Featured Interview With Simon Wright
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I was born in the Northeast of England, Berwick-Upon-Tweed to be precise. It is a very scenic and peaceful town with a long history and local traditions that I never got to experience! In truth, my place of birth was irrelevant; my father worked in the Prison Service, moving around the country at regular intervals as the job demanded. I suppose my longest tenure was spent in Northumberland, in a seaside town called Amble; this is close to Alnwick for all the Harry Potter buffs out there!
The most notable thing about my childhood was the bullying I experienced from the beginning of Middle School through to High School. There are many who can empathise, I’m sure, but I believe the events of this period shaped me physically, morally and emotionally; you can’t help but see this in my writing. I survived, though, and tried to follow my creative ambitions into acting. Choices define us, and it turns out choosing a brand-new Theatre School to attempt this was a poor one. The founder turned out to be a devious man, taking all the funds from the initial two cohorts to undertake his faux-courses and disappear without trace. Unlucky? Maybe, but I sometimes regret not following a more conventional route through University. Regardless, it left me penniless and prospectless in Birmingham at only nineteen years of age. I dabbled with work as a croupier in Grosvenor Casinos, an enlightening experience to say the least, but my younger self could not handle the levels of pressure involved in the role and I faced the shame-faced, cap-in-hand return home.
I took a little while to find my feet after that, but finally elected to join the British Army. Hmmm, strange one that. Why would I choose to throw away my artistic future for something so blunt as military service? Because everybody kept telling me I couldn’t do it. I still suffer from that complex today! So I did it, completed training and found the Army life a little too confining, the strictness of discipline and regulation not compatible with my holistic way of thinking. However, I was rather partial to the security, camaraderie and prospects the military offered and transferred across to the Royal Air Force. I’ve been with her ever since, although I’m now rapidly approaching my natural exit as I type this.
I was fortunate enough to meet my beautiful wife, Kerry, right at the beginning of my RAF career, and she has joined my in flitting from unit to unit, never lingering for too long before moving to the next challenge. We’ve enjoyed postings in Scotland, Cyprus, Cheshire, the Midlands, Oxfordshire and now Germany. Throwing in two deployments to the Falkland Islands in there as well, and It has been a unique experience to say the least. I can truly report I have been blessed in the area of family, having six children, five boys and a girl, with Kerry and now three grandchildren to boot. Not bad for a man in his mid-forties!
The only negative I can really think of regarding having children, is the fact they insist on growing up and moving away. My wife sometimes plays videos of them when they were babies and it brings an instant tear to my eye and sense of loss to my heart. I think this is why fatherhood remains so prominent an element in everything I’ve written so far (and probably most of what I am yet to write!) As for the final part of this question, ‘Any pets?’, we had a dog once, a loveable Labrador and Border Collie cross called Patch. He got old and his body began to fail him, so the only humane thing to do was have him put to sleep; it was possibly the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do, so no pets since.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I always read above my age level from the first day this was assessed. I think I used to put my ability and enjoyment of reading down to the bullying; more time alone, less reason to go out and play. I’ve considered this since those early days, however, and realise there was always an inbuilt love of books and stories and they simply provided me a release from the sometimes-cruel real world. The escapism and endless possibilities in a book were incredibly appealing when I felt trapped or hopeless; and heroes that always overcame their villains, their own bullies, were an inspiration that kept me going. The one flaw was the books often ended in a way I hadn’t anticipated, or maybe I had but hoped for something different. It was a frustration that catalyzed my own ambitions; if stories didn’t go the way I imagined they should, then I would tell the stories myself!
I started writing at home, for pleasure, when I was about eight. Nothing earth-shattering, pretty standard child-effort stuff, really. Saying that, I know a lot of children that age struggle to get cohesive ideas on the page, so maybe I had the spark for creative writing even then. I tried to translate this into work for school, generating stories worthy of reading to the class during English lessons; you can imagine how that went for a kid already the target of constant bullying. This progressed into a penchant for celebration poems; every birthday, Christmas, anniversary all held a personalized poem for the recipient. This has persisted through to the present.
But maybe this misses the point of the question, I started writing my first real novel in 2010, completed three chapters with positive feedback from family members, then stopped. Why? Lack of self-belief; I didn’t see myself having the commitment to finish, couldn’t imagine anybody would want to read my words and didn’t think I could cope with the inevitable criticism when it came. In 2019, I showed those same chapters to a friend at work who told me they were just as good as some of the published stuff he’d read. He told me I should continue. He told me he needed to know where the story was going, where it would end. That single conversation breathed life back into me as a writer and Neil went on to proof-read my entire debut trilogy as it was generated. Where he provided the spark, Kerry provides my fan and the flame had been burning brightly since then.
So, take your pick, I started physically writing in 1986, I started writing my first released novel in 2010, I consider myself to have been an author since 2019!
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
This is a question I guess every writer gets asked. It’s a hard one to answer, does a great book mean I like that author? Does a swathe of books mean the author is good? I don’t know, so I’ll just give you what I feel right now. When I was a child, I absolutely loved Roald Dahl, I’d read everything he wrote but was always most captivated by ‘The Witches’ and ‘Danny the Champion of the World’. I was also partial to Craig Shaw Gardener, many people seeing him as the alternative to Terry Pratchett but I preferred his books, and the ‘Cineverse Cycle’ was the most unique and enjoyable of his series’ for me (although Scheherazade’s Night Out was probably the individual book I liked most). As an adult, although this opinion is really defined through my late teens and early twenties, I have a list of five; Stephen King, David Gemmell, James Herbert, J.R.R. Tolkien and Timothy Zahn. I know, I know, nobody off-beat or quirky, nobody unusual or unknown. What can I say, I’m a slave to mainstream!
So, my author choices probably give this away, but I love Sword and Sorcery fantasy and Sci-Fi. Okay, maybe you could slip some horror in there too, but most of my favourite Stephen King books are more fantasy or sci-fi themed than actual horror; notwithstanding Salem’s Lot and Needful Things. I was completely blown away by the Drenai world and Middle-Earth, loving that idea that without a real-world foothold, the story could literally go anywhere at the next turn, ignoring even the bounds of physics or logic. Yet, these authors managed to keep their characters grounded, to give them real emotional attachment for the reader. And Sci-Fi? Okay, I’m a Star Wars fan, so I owned and read over sixty novels based on the expansion of that Universe following the original trilogy (yes, before the Phantom was Menaced!); Timothy Zahn wrote the Thrawn Trilogy which will always remain my favourite Star Wars series ever. However, what I learned from reading genres, is that many authors become complacent with their audience, by that I mean their work can often be inaccessible for new readers not familiar with that kind of book. Maybe that is fine if you only want to reach a certain fanbase, but I was incentivized to make sure my own writing remained accessible and engaging regardless of a reader’s usual genre preference.
Inspirations? Well, I hand that crown to David Gemmell. I think ‘Legend’ and the ‘Waylander’ trilogy are undoubtedly the biggest inspiration for my own fantasy trilogy. I believe I have a similar style, though focus far more on deeper characterization and believable personalities than he did, and there are definite thematic similarities; epic scope of stories, family, unity through adversity and ageing heroes to name a few. Wider than that? My wife and daughter have provided me great insights and personality traits I used to carve out the individual Fimarr sisters and make them so real, both positively and negatively (I’ve always believed that a great story comes from the audience feeling strongly about individuals, whether that comes as love or hate!). And all my kids, I suppose, because, as I mentioned earlier, my writing always involves elements of fatherhood, both the successes and the failures, but more than this, the perception. How an action taken, or a word spoken can be seen differently between father and child fascinates me and I can only thank them for being the very wonderful young people they are, and giving me a deeper understanding of our relationships.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
My latest release actually moved away from the fantasy world of my debut trilogy. So far away, in fact, it is a contemporary drama with supernatural undertones! Why did I do this? Well, I decided at the beginning of the writing journey that I was going to avoid becoming trapped in a single series or genre. I know many great writers are actually successful because of a single genre, but that isn’t really my goal. I’m more interested in entertaining and interesting people with what I can create. The book is called ‘As Good A Man There Never Was’ and took me only eight weeks to write. Now, before you decide it must be awful due to that kind of turnaround, let me explain.
I published my previous book ‘Children of Serendipity’ on KDP and planned to take a little hiatus from writing. I was travelling back to the UK for a training course, so thought I’d take some reading material with me. I had often discussed with my family about an idea for parodying ‘A Christmas Carol’ so thought it would be useful to actually read the book! I’ve seen every movie, cartoon and TV series version of the story, I think, but the novella itself had evaded me. I read it in one sitting, realizing just how short it is, and was left a little disappointed. I wasn’t keen on the style (obviously a product of its time), the lack of development in any of the characters, the underlying moral of the tale, so widely expanded by pop culture, far more subtle in the original text.
I couldn’t help myself, putting pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard) immediately to rework that story. I wanted to honour it while telling my own tale, ideas that had been fermenting for years in my brain finally coming to life with relative ease. I gave tributes to Dickens throughout, never hiding from the fact his novella existed or that the idea of visiting ghosts is not an original one. I included his habit of 4th wall breaking between narrator and reader, but only as appropriate, and followed his structure and core elements, meaning there was a lot less development work required for me to do. But the primary reason for the book to be completed so quickly was that my words simply flowed onto the page faster than I could type them! I’ve never had such continuous flow without effort in anything I’ve written.
So what is it about? It is the story of a successful young man, Isaiah Moore, who has shown all the best moral qualities you could wish for in someone. He is charitable, kind, confident, assured, globally and environmentally-minded; an absolute treasure of a man with wealth enough to make a real difference. When things have gone wrong, he has learned how to be better as a result, leading the way in issues from the energy crisis to equality. So, when his deceased friend from the past arrives to warn him of the visitation of three ghosts, he is most surprised. Not only has he already heard the story of one Ebeneezer Scrooge, he cannot fathom how such a visit would be applicable to him. Furthermore, he acknowledges and celebrates Christmas, he’s also a genuinely good guy. But he has been selected, and has only a single night to discover why the three spirits of time have come to him, and what lesson it is that he must learn. Could I tell you more? Of course! But I’d rather not steal too many of the twists and surprises here!
Since the release of ‘As Good a Man There Never Was’ I have been working on another contemporary piece, a survival/drama/romance based on a short story I wrote for my wife fifteen years ago. This is the first one that feels really personal, with the main protagonists being an RAF officer and his wife. That said, it is not autobiographical, so don’t expect it to read like my memoirs when it comes out! Distracting me a little from that, is the other fantastic opportunity I have been given, having been approached to provide all the horror fiction elements of a brand-new Table-Top Role-Playing Game, The Dark After Dawn, being released in early 2023 by Dark After Games Ltd. So, all I have to find time for now is my actual job, right…?
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