Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Author Interview: Adrian Simon - author of Milk-Blood

Author Interview, Books For Men, Adrian Simon, Milk-Blood, Warren Fellows, The Damage Done
In 1978, drug trafficker Warren Fellows was imprisoned for 12 years in Bangkwang Prison in Bangkok. He told his story of that living hell in his book The Damage Done, which I reviewed a few years ago.

It was a powerful story of survival, but perhaps omitted from his book was one of the most powerful struggles of them all - that of the family Fellows left behind.

Adrian Simon was just two-years-old when his father was convicted for attempting to smuggle heroin, and his life and that of his mother was about to change in way's they could never imagine. Now, after over three decades, Simon has decided to share his own story in the painfully candid memoir Milk-Blood. I caught up with Adrian to ask him about his book...

Hi Adrian, thanks for taking time out to speak with me. Tell me about your book and why you decided to write it.
My Father’s choice not to flush the bags of heroin down that Bangkok hotel sink when I was two shaped my life forever, in ways I wouldn’t fully understand for many years. Thirty-four years later my life had gone to shit. The weight of it all was too heavy. I was beaten and at breaking point, desperately in need of ventilation and release. I had no choice but to write Milk-Blood. My own blood became literally so inflamed that if I hadn’t there was the real possibility I wouldn’t live a long life. So I bled my emotions and traumas out onto paper.

Milk-Blood, Adrian Simon
The story is about what I and my family went through before during and after the arrest, exploring the psychological and physical cost it had on me and how I got through it. I absorbed way too much for a child to compartmentalize the heavy effects of having a father in a foreign prison. My mind broke, and by nine I suffered a nervous breakdown, developing a severe and crippling mental anxiety disorder. I scraped through my teenage years with the help of my mother and sports. As soon I was able, I left Australia to seek my own adventures and leave the past behind. The older I grew I longed for answers to try and understand the complexities and lifelong consequences the arrest and subsequent fallout created, and why life had been so bloody challenging.

After traveling for over a decade I returned needing clarity and answers to the past. This is when I started piecing it all together. Some doors are best not opened, and some truths are devastating. But I had to. In a sense I weave the threads of my family’s history together to understand and piece the fabric of mine. In doing so blasting the dark shadows my father casted over my life. I dislike using the term closure, but I had to seal shut the past to create my own future.

Sounds hectic, and it is, but along the way you’ll find it a wild ride, and most importantly it gives the reader a glimpse into the untold story to what the media doesn’t show, the people left behind. The other side of the story.

If you could explain why someone should read your book in one sentence, what would it be?
I can’t tell you how many jaws have dropped when I’ve recounted stories of mine and my family’s life. They all said I had to write a book. So I did.

Your father wrote the best-selling autobiography The Damage Done about his time spent in a Bangkok prison. What were your thoughts after reading what he went through?
Adrian Simon, Milk-BloodIt took me years to finish his book. It rubbed at my soul like sandpaper but I forced myself through to the end. It was extremely tough to read about my father, my own flesh and blood suffering, over and over. It was all quite surreal. I kept saying to myself, ‘This is my father.’ I ended up quite numb to the torture. I think that was how I could deal with the visuals; blood splatter, the New York gutter rig, heavy drug use, and heads being cracked opened like water melons.

What really broke my spirit was the story of him seeing his father for the last time, the immeasurable guilt he must have felt. It really saddened me to the point I was physically ill.

The truth of the matter is life would have been much easier if he hadn’t released the story. The media were all over it again like a rash. Mum and me could have done without it. We were still picking up the pieces. As an added insult many readers considered him some type of hero. A legend for surviving the big tiger. Alternatively, there were people who fiercely believed he should have been executed. I was only 18, and confess very conflicted. The Damage Done was done to us all and our wounds were far from healed. But hey, it was what it was.

One of the most powerful themes of the book is the relationship with your mother. How important was her influence on you growing up, and secondly, your decision to write this book?
Adrian Simon, Milk-Blood,Immeasurable. Without her strength and worldly attitude guiding me, who knows how I would have ended up. I was a troubled kid and like all good mothers, my (in my case single) mother protected me from the searing heat of an unforgiving extended family, a judgmental society and an attacking media, saving our skin on many occasions.

I was given free reign, but when it came to moral standards, my mother never tolerated poor and inexcusable form and would kick my ass. I have never known a person who has been dealt a harder and wilder hand of cards in life. Without question, she is my hero. What she endured to protect and provide for me and my father while he was in prison sickens me as a son. She has indomitable spirit, a natural love of life, and is truly remarkable as she can still smile and have love in her heart. I was enormously motivated to illuminate parts of her story through Milk-Blood. For those who’ve read The Damage Done you may find this hard to believe, my mother’s story leaves my fathers in the dust.

You left school early in favour of "chasing the good times" which saw you take in many adventures. Which one of those good times stick out the most for you and why?
Adrian Simon, Milk-BloodThe best time in my life was on one of my backpacking adventures around Europe, starting in Amsterdam and ending in the Greek islands. For the first time in my life I felt completely free. I didn’t have a plan or an itinerary, I went where the wind blew. I met the coolest people, found myself in messed up and dangerous situations, fell in love with a handful of sexy girls, drank and partied like a wild man and loved every minute of it. I could write a book alone on this trip. It was my time to relax, let go and forget about the troubles a world away. It’s what all twenty-two-year-olds should do. Get out and explore the world, start finding themselves. And taste life’s offerings.

Are there any stories that you were unable to include in the book, and if so are you able to share them?
This is the million-dollar question. Simply put, yes. I wish I could share with you but the legal knife took to the draft. ‘You can’t put this in, legally we advise not to say that.’ One of the hardest challenges writing was to accept I had to cull and leave out quality content. Then there are stories for health and safety reasons I can’t tell. I learnt from a young age not to talk out of school, and besides I like my life. If you know what I mean!

Okay, now a bit about writing. How did your structure your writing process? Do you just dive in or are you someone who needs time to plan?
The project was years in the making, taking shape in many forms from screenplays, a mother’s diary to eventually me writing Milk-Blood. The most challenging aspect wasn’t the writing but rather the path to publication. Gaining interest wasn’t the trouble but telling the story in the way I wanted to tell it was the challenge. Fortunately, the evolution of the work led me to an innovative and forward thinking company, The Author People, who unlocked the handcuffs and let me loose. I’m not kidding, millions of brain hours consumed me before writing. When I got the green light I mapped out my plan, drew up the schematics like scaffolding around a building, chapter by chapter. I think I was actually possessed and wrote like a mad man seven days a week, completing the draft inside seven months. I dive in head-first and can’t stop till the job is done. Otherwise it would do my head in. The unsung heroes of the writing world are the editors. Linda Funnell finessed and masterfully guided the draft beyond any expectation. I thank Lou Johnson, Co-Founder of The Author People for teaming us together.

What is your favourite book of all time and what type of novels to you tend to read?
As boy I read The Magician, by Raymond E Feist. That was my favourite, but until my mid 30’s I wasn’t much of a reader.  Then I picked up the same book and read the whole series followed by everything he had written. A book a week for a year was my writing education. I learnt the art of writing through other authors. (Thanks Raymond). I laugh with schoolmates as back then I failed. It’s remarkable what us humans can do if we put our minds to something.

What are your top five writing tips?
1. Create a solid structure that enables the narrative to flow effortlessly in conjunction with sub themes and plots. Easier said than done. Stick to the plan. Adjust alone the way.

2. Have no fear of what you to write, connect with the reader as if you’re talking directly to them. Don’t feel you have to be an English major to tell a story. Modern day language has evolved.

3. Be kind to yourself. Step away when you have to realign the brain cell.

4. More is best when writing. You can always trim and refine during editing.

5. Most of all enjoy it. It’s a bloody hard job, so pat yourself on the back. Writing is very isolating and can be lonely.

What does the future now hold for Adrian Simon the author?
A novel loosely based on my mother adventures living in the subcontinent. Jan, my mother was courted and asked to be the second wife of a French Madagascan prince. His right hand man, an ex-delta force captain also fell head over heels for her as he flew her around the world. All this was before she was 21. I’m shaking my head as I say this. It is without doubt the coolest story I’ve ever heard. The working title is Twist and Twirl and I’m commencing the process in March. I’m also involved in breaking down the many socially relevant topics within Milk-Blood to create documentaries, both online and mainstream. Working with youth, talking at schools and sharing my experiences in the effort to help others understand their own situation. This is really cool as it’s rewarding to give back.

There is also interest in converting all this material into feature films or an international TV series. The future is finally looking bright. Now I can look back in the rear vison mirror and safely say, sometimes when we go through a world of shit, we can turn it around and make success from it.

Milk-Blood: Growing up the son of a convicted drug trafficker by Adrian Simon is available now in paperback and in eBook format.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Lad Lit, Dick Lit, Bro Lit, Fratire, Chick Lit for men or simply Literature for Lads?

Lad Lit, Dick Lit, Bro Lit, Fratire, Chick Lit for men, Literature for Lads
Being an indie author has its challenges, certainly when it comes to marketing your book. I'm certainly finding that out all over again as I prepare to publish my second novel Sex, Love & Dating Disasters: The Flood. In a way, the second time around feels even more challenging.

When I published my first novel The Drought it was a step into the unknown. I didn't really know what to expect so I was learning as I went along and I kind of stumbled on to the genre lad lit when one of my early reviews used the term, followed by explaining it as chick lit for men. That will do for me I thought, and I kind of just ran with the label as part of my marketing and promotion.

However, as time went on I came to realise that the term lad lit - or perhaps just the genre in general - didn't seem that well known. I'd bunched authors like Nick Hornby, Tony Parsons, Nick Spalding, Mike Gayle and Danny Wallace all into this category as I felt they were guys writing about relationships from a man's point of view.

I'd attempted to answer the question What is Lad Lit? in a previous blog post, and I think it was fairly accurate, but lately I wonder if the term really does the genre justice.

In doing some research prior to my second novel being published, I started to find different variations of the genre: Dick Lit, Bro Lit, Fratire - none of which seem to be known as mainstream genres like its female cousin chick lit.

In fact, type 'Lad Lit' into Google and you get a Wikipedia entry for Fratire appearing at the top of the search. Wikipedia describes the genre as:

"Fratire generally features male protagonists, usually in their twenties and thirties. It is characterized by masculine themes and could be considered the male equivalent of chick lit. The genre was popularized by Tucker Max's I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and Maddox's webpage titled The Best Page in the Universe and his book The Alphabet of Manliness. According to one of the authors, "fratire as a genre represents the non-mainstream literary reaction to the feminization of masculinity," although not all the books address this so directly."
 I don't particularly strongly agree or disagree with that description, but it hardly screams read me! I guess the main problem is that the term lad lit does not conjure up the same excitement in readers as a psychological thriller. You know what you're getting with that genre.

It seems a shame because I don't think the genre is an unpopular one when you break it down. Take the popularity of TV shows like The Inbetweeners or movies like Superbad or American Pie. All hugely popular and successful with audiences both male and female, and I've had the comedy in my first book The Drought compared to The Inbetweeners

And that is another area of frustration when it comes to marketing the book. It feels like other genres such as Fantasy or Crime have ready made audiences for indie authors to tap into, yet I don't have a clue where to find my audience at times because it's not that obvious, yet when people have read and/or reviewed the The Drought, by and large it's received a positive reaction.

That is not to say it's impossible to do. Just look at Nick Spalding for example and his Love From... series which have been hugely popular and earned Nick a six-figure publishing deal. I guess it goes to show that with a bit of hard work and dedication (plus a sprinkle of luck I'm sure) you can find a audience to read your work.

But in what is now an incredibly cluttered market with the amount of self-published books being produced, a lot of those outlets for indie authors are becoming increasingly like closed doors. Online forums block authors from promoting their work to readers, Goodreads frown upon authors reaching out to other members if you are promoting your work, and bloggers sometimes sneer at self-published authors if we request reviews. I once posted a positive review for The Book With No Name by Anonymous on an online boom forum and I received a rather snotty email from one of the sites gatekeepers accusing me of being the author. I wish!

But I digress. Going back to my point of how the lad lit genre can become more popular, I guess a big part of that will come from the readers who enjoy the type of stories in these novels and help beat the drum to make it more mainstream.

So if you have read a lad lit novel lately and laughed until you cried, please send a Tweet, post a blog, update your Facebook status, write a review or simply tell a friend, because quite frankly, you'd be making my life a whole lot easier!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Official Book Trailer for Sex, Love & Dating Disasters: The Drought - the funniest book you'll read this year!

Sex Love and Dating Disasters, Dating Disasters, The Drought, Steven Scaffardi, Lad Lit, Official Book Trailer, Funny Book, Funny Video, Relationship Book, Dating Book, Books for men,
Hot on the heels of the new cover design for The Drought, I am delighted to reveal a brand new book trailer for the lad lit comedy as well!

The one minute clip was made using the app iMovie along with the fantastic images from Jamie Sale at Toonjam Studios.

I hope you enjoy the video clip. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback as always, and remember the eBook is still available for just 99p/99c at Amazon!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

The Flood: The funniest book you'll read in 2016 is set for a January release!

Sex Love and Dating Disasters, The Flood, Steven Scaffardi, Lad Lit, Chick Lit, Dick Lit, Fratire, Funny Book, Comedy Book, Comedy Novel, Funny Novel, Books about dating, books about dating disasters, Book blurb, book cover,
I know, I know - you've heard it all before but this time it's true! My second novel will finally be published in January 2016! After a number of false dawns (including a promise that the book would be out by Xmas - sorry!) I have at long last got my act together and I'm pleased to say that I finished all of my edits this morning and the next step is to send it over to my new publisher Acorn Independent Press Ltd next week.

After some formatting, tidying up and a wee bit more editing, Sex, Love & Dating Disasters: The Flood will be available in paperback and eBook at Amazon and all good bookstores.

And here is a little sneak preview of what you can expect from Dan Hilles and the gang...

New cover design for Sex, Love & Dating Disasters: The Drought - the hilarious must-read comedy novel!

Sex Love and Dating Disasters, The Drought, Steven Scaffardi, Lad Lit, Dick Lit, Fratire, Chick Lit, Funny Book, Comedy Novel, Funny books for men, laugh out loud book, book about sex, book about dating, book about relationships, Nick Spalding, Matt Dunn, Danny Wallace
Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the holidays. It was certainly a busy period for me and 2016 looks to be even busier with the imminent arrival of The Flood - the second book in the Sex, Love & Dating Disasters series.

To celebrate the release of the new book, the original title in the Sex, Love & Dating Disasters series - The Drought - has undergone a bit of a face lift and thanks to Jamie Sale at Toonjam Studios the lad lit comedy now has a new front cover which I'm delighted to unveil here. So, what do you think?

The eBook version has been updated on Amazon and the paperback will be updated soon. And remember, you can still buy the eBook for just 99p!