Nick Albert Interview Published on: 13, Jan 2020

What are some of your favorite childhood moments?

As a child, I was introduced to the wonderful world of books by my sister, when she gave me her well-thumbed copy of Winnie-the-Pooh. A short while later, I discovered The Story of Doctor Doolittle, by Hugh Lofting. I believe I read all 13 books in the series within a month. Introducing a child to the joys of reading is the greatest gift anyone can ever give.

Why is writing memoirs important to you? Why did you choose this genre?

I’m a writer and writers write. The genre almost chooses the writer, based on his or her experience and knowledge. The old rule of ‘only write what you know’ still stands fast. I’d struggle to produce anything worthwhile on the subject of gardening, but as a karate blackbelt, I was pretty comfortable writing a thriller fight scene. The Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds series is based on our true-life experience when, on a whim, we chose to give up the rat-race and move to rural Ireland. With everything that happened along the way, and in the years that followed, there was certainly a story to tell. My only decision was how to tell the tale – straight-faced or comedy. For me, that was a no- brainer. I do my best to see humour in every situation, so it was natural to put a smile into every chapter. When people tell me how much Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds made them laugh, it makes my heart sing.

What motivates you to be a better author than you were the day before? How many hours a day do you write?

I see writing as a craft, something which can be learned and improved. The desire to do things a little better every day is what gets me out of bed. Even for those fortunate people with an abundance of talent, writing is fundamentally a learned skill, like golf, drawing or cookery. As with those other skills, writing was once a dark art, the protected preserve of the literate, wealthy and privileged. This is no longer the case. Much has changed in the last twenty years, particularly since the advent of the internet. These days there are millions of great books available for us to read, and so much to learn from them.

In my role as a fulltime published author, I probably average around two hours a day actually writing. That may not sound like much, but I can assure you it is. You see, as well as being the writer, I’m also the marketing manager, researcher, agent, publicist, editor, finance manager and the guy responsible for a dozen other tasks, all directly related to the Nick Albert brand. Add a second genre and you’ve got to do it all again. Being an author is a busy job. Perhaps the likes of JK and Lee Child get to put their feet up after rattling off a few pages, but I very much doubt it.

What is one message that you try to impart through your books?

Good things do happen. In these dark times, I like to write stories that leave people uplifted and smiling. The Fresh Eggs series has some sad passages, but I always draw the reader towards the smiles at the end of the day. Likewise, within my thrillers it is important the reader knows despite all the evidence to the contrary, somehow goodness will eventually prevail.

Who is Eric Stone? How did you come up with the plot of Wrecking Crew?

I’ve always been somewhat irritated by seemingly good thriller stories which become detached from reality in an effort to make a book sensational or shocking. My hope was to bring an element of believability to the story, whilst leaving space for a few twists within the tale. I wanted Eric Stone to be an ordinary kind of guy, albeit someone with good instincts, useful survival skills and a few interesting friends. He’s a reluctant hero who gets sucked into a hunt for the truth and in turn becomes the hunted. For the story to remain plausible, I felt Stone’s actions should always be justifiable as a reasoned reaction to credible information.

I had the basic idea for Wrecking Crew around 25 years ago. I guess it’s the ultimate conspiracy theory combined with a chase for the truth. It was written down as a plotline on a scruffy sheet of lined A4 and stored with dozens of others in my ‘ideas folder’. At one time I had considered the basic plot to be bordering on the inconceivable, but the world changed and a series of news stories and shocking events brought the idea to mind again. Once I’d come up with the tagline, “Hidden behind the walls of power, the corrupt and materialistic businesses, and the convenient death of every inconvenient whistle-blower, hides a secret organisation called the Wrecking Crew,” I felt ready to begin writing.

Do you like reading more or writing? Who are some of your favorite authors?

I was, and still am, a veracious reader, it’s an absolute must for any aspiring author. My collection is somewhat eclectic, I’m not sure what that says about me. I have a library and dozens of stacked boxes bulging with hundreds of instructional books, biographies featuring authors from all walks of life, loads of thrillers, some sci-fi and the complete works of authors like Sue Grafton, Lee Child, Tom Holt, Terry Pratchett and William Shakespeare. I’m never without a book. One secret I can reveal, if I’m writing comedy, I’ll only read thrillers – and vice versa.

What sparked the idea for Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds? Do you find it more challenging to write the first book in a series or to write the subsequent novels?

The story of how I became an author and wrote Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds, is very much linked to how we came to be living in a run-down farmhouse in rural Ireland.

Back then, my wife and I lived near Colchester, in England. We were ‘empty-nesters’, our grown-up daughter had her own home and a great job, so Lesley and I only had to care for our two dogs and each other. Although our life was outwardly wonderful – I had a successful career, a lovely home, a desirable car and so on – my wife and I couldn’t get away from the feeling it was all just window dressing, a meaningless sham. Then, within a few short months, I experienced several upsetting events. My father passed away, a close friend was killed in a car crash, another friend was diagnosed with brain cancer and several thousand of my workmates were made redundant. When I had my own health scare, I found my perception of what mattered had altered irrevocably. That change in perspective jump-started a sequence of decisions culminating in my wife and I beginning a new life here in rural Ireland.

In search of a simpler way of living, we cashed in our investments, sold our home and bought a rundown farmhouse in the rural west of Ireland - a country we had never before even visited. With little money or experience and armed only with a do-it-yourself manual, we set about renovating our new home, where we now live happily alongside a flock of chickens, two ducks and several unruly, but delightful rescue dogs.

Did I decide to put pen to paper because of what happened? No. I’ve always been a writer. My first book, “The Adventures of Sticky, The Stick Insect,” was completed when I was aged eight. At just five pages long and sprinkled with spelling errors, it was not a big hit with the critics! Undaunted, over the next 53 years I have continued to write, gradually developing my skills, but not my spelling! What moving to Ireland gave me was a great story to tell and the time I needed to write it. Since then I’ve written hundreds of articles for the newspaper, a book on sports instruction and the twisty thriller ‘Wrecking Crew’. I completed the original manuscript about my life here in rural Ireland around 2012, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I signed with Ant Press to turn it into a series of humorous memoirs. Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds (book one) was published in September 2017 and soon became an Amazon bestseller. Book two in the series was published on 1st June 2018 and book 3 in August 2019. Book four should be available by mid-2020. I like to think I give my full attention to each task at hand, so I’d say it is as hard to write the fourth book as it was the first.

Do you think book covers play an important role? Who designs your covers?

Ideally, book covers shouldn’t matter, but we all know they do. I’m sure I’ve been as guilty as anyone by not selecting a book because the cover didn’t inspire. Conversely, I’ve bought some shocking stinkers because they had an eye-catching picture on the front. In retrospect, I’d tweak the cover picture for Wrecking Crew because Amazon restricts marketing for any book with a gun on the cover. As the Fresh Eggs series is a comedy memoir set in Ireland, we wanted the cover to have a lot of humour with an Irish feel. I think the cartoon style drawings and the strong green background pretty-much hit the mark. Although my publisher would usually do all the cover design, as I’m such a control-freak, we agreed I’d work with an artist to turn my ideas and rough drawings into the finished product. I’m delighted with the results.

While we’re on the subject of artwork, one recent development in publishing is the use of short promotional videos to publicise books. I think they have an important role in helping potential readers understand the book.

Here’s the trailer for Wrecking Crew:

In the video for Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds we went with a series of line drawings, I think it suits the comedy theme and gets the synopsis across quickly. The voiceover artist is Andy Stevenson who narrates the audio books.

What has been your most enjoyable experience as an author? What do you wish was different?

There’s so much to enjoy about my job it’s hard to choose one thing, but the most memorable times have certainly been when I’ve met with fans, both online and face-to-face. I get a real buzz from chatting with people who have come to love Ireland through my memoirs.

What do I wish was different? Being an author is a surprisingly busy job, particularly with the demands of social media. I wish I had more time to focus on writing.

What are some author milestones you've achieved so far? What more do you hope to achieve in ten years time?

Certainly, getting a publishing deal was a significant moment, particularly as Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds then became a number one bestseller.

I began looking for a publisher at about the time the industry began this seismic shift away from the traditional publishing model, brought about by the success of Lulu and Amazon as publishing platforms. At first I approached several agents along with those few publishers who were still accepting direct submissions. All I got in return was silence or cold boilerplate rejection letters. As someone who accepts refusal about as well as a child in a sweetshop, I found it all very depressing. However, when I saw J.K.Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith) had experienced the same issue, I began to feel a bit less discouraged. Eventually I ran out of patience and opted for the self-published approach using the Amazon platform.

Over the next few years, I continued to make submissions, but now I had a better offering – a proven track record of sales, hundreds of great reviews and a solid social media presence. Finally, I received an offer to publish. In fact I had four within just six months. Suddenly, I had a dilemma. As a successful self-published author, what had I to gain from signing a contract to publish? Most of the publishers were essentially offering to do what I was already doing but charge me a fee for the privilege. They were reticent to talk about marketing strategy, budgets or anticipated revenue, but were expecting me to sign over the artistic rights to my work. I chose to sign with Ant Press precisely because they were different. To begin with, they don’t sign books, they sign authors. Secondly, they have considerable experience publishing memoirs, so they really know their stuff. Thirdly, they asked me to make changes to my manuscripts – a lot of changes.

At that time I had two completed manuscripts, totalling almost 200,000 words. Ant Press asked me to make so many changes, it made my head spin. Even so, I was impressed they had such courage in their convictions. For a month we had robust but amicable discussions about what a new series of books would look like. I even rewrote a couple of chapters to see if I was comfortable with the stylistic changes they were proposing. Finally, we were in agreement and I became an Ant Press author. It was a proud day for me. I have no regrets.

What do I hope to achieve in the next ten years? I hope I’ll still be writing. Perhaps my spelling will improve too! If I can average a book a year until I’m 70, or better still 90, that would be something special to look back on.

As a writer, how do you keep track of all the different characters and stories you've written? Do you have any favorites?

I keep copious notes and flowcharts, I’m really quite organised, but mistakes do happen. Fortunately, my editor has a sharp eye and a great memory. Between us we’ve managed to avoid any horrible mistakes. My favourite character in Wrecking Crew would be Eric Stone’s girlfriend. Linda is sharp witted, intelligent and sassy, but underneath there’s a genuine vulnerability. Of course, the real stars in my memoir series are my nutty dogs. We have four just now. They are all rescued and each has a most delightful and funny character.

What are you currently working on? What are some of your upcoming books?

My ‘ideas folder’ is bulging with interesting storylines, but it would be a mistake to take on too much. Just now I’m writing the fourth book in the Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds series. It’s progressing well and due out in early 2020. In the background I’m researching a book about my father’s fascinating life in the RAF. I’m also working on Stone Façade, the second in my Eric Stone thriller series. I am very excited about the twisty plot, which will bring Stone to Ireland in search of a missing journalist, but not all is as it seems…

What is the best vacation you've ever taken? If you could travel anywhere, all expenses paid, where would you go?

Truly, the best vacation was our first trip to Ireland. Even though it was a country we had never before visited, we came to buy a house. By the end of that week, we were in love with the countryside, culture and people. There and then, we committed to starting a new life here. It’s a decision we’ve never regretted.

If I could go anywhere, all expenses paid, I’d like to tour Ireland. I know this sounds a little strange, but since we moved here, we’ve been too busy for anything other than local day-trips. Ireland is a beautiful country, steeped in history with some super hotels and the best golf courses. If someone else was picking up the tab, we’d have the best vacation ever – what’s more, I’d have enough ammunition for another memoir!

How has your experience with AllAuthor been?

Right from the start, I’ve been very impressed with AllAuthor. The website is extremely professional, the marketing tools all work well. You’ve delivered everything you promised and more. With regard to marketing my books, AllAuthor has genuinely saved me money and time, as well as having a positive impact on my sales and profile. I’m pleased to have recommended AllAuthor to my professional colleagues.

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