An Interview with Guy Singer, author of Starboy
I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?
I think my favourite novel was one called “The Tea Room: The Buddha’s Eye. This is a very light-hearted story about a pair of gay socialites, who decide to open a Tea Room in Siem Reap, Cambodia, with the aim of curing Cambodia’s famine problems.
‘Follow the adventures of the Baroness Aster Moffat of Woolfardisworthy (that is pronounced Woolsery, darling. Dontcha know your Devonshire place names?) and Miss Dorothy Gwendoline Hunton-Blather as they travel from their home in Devon to Siem Reap, on the doorstep of the magnificent temples of Angkor. Aster’s mission, to save the children of Cambodia from starving by opening a real Devon tea room in the tropics where the impoverished youngsters can receive succour. Dorothy’s mission, to stop Aster from disgracing herself too badly.’
Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external hard-drive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?
My first novel was published. It desperately needs reworking and re-releasing as a second edition, but time and other projects preclude that for now. I do have other works I wrote along the way that languish on hard drives. Maybe one day they will be resurrected!
Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?
I tend to write three novels a year. One, ‘The White Building: A Broken Utopian Dream’, was written in 22 days. The book was based on research work carried out by a great friend of mine. Set in Phnom Penh, the White Building is known as ‘the last slum in the City’. Jo wrote a short article for a news station and showed me her notes. I told her that her research was worthy of more than a 2,000 word editorial, and would make a fantastic novel. I challenged her to write the book. A month later, she told me she could never write a novel, and offered the task to me. Armed with her notes, the pair of us went to Phnom Penh to visit the Building for a long weekend. I was so moved by the place, that the story flooded to me. On the journey back on the bus, I was reciting the plot to Jo. By the time we arrived home, the entire story was flowing.
Working 18 hours a day, the book was written in 22 days, including proof reading.
I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?
I like to write in coffee shops. I have used several over the years, and find I don’t have a favourite. Now I live in England, rather than Cambodia, and I’m writing more and more at home. So far, I’ve found few problems.
Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?
I have great friends who proof my novels and beta read them. They don’t mind giving me critical comments. One of my friends was a professional proof reader before he retired. For Starboy, I hired a professional editor who I found on facebook. I decided to read one of the works Gemma had edited previously, and I was glad I did. It filled my with confidence of her skills.
I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?
I’m an e-reader. I read on my phone. As I mentioned before, I used to live in Cambodia, and there is a definite dearth of good bookshops there.
I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind from various stages of your life?
From childhood, I loved Arthur Ransome and in particularly his ‘Swallows and Amazons’ series. In adolescence, I moved to fantasy novels, becoming a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien. I also read a lot of horror novels, mainly by Dean R Koontz and Steven King. As a young adult, I read very little due to pressure of school work and later jobs. Now, I read sporadically. I have just finished both of the major series by Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus – I tend to read young adult or fantasy books now.
Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. How do you feel about it?
I mainly use facebook as my foray into social media. When I have time, I make regular posts. However, recently I’ve not had so much time and find I make fewer posts than I should. I asked a friend to take care of Twitter for me, but I’ve found the return there is minimal. I have just stopped using Twitter altogether. I have my own blog, which again gets busy in spurts!
Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?
I always answer each set of questions afresh. I’d hate to think I can’t spend the time on promoting myself when someone is kind enough to feature my works.