Tuesday talk is with a return guest, Nik Morton. I'm delighted that Nik's visiting again because it's a very special day for him.
The Tehran Text is published today, sequel to 'The Prague Papers'. The first one's already on my kindle, ready for me to read and it's just been joined by The Tehran Text, today. I'm sure they'll be great reads, so I don't hesitate to recommend that you buy your copy, too.
Nik's a multi-published author who writes in different sub-genres of fiction. I've not yet read his Westerns, or Fantasy novels, but his Contemporary Thrillers published by Crooked Cat are wonderful reads.
I've invited Nik over today to get to know him a lot better. Let's see how a typical day goes for Nik...
Thanks for inviting me, Nancy.
For my blog readers, Nik - Can you tell us where you’re originally from, and where you live now?
I’m from Whitley Bay, on the north-east coast outside Newcastle upon Tyne, though I spent most of my adult life in Hampshire before emigrating to the Costa Blanca, Spain in 2003.
Aha! I've been to Whitley Bay for one memorable holiday in 1965 with my twin schoolfriends and their family. Even when the sun was scorching (on a couple of days) there was a wind that blew us off our feet on the beach, the gusts almost strong enough to whip away our nearby ex-army bell tent!
But back to you, Nik...Tell us 3 things about you that wouldn’t be in an author bio.
1) I’m adopted.
2) My name isn’t Nik, but Robert. It’s a nickname that stuck. Almost everyone who joins the forces ends up with a nickname and I was no exception; however, I spelled it without the ‘c’ and signed my cartoons and illustrations ‘Nik’.
3) I went Up the Khyber with the Navy… (Related in the book Under the Queen’s Colours by Penny Legg.)
*grin* I'll refrain from saying anything more about 'Up the Khyber' because I'm sure that really was an amazing experience.
Does the ‘muse’ visit you every day?
I seem to be at the computer every day, often catching up on social media interaction and trying to promote my books, but that isn’t really creative writing. I do try to schedule time for creative writing. I keep a spreadsheet for each book I’m working on, so I know when I last wrote anything for that book, how many words etc. Some days I can manage a couple of hundred words, others it may be a couple of thousand. I don’t wait for the muse; I plan the books and while I’m writing to the plan the muse sometimes buts in and improves things...
I make writing plans, too, but my immediate day-today living priorities get in the way (sigh) ...
I know you’ve had a professional writing background when you were in the Navy. Did you do any fiction writing during this period of your life?
Although I was a Writer in the Royal Navy, all that entailed was working on ship’s company pay, or administering correspondence and personnel files, so the job didn’t involve any creative writing. Spare time, I edited and printed the ship’s magazines, often illustrating and contributing. I joined the RN in 1965 and had already written two (unsuccessful) spy thrillers. I sent out the odd article and letter, but had no success until I enrolled in a writing correspondence course. In 1971, I sold my first short story and other sales followed. Throughout my career I wrote and sold stories and articles. I also edited and published Auguries, a sci-fi, horror and fantasy small press magazine, which came out infrequently until its final issue, #18, when I could no longer support it. I left the Navy in 1989. In all that time, I’d written several novels but had no success with any.
Was the transition to a full-time fiction author an easy one to make?
Since I’d twice been made redundant in my post-Navy IT career, I could take a hint. Seriously, though, after the second redundancy I changed direction and managed to get a sub-editing position with a nearby monthly magazine, the Portsmouth Post. I continued working on that for a couple of years even after I moved to Spain, travelling once a month to put it to bed. That essentially was the first occasion when I’d been a full-time writer. I haven’t solely stuck to fiction, though, selling articles and writing guidance pieces over the years. Also in the works is a popular history book I’m working on; some snippets have appeared in my blog. I’ve always been writing, so there was no definable transition, save that I had more time once retired to concentrate on novels.
What’s your favourite genre of reading material?
I don’t have a favourite, though I lean towards several: thriller, crime, western, science-fiction, fantasy and historical.
Has your favourite reading material affected the genres you want to write in?
As you can see, I read books in most genres anyway. The genres I’m already published in include crime, thriller, western and fantasy. I have a time travel sci-fi manuscript to send out, I’ve got a pirate adventure planned, and a Victorian detective series roughed out. I just need to live to 120 to get everything sorted, I suppose.
I know that feeling of not having enough days, but it's fantastic you have so may great ideas! You’re a multi-published author. Have you been published, and indeed re-published, by a lot of different publishers over the years?
Although I’ve sold stories and articles since 1971, I came late to being a published author. My first novel came out in 2007. This year will see my twenty-second book released (two of those are non-fiction). My first publisher was Robert Hale with a western; that was a great feeling to hold the hardback in my hands! It was followed with a crime thriller published by a British small publisher out here in Spain; unfortunately, after publishing two more of my books they folded due to over-extending themselves. I then got a crime thriller published by a small American publisher and they released another two of my books but after three years I decided not to renew the contract. Currently, I have three publishers: Hale – westerns; Knox Robinson – fantasy; Crooked Cat – crime; I hope I can stay with all three, writing those genres. Happily, Crooked Cat has undertaken to re-publish my first two psychic spy novels which have been out of print for some years.
Are any of your titles self-published ones? If so, what would you say have been the steepest learning curves to go through?
Yes, one of the non-fiction books, Odd Shoes and Medals is self-published under my own imprint Manatee Books. A friend who has had an interesting life wanted to tell his story, so I ghost-wrote it for him. As he is ailing and over eighty, I felt it would be best to self-publish rather than attempt to find a publisher. He was very pleased with the final product, anyway. I’d been involved in setting up some books in Createspace for the US publisher when I was their EIC, so I’d learned quite a lot about the process, and Createspace tends to make it fairly easy. The hard part, naturally, is marketing!
I'll take your word for Createspace being easy, but will update later after my own first experience!
Which genre, or sub-genre, of fiction do you feel is your most comfortable to write in?
I’m comfortable writing any genre. I may not be good at all of them, but I’ll tackle any, given the time and a good story. The story is the thing; that often dictates the genre. My short stories have been about romance, ghost, horror, sci-fi, western, confessional, erotica, crime, action-adventure, historical and even humour.
Do you research most of your information on the Internet or do you manage to acquire the correct sources from some other place?
After some fifty years of book-collecting, I have tomes on most subjects that interest me – history, geology, astronomy, science, espionage, wars, weapons, travel, the paranormal, all of which I can refer to if necessary. Yes, I use the Internet as well, though I find that certain nuggets of information need to be gleaned from reading non-fiction books. When writing The Prague Papers I read a couple of biographies of Gorbachev, since he figured in the story.
This lovely photo of you just has to be Costa Blanca!
I really enjoyed the description of the environment in Blood of the Dragon Trees. Do you tend to add locations in your work that you’ve personally been to? If not, how do you source that fine detail of a location?
Thank you for that comment, Nancy. I try not to overload the story with travelogue description; it has to serve the story or the characters. We had a time share in Tenerife for several years so I know all the places shown. My (out of print) vampire novel is set in Malta and the action occurs in real places in the islands; fortunately, I’d lived there. Since the last time I was there, the buses changed colour, but fortunately I discovered this on the Internet. So, yes, I tend to back up personal knowledge with research. If the story allows, I include places I’ve been to, either privately or with the Navy. Whether or not I’ve been to a place, I tend to read two or three books about the country or city to absorb and possibly use a little of the detail and also gain a broader impression.
I know exactly that 'Oh, no' feeling. In my case the trams in Vienna went from red to yellow the year that my mystery thriller 'Topaz Eyes' was published. Fortunately, I noticed it on the internet and was able to change it during final edits.
Back to the interview...
Do any of the plot ideas for The Prague Papers Tana Standish series come from personal experience?
Funnily enough, while in the Navy our class sat down at a table and indulged in a ouija session. Nobody seemed to be moving the glass consciously, and it only pointed to gibberish. Off the cuff, I remarked that the gobbledegook might be in code. That was the birth of the book, though it took a long time to gestate after that. There are small things included that are taken from my time in the Navy, such as Tana’s crossing Portsmouth harbour in 1965. The secret service training building, The Fort, is in Gosport, a short distance away from our old home.
Were the paranormal aspects easy for you to incorporate in your formation of the Tana Standish character?
Once the ouija idea took hold, the story had to be in the realms of the paranormal. At that time I was interested in a variety of books by Edgar Cayce, Lyall Watson, Ingo Swann and a few others. There’s a believability threshold to cross, suspending disbelief, and if the subject is dealt with in a matter-of-fact manner, perhaps it can become believable. The poltergeist phenomenon, particularly relating to young girls reaching puberty, can be construed as psychic forces being unleashed unwarily. Although Tana showed signs of psychic ability, it was heightened at puberty. I mention the psychic tests that the secret services conducted, and those with astronauts and men in nuclear submarines: all fact. Remote viewing has a significant part to play in The Tehran Text. A few details about Tana can be gleaned in the blog entry:
1978. Iran is in ferment and the British Intelligence Service wants Tana Standish’s assessment. It appears that CIA agents are painting too rosy a picture, perhaps because they’re colluding with the state torturers… Allegiances and loyalties are strained as Tana’s mission becomes deadly and personal. Old friends are snatched, tortured and killed by SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police. She has to use all her skills as a secret agent and psychic to stay one step ahead of the oppressors and traitors.
As the country stumbles towards the Islamic Revolution, the Shah’s grip on power weakens. There’s real concern for the MI6 listening post near the Afghan border. Only Tana Standish is available to investigate; yet it’s possible she could be walking into a trap, as the deadly female Spetsnaz fighter Aksakov has been sent to abduct Tana. Meanwhile, in Kazakhstan, the sympathetic Yakunin, the psychic spy tracking Tana, is being sidelined by a killer psychic, capable of weakening Tana at the critical moment in combat with Aksakov. Can Yakunin save Tana without being discovered?
In the troubled streets of Iran’s ancient cities and amidst the frozen wastes on the Afghan border, Tana makes new friends and new enemies...
What’s next on the writing pad for you?
Crooked Cat publishes my second Cat adventure in April, Catacomb, which takes place mostly in Morocco. I’m working on the sequel to that, Cataclysm, set in China, plus the third Tana book, The Khyber Chronicle, set in Afghanistan.
You can find Nik at these places:
The Prague Papers
Thank you for coming, today, Nik. Best wishes for a successful launch of The Tehran Text and happy wrtiting of all of those other projects to come.