My name is Charlie King. I am an independently-published author from Croydon having just published my first book, The Lyons Orphanage, and I intend to write more including a sequel.
I have had an interest in English and writing ever since I was young and it has stuck with me throughout my education. I have a BA Hons in Journalism with English Language from the University of Portsmouth. When I finished university, I found that Journalism was no longer for me but I still loved to write so instead I tried to find a non-Journalism related writing job. When that didn’t happen, I went through a stressful job in retail before working where I am now in an administrative role in a law firm.
Being content with my job, I found myself motivated to write a book. It had crossed my mind many times over the years; I even tried to write a book a long time ago around the age of ten/eleven but it was terrible and lucky not seen by any eyes other than my own. The thought of that book put me off from thinking I could write a decent book. However, now I am happy to say that I’m pleased with my debut novel. I was surprised of how the ideas flowed into my mind as I was writing it and it was the same for planning the plot of the sequel.
Ideally, I’d have loved for a publisher read it and deem it good enough to be published but, in reality, just seeing a book with my name published on it was the main motivation. I’m realistic enough to not expect huge sales, especially working as my own marketer, but if only several hundred people read it and the majority like it, that’s all the vindication I need.
Author website: www.charliekingauthor.com
About the Author
- Why did you choose the mystery genre for your debut novel?
In my teens moving into my adult years, I began watching more and more detective/mystery television shows which I mainly saw because my mum was a big fan of these shows. The reimagining of the stories by Arthur Conan Doyle for Sherlock Holmes on the BBC is probably the most mainstream example. Everybody knew the name Sherlock Holmes before but I thought it was refreshing to see it in a modern day setting. The build-up of what you think will happen, the red herrings along the way and what actually happens is a great experience when you are genuinely surprised. I wanted to capture all this in my book so I went with the mystery genre. It was enjoyable for me to make things seem one way when really it was another by inserting misleading information just to throw the readers off.
- When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’d probably say I wanted to be a writer since I was ten. That’s not to say I seriously considered I would do it but if you asked me to pick one skill I had at that age that I could apply to a future career, it would be writing. Around this time, I tried writing a book but there were too many flaws to count. I couldn’t pace the story right; big events that should have taken up several pages took up half a page and the general story was a bunch of clichés thrown together. It made me realize I didn’t have any original ideas so even if my writing had been perfect, the idea was still lacking; this put me off the idea of writing for a long time. Sometimes, in my teens, I would mention the idea to people casually and a few years later, they’d ask if I’d started writing yet. It was just a couple of years ago where I began to think maybe I could write a book but I still had no ideas of what to write about. I would say I was destined to finish writing a book at some point but that wasn’t to say it would be a good book.
- What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing, my time is spent by what I’d consider to be escapism hobbies. Reading books, watching film and television and playing video games have been my main hobbies throughout life; I’ve never been the outdoors, athletic type of person. When I can mix these hobbies with spending time with my friends, that’s the perfect balance for me
- What types of books do you like to read?
As a kid, my preference was always towards fantasy novels. Harry Potter is an obvious choice for many to say it was one of their favorite series of books but for me, it’s certainly true. A less obvious choice, the first series of novels I remember reading, was The Edge Chronicles by Stewart & Riddle. This book was the first book I read which was set in a fantasy world and I couldn’t wait for the next in the series each time for at least the first five books.
- What would you like readers to know about you the individual?
I am a man of few words, to say the least. I don’t say any more than I need to and sometimes I don’t even say everything I want to say. I’m certainly much better at it than when I was a child; I can freely talk to friends and can get through a conversation with a stranger without many awkward pauses. If you asked me in person to tell you about my book, you probably wouldn’t buy it. If I had to dictate every line of my book instead of typing it, the book would be a lot shorter.
Your Writing Process
- What would you like readers to know about you the writer?
I am a writer of many words, to say the least. I can write everything I plan to write and sometimes I write more when ideas suddenly pop into my head. I’m certainly much better at it than when I was a child; I can add depth to the book, its characters and I can set the scene. I can write to my friends about the book for support and I can display confidence in my book when writing to strangers. I invite people to read the blurb to learn about the book because I feel the blurb I wrote will do the story justice. When writing my book, the initial story can grow and grow and grow.
- Why do you write?
As mentioned earlier, I like a lot of escapism and writing comes under this. However, the real reason I write is because I consider it to be my one creative outlet throughout my life. At school, I was a good all-rounder for the serious, matter-of-fact subjects like Mathematics and Science but not so good at art and craft subjects. That left English as the one subject where answering questions wasn’t a case of right or wrong, there was a lot of interpretation involved. My job is an administration job so it is simple with matter of fact tasks. That means my time is split between work and writing which gives the same balance of serious and creative tasks as when I was in school.
- Most people envision an author’s life as being really glamorous. What’s the most unglamorous thing that you’ve done in the past week?
Speaking of my work, it requires me to do a lot of the menial tasks around the office like gathering up all the plastic waste. So the most unglamorous thing I’ve done this week is have my hands smell of sour milk almost first thing on a Monday morning
- Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
In terms of coming up with the story for your book, I’d suggest you type up any initial ideas you have about the basis of my book. Like I said, my initial idea for writing a book was about mind-reading but I didn’t have anything else in mind other than that. If you have several ideas, put them all down on the same document. Think about what you’re writing about. For me, the first thing I did with my idea was to list the clichés surrounding the concept, the genre, heroes and villains, storytelling in general. List them and then think of ways to turn the cliché on its head and build from there. Think about: Who is your main character? Where are they in their life? What kind of people they’d be associated with? How did they get to be in that position? Are they happy or sad about their current state? What can they do to change their life? (if they start the novel in a bad place) What can happen to them to give them difficulty in life? (if they start the novel in a good place) If you have several ideas, see how far answering these questions take you, I imagine you would suddenly find one of your ideas to have expanded a lot further than the others and that should be the idea you go with as the idea for your first book.
- What would you consider is your favorite part of a book to write? The beginning, the middle or the ending?
Definitely the ending. For The Lyons Orphanage, I had written the final two chapters first. I was excited by this because the book has a gradual buildup of the story which leads to a dramatic final few chapters. So the ending of my book is where most of the action takes place. It allowed me to think of ways to foreshadow what would happen later as well as insert information to mislead both the characters and readers.
- Is there any other genre you have considered writing in?
My original plan for my book, The Lyons Orphanage, was for it to be a fantasy novel. I came up with the idea of mind-reading thinking of it like a super power. I decided soon afterwards that it would actually be more interesting to write about it in a normal setting and that led to me writing it as a mystery novel. My enjoyment of fantasy novels means that I would like to write one myself but I decided that wouldn’t have been the best course for my idea of mind-reading.
- Do you track word count or write a certain number of hours per day?
I mainly plan to write a certain number of pages in a day or to write a chapter in a week but those plans usually change. One day I had planned to write a few pages of a chapter but found myself continuing, managing to finish a whole chapter in a day of writing. Other days, I had written the target number of pages for the first few days of the week to set me on course for finishing the chapter but sometimes the writing inspiration would suddenly dry up and the chapter wouldn’t be finished until much later. In an ideal scenario, I’d write an average of three pages a day and have the chapter finished by the end of the week.
- What was your first published work and when was it published?
The Lyons Orphanage is my first and only published work so far. It was published 8th March 2017.
- When your first book came out, were you nervous about how readers will react to it?
I was incredibly nervous especially because my book was independently published. I tried to get a publisher to take my book on but those ideas were rejected which meant that I had to put faith in my own ability that my writing was worthy of being published. Anybody with the money could become independently published so I didn’t see it as special that I had released a book, even if the people around me did. I had friends and family telling me that this was a great achievement but they hadn’t read the book at this point, they were just being supportive. I was nervous that people I knew were now committed to saying they liked the book because they had given it so much praise before. Even if people you know genuinely like the book, the nerves don’t settle until you have strangers, people with no obligation to be nice to you, speak well of your book. I’m putting confidence in my own ability by going down the independent publishing route and that leaves your confidence there to be shattered if people don’t like the book. I know publishers get thousands of requests so the book getting good reviews wouldn’t be a case of proving the publishers wrong, it’s more a case of proving my ability to myself and others. It would show that the book belongs to be up for sale with all the other books in the world rather than it being made available because I paid for it to be available.
- What can we look forward to in the upcoming months?
The sequel to The Lyons Orphanage is underway. Progress was coming along nicely but it has just stalled over the last couple of months but not to worry; it will be finished by the end of this year. The book will be a mystery, mainly involving the same characters, but set ten years later.
- Do you outline your books or just start writing?
For both my books, The Lyons Orphanage and its sequel (not published yet), I have planned out every chapter beforehand. I set out the basic idea of what will happen in the chapter and I even give an initial prediction as to how many pages it will take up. Guessing how many pages it will take up can be a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because you can have that initial idea of how many pages it will be and you might find yourself writing more which makes you feel like you’ve added more depth to your book. However, sometime the chapters end up falling a bit short so you might feel down about that or you might end up desperately trying to stretch the chapter to reach the length you initially planned. Although, planning out the total number of pages you think your book will take can help with these issues. If you plan the book to be 200 pages, you’ll most likely find that the chapters which you made longer than you intended will balance out the chapters where you fell short giving you a similar final page count.
- How does it feel to hold a book that has your name on the cover?
This was my main motivation for writing a book in the first place. Just seeing a physical copy of my book gave me an enormous sense of pride, even if it was published at my expense rather than a publisher. If I had written the book, published it online only and had next to nobody reading it, it wouldn’t have had the same feeling. Even if the book was still read by very few people, the physical copy would have still meant more to me than the online version. To be able to show friends and family the book, to hand them the book and see them physically reading it is a feeling that can’t be replicated by them telling you they are reading it on their e-reader. There’s also that hope of sitting across from a stranger who is reading it, something you’d never be able to tell if they were reading electronically.
- Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
In terms of appearance, I try to make the characters similar to people I know. The names you see in my novel are a combination of the first names and surnames of my friends. So, I usually try and base the character’s appearance on the first name I have given them. This isn’t always possibly though with my friends being in the twenties when the novel is based around young teenagers and old adults so it’s not always possible. I may include a few of their mannerisms but overall the way they act is based on their imagined role in the story rather than how the real life person might react to the situation.
- Would The Lyons Orphanage make a great movie?
I’d like to think it would. I feel like the book would play out well on the screen with plenty of emotions for the characters to portray and plenty of situation for suspenseful music to be played over the top of the scene. An added bonus is that it would be a relatively cheap movie to make. My only concern would be that the main character, Sam, is the first person narrator and his thoughts make up a large portion of the book so I wonder how well that would translate to screen.
- Do you make a conscious decision to write a certain type of character with a certain occupation, or do the characters decide for themselves what they want to be?
The majority of my characters were written with a clear direction of how they would act and what they would be doing. For the plot to unfold, I knew I needed people working in an orphanage and orphans so that set a lot of characters in their place straight away. I knew how I wanted the adults to act but the children were more open to deciding for themselves, even Sam. When I started writing, I knew Sam would have a curious mind when it came to the adults but I wasn’t sure how he would interact with the other children. Likewise with his friends, Gareth and Natasha, I wasn’t sure if they would both be talkative or if one was shy or if one was serious and one was witty.
- What in your opinion makes good chemistry between your leading characters?
Leading on from the end of my previous point, the interactions between Sam, Gareth and Natasha are the key to providing chemistry between them. At any given point, they can all be serious or witty or cheeky. They can talk to each other no matter what mood each character is in. I think you have to mimic real life with these characters. It can happen but you don’t often see people who are always happy or always angry; it depends on their mood on the day. If these three characters were in the same mood all the time, it wouldn’t make for an interesting dynamic between them nor would it be interesting if they each had one characteristic and stuck to it. Another important part of that is adding information to the conversation that seems unimportant or irrelevant. Friends don’t speak to each other just to give each other the headline news and then move on; the conversations will usually go off in a tangent where friends may mock each other and then come back to the point. It may not seem like one character mocking another has anything to do with progressing the plot and you’d be right but it builds up a more realistic relationship between the characters.
- Is there a character from one of your books that resonates deeply with you?
There’s a minor character, called Ben, in the book who is essentially me when I was a young child. Ben made a couple of friends and didn’t make anymore. Once he made these friends, he didn’t feel the need to make more friends so everybody else sees Ben as a mute. In general, Ben is quiet but he shows his personality when he is around his friends; it is a different side of him that came up but he isn’t comfortable with this side of him shown to the other kids or adults.