Friday, December 30, 2011

Guest Post: Author Ben Nuttall-Smith (interview)

-How/why did you start to write? 

I composed my first song before starting kindergarten, well over 70 years ago and began scribbling poetry in my teens. (My mother did not like the song. Dear Mommy pretends to be 21.) Serious writing began following my retirement from teaching in 1993. Suffering from Post Traumatic Stress, I retired to a “handyman’s delight” on the Sunshine Coast and began the healing process by gardening, renovating, and writing a memoir about survival (and eventually healing) from childhood sexual abuse.

-How did you become an author?

After countless rejection slips from publishers all over Canada, I published my memoir and a first book of poetry with a publish-on-demand company. I kept writing, moved back to the Lower Mainland and joined the Canadian Authors’ Association. Then I joined the Federation of BC Writers and began serving on both boards, helping other writers.
On a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2002, I was hit by a car on a sidewalk and spent six weeks sitting daily in the Zocalo, painting, reading and writing. I composed a book of poetry about the poor people of Oaxaca City and an epic poem about Qu├ętzalcoatl, the mysterious bearded god of the Mexican people. Over the next seven years, that poem grew into two more trips to Mexico and a great deal of research about American First Nations before the advent of European conquests. The resulting novel, Blood, Feathers & Holy Men, was picked up by Libros Libertad and published in January 2011. That publication was due to a stroke of karma. I met Manolis, the publisher, while trying to help a fellow writer through the Federation of BC Writers.
Libros Libertad will release my second novel, Secrets Kept / Secrets Told, in January 2012. That novel is a rewrite of my earlier memoir.

-What was your first published piece?

I had the occasional article and bits of poetry published in small-run magazines and newspapers over many years. While living in Sechelt, I wrote weekly articles for the Royal Canadian Legion and for the local press.

-What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?

At 17, I joined the Royal Canadian navy. Then I ran through a series of jobs before returning to school as an adult student and eventually becoming a teacher. I taught Music, Art, Theatre and English for over 30 years. The entire story unfolds through the eyes of Paddy Milne in my upcoming novel.

-What inspires you? 

            On a summer day, I’ll sit in a shady area, pen in hand, and observe people and my surroundings. How do those surroundings make me feel? Can I see beyond the ragged clothing, the grimy face and the rasping voice? Where has this person been? What misfortune led him or her to this lowly state? Can I see beauty where there is only ugliness and pain?
            I appreciate the splendour of nature, the sparkle in people’s eyes. Encounters, visions and stories of misfortune affect me deeply. But, to write a story or a poem takes a concerted effort and daily discipline.

-Please share one of your successful marketing techniques.

I carry cards with photo, address, email and web information. The back describes current publication(s). I also printed a flyer describing my book(s). Then I attend readings and literary events, writers’ conferences and network with fellow scribblers through various writing organizations including The Writers Union of Canada. I offer workshops wherever appropriate, which give me exposure to sell books. I make sure to have books with me wherever I go and recently sold a book while waiting for a haircut.

-Parting words

Writing, a lonely obsession, takes place in a cave. Shameless self-promotion is out in the open and time-consuming. Balancing the two is almost impossible. With all that, we must never stop reading. Reading keeps the gears lubricated. I’m forever buying books from fellow authors, reading manuscripts, and trying to keep up.