Alan Cooper is author of several books
molly: Today Iím visiting with Australian writer Alan Cooper author of several books including Dead Greedy and On The Eighth Day.
molly: Alan, I've just read/reviewed your book On The Eighth Day. Please will you tell us why you choose London as the setting for this work?
Alan: I was born in and grew up a Londoner, and served as a police officer in the Metropolitan Police, both in uniform and as a detective. I guess itís the place I know most about. I know my way about London, and have a pretty good idea of what goes on and how criminals behave. Because my subject was the Euro Tunnel I had to place my key characters either in Britain or France, and my French is pretty awful.
molly: I see, you followed one of the first rules we writers are taught: write what you know. And, after reading On The Eighth Day I can attest that this was very good advice. Moving on: What did you attend to first? Write your book or seek out an agent or a publisher? And, if you will please tell us of trials or successes you may have had in trying to find agent or publisher.
Alan: I initially began writing as a personal project, having always felt sure I had a novel in me. I never even thought Iíd finish the project, but when I did finish friends who read the book encouraged me to try to get it published.
You ask about trials or successes. Try trials, more trials, and for good measure even more blasted trials. I gave up considering literary agents within a year of my first attempt. It seems to me that unless youíre famous they arenít interested. One or two actually told me as much in their one paragraph replies, that is, the ones who even bothered to reply. My wife and I began to refer to the replies we did receive as the ďDear JohnĒ letters. I ended up with a stack of them, which made me even more determined.
molly: chuckle, I hear that Alan, I think this is the tune most of us sing on that score. Okay, now letís move on to another Ďmore successful for youí line of questions. How long did it take for you to get published?
Alan: My first book took a year or so, but the publisher I got involved with didnít do much good for me. I wonít mention the name for fear of getting sued, because whenever I mention the name I find myself tempted to use bad language and saying nasty things about them. Ha! Ha! Iím sure you wouldnít want that, Molly.
My second book, Dead Greedy, took about a year before it was published, and then not with a mainstream hard-copy publisher. Iíd read quite a lot about e-Publishers, and the idea appealed to me. So, having exhausted all attempts with the biggies I sent my manuscript to Jacobytebooks.com, and have never regretted it.
molly: I like, read, review and write both paper and eBooks, and can both agree with and understand your statement. I understand On the Eighth Day is actually your third book. I have not yet reviewed your first book but, I did also enjoy reading and reviewing Dead Greedy. Alan, please tell me which of your works did you find the most difficult to do.
Alan: I guess the most difficult was my first book, The Deliverymen. I had this great idea about writing stories about three different people in different parts of the world, then bringing them together in one great explosive final part. Itís an international drugs crime story, and Iíve been told by many people that it worked well. In fact itís my favourite. It was very hard, however, because I had no training in writing, and had nobody to advise me what and what not to do. I made a squillion mistakes, and probably wrote about 1200 pages to eventually come up with a massive book of 737 pages. It took me two and a half years to complete it.
molly: interesting. Yes, 737 pages do sound massive, however, do you think you might rework a little and offer as a trilogy? And since we were talking about Dead Greedy, please tell us about your recent good news regarding that book.
Alan: Itís going okay, but e-Publishers are still not well known enough for it to do as well as I hoped. People are also suspicious of purchasing over the internet, even though this can be done in the more traditional, and secure, manner by downloading the order form and posting it with a cheque.
molly: I think this is a problem all of us who have eBooks find. Now, please tell us something about yourself Alan, about your life. Do you draw from personal experience as you write?
Alan: I guess I do draw from personal experiences, but only to a small extent. I mainly find out about a real life incident or incidents from the newspaper or TV news, then let my vivid imagination run amok in order to come up with a credible story that will convince the readers. Often my stories are based on a large number of totally unrelated incidents that Iíve put together, stirred up in the blender in my head, and then created fiction out of it.
molly: Well Alan, it certainly seems to work for you. Both of books your that I have read certainly showcase your knowledge, expertise and talent for storytelling. Alan now that you have written several books can you tell us how long does it take on average for you to write a book from start to finish?
Alan: It varies, but on average I guess I write a book in about 9Ė12 months. Of course, writing is not my full time job, just a paying hobby at the moment.
molly: Chuckle, yes, we all cling to that Ďdonít quit yer day jobí donít we? Alan do you belong to a critique or other writing group? Would you suggest beginning authors join such groups? And why or why not.
Alan: Iíd hate to influence any budding author in this regard. But in my case I had very negative experiences from my membership of a writerís society. Firstly, very few of those I met were actually published authors themselves, mainly academics, or just plain ďArtyĒ people who love playing at it and pretending. I met some very nice unassuming people, but also a large number of pretentious self opinionated ones. One even suggested I should read more Shakespeare and draw from his works. Poor old Will would turn in his grave at the thought. Iím actually quite a Shakespeare fan and have read most of his works, many of them time and again.
I used their editing facility through which I was conned into accepting that my editor had to remain anonymous and could enter into no discussion or debate regarding my work. What a load of rubbish this person wrote about my manuscript, without me getting a chance to ask how better to do it. It was a costly waste of time and money. I now have a professional editor who is a published author in her own right. Itís the way to go
molly: Sounds like an excellent method for you and good reflection on what you have personally found in your own writing journey. Now, what is in your future? May we expect another Alan Cooper book soon?
Alan: Whatís in my future? Thatís a tough one, Molly. Hopefully good health for my lovely wife and me, and the ability to keep writing. I just wish I could write forever. My last published book, ďOn the Eighth DayĒ, has been translated into German by a friend of mine who is a professional script translator in Berlin. We have high hopes it may be published in German.
Another book? You bet your life thereís another book. My latest crime fiction novel, deathbydot.com is currently being read by two mainstream publishers, and I have fingers, eyes and legs crossed that this will be the turning point in my writing career. I have also written three other manuscripts which have yet to get out into the system. I am now part way through a crime novel titled When the boys come out to play. Iíve got it all plotted out and am just waiting for the opportunities to get at my computer.
molly: What wonderful news! Hope it all pans out for you and we soon see your name and books on all the best seller lists. Crossing my fingers and toes here for you too. Alan can you tell us something of what your daily life looks like?
Alan: My daily life is pretty special, Molly. My wife Francy and I have been together now for twenty years. Our sons are all married and off our hands. We live in a delightful apartment in Melbourne, Australia, overlooking a wonderful park, Albert Park, the venue for the Australian International Grand Prix. We both work in the city, a short way away by tram. Francy works in the banking business, and I have a very rewarding job as the Deputy Director of the Victoria State Emergency Service, (VICSES). VICSES is a Volunteer based rescue organisation comprising 5,500 highly trained and competent unpaid volunteers. There are 75 paid staff whose role it is to coordinate the work of the Service and support and help train the Volunteer rescue units. It is a delight working with and for such dedicated and committed people as the VICSES Volunteers.
molly: Lovely, sounds like you are busy and happy and isnít that exactly what we hope for. Alan what rewards do you find from being a writer?
Alan: The financial rewards arenít too great at the moment, but the joy is in just being a writer, being creative, and not wasting my time on wondering whether Iíll ever make it to the top. My school motto, just about the only good thing I got from the place, Ha! Ha! was ďFear not the future Ė make it!Ē I believe thatís how I live my life.
molly: Well, Alan, it certainly sounds like a wonderful plan for life and it seems to be working very well for you and your family. Do you plan to do book signings within the next few weeks? Do you enjoy signings?
Alan: Iíve only done three book signings and they were very informal events I arranged myself. My first one was after a talk I gave at the Clayton Public Library in Melbourne. The second was at a winery, where my main reward was some lovely glasses of wine, for very few books sold. My most recent one, two years ago, was at the company my wife works for, and that was a reasonably successful day. Getting into the book signing business is generally, here in Australia anyway, the domain of authors with Agents, and those published by Penguin, and other mainstream publishers. One day Iím going to be flourishing my pen with the best of them.
Meanwhile, itís a case of keeping on writing, and never give up my day job.
molly: Alan Cooper I have enjoyed reading your books, thank you very much for a most entertaining and informative interview. I look forward to reading and reviewing both deathbydot.com and When the boys come out to play. Hereís to lots of writing and personal future success.
Interviewed by molly martin