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08 Oct

 

Starting career in the dark days of 2009 into 2 published novels, 5 collections, a book of poetry and a book of essays, meet Terence Park…

JR: Tell us about yourself, and how would you describe yourself?

TP: I’m six foot tall, just over 60 – a young 80 or 90 as my wife points out – three of my children are full grown, the fourth, and youngest, is in the last year of university. My background is business. I grew up, in a one-parent family, one of six brothers, on the backstreets of Burnley, Lancs, UK. My mother had an Estonian-German background; she fled the Soviets after WW2. We lost contact with the Estonian side of my family – they fled to Canada.

 

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?

TP: It was quite by accident I found out I fancied being a writer. In the dark days of 2009 when there was little work and less money, I decided to record my vinyl collection onto PC. Recording was in real time so I plenty on my hands. Sitting on my shelves was an unopened copy of Novel Writer Standard. With vague ideas of writing in mind I decided to see what it did. The uppermost question was: how many words do you need for a chapter? Know the answer to that and I knew how much to write. 8,000 words in I had an action packed, mutant-zombie gore-fest. I was hooked. Writing group feedback suggests that dialog and creativity are my strong areas.

 

JR: Do you have any formal education in creative writing? Do you think formal education in writing is necessary?

TP: After a brush with creative writing courses, I steer clear. Having read 2,000+ genre books, I have clear ideas of what would be fun to tackle. I studied the changes my editor made to my first novel: A Guide to First Contact. It gave me a good idea of what works. As self-study I took on Aristotle’s Poetics and Plato’s views on the arts. Here’s my notes: https://tparchie.wordpress.com/2015/06/07/writing-theory/. I go to lots of writing groups; from observation, the formal process of acquiring writing skills does seem to interfere with creative spontaneity. My background is non-literary.

 

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?

TP: My main source of income is as an accountant and this consists of preparing business plans, financial models and risk models. When I’m in writing mode I set a daily word count target and monitor it. Novel writing software can provide useful stats but I prefer keeping a record in Excel. I regularly review chapters in progress through Word. My targets are modest and achievable (unlike say Michael Moorcock – 15,000 words per day!!) Keeping a schedule free is tricky while holding down a taxi-of-dad role, but I fit things in somehow. I write in bursts of 200+ words and three sessions in a day are good. Once a scene is done, I may pause while considering the next.

 

JR: What made you decide to start writing something? What or who influences you?

TP: A significant factor in starting to write was realising how frustrated I’d become in where the genre was at; I wasn’t seeing the kind of thing I wanted to read; I decided I was going to have a bash at writing it. I’m influenced by 60s and 70s Marvels and DCs, Golden Age SF in general and big ideas such as Herbert’s Dune. Larry Niven’s Ringworld, Philip K Dick, Robert Heinlein, and yes, the tenets of New Wave Science Fiction. In the mid-80s I took an interest in the works of Idries Shah, who was instrumental in introducing Sufi works to the West. Other influences include self-study of Plato’s work’s; I have a fine collection of Penguin Classics. More influences: Raymond Chandler, Dostoyevsky, George Eliot, Hermann Hesse, Kafka: YES. Tolstoy, EM Forster, Mervyn Peake, Tobias Wolff: worthy but DULL. Beyond that my interest in the origins of the West, and the factors that led to the collapse of Golden Age Islam, helps with civilisational perspectives. The technology of this day and age has seen the emergence of little known, but important, accounts of times past. Those curious about the shape of the world, when the Turco-Mongol hordes emerged, could do worse than take a look at Juvaini’s thirteenth century account of their doings. The English translation of the Ta’rikh-i-Jaban-Gusha goes under the title of The History of the World Conqueror.

 

JR: What is the greatest lesson you have learned and/or greatest achievement you have reached as a writer?

TP: There was a time I thought I would never progress as a writer; it took effort plus patience. Greatest achievement? Getting my first novel to first draft before the opening game to the 2009/2010 Premier League season. That’s 60,000 words in 3½ months. Climb the hill and you realise there are mountains, but you’ve climbed your first hill.

 

JR: Do you have habits in writing? Any specific time and/or place to write?

TP: Habits: At the end of each day, I touch base on word count, I check that backups are in order. If I’ve been to writing group, I religiously type up any narrative fragments and ensure they are properly archived. When I have a plot snarl up, I go for a walk (without the dogs). I try to map things in my head before committing to paper (or PC). I invariably write on either my office PC or my study PC. I keep pencil and paper handy as ideas can strike any time.

 

JR: How long do you normally finish writing a book? What is the hardest part in the process?

TP: A book takes about three months to first draft. Add a couple of months self-editing and I’ve something for the locker. If I lived in an ivory tower it might be quicker, then again I might just mess about all day and call it ‘research’. The hardest part is making clear which point of view is in play, and use of tense, professional edits are the ideal fix for that kind of issue.

 

JR: Do you have professional editors to furnish your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

TP: For professional editing I use Stephen Cashmore, a member of SfEP (the Society for Editors and Proofreaders). Fellow authors usually know the ropes but if they’re starting out, they could do worse than get in contact with SfEP. I’ve nothing but praise for Louise Harnby (also of SfEP) who helped point me in the right direction with my first novel.

 

JR: How do you think you have evolved creatively?

TP: Have I evolved? You don’t always see the changes taking place, then wham; you’re in a different place in the picture. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing. One big change I’ve noticed is being better able to organise my thoughts; when I started out, random ideas flew out every which way. Another win was learning how to make reported events into dialogue and how characters can best seed stuff they ought to know into the story.

 

JR: Do you ever face Writer’s Block? If you do, how did you overcome the situation?

TP: I haven’t encountered writer’s block but I do get odd bouts of ennui. To steer past that I deal with the mechanical things so the creative side can fly free. Talking technical can be a pain but what works for me is:

  1. free time planned ü,
  2. ideas primed ü,
  • latest story file ü,
  1. tools loaded (yWrite5, Notepad++, Word, Excel) ü,
  2. net resources (thesaurus, research sites) ü.
  1. If I need to break an impasse, I plan a mental bookstop – a walk, a beer or other activity which leaves me free to reflect. The big nemesis is laziness.

JR: Give your thoughts about traditional publishing Vs. self-publishing?

TP: What can I say about Traditional Publishing v self-pubbers? The electronic market is riddled with opportunities to rig the system – these are hardly in Amazon’s interest to fix, it doesn’t matter which units they shift, their business is unit shifting. Right or wrong isn’t an issue, the point is that the electronic medium can be, and is gamed. It’s not easy for readers to know which products benefit – most may not even care. Does this call for a Crusade? No easy answers – although one thing’s certain, Traditional Publishers need to wise up. There’s a lot going for Traditional Publishers, the thing is they squander their advantages on formulaic pot-boilers… cue self-pubbers gobbling up the market.

 

JR: How many books have you written (published and non-published)?

TP: I’ve published 2 novels, 5 collections, a book of poetry and a book of essays on my home town, Burnley. Not yet published: Dragonshard (Space Horror) just because we can’t see dark matter doesn’t mean there’s nothing there; Arshaana’s Quest (YA Fantasy) the spell that keeps humanity together is breaking; Wings (Dystopia) Angels vs WelteMenn; plus a bundle of short stories.

 

JR: What genre that you normally write, and what draws you to this genre? Do you always write in the same genre?

TP: I write what interests me; normally that’s Science Fiction. Space is a cornucopia of prompts for ideas: dark matter, dark energy, black holes, binary star systems, pulsars, novae, panspermia; then there’s aliens. The genre, however, is slowly being strangled: award winning works, such as Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein and Dune by Frank Herbert, might find difficulty getting published in this day and age (Democracy = Sacred Cow, Religion = Toxic). I also write Noir, Historical Fiction, YA, Fantasy and Poetry.

 

JR: 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?

TP: My best book? Naturally, my latest novel. The Tau Device is Space Opera with bits of realism. It’s set in the near future, several decades after the discovery of man by aliens – it takes alien help to get us to interstellar space (nothing comes for free). Most of the action takes place on T’negi 36, a barren world on the edge of our spiral arm, where humans are permitted a small presence. The planet is run by the t’negi, a species with a long term research program there. Humanoid we say meaning like human; the galaxy is vast and human-centric terms have low currency, species which are like what humans are like, are homind. The t’negi are homind. Ultimately they plan on making the world suitable for life, however Earthers – agitators who believe in the supremacy of man – have been making a nuisance of themselves. T’negi 36 happens to be the next pit stop for Lory Gato, an interstellar gourmet whose remit is to taste the delights of the Milky Way and send some back home. Lory bumps into Liasse, a t’negi xeno-archaeologist. While visiting the dig site, a bunch of Earthers strike. Lory and Liasse are thrown together in desperate struggle to survive. SF can be a simple and jolly adventure, or something deeper. Tau takes a middle ground: double dealing, lippy robots, lost civilisations, the urge to colonize, xenophobia and romance.

 

JR: Any other works in progress?

TP: In progress. SF: we bump into aliens and they stomp all over us; more SF: the British Empire reforms… in space; historical fiction – a corsair raid on Norman Malta; plus several thrillers with a noirish feel.

 

JR: What advice would you want to give to an aspiring writer?

TP: The more I write, the less I feel qualified to give advice. Probably my best piece is: be prepared to make it as good as you can. There are always better writers than you but only you know your true strengths.

 

JR: How can readers discover more about you and your works?

TP: Where am I?

  1. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7888065.Terence_Park
  2. There’s a writing blog on Wix: http://tparchie.wixsite.com/tpark.
  1. http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/the-tau-device/18482769
  2. http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/burnley/16212141
  3. http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/silt-from-distant-lands/18811121