12 August 2019

Guest Interview with John Drake, Author of Traitor of Treasure Island


New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

I'm pleased to welcome author John Drake to The Writing Desk"

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest is Traitor of Treasure Island a book for adults, which pretends that Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’ was a pack of lies, mischievously written by Jim Hawkins: a thoroughly naughty boy who spent Sundays, not in church but among the whores of Bristol, and later grew into Sir James ‘Slippery Jim’ Hawkins, perpetual member of parliament for Trelawney West.

Thus my book reveals ‘the truth hidden for 170 years!’   as given in the journal of Dr Livesey, surgeon to the Treasure Island expedition. There’s romance, buried treasure, storm and adventure, deadly perils, John Silver’s beautiful wife Selena (once a plantation slave) and Long John himself revealed as a far better man than anyone ever knew.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I get up at 05.00 hours (yes, that’s 5 am) and I am at the computer, typing by 05.30.  Then I work non-stop apart from cups of tea, until 12.30. Then I devote the rest of the day to life.   I do that as routine.  What I do not do is wait for inspiration to fall upon me out of the clouds.  It’s a job.  It’s hard work,  but fortunately I love it.

What advice do you have for new writers?

First of all, good luck to you, God bless you and may you prosper.   Go for it heart, soul, mind and strength.   Write about what you know, which means either something from your own personal experience, or something that you have researched long and hard.

If you’re not writing from experience, then research is vital as the source of ideas, and the means by which you will never have to wonder what to write next.  Then add the values that you love, the things that move you to tears, the things that make you angry, and the things that make you laugh. Then, when you’ve finished the piece, set it aside for a week, and go back and polish it. Then do the same again until you know that it’s the best you can possibly deliver.  Do all that and never, never, never give up.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

Honesty is not only morally righteous, but is invincible. So I have to admit that I have no ‘cunning plan, my Lord’ to raise awareness of my work.   But I do know that if a writer wants to be known to the reading public then he or she must be already famous, as some celebs are who chose to write.  If not, then someone must pay for an expensive publicity campaign with adverts on  TV, radio, busses, bill-boards, London Underground etc. There is no ‘yellow brick road’, or if there is I have never found it.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

The fact that buried treasure is a nonsense.  It never happened.  Pirates were violent, young, feckless men who lived short, dangerous lives.  The famous Blackbeard, had a career of just eighteen months before the Royal Navy caught him and killed him.  So pirates did not plan for retirement and when they got money they blew it on women, drink, food, gambling and fun.

When the money ran out they went back to sea and got some more, until they got caught.  They did not plan for retirement.  They did not bury their treasure.  They did not leave maps.  So buried treasure is purely a fictional device, but a damn good one, and well done Robert Louis Stevenson for making it famous.

I can’t really answer that question, because I never worry over scenes in the way that the question supposes.   I think that this is because of the writing method that I use.  Thus I write historical adventure fiction, and do extensive research before I start writing.  This means that the only problem I get when writing is worrying how I can fit into each chapter, all the things that I want to say.  After that, the process of writing each scene is a craft work,  like that of a cooper making a barrel.   It’s a technical matter,  so I do not wring my hands in torment,  nor do I agonise over words, nor suffer for my art,  and then finally bugger off and make a cup of tea.  I just make the barrel.

What are you planning to write next?

How long have you got?  The ideas are queuing up in my mind with the characters shouting to be let out.  It could be any of the following: a young-adult book with elves, hobgoblins and a charismatic witch;  or a detective story in 1st Century Roman Britannia; or a Hornblower-style Georgian navy adventure;  or even science fiction.   If only I had the time because ars longa vita brevis: the art is long but life is short.

John Drake
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About the Author

John Drake trained as a biochemist to post-doctorate research level before realizing he was no good at science. His working career was in the television department of ICI until 1999 when he became a full-time writer. John's hobby is muzzle-loading shooting, and his interests are British history and British politics (as a spectator), plus newspapers, TV news, and current affairs. He is married with a son and two grandchildren. Find out more at https://www.fantasticfiction.com/d/john-drake/

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