Welcome, Richard Hardie…
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Sure. I live near Southampton with my wife, son and an aged cocker spaniel. My daughter lives nearby in Winchester with her fiancée, whom she’s marrying in 2 weeks time. Things are very frantic therefore and several mortgages will be necessary to pay for it all. It is, of course, going to be worth every penny!
I worked in the IT industry for 40 years (I started young!) and began by selling cash registers in Birmingham shop to shop and pub to pub. In at the deep end! By the time I finished I headed up insurance solutions sales for HP in the AsiaPac region and latterly EMEA, before becoming sales director of another company across the same geographies.
Now I do the odd bit of part time work and spend most of my time writing books for kids.
What was the first story you wrote?
When I was ten I can remember going with my father to his office and being plonked in front of a typewriter, given a blank sheet of paper and being told to “have a go”. By the end of an hour I was bored, but I’d written the first page of something about a brave kid (aren’t they all) called Stephen Keen who becomes a detective. Maybe I’ll write page 2 sometime!
Were you inspired by someone or something?
When I was at school, the English teacher (Mr Tweedy, and for some reason known as Spud) gave us a 5th form project to write an essay on a nominated topic (select 1 from 3). I think I chose A Still Day. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it and Mr Tweedy obviously saw something in it because for a man who was notorious for giving low marks, he gave my essay 19 out of 20 and read it out to the class, much to my embarrassment. In a way therefore he inspired my love of words and the desire to write books.
Why do you write?
I’ve often thought that writing a book is very much like putting together a complicated 1,500 piece jigsaw puzzle… and I always liked jigsaws! There’s a great sense of achievement as the picture takes shape.
The greater “why” is difficult to answer, but I’ll try:
-I want to
-There are few greater thrills than seeing your own well-crafted book in print
-Walking into a library or shop and seeing your books on the shelf is wonderful
-I love doing signing days
-I need the money!
All those are selfish reasons, I know. However they’re pretty valid.
I love building things and seeing the finished product…. whether it’s a sales strategy resulting in a sale, a gardening project, or writing a book. It’s the sense of accomplishment I love.
Can you tell us about your newest book?
The Trouble With Swords is the second in the Temporal Detective Agency series. Leap of Faith was the first.
In the second book, Merlin (a well-disguised woman) and Arthur have eloped and gone on a sort of honeymoon leaving Marlene (Merlin’s sister) and two wizard apprentices to look after things. Unfortunately someone has stolen Excalibur, without which Arthur is just another warlord thug. It’s his talisman and holds the country of Camelot together. The Temporal Detective Agency has to find the sword very quickly, or both Arthur and his kingdom will be annihilated. The adventure takes the Agency to Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt and to Shakespeare’s London before the meet their ultimate foe in an explosive showdown.
It was great fun to write and I hope people find it great fun to read!
How did you come up with the story?
In 2002 I wrote and produced the Scout and Guide Association Gang Show and decided to make it a show with a story, rather than a series of loosely knit jokes and songs. The plot was very roughly what became Leap of Faith, at least with the characters and the idea of Merlin as a woman falling for Arthur was certainly a key element of both the show and the book. In fact, I have to admit that when we ran the auditions for the show, a Brownie Leader was brilliant in the part and got the part straight away. It meant a rewrite, but she was brilliant and it gave the story a nice twist.
Incidentally Terry Pratchett co-wrote one of the scenes with me in which we kidnapped him during a signing at an Ottakar’s bookshop. We filmed it and showed it as part of the show story every night. The publicity we got from that was amazing. Terry actually appears (with his permission) three times in Trouble With Swords, but you’ll have to read the book to find out how!
The story evolved as I wrote the book over the years until it became Leap of Faith and The Temporal Detective Agency series.
What genre best fits for the book?
Terry Pratchett once said that he writes books for kids that are read by grownups, and books for grownups that are enjoyed by kids. I couldn’t have put it better. Publishers love slotting people into genres and age groups, and if I was to do that my books are humorous fantasy for the 12+ age group. However many of my readers are Young Adults and actual adults. I try to write so that anyone who reads my books will enjoy them and all people, no matter what age, or sex will find something that makes them what to read the next page, the next chapter and hopefully the next book.
What are some of the benefits and challenges to writing?
Finding the time is my biggest problem.
Writing Leap of Faith wasn’t so bad, because I had no theoretical deadlines, no Twitter or Facebook pressures, wasn’t blogging, or keeping websites and review sites up to date. I just had the realities of work to deal with. Writing was a secondary hobby.
The second book and all others initiate a time problem. Asides from those items listed above, I’m now wring the third book in the series, plotting the fourth book, promoting and doing signings for the second book, and trying to make sure the sales on the first book don’t stall. Talk about being a juggler!
The benefits? Well, I love doing it. My characters are so well rounded now that they’re becoming old friends. I now know how they’ll react and what they’ll say in a given situation.
Let’s also face it…. there are very few jobs where you can sit down in your own home, or in the garden, let your mind’s wanderings appear on a computer screen and if you’re lucky, get paid for doing it.
Do you attend a writing group?
I’m a member of The Writing Buddies, a writing group with both published and unpublished authors based in Southampton. We actually have members from several miles away that we never see, but as we have a Facebook group page we keep in touch anyway. The group meets on the first Friday of every month and I try to make it when possible because writing can be a lonely job and it’s good to exchange news and experiences.
Do you have someone to critique your work?
Yes… me! I’m my worst (or best) critic up to the point where I get it edited via my agent and publisher. I also have a wonderful friend called Marit Meredith who reads my Agency books and points out any anomalies that crop up, especially where time travel’s involved. Marit is also an author and has just submitted her latest novel, The Box, so the very best of luck to her. Her first book, Diary of a Would-Be Protagonist is available on Amazon and well worth a read if you like quirky humour.
My agent in America, Caleb Mason is wonderful at doing a plot edit. He’s very cosmopolitan and reads my books for a world-wide audience, rather than just for the States. My publisher has allocated the same editor to me so far and Maureen Vincent-Northam is both knowledgeable and wonderful at spotting the little mistakes other people gloss over. What gets past me, Marit, Caleb and Maureen is ready to go to press!
One golden rule is never to ask close family or friends to critique. They’ll either be over-kind, or blazingly honest!
Are you working on something new at the moment?
Book three in the Temporal Detective Agency series is half complete and mostly takes place in America for a change. I’ve even written the final two chapters of the fourth book.
Marit and I are also going to be collaborating on a rather special cookery book, probably towards the end of next year.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Terry Pratchett once advised me to keep the day job, so I’ll reiterate that. He’s right, of course, because writing books is a precarious and very poor living, except for the few who sell best sellers.
A previous agent told me to keep the letters GOWTS on my keyboard. It stands for Get On With The Story. Too many authors get carried away and go down a plot branch-line that may be tremendous fun, but has little relevance to the story and potentially bores and then loses the reader. Worse, of course, it won’t get a publisher in the first place!
Getting published in the current climate is getting harder and harder. There are so many more people now that have time on their hands to write and they also have the ability to self-publish on Amazon for pretty well zero cost. It explains why Amazon sites have literally millions of books, stories, samples etc. to choose from. Unfortunately many are truly awful. In fact for every book that is published through a traditional house, over 1,000 are actually written. So my advice would be… if an aspiring writer wants to actually appear in print as opposed to just write a book for their own pleasure, be prepared to make it perfect, employ a professional editor, get it test read by people who will be honest… and still be prepared for multiple rejections.
The other bit of advice is to keep at it. Don’t give in. If it’s what you really want to do, there WILL be someone out there who will help you realise a dream; just find them!
What is your writing routine?
I spend much of the morning answering emails, blog comments as well as Facebook messages and comments. I tend to do much of my writing during the evening (late rather than early) and at weekends (family permitting).
I write in my study, sitting on a sofa using a laptop. I use a Dell Studio XPS. It’s small, powerful and very compact. My cocker spaniel used to sit on the sofa with his head on my lap and watch the cursor swishing round the screen. Now he’s old and tired, so spends much of his time asleep.
On Friday I always post a blog at 6.30pm. It may be an interview or it may just be comments about something, but I’ll spend 2 to 3 hours putting it together during the Friday before posting it.
Do you have an editing process?
I trust spell checkers to some extent, but not completely!
If I’ve had a break from writing for more than 2 to 3 weeks I’ll reread the last chapter I wrote to make sure I’m still speaking with the same “voice”. My books are narrated by a 14 year-old girl, so it’s very necessary! It also reminds me where I am in the plot so in a way I’m editing as I write.
The main edit starts a month after finishing a book. I find that a 4 week gap is necessary to clear the mind. I’ll then read it as a reader, looking for silly mistakes and anomalies, correct those and then read it line by line for grammar, spelling and other errors. Marit then reads it and tells me where I need to change things, although she usually adds “I love it!” She’s such an encouragement! I then read it again, as a reader, before sending it to Caleb, at which point the editing process is external.
How important is it for you to share your writing?
If by SHARE you mean sell my books, then yes that’s very important to me as a source of income. However I’m also an extrovert and I love telling a story that people will read and enjoy, even though I may not be reading it to them face to face. Having said that, in September I’m starting library and school visits to do author talks and school visits. I’m such an egotist!
Where can people go to read your work?
People in the Southampton area can find my books in most public libraries. They’re also in a number of school libraries and I know of at least one special needs school where during the last half hour of every day the last year teacher reads from Leap of Faith… time and good behaviour permitting!
All good independent bookshops in the UK and some chains either stock my books, or can certainly get them by the next day as paperbacks.
As to the best place to go to read my work… I would suggest a comfy chair in their own homes with a copy of one of my books, that’s been BOUGHT!
Where can people find you on the internet?
Both Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords are available on all Amazon and Kobo sites as both paperbacks and eBooks. As paperbacks they’re also available from internet sites such as Waterstones.com, Foyles.com and Lovereading4kids.co.uk.
The links to Amazon UK are:
http://goo.gl/61bkC9 and http://goo.gl/2iSFO0
Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?
No, I don’t think so, except I’d obviously like to thanks all those people who have already bought a Temporal Detective Agency book and ask those who haven’t done so yet to get down to their local bookshop (of which there are a dwindling number), or get keyboard tapping onto Amazon! That’s the only way I’ll know that the Agency is appreciated by the discerning English reader!
Many thanks, Suzan. It’s been a pleasure!
I have enjoyed it too Richard and I’m ensure your readers will as well.