Book Savvy Spotlight on Harry Riley
Bringing you exclusive interviews with
authors featured in the Book Savvy
Our Guest is Harry Riley*
Enjoy the interview.
Q1. Can you tell us about yourself
and your book 'Captain Damnation &
other strange tales'?
Growing up during World War II, I was an
only child, mother worked full time and
there was no father to keep me in line. (He was a soldier, missing;
presumed dead.) I'd never met him until he returned after the war from
a Japanese prison camp. Then I was six years old and having a wonderful
time, with lots of friends and many good aunts to fuss over me. I didn't have
many books but enjoyed the radio and this fed my imagination so much
that I've never fully recovered. Now after a lifetime in commercial printing,
happily married with two grown up children and a granddaughter, I'm still
addicted to all things theatrical and possess a childish sense of fun. Writing
'Captain Damnation & other strange tales' enabled me to dig deeply into my
imagination and release some of the creative juices that had been locked
up. The book is full of quirky stories on a wide variety of subjects with an
occasional twist in the tale. My mystery and ghost stories can be easily read
and enjoyed by both the young and the young at heart.
Q2. Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, many years ago an older workmate, while discussing writing made a
comment that I never forgot, he said: "don't worry; if it's there it'll come
out!" With me it didn't come out until I retired. I was too busy trying to
earn a living and printing the work of others, to create my own books.
Q3. What are your favourite aspects of writing? And the most
Turning a loose idea into a story, then fleshing out the characters, just
enough to add a bit of light and shade and then to come up with a title that
fits the bill. The most challenging aspect of writing for me is editing. I have
to do this over and over again and must confess I'm never one hundred per
cent happy with the final result. There will always be words I want to leave
out or extra ones I'd like to put in.
Q4. How do you plan a book? Do you plot the story or do you just
get an idea and run with it?
I enjoy creating short stories! There are endless opportunities for drama
and humour and I particularly like the freedom I get with writing them. My
inspiration often comes from visits to stately homes and from paintings. In
Captain Damnation: 'The Ghosts of Grimsdyke Hall' came to me following a
visit to a Lincolnshire Manor. A portrait of the lady of the house had eyes
that seemed to follow me around the drawing room and left a deep
impression on me. 'The Riddle of the Red Telephone Box' came from a
watercolour painting, bought after a visit to The Dales. So, no, I don't plot
and plan too much. I use my instinct and often talk it over with my wife (an
avid mystery reader). Being a member of a local writing group also helps
enormously and means I can read a new story to ten or fifteen people and
get an instant critique with no holds barred, and we certainly pull no
Q5. Is there a story that is your favourite and why?
Yes, 'Toby Mullins and the Derelict Windmill.' The idea behind this story
originates from a friend named Douglas. He is long dead now and was born
with Down's Syndrome. Dougie was incredibly conscientious, always
cheerful and used to love going to the cinema. He could relate to Norman
Wisdom and saw his films over and over again. He was a pleasure to know
and I remember him with great affection.
Q6. Why did you choose the pen-name Harry Riley?
My original idea was to use my own name for non-fiction articles and to
have a pen name for fiction. I wanted a simple, short and snappy
pseudonym. My mother's family was Irish Catholic and I have always
admired the Irish as a nation of storytellers, so I settled on the name of
Q7. Are there any authors or books that have had a strong
influence on you?
Oh yes, I like the quirky tales of Roald Dahl and the moody mysteries of
Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes etc. I never tire
of reading the classic authors and am a fan of modern writers; Ian Rankin,
Peter Robinson and Simon Beckett.
Q8. What are your interests when you are not writing?
I read a lot, am a keen gardener, I enjoy DIY and snapshot photography
with my digital camera.
Q9. What steps have you taken to market your books?
My first task was for 'Harry Riley Nottingham' to be easily found on the
Google browser. I believe I've now achieved that: by social networking,
blogging and putting 'taster' stories onto many Internet websites such as
Triond, Authspot, facebook, Authonomy and video stories and trailers onto
YouTube with two sites: harryxxxxxriley and harryriley321: setting up my
own website: www.harryspen.co.uk. I'm a member of Eastwood Writers
Group and have contacts with several other writing groups. I also write for
several magazines and broadcast 'Thought for the Day' regularly on Radio
Nottingham. I've made my books available through the UK and Ireland
Q10. Which book marketing tool you've used to promote your
book would you say has been the most effective?
Without hesitation it has to be the PLR (Public Lending Rights
Programme.) I gave Nottinghamshire Libraries free copies of both my
Q11. Do you do more promoting online or offline and which do
With mobility problems I find it much more convenient to promote Harry
Riley online. Nevertheless I find the face-to-face aspect of promoting books
Q12. What kind of reactions and reviews have you received about
I've had excellent responses from members of New Writers UK andEastwood
Writers Group, friends and relatives. Heather Webster bought a
copy of Captain Damnation and did a brilliant review. She recalled how she
began reading it while journeying to France but her teenage son grabbed it
and read it from cover to cover before handing it back.
Q13. You have a fascination for the paranormal as reflected in
your two books, why is this?
My mother was very superstitious and although I laugh about it, some of it
has undoubtedly rubbed off on me.
Q15. What would you like people to take away from reading
'Captain Damnation & other Strange Tales'?
A few pleasant memories! It would be nice if my stories help brighten a dull
day or a short journey. If I can make my reader think, perhaps arouse a
smile or two, or rekindle a forgotten memory, I would be delighted.
Q16. Are you concerned about the effect of e-books on traditional
Not a bit! Friends tell me they still like the look and feel of a real book, and
though Ebooks and Ereaders are selling well, there is nothing quite like
owning a quality book. I've been hooked on the smell of china clay and ink
on paper ever since I got my first 'Rupert the Bear' book as a small child.
The two technologies will surely complement one another.
Q17. You have written a thriller, now a book of short stories...
I'm writing a follow-up to my novel 'Sins of the Father' it's called 'The Laird
of Castle Ballantine'. I'm also working on another collection of short stories.
Q18. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
The worst advice I've ever been given is that old adage: you should live a
little before you take up writing and then only write about what you know.
That is fine for academia but I never wanted to do that. So I would say, the
younger you start, the better. Don't be afraid to let your imagination flow.
Try and develop a thick skin and don't be put off by the negative-near-do wells of this world.
You'll have the satisfaction of surprising others and maybe yourself as well.