Why did you choose writing? Was it a “calling”?
Definitely not! At school I wasn't particularly interested in writing essays and certainly not very good at doing them. Our weekend homework regularly involved writing an essay and was generally done as late as possible on Sunday night when I was more interested in finishing than writing well.
I think my “journalism” started almost under duress or by default when the local soccer side I supported had no-one to provide news to the local community paper (The Southlands Sun) and I took it upon myself to supply extravagant and over-the-top match reports of spectacular goals, fantastic players and wonderful wins.
However, I do recall always taking an interest in doing assignments at school and an investigative journalism bug that now defines my day job is probably an off-shoot of that.
If you've never been a big reader, could you become a successful writer?
That's a tough one because to date, I'm certainly one, but not necessarily the other. I do believe, however, that with a good background of reading, you stand a better chance of embracing the writing process better and understanding writing better. Anyway, if you had no interest in reading, I'm not sure how you could be interested in writing unless it's for money. I can't criticise anyone for that because my professional career is about writing for money, but I have also written for free and I have read thousands of books which I feel gave me the best possible grounding, not only to become a published author but for the simple and endless pleasures reading gave to me.
My grandmother was the City Chief Librarian for Durban (and a code-cracker in World War II) and she passed on her love of books to my mother, who in turn did the same to all three of her children. And I am and will do the same to my kids. I also believe that being an avid reader teaches people better grammar and punctuation. I receive emails from Managers and even MDs of companies who don't know how to use an apostrophe or simply cannot spell. I put that down to either laziness or a lack of reading – I can't really rule on which.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to write?
My advice if you are a budding author is to write, rewrite, edit and recheck everything and then send it to publishers. JK Rowling (of Harry Potter fame) was initially rejected, so don't take it personally if you aren't immediately signed up and given an advance on sales.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to write a book?
Like invention, writing is about 95% perspiration and 5% inspiration. It is hugely rewarding, but it is hard work.
And follow the mantra: 'A writer writes.' Before I started writing Quest for Glory, I must have written in excess of thousands of books I'd read since childhood. I immersed myself in books from The Famous Five to Roald Dahl, on to Wilbur Smith, Jean M. Auel, Michael Crichton, John Grisham, Jeffery Archer, Dan Brown, Bryce Courtenay (he even autographed one of his books for me) and many more. I devoured the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson over the course of a few days – work notwithstanding – and many of the books I've enjoyed, I've read over and over again.
The fact is, reading inspires writing as far as I am concerned. I said above that you may not necessarily have to be a big reader to write, only because I am covering myself, but I honestly believe that writing a best-seller could be tough if you're not a reader.
Writers' Block is not really something I have ever had to hold me back which is a great relief but possibly more down to the fact that most of my writing has only been a page and a half of non-fiction. But there are times when one does get stuck and my advice is to keep plugging away and the words, thoughts or concepts will eventually come your way. And anyhow, there are numerous edits later to find a better word or phrase if you couldn't get it right the first time.
Keep paper and a pen handy to record your thoughts. I once woke up at 2am with a powerful concept in my mind and I really didn't want to lose it, so I got out of bed and ended up writing about it for two hours. I even use the notepad application on my cellphone to make notes. I've pulled my car over to record a thought even!
The editing process can be brutal so don't ever take it personally. There were times when I felt my way was the right way, and times when I was proven wrong. My advice in these situations: Get over it! There are bigger things to worry about than per cent or percent.
Remember: A writer writes.
When is the best time to write?
How long is a piece of string? There is no definitive answer. I have learned to shut outside sounds out so I can write with kids screaming and the TV blaring. But I do prefer complete silence and that means no TV, radio, kids, or other external interferences. If you can set a time each day to write, that's perfect, but not always feasible, and sometimes, when the creative juices simply aren't there, you tend to get frustrated with the whole writing process. Although that is opposite to what I've just said about writing through the creative barrier. In saying that, find what works for you and follow that.
Was writing your book Quest for Glory a full-time project?
Yes and no. I was balancing a family life with a baby daughter (my second) born two months before I embarked on writing and interviewing, along with the heavy workload of my web/PR/media/journalism work. Sometimes I'd start working at 7am and finish at 9pm. It took a lot out of me mentally and physically and there was a strong lesson in that. From December 2009 to May 2010 and then for a few months after with the editing process, I juggled many responsibilities. It was full-time in that I worked on the book almost every day and for six months, didn't have a day's break from work.
This is not to blow my own trumpet but unless you can write full-time, the burden is huge, the toll great, but the reward, indescribable.
What motivated you to write this book?
For 10 years, I'd been interviewing rugby stars and loving it, and it seemed a natural progression to write a book on a subject I am passionate about. I am living the dream with my work and am very fortunate to be one of only a few people who can say that.
Who did you enjoy interviewing most?
I think each person brought new ideas that were either entertaining or interesting and for that, I value every interview I did. When I look at the transcripts of the interviews, Mark Andrews provided some great material and I used everything he said which speaks volumes for the kind of person he is and what he was able to contribute. But I am deeply indebted to every person who agreed to be interviewed. They were generous with their time and thoughts. They are indeed very special people.
Do you have any other book ideas?
Yes, plenty. About eight books for now and then something for the younger generation, also on sport and hopefully something I can take to the overseas market. The market for book sales in South Africa is pretty limited. Obviously, writing a best-seller for the US market would be first prize!
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If you have any questions you'd like answered, please feel free to contact me.