- Hi, everyone.
- I have a great interview to share with you. Today, I'm chatting with Simon Williams, the author of Torn, The Story of an Undeserving Wallaby Drowning in a Septic Tank. This book is the first in a trilogy and surrounds a personal traumatic ordeal that Mr. Williams shares on paper. Also, if you like what you see and hear, be sure to join the giveaway!
- Tell us about yourself
Everything about myself? Christ, can I leave out the horrific stuff? Maybe even the bad stuff? I was born in Australia coming up on a half a century ago. I spent 8 years at boarding school as a child, where I developed a sarcastic sense of humor to avoid getting beaten up by the older kids. I currently live in Miami, married with one child and 2 step children. Other than that, I reveal a lot of what makes me tick in my book.
- Growing up, was there a book you read that made you desire to write for a living?
My favorite book growing up only taught me to dream and to live a life seeking adventure. The Plum Rain Scroll. I didn't desire to write as a living. I wrote purely for my personal satisfaction. My desire to write a book was born from suffering immeasurable pain in my life and considering committing suicide. Writing a book was a way to keep me sitting at a desk and rather than wandering over to the window ledge.
- Did you have another ideal career besides writing?
I enjoy my career in healthcare that I have while I pursue writing. A mate from primary school lives in LA and a few times a month he travels the world to work for a TV show called, island hunters. All his Facebook posts are of him hanging out of the side of a helicopter over exotic tropical islands. If the writing thing doesn't work out I will ask him if he wants an assistant.
- When did you first start writing?
My English teacher in Grade 12 told me I was a lazy student. The class was asked to write a 5-page historical story. I was so pissed at him I wrote 30 pages. It was such a satisfying experience, not only because I could subtly give him the finger without being in trouble for it. My current foray into writing began about 4 years ago, the night I stood on my 20-story balcony and wondered if my life was worth going on.
- What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I enjoy my exercise, rugby games and the occasional triathlon or ocean swim. I don't watch television so I do spend a lot of my spare time writing. On a Saturday afternoon, I will go watch mates play rugby then have a beer at the pub. I enjoying getting away for a quick weekend getaway with my wife, or locking the kids out of the house for a few hours for us to have a moment of peace and quiet and a glass of wine together.
- What are your feelings on writer’s block?
I solved this problem very quickly when I decided to start writing. I write with a stream of consciousness so I just write anything. I know I will rewrite it a thousand times so I consider it like doing exercise. It doesn't matter if I am running or swimming or doing the rowing machine, I am doing something. I can refine my training as I get closer to an event, but most of the time I just need to be doing some form of activity.
- What does your process look like? Any necessary rituals to bring the words about?
All I do is think of my starting point. My writing is like hot air ballooning. I know where I start but once I get going I could end up anywhere. My process is then to do anything but write, then the ideas and thoughts just flood into my head. Boredom at work helps a great deal as well. I always have a pen and paper with me or my cell phone to WhatsApp myself a message. The pressure and excitement then just builds through the day. By the time I get a moment to write for the day, I usually have 5 pages of things to work on and by this stage I am desperate to get it on paper.
- Has real life and writing life ever merged?
My first three books are all real life. They didn't just merge, they shacked up together, shagged rotten and had a few kids.
- What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
My research for my books was the attention I paid to all that was going on around me as I grew up. Every random thing I was told, then when I recall these moments while I am bored at work, I Google the events or people that surrounded that thought and craft it into my story.
- How does location and personal travel figure into your work?
Locations in my books are important only with regards to the backstory behind how or why I ended up in that location, not the location itself. Like I said, hot air ballooning. The stately oak in the corner of the freshly mown paddock isn't as important as the sudden change in the gust of wind and the rapid deceleration of the balloon after it runs out of gas, because the balloonist forgot to refill it as he was out drinking the night before and tried to win on to some divorcee who was sitting by the jukebox listening to Bryan Ferry songs.
- Where do you come up with your ideas?
The ideas are all personal experiences, that often time I have long forgotten. The recall of them is what is the surprise. They literally suddenly spring into my mind at random occasions. I have 30 seconds to write them down or text them to myself or I forget. Then I piece them into the story at night if they fit. Many times, they don't and my wife finds pages of unused ideas stashed in drawers around the house.
- Tell us about the process for TORN. What was the process like for this book?
The process for TORN started with me backing off from the edge of my balcony and sitting at my computer in a desperate state and starting to write a suicide note. I wanted to take my time before dying, so I dragged it out. I may have even been able to smile at myself with what I wrote. I made it through that first night. The next evening, I got home and went straight to my desk to write and just kept following this system every night for a year.
- What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Opening up about the reason I was thinking about jumping off the balcony. Making the book humorous was also difficult, but not as much as I thought.
- What was one of the most surprising things you learned in the journey to completing the book?
Writing, while as frustrating and demoralizing as it can be, can still feel like heaven when you compare it to the lowest days experienced during life.
- Do you have a favorite chapter and would you like to share a sample?
My favourite chapters are the ones in the end of Book 3 of the series. But here is an example of my early days.
At one garage sale, I get involved in an international arms treaty negotiation over a bedside clock radio, that eventually breaks down over a difference of 50 cents. No way is a ‘used’ clock radio worth $5.50. I will not overpay for second hand household appliances, the same way that Alan Bond overpaid for international brewery assets. I end up buying a clock radio at the garage sale next door for $2, and it lasts 18 years of me domestically abusing the snooze button at least three times of a morning. Five dollars fifty, that old fart was dreaming.
I furnish my apartment, to a grade of university student level living, for $187. My Dad instructed me how wise it is, to live well below my means. I buy all the essentials, without unnecessary overhead: a bed; mattress; nightstand; $2 alarm clock; pots; pans; utensils; television; TV stand; shelves; couch; and a hat stand. Though, I own zero hats. The bulk of the money was spent on a single item. A velvet upholstered lazy boy recliner, that I buy at a Ross Perot for President fund raising center.
There is no way I would pay that much, for what is basically a chair. The clinic manager is driving me around in her husband’s truck this day. She makes the comment, ‘you said you wanted a chair and here is a chair.’ Yes, I want a chair. But not a $55 one that is a discard from Graceland. I concede to the wishes of my boss, to avoid an argument over the fact that simply because I have money, it doesn't mean I must spend it. I blow, what is to me at the time, a good chunk of coin on a chair I sit in for a total of ten minutes once it is in my apartment.
My boss feels that because she is driving me around in a truck, that I should buy something I need to cart back home in it. Her logic floors me, and my best subjects at university were logic 101 and 102. I have a truck; therefore, I should buy enough stuff to fill up my truck. If I live in the mountains, and I am given a life jacket, then logically I am compelled to buy a sailboat. Then must move to live by the ocean. All I know is, I give him $55 and Mr. Perot still can't make a better run for President than he did.
Next port of call, after the Ross Perot store, (which was supposed to be a lunch stop at the Subway next door to the Ross Perot store. The most expensive foot long sub I have had in my life) is a car dealership. Here I will buy myself transportation, then severe the umbilical cord of being chauffeured around. At the start of my third year of university, I am given my older sister’s car, which I use for four years. It was a Datsun something, sky blue? Great car, kept running and running. I don't change the oil for four years. Didn't know I am supposed to. This puts my expectations, for performing required maintenance to an automobile, on a par with FIFA scheduling the soccer World Cup.
I put petrol in a car and drive it. That is as much attention as I want to pay to the thing. The petrol gauge on my Datsun didn't even work. My Dad asks me, how on earth am I aware if I need petrol? I tell him that, on my way to where ever, I simply drive the car slowly up the driveway and hit the brakes. If I hear a sloshing noise emanating from the petrol tank, then I am satisfied that the car has enough to take me to where I need to go.
In the USA, cars symbolize the American lifestyle. To many sepos, cars are their passion. My passion is rugby; a car is merely something to get me to rugby. I have not matured to believe any differently. Life is not a car commercial. Driving the latest model BMW will never make someone taller, a better bullshit artist or cure them of erectile dysfunction. Cars do not reflect the character of a person. A car is tangible, while a soul is spiritual. How can one represent the other? If cars represent our character, then we should all be driving convertibles. Because people change depending on if things are good or bad, and so are as fickle as the weather. A car can never fulfill someone the way a solid friendship, memorable experience or a good lamb roast can.
- Are you working on else now?
I am writing a book with my eleven-year-old step daughter on the ups and downs of the beginnings of our relationship. Then I plan on writing a travel memoir of trips through the American Southwest.
- Do you have a favorite novel and why?
I enjoyed Goodbye California by Alastair McLean. My brother had every Alastair Mclean, Robert Ludlum and James Michener book, but not this one. As well it was my first actual adult novel that I read. The Man from St. Petersburg by Ken Follet I liked. I must have appreciated reading fiction a great deal more when I was younger.
- Who are your favorite authors?
Bill Bryson, Clive Cussler. Michael Palin and Ben Elton.
- Where can we find you?
I am not on a great deal of social media. My Facebook page for the book series would be it.
My step daughter keeps trying to get me on Instagram, but I resist valiantly. She will probably grow up hating me. I enjoy doing written interviews such as this as it keeps my mind busy.
- Where can we get TORN and the complete series?