Meet Ian Probert – Author of Johnny Nothing

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 ( 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:

(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:

To celebrate the paperback launch of Johnny Nothing we are offering a free Kindle copy of the book to the first 100 people who Tweet the following message:

@truth42 I’m reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert. #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




Book promo




Twitter @truth42


Can You Hear Me, Medicare?

This is not a random post. Please – allow me to explain.  As a citizen of the greatest country in the world, (My apologies to all non-Americans. I am sure you  feel the same way about your country, as well.) I have expectations and dreams, like everyone else, when retirement comes knocking on my door. Call me a dreamer, but isn’t Medicare supposed to be a good thing?  Aren’t we supposed to be able to rely on this system when we retire?  The good news is that we can – as long as we need surgery and medication. 

I took my mother to the ear doctor today.  He didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.  After a complete audiogram, the results indicated she had moderately severe hearing loss in both ears.  I knew this already!  Everyone in my family can testify to my mother’s hearing loss!   She needed to hear it directly from the doctor, though.  That’s how she is. Unless the doctor has spoken, it goes in one ear and out the other, so to speak.octogenarians

On behalf of the doctor, he treated my mom with genuine respect.  He was kind, courteous, funny, and made her feel at ease.  After all, she’s an octogenarian.  Not everyone makes it to 80 years old and still has their wits about them.  She does, however.  Sharp as a whip, that mother of mine!  She can work a smart phone better than anyone her age!   We like to kid her and tell her that all those years of games and puzzles have paid off in her twilight years.physician-examines-ear-of-male-patient

There’s probably some truth in that, isn’t there?  The brain needs exercise too, like every other muscle and organ in our body. But, I digress.  The doctor told my mother that there was no magic pill or surgery that could fix her problem, which caused me to start thinking about his statement.  More on that statement in a minute. The solution? A very expensive hearing aid.  Here’s the problem with that.physicians symbol

” Medicare doesn’t cover routine hearing exams, hearing aids, or exams for fitting hearing aids.” (  I was deeply discouraged when I discovered this information.
There was good news, however.  My mother has secondary coverage.  So I called her secondary provider and learned they would pay up to $1500 for the cost of one hearing aid.  I asked many questions to the young lady at the secondary insurance company.  At the end of the conversation, I was absolutely guaranteed a $1500 benefit from her secondary insurance company.  I became so excited, I promptly told my mother the good news.  She was elated and near tears at the thought of being able to hear at a normal range again.  She lowered her head and her voice became shaky when she said, “Oh good. I’ll be able to hear again.  That’s great news!  My mother is a very proud woman.  She doesn’t want a hearing aid!  She doesn’t want to burden anyone either.  She is a very strong-willed woman, who has been taking care of herself her whole life.  She didn’t want me to see those tears.  I understood completely, as the apple didn’t fall that far from the tree.  Needless to say, I was excited for both of us.
The doctor’s visit had estimated that the cost of the hearing aid would be approximately $1500.   It seemed the cost of the hearing aid would be covered and my mom would soon be enjoying the necessity of a good ear once again.dollar signs smiley face
Then, I called the doctor.  My phone call was routed to the audiologist, instead.  Her telephone voice was calm, kind, and firm.  I gave her the good news.  Then,   she gave me the bad news.   She told me that my mother would have to pay for the hearing aid up front.  My heart sank.  I became very upset.  I kept my emotions to myself temporarily.  I asked the audiologist why my mother should pay for it first if the insurance company is going to pay for it. She explained that the doctor’s office pays for the devices in bulk, or “large invoices,” as she put it.   She said that their experience has been that insurance companies frequently offer to pay “up to $1500” for hearing aids.  She said that whenever they say “up to,” it usually means they are only going to pay for a small portion of the cost. Age I reassured her that I asked the insurance company several questions, including “exactly” how much they would pay for a simple device.  She continued to say that they usually pay 1/3 of the cost and because the doctor’s office doesn’t bill balances to the patient, they have lost a lot of money.
At this point, my emotions ranged from disappointment to anger. disappointment I’m not exactly sure who I am angry with – the doctor or the insurance company.  Maybe I feel angry at both of them. I am thinking about my mother now, as the audiologist apologizes for company policy.  I don’t want to be harsh, as she does not make the company policy, but at the same time, an apology is not going to get my mother a hearing aid.  She doesn’t have $1500 to give to the doctor up front.  That’s why she paid for insurance her whole life.  Why should she suffer because a) the doctor’s office buys the devices in bulk,  b) some insurance companies don’t deliver, and c) some people don’t pay their bills.  I don’t understand the office policy.  I understand finances and overhead.  I even understand corporate economics.  I worked on Wall Street for 12 years.  I get it.  What I don’t get is why an otolaryngologist expects an 80-year-old woman to pay for her simple hearing device up front.  This hearing device is at the bottom of the device pool.  It’s not even the expensive one that comes with all the bells and whistles.  anger_quote
My mother raised eight children, almost by her herself.  She was raised in an orphanage and began working when she was 17 years old.  She has paid into Medicare for 58 years.  Let’s say she only paid $25 a week into the retirement coverage.  It’s way more than that, I can say, but let’s just be hypothetical and kind for the sake of argument.  She has always had a job.  Therefore, that would be a grand sum of $75,400 paid into Medicare in her lifetime.  We all know this is a ridiculously conservative figure.  Most of us pay twice that, if not more.  You would think that at the ripe old age of 80, Medicare could afford to buy her a hearing aid.  Even though her secondary coverage has offered to pay for it, the doctor will only supply a hearing aid if she pays for it beforehand.
What’s wrong with this picture?  Anyone?
After some research, I quickly learned that hearing aids are not the only necessities Medicare doesn’t cover.   Look at the following list that Medicare does not cover.  Examine it closely!

“Some of the items and services that Medicare doesn’t cover include:

    • Long-term care (also called custodial care)
    • Most dental care
    • Eye examinations related to prescribing glasses
    • Dentures
    • Cosmetic surgery
    • Acupuncture
    • Hearing aids and exams for fitting them
    • Routine foot care”


As the site states, these are SOME of the items Medicare doesn’t cover.  I can see that my mother, who wears dentures, will not be covered for the cost of a new set of dentures.  Her dentures are in desperate need of repair.  Being able to get proper nourishment is not a luxury.  It is a necessity.  Being able to hear is a not a luxury.  It is a necessity.dentures
My mother is also a diabetic, so proper foot care is also a necessity, not a luxury.    According to the National Diabetes Education Program, “10.9 million Americans ages 65 and older have diabetes..”  That’s a lot of people who need proper foot care.  It’s not covered under Medicare.  I’m not done yet, either.foot care
Medicare does not cover eyeglasses.  Here’s what the website says: “Generally, Medicare doesn’t cover eyeglasses or contact lenses. However, following cataract surgery that implants an intraocular lensMedicare Part B (Medical Insurance) helps pay for corrective lenses (one pair of eyeglasses or one set of contact lenses).””
My mother had an intraocular lens implant.  I am getting suspicious at this point.rolling eyesg  
Overall, Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids, dentures, foot care, or eyeglasses. These are not luxuries.  These are necessities for many who will make it to 80 years of age.  You need to be able to see, hear, and eat to survive, but these basic services are not covered under the healthcare system that has at least $75,400 of my mother’s money.  I fail to see the point in paying in to this system if these services will not be available at my time of retirement, either!
The following is my opinion, but I strongly suggest you do your own research and get the facts yourself.  Consider this – hearing aids do not require surgery.  Eyeglasses do not require surgery.  Foot care does not require surgery.  Dentures do not require surgery.  That is not to say that ear surgery, eye surgery, foot surgery and dental surgery will not occur.  However, If you don’t need ear surgery, but still need a hearing-aid, you are not covered under the Medicare program. If you don’t qualify for an intraocular lens implant, forget about those eyeglasses, unless you are prepared to pay for them yourself!  By the way, they can become quite expensive.  Apply the same line of thinking to foot care and dentures. Do you see a pattern here?heart puzzle
It is my opinion that unless you need to take a pill or need to have surgery, you will have to fend for yourself at 75 years of age.  Unless insurance companies and some doctor’s offices are getting paid by you and the rest of these United States, you will be held responsible for your own eye care, dental care, hearing care, and foot care.  All of these types of healthcare can become very expensive.    
What does any of this have to do with the title of my blog, you ask?  My dream is that all people are created equal, regardless of race, creed, gender, or age.  My dream is that healthcare is offered to all people, regardless of race, creed, gender, or age.  I don’t mean affordable healthcare, either.  I mean free healthcare. After paying into the very same healthcare system for 57 years of one’s life, if they worked every day from age 18 until age 75, Medicare should be utilizing a person’s hard-earned money to provide them with basic needs. greedy hands  Where did that money go?  Why are insurance companies quick to pay for surgeries and medications, but decline to pay for the very basic necessities of life?  
As a beloved rock group of mine says, “Think for yourself.  Question authority” (Tool).  When you stop asking questions, you allow systems to become unchecked and therefore, fail.  Medicare has failed.
Fortunately, my mother is living in North Carolina.  There is a state program that will evaluate her need and provide her with a free hearing-aid, if she qualifies.  Thank you, North Carolina, for caring for the elderly.  I pray she qualifies, because I am going deaf with her.  
Thank you for allowing me to rant and rave about healthcare.  Thank you for reading this post.  All comments are welcome, as always.  I am done now.  Blog on!  praying_hands[1]