Richard Smith Q&A

Tells us a bit about yourself and your background?  Two of my passions are time-travel and Victorian London, so I guess it was inevitable I wrote a story consisting of both aspects. I grew up in Ilford, Essex. It was at Uphall Primary School, I first took up writing, when I was nine, and I've loved writing ever since.

How did you get into writing as a career? It's not a career...yet!  My biggest influence came from my mum, Sylvia. She used to tell me her father, who was a black taxi driver, took to writing as a hobby, so I think it came from there.

Were there any times when you thought Time Trap might not happen? I must have sent my manuscript to over 80 agents and publishers, but I never gave up, though I came close a couple of times, but my mum always persuaded me not to. I then decided to self-publish.

Tell us more about your book. Time Trap is a book of coming of age, mostly to do with Jamie, but with Todd too, to an extent. Jamie is a shy, vulnerable boy, mostly to do with not being allowed in Todd's gang. Once the boys go back in time to 1862, Jamie gets his wish to join a gang, but it's very different to Todd's gang. The time jaunt changes Jamie, making him a much stronger, confident person, especially when he and Todd hold the world's destiny in their hands.

Do you think you write from your own personal experiences? I certainly write about what I like, it makes it so much easier for research. My initial inspiration came from my mum, but now, I like the way writing can take you to various places, whether they're real or not. I get involved with the characters, jumping into their personalities, and reacting how I think they would, until it comes naturally. Hector Lightfoot, the dashing Victorian engineer is the prominent hero, I suppose, but the timid Jamie steadily becomes braver as the story progresses.

Can you describe your writing process – how do you turn an idea into a book? I pick a subject I'm interested in, then build a story around it. Certain facets come into the mix and a story starts to form. I jot down the main events as a guideline, then add the finer details. As I write, chapters come naturally.

Do you set yourself a target to write a set number of words per day? I can only write when I get the urge to do so. I might go on a run of five days writing, then stop, and I might not write again for another five.

What is the most challenging part of writing a book? To me, writing a story in like going on a long sea voyage, and just like a long voyage, there will be bad times, such as sea sickness, storms and getting lost even, but then there would be good times, stopping along the way, exploring and experiencing new, exciting places. I particularly enjoy finding a piece of inspiration when needed, which can really enhance a story.

How do you know when a book is finished? To me, a book is finished when all the plot guidelines have been written. I hugely recommend using a professional copy-editor. They will polish anything you might have missed, and sometimes come up with something that might be needed to improve the story.

How does it feel when you see your book completed? When I first saw Time Trap in book form, it was a very emotional time for me. I would have loved to have shown it to my mum and say this is for you, for all your encouragement through the years. At around the ages of 12 - 14, I used to cut down school excerise books to novel size and write my stories in them, then draw the cover. To see Time Trap as a proper book was very special.

What sort of reader do you think your writing appeals to? Time Trap is a story aimed at 9 - 12 year-olds, but feedback tells me readers much older have enjoyed it. Mystery plays a big part in the story, so both the reader and protagonists are kept guessing. I would like my readers to see me as a writer of fun and adventure.

Do you become very attached to any of your characters? Jamie, Todd, Hector and Catherine became like very good friends; it was a pleasure to write about them in situations. Once Time Trap was finished, I found it easy to piece together my second story, creating new characters. It was an enjoyable challenge.

When you’re not busy writing what do you do to relax? To relax, I like to travel and meet different people, people who could become the next character in my next or current book. I very much enjoyed reading the Tunnels series, by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams.. I found myself anticipating the next book, to see what was going to happen next to Will and Chester. I'm into history in a big way, so I also like books on different eras.

What tips would you give you an aspiring but unpublished writer? First and foremost, never give up, you will get there in the end if you persevere, and the rewards are worth it. One big thing which took me a while to get round was Show Don't Tell (SDT) It's easy to tell, but when you show in your writing, it opens the reader's imagination. Like I mentioned earlier, always try and write about what you like, it makes it more enjoyable. On self-publishing, if you have had many rejections from agents and publishers, and you feel you have a good story, then yes, go fot it! I do think a story needs to be completed, yes. For good advice on writing, the Writer's and Artist's Year Book is very good, it's helped me through the years, I recommend it

If you could go back and meet yourself as an unpublished writer what one thing would you tell yourself before writing your first book? Be prepared for the hard work and the agent's and publisher's rejection letters. Even JK Rowling got rejected many times. But the rewards with writing can be fantastic. Every time someone tells me they enjoyed my book, it makes everything worth the effort.

What are you most excited about for your latest project? It was exciting seeing Time Trap on the shelves at the British Museum and the Museum of Childhood. Visits to schools have also been very fulfilling. Time Trap is an adventure with a big slice of accurate history thrown in for good measure. Initially, I said there wouldn't be a sequel to Time Trap, but lately, a plot has started to form, and Jamie and Todd could be mixed up in another adventure, so watch this space!  There is also a London walk connected to the story: the Time Trap Trail. Readers, once finished the book, can see some of the locations featured in the story. Details can be seen on this website.

What to do you plan to do next? I have started my second book: The Darziod's Stone. It's aimed at older children, so it might be ready for my younger readers who have bought Time Trap in the past.

Where can readers find out more about your work? Time Trap has been reviewed at Goodreads, Book Viral, Amazon Uk, and Thebookbag.

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