Book Savvy Spotlight on John Davies
Our Guest is John Davies*
Enjoy the interview.
I was born in Cwmafan, South Wales in 1948, attended Glanafan Grammar School, worked for 30 years as a chemist for BP Chemicals and retired in 2002. Married to Adrianne in 1971 and son, Ian, born in 1979. Our granddaughter, Freya, was born in 2010 and is the apple of my eye. I started writing as a hobby in retirement and 'Lyrics and Limericks' is my third book. I play guitar, have written some songs and also some poetry. The thought occurred to me, are song lyrics poetry? I sought the opinion of several songwriters and poets and their thoughts are included in the book. Having written many limericks, the book title required no thought and just tripped off my tongue.
Q2. When you write, what emotion do you seek to evoke in your readers?
That depends entirely on what I'm writing. I have written poems which I hope have evoked sadness and sympathy in the reader. I wanted to entertain the crowd with the speech at my son's wedding. I told him that the real secret to a successful marriage is just two words, "Yes, dear". Lyrics and Limericks is a light hearted look at the worlds of poetry and song writing. I hope that I've made it an entertaining read.
Q3. Have you always wanted to be a writer? Why did you start writing?
Deep down inside I probably did, but it was never a conscious thought in my early years. There was always something else more important like bands, girls and rugby. Then along came marriage, a mortgage and a family. I'd always enjoyed writing essays at school, retirement provided me with the opportunity to pick up my pen again.
Q4. What are your favourite aspects of writing? And the most challenging?
Strange as it may seem, I actually enjoy the physical act of writing with a pen on paper. Thoughts are fleeting, committing them to paper is permanent (I hope). I write everything by hand first. I then have to type it into the computer, which is a good form of revision as well. Because I have so many other interests, my mind is never full of ideas. Coming up with a good idea is sometimes a real challenge.
Q5. What inspired you to write "Lyrics and Limericks"?
I joined my first band in 1965. We couldn't decide on a name so we called ourselves "The undecided". Since then I've had a great interest in music and have written many songs. I have also written many poems including a large number of limericks which had never been published. The lyrics of Bob Dylan are regarded by many as pure poetry with music. Can poetry be called lyrics without music? This was the underlying thought which inspired me to write "Lyrics and Limericks". The book, however, is not a type of textbook; I have tended to the humorous throughout.
Q6. How do you write your books? Do you plan it or do you just get an idea and run with it?
It has varied with each of my three books. The first was a Welsh language biography of singer/songwriter Geraint Griffiths. I recorded a series of interviews with Geraint and wrote them up after as soon as possible. "Chester to Chepstow" was my second book. This was the account of my 600 mile cycle trip around the coastline of Wales. I kept a journal during this trip and wrote it all up over a few months after my return. I had an idea and a plan for "Lyrics and Limericks" and more or less followed it except for a few ideas which occurred to me on the way.
Q7. Are there any favourite authors or books that have had a strong influence on you?
There are many authors that I admire and many books that I have really enjoyed. Tolkien, Conan Doyle, Forester, Orwell, Irving just to name a few. I don't think any of them have influenced my writing because I've just tried to be myself. My favourite book is "The Lord of the Rings". I've read that 17 times!
Q8. What are your interests when you are not writing?
Every morning is devoted to athletics. I train every day. Winter is devoted to cross country and summer to track and field. I have been Welsh Masters javelin champion in my age group nearly every year since 1989. I am treasurer of Port Talbot Harriers and president of Welsh Masters Athletics. I own six guitars (I can only play one at a time though!) and play in three bands. I am currently writing some instrumental songs for my band, Marconi Beach Sound, which is my main musical project. All these things have to be put on one side though, when I'm babysitting my beautiful granddaughter Freya.
Q9. What steps have you taken to market your books?
All my books are on Myspace and Facebook. I also have a PublishedBestsellers.com blog site. In addition, I sent details with a photo to the local press and also a circular by email and snailmail to booksellers, libraries and reading groups.
Q10. If you had to pick just one book marketing tool that you've used to promote your book, which would you say has been the most effective?
Circulars by email, I've probably had more response from this source.
Q11. Do you do more promoting online or offline and which do you prefer?
Online is easier and cheaper, so that's what I prefer to do.
Q12. What is your target audience for this book?
Musicians, songwriters, poets and anyone who just enjoys an entertaining read.
Q13. What kind of reactions and reviews have you received about your book?
Relatives and friends have said how much they have enjoyed it. Peter Finch, former Chief Executive of the Welsh Academi, sent me this email: "This is a lovely book. I'm halfway through it and am finding it pretty entertaining. I hope sales go well."
Q14. Are you concerned about the effect of e-books on traditional books?
They do seem to have become popular. Personally, I would never favour e-books over real books. I get the greatest pleasure in handling all books from lovely old leather bound editions down to the lowly paperback. E-books have their place in modern society, but in my opinion, they will never replace the printed word.
Q15. You have written three books, do you have others in the pipeline?
Yes, I do have another book in the pipeline. As I said before, my granddaughter Freya, was born in 2010 and that gave me the idea to write a book of children's poetry. Hopefully I will finish it by the time she can read. I haven't got a title yet, but some of the poems are called - "The Frog and the Hog", "Sammy the Slug" and "The Nine Stone Cowboy".
Q16. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
First of all, you need to read as much as possible. The art of good writing becomes ingrained when you read good writing. Don't try to copy the style of a good writer, be yourself and develop a style of your own. I think it helps if you can write on a subject that you enjoy reading about. Rejection is inevitable in the world of publishing. Never give up, keep trying...
Thank you for your time. We wish you every success in your writing career.
*John Davies is a song writer and poet. He is also an athlete and has been the Welsh Masters javelin champion in his age group nearly every year since 1989. He is the Treasurer of Port Talbot Harriers and President of Welsh Masters Athletics.