Welcome to the forty-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with autobiographer Chris Pownall. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello, Chris. Can you start off by telling us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Chris: I am a 67-year-old retired industry-marketing director, residing in Worksop, Nottinghamshire. I have been married to my wife Pat for 42 years; we have two children and four grandchildren. I was born in the small Cheshire village and left school at 15 years of age with no qualifications whatsoever. Fortunately, I was able to secure an engineering apprenticeship, which was followed by a brief spell in the Merchant Navy. In 1969, I joined the James Walker Group as a technical sales representative and that was the beginning of a forty-year career. My work offered my great opportunity to travel and gain knowledge of many market sectors of manufacturing industry. As a marketing director, I was able to visit many countries including USA, China, India, South Africa plus many more. I first visited Shanghai in 1967 when I was an engineering officer on the Blue Funnel ship ‘Talthybius’. This was at the height of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ and we had a fairly stressful time. I have the reputation for getting involved in hilarious situations and being there when things go wrong. Towards the end of my career in engineering sales and marketing, a couple of colleagues suggested that I write my memoirs and I did just that.
Morgen: What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Chris: Following my memoirs that focused upon my work experiences and humour, I completed a sequel that covered other facets of my life including my ‘Pet Hates’ views on the quality of life today, compared with 50/60 years ago. I also wanted to share some of my many travel experiences, including two trips since my retirement where Pat and I spent self-organised holidays in Shanghai, China and Sydney Australia. My aim is to encourage others to do the same. My third book is something very different and tells the true-life story of our 39 year old son Robert who at the age of 18, suffered a near fatal head injury. The book details what happened following life-saving surgery and the dark days of a coma, to fighting his back from total paralysis. I have dedicated the book to Rob’s courage and determination in regaining his life.
Morgen: Wow. One of the speakers at the Winchester Writers Conference I went to recently (early July 2011) was a disabled yachtsman and his story was also very moving. What have you had published to-date, Chris, and how much of the marketing do you do?
Chris: My memoirs entitled ‘Funny How Things Work Out’ ISBN 978-1-905809-97-4 published in July 2010 by Pneuma Springs Publishing. The sequel to my memoirs entitled ‘Onwards and Upwards’ ISBN 978-1-907728-13-6 published by Pneuma Springs Publishing in May 2011. My third book about Robert’s head injury entitled ‘A Long Journey Back’ ISBN 978-1-907728-28-0 published by PSP and due to be released 1st September 2011. Having spent the last few years of my life as a marketing director, I enjoy marketing my books in a limited way.
Morgen: I guess there’s only so much fun you can have. 🙂 Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Chris: I have only entered one writing competition and came nowhere. I guess writing awards add credence to any writer’s potential success in the literary world.
Morgen: I must admit that I’m rubbish at sending things out (won a couple, shortlisted in a few) but Winchester’s given me new imputus. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Chris: No I don’t have an agent but maybe it is something I need to consider, depending how well my first three books are received by the discerning reading public.
Morgen: Good to keep your options open. Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Chris: No my books are not available as e-books, but maybe that will change. I haven’t read any e-books myself, but I suppose it’s only a matter of time before that happens.
Morgen: What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Chris: Each of my acceptances has been from PSP. It is always a thrill.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Chris: No rejections as yet. If I had, I would work through it and continue with my writing.
Morgen: Definitely the right way to think. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Chris: I have just finished a very short biography of my late father-in-law which I am having printed from my own pdf files. I’m only having 10 copies produced just for immediate family. My current main project is a social history of the mill in Cheshire where I served my engineering apprenticeship. I am trying to capture the culture of the place during my time there 1959 to 1966. I am also including a history of the mill, which dates back to 1758 when it was one of the very first copper rolling mills in England. I believe this book will appeal to those interested in early mechanical engineering and in particular, plant driven by water wheels and turbines. I am greatly enjoying the extensive research associated with this book.
Morgen: It does sound like the sort of book to have a wide appeal, especially for those interested in industrial history (not me, sorry, I was rubbish at history and it’s sort of had a knock on effect since then… so glad that an agent at Winchester told me that I’m a crime writer rather than history novelist – I’d presented a chick lit!). Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Chris: I do write something most days. Probably the most I’ve ever written in one day would be circa 3k words.
Morgen: Before I did NaNoWriMo that was the most I’d created in an entire piece of fiction… and I thought that was long! 🙂 What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Chris: Certainly, I am afflicted by writers block. My response is leave it alone for a few days and then get up very early in the morning and usually creativity is back to full strength.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Chris: In the case of my current work, it has all been based upon non-fiction therefore the stories are all in my head. I just have to recall the details and set out the story in a pleasing format.
Morgen: How do you come up with the names of your characters?
Chris: Haven’t had to do this yet.
Morgen: Ooh, “yet” sounds like you may? Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Chris: Yes, I wrote something about ‘What lies beyond’. It sets out my views of the origins of life and whether or not, there is a God of creation. It was going to be included in my second book but my daughter persuaded me that it was a load of old rubbish!!
Morgen: Or maybe set aside for another project (unless it really is that bad). 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Chris: The buzz from seeing your thoughts and stories set out in print.
Morgen: Isn’t it. 🙂 If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Chris: Peoples reactions. Whilst I have had some very good feedback and reviews, I have also experienced some blanks. This has surprised and disappointed me, as I would prefer feedback however negative it might be.
Morgen: I would too, absolutely. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Chris: Get started on something and develop the habit of writing. For me it has been my salvation in retirement and I shall continue writing as long as I am able.
Morgen: Me too. I’d be happy being a doddery 120-year old as long as I can still write. 🙂 What do you like to read?
Chris: Precious little. I have had to read lots of technical books and journals over the years but hardly anything else. I have a very low boredom threshold and soon drift away if there is no excitement on each and every page.
Morgen: Me too, that’s why I love short stories (maybe you could start with one of those first?). In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Chris: I live in the UK, in Nottinghamshire. I use email globally to inform people about my work.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Chris: I dabble a little with the web magazine ‘Sixtyplusurfers’ who have now reviewed my first two books.
Morgen: Ooh, a new one on me. I have a few pensioners (that makes them sound old, they’re certainly not, especially in spirit and writing skill… OK I’ll stop now before I dig a deeper hole) in my writing group so I’ll pass that nugget on. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Chris: My website www.amazing-life-stories.webs.com.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Chris: Some will achieve fame and fortune and the vast majority will do it largely for their personal satisfaction. For me it’s a hobby but one never knows, I could be famous myself one day!! Maybe film adaptation could follow?
Morgen: Let’s keep our fingers crossed. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Chris: Not really, your questions covered a wide spread of subjects.
Morgen: Sometimes I think there are too many questions and that the interviewees will pick and choose but most answer them all (which is great!). Thanks Chris. It’s always great to have some non-fiction authors in amongst us fictionites. 🙂
Update May 2012: I am pleased to announce that my latest book entitled ‘Dane Mills Bosley’, will be released on June 21st 2012. It is an industrial and social history about two mills located in rural Cheshire, England, where I served my engineering apprenticeship, between 1959 & 1966.
These historic mills date back to circa 1760, when they were constructed by the famous industrialist Charles Roe, for the purpose of refining copper and brass products. Initially, both mills were powered by water wheels, driven by water diverted from the nearby River Dane.
Following the metallurgical industrial processes, the mills were converted to textile manufacture, with both cotton and silk featuring at some stage in their long history.
In the second half on the nineteenth century, the manufacturing processes changed once again, when both sites became corn grinding mills. This was to continue until the 1930s, when a new business was established, producing wood flour from sawdust and wood shavings. Since then, other materials have been added, and today the product portfolio includes a wide range of organic fibres and associated materials, which are used in many of today’s industrial processes and domestic markets.
My main objective in producing this work has been to capture the culture of the place during my period of employment, and to this end, I have recorded some details about a number of my fellow workers.
In addition to a brief history of the mills, I have detailed the manufacturing processes during the 1960s, describing the plant and machinery installed at that time.
Dane Mills were a main focus of village life, therefore, I have listed the residents of the mill cottages, both at Higher and Lower Works locations, again, during the time of my employment.
I have very fond memories of Dane Mills Bosley, where my working life began. The sixties were boom years for the business with major capital expenditure, plus the introduction of automation, and increased plant control. I have detailed the type of work undertaken within the fitting shop, which ranged from routine maintenance operations, to breakdown repairs and new plant installations.
The last two chapters record developments and major events following my period of employment, finishing with a brief overview of the business as it operates today.
‘Dane Mills Bosley’ is published in the UK by ‘Pneuma Springs Publishing’ ISBN 978-1-907728-40-2 It can be purchased direct from my publisher http://www.pneumasprings.co.uk/DaneMillsBosley.htm or from major web book stores including Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith etc.
It can also be ordered from any of the well-known high street bookshops, and in the UK, it can be borrowed from any public library.
Please note that my first three books are now available as ‘Kindle’ publications at £2.05ea from Amazon UK and $3.25 from Amazon.com. NB It is now possible to read a preview to each of these books from Amazon via their ‘Look Inside’ facility.
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