Oct 20

Saturday Six Pack – Tim Vicary – Author of A Game of Proof

Today’s Saturday Six Pack is with Tim Vicary, author of several books in a wide variety of genres. He’s a very interesting guy and I think you’ll enjoy hearing what he has to say about his approach to writing.

So grab a cold one and say hello to Tim.

A mother’s worst nightmare – can her son be guilty of murder?

Sarah Newby, who left school at 15, and was living as a teenage single parent on an inner-city estate, has worked her way up to begin a career as a criminal barrister. But what should she do when her own son, Simon, is arrested and charged with a series of brutal rapes and murders? Has Sarah, in her single-minded determination to create a career for herself, neglected her son so much that she no longer knows him? He has often lied to her in the past, so how can she trust him when he says he is innocent this time? And what should she do when she herself uncovers evidence that seems to suggest his guilt? Should she help the police and protect the public? Or risk her career to save her son?

You’re three books into a legal thriller series, you have four historical novels, and you also write shorter books for foreign students in English. Time to fess up, Tim. Do you get bored writing in the same genre all the time, suffer from ADD, or are you just one of those rare storytellers who can easily move back and forth between genre and style? All kidding aside, I’m very impressed with your catalog.

Thanks for those kind words, Bernie. My wife tells me I do suffer from ADD slightly, and Twitter is definitely making it worse. But the other reason I’ve managed a fair number of books is that I’m fairly old – 63 – so I’ve been writing for some time, in between irritating distractions like going to work every day, bringing up a family, and so on. It seems to me like I ought to have written more, but hey – you only live once, and there’s all that stuff going on outside the window!

Tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment and when we can expect to see it launched?

Over the past few months I’ve been getting quite a few positive reviews for A Game of Proof and the other books in my legal thriller series, The Trials of Sarah Newby, and several people have been kind enough to say they hope there will be more about Sarah, so I’m trying to write a fourth one. The planning is under way, but the writing hasn’t started quite yet. I need to have a fairly clear idea of the main events in the plot, otherwise I tend to get lost halfway through, which has happened before.

How do you go about balancing the various demands of writing versus marketing and promotion? I know it’s a constant challenge for all of us.

Good question. It’s a major issue (especially if you have ADD!) Over the past year I’ve spent a huge amount of time learning how to promote my books and market them, and then actually doing it. It takes up several hours every day; sometimes the whole day! Basically we indie authors are having to learn how to do all the things the publisher and agent did (or we hoped they did) and then find time to write as well.

I think the solution must have something to do with things like self-discipline, having a supportive and understanding family, not too many dogs or children bouncing around your knees asking you to play or go for a walk, and having something really good to write about. I think the last one is really important. Once I get into this next Sarah Newby book properly, and feel the characters and situations working, then I’ll enjoy writing it and want to it every day, and it’ll begin to take over. At least I hope it will. Whereas now, when I’m still a bit uncertain, it’s really easy to drop it and do something else.

When I was in my fifties I took up running, and became mildly obsessive about it. I ran the London Marathon once (very slowly) and the Great North Run four or five times. And I found that when I was running regularly I felt a need to do it, every day; I felt rubbish if I didn’t do it. But then when I stopped for a month or two, it became almost impossible to start. It was always raining or cold or there was something on TV.

I think writing’s a bit like that: if you do it every day you’ll want to do it and find time somehow. But you have to have a clear plan and a goal in front of you to make that happen.

I’m very interested in your work on behalf of foreign students. It sounds like a fascinating idea and one that is very commendable. How did you get started with that effort and where would you like to see it go in the future?

It was just a lucky break. I teach foreign students and one day the sales rep from OUP came to our school, and when she’d finished her spiel she casually said: ‘By the way, OUP are looking for authors for a new series of graded readers. Would any of you be interested in having a go?’ Everyone else said: ‘No, sorry,’ but I said ‘Yes, of course!’ So I sent in a couple of manuscripts which they liked, and it took off from there.

Writing for OUP has been great for me. Even though these are fairly short books and low down in the pecking order of literature, they are really well produced and carefully edited. All the editors I’ve worked with there have been really friendly, thorough and helpful. The books stay in print for years, and sell all over the world; what more could you want?

In 2010 and 2011 I won a couple of awards for these books, which was great. But I’ve told OUP I’m not going to write any more books for them this year. Sarah Newby is calling, and there are only 24 hours in each day! (apart from the marketing – see above!)

Since I’m a total curmudgeon and always on the lookout for great contemporary ideas I can use, I’ve never attempted historical fiction but am interested in the process. How do you go about putting a narrative together, what are your rules about where you stick to the facts or bend the story to fit where you’re taking the book, and how much research is involved?

I love historical fiction; please tell your readers that my historical novels are just as good as the Sarah Newby books, if not better! In some ways I think it’s easier than just making up a story from scratch, because in history you can find lots of background and exciting events which you could never make up for yourself. For instance my book Cat and Mouse deals with suffragettes just before the first world war. These women did astonishing things – gangs of respectable ladies walking down Oxford Street, pulling hammers out of their handbags, and smashing all the plate glass shop windows, for example. Who could imagine a thing like that? But it really happened. And when they were sent to prison and went on hunger strike they were forcibly fed, held down while a long rubber tube was pushed down their throat and into their stomach so that a doctor with a jug and a funnel could pour soup down it. Unbelievable, but true! So with events like that, half your work is done for you. All you have to do is create the characters and imagine how they would feel in situations like that, and what could possibly make them do these things.

Last question, and it’s the one I ask everyone because I’m intrigued by every writer’s ongoing effort to improve. If you could change one thing about yourself as a writer, what would it be?

More discipline (see above) Stop being distracted by other stuff, and get on with it.

But there’s another thing that HAS changed for me over the past 18 months, and for many other writers, I imagine. Self-publishing on the internet has made it possible, for the first time in my life, to believe in yourself, and rely on yourself, in a completely different way. You don’t need an agent any more, you don’t need a publisher, you can do it all yourself. And that’s a HUGE change. Enormous. New opportunities are out there in front of you. So grab them if you can. (But leave a little for me!)

Great stuff, Tim. Continued success with your books and thanks again for stopping by.

Be well.

Website: http://www.timvicary.com
Blog: http://sarahstrials.wordpress.com
A Game of Proof: US link http://amazon.com/dp/ASIN/B005ALGIFK
UK link: http://amazon.co.uk/dp/ASIN/B005ALGIFK


  1. Toots

    Yet another Indie author you’ve opened my literary world up to. Informative interview…as always. Look forward to next week’s installment…even if it is read over a cuppa cofee & sans the suds 🙂

  2. Karen

    I was JUST gonna say the same thing Toots! Having the “hot” morning cuppa and reading about all these new (well, new to me anyway) authors is really a great way to meet them. Great format Bernie, and even though I am not an author, I especially am in total agreement that the internet self- publishing opportunity now opens up a new world….to ALL of you talented authors out there.

    I just wish I had more time myself to read…as ALL the books sound great!

    Nice “meeting you” Tim!

  3. Tim Vicary

    Nice meeting you too, Karen. I agree; it’s a pleasure to be on this website.

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