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Richard the Writer

aka Richard Jefferis

Frequently Asked Questions

My email address is: hello@richardthewriter.download
or if you prefer snail mail, write to me at Richard Jefferis, PO Box 86, Esk, Queensland, 4312, Australia

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Are your stories generally character driven or plot driven?
Definitely character driven. With a plot driven story the plot unfolds and it doesnít really matter who is following it. With my stories the person is crucial since it would be a very different story with someone else. Take Charlie for example; the events and situations that she finds herself in could only have happened to Charlie because of who she is and her particular life experiences before the story started. If sheíd had Penny or Elishaís character then the story would have been very different. On the other hand, with most crime thrillers for example, the crime as been committed and someone will solve it sooner or later; it doesnít really matter who. The character of the cop or private investigator is needed for entertainment but not for solving the murder. Miss Marple could have solved all of Hercule Poirotís cases and vice versa.

Why don't you have 'proper' book titles?
I donít really see the point in fancy titles. My book titled Henry is about Henry and when you see the title you know itís about Henry and you (hopefully) wonít confuse it with another book titled Estelle which is about someone called Estelle. I donít see any benefit in a title that tries to be clever and loses something in the process. Iíve read any number of books where the title doesnít seem to have anything to do with the story and Iíve had to read the blurb on the back or flip through it to remember what it is about. Besides, why isnít Henry a Ďproperí title? What is a Ďproperí title anyway?

Why are your books only available as eBooks?,
Two reasons really. One is the difficulty and expense of getting the books printed, stored and shipped and with over twenty books written thatís a big issue. The other is the environmental impact of cutting down a few forests to make the books. It seems a shame to cut a bunch of trees down and make a few thousand creatures homeless when my books can be read in other ways.

Where do you get your ideas from?
Sorry, trade secret!

Joking aside, the truth is Iíve only once had an idea for a book before I started writing it and that was Elisha and even then it was only for the first half of the story. All the others Iíve just started with nothing in mind and let grow organically as Iím writing. Usually I donít even name the character or decide if the person is male or female until it reaches the point where I canít avoid it and by then itís usually become obvious. This is a nice side benefit of writing character driven stories. I create the character and let him or her get on with living their life while I just tag along for the ride. If my stories were plot driven Iíd have to think up and map out a plot in advance and Iím too lazy to do that.

How long does it take to write a book?
In terms of actual writing, somewhere around 150-300 hours but in terms of the calendar it depends on what else is going on. I wrote Miranda in 19 days as I worked on it for five or six hours every day but at the other extreme The Sixth Tale of Autumn took about 8 months because we moved to Queensland in the middle and I wasnít able to write at all for 6 months or so because of all the distractions. On the other hand, a few days after starting Tom I got quite sad because of how it was developing so I started writing Toni as light relief. For a week or so until Tom lightened up I was writing a chapter of Toni each afternoon and a chapter of Tom each evening!

Why don't your books have cover illustrations?
The purpose of cover illustrations is to make a book stand out from the others on the bookshop shelf and most cover illustrations Iíve seen have at best only a superficial resemblance to the story anyway. My books are only available through my website so thereís no competition. There are some illustrations on the website but they are only there to brighten the site up. A text only website is very dull.

Why don't you sell your books through Amazon and outlets like that?
Because I donít like the principles, attitudes and practices of ďbig businessĒ. OK, maybe I could increase my sales a thousandfold by selling my books through Amazon or some other similar marketplace but I donít want to. I donít want my stories to be just another ďproductĒ retailed by a faceless uncaring for-profit corporation. I want them to be only available through someone who cares about the stories themselves. I also donít like being tied to contracts, deadlines and so on Ė thatís too much like ďworkĒ.

Why aren't you with a conventional publisher?
Because I refuse to toe the corporate line. Iím not going to be told to write something different to what I want to write because some corporation thinks it will be ďmore marketableĒ if I stay within the narrow confines of their concept of a ďgenreĒ. Iím not going to kowtow to some agent who thinks they are the arbiter of taste because they once managed to sell a book to a publisher and are now too self important to even look at manuscripts sent to them unless theyíre by people already famous. Publishers and agents are only interested in the money and have no interest in the stories beyond that. I write the stories I want to write and I enjoy writing them. If I was bound to a publisher or agent then I would be obliged to do ďmarket researchĒ, ďanalyse my target audienceĒ and write something that is commercially focused and tailored to that target. Thatís not going to happen because I write the stories I want to read, not stories calculated to sell.

Every single one of my primary characters is real to me Ė Iíve been shopping with Sheila, shared Walterís pain, sympathised with Trinityís confusion, admired the view from Davidís verandah and argued with Autumn and Logan. Iím not going to be disloyal to them or any of the others. Theyíve all let me in to their lives and I respect them for that.

Are your characters based on real people and real situations?
Yes, definitely. In fact it would be true to say that many of my primary characters represent some facet of myself either in reality or how I would have liked to have been. After all, it would be impossible to write a story where absolutely no aspect of the writerís own personality and experiences is present and that would include experiences involving other people. And yes, I have travelled widely and seen a fair amount of the world and Iíve studied history and read the news. Anyway, itís much easier to take something I know a little bit about and play around with it than it is to make it up entirely. This is why all my stories (other than Autumn) are set mostly in England or Australia. Incidentally, it bothers me that the map I drew of Autumnís world ended up looking rather similar to the Mediterranean but itís too late to change that now.

Thinking about it, I would have to say the same is true for stories written by AI systems. After all, such systems are trained with existing data and that data would therefore be the systemís Ďlife experienceí. Until such time as Artificial Intelligence is wholly independent of humans their experience is, by definition (and training), human experience. The real question is not whether an AI system can write a story (after all, my cat writes a story every time she walks across my keyboard); the question is whether or not such a system will enjoy writing the story.

Do you ever get writer's block?
Not really. I donít get writerís block in the sense of having nothing to say for weeks or months on end but I do get stumbling blocks when thereís a transition from one section of the story to another. It may take me a day or two (or longer) to think of a way of making that transition, particularly if it hasnít conveniently come at the end of a chapter. As regards the story line, I have a simple strategy. I am constantly asking ĎWhat happens next?í because no matter what happens to a character, something else will always happen next even if it is as simple as making a coffee or having a shower and that seemingly trivial event will itself lead on to something else and sooner or later something non-trivial will happen. There are no beginnings or endings as everything happens on a continuum. As Autumn would say, even death is merely a transition from one state to another.

Please donít think Iím smug or self-satisfied about this because Iím really not. I suffer a lot with fears, anxieties and insecurities about not being able to write any more. I stress over whether or not my ďwhat happens next?Ē strategy will work Ė just because itís usually worked so far doesnít mean itíll work next time and even if it does thereís no guarantee anything meaningful will come out of it. And, of course, when Iíve finished a book I worry I wonít be able to start another and ďWhat happens next?Ē canít work because nothing has happened yet since the new story is still just a blank page. And, yes, there have been some stories Iíve started which Iíve abandoned because they werenít going anywhere. I get very anxious when that happens, worrying that itís all over and Iíve ďlost itĒ.

Why don't you have reviews on your website?
Actually, while this website was being planned and created I did ask on my old website if anyone was interested in reading other peopleís reviews. I didnít get a single reply saying they were! So, I decided not to incorporate a reviews page Ė which was a relief to be honest. Partly because Iím human and donít like criticism, regardless of how justified it is, and partly because Iíd have to moderate the reviews so trolls and abusers donít get a foothold and Iíd much rather spend that time writing more stories. The feedback I have had however has always been positive. I imagine people who donít like my books donít bother to tell me Ė they just delete the book and vow not to read anything by me again, which is entirely cool with me. Iím not so precious as to think everyone will love my books Ė there are a lot of philistines in the world after all :)

Did you always want to be a writer?
God no! It never crossed my mind! When I was a child I had an unrealistic fantasy of being an explorer (ideally in the Amazon Rainforest) and later got quite heavily into motorbikes, photography and playing the saxophone. Despite that I ended up following an unremarkable career path into accountancy although Iíd rather have been a chef. I was never particularly gifted in accountancy (nor interested to be honest but my parents wanted me to have a safe career) and after too many years of it I chucked it up and moved over into teaching Computer Science. I wasnít particularly good at that either as I have a fundamental aversion to ďworkĒ and doing things that other people force me to do.

My book Three Little Words describes the critical turning point in my life when I took my first tentative steps in creative writing but I think the seeds of that were planted several years before, when I was around 50. I realised that Iíd developed an unpleasant rigidity in my thinking. I was in a mental rut created by years of accounting and computing and I really didnít like that. What had happened to my ambitions as a musician, photographer or chef? Anyway, to cut a long and tedious story short I enrolled in a course on Classical Mythology with Open Universities Australia which totally enthralled me and opened my mind to a universe of other thoughts and thought processes. I didnít do anything about it at the time beyond taking a few other courses but the rut started to get eroded and branch out in other directions. Itís difficult to identify cause and effect in this sort of situation but I suspect when the time came for me to be alone, bored and depressed in that hotel room in Melbourne the erosion of my mental rut made it possible for me to even consider writing a short story rather than, say, becoming treasurer of the local bowls club and staying a boring old fart until I died.

Anyway, no I never thought of being a writer. And, truth be told, even after writing 20 plus novels I still donít really think Iím a writer. I say I am because itís easier than arguing but I kind of feel like Iím an imposter and one day someone is going to say ďYes, I suppose thatís a cute story but itís time to stop playing your silly games. Those accounts need to be finished by Friday.Ē Then Iíll wake up and discover that Mary Ellen Sturges was right when she said ďI slept and dreamt that life was beauty. I woke and found that life was duty.Ē Maybe thatís why I hate the world of publishers and agents. I want to keep my life of beauty and not wake up to find writing stories is just another duty I have to do. That would be simply dreadful.

My dystopian nightmare:
(ring ring) ďMr Jefferis? Hello, Felicity Ballbuster here. Iím just ringing to remind you that under the terms of the five book contract we have with you we really need those finished drafts by Friday.Ē

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