Who is Andy Lucas?
I first started writing for pleasure when I moved up to secondary school, in the very early 80s. I was fortunate to have a couple of enthusiastic teachers who fuelled my interest in story writing so, by the time I was sixteen, I knew I wanted to be an author. Like thousands of other hopefuls, however, after a year or two I could have papered a wall with the dozens of rejection letters from agents and publishers I acquired. In those days, mainstream was the only game in town and I was spectacularly unsuccessful in interesting a publisher with my initial offerings. I did receive a few positive nibbles here and there, including for a screenplay I wrote, but this did little to improve my sense of failure. I figured they knew what they were talking about and that I must, after all, just not be very good at this writing lark. For nearly two decades thereafter, I wrote only sporadically and fitfully. If I am brutally honest, my writing was so haphazard as to be virtually non-existent for years at a time. A growing family and work took up most of my time and I considered stopping writing altogether, on several occasions, but could not bring myself to do it. Fortunately, the dawn of the indie author arrived, possibly just in the nick of time!
Tell us about your latest work.
I am currently writing the sixth book in my James Pace thriller series. I write each story set across two volumes i.e. a duology format, so this new book will complete the third duology, called BLOOD GURKHA. Part 1: Prophesy is available now and my new book; Apocalypse, is scheduled for release on 19th December 2016. Right now, I am hard at work, drawing the threads of the story together, and I have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying writing this new book. Once completed, I will be taking a brief break from this series to complete the second book in my new Ian Flyn science fiction thriller series, which I intend to release in March 2017 before commencing a fourth James Pace duology, with planned release slots of July 2017 (Part 1) and December 2017 (Part 2). All these book are currently untitled although I already have a good idea of what each story will look like. My intention is to release three books every year from now on.
Describe a typical writing day.
I wish there was such a thing for me!
Although I still work a full-time day job, my writing is now regular and I have learned to be a little ruthless when it comes to making sure that I have enough time to write. The most important revelation has been that I write more fluidly (and better) when I set aside entire blocks of days and write for at least six hours on each of these days i.e. holidays or ring-fenced weekends. On these dedicated days, I rise early and write solidly from 07:00 until 13:00, undisturbed. Not only has this approach improved my word output i.e. 4000 - 7000 words each day but the intensity of the creative process allows me to focus more effectively on the pace and flow of the narrative. I also tend to write outdoors during the spring and summer months; sitting at my garden table, beneath the parasol, with my laptop humming, fuelled by copious mugs of coffee!
In essence, I write a little most days but I create the bulk of my books in a few concentrated bursts. This approach allows me to keep on top of every planned twist and turn in the plot lines and develop the characters in a believable manner. A writing blitz can add up to 30,000 words to a story, usually over a week of frenzied, focused effort. I am not suggesting this is the right approach for everyone – it just works for me so I am happy to share.
How do you handle negative reviews?
I don't often read reviews any longer; dipping in only occasionally to see if there have been any technical issues picked up by readers. I used to get quite hung up on negative comments but found the soul-searching and my natural, defensive reaction to be self defeating and damaging, especially towards my own enthusiasm for writing. I hold a genuine respect for a reader's opinion whilst also understanding that two people can read the same book and experience very different outcomes. Engaging with a book, as a reader, is a very personal event and I am just grateful that readers are prepared to give up their time, and hard-earned money, to join me in my own world. Of course, I want every reader to love my books because I pour my heart and soul into each one but this isn't realistic, I realise. As a developing author, I now stay intently focused on writing new material and let the existing work speak for itself, with the hope that the writers of any negative reviews are still able to find some elements of my work that they enjoyed.
Have you ever read a book and thought “I wish I’d written that!”?
Far too many to list, including offerings from the likes of Tolkien, Lewis, Innes, Bagley and even your own Tom Gray books! Strangely, though, if I had to choose just one, it would not even feature in the genres I write. My favourite book of all time, from childhood and still today, is a toss up between 'Stig of the Dump' and the other classic children's tale of 'Watership Down', with the latter just nosing ahead of the race. The genius of personification that the author applied to bring this band of wandering rabbits to life, with such diverse and relatable characters, remains a powerful reminder to me that storytelling is truly worth doing. It does enrich people's lives and, if you get it right, it can leave a positive, indelible mark upon another human being that lasts a lifetime.
If you could collaborate with one author, who would it be?
As a huge fan of Jack Higgins and Clive Cussler, of course these two authors would be at the top of my list. Their heroes, villains and twisting narratives have kept me company on many holiday beaches, train journeys and aeroplane flights over the years. That said, since first reading his novels, I rate David Leadbeater as highly as any thriller writer I have ever purchased from a book shop. I feel privileged to have been included in a couple of boxsets with David, alongside some other fantastic authors, but collaborating with him on a book would be a great experience, I'm sure.
Do you plot your books to the smallest detail or do you write by the seat of your pants?
Both. I start with an idea; fairly detailed, and then I throw the characters at it to see what happens. I always have my eye on the end result and rein them in if their own interactions threaten to lead the narrative too far off course. For me, a good book is about the characters and how they all react differently to situations. The readers need to care about them and, for this to happen, they have to be believable even if the situation they find themselves in seems to be bizarre. Sometimes this means that a couple of sub-plots or strands crop up that I never envisaged at the outset but they always seem to enrich the overall story. I tend to flesh out story structures broadly by chapter nowadays too, which is something that I find increasingly useful i.e. in this chapter, these characters will meet the villain, in the next chapter, a new setting will be introduced with a new character and a key event, like a murder etc.
When you’re not writing, how do you relax?
It is a cliché, I know, but I enjoy spending time with my family. I love watching my children grow and develop - time with them is hugely valuable to me. On a less emotive note, I enjoy riding horses and have, in the past, also enjoyed riding motorcycles. I have fairly recently taken up target shooting as a hobby and I am really enjoying beginning to learn the sport of marksmanship out on the ranges. Not only do I hope that I might end up being good enough to take part in competitions one day but I am also looking forward to being able to increase the level of realism that I instil whenever my characters use firearms in my books. Finally, I enjoy getting stuck into building and DIY projects. Working with my hands; measuring, sawing, filing, fixing and painting, is oddly relaxing for me.
Where can we find your books?
All my books are available on Amazon, in Kindle or paperback formats. Visit my Amazon author page at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Andy-Lucas/e/B007BS5S0Q/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0 Links to each book can also be found through my website: www.andylucasbooks.com