Q&A: Brian George
You’re writing under two pen names in two genres, so you’re essentially two writers in one. How do you manage that?
I first started to write the erotic genre as a trial to see if I could actually discipline myself in the daily mechanics and submitted a sample to another writer (Vanessa Wu) with whom I corresponded, to see if it was acceptable. I guess I was a little shy about it because of the subject and also maybe I just wasn’t confident enough in my writing at that stage to publish. After a favorable response from Vanessa, I continued with my more traditional novel simultaneously. I then used Byron George (erotic) as Brian George’s alter ego and as a sort of therapy for when I got a spot of writer’s block in the longer novel. This is how my brain copes with so many different subjects, separating my day jobs and businesses from my writing. I have thought about bringing in another genre at a later stage, just to prove that I can be a real writer I guess. It is probably an underlying lack of self confidence or fear of failure that drives me to do that!
You’ve seen quite a bit of the world, which has undoubtedly shaped you as a writer. When it comes to writing based on experience – how old do you think a writer should be to be really good? Or, to put it another way, how should one go about collecting experiences in such a way that they’re usable in writing?
I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone else about what age to write as the situation varies from person to person. I had written often over many years, but was never satisfied with what I had produced, so I left a trail of scrapped stories. With my first adventure novel “The Dream Team” I had the plot in my head for about 10 years but I just couldn’t work out how to get the main protagonist “Barry” to where the plot really kicked in. Again, the other author that I corresponded with, Vanessa Wu, came to my rescue with the advice to use my personal experiences, and it all clicked into place. I had wanted to write an autobiography of my earlier years for a while, so I used that to get my character to where I wanted in the plot. After writing about my early years and getting the character to where I wanted I went back and ‘tweaked’ the situations until I was satisfied with him and how he morphed into Barry and the storyline. After that it went smoothly. From then on I have had the 3 main characters and their friends and can weave them in and out of the new adventures as they come into my head. I like to use my experiences of travelling the world in my writing, and that has taken me many years, but as the old adage goes “travel broadens the mind” and I see that as continuing for as long as I can. My advice to anybody seeking to collect experiences is to mix and accept with local people and their customs, eat what they do, even take the occasional risk, don’t always accept other’s advice. Obviously be aware of your personal safety though. I would say do as much people watching as you can. Love people in general anyhow, that seems to get me around, but does get me into trouble sometimes! I also read local newspapers wherever I am as they give you such a cultural awareness and many instances for the beginnings of a story or a new character.
With the Byron George, Desert Loves series I try to make them more like romances with the more descriptive sex added. In Desert Loves 2-For the Love of Si-Si, I wrote much of the dialogue as emails over a period of about 5 years. It was a difficult story to write, as the Si-Si character being a Chinese Girl and writing it as in her pidgin English was hard to put over. It was also a very painful book to write emotionally as it relates to a very poignant personal love affair. Writing from personal experiences can hurt also, much like songwriters, you have to learn to put your heart out for all the world to see.
What’s the one thing in your life that most influenced your career as a writer?
I would say the one thing above all else was a love of reading. From as far back as sitting with my Mother as an infant and being read to or being asked to read out loud at school, gave me a real desire to be able to write like others before me. I read anything that was put in front of me even down to the scraps of newspaper my Mother wrapped her old vegetable peelings in. I remember that she used try and pull the paper slowly away from me while I was still reading it. I wouldn’t say that I have a “career” as a writer yet as I am still having to earn my living elsewhere, but the first part of my dream has been fulfilled, that of publishing my own work.
Would you say writers have a moral obligation to change the world, or at least try to? If so, how?
Hmmm, that is a deep one! I deeply believe that writers can change the world for the better, and as far as that goes yes we all have an obligation whether writing or in our daily life. Morality is a difficult issue though, as one person’s morals are different to another. I try never to judge other people’s personal morals, how could I when I write erotica? So many tyrants and despots have resorted to attacking writers over centuries because of their opinions, so for me freedom of expression is very important. Witness the recent terrible events in Paris at Charlie Hebdo as an example of tyranny akin to the book burning of old during periods of religious persecution. However, Hitler and Marx and Mao produced writing that did change the world, so it is probably better not to, so in that respect I think I’ll stick to writing for pleasure or escapism.
Do you have any practical tips for authors when it comes to sales, marketing, or writing?
I am still learning about the Sales and Marketing side of writing. There are so many ways as an Independent, I initially have been up and down many high streets with paperback copies of my books, chatting to strangers, going to pubs and coffee shops, selling them where I can & trying to build up a following. Word of Mouth is always a great sales tool. I visit and email small book shops getting them to take a few copies on sale & return. I volunteer to do talks at schools & libraries or other venues. I give copies away in exchange for people putting reviews on Amazon. I am shocked and surprised at how many people tell me “I don’t read” and now see it as a bit of a mission to encourage those to read. This is where I can use the shorter Byron George erotic stories and hope that they will graduate up to other novels.
These days you have to use all of the social media sites that you can and set up a web site, my shameless plug here www.brianandbyron.com is my site and we are still adding to it.
With writing I will pass on what Vanessa & other writers advised me about the discipline. Write regularly, so many words a day, I set myself a target of 500 words early morning then finish. If I am on a roll I might do a 1000 or more but generally so long as I average out at 500 I am happy. The evening before I go to bed I am thinking about what to write the next day. Just get it down, you will naturally keep returning to parts of the story as you go and revise it. After you have written a full book, re-read and self edit it at least 3 times before getting it professionally edited, respond to the editor’s changes, then go through it again. Eventually you will begin to hate having to read it again and that is the time to let go and submit it for publishing.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
For me it is important to encourage as many people as possible to read for pleasure, it will help society at all levels. Reading and Writing for me are therapeutic, a cure at times of stress and loneliness on my travels. It was an ambition of mine to write a single novel since my youth, I didn’t succeed until I was 63, now I have written 5 books to 9, and have a back catalogue of short stories and plots in my head for many more novels. I have another of Byron’s erotic memoirs almost finished and am now writing the 3rd in the Dream Team series, all this has been done in the past 2 years. Once it all clicked I couldn’t stop, it was as if all those years of wanting to do it came out in a flood.
These days I am following my instincts more, I am studying some more esoteric writing and meditation and that may yet show in my style or even yet as another genre! I am learning to let go and be more confident about my work.
Finally, I would ask for anybody to write to me, especially about books or others’ favorite writers and their books or even about travel or life in general. As others helped me in the past I would willingly help them.
Lastly, I thank Jan Jacob for giving me the opportunity to take part in his blog.
Q&A: Brian George
Where were you born and brought up? What impact has it had on your writing?
I was born in Barking, it is part of the East End of Greater London nowadays, back then it was in Essex County.
Where did you go to college and what did you study?
I went to Park Modern secondary School and left at 16 yrs. All my later training was either on the job, or for a spell at a College. I was awarded a degree later because of my work experience.
Why did you choose to write in the crime fiction genre?
I like the genre because I can relate it to real life and make the action fit my imagination. I can make even the strangest story plausible.
What sort of cultural, spiritual, or social value do you think reading and books hold?
Reading and books have been my life love. For someone like me who hated exams and came from a rough school they always educate better than any teacher. There are elements of history in adventures from authors like Wilbur Smith, from the crime thrillers of Ian Rankin, or even in science fiction from Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Good fiction will always drag the creative out of you. I research all manner of subjects via books. The experiences of Gurus, training manuals, you can find anything out from reading. To answer your question properly. Culturally they help me rise above the current clamor and divisions in society since Brexit. Spiritually they have always answered questions, when I’ve gone looking. Who could not be influenced by “The Life & Times of a Yogi” for explanations of where truth is stranger than fiction? Socially, libraries benefit whole communities in the same way.
What are some challenges involved in being a freelance copywriter?
Finding more work, marketing is the real challenge to a solo freelance copywriter. Adapting to the changes between the different companies and niches.
How much do you research to base your characters on real people and places?
Most of my characters have been based on real people and observations, often on real events also. I keep much in my head, and occasionally take notes. The character will be based on a visual of a real person, but their story comes from my imagination. There are only a few characters that I’ve created completely from within, but even then I’ve had to go and look for someone to fit. I need that picture in my head when I’m writing about them. The character I love that I created like that is Lin Fu, she’s the sage of the group. I looked for about 3 years before I found someone to fit. I saw a woman in China who matched her perceived elegance and I actually asked her permission to use her image. Her and her husband later became good friends.
For how many years did you practice Arhatic Yogi? What lessons did you learn?
I have been practicing Pranic Healing & Arhatic Yoga for 7 years. But I was always a meditator. I learnt that the universe works in amazing ways. That answers can come to the most complex problems in flashes, in my case even in a page in a book, which will fall open and a passage will tell me. The transference of energy in many forms and how we can all with practice access answers to many life problems. It is Quantum Mechanics in practice.
How did you begin writing The Dream Team Adventures series?
I had the plot in my head for the first book for about 10 years and had tried to write the story many times. I was at home between projects and chatted by email with another author, who gave me the advice to use my biography to kickstart the main character of Barry Parker. I took up her advice and got the character to where I wanted and the plot flowed from there. Once I finished the manuscript I went back to the beginning and changed his life from my own into his own. His surname of Parker was my mother’s maiden name, it was a way of keeping that alive. Once the first book was out of the way I didn’t want to waste the team concept and 2 more books followed using other real life instances that happened along my own travels. I’m now on a 4th where the team are getting older and new younger characters are gradually getting involved. There are many stories in my head yet for them.
What challenges did you face while writing a short story in rhyme, "Battle for Etherland", based on a battle in the parallel world?
Not too many challenges really, apart from keeping it going long enough to make it interesting. I kept coming back to it over a period though, usually at night before sleep. I like writing in verse and the parallel world theme came straight out of my meditative state and a visit to Kew Gardens, which also influenced another book.
Is pranic healing based on belief? You heal because you believe you will heal?
Pranic is based on energy, and is a science based on nature. It has its similarities in Reiki and other energy healing practices. Anybody can learn it and call it belief, faith or whatever, I have seen it work in many cases. It is based on helping the body to heal itself. The official version from their website:-
“Pranic Healing is the sublime science of healing physical and psychological disorders by cleansing the prana (vital energy). Pranic Healing has gained popularity as a highly effective no-touch, no-drug complementary therapy system that treats and purifies the prana to heal ailments and provide solutions for day-to-day problems.”
What challenges did you face while creating Barry's character?
The main challenge was to get the reader to like him despite his roguishness as a robber. I wanted him to be seen as a tough guy who didn’t mind breaking laws to bring justice for him and his friends and gradually grow into someone who rights wrongs. There are many comparisons in Robin Hood, & Lee Child’s Reacher maybe. Only the readers can tell me if I achieved that I guess?
On whom is Annie's character in "Face and Honour" based upon?
Annie is based on a Chinese Bar girl. When I worked in the UAE I used a bar regularly and she worked out of there. In between her ‘work’ she would come back and chat to us lads. Like regulars in any pub she became one of ‘the lads,’ she was very helpful, gentle and kind. Any new girls, she would help through their tough life, for us guys if we needed anything, say a mobile phone sim, she would help. We would buy her drinks or dinner occasionally. She was the archetypal “whore with a heart.” If any rough guys from out of town came in and mis-treated or didn’t treat her or her girlfriends like ladies, the regulars would protect her and them. She was a nice person in an unfortunate job, because of her circumstances, like so many others. We all loved her for her good heart and respected her for the sacrifices she had made to fund her son through university back in China. I’ve met her since and she is now a happy grandmother with a secret past.
Did you miss travelling during the lock-down? Where did you travel to the last time?
I miss travelling every day. Just not having the freedom hurts. When I get back home from a trip or project I have itchy feet after about 2 weeks. Our lockdown is still on until the 4th July and I am, because of my age and a previous condition, considered at risk. My last overseas trip was to a Yoga Retreat in the Philippines, up at the Volcano that recently stirred for a couple of weeks, at Tagaytay. It was on an amazing organic farm, with 2 weeks of Arhatic practices. Meditation at sunrise while in a pool is unbelievably powerful and healing.
How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?
I have 2 ongoing at the moment and many more in abeyance. One I wrote for the NaNoWriMo competition last November is finished at 52000 words, but I want to add more to make it leap from Novella to Novel. It is about another Chinese woman. A wealthy ex-fashion model with an abusive past, now running her own agency with her sister, and supplying models worldwide. She is getting older and wants a man for no strings fun occasionally. It started as “Pretty Woman” in reverse and became more of her success story as they become a couple. Success brings her to London, where she is kidnapped and ransomed by a Youth Gang. Her guy also has a past as a tough guy in his youth and he resurrects his old mob. He also funds some ex-military mercenaries to rescue her with extreme force. They go back to China and get married, but then other information arrives as to why the kidnap happened. Lots of other twists in the tale, more travel. I just need another sub-plot to flesh it out.
My other plot is for the new Dream Team characters and involves them becoming more involved in a mix of real adventures and some telepathy experiments following Lin Fu’s theories on Ley Lines and huge ancient stones. More fighting of a corrupt property developer in Spain.
How has your experience of being associated with All Author been?
Very pleasant so far. I am still a struggling author and wish I could afford more of the services. The review was amazing and extremely detailed. I’ll get there for more reviews as soon as I get more copywriting work and money coming in, because I believe in my characters and stories.