Every issue, IN presents INside Authors, a look at authors from around the world who have significantly caught our attention and deserve a little space and recognition. The following two authors are this month's choices, based on the heat arising from their corners. Our hope is to provide a glimpse, a snapshot, an overview of some of the finest writers of our time making waves both tidal and ripple.
Michael Hunt, Historical Fiction
Background INfo: I was born in England although I lived in Central Africa – Malawi (was Nyasaland) – for many years. I was a tobacco planter, a reserve police officer, a rifleman in an infantry regiment in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and a banker for a British/South African bank. I have always been interested in sport (rugby, squash, cricket) and mountain climbing. I was a committee member of the Mlanje Mountain Club (Mlanje is the highest mountain in the region) and I also climbed Kilimanjaro. After returning to England I became a probation officer and I retired last year and took up full-time writing and editing.
I became a writer after I had a serious illness – Guillain Barre Syndrome (Joseph Heller also had the misfortune to suffer the same), which results in total paralysis. Because recovery left me with damaged peripheral nerves I had to give up active sport. I completed a year's creative writing course and discovered a great interest in long-distance writing; similarly, I also discovered that I could run; I am still a long-distance runner and have taken part in numerous competitive runs, including the New York Marathon. I am Chairman of our local writer's group and of an annual Literary Festival.
INfluences: My next-door neighbour ran the creative writing course, and she encouraged me to try novel writing. I have also met a number of very experienced writers, including Martin Cruz Smith and Paul Theroux, who had lived in Malawi when I was there, and Marina Lewycka (A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian). I think I learned from them and other writing friends that writing can be a wonderful way of life, and that if worked at diligently, can be immensely rewarding. However, it is my wife – who kept our home and four children fully serviced during my frequent absences at my desk – to whom I owe a great deal of my modest success.
Advice: 1) Attend a creative writing course at the highest level you can find. 2) Join a writers' group. 3) Try other forms of writing before deciding what suits you best. 4) Start writing novels, if that is your main interest, only after you've tried poetry and short story writing. The two latter forms are a perfect springboard into novel writing – particular poetry, which gives you an idea of the importance of writing accurately with the minimum of words. 5) Learn as much as you can from other writers. 6) Don't be put off by periods when you feel that you can't write a word. We've all been there. Have faith that what is in you will come out eventually. 7) Don't get upset about criticism. In fact insist on receiving the truth about your writing from people who you trust. 8) Consider yourself to be your own manager and insist on seeing work of the finest quality. 9) You must edit your work to the nth degree, so buy the best editing book ever written – Self-Editing For Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King (HarperPerrenial) – and then read and digest it. 10) If you find that you are not enjoying writing, give it up and do something else with your valuable time.
Internet Presence: I have been so lucky to have a publisher (BeWrite Books) who publishes on the Internet in both printed book form and electronically. I have an Internet page as an Editor (www.thesisdissertationedit.com) which carries my books. I don't have a personal website, mainly because I haven't felt the need. But if your livelihood depends on having one, get the best you can possibly afford.
The Future: My third book – Two Days In Tehran – will be published by BeWrite before the end of December, 2007. This is about a party of American and British travellers caught up in the Ayatollah's Revolution in Iran in 1978/9. I am now writing a fourth – The Tea Time War – about the South African War in 1899.
Matabele Gold, BeWrite Books, 2003
The African Journals of Petros Amm, BeWrite Books, 2004
Marta Stephens Fiction
Background INfo: I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 15, 1954. My parents, four older siblings, and I moved to Indiana, USA, when I was four. Although I lived in Los Angeles for a couple of years in the mid-1970’s, the American Midwest is where my husband, two grown children, and I have called home all our lives. I am employed at a local university and recently celebrated my 28th year with the institution. I plan to remain employed for a few more years. I am a member of Sisters in Crime and the Midwest Writer's Workshop.
I completed my degree in journalism/public relations from Ball State University in 2001. My writing career began in the winter of 2003 while in the process of researching information about an event that happened during WWII. It sparked the idea for my first novel – a spy murder mystery which is still in its first draft. That was it; the writing bug bit hard and hasn’t let go. The experience quickly evolved into a life-changing passion that has led to the birth of my Sam Harper Crime Mysteries and my debut novel, Silenced Cry. I also have a few short shorts to my credit.
INfluences: The person who most influenced me to pursue my writing, was one of my college English professors that I met in 1993. She was the first professional to admire my writing; something that took me quite by surprise. Prior to that, I never considered writing as a path in life. Her encouragement was instrumental in leading me to decide on journalism as a major course of study.
I grew up enjoying the works of Agatha Christie and the complexity of Charles Dickens' plots. A few of my favourite contemporary authors include: Patricia Cornwell, Thomas H. Cook, Tom Clancy, and Stephen King.
Advice: Make a conscious commitment to the craft and never be afraid of change.Internet Presence: The Internet is the powerhouse to my success. I can say without hesitation that I would not be a published author today without it. I met my publisher, BeWrite Books, in 2004 when I joined their authors’ forum. Since then, I’ve joined numerous other groups and have met many amazingly talented people who have helped me along the way. I also belong to an online critique group that is dedicated to critiquing full novels. Without the valuable critiques I received from members of this group, I seriously doubt that my debut novel, Silenced Cry, would have been whipped into shape as quickly as it was.
I do a great deal of research for each of my books. With the Internet, answers are only a click away. The Internet has also been critical to the promotion of my work. Not only has it facilitated a way to promote my work through posts in the author forums and blogs, but it has been a way to immediately communicate with the media, bookstores, reviewers, my publisher and editor, and other authors. Days after launching my website www.martastephens-author.com, I received hits from people in over fourteen countries. We live in a global environment which means we can look beyond the corner bookstore to a world-wide market.
The Future: Silenced Cry is the first in a series of Sam Harper Crime Mysteries. I am currently working on the second book, The Black Pearl. Books three and four in the series are in the first-draft stage. Earlier, I mentioned a research project that led to a spy murder mystery. That novel is not part of the Sam Harper series, but it is a book I would very much like to revisit one of these days.
Silenced Cry, BeWrite Books, 2007
Mr. Moody’s Frugal Revenge, BeWrite Books, 2004
A Fool No More, BeWrite Books, 2004
Only You, BeWrite Books, 2004
Penelope Jensen considers herself a citizen of the world, aligning herself at this moment with the purposes of IN, where you'll find her writing articles and interviewing authors, among other things. You can reach Penny at: PenJen@inorbit.com.