Thursday, 27 August 2015

Author Profile – Andy S Wilkins (also known as Charming Man)

Hello and welcome!
I am so happy you could join us today.

G.H – How are you today?
I’m good thanks and thrilled to be grilled by you, Georgina!

G.H - When did you first start writing?
It all started quite by accident, following the tragic death of my wife in 1998, when I was left with two small children to bring up alone, as well as manage my own software consultancy.  That’s when Charming Man was born.

G.H - Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
For my sins, I always wanted to be a journalist when growing up.  But at 15, I discovered computers and went down the science route, graduating with a degree in Computing.  I’ve also played drums in a number of local bands over the years (and still play today), and I suppose in the back of my mind I yearned to be a rock star, along with the rest of ‘em!  However, writing, especially comedy, has always played a big part of my life.  I’m forever scribbling things down to potentially use in a stand-up routine, and I still hope to realise this dream one day, should I ever find the time to sift through the piles of paper in my top drawer.  I’m not sure I can still read my writing though!

G.H - Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?
I’m very much a part-time writer at the moment; the rat-race is forever getting in the way, which obviously affects my productivity.  I’m a terrible procrastinator too, which doesn’t help either.  If I could apply the same level of diligence to my writing as I do in my other walks of life, I’d be prolific.  In my defence, I work better under pressure, adhering to timescales and deadlines.  I need an editor or publisher on my back, demanding my next manuscript by the end of the week.  And yes, that’s a hint!

G.H - How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
Back in 1998, while still in a state of shock and running on auto-pilot, I settled into a daily routine of dropping the kids off at day care, fulfilling my nine to five obligations, collecting the kids in the evening, feeding them, bathing them and putting them to bed with a night time story, before collapsing in front of the television and crying into a large glass of red.

I had neither the opportunity nor desire to meet anyone new, yet I craved companionship.  I began to trawl online chat rooms, striking up conversations with anonymous individuals who may or may not have been who they said they were; it made little difference to me.

I wear my heart on my sleeve and it soon became apparent I was able to engage openly with people from all walks of life, be they male or female; but mostly female it has to be said.  Many of my early conversations on the net were innocent in content; I’d pour my heart out to anyone who would listen and in return I’d provide a shoulder to those who were equally going through difficult times.  I found the process very therapeutic and saved myself a fortune in counselling!

Before too long, these intimate exchanges left me wanting more, such is the nature of making a new acquaintance.  However, I chose never to cross the line until encouraged to do so by others.  This led to many a cat and mouse war of words with many a like-minded soul, which both intrigued and excited me.  It was during this time that I wrote my first short story, Night Vision, detailing my longing for the next love to enter my life.

G.H - Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?  If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
The more I chatted, the more I became obsessed with the notion of sexual encounters between strangers.  Still not in a position to embark on a new relationship in the real world, I continued to engage women in cyberspace and together we’d contrive a variety of scenarios from the respective comfort of our laptops.  Many of these scenarios were later to become short stories; Beach Encounter, Mid Air Collusion, Ariana, A Greek Tragedy and The Hitcher, to name a few.

G.H - Where does your inspiration for these stories come from?
All my stories are either based on real life experiences, conversations with other like-minded souls or a notion perceived when making eye contact with someone.  The latter are the most fun; I most likely imagine the connection, but if it leaves me with a wonderful idea for a story, all the better.  My idea for Mid Air Collusion was based on eye contact with a woman at Amsterdam airport that lasted a fraction of a second.  I have no idea who she was, and better still, she most likely has no idea I wrote a story based on her.

G.H - What was your favourite chapter to write and why?
It’s difficult to talk about chapters as a short story writer.  I’ve just released my first compilation of short stories, entitled First Encounters, comprising Night Vision, Beach Encounter, Mid Air Collusion, Ariana, A Greek Tragedy and The Hitcher.  As my writing has evolved, my stories have become longer, more descriptive.  Night Vision was merely 1600 words in length, Beach Encounter only twice that.  By Mid Air Collusion and Ariana, I’d hit 12000 words.  In contrast, my last offering, The Hitcher came close to 30000 words in length.  This is by far my favourite to date.  I thoroughly enjoyed the expanse of canvas I created, in which I set out the slow, tortuous tale of boy meets girl, and the cat and mouse game of love that developed between them.  It has certainly given me the desire to write a full-length novel. 

G.H - Where is your favourite place to write?
Anywhere where there is peace and quiet.  I have a house in France and I love sitting by the pool with my laptop, soaking up the sun.  Sunshine feels me with such inspiration.

G.H - Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? i.e. You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
No, not really.  I find I can write wherever I am, so long as there’s peace and quiet.  I’ve tried writing to music, but I just can’t concentrate.  My mind wanders and I find myself playing the drums in my head!

G.H - Do you use a computer/laptop for your first draft or are you a pen and paper writer?  I’m definitely a computer writer.  I only ever resort to pen and paper if I have a good idea and none of my gadgets are to hand.  These days I create voice memos on my iPhone if I ever need to capture a new idea.

G.H - How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
The names used in my stories are almost always inspired by the scenario that gave me the idea for the story in the first place.  Take Mid Air Collusion as an example.  I had eye contact with a woman at Amsterdam airport, so it seemed fitting that’s where the story should start.  They embark on a transatlantic flight to New York together, but I wasn’t travelling to New York on that particular business trip.  However, it made sense for them to be travelling somewhere relatively long-haul in order to have a reasonable encounter.
She was a dark-haired woman, and although we never spoke, I immediately conjured her as a Central European, with a deep, rich English accent.  I once met a girl at a party from Croatia; I made the connection and Nikolina was born.

G.H - Did you learn anything from writing your book?  What was it?
Writing the first draft of each of my short stories was pretty straight forward, once I applied myself.  What I didn’t foresee was the time required to edit and proofread, getting it ready to publish, especially with the likes of my novella The Hitcher.  It’s all very well throwing down your thoughts to get the first draft completed, but in hindsight this is the tip of the publishing iceberg.  Cleansing that draft, removing repetitive prose, ensuring the words sing from the page when read, not to mention typos, punctuation and the like, can take an age, especially if you’re a perfectionist like me.

I also need to take time management far more seriously.  As I said earlier, in my day job world, I have to meet deadlines and I do so without issue.  My writing is a hobby at the moment, I have no constraints or deadlines to meet.  I like to think this would all change, should I ever be offered a publishing deal!

G.H - How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
Again, it depends on the length of the story.  The 12000 words of Ariana probably took me three weeks actual time to write, plus another three to cleanse.  However, the 30000 words of The Hitcher probably took me the best part of three months to write (on and off), yet cleansing consumed the best part of a further four months!  I apportion most of the blame to the genre of the work; erotica is a narrow field to engage in, especially when it comes to writing the sex scenes.  There are only so many ways to describe certain acts and if the emphasis is on arousing your reader rather than making them laugh, then there are also only a few choice words available to describe those acts.  And if a body of work contains several sex scenes, as The Hitcher does, avoiding repetition is an art form in itself.

G.H - Can you describe the feeling you had when you saw your published book for the first time?
I’d released five of my short stories as eBooks on Amazon and Smashwords before reworking them and adding a sixth to create the First Encounters compilation.  I felt a great sense of achievement seeing each available to download online.  However, the sensation I experienced holding the paperback proof copy of First Encounters in my hands the day it arrived in the post was truly overwhelming.  Prior to its arrival, I’d seen other authors posting their hysteria to be holding a copy of their book in their hands, and I couldn’t fully comprehend their excitement.  But I do now, it’s a wonderful feeling.  I spent a lot of blood, sweat and tears breathing life into my project, and to spy my book on my bookshelf, alongside other famous authors, still sends a tingle down my spine.  I just need to get it on everyone else’s bookshelf!

G.H - Who are some of your favourite authors? 
I am a big fan of the late Iain Banks and I adore The Wasp Factory.  I love the way he tells a yarn; when I read one of his books, his delicious words jump from the page into my mouth, and I find myself salivating as I digest them.

I also grew up on a diet of Woody Allen films and books, and for me he is the comic genius of the world.  Any desire I have to write comedy stems from my days reading his film scripts, listening to tapes of his 1960s stand-up performances and digesting his amazing films.  When I reflect on my association with Woody Allen, I realise just how much of an influence he has had on my life to date!

G.H - Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
I think all writers suffer from writer’s block every once in a while.  I have to be in the right place when I write, especially (it can be argued) erotica.  I develop my story ideas from plot lines; bullet points that essentially describe a paragraph.  Once I’ve completed the outline in this way, I set about replacing the bullet points with actual prose.  This way, I can skip bullet points if I’m not feeling a particular scene, and move onto another part of the plot; much like a film director would make a movie.

And I have so many story ideas on my hard drive, if I’m not feeling creative at all, I’ll resort to putting down the plot lines to a new piece of work.  I find this often gets my creative juices flowing again.  I can always tell when it’s happening; the bullet points start to get longer, slowly becoming paragraphs as my imagination gathers pace once more.

G.H - Time for a few crazy questions!
G.H - Do you write naked?
Ha ha!  I may (or may not) have done, especially if I’ve woken up in the night with a great idea that I need to get down before I forget it!

G.H - What is your biggest failure?
Is it fair to answer this question before the end of one’s time on this earth?  I’ve tried several things during my life to date, some have worked, others not.  I look back on the years since my wife died in 1998.  As I mentioned, I started writing soon afterwards.  I see the fact I did nothing with my words until recently as a failing; why didn’t I seize the moment at the time?  I guess there are always mitigating circumstances.

G.H - What is the biggest lie you've ever told?
It’s not you, it’s me!  (The old ones are the best!)

G.H - Have you ever been in trouble with the police?
Other than speeding tickets, no.  Oh, tell a lie; at the age of 9, four of us got into trouble for setting fire to a post box.  I didn’t light the match, but I should’ve known better.

G.H - Do you drink? Smoke? 
I’ve never smoked, but always drank; single malts are my tipple.

G.H - What is your biggest fear?
It used to be death, but I’m over it now.  I guess it’s natural to fear for the safety of your loved ones.

G.H - What do you want your tombstone to say?
I answered this one recently, and the idea is growing on me…  “Could’ve Done Better…” reference to my self-confessed procrastination.

G.H - If you had a superpower, what would it be?
I’d love to be able to teleport anywhere in the world in a blink on an eye.

G.H - What secret talents do you have?
I make a mean banana cake!  And a Baileys cheesecake.  I’m multi-talented in the cake department!

G.H - What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
I’d like some form of public recognition for something I’ve created.

G.H - Do you have any scars? What are they from?
I have a few minor scars, the most prominent of which (only just though) is between two of my fingers.  I was around 24 years old when I tried to open a window and accidentally pushed my hand through the pane.  I hate the sight of blood, especially my own, and there was lots of it.

G.H - Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?
I do dream, some are vivid, others less so.  I don’t have so much a recurring dream, more a recurring theme; during a dream I’ll suddenly see a reference to my past and a long forgotten crime I committed, which went undetected. Out of the blue I’m finally going to get my comeuppance.  When I wake up, it takes me a while to realise there is no such skeleton in my closet, much to my relief.  Any idea what it means?

G.H – Back to normal questions!
G.H - What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
My writing journey is still in its infancy, I’m still heeding advice myself.  The once piece of advice I’m always given, which I often pass on, is the simplest of all to obey.  If you want to be a writer, do it.  If you have a story to tell, tell it.  In a nutshell, write!  Until you have a body of work that you can hold aloft, nothing else matters.

G.H - Would you share a deep dark secret about you with us?
You mean, would I share a deep, dark secret with you that I no longer wish to keep deep, dark or secret?  That’s a tricky one!

I’m actually quite an open book, as anyone who knows me well will tell you.  I don’t think I’m harbouring anything deep inside my head, and certainly not dark.

Oh wait!  No, I couldn’t possibly…  I’m saving that for one of my stories…  ;)

Thank you for letting us get to know you and your books. It was an absolute pleasure to have you with us!
The pleasure was all mine, Georgina, I thoroughly enjoyed the grilling, especially the crazy section!

I have various websites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts associated with each aspect of my writing:

Andy S Wilkins:
Facebook Account:

Charming Man:

Stop Making Sense:
Facebook Page:

Everyone, please remember any questions or suggestions please write them in the comments section below.

Thanks G :)

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