Hello everyone! Today, I’d like you to meet Ian Probert. This week I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Ian about his latest book and what he plans for the future. Ian is a published author and journalist. He is from England, a place that is part of my own history, as I am half English myself.
Thank you for joining me today, Ian.
Me: Where were you born?
Ian: I was born in a small northern town in Lancashire called Burnley. It will make me sound ancient but I really do remember homemade rag carpets, commodes, outside toilets and people washing coal dust off in tin baths. It’s true!
Me: When did you begin writing?
Ian: I wrote a lot as a child, but then we all do. I think the first serious writing I began doing was a diary I began when I was 21. It spanned my entire three years at art college. It’s pretty debauched reading. I’ve never shown it to anybody.
Me: If you could go anywhere in the world to write a book, where would you go and why?
Ian: Well I quite like the idea of an isolated French farmhouse. But it would have to have broadband, and Sky, and Netflix, and home shopping deliveries.
(Nothing like an isolated French farmhouse with all the amenities included!! Love it!)
Me: Who or what was your first inspiration for your very first story?
Ian: That would have to be Christopher Lee’s Dracula, when I was about eleven. He’s still the best Dracula, especially when they zoom into his eyes when they become bloodshot.
(Shudder. I’d still be having nightmares if I’d seen those eyes at eleven.)
Me: Is there a special place that inspires your writing like a lake, the woods, or some other place that stirs your passion?
Ian: I’m not really that sort of person. When I have it in my mind to do something I don’t care where I do it. However, it’s fairly important to me not to have any clutter. I have to work on a table that is completely clean of anything, in a room that is as free of clutter as possible. I don’t know why I need this because most of the time I’m a very messy person.
(Sure wish it worked this way for me. I’ll need the isolated French farmhouse. I find it inspirational to know with just the right amount of noise filters, a book can still be written. My hats off to you, Ian.)
Me: Of all your characters, who do you think reminds you most of yourself?
Ian: Well that would be easy. It’s the main character in Rope Burns (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rope-Burns-Ian-Probert-ebook/dp/B003YXXKWU/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8). The reason for this is because it’s me. It’s a sort of autobiography. The publishers Headline marketed it a sort of boxing equivalent of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch. if only it had sold half the copies of that one.
Me: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Ian: Yes. For about fifteen years I couldn’t write anything. I’d start something and it would kind of peter out. I didn’t know that I was suffering from undiagnosed hypothyroidism. This is an article I did for the Guardian about it: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/sep/08/underactive-thyroid-was-slowly-killing-me
(On a very serious note, everyone should read this article. What Ian didn’t know at the time of this interview is that I have two sisters who suffer from thyroid disease. Ian’s article clearly sheds light on the symptoms of hypothyroidism. In my family, it was misdiagnosed on multiple levels from anxiety disorder to depression. This article is very useful for those of you who feel tired all the time, faint at times, and have gained a significant amount of weight for no apparent reason. Thank you, Ian, for sharing such a personal issue with us.)
Me: How do you get through this?
Ian: I was finally diagnosed and put on medication. Although, of course, it’s never as simple as that. I’m actually about 80% well and have ditched NHS treatment and started self-medicating. Don’t get me started on this. I could go on about it for ages.
(Again, I commend you for sharing this difficult part of your life with us.)
Me: What advice would you give to other writers who want to publish a book?
Ian: Treat it like a business. Be completely and utterly professional in what you do. Moreover, don’t pester friends and relatives to read your stuff. You cannot force anybody to read anything and they will almost never say what they really think. And if they do you will lose a friend.
(So true. I’ve lost a few friends along the way, as well.)
Me: Do you have a favorite author who has given you inspiration to write?
Ian: It depends what mood I’m in. I love Brett Easton Ellis and I love Paul Auster. But I’m also more than happy to read trash. As I get older I find merit in almost everything.
Me: How do you plan our your characters?
Ian: I do it by not planning anything at all. All of my characters have to be based on people I’ve met so that when I write dialogue I try to make them speak in the voice of the real person.
Me: How do you choose a character’s name?
Ian: Differently for each book. However, for Johnny Nothing I’ve tried to make their names reflect their personalities. For example, the sneaky journalist is called Terry Pryor.
Me: What is your favorite line from one of your books?
Ian: Well I don’t know if I do, but people seem to find this line from Johnny Nothing funny: ‘His name was Ben and he was identical to Bill in every way except that the tattoo on his arm read ‘Bin’ (the tattooist was either South African or not a very good speller).’,
Me: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Ian: Lot’s of things. For enjoyment I play clarinet and classical guitar. Other strings to my bow include teaching design software to companies, and designing covers and logos. I also draw and paint a little.
(He’s a very diverse and talented man, folks.)
Me: What is the greatest compliment you’ve ever received for one of your stories?
Ian: Well, I’ve had people write to me and stuff like that. I don’t know. I’ve had a few people contact me and say that my Guardian article about hypothyroidism has saved their lives. One woman told me that she thinks she would be dead if she hadn’t read it.
Me: How did you feel upon publication of your first novel?
Ian: Surprisingly blasé. But in those days I didn’t realise how lucky I was. I’d been extremely fortunate: my first article had been published by a magazine, I got an agent no problem, I got a publisher no problem. At the time it just seemed natural. I was a pillock. Still am.
(Pillock: In the U.S., this word translates to another word that I cannot use here on my blog! But it sure gave me a good laugh after I looked up the meaning.)
Me: How many books have you written?
Ian: I have to count: seven with traditional publishers (two under a pseudonym). Two self-published. Loads and loads still on my hard drive never to see the light of day. Was looking through old work just the other day. There are so many books I’ve written that I’ve never shown to anyone.
Me: What’s next on your publication list?
Ian: I think a sequel to Johnny Nothing. I kind of like the characters and I left the first one open for a sequel.
There you have it. Ian Probert is a very talented and interesting man. I certainly look forward to the sequel to Johnny Nothing. If you’d like to get your hands on a copy of Johnny Nothing, here’s how:
@truth42 I’m reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert. http://geni.us/3oR8 #YA #Kindle #kidsbooks
The first ten readers who answer the following question will also receive a signed print of one of the book’s illustrations.
Q: What is the tattoo on Ben’s arm?
Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org