Sunday, April 11, 2010

[Interview_2] David Hough

Historical romance author, David Hough has been writing for more than 20 years.

His books include King’s Priory (BeWrite Books, 2007); The Gamekeeper (Lachesis Publishing, 2007) and The Gallows on Warlock Hill (Lachesis Publishing, 2008).

In an earlier interview, he talked about the factors that motivated him to start writing.

David Hough now talks, among other things, about his novel, Prestwick (BeWrite Books, 2009):

Are you still writing everyday?

Some days I will get 5,000 words onto my computer, other days it will be only five hundred, but at least I will have written something. That’s important.

I write every day.

The process starts shortly after I wake up. While enjoying my first cup of tea, I will focus my mind on the scene I expect to write that day. I don’t switch on my computer until I have a good idea of how that scene will pan out. Then I start writing and I keep on writing until I have completed all I planned before I started.

The next bit is easy.

I switch off the computer and walk away from it. I know from experience that if I try to write something I haven’t previously planned it will be rubbish.

How would you describe your latest book?

My latest book is called Prestwick.

It’s a high tension aviation thriller set in the skies off the west coast of Scotland in the 1980s. It was published in 2009 by BeWrite Books and you will find it on their web site. You will also find it on my own website.

It’s a bit different to my previous books in that the pace is so much faster. Pure thriller.

I chose the time and location because they were meaningful to me in my career as an air traffic controller.

The story concerns the crew of two aircraft that collide over the North Atlantic – just a glancing blow, enough to cripple them but leave them both just about flying. The weather is atrocious and the only airport open to them is Prestwick, but the pilots are refused landing permission.

Why? What do they do about it? You'll have to read the book to find out.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into the book?

I’m a bit wary of that word “difficult”. Can we look at the things I find most challenging?

My main concern is that my writing should be to a professional standard. I rather think that even if I was a famous author I would still have that concern about delivering a professional standard of work. The reading public are not fools, you know, they can recognise the difference between good and bad writing.

I deal with this concern by taking extracts from my work to a weekly writer’s workshop and reading it aloud to a critical audience. They know me well enough not to hold back in their criticism and I value that. I write down each and every point they make and then go away to consider them.

Invariably, there are ways to improve on my first efforts and so I rewrite sections again and again until they are as good as I can get them. I never, ever accept a first draft as anywhere near good enough.

Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?

A writer is a creative artist. He or she creates people and events that would never otherwise exist or occur. That, to me, is a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction. I can look back over a manuscript and say to myself, “But for me, none of this would be. The characters would not exist and the events would not have taken place. I have created something unique.”

It’s a great feeling.

What sets Prestwick apart from the other things you've written?

As I said before, the story runs at a faster pace than my other books.

Also, this is the only story I have written in which everything takes place in the space of one day. I had to write it that way in order to draw out every single moment of tension as the pilots struggle to keep their crippled aircraft in the air.

It is similar to the others in that I was writing about things I knew. I did some research, but not as much as for the historical novels because I lived through the period and environment of this book.

Do you know what your next novel will be on?

I am working on a sequel to The Gallows on Warlock Hill. I enjoyed writing the original but realised afterwards that I hadn’t said everything I wanted to say. There were other “themes” I wanted to explore. So I have taken the same locations and the same conceptual premise as the first book and wrapped it up in a new plot and new characters.

How would you describe the writing you are doing?

I write stories that have real meaning for me. Two of my novels are set around the history of Cornwall, my birthplace. They describe the place as it was more than 100 years ago simply because I wanted to research the era of my own Cornish ancestors. Other stories mix history with the present day because I am fascinated by the effect history has upon our present day lives.

I began by looking at the matter from a surface viewpoint – how the wider aspects of history have shaped our environment - and then I started to delve into the idea that our previous incarnations on earth might affect the sort of life we experience today. One of my favourite books, King’s Priory, was the first in which I really went to town on the idea that each of us has a soul with a past history which is relevant to our present life.

I write about places I know, or have known. My latest novel, Prestwick, is a fast paced aviation thriller set in locations on the west of Scotland where I have worked. My previous novel, The Gallows on Warlock Hill, describes the glorious Dorset countryside, near to where I now live. It also delves into the problems people faced in Northern Ireland during the “troubles”. I was the aerodrome controller on duty at Belfast Airport on the day troops were first airlifted into the province in 1969. I wanted to put my thoughts about that experience into the story.

I suppose the writer with a target audience nearest to my own is Barbara Erskine, but I try my best not to copy her style. I want to be recognised for my own way of writing. Why do I write for that audience? Simply because their reading preferences match my own. I enjoy reading that sort of book

How much influence has Barbara Eskine had on your writing?

This is where I may seem to be contradicting myself.

The two authors who have influenced me most are Nevil Shute and Daphne du Maurier. You will rightly tell me that they don’t write the “Barbara Erskine” sort of story. But they have both written novels in which time barriers have been broken. Remember du Maurier’s The House on the Strand and Shute’s In the Wet?

But that’s not the real reason they had a great influence on me. It was their writing style that captured my imagination. I have read all their books and enjoyed reading them time and again because their narrative “voices” spoke to me.

The writing just came off the pages for me. I try to capture that skill in my own writing.

Why is accurate research important?

I enjoy writing about history and I aim to put a lot of effort into researching the subject matter so that I get the history right, or as near right as I can manage.

Of course, I am likely to make mistakes, but at least I try to get it right. I get frustrated when I read stories by writers who have simply accepted popular but misguided myth as fact and embedded it into their novels.

A while back I was asked by an editor to scrutinise a manuscript sent in by a lady who had written a fanciful tale about Bonnie Prince Charlie, depicting him as a brave Scottish hero intent only on achieving Scottish independence. In reality he wasn’t Scottish (he was born in Rome, his father was born in England and his mother was Polish) and his sole aim was to capture the English throne.

There is so much information out there on the internet, there really is no excuse for any writer not getting the facts right.

In case you are wondering, I loved the time I spent living and working in Scotland and I feel that those writers who get the country’s history wrong do the people of Scotland a gross disservice.

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

To be recognised as a writer.

To date, I am standing on a low rung of a very long ladder, but I am on it and that gives me a sense of satisfaction. Of course I want to climb higher, but I am under no illusions about the difficulties that entails. For the present, let me enjoy holding in my hands a book I have written, let me enjoy counting myself amongst the world’s congregation of writers.

How do you intend to achieve this climb to the top?

I have been published mainly by small presses: BeWrite Books in the UK and Lachesis Publishing in Canada. They are both excellent organisations and I have nothing but warm feelings and praise for all involved in both companies. But, as a dispassionate writer, I still harbour that spark of hope that I might one day strike lucky and get my work recognised big time.

How do I deal with it?

I attend writers’ conferences and writers’ workshops with feelings of optimism that one day I will meet an agent or wealthy publisher who will look favourably upon my writing. My problem will then be in dealing with the inevitable feelings of guilt at leaving behind the good people who gave me a start in my writing career.

Possibly related books:

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Related articles:
  • David Hough [Interview], By Penelope Jensen, INside Authors, January 2008
  • David Hough [Interview_1], Conversations with Writers, October 5, 2007

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