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An Interview with Dougie Brimson — Joannes Rhino - Bali Online Editor " />
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25 Jul

An old military veteran who stumbled into a second career as a story teller, meet Dougie Brimson…


JR: Tell us about yourself, and how would you describe yourself?
DB: The obvious phrase I’d use is “incredibly lucky”. But I guess that I’m better served by describing myself as a 58 year old military veteran who stumbled into a second career as a story teller.


JR: When did you first realise you want to be a writer? Who spotted that talent and what was the first thing you do knowing that?
DB: It didn’t happen quite like that for me. I never actually wanted to be a writer at all, it just kind of happened. The short version is that I’m one of those people who spotted a gap in the market, thought I had a chance of filling it with an idea I’d had for a book and managed to hit the right editor at the right time with the right project with the first pitch letter I sent out. Indeed, it was only some years later that I realised that it doesn’t happen like that for everyone.

As for talent, plenty would argue I don’t have any!


JR: Do you have any formal education in creative writing? Do you think formal education in writing is necessary?
DB: Other than basic English qualifications, I don’t have anything that equips me to write other than an active imagination. However, this underlines my theory that whilst you can teach the basics of writing in terms of structure, the ability to actually craft a story is something that can’t be taught. That’s more relevant in screenplays for obvious reasons, but it’s also true of novels.


JR: Are you a full-time author? Do you have other activities as main source of income? How do you organise your schedule and time in writing a book?
DB: Yes, I write full time but I also write screenplays as well as novels. As a result, I’m usually being driven by a deadline of some sort and so I tend to work flat out for short periods then ease up for a while. That said, I always work best under pressure anyway which is something I think I get from my days in the military. I once wrote the entire second half of a novel in ten days and it’s some of the best work I ever turned out. If I’m not writing, I’m generally messing about on social media or haunting the local coffee houses.


JR: What made you decide to start writing something? What or who influences you?
DB: Initially, it was purely down to the fact that I spotted a gap in the market for something and knew that I could fill it if I seized the opportunity. So I did. These days, and I know this sounds odd, but a project will usually bring from an idea for an ending. Indeed, I don’t think I’ve ever started a project, be it book or film, where I didn’t know exactly what the ending was going to be. I don’t know how unique this is, but no matter what the nature of the project, I’ll always write the ending first because once I have that fully formed, everything
becomes about getting my characters to that point.

In terms of influences, I only have one and that’s my readers. Ultimately, they are the people who feed my family and so I always treat them with the utmost respect. I’m extremely lucky to have a very loyal following and because I make a point of being easily contactable, they let me know exactly what they want from me. Respecting your readers is advice I’d give to authors because they are the most important people of all in the publishing process. Without them, the industry would die within days.


JR: What is the greatest lesson you have learned and/or greatest achievement you have reached as a writer?
DB: Trust three things; your gut, your editor and your bank balance. They’ll tell you everything you need to know and they’ll never let you down. In term of greatest achievement, earning a living by sitting at a computer all day ranks way up there.


JR: Do you have habits in writing? Any specific time and/or place to write?
DB: I always tell people that there is no way to write, only ways. As individuals, we have to find what works for us because if we can do that, getting into the zone is easier. Personally, even though I have an office, I primarily write at my dining room table in the mornings and will carry on until I start to get bored which can be anything from one hour to 24. In terms of habits, when I start out on a new project the first thing I do is to find a name, a face and a voice for all of my primary characters. Once I have those, then they start to become real people. The next thing I’ll do is put together a musical soundtrack of some kind and that will play on repeat via headphones (often very loud) every time I’m at my computer. Once I have that, I’m away.


JR: How long do you normally finish writing a book? What is the hardest part in the process?
DB: I write very fast and so can churn out a decent draft in around six to eight weeks but that’s writing for at least 4 hours, 5 or 6 days a week. I’ll then leave it alone for a week or so before going back in to edit and polish. I genuinely think that if pushed, I could turn out a novel in three weeks but that would be working flat out and I’d have to be fully wired in to everything in terms of plot and characters.


JR: Do you have professional editors to furnish your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?
DB: I generally leave the final editing to my publisher but before that, I have a couple of trusted mates who will read through everything and pick up any errors I’ve made. I’m very lucky in that I’ve had some amazing people work with my books because on occasions they’ve performed miracles.


JR: How do you think you have evolved creatively?
DB: That’s a massive question because even though I’ve sold in the region of 750,000 books worldwide, I still genuinely struggle to consider myself to be a ‘proper’ author. Although to be fair, I’ve never had any real recognition from the industry so that helps
reinforce that! However, as I’ve already mentioned, my driving force are my readers and if they’re happy, I must be doing something right!


JR: Do you ever face Writer’s Block? If you do, how did you overcome the situation?
DB: I don’t believe in writers block, I never have. I just think it’s an excuse to cover laziness or a refusal to accept that either something isn’t working or you’ve run out of ideas. That’s not to say that I haven’t struggled at times because I have. However, I’ve always put that down to a loss of confidence and nothing sorts that out like a ride on a motorbike or a day watching sport. It always works for me.


JR: Do you have professional designer to design the cover and/or interior of your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?
DB: Again, I tend to leave that to publishers although I always ensure that I have approval and thus far, I’ve never had a cover I wasn’t happy with.


JR: How do you involve in promoting your books? Any marketing technique you can share?
DB: I love the promotional side of publishing because it’s one of the few elements of the process that actually puts me in contact with real people! Personally, I will utilise all of the contacts I’ve accrued over the years to get myself onto the radio but since I’m quite outspoken on all kinds of subjects, where possible I’ll exploit events in the news to get myself onto TV or into the print media. Increasingly, social media is where my focus sits. Twitter in particular is great for selling books but it takes time to build a profile and get your name out there. So get
working on it ASAP!


JR: Give your thoughts about traditional publishing Vs. self-publishing?
DB: Having done both, I can say with some assurance that everything comes down to the nature of the project. Personally, I would always prefer to write for a traditional publisher because at the end of the day, nothing beats seeing a book on a shelf and here in the UK it’s hard to achieve that if you’re not coming from a decent house. However, writing both the kind of stuff I do and the variation in genre I write within, not everything appeals to mainstream publishers and so I’m happy to self-publish if I know that there’s an audience waiting for it. The other plusses of self-publishing are that it’s faster and you make more money.


JR: How many books have you written (published and non-published)?
DB: I’ve written 16 books in total and they’ve all been published. I know this sounds arrogant but I’d never write anything unless I knew it was going to earn a place on Amazon!


JR: What genre that you normally write, and what draws you to this genre? Do you always write in the same genre?
DB: The genre question is one which has always irritated me because if anything, I would place all of my work firmly in the lad-lit category. However, unlike chick-lit, that doesn’t exist as an actual recognised genre and so because I write fiction thriller, fiction comedy, non-fiction sport and non-fiction culture, I end up all over the place. However, to answer the second part of that question, these days I write what I want to write and what I think my readers will enjoy. Maybe that’s doing it the wrong way, but it works for me.


Billy's LogJR: Of all the books that you have written down, which book that you think the best one? And what do you think readers will find most appealing about this book? What’s the “real story” behind this book?
DB: My favourite book is my first comedy, Billy’s Log. It’s been described as the male version of Bridget Jones Diary which is quite an accolade but in truth, that’s where the motivation to write actually it came from. I was at the printing of an earlier book (I always try to watch first print runs roll off the presses) when one of the lads in the factory gave me a copy of BJD and told me to read it. I was both appalled and offended at the anti-male propaganda which underpins the whole thing but equally, it made me realise that there was an opportunity to write something which explored the issue of relationships from the male perspective. So I wrote it.

Ten years on, I’m currently writing the sequel primary because so many people have been pressuring me to tell them what happened to the central character! But that, I guess, proves that I kind of nailed the reality of life as a single guy trying to find someone to cuddle up to.


JR: Any other works in progress?
DB: Aside from the aforementioned sequel to Billy’s Log, I’m also working on a film adaptation of a sequel to another of my novels, Top Dog. Once I’ve nailed that script, I’ll sit down and write the novel based on that which will become the third book in a series of London based crime thrillers. If that makes sense!


JR: What advice would you want to give to an aspiring writer?
DB: First and foremost, if you can’t take criticism, don’t do it. In fact, don’t even think about doing it. Every author receives a pasting at some point, be it from an editor or a reviewer and it can be devastating if you’re not equipped to handle it. Second, fill pages. Whoever said ‘first drafts don’t have to be good, they just have to be written’ was a genius. Third, never write to get rich. If that’s your primary motivation, you’re almost certainly going to end up poor and hungry. Fourth, enjoy it! If you don’t, why will your readers?


JR: How can readers discover more about you and your works?
DB: My website is www.dougiebrimson.com and my primary blog can be found at
 Dougie Brimson