Today we are very happy to welcome Mr. B.M. Simpson to our Mountain Guide Team. B.M. Simpson is the author of the Blockbuster New Novel “Island Dogs”
1. What does the writing process of B.M. Simpson look like?
I like writing in the evenings more than in the morning. I used to need quiet solitude to write, but these days I can pretty much tune the world out. Whether it’s a book or a short story, I usually start out with small ideas and grow them. I don’t have a big picture in my mind. One of my favorite stories started out with the words “The blue marble”, and nothing more. Twenty pages later I finished writing. After the writing, the most important part comes. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit…….
2. Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
Nothing in particular other than I like writing with my headphones on. It’s pretty common for me to listen to classical or flamenco music. I never write with lyrical music playing. I think I’d end up writing a story about the lyrics. Much of Island Dogs was written in Grand Cayman with the TV on and life bustling around me. As long as my headphones are on, I’m good about tuning out the rest of the world.
3. Mr. Simpson is there a particular book/movie you have read or seen, or real life/fictional character that told your story, as if you had written it/played it yourself?
No, not really. (Wish I had something more interesting here, but I simply do not have a mentor or inspiration to share). I can, however, relate to someone who has plugged away for twenty or thirty years, while trying to make it.
4. You have a fascinating background, with so many talents. What do you feel inspired you to take up the pen and try your hand (Pretty successfully) at writing fiction?
I’ve always been drawn to writing, but to be honest I was a poor student when I was young. I didn’t apply myself and did not excel academically. Writing sounded too much like work back in those days. Then one day in my early twenties I was listening to the radio and thought it would be easy to write a rock n’ roll song. I was correct. What was difficult was polishing it, finding someone to play and record it and then finding someone to publish it. My music career died a tragic death, but the writing never stopped.
5. If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
6. How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
Believable and correct details are what makes a story come alive. Even knowing when it’s not important is critical. Names often give the reader an instant picture of the character. As a writer I need to have an idea of what I want the reader to envision. Sometimes I want the character to be secondary so I’ll simply name them John or Alice or some name that doesn’t pop like “Pellet” in Island Dogs. The same goes for cities and towns. In one chapter in Island Dogs, I used the name “Greenville” because I didn’t say what state they were in and Greenville is one of the most popular municipal names in the U.S.
7. Brian, what struck you as the one thing in Island life that was as different as night is to day from life here in the USA?
Believe it or not, the smell. Everywhere I went in the islands there was a strong aroma. Whether it was the overwhelming sweetness of the frangipani or the salty breezes of the sea or the smell of a local restaurant or roadside barbeque, it seemed to me there was always something wonderfully delicious floating in the island air.
8. Before the islands you lived in many places throughout the US and Europe. What about life in those countries?
Before the islands I lived in several states in the US as well as in Italy and Germany. Germany seemed a lot like the US to me. There was more history, but being from New England, the weather, terrain, and overall environment seemed much the same. The beer was better. Northern Italy is a passion for me. I love the people, the food, the culture, the mountains and just about everything Italian. It is a magical place in my heart.
9. Brian I have read that you started writing in your 20’s what else have you penned that we may have heard of?/em>
Island Dogs is my first serious attempt at getting published. I’ve written for years because I love writing. Getting published was just part of the evolution of my passion.
10. Is there some advice that B.M. Simpson would be willing to share with the aspiring writers who will be reading this interview with fascination?
Writing is the easy part. If you love writing then write, study, learn, and then write some more. If being published is your priority you may be in for a long hard road. The competition is fierce and the majority of writers fail on a commercial level. I’m not saying you should not try to be published, but write for the love of writing and see where the rest of the journey takes you.
11. (A) I live in the United States (Florida) How do people perceive Americans in in the Islands?
The people of the Caribbean Islands are as diverse as people anywhere else and they have wide and varying views of Americans. Some of them love us and some of them don’t. One common view they tend to have of us is that we should lighten up and relax just a bit more. I tend to agree.
12. Are you a plotter or a pantster? (Write by the seat of your pants).
I’m a pantster. I have a general idea where the story in going. For instance, I might (or might not) know a couple is going to sail to the islands and be set adrift by modern day pirates. Then I sit down and begin writing. Creating a story is an adventure for me. I don’t know exactly where the story is heading until I get into it. I have tried outlining a couple of stories. But to be honest, by the time I finished the outline and figured out what was going to happen, I lost interest in writing the story. For my stories to be believable and for my characters to be authentic I need to create as I go.
13. Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I skim over them and at most, I politely acknowledge them. If it’s a private review that is a bit more detailed, I read them and consider the comments and then send a thank you note. If it’s another writer, we may discuss back and forth a bit. But there’s a danger in taking reviews to heart. If you’re going to let the compliments and praise go to your head, then you have to do the same with criticism. That can be brutal. And you have to be careful with technical advice. One reviewer will say a character is to thin and the next reviewer will say I should explore the same character in more depth. If you try to please everyone, you’ll drive yourself crazy. And for those of you who do not know it, the general rule for negative reviews is, DO NOT RESPOND. Read it, emotionally deal with it and move on. If you can’t deal with it, move on anyway.
14. What is your best marketing tip?
Keep grinding away. My motto is “Sell one more book.” Learn from what you do right and from what you do wrong. Never forget, you are trying to find readers who like your book. You are not trying to sell it to everyone.
15. What is your least favorite part of the publishing/writing process?
Marketing. Hands down. I love writing and I don’t even mind editing and rewriting process, but marketing is not my cup of tea. I’m working on embracing it more.
16. Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
I would write about most anything if I felt compelled to write about. While there are things I tend to stay away from, the only hard rule I have is to not write for marketing potential only. When I wrote Island Dogs, I just tried to write a good book and let the results speak for themselves.
17. How has living in this new Global world where we can communicate across oceans instantly, changed how you perceive those in other countries? Do you feel this has helped or hindered your growth as a writer and as a citizen of your own country?
Being that I’ve traveled for most of my adult life, this question may not be as relevant for me as it may be for others. I lived and experienced the music, food, culture and people of the places I wrote about. The internet is great, but it’s no replacement for touching, feeling, tasting and experiencing first hand what other countries are like. I would not trade my gypsy experience for all the online research in he world.
18. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
Technical scenes are the most difficult for me to write because I tend to get too detailed and I include more information than is needed. It can get boring pretty quickly and I usually have to edit out about 75% of any technical information I initially included in a story. As for the sex and violence, I don’t have an issue with them if they are relevant to the story. I do not create scenes to put more sex or action into a story.
19. Island Dogs is about people who are struggling in life and are searching for more. Is it fair to say that this also described you in some way when you arrived in Anguilla?/em>
Yes, but more importantly, it describes just about everyone at some point in their life. I love the islands and I will forever be connected to Anguilla, but in many ways the “Island” in Island Dogs is a metaphor. We all want to run and hide somewhere when things get too rough. Whether we run to an actual island or to a mountain or to work or church, we go to that place in search of answers. And we always find answers, but not necessarily the ones we thought we would find.
20. Brian with the successful launch of Island Dogs behind you, can you tell us what are you working on now?
I’m working on two projects right now. One is a book of short stories and the other is my next novel. All I will tell you about the novel is, like most of my writing, the story is more about the characters than the plot. I like writing about who people are and what drives them to do what they do.
The following is some Crazy Questions That No One Ever Asks Authors, answer any you would like others to know about you.
1. What is the very best thing that has happened to you so far in life?
The easy answer is marrying my wife or having our children, but I’ll presume those to be the top items people do not want to hear about. Other than that, probably being sent an email out of the blue for a job in Anguilla and then promptly moving there tops the list. It was a place I had never heard of and a job I was not looking for. It changed my life forever.
2. How has all the time you invested in your education, helped or hindered your journey as a fiction writer?
I believe education and hard work are the cornerstones to success. With that said, independent thinking and individual creativity is just as important as education. Everything I have learned and experienced in life helps me create well-rounded characters and stories. While I’m mindful of the rules of writing, I do not let the rules dictate my creative process or my final product.
3. Characters often find themselves in situations they aren’t sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
I’ve made more than one decision that has left me in a jam. I’ve been down and out a couple of times, but always scratch and claw my way back up. I’m a bit of a dreamer and it doesn’t take a genius to understand that chasing dreams can be risky. I just bought a sailboat and I don’t know how to sail. I’ll keep you posted.
4. Does B.M. Simpson fear anything, and if so what is it?
I have an uncanny willingness to take leaps of faith with the presumption that everything will work out just fine. I have a huge fear that one of these days I’ll take that leap and everything won’t. One would think that would cause me to stop leaping, but so far, that has not happened.
5. In 200 years I am walking through a cemetery and come upon the tombstone of B.M. Simpson What do you imagine I will read on the weathered stone?
6. If B.M. Simpson had a superpower, (not suggesting that you do not) what would it be?
No superpowers here, but I have often envisioned and even dreamed of having a sword in my hand and preparing for battle. I have no idea what that means.
7. If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?
My superhero name would be Island Dog. I’d be wearing cargo shorts and a baseball cap.
8. What literary character is most like you?
I don’t know if this is typical or not, but I don’t really see myself as a literary character. Not even one of my own. People sometimes ask me (or they sometimes presume) which character I am in Island Dogs. The truth is I don’t write that way.
9. What secret talents do you have?
None that I know of.
10. Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
The first place to pop into my mind is India. Then I instantly think, oohh, Japan. I’d like to go to Japan. Right after I think that I think, Russia. There’s a lot of history there I think I’d like to see. Suddenly I realize I’m simply creating a list of all the places I haven’t been to yet.
11. If you were an animal, what would you be?
12. What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
Find contentment. I’ve been blessed and have had a lot of fun in my life, but I’ve never found that sense of peace. I would like to find that before I go.
13. If you could have any accents from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?
Italian, but I’m partial to all things Italian.
14. What were you like as a child? Your favorite toy?
Daydreamer. I loved playing ball. Baseball, basketball and football. I would go out and throw the ball on the roof for hours and catch it when it came down. If I was throwing a baseball,I was one of the Red Sox. If I were shooting hoops, I was a Celtic.The Patriots sucked back then and even though I was a dedicated fan from the age of ten, nobody dreamed of being a Patriot back then.
15. Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?
I am an avid dreamer. I wake up at least a couple times a week in the middle of some dream. But there’s not really anything recurring.