Sunday, 7 September 2014

Chuck Lovatt.

Writing, reading, things related.

Here is where I will talk about  another great love of mine, all things related to reading and writing. This will include bits about my own books, books I have read and enjoyed very much, my favourite authors from the world of independent and relatively unknown authors. I will also include reviews that I post, about those books that I have read and been impressed with.

The first author I would like to talk about is a fellow named Chuck Lovatt, from Canada. Chuck writes historical fiction, and he writes it very well indeed. Here is my article about, and interview with, the bearded wonder.

It was some two years ago now, that I began to dip my toes in the murky waters of the world of independent authors. Myself, a very 'wet behind the ears' amateur with no experience whatsoever in this field, I really had not much idea of what I was doing. I wrote a book, called Common Sense Would Be Good. It wasn't really a book, though, it was a collection of my thoughts in my computer, which I then had printed onto a pile of A4 sized paper. I googled publishers, found one in North Yorkshire, and sent my thoughts to this 'publisher'.

Several months later, having been totally ripped off by Pink Cloud KDP Publishing Limited, I began to find out a lot more about this murky world, a world where keen, amateur, would be writers are easy prey for those who wish to make a fast buck out of hopefuls, those who would say yes to pretty much anything, in their quest to follow their dreams of being a published author.

I have learnt a lot in these two years. I have seen, and heard of, many so-called professional publishers, proof readers, editors, most of which have a definite talent, though not one which aspiring writers will actually find of any practical use at all. That talent is the ability to present a wonderful package, so it seems. A lovely, professional looking, shiny, all-singing-all-dancing website that promises so much, but - like so much in our modern world - delivers very little. The basic errors and bad grammar that are not picked up by these so-called professionals beggars belief. For amateur writers, the error and mistake count can be  high, very high in some cases, though I have also found that some just don't care. But along the rocky road of independent writers I have found, to my great enjoyment, some exceptionally good writers. I myself would love to reach the dizzy heights of accomplished writer one day, but for now I will continue to listen, look, and learn, and pick up as much as I possibly can from the good writers. Those that do their research properly, those that pay the greatest attention to the smallest of details, for these are vital ingredients in the writing of a book that can be elevated above the drivel, the average, and the quite good.

One of these very good writers is this fellow;

This distinguished looking chap is C.W.Lovatt, Chuck, from Canada. Here he is surrounded by books, surely a favourite situation for a keen writer, as well as one who loves to read.

I sort of stumbled across Chuck, 'bumped into' him, as it were, while discovering how enormous the world of independent writers actually is. As previously mentioned, I had discovered that although there were a small amount of good, talented, writers that appear to be very professional, I was being bombarded with so much of what turns out to be utter drivel. It was against this backdrop that, on seeing the front cover of Chuck's The Adventures of Charlie Smithers, I decided to investigate further.

The cover looked most interesting, and so different to the majority of 'the rest'; shiny, manufactured, overly produced and quite pretentious looking. The cover of 'Charlie' seemed far more straightforward, beckoning one to take a peek inside.

I did indeed take that little peek inside, as in this rapidly changing modern world of the 'e-book' one can do this, just read a few pages as a sort of appetiser to see if it's your 'thing'. I was instantly impressed, and a smile arrived on my face. There was no long introduction, so I was straight into the action, so to speak. The writing I found to be succinct, to the point. The scene was 1854, in the days of empire, of derring do, of adventure and discovery. It's a decent length for a book, with a plot that builds beautifully, steadily, drawing in the reader, keeping him or her there, hooked. I loved the book, the story was wonderfully well constructed and kept me gripped right the way through to the end.

Here is the review I posted after reading the book.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful 5.0 out of 5 stars A truly epic tale, exceptionally well written., 31 Aug 2013 By Alec Hawkes - ordinary bloke. "Alec" (Leighton Buzzard, England.) - See all my reviews Verified Purchase(What is this?) This review is from: The Adventures of Charlie Smithers (Kindle Edition) I was attracted to this brilliantly written tale purely by the title - The Adventures of Charlie Smithers. It conjured up images of the sort of stuff I, as an English kid back in the 1960's, would read about in things such as The Boys Own, or tales of Biggles the dashing pilot. I was vaguely correct I suppose, but this was the most magnificent adventure I have ever come across. Anything Biggles, or William Brown for that matter, may have got up to in the way of adventures pales when compared with Charlie Smithers and what happened to him on his perilous, though always exciting, journey through untamed Africa. His journey is quite incredibly dangerous at times, and many times I was led to think 'surely he's a goner this time!?'. The author has written this quite amazing, yet very believable, tale with such aplomb that you cannot help - given that you get'right into it' - getting so involved in everything that happens. He has, as other reviewers have noted, done his research very well indeed and he held my attention to such an extent that my breakfast had been stood for four hours before I touched it, not being able to abandon the story for even ten minutes to eat. I was moved to genuine tears as the story reached it's conclusion, though the author skillfully managed to ease the grieving with another charming twist. I really cannot recommend The Adventures of Charlie Smithers too highly,just buy it and read it yourself. You will surely find it one of the most engaging reads ever, whatever your particular preference, or usual choice of reading matter. This would, without any shadow of a doubt, make a magnificent film. I could easily see a modern day equivalent of Richard Harris in this. Though at times Smithers' tenderness and ability to wax lyrical would have been perfectly suited to another great of the screen, Richard Burton. I echo previous sentiments when I say I would love to read more of Charlie Smithers. To the author, very well done indeed Sir.

As you can tell, I was very impressed. But please don't just take my word for it, here are the links to the book on Amazon, where you can find several impressive reviews.

and the UK link...

It does still surprise me a little, that there aren't many more reviews of this quite splendid, and brilliantly written, book. But like I mentioned earlier, there are so many independent 'writers' out there, and wading through a lot of drivel to find the good stuff can be a difficult task at times.

I was, though, smitten. I found Chuck Lovatt's writing style to be most engaging indeed, and I wanted more. I also had the desire to find out about the man, and what inspired him to write as he does. We connected, so to speak, through the medium of Facebook. Chuck is indeed a very engaging fellow, appearing to be fairly relaxed about things, and possessing a fine sense of humour. We had a little chat about his writing, as well as life in general. Something else comes shining through when talking with Chuck, he is a modest fellow, quite humble, which is a marvellous quality to have. So many aspiring writers I find to be the complete opposite, which repels me very quickly from their work.

So, here's a little more about Chuck. I asked him how, why, and when he got into writing the kind of stuff that he does so well now.

"Well, I have been writing on and off for roughly thirty years now, since the early 1980's, but it's really been in the last ten years or so that I have been taking it seriously. A friend of mine, whose opinion on literature I greatly respected, gave me some intelligent and critical encouragement. This was the first time that I'd had this kind of feedback on my writing. I find that honest criticism is rare, but to get honest criticism that is also intelligent and therefore helpful, I find to be extremely rare. I can't state quite how important this was to me, merely to say that I took it all 'on board' and used it to continue to learn my chosen craft."

Me; "It seems to have worked Chuck. I find 'Charlie Smithers' to be very polished indeed."

"Thank you. But it didn't happen straightaway. I spent a good few years honing my technique penning short stories, and what they like to call novellas. She, my friend with the critical eye, was very good indeed with me, and when criticism was, or is, needed she can be merciless. But this is what's needed. There can be no merit or any use at all in someone praising you for the sake of it, where some praise might be merited, but also criticism is vital. The only way we can keep improving as writers."

Me; "I couldn't agree more Chuck. The number of times I've seen the daft phrase 'you're awesome, you rock' applied to aspiring writers would suggest we are awash with writing talent everywhere, which I think isn't always the case."

"Yes, I'd agree. Constructive criticism is immeasurably more use than hollow praise."

Me; "Has history, and historical fiction always been your thing?"

"Not always, not for writing it at least. You will, I'm sure, have appreciated that Charlie Smithers wasn't just a thrilling adventure, it was a love story as well."

Me; "Yes, that shines through very brightly. I thought that part of the story was handled with much sensitivity. It was very touching, quite lovely."

"Thank you, well I am something of a sensitive soul, and some of my earlier works were quite a bit about love and romance. Also, I am a long standing big fan of the work of Stephen King. I like to think I have a pretty well developed sense of humour, and of drama. This led me to penning a 'noir romance', my first published work, called Tin Whistle in 2008. I had several more published after that. All the while though, I think I was learning more and more about the craft of writing. I have always been very interested in anything historical, and when I thought more deeply about how I could try to hold a reader's interest for 100,000 words or more, I just knew it had to be something that I myself was as interested in as the reader. Being, as I said, very interested in history, I decided this was to be my chosen genre."

Me; "Is this how you came to write The Adventures of Charlie Smithers ? "

"Yes, I think so. I'd always been interested in British history, being Canadian our history has often been pretty close with that of the British, as in we were part of The British Empire, and of course we are very much part of The Commonwealth and Queen Elizabeth is very much our Queen as well. Many of the exploits of The Royal Navy took them all over the empire, including to my homeland. That is part of how I came to write my most recent book, but Smithers came first."

Me; "Research for something that was set in 1854 must have been very interesting!"

"I'd love to say I was able to spend a few months in the dense African jungle, navigating dangerous rivers and plodding across deserts. But that, sadly, wasn't possible. The internet, when used properly, can be a wonderful place to research and gather vital snippets of information. Add to this what I had already found out over the years, and I managed to get a pretty good picture of what it may well have been like for an English manservant lost in the wilds of untamed Africa. Adding a little 'poetic license' in the writing, and there it was, I hope, a decent read that was essentially fiction, but could easily be based on fact."

Me; "Well it 'grabbed' me very early on in the piece, and held my attention the entire way. The tension grew, the plot thickened, the characters were excellent and yes, very believable I think. Has it done well?"

"It became an Amazon best seller in three different countries, so I think that just about qualifies it as 'done quite well' !"

Me; "Tell me about Josiah Stubb. After reading 'Smithers', I was very keen to read either a follow up, or something similar. Similar as in historical I mean. And well done with the sales of Smithers!"

"Thank you. Well, researching for Josiah Stubb, the siege of Louisburg in 1758, was an entirely different kettle of fish, so to speak. As youngsters at school in Canada, we learnt - or at least were told - a lot about the seven years war, between England and France, and though the siege of Louisburg is an important part of Canadian history, very little was actually generally well known about it, except by historians who studied it. So I had to start pretty much from scratch."

Me; "A labour of love?"

"Well, yes because it genuinely interested me, but it did involve a lot of work. I would like to tell you that my methods for researching are nicely structured, but I can't because that just isn't the case. I spent many, many hours reading historical references to the time in question, occasionally googling to see what I could find on the internet that may be of use, making a lot of notes, and gradually forming a picture in my mind, as well as gaining an understanding of the time."

Me; "Well the result is brilliant methinks. You seem to have a very good understanding of that period, and the way you have written it makes the characters come completely alive. What particularly impressed me was that you seemed to have captured the language of the time. Was this tricky?"

"Thank you for that, but I'm afraid I can't really answer that one, as I simply don't know. I can say that I very much enjoy writing as if I was actually in the period that I am writing about. I try to completely immerse myself in the story and the characters. There was more though, with Stubb, probably the most important piece of research I did. My great friend with the highly critical eye, and myself, travelled to the actual place where the story took place. We covered a round trip of 4000 miles in one week. Once at the actual site, I decided to walk every last square inch of the place. Doing this I found I was able to absorb the feel and atmosphere of the place. I tried to imagine what it must have been like some 250 years previous. I didn't find it that difficult to be honest, as the restoration there is really quite excellent. Getting a real feel of the town of St. Johns was a little harder, and required the help of an historian. We did all this after the rough draft of the book was finished in 2011, and then I felt quite ready to crack on and tidy the book up to get it to it's finished state."

Me; "Well I think the research was all worth it Chuck, as the result is a quite brilliantly written book. By the way, how are you when you get totally immersed in the writing, as you described earlier?"

"I would say I'm probably a bit like an actor, I think writers need to be. To really get the part in your soul, to get completely immersed in it, I think you have to get right 'in the zone' as it were. I'm sure actors go through this, and I certainly do. As I said, I like to get completely into the time that I am writing about. I think it seems to work."

Me; "It most definitely does work Chuck, for 'Smithers' and 'Stubb' are without  doubt two of the finest books I have ever read. Thanks very much for this little insight, and for your time. I look forward very much to the next book from C.W.Lovatt!"

"My pleasure."

So there it is, just a little insight into what makes Chuck Lovatt tick, and why his books are so good.

      A quite perfect way to spend a couple of evenings, may well be to crack open a bottle or two, park yourself somewhere comfortable, and lose yourself in a wonderfully well written book. There it is above, a bottle of red and Josiah Stubb. Perfect.

The US link to Amazon...

and the link for the UK...

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