CHAT WITH PADDY CUMMINS
When Paddy Cummins began writing books in the year 2000 it was the start of another segment of an interesting life of various and diverse careers. Growing up in the Ireland of the fifties he, like many others, was forced to quit school at age thirteen, get a job and contribute to the family finances of his parents and five other children. He became a motor mechanic, at which he worked for ten years. In the swinging sixties with a group of seven friends, he formed a showband which became one of the most popular in Ireland, performing professionally for five years before being disbanded in 1965.
In the years that followed he set up a successful engineering works, had his own pub, became a political activist as press secretary for the government party, serving four prime ministers, before becoming a senior consultant for a big international company until his retirement after fifteen years.
So the writing was meant to be Paddy’s hobby in his leisure years but he soon discovered that it was becoming another career and now after sixteen years and twelve books he is busier than at any time in his life.
Time to chat with Paddy!
What is your latest book?
In Love With Malta (The Hidden Treasures)
The hidden treasures of Malta, Gozo and Comino, little gems that you won’t find in other guide books, but define the charm and mystique of The Maltese Islands. There is something for everyone to enjoy from living it up in modern urban resorts to wandering leisurely in little traditional hamlets and villages dotted throughout the islands where time seems to stand still and you can linger awhile and relax in the warm sunshine.
Is your recent book part of a series?
Yes and no. Not a series in the strict sense of the term but it is my second travel book on Malta. A third is possible.
What are the greatest challenges in writing short stories?
That’s a really interesting question. I know that many writers say they are much more difficult than novels but I find writing them delightful and easy. I love the discipline of word economy, concise dialogue and description, with surprising and satisfying endings. I’ve written three collections but published only one: Time and Tide on Amazon. I would love to publish more but for some reason they are not great sellers. All my other books have outsold Time and Tide.
How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?
Actually I’m a bit of a ‘genre-hopper’ I have written three romantic adventure novels, a sea tragedy, one collection of short stories and poems, a memoir, an autobiography, two travel books and a mind, body, spirit book. I tend to like a bit of variety.
Are your characters ever based on people you know?
Yes. I think every writer whether they admit it or not does the same. The numerous characters in my books are people that I encountered through life and especially those who for one reason or another left a lasting impression on me. I certainly couldn’t see myself inventing a character and see no need to, as the world is full of every type of character I will ever need.
What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?
That they are mediocre, amateur and inferior to published authors in the traditional way. Another false impression is that they are only ‘Publishing House’ rejects that only become indie authors as a last desperate resort to get published. Nothing could be further from the truth and those blinkered with those misconceptions should read some of the brilliant books now being published online. Indie Authors are the future of the book industry and while the old publishing format will continue in existence, all the new super talented writers will be found on the Internet.
Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
I always know the complete story line and the ending before I begin writing a novel. Perhaps it’s because of my early work with short stories, but I couldn’t see myself making up a story as I went along with no ending in mind or in sight. Of course, I develop all the sub-plots and fill in the padding, dialogue and descriptions as I proceed but I feel that it’s easier once I know the main story line. I also like to have the title before I start. I love experimenting with titles. I would write out as many as 100 titles and a similar number of sub-titles, carefully considering each one before deciding. Even then, I wouldn’t regard my choice as final and before the last chapter I could get a brainwave and change it again. For me, choosing the titles is the fun part.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?
I edit as I write. Before I begin a new day’s writing I always edit the previous day’s work. I think it serves a few purposes. It allows me to recap with a fresh mind and very often see and correct errors of direction, shades of characters and superfluous dialogue and descriptions. I also correct the punctuation and spelling and reading it aloud I can get the flow and pace. Of course, when the book is completed I can spend weeks reading and re-editing again, but a lot of the tedious and boring work would have been done earlier.
How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?
Very important and yes I have changed character names many times. It all depends on the setting and location of the novel. I must always find the right name to fit a character and I usually use names that are not in everyday use but are still easy to pronounce and remember.
Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?
Yes. In Green Lodge, one of the main characters, Janet, is a ‘tyrant.’ She is just obnoxious and a horrible person. But I have to tell you that she is based on someone I knew really well and although now deceased, it gave me great pleasure to portray her in all her scheming ruthlessness.
Authors, especially Indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?
I wish I knew the answer to that vital question. If I did it would be a license to print money and I would never see a poor day again. I think it’s about getting to know the mind of the modern reader. What are they looking for? What turns them on? I believe that good marketing is important. Lots of good reviews certainly influence sales and of course if an author has one hit it will greatly help sales of follow-up books. But as you say it’s still a big conundrum and authors the world over would dearly love to know the answer.
Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?
Social Media is a vital partner of Indie Authors. Apart from the limited promotion and marketing that the online publishers like Amazon can do for us, it is ourselves that must bring our books to our readers around the world. We can only do that through social media and I have found that it’s a numbers game – the more exposure our books get online, the more sales, reviews and readers we will get. I use Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Goodreads and Pinterest. For me, Twitter is the important one. I have 25K followers and average 10K impressions per day. I don’t advertise my books directly in my tweets but I post images and content with links to my two Blog sites where all my books and links can be found. I do the same on the other social media sites but to a lesser extent. After a lot of experimenting over the years I feel this works best for me.
Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?
The answer to that question, Lisette, is a definite no. My books are a one-person project from beginning to end and from the first seeds of a story idea to the published book. If that sounds arrogant it’s not meant to be. It’s just that I want to focus totally on developing my storyline without distractions and complete it exactly as I want it to be. It may be unusual, but I type the manuscript, edit and proof-read it, format it for Kindle and upload it. The only part of the process that I outsource is the cover design which I feel should always be done by an expert. I know that I could seek advice and the expertise of others which would probably improve my finished product but I have this tendency to go it alone – it’s just me – the way I am.
A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?
This is a vital question for all authors especially indie authors. There is no doubt in my mind that reviews, good and not so good, are the fuel that drive sales and books that don’t have them suffer and fail even though they are often better books than the ones with lots of reviews. It is another very effective form of marketing and like all successful brands people will buy if they see that lots of others are buying, while also giving lavish praise and 5-Star reviews. It is in my opinion unbalanced and unfair. Established authors will get a host of glowing reviews for their latest book on the strength of their status and not on the quality of the book, while new and less well-known writers who have published a far superior book may not get any reviews and will struggle to succeed. I don’t have the answer except to say that some authors are better at asking for reviews than others. I have got a reasonable number of reviews for all my books but being reluctant to ask readers to review, I think if I had been more assertive I would have got many more. I really think that readers do not appreciate the value of even a one line review to an indie author and if they were told, perhaps they would respond positively.
Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?
I live in Ireland during the summer months (May to October) and in Malta for the winter. (November to April) I don’t like frost and snow and with that arrangement I can avoid them both.
If you had a million dollars to give to charity, how would you allot the funds?
It would definitely be a children’s charity. I am continuously appalled at the suffering and death of children throughout the world from war, terrorism, starvation, violence and malnutrition. This is a censure on us all because there are ample resources on the planet for everyone if they were more equally distributed and all this unnecessary suffering and death could be avoided if more enlightened decisions were made by our world leaders. There are heroic efforts being made by NGOs but their devoted work is only scratching the surface and they are constantly struggling to fund their vital aid programmes. They would get my million dollars.
When did you start writing books? Early or late?
I had a busy career in business and although I was writing a little for pleasure, it was when I retired that I began writing seriously. I didn’t plan it but one day while looking around for something to fill my new leisure time I spotted a little advertisement in my local newspaper for a ‘Creative Writing Course’ starting in our Community Hall. I enrolled for the ten week course and as they say, the rest is history. Twelve published books later, I can honestly say that seeing the little add in the paper was a stroke of luck for me as it proved to be my key to a whole new world of wonderful pleasure.
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