Today on my blog I am pleased to invite travel memoirist, Simon Michael Prior into the Indie Spotlight.
Simon insists on inflicting all aspects of life on himself so that his readers can enjoy learning about his latest trip/experience/disaster/emotional breakdown (insert phrase of your choice).
During his extended adolescence, now over forty years long, he has lived on two boats and sunk one of them; sold houses, street signs, Indian food and paper bags for a living; visited almost fifty countries and lived in three; qualified as a scuba diving instructor; nearly killed himself learning to wakeboard; trained as a search and rescue skipper with the Coast Guard, and built his own house without the benefit of an instruction manual.
Simon is as amazed as anyone that the house is still standing, and he now lives in it by the sea with his wife and twin daughters, where he spends his time regurgitating his experiences on paper before he has so many more that he forgets them.
What made you decide to publish your books independently? What was your path to publication?
In 2014, my father passed away, and among his possessions, I discovered around 50 letters he had written home, from his student year in New York in the 1940s. I began to read his terrible handwriting. The stories in the letters fascinated me, about how he met the Roosevelts and Rockefellers, witnessed important post-war historical events, and lived an incredible life free from England’s post-war rationing. I realised that if I replaced the letters in the box they had come from, no-one would ever read them again, and I considered them to be too interesting and important to keep to myself. This led to my decision to edit them into a book, removing private family information and retaining his personal experiences of his New York life. I had no idea whatsoever how to produce a book, so I searched on Facebook under the word “Memoir” and discovered the We Love Memoirs group, writers and readers of every type of memoir. From them, I found I could self-publish on Amazon, and the process and the mistakes, began. I learned so much from this group, and in August 2020 I felt confident enough to give the book the title An Englishman In New York, press the big yellow publish button, and release my father’s memories to the world. I wasn’t prepared for the deluge of interest from complete strangers. Many people who had connections with New York bought the book. Columbia University asked for a copy for their library. I had interest from people in other parts of the US that my father had visited: Poughkeepsie, Lima, Pennsylvania, as far away as California. I enjoyed sharing my father’s stories with people so much, I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to continue writing and self-publishing. But what about?
What made you decide to write in your specific genre rather than other genres? Have you ever written in other genres?
Following the success of An Englishman in New York, I wanted to write more travel memoirs. I was grateful for the leg-up that the We love Memoirs Facebook group had provided, and I wanted to continue my relationships with the people I had met in that group. I needed to decide on an interesting topic, and then develop an engaging story-telling style.
In 1996, my New Zealand girlfriend and I were living in my hometown of London, England, when her British visa expired. We were forced into a decision: to be separated, or to both relocate to New Zealand. We elected to travel together to New Zealand, and on the way, we chose to stop in a remote, almost unvisited, country. A country that I had known about all my life, but never thought I would have the opportunity to see in person. The south Pacific Kingdom of Tonga.
Would memoir readers be interested in a fun account of our time there? I reckoned they might.
Fortunately, when I travel, I keep diaries. My father had instilled this discipline in me, and I’m so glad he had. I dug out my diary of our trip to Tonga, revisited photos we had taken, and began to build my memories into a timeline. In March 2021, several months and 45 drafts and edits later, I pressed publish on The Coconut Wireless: A Travel Adventure in search of The Queen of Tonga. I’m proud to say that my writing has been well received, and The Coconut Wireless is selling very well.
I again enjoyed the process so much, I’m continuing to write in the same genre so long as there are stories to be told, and right now, I have a long backlog of subjects waiting to be included in future books.
Do you only read the genre that you write?
Following the success of The Coconut Wireless, I’ve been approached to beta read for several authors in the same genre, so right now I have a long ‘To be Read’ list of memoirs. However, some of my favourite authors write in disparate genres: Frederick Forsyth, John Grisham, Jodi Picoult, Stig Larsson, Dan Brown. I also have the habit of reading multiple books simultaneously, so often you’ll find me beta reading a new memoir, and reading books by any of the aforementioned authors at the same time.
What are you currently reading? Watching on TV? Is there a type of music you listen to for inspiration?
I don’t watch television at all. If my wife and children are away for any reason, the television isn’t turned on once during their absence. Music: I thrive on any music that is played with skill. It doesn’t matter whether it is heavy metal, disco, or classical, I appreciate the playing of an instrument that has been mastered.
I’m currently reading An Innocent Man, by John Grisham, The Successful Author Mindset, by Joanna Penn, and The Grape Series by Laura Bradbury, which are all non-fiction. An Innocent Man is the story of a mistrial, an incorrect murder sentence, and a man threatened with death for a crime he didn’t commit. It sounds like fiction, but this time Grisham has written about a factual event, and I find the ineptitude of the police, and the determination to pin a crime on a local misfit, with not one piece of evidence, gripping and frustrating. The Successful Author Mindset is a self-help book for authors, which I am harvesting some interesting information from. The Grape Series is four books, beginning with the life of a seventeen-year-old Canadian girl who spends a year in France. Quite apart from the subject content, Laura Bradbury’s writing is of such high quality that it makes for a very easy read.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
I have a quote from Jodi Picoult printed out and pinned next to my desk. It says: “You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” Many days, I will do anything to procrastinate and delay beginning to write. Anything. I look at Facebook, I check my emails, I read blogs, I do anything at all but open my current manuscript and add to it. Then I look at Jodi’s words, and I remember. So this would be my number one advice.
Additionally, I enjoy exchanging information and experiences with other authors. I recommend any aspiring author tracks down forums, or social media groups in their genre, and links up with others going through the same process. And I believe in paying it forward. I am constantly impressed by successful, multi-book authors who take the time to give newbies a leg-up. I’ve been on the self-publishing journey a year now, and I’m proud to say that in my own small way, I’ve been able to help even newer writers by sharing my experiences so far.
What are you working on right now and what can we look forward to seeing from you next?
I’m working on two books. My primary task is to complete the sequel to The Coconut Wireless, which is about how a naïve city boy from London wants to impress his girlfriend’s parents by learning to milk cows on their farm, in one of the most remote parts of deepest, rural New Zealand. My intention is to publish next year, so please sign up to my newsletter to check on progress, if this interests you.
I’ve also been asked to contribute to a series of anthologies by the famous writer Alyson Sheldrake. She is publishing three books in this series. The first, Chasing the Dream, is 20 emigration stories, and I’ve contributed a fun chapter about our move to Australia in 2007. It’s due to be published in June 2021. The second, Itchy Feet, is a collection of travel memoirs. I’ve treated this a bit differently, and written about a solo journey I took around southern England in 2018, with the eye of an Australian who has forgotten what his native England is like. The third, which I am yet to start writing for, is called Wish You Were Here, a collection of stories about the best holidays ever.
So I’m kept very busy with writing, and I’m still enjoying the self-publishing process hugely.
Thank you so much for joining me on my blog today, Simon and for sharing your books with my readers! I wish you all the best with you future projects!
The Coconut Wireless: A Travel Adventure in search of The Queen of Tonga
A fun travel memoir about a young couple’s quest to meet the Queen of Tonga.
When Simon and Fiona embark on a quest to track down the Queen of Tonga, they have no idea they’ll end up marooned on a desert island
No idea they’ll encounter an undiscovered tribe, rescue a drowning actress, learn jungle survival from a commando, and attend cultural ceremonies few Westerners have seen.
As they find out who hooks up, who breaks up, who cracks up, and who throws up, will they fulfil Simon’s ambition to see the queen, or will they be distracted by insomniac chickens, grunting wild piglets, and the easy-going Tongan lifestyle?
Universal link: Smarturl.it/thecoconutwireless
An Englishman in New York: The Memoirs of John Miskin Prior 1948-49
An eyewitness account of New York life in the incredible year of 1948-49, by an English student living in Manhattan.
Have you ever wanted a first-hand glimpse into post-war 1940s New York?
When 21-year-old John Miskin Prior travelled by ship to New York in 1948, he had no idea he was going to meet and dine with the Roosevelts and the Rockefellers.
No idea he would be among the first ever to see ‘South Pacific’ and ‘Death of a Salesman’.
No idea he would witness Truman’s election victory, so unexpected, the newspapers were reprinted.
This eyewitness account of an English student living in New York for the incredible year of 1948 – 49 has been collated from his letters discovered after his death, and forms a unique account of the period.
Universal link: smarturl.it/Englishman
Who is next on Indie Spotlight?
When not searching the backs of wardrobes for Narnia, the bottom of the garden for fairies or exploring yet another Castle, Estelle Tudor can be found with her nose in a book or a pen in her hand.
Having previously worked at Cardiff Castle, she now writes full time while looking after her four children.
She lives on the beautiful South Wales coast in the UK with her husband, children and crazy dog.