Today I am introducing you to one of my own lucky finds! I stumbled upon a Kindleboards thread about an author who happened to mention he was finding it difficult to get reviews. Knowing how hard that can be, I replied, saying I would be more than happy to swap books and write him a review. Well, a couple of days later, and after one hell of a hard time with my mobi pocket creator (grrrrr.) he beat me to it. Not only did I find a gifted copy of his book in my inbox, I also found that he had purchased a copy of The Loss of Deference! So I set about reading To Save the Realm and I can tell you that I was in no way dissapointed. I thoroughly enjoyed following the laid back American Brock through his journey of 1950's Britain. But don't just think it's a romp through the history of my own rain soaked island. It goes much deeper than that. I only give five star reviews to anything that won't let me stop reading. To Save the Realm got five stars.
So lets make a start by getting to know a little bit more about T. B. Crattie, and jump straight into his interview.
1) . HI! It's great to have you joining us today. Tell me a little bit about your latest book?
To Save the Realm is the story of a young World War Two veteran from the American South who is called to England in 1959 to inherit a fortune from his aunt, who has died in the West Country in strange circumstances. In London, he has several odd encounters with characters that might or might not be Russian spies or who are actual cultural or historical figures of that time. He finds that his aunt may have been murdered, so he decides to go to Somerset to find out what happened to her. In a Great Western Railway car traveling through the Box Tunnel, someone tries to kill him. After he settles himself in the little village of Nether Penketh in the Quantocks, things just get really strange. I’m not saying anything else.
2) How did you come up with the title?
The title refers to a secret in the book. It is very nearly the motto of MI5, To Defend the Realm.
3) When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve written all of my life. I remember sitting happily, pecking at a Remington manual typewriter when I was eight. I enjoy the physical process of putting words on a page (with pen and paper at first), and I enjoy being able to investigate other places and times that interest me. I enjoy putting characters into mundane or extreme situations and seeing what they will do.
4) Do you write in the same genre you like to read?
I’m afraid I read mostly nonfiction. But I read and re-read the novels of John LeCarre. My book is spy fiction of sorts.
5) Do you have a specific writing style?
I write, I think, in a spare, non-flashy way. My writing style is a bit sly.
6) Do you have a writing schedule?
I write early in the mornings in as much spare time as I have.
7) Do you plan your work or just go with it and start with the initial idea?
I usually think a lot about the story so that I know in general what will probably happen. Then I plot out a chapter and put down a few things about the characters. And then I begin writing a fast first draft. Chapter by chapter. I revise until I’m kind of happy, and then I start a new chapter.
8) How do you deal with writer’s block?
I write. There was only one chapter in To Save the Realm that I had a hard time beginning.
9) What inspires you to write?
Where do you find your influences? My influences come from my favourite books, from my experiences growing up in the South and traveling in Britain, from reading about the period I’m writing about.
10) What are your current projects?
I’m kicking around ideas about a sequel for To Save the Realm. I have a couple of other novels in mind that are totally unrelated.
11) What are your challenges in writing? What elements do you find difficult?
I revise each chapter five or six times after the first hand-written draft. I find knowing when to stop revising to be difficult. Even now, I think I’ll go back into my manuscript and add and change a few things.
12) Are there any downsides to being a writer?
If one doesn’t expect to get rich off it, I think it’s a perfectly fine way to spend one’s time.
13) How do you come up with your characters?
My main character in To Save the Realm is a mix of several of the old guys (even though Brock is young) I knew growing up in the South. Some of my characters are based on people I’ve met traveling. Some are perhaps real people of the time, the late 1950s, thinly disguised.
14) Are the names of your characters important?
Yes. I put a lot of thought into names. Every name for a character in my book has some sort of meaning.
15) If there was one thing you could have learnt about being a writer before you started, what would it be?
It is absolutely necessary to just sit down and write. No matter what else is going on in one’s life.
16) If you could choose one writer to be your mentor, who would it be?
I love J. P. Donleavy and John LeCarre, but I couldn’t imagine them being my mentors. I’ve never wanted a mentor. I want to do it my way. Ha ha.
17) Favourite book?
Three-way tie: The Ginger Man or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or Watcher in the Shadows by Geoffrey Household.
18) Favourite/worst book to movie?
I think the recent film of Tinker, Tailor was execrable. The work of an angry adolescent taking revenge on the grown-up world.
19) What are you reading now? Nonfiction: Battles of the Dark Ages
20) Do you have any advice for other writers?
I wouldn’t presume. Other than to say, write and don’t be too hard on yourselves.
21) How tough was it to find a publisher/agent/decision to self publish?
I think it’s damn hard to find a publisher or agent unless one is well-connected, son or daughter of so-and-so. Since I’m not well-connected in any way whatsoever, self-publishing seemed like the thing to do. Marketing my type of book is fun, but I’m finding it difficult to connect with my audience.
22) How do you perceive the world of self publishing?
Chaotic anarchy, it is!
Author bio: T. B. Crattie is a geologist and a Latinist. He was born and raised mostly in West Tennessee, but has had a lifelong interest in all things British (and Irish). In his books you will find Cold War espionage, post-war British history, British rock and roll and youth subculture, British folklore, and Arthurian legend. His favorite time and place is post-war Britain. His favorite authors are J. P. Donleavy and John LeCarre.