Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Featured Author - Nicholas Boving

Today, I am honored to interview one of my mentors and an author I greatly admire. I have been very lucky to know him personally and to be coached by him. He is the first one I send a draft to if I am unsure about something. He is the one I share writing tips with (he shares most of them of course) and he is the one I talk to about books that frustrate the hell out of me (Gone Girl for example!). In short, Nicholas Boving is one of my favorite authors and more than that, he is my writing guide and teacher. 



Nicholas has worked as a mining engineer, as a docker, fruit inspector and forester. His diversity is evident in his books and screenplays. Nicholas is the author and publisher of the Maxim Gunn series of action/adventure books. He has written fifteen other novels: drama, thriller and action/adventure and several screenplays. 

Nicholas was kind enough to humor me and shared his thoughts about writing and the writing process. I am sure authors out there will benefit from this as much as I think I will:

Why do you write? 

Why do I write? Good question. I just can’t think of anything quite as satisfying even if I never make a dime out of it. Because it’s what I love to do. This is the best reason. Also, living in a fantasy world is rather fun, not to mention playing God.

However, to quote Dr Samuel Johnson. “Sir, no man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money”. Which may seem to contradict the comment above, but let’s face it, not a lot of writers are prepared to invest such a great deal of effort and time on something just for the fun of it.

Which writers inspire you?

More than any others, the ones that were read to me by my grandfather. They shaped my literary forms whether I think so or not. I’m a little older than most of you – make that a lot – so when I mention Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Conan Doyle and John Buchan, don’t say “Huh?” There’ve been a lot of others along the way, including the late Hammond Innes, who was the master of the thriller in which you get the horror and mechanics of a crime without the comforting guidance of a detective or secret agent: just a protagonist dropped in the middle of a pile of you-know-what, and by luck and sweat gets the better of the baddies. Of course he also gets the girl, which makes the whole thing worthwhile.

Depending on the genre I’m writing in at the moment, the influences of similar writers from the past pop up and are welcomed. Leslie Charteris (The Saint), Sapper (Bulldog Drummond), Dennis Wheatley (occult thrillers). Of course there are many others: too many to list.

Also, the screenwriter and director, Quentin Tarantino said, “I steal from every movie ever made.”  I can also say I probably steal from every book I’ve ever read. There’s always something that catches your eye, something worth saying again in a different way. This is quite natural and I think every writer does it, consciously or otherwise.

I regret that not very many of the modern writers find their way onto my Kindle. I find them too slick and basically implausible. Somewhere along the way thriller writers have lost the art of telling “The rattling good yarn”. I guess that’s my loss, but it’s also a loss to the new generation of reading public. I love sci-fi, but it’s got to be good.

What is your favourite book and why?

Oh Lord. This is an unanswerable question. There are so many I go back to from time to time. You can however scrub any of the recent ones – I’m talking more from a man’s point of view – as so many of them have just climbed onto some bandwagon that involves vampires, zombies, fantasy worlds or peculiar religious sects out for control. No names, no pack drill, but you know who I mean. However, if pressed I’d say I still go back to the works of John Buchan, leavened with Kipling, and a sprinkling of Winnie the Pooh. At least my tastes are eclectic.

What do you think is the easiest thing about writing? What is the most difficult?

Thinking up new stories. I don’t know about others, but my imagination well never runs dry. I once had something to say about that, to the effect that those who complain about writers block generally don’t have enough imagination, or else they were lazy.

The most difficult part for me is editing. Some writers enjoy the process: I hate it. Once upon a time editing was done by professionals employed by publishers: these days the poor writers are expected to do it themselves. Content editing, copy editing, line editing. I confess that by the time one of my novels is ready for the Amazon Mill, I’m sick of the sight of it.

From books that have already been published by other authors, which book do you wish you had written? 

That’s easy. None of them. Being a writer I find it all too easy to take a so-called classic and pick it to pieces. It’s a terrible habit, but I can’t get out of it. I see a turn of phrase by one of the world’s literary icons and think, “Why in God’s name did he say that?” Which is probably why so many great writers never read their work again after it’s been published.

How do you market your books? 

All the usual ways I suppose. Social Media – I have Facebook pages dedicated to books I’ve written and try to keep them up to date. Twitter, of course, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and my own website. However, to paraphrase a well-known businessman, “I know half the effort I spent on advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.” And, there are supposed to be three secrets to selling, only no one knows what they are.

One thing I have found out is that you should give very careful consideration to your titles. You really need to make them not only memorable and apposite, but so they’ll stand out on search engines. I called one of my books “The Warlock”.  Huge mistake although it sounds good if you’re looking for that “kind of book”. It gets over 5,000 possibles on Amazon. But it just doesn’t stand out. Now, “The Malthorpe Slaughterhouse” gets just one: the right one.

Any new release? If yes, what is it about?

Yes. I’ve got another thriller with an occult flavour coming out shortly. It’s called “The Dark Side of God”, which should give a bit of a hint. As soon as the cover is finished by my multi-talented son, it’ll be going up on CreateSpace and Amazon, so watch out and keep those Kindles running hot. Better still, snuggle up with the paperback.

Book blurb

David Morgan, an investigative journalist researching the dissolution of an ancient abbey is fascinated by a sidebar to what he sees as just another piece he can uncover and sell to the highest bidder.

Sylvanus Falconi owns the land around the Abbey of St Mary Zion and is the last in a family line that stretches back to a Roman Centurion, Gaius Sylvanus Falconius, who witnessed the Crucifixion. He is the final guardian of a dark and explosive secret called simply, “The Keeping”.

The story is a deadly chess game between Falconi and Morgan culminating in battle on the Downs of Sussex and a final act of unbelievable destruction.

The Dark Side of God” is part biographical exploration, part love story and part exposé of the Falconi family’s long-guarded secret in a world of darkness and the occult.

Book excerpt  - Just to set the mood.

PROLOGUE

Twenty years does not wash away memory. The best it can do is impose a patina that blurs horror, making those things we would rather forget more acceptable, allowing us to look at the past with a more dispassionate eye. The passage of time creates its own objectivity, and we can view events in the light of cause and effect.
At the time I hated Falconi with an intensity bordering on the murderous, but even that had dulled with the years, until in a way I felt I could find some small understanding of the forces which drove him. His actions could never be condoned, never excused. They were beyond forgiveness, perhaps even by God, but could be put into a perspective from which the historical causes leading to his obsession could be understood.
Two thousand years is a long time. Centuries of tradition cannot be wiped away by reasoning, for obsession knows no reason, how can it, or it would not be obsession. But obsession always extracts a terrible price, and part of that price stood before me in ruins.
There was little left of the house but a misshapen pile of rubble, the blind, empty window frames of the shell of the Great Hall, and a scattered jumble of fire-blackened beams pointing skyward, like the accusing fingers of a long-buried corpse exposed by time and erosion. But nothing would ever erase the memories.
As I stood on the once immaculate, but now weed-choked gravel drive, the winter sunset fought a last ditch attempt with low grey cloud, scudding cold and wet across the tops of the hills behind, a futile rearguard action against approaching night. And rain, a memory of another time, dripped sullenly from the bare elms, darkening stark branches and slicking the trunks with reflected red like lifeblood oozing from a severed artery.
Two thousand years of inheritance gone, blasted from existence in a holocaust of leaping flame and smoke one wild, storm-wracked night, leaving no one to mourn its passing. All that remained was inarticulate brick, the harsh lines of which nature had long since softened with its widow’s weeds of growth.
I turned to look across to where the lawns had been, the sunken garden beyond, and saw instead of velvety green mown perfection and groomed flower beds with roses winter-pruned, weedless with new-tilled earth, stands of nettles sagging in winter death, and the long octopus tendrils of brambles rearing against the sky, silhouetted, hydra-like, ready to sprout more arms as soon as each was cut. The great house’s tended grounds had become the home of rabbit and badger, stoat and adder, each defending territory as fiercely as the Falconis had defended theirs.
As I approached the broken, moss-greened walls, ivy and wisteria grown rank and wild, my feet crunched on broken glass, exploded by the heat of fire, and looking down as one does when treading on the unknown, caught a flicker of blue and green, and bent to pick it up. My hand held a fragment of a stained window, algae-sheened but still recognizable.
Memory flooded back unbidden to the time when I had first seen it with the red of another setting sun shining through, and it seemed Falconi’s face loomed in the early evening murk, dark and sardonic, the eyes filled with the old overweening arrogance. I threw the glass fragment away, hearing it tinkle and shatter against the bricks, and the conjured face disappeared, its spell broken by my simple angry action. Above my head in the bare elms, rooks cawed and wheeled, their long possessive peace disturbed, resenting the intrusion.
Gingerly avoiding a rambling rose, once a glory but now a trap reminiscent of a magical, fairy tale forest, its long-thorned tendrils reaching out to snare the unwary, I walked up the front steps and entered what had been the hall. Nothing remained but blackened brick, slab-flaked plaster, and fire-charred panelling. Gone were the paintings, the great oak sideboard with its silver salver and towering vase of hothouse flowers, while underfoot, the Bakhtiyari carpet, sad rotted threads remaining, brilliant colours long since faded, squelched, a sodden rag no more exciting than a flooring of grain sacks. And still, over all, even after twenty years, the sharp, acrid tang of long dead fire and ash remained, a vivid reminder of that bitter winter night.
And in the way memory has, my mind reeled back its film to replay the last moments, recapturing the sights and sounds as clearly as if they had happened mere days before.
Red flame behind the great hall windows, leaping like the fires of hell to claw the long damask curtains with greedy talons, and the roar like an express train in a tunnel as it created its own firestorm.
Something had crashed, a ceiling perhaps, an avalanche of noise, and glass broke, exploding like Chinese crackers, windows blown out onto the frost-covered lawn, strewing it with a million sparkling, coloured stars. And a monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria imbricata, had burst into flame like a gigantic torch, throwing its lurid light high into the great elms till they seemed long-limbed, gnarled-fingered, menacing, witch-spelled shapes, leaping and twitching in an insane dance.
Fire engines came from far off, called by I never knew who, but too late, their red strobe lights flashing, firemen like demons, running, shouting, water pouring, steam exploding, unable to make more than a token attempt against the blaze with the house already in its death grip.
The roof collapsed, a rumbling crash that sent all running with shouts of fear, and sparks, more than all the stars in the heavens, leapt skywards in a great galactic cloud, and the flowers of flame followed, soaring, roaring, gigantic tongues beyond any feeble attempt to control.
Blue lights, police cars. More red lights, ambulances. Long snaking lines of hoses, water pouring. Uniforms, locals hastily dressed and rushing to help, cars blocking the drive until the police ordered them away. And through it all, with a face like stone and eyes empty as death, Philippa had stood at my side, hands thrust deep into the pockets of her coat.
Then, miraculously, Sylvanus Falconi, the last of his line, a sagging, lifeless body, was dragged from the west wing by two yellow-coated men, themselves choking, staggering and near to death. It had been an heroic but futile act of unimaginable bravery. Only then did Philippa show emotion, and I felt her stiffen and heard a sound that might have been a stifled cry of pain, or fear.
For a moment it was so depressing I nearly walked out, intending to consign the whole thing to the finger-written past; but having come that far, sidetracked thirty or more miles in miserable weather, I had to check, to just make sure for my own peace of mind that the past was indeed dead, and that meant going up the hill to the old ruined abbey, the genesis of all the troubles.
Skirting the house on the west side, wary of going through though it seemed still safe enough, I pushed through thickets of leafless feral lilac; sad, starved-looking hydrangeas, and waist-high brown grass, and found myself at the gate of the old kitchen garden, and the path which led to the Down above, through the yew forest, so ancient it was mentioned as a resource in the Doomsday Book.
Nothing of that beautiful tended plot remained, except the long tumuli of the asparagus beds, run wild, last season’s stalks towering and dry-seeded; and against the walls, the twenty-year unpruned, espaliered branches of medlars and a fig, so overgrown it might have been twining its limbs through the broken stonework of some derelict Indian temple. The greenhouses at the far end, once the pride of Puddyfoot the gardener, whose name came back to me from the past with a small jolt, broken-paned and staring, the remaining glass half obscured by a creeping tide of grey green algae. Hothouse grapes in winter, fresh peaches when snow lay on the ground, and cut flowers brought in daily as winter’s winds knifed down from the high ground above.
Lost and gone. Nothing could ever bring it back, not even the cunning hand of man, because the place had an aura of defeat that would have cancelled the best intents; and no amount of money, not even that of some new-minted Croesus could ever make it, and the house, into more than a resurrected ruin overhung by the miasma of its dark past.
The iron gate creaked open on rusted hinges, and some small creature rustled, panic-stricken by the intrusion. I walked along the path dividing the weed-reclaimed beds, itself uneven; the mellow bricks lifted and parted by clumps of rank grass, passed the hothouses without looking inside, and out through the wicket gate at the far end. The track twisted upwards, zigzagging snake-like until it vanished, obscured by both the falling dusk and the dark overhang of a yew tree already old when the Abbey had been built.
Climbing the slippery, mud-slick way, Philippa’s words came back, a haunting reminder of the first overt emergence of her fear.
“Sometimes you see things in the shadows you can’t quite make out; and the harder you look the more difficult it becomes, as they keep on sliding just beyond the periphery of vision. And there are other times, in summer, at the end of a long day as the sun starts to go down, when I’ve heard things in the wood which weren’t . . . She had faltered, confused and a little embarrassed at seeming fanciful.
“What sort of things?” I had asked.
“Music, laughter; but not human. You see, no one else goes into the woods, and there are stories, some very old, which take you back to times before there were times; a prehistoric age when all things were possible, and we hadn’t driven out the unknowable with rationalization and science.”
“Old gods and fairies?”
She had shrugged, “Maybe. I don’t know. But up there when the sun goes down, I get a feeling of being watched; and whatever it is, is not always kindly.”
I got no such feeling on the path between the dark trees. Perhaps the old gods had left, driven out, exorcised by the fire. The only quality I found was an aura of ineffable sadness and emptiness such as must pervade the ruined temples along shores of the wine dark seas of Greece. A loneliness that had a sound if listened for; a thin, haunting melody that might have been nothing but the wind, or a receding, beseeching deity, hands held out, pleading for the return of worshippers long gone.
The old gods lost their power when they were abandoned, becoming nothing more than imps and afreets to scare naughty children and wide-eyed countrymen returning home in the dusk. Then again, maybe the explosions which had been the prelude to the inferno had released them from their age-old captivity, and they had gone to once more roam the land that for so long had been their undisputed domain.
I tripped and stumbled and, half out of control, swearing, slithered down the slope onto the open ground of the ancient graveyard where the Abbey monks had been laid to rest six centuries before, and before that.
 “For all the saints, who from their labours rest.” Brave words, poetic words, assuming everything. Assumption one: men of God were saints. I smiled wryly into the deeper dark thrown by the towering, broken, Sussex flint walls. Cover-up one: never let the peasants know the monks didn’t give a damn about them. Wide monastery lands was what it had all been about, self-aggrandizement of the Abbot, glory for the Bishop, power for the Church. Money and power were all that mattered. If you had those, then you could build to the greater glory of God, and leave lasting evidence of your sanctity. Treasures on Earth bought treasures in Heaven, and with luck, a place at the right hand of the Almighty.
But they’d known how to build, those fraudulent old churchmen, they’d known the meaning of beauty, and place. Witness for that the ruins of Rievaulx, Jervaulx and Fountains Abbeys; but they, like others, had been on the bases of ground dedicated to gods far older than the one exported by the wandering tribes of Israel.
But it was the great slab stones at the eastern end I was interested in, the place where the high altar had once stood, flanked in its glory days by chanting monks, surface strewn with silver and gold and, if Geraint was to be believed, cloth of gold, silks, woven and threaded and embroidered with scenes and symbols. And beneath all that, hidden from the eyes of all but a very favoured few, the Keeping had lain, outlasting the Abbey’s destruction, undiscovered; remaining the charge of the Falconis as it had always been.
I took a deep breath and walked across the open ground, brushing through high grass, dried groundsel and sharp thistle, till my shoes hit stone. There I stopped, peering down at the shattered remnants of six-inch-thick slabs, thrown aside as by giant children playing tiddlywinks, leaving nothing but a gaping, empty hole, darker than the mouth of hell.
The light had nearly gone, no more than a pale orange outline limning the towering shell of wall, the lone remainder of an abbey once home and worship place to more than a hundred monks.
The first time I had been there was also in the winter, but on a day when frost sparkled on the dried grass stalks of the enclosure, and the winter sun unnaturally bright in a sky so blue the colour hurt with its intensity.
But that very brightness, the wholesomeness of a crisp English Downland winter morning, had made it so much worse. Evil at night, mist tendrils curling, a gibbous moon chasing through dark cloud; those are the stuff of evil, portrayed in a thousand films and pictures, told in a thousand ghostly tales. Then we expect the night creatures to be abroad, it is the time of the wolf, and the bat, and those things that slither beyond the periphery of vision to set our hearts beating just a little faster.
But evil in broad daylight, with the sun shining from God’s heaven, is so much worse for being out of place and time in our imaginations. Horror under the sun, with a skylark singing its heart out overhead, is so contrary our minds at first refuse the possibility. It can’t be happening; therefore when it does the effect is so much more.
But there was no more evil. Just a hole; and even the dark misery of a cold wet winter’s evening could make it nothing more than a trap for an unwary foot. What had been in it was gone, and with its passing the earth and woods must have heaved long awaited sighs of relief.
The church clock in the village tolled. Five echoing chimes reverberated through the vale, and I thought I caught a note of joy not there in my memories of it. It was as if a weight had been lifted from it too, and was there just a little tinge of triumph?
Cold seeped from the ground, chilling my feet and ankles, and with the sun gone, defeated by night, the rain increased with steady, remorseless purpose, and I shivered.
Ten minutes later, the warmth of the car heater swirling round me, fogging the windshield and side windows, I went out between the tall gate posts with their winged falcon images, and drove away, never to return.

You can find out more about Nicholas through:

Website:  http://www.tauruspub.net
Taurus Publishing.

Blog:    http://tauruspub.blogspot.com/  
Not a lot going on here at the moment – too much to do and not enough time! But watch this space.


Nicholas Boving’s Books:  http://on.fb.me/14SHgtp 
The promo page for my more “serious” work. I’d love your comments.

Maxim Gunn: http://on.fb.me/1svJmcS  
Action adventure series. Try it, you’ll like it. I promise.

Amazon Author Page: 

Goodreads:

Book Links:
All books on Amazon US       http://amzn.to/12AbJWW
All books on Amazon UK       http://amzn.to/1B9kacC
All books on CreateSpace         http://bit.ly/JpfKrY
All Maxim Gunn on Amazon     http://amzn.to/1rPrIua


















7 comments:

  1. Enjoyed reading this. Wonderful job.

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  2. HI Nicholas,
    It is so nice to see Rudyard Kipling and Conan Doyle mentioned. I am a huge fan of Kipling especially. Love the Tarantino quote.
    Chris Karlsen

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    1. Hi Chris.
      Great to know I'm not alone in my appreciation of those two. You might want to take a look at Talbot Mundy: a much under appreciated writer in the same genre. Of course, no one will beat "Kim" as the ultimate secret service story.

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  3. very interesting reading. Samna, how lucky to have such a mentor!

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  4. Very enlightening. Have you ever advertised in magazines or newspapers? Which ones, which type? How about radio interviews, would you recommend them?

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  5. Great to get to know Nick a little bit more today :) You are a great story teller and I wish you all the very best.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Rashmi, and you're a poet with a very bright future.

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