Featured Interview With Melvyn Fickling
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I was born in Wells-Next-The-Sea on the North Norfolk coast in Briatain and spent my first 26 years in the town. I was educated at Wells Primary and Fakenham Grammar School, worked in my family’s painting and decorating firm (established by my grandfather, Harry, on his return to Wells after the war) and then in the nearby animal-feed plant at Egmere. In 1988, a three-month stint on an inshore shrimp-trawler ended in a force-ten gale and a rescue by the Wells Offshore Lifeboat (assisted by an Inshore Lifeboat and a Sea King helicopter).
Hanging up my sea-boots, I moved to London in search of safer employment and spent the next 18 years working in import and distribution, purchasing, company administration and project management.
After developing skills in internet marketing and search-engine-optimisation, I took advantage of work-from-home technology and moved to the picturesque medieval town of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, arriving just in time to be involved in the major flooding in 2007.
Following a move to Kent, I helped to run a micro-pub and fledgling brewery, concentrating on research and development of historic beer styles.
I returned to Wells in early 2015 and completed my first novel, based on the life and times of a local war-hero. In my spare time I’ve been perfecting my long list of unique beer recipes and I hope to establish a micro-brewery in the town in 2018.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I’ve always been drawn to reading and this was facilitated early on in my life by a monthly book catalogue that was circulated at our Primary School once a month. As soon as I had pocket-money of my own it was generally spent either on books or uniforms for my Action Man.
I enjoyed English Language and English Literature at Grammar School, attaining an O-Level grade A in both. I actually remember asking my English teacher to set me themes for extra creative writing assignments.
In my teenage years I started playing guitar and my writing urge got diverted into song-writing.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
When I was very young I was a great fan of War Picture Library publications and from these I grew into the Pan Book of Horror Stories, which might explain the undercurrent of darkness that haunts some of my writing. I also have a soft spot for Fantasy from the likes of Guy Gavriel Kay and Terry Brooks, but my favourite in that genre is The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson.
I find the world-creation skills of good fantasy authors inspiring and a bit daunting. My job writing Historical Fiction is far easier as the world I describe has existed in reality. But it does mean that almost 100% of my reading today is research and background reading.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
The RAF’s victory in The Battle of Britain saved the modern world from tyranny. One of the legendary Few lies buried in the graveyard at Wells-Next-The-Sea, my home town. My research into this pilot’s career, and the life and times of the men who flew in Spitfires alongside him against desperate odds, suggested the plot for my debut novel, Bluebirds.
I had made an abortive attempt to write this novel as far back as 2001. Then in 2016, finding myself with time on my hands, during what could be described as a lull between careers, I opened the file and re-read my script. It certainly had a long way to go to impress a potential publisher, but I felt I had sharpened the skills necessary to take it there…
So the re-write began, pruning the 38,000 words of my original text down to 28,000 and editing chapter by chapter as I wrote. Then the new writing began and the second half of the story took shape. By early May the first draft was finished, weighing in at 83,000 words. I dived straight into the first full edit. By the end of May my novel, entitled Bluebirds stood at a shade under 77,000 words.
I sent the manuscript to half-a-dozen beta readers. While I waited for their reports I ran a second edit. Then, having received consistently good feedback from my beta readers, I began the long process of finding a way onto a publisher’s list.
In September of 2016 I stumbled across Endeavour Press Ltd. Their website boasted an “Aviation Fiction” list. I sent them a short pitch. A full manuscript was duly requested and after a month of tense waiting I received a contract offer for publication. It seemed that Bluebirds had found its spiritual home.
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