MY STORY - I am a film and video producer living in Dubai. Writing was always my first love; from an very early age. I sold my first screenplay to the BBC when I was seventeen. I wrote my first novel when I was twenty-two. It was called ‘The Dance of the Daemon Clowns’ ... about a time traveling Soviet private detective called Nietsky who stumbles upon a wealth of secret manuscripts beneath Lindisfarne Abbey. A literary agent loved the story but thought I would be compared to Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett. He recommended I move away from what I personally liked and suggested I ask a close friend to give me a subject I knew very little about. My girlfriend at the time suggested ‘relationships’! (Witty) and ‘The Last Big Valley’ was born and all about a group of people in the wilds of Scotland who drop off the face of the known earth and create their own. The literary agent loved the style of writing but thought that the story was not mainstream enough. Not mainstream enough. Hmm. Not mainstream is not me. My favorite quote is, ‘If they give you lined paper, don’t write on the lines.’ So, one day I thought, good writing like everything requires lots and lots of practice and I decided to write a book that I would love to read; ‘my’ book.
1. How did "Far out cafe" come to be?
Writing was always my first love; and from a very early age. When I was at school I only ever worked at English and Art. Our English teacher would give us a title for a story, say for example, ‘The Tree,’ and demand a minimum number of words and off the class would go and write about apple trees in orchards or majestic oak trees beside rural rivers etc, where as I would go an sit in my father’s cellar in the pitch-dark and light a candle and start, ‘The roots of the tree were clearly visible on the dark side of the cellar,’ - Stuff like that. I sold my first screenplay to the BBC when I was seventeen. I wrote my first novel when I was twenty-two. It was called ‘The Dance of the Daemon Clowns’ ... about a time traveling Soviet private detective called Nietsky who stumbles upon a wealth of ultra secret Holy manuscripts beneath Lindisfarne Abbey. A literary agent loved the story but thought I would be compared to Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett. He recommended I move away from what I personally liked and suggested I ask a close friend to give me a subject I knew very little about. My girlfriend at the time suggested ‘relationships’! (Witty!!) and ‘The Last Big Valley’ was born and all about a group of people in the wilds of Scotland who drop off the face of the known earth and create their own. The literary agent loved the style of writing but thought that the story was not mainstream enough. Not mainstream enough. Hmm. Not mainstream is not me. My favorite quotes are, ‘If they give you lined paper, don’t write on the lines,’ and ‘two paths diverged in a wood & I took the one less traveled by & that made all the difference.’ So, one day I thought, good writing like everything requires lots and lots of practice and I decided to write a book that I would love to read; ‘my’ book.
2. How much is the book inspired from real life?
In many ways it’s all taken from real life, only the island is not real. I gave the main island the name, Isle de Christos and placed the island close to two more, Isla de Locura (The Island of Insanity) and Isla de Tranquilidad (The Island of Sanity). The research I did into Cuba, Vietnam, the war itself and all of the conspiracy theories one of the characters talks about was seriously extensive. I wanted the ‘history’ to be real even though the story is pure fiction and yet the more I dug into the ‘history’ the more I realized that ‘history’ is in many ways not quite as ‘real’ as its made out to be as its written largely by the victors!
3. The protagonist, Daniel Dyer, is from Yorkshire and so are you. Are there any other similarities between the two of you?
When I originally wrote the book I really thought the lead character should be American. A UK literary agent talked me out of it, he didn’t think a book by an English Author about an American fighting in an American war would be picked up or adored. At the time I didn’t think that any English had fought in the Vietnam War, yet when I researched the possibility I found that whilst the English had not fought as an ally with the Americans - Something that annoyed allot of Americans - there had indeed been quite allot of English there. So, in the end I wrote my ‘English’ version. The strange thing was that from the moment Daniel was ‘born’ in my head the whole dynamic of the story and indeed the main character changed. Are there similarities between us? Not really but there’s a deep rooted sense of ‘self’ and being exactly who you want to be and fighting for the right to be exactly who you want to be that runs through the story and that’s true to me.
4. What do you want your readers to imbibe from "Far out Cafe"? Is there a message you wish to convey?
You’re living a temporary life in a temporary world, where nothing makes you less, yet, everything makes you more. The ‘more’ for my protagonist is finding light in darkness and understanding that everything we need, we carry in us. It always seems odd to me that as kids we are afraid of the dark yet as adults we seem so disinclined to turn toward the light
5. What kind of books do you generally read? Who are your favorite authors?
I read lots of different books and authors but mainly people like; Irvine Welsh / Ian Rankin / Michael Chabon / Michael Ambrose / Ernest Hemmingway /
David Mitchell / Bill Bryson and lots of autobiographies and mainly along the lines of Oliver Reed. Peter O Toole. Keith Richard. That kind of stuff …
6. Tell us how you came about to be a film and video producer? Is this something you've always wanted to be?
I always wanted to be myself if that makes sense and that’s not always easy. But, yes, combining pictures and words into ‘moving’ pictures has a very logical thread back to who I always wanted to be. Writing was my first love, art my second. I have lived in the Middle East for over 30 years and I have a background in advertising and commercials. I produce television commercials and documentaries but I think the most personal film of my career was a film for the State of Qatar. The film tells the personal stories of four families who suffered terrible tragedy when horror and incredible disaster struck their region. Kashmir, Beirut, New Orleans and Banda Aceh could seldom have appeared on the same travel itinerary but they were all on mine: Seventeen flights, nine countries and a total of forty-five thousand miles; a journey of epic proportions to some of the most isolated parts of the world where we would uncover stories of real courage and dignity and survival against the odds. It was continually exhausting, always challenging and occasionally dangerous, but it was incredibly rewarding and memorable too. The director (Liam Hall) and my client (Haytham Yahya) travelled twice around the globe, went to places you’d never normally visit and met inspiring people that you wouldn’t normally meet. Yet, it was a huge privilege to walk where we walked and to see what we saw. Driving around the mountain passes in Kashmir is dangerous enough, the mini bus hurtles like some high speed roller coaster spitting peddles into open air as the back wheels spin on the sheer drop corners. What do you do, you have faith in God because you never met the driver and you know that if this day is going to be your last and that’s what God deems that a paper cut will kill you! But, I love what I do and I know how privileged I am to be doing what I do.
7. How did you get into writing? Your first script was broadcast on BBC at the age of 17! How did that happen?
I was sixteen, and in those days, life was complicated although I never saw it that way. My parents took my sister and I to North Berwick for the family annual holiday. The flat was called Linda Vista, on the seafront and at the same time there was a family called the Parnaby’s from Cambridge who took the upstairs flat. Bert Parnaby (The father) was the head of drama for English schools. He took an interest in my writing. (We had little to do in North Berwick but beach combing and lobster potting around the Bass Rock and Fidra island with a white haired Scots fisherman called John Adams was my thing in those days and doing nothing well has always suited me.) Bert was retiring from his career in education and we used to meet every year. Bert’s son was a budding actor … and in those days Alan was in a period piece shot in Yorkshire called ‘Flambard’s’ - (Alan played the weaker of two brothers who preferred to make model airplanes rather than ride horses)!!! Bert himself, then fully retired wandered into Alan’s agents in London to collect some mail and Alan’s agent found all manner of walk on parts on TV in things like ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ etc! I even found out just before he passed away that he was used in a huge advertising campaign for Kodak. Good days, but all water long gone under a very old bridge
At the time I was writing a screen play about a group of young offenders on North Berwick beach doing community service work; basically, these boys were picking up litter and empty bottles when there was no litter or empties to pick up; but the boys did collect a few empty soda / pop bottles from the litter bins on the beach road but the boys supervisor was a bit of a megalomaniac and insisted all of the bottles that had any refunds due on them be given to him; hence the title of the play - ‘Non-Returnable’s’ - The boys did have a sort of leader, he was 16, a bit of a misfit and stole most of the valuable bottles back from the supervisor : ) and that was the joke when the supervisor tried to cash them in - (You have to bear in mind that when I was fifteen when the Wetherby police came banging on my parents door to question me about a group of boys who were stealing soda siphon’s and then returning them and my dad only recently reminded me that I got annoyed with the police who were writing my statement and demanded that I write it myself and the police let me - So, I wrote from experience, so to speak : ) That year, sitting in North Berwick Bert told me that he had written a short screen play himself about a young girl who was sixteen and pregnant, and still at school because of some bureaucracy due to her date of birth which basically meant that she had to finish one more term before she could leave the school. In the end we simply put the plays together; the misfit sixteen year old boy on the beach became the boyfriend to the sixteen year old pregnant girl, and her father was the megalomaniac supervisor of the boys on the beach … a cute idea with a very funny twist at the end and then the BBC bought it, messed up the story completely by announcing the ‘funny end twist’ in the first few minutes of the play and utterly ruined the story … but they paid us … and that was good and for a short while I was a writer. When we complained to the BBC, the BBC producer told us that we had no rights to say anything at all; he made it incredibly clear and in no uncertain terms that the day the BBC bought the screenplay that they could do whatever they wanted with it. Looking back I suppose he was right … as my current life reaffirms that when a producer flexes his muscles and wants something done his way, it is done his way … but that was little consolation so many years ago. The BBC had ruined a good story and our names were on it.
8. Your next novel is "4 doors". Tell us more about it. What should we expect?
It’s complicated and I need to simplify but I’m up to page two hundred. So, watch this space is the best that I can say.
9. What advice can you give the young writers from your experience? How do you get started with writing a novel?
Write about what you are passionate about and stick with it. Good writing like all other things in life does indeed require allot, allot of practice. There’s lots
of people trying to write that one great summer best seller, the one that everybody takes with them on holiday or to the beach. My advice, step aside
from that crowd, and create your own world and your own kind of readers will follow you. In short, it’s good to be different. What more can I say, I have
never been able to associate with normal, I mean, what is ‘normal’, normal is being ordinary, ordinary is being humdrum, humdrum is being trapped into
appeasing people you don’t particularly like, appeasing people is being stifled. Being stifled is not being allowed to be brilliant, not being given the chance to
be brilliant is having your opinions crushed, being crushed is being tricked into mediocrity … Mediocrity is not my thing, never has been, never will, and
normal is just an adjective! If this means different, so be it, this is me, abnormal me. Be different. Be who YOU want to be!
10. What do you enjoy most about living and working in the Dubai?
Dubai gives me the opportunity to be who I want to be and for that I am forever grateful.