Patrick now lives in the north of England with his wife and has his son and granddaughters nearby. Much of his life is reflected in the biographical trilogy “The Clouds Still Hang”, so to repeat too many biographical details here would be something of a ‘spoiler’!
What inspires you to write?
My book started as a form of self therapy many years ago, looking back at childhood and trying to fix and preserve the love I had then. Later after some traumatic events my therapist. Realizing I found some things hard to talk about, suggested I write things down, so I did. This gradually grew and grew until it became the trilogy, “The Clouds Still Hang”. So although fictionalized, it is really a personal memoir.
Tell us about your writing process.
Well I had an outline in my head, my own life, so it meant following that chronology and setting down events from the past as seen through the eyes of ‘Simon’, the protagonist. what was interesting was that as I recalled events from long ago, more and more detail surfaced, even down to actual conversations I had had with people, right back into childhood. So there was a a lot of going back as new things surfaced and inserting parts, amending parts. Characters of course were in my head as well, although for simplicity some have been compressed and one or two combined, but not major characters. I wrote entirely on screen, with notes and ideas jotted down in text files kept alongside the main document. While the early parts of the book to be written were done in the early 1990s, the bulk was written in 2009-11.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
My characters were for the most part in my memory. Yes I talked again to them, as this allowed me to remember and relive actual conversations I had many years ago. The brain works in mysterious ways and the more I wrote about, for example, Daniel, the more I remembered in detail about him and the things we did. The snake incident is one example that I had completely forgotten about, but when writing about being on the hill, it suddenly leapt out of the deep part of of my memory in complete detail. This just kept happening, and is one reason why the book took so long – I kept remembering new and I think, important things. Another example is the railway yard incident. I included that because it shows Simon’s character at that time, to contrast with him after 18 October 1963.
What advice would you give other writers?
I hesitate to offer advice to other writers. Just that if you have a passion about something and you know about something, then write about it and don’t worry about whether other people will be interested and buy it. I didn’t set out to write a book for publication, I set out to tell the story. I wrote about growing up gay in the mid 20th century, and feeling I had to suppress that at all costs. But repression has a cost as the reader will find out with near catastrophic results for Simon and his family. Other writers needs will be different, but the point is, write it! Then think about it.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
Once I reached the end I decided to see if there would be interest. I sent details, synopsis and excerpts to many literary agents. All rejected it, some politely, some quite bluntly saying it was too hot to handle. Yes, one actually said that. After months of this, I became more determined than ever to get an audience for the book and I looked at self publishing, which I had never done before. My first thought was to publish the three parts separately, so book one was published for Kindle. It actually good some good reviews but negative feedback about the title and cover. At this time I watched a TV item about “Fifty Shades of Grey” and the cover was discussed and what was referred as the Tube test. In other words despite the salacious nature of the content, the cover would not attract attention if read on public transport, making the book more acceptable. (Before it became absurdly famous anyway.) So I changed the title and the cover, and decided then to release the whole trilogy in one under the new title, “The Clouds Still Hang”. The cover does in some ways reflect the story as life is a road to be travelled, the clouds representing the troubles of Simon’s life and the rainbow a symbol of hope with a hint at the gay theme behind it. But if you don’t know all that, it’s a cover that would not attract attention on the bus, train or aeroplane.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think there will always be a place for printed books. You don’t have to recharge them for a start. But digital formats will become much more common,
What genres do you write?
LGBT, gay , memoir, fiction, biography
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print