my head.

A point will arise -- and I can never predict when it will occur -- when I instinctively know that I have exhausted my creative ability for that day. I then shut up the PC and leave it until the next morning. I will not force myself to continue writing because I know from experience that it will result in turgid prose which I will have to throw away the next morning.

What is your latest book about?

Lanyon’s Maid is a departure from my previous style. I think of it as Upstairs Downstairs meets Tipping the Velvet. It took around nine months to write. I have only just completed the manuscript and it is not yet with a publisher.

I would like to think about this one for a while before offering it for publication. Lanyon’s Maid is new to my style in that it has a challenging female aspect which I have never before tackled. I once had an agent who read only the first line or two before throwing a manuscript back at me with the words, “This scene opens in a female viewpoint. What makes you think you can write from a female viewpoint?”

My answer was that any writer who aims to take his job seriously must be able to write in any viewpoint pertinent to the story he or she wishes to tell. And that applies in both directions, male or female.

The agent wasn’t convinced but I persevered. And I set myself a major task with this story.

What advantages and/or disadvantages has this presented?

Lanyon’s Maid is set in Victorian times -- an age where female homosexuality was not supposed to exist. But it did.

My biggest challenge was research, discovering exactly how people thought and behaved at that time. I did not want to get too deep into the sort of biological detail described by Sarah Waters, but I wanted the emotions to feel right. The internet helped, as did my local library. The very fact of having to do so much research was not in itself a problem because all my books have needed considerable research.

Which aspects of the work that you put into Lanyon’s Maid did you find most difficult?

I constantly hear of writers complaining about the difficulties they face. I don’t think of anything connected with my stories as being difficult. Sometimes I need to think through aspects of the manuscript to make sure they work, but why should that be a difficulty?

I take pleasure in writing and the day it becomes difficult I’ll give up.

So, although Lanyon’s Maid was a challenging book to write, I don’t think of it as being difficult.

Which did you enjoy most?

I write for pleasure. Even if I started making big money, I would still write for pleasure. I see it as a creative art in which I bring into being people, scenes and actions that would never have seen the light of day, except that I created them.

While on that subject, I’d like to add a rider. That act of creation demands enormous responsibility. Other people are going to read what I write and be affected by it. My words could influence someone else’s life. I must ensure that I write them with sincerity.

What sets the book apart from the other things you have written?

Lanyon’s Maid has a lesbian element.

I didn’t set out to write such a book but as I planned through the plot it became increasingly obvious to me that this was how the story would have to develop. Even in those planning stages, the characters were beginning to take control.

So, I did my research and started writing the story the way it wanted to go.

I hope that my characters will appear both genuine and sympathetic to readers.

In what way is it similar?

Lanyon’s Maid is a Cornish historical story. It follows in the wake of my two previous Cornish stories (The Vanson Curse and The Gamekeeper) as well as the work of Winston Graham, Daphne du Maurier, Gloria Cook and E. V. Thompson.

What will your next book be about?

I want to write a sequel to Lanyon’s Maid, but to give it a different feel and different theme. I plan to take the story forward thirty years to the next generation. The locations (South Cornwall) will remain but the thrust of the story will be different and will center around a young village police constable. The working title will be Lanyon’s Law.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Publication of my book, King’s Priory.

I had been trying for some years to continually improve my writing and I think I reached the point of personal satisfaction with this book. It has been awarded five stars on the Amazon.com website by two reviewers which pleases me enormously. That is not to say I thought there was anything wrong with my previous books, but with this one I succeeded in saying something that is important to me. To tell what that is would be to spoil the story for the reader. So I won’t.

How did you get there?

Persistence. When I mix with other writers I hear many tales of woe about inability to complete a novel or rejection when it is completed. I can offer no shoulder to cry on, just a piece of advice: writing demands far more than just hard work. It demands a level of persistence necessary in few other jobs.

This article was first published on OhmyNews International.

Related article:

David Hough [Interview_2], Conversations with Writers, April 11, 2010

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