Today I am joined by journalist and author, Douglas McPherson. Douglas was the man I turned to for advice on turning my Resolution Challenge blog into a book. His response and subsequent support were a huge factor in building my confidence. I am thrilled that he was able to join me for a chat. Over to Douglas.
The Fun Five:
1. What part of the world do you come from?
I grew up in South London, not far from Wimbledon Common. I currently live out in the countryside beneath the big Norfolk skies.
2. What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to do something creative and actually began my working life as a graphic designer.
3. List three words to describe yourself.
4. Who would play you in a film about your life?
Matt Smith in his Dr Who clothes – I have a jacket just like that – although if I get any more grey hairs we’ll have to start talking to Peter Capaldi.
5. Who is your favourite author?
I really like Eric Malpass who wrote a series of books about a family called the Pentecosts, mostly viewed through the eyes of their 9-year-old son, Gaylord. My favourite, At The Height of the Moon, is still my benchmark for good writing. It’s very gentle and comic, but sharply observed, too.
The Sensible Seven:
1. What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was a biography, Dominic Kirwan: Through The Years. I went to one of his concerts by chance and, for someone who’s not on the telly or in the charts, I was amazed at the dedication of his fans, who are mostly women of a certain age. They follow him all over the country and cover the stage in presents for him. I thought: “Here’s a story that hasn’t been told…and an audience for it.” I have a fond memory of standing by his merchandise stand and watching his fans buy two books at a time – one to read and one to keep. That’s how much they adore the man.
2. You write romance novels as Julia Douglas, what prompted you to write under a pseudonym?
It’s just a marketing thing. There’s a belief that people who buy romance like to see a female name on the cover. It’s the opposite in some other genres like thrillers and sci-fi. JK Rowling used her initials because she thought that if boys saw Joanna on the cover they might have thought her books were for girls. Also, in magazine fiction, if it’s a first person story and there’s a male name at the top of the page, people might start reading with the assumption that the character is male, when it might not be.
3. Tell us a little about your non-fiction book, Circus Mania.
I’d never been interested in circuses until The Stage sent me to review a show at Britain’s oldest circus building, the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome, which is a very magical and atmospheric place. I interviewed an aerialist called Eva Garcia about her lifestyle – her family had been in the circus for a hundred years. The very next week, the day after my interview was printed, Eva fell to her death during her act. The shock of that brought home to me the danger that circus performers face every day, so I wrote Circus Mania as a backstage journey through their world, talking to the performers about their unique lives, history, traditions and superstitions. It’s a fascinating business and I’ve carried on writing about the big top every since, including the setting of my romantic novel The Showman’s Girl.
4. You also write short stories (my personal favourite being The Blue Rinse Brigade). Which do you find easier to write, short stories or novels?
I’m really a short story man. I think that comes from mainly being an article writer. I like to cram a lot into a short space. Even the romance novels are fairly short. I’ve never had the patience to read really thick books. The writers I admire are actually songwriters who can cram a whole story into a few lines.
5. Your ‘Get Started’ feature in the Writers’ Forum Magazine is a wonderful resource for anyone growing their writing career. Do you have a favourite piece of advice?
I think you need a niche, something that sets you apart from other writers, and I think that comes from writing about the things that you are personally most fascinated by and really want to tell people about. If anyone has a question about writing they can email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions and answers will be printed in the magazine.
6. What can we expect from you in the future?
At the moment I’m mainly writing articles, but I have a few stories lined up to appear in My Weekly over the next couple of months. I’m really happy that my latest romance novel, Polka Dot Dreams, is available as an eBook and also as a paperback in libraries – you can read it for free!
7. How can we contact you or find out more about your books?
I’ve got two blogs. Circus Mania is a spin-off from the book Circus Mania and about all things circus. You can also read my Blue Rinse Brigade series Murder At the Circus there.
All my fiction books can be found at Julia Douglas Romance