Today we sit down with Author John Searancke. He is going to tell us a bit about his work, his life, and his inspiration.
Please enjoy this edition of 20 Questions:
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I retired from my business in 2009, my wife and I, with our dog Freddie, moved from England to live in The Canary Islands, an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, off Africa. At that point I decided to put pen to paper, figuratively speaking. I felt that I had a book waiting to get out of me.
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
I spent about 9 months actually writing each of my books, and then went through a fairly gruelling exercise with a superb professional editor, who made me polish my work. That in itself, with the to and fro, took some 3 months extra, but it was well worth it.
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I like to spend half a day writing, hopefully without interruption, and then to enjoy the other half in a more relaxed way, doing completely different things.
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My wife tells me that I am a stickler for using correct English. Probably something to do with the fact that I was educated at an English Public School.
Q5) How are your books published?
Both of my books have been independently published by Troubador Publishing in England. They have been extremely helpful in guiding me through the whole unknown process.
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
My first book, Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands, was all about the upheaval of emigrating to a new country, learning the language and understanding what was needed to be able to live in a totally new community. Bringing our dog with us helped enormously, and, although I am retired, I soon picked up a number of part-time positions, one noticeably being restaurant reviewer for Island Connections, the main English language newspaper that covers The Canary Islands. I have been doing that now for about 6 years.
My second book, Prunes for Breakfast, was the one that I really needed to write, to get it out of my system. It is the WW2 story of my father, through his training, battle, the invasion of Normandy and his capture there, thence to be taken to a German prisoner of war camp. A lot of research was needed, and I had the advantage of being able to refer to a cache of letters written during that war. I am very proud of that book.
Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you?
I was 66 when I first started to write properly. It was not until then that I had the time available to devote to it.
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I have to spend quite a lot of time in restaurants, and doing research to find suitable new ones, for my job. Apart from that we like exploring the immediate world around us, and making trips to see friends and family, either in England, Germany or Italy. We have an old classic Mercedes 300 SL which we enjoy exercising. Next year we are hopeful of taking it to Bavaria for a motor sport event.
Q9) What is your favorite book?
I particularly enjoy reading memoirs written by other people. It never ceases to amaze me just what others get up to in their own lives. My own life, by comparison, is clearly very pedestrian.
Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?
I hope that they approve! Some have been kind enough to pen their thoughts. Others are amazed at the fact that I have had 2 books published.
Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
The most surprising thing that I discovered was just how much I enjoyed the whole writing and editing process. It was all totally new to me, and I have drawn much from it.
Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?
Sorry! I can’t help there! Only afterwards do I enter the slough of despond, when it comes to putting myself forward for the required marketing processes.
Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have now written two books. There is the possibility of a third one on the way, which is currently at 30,000 words. I was very pleased by my first book, Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands, but I think that my second, Prunes for Breakfast, is a better work. I learned a lot from my very patient editor.
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
I am too new at this to feel that I could offer advice or suggestions, other than saying that, if you feel that you have a book in you, then just go for it! Also, I was lucky enough to have been taken on by an experienced editor, who crafted and polished the end result. Nobody should publish without that sort of help.
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?
I have been so lucky in receiving mostly good reviews for both of my books and, again, I should credit my editor for her input in achieving that. Some of those reviews have specifically noted that the unseen hand of a good editor has been at work. I have even been told more than once that Prunes for Breakfast would translate well into a TV mini-series!
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
I have no preference, really. I have discovered through reviews that Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands has been enjoyed by travellers, dog lovers, families making the change to another country and a new way of life, and those that enjoy a taste of whimsical humour. The audience for Prunes for Breakfast has been more those that enjoy military history, learning of the nitty-gritty of World War 2 from the British side of things, and those that just enjoy a gripping true story.
I am grateful to any reader that expresses interest in me and my books. I was asked to add an audio book of Prunes for Breakfast, and this is in course of preparation now, hopefully for release in the autumn of this year.
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
I am of the old school, where there should be a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning needs to grip the reader right from the start, otherwise all is lost. The meat of the story needs to be concise, accurate, well phrased and well thought out. Where there is a series of books, then the central character needs to be identifiable with the reader, so much so that one cannot wait to read the next book to see what happens next.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I would have liked to be an arable farmer, working with the seasons. If not, then closely followed by an archaeologist. Sadly, never came to pass, and I was perforce plunged into the law, which was not for me – the proverbial square peg in a round hole.
Q19) Where can we find your books?
Book links as follows:
Links for Prunes for Breakfast:
(you already have one review on there JOhn we will add Rukia review shortly)
Links for Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands:
Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?
Sure, here is a chapter extract from Prunes for Breakfast:
My God, but it was hot in that truck! Hotter than hell. And boy, did it stink! After we had been put in the bag, we were moved behind the German lines and loaded up into ammunition lorries, whilst others were shoved into old cattle trucks, which appeared to have been commandeered from the local French farmers.
We were all sweltering in the August heat. I nearly said dying of heat, but that would have been too near to the bone for comfort. A chap called Graham Belmont died and it looked as though another might go the same way pretty soon; he was almost unconscious, but still upright, held only by the press of bodies around him. Four of the forty of us had perished in similar fashion since we were herded like cattle onto that truck. Nobody had slept for the last few days, well, not proper sleep, just dozing on our feet. It was all that we could do.
I felt so claustrophobic and yet so alone. Surrounded by heaving sweaty humanity, I knew hardly one of my fellow travellers, the only common factors our uniforms and our language. Nobody talked much anyway; what was there to say? We just stood there and endured the journey, hoping that it must end before too long. We were part of a small convoy, its miserable cargo the losers on the battlefield of Normandy.
I had been examining my feelings as I stood in the truck, swaying in line with the motion as it careered around bends in the road, the driver doing all that he could to avoid the cratered shell holes but caring less about his cargo. But there was nothing that could be done to avoid the cannon fire that we could suddenly hear above us. We were being strafed by our own side! Bloody hell! It finally dawned on me that we were in an old ammunition supply truck, and of course it carried no Red Cross markings to show that they were bearing British prisoners away from the battlefield.
When that little episode was over, our German captors pulled over to the side of the road to assess the situation. A couple of the trucks were damaged too much to be able to continue, and a number of men, both German and English, had died in the strafing. Those still living from the broken trucks were pushed in with the rest of us, and we proceeded on our way. I couldn’t see if anyone was left behind to bury the dead. Our guards did not stop again for our relief until much later on in the day. They were treating us not much better than animals, I knew not why. Perhaps they were trying to assert their authority over us as members of the “master race”.
And that smell, oh that smell! It was truly awful. Human excrement and urine, left where it dropped, was instantly buzzing with flies which then crawled all over us, attacking us at every orifice. Even as we drove along, we could not be rid of it: it travelled with us. Those of us that could shuffle about in the very limited space vacated by the dead were treading it into the floor, but most of it seemed to stick to the soles of our boots. Not for about another four hours would we be let out to stretch our legs and do what some of us had already unavoidably done. Our diet, such as it was, meant that we couldn’t control what was going on in our stomachs and our bowels. I tried to put it all to the back of my mind and stared out into the distance through the small split in the tarpaulin flapping at the side of the lorry. I had used my increasingly sharp elbows to maintain my position by that gap, so that I could gain just a tiny idea of where we might be heading, and in what general direction.
I knew that we had been heading away from the battlefield. We had been through Versailles and presumably therefore were on the road into Paris. It got more and more built up, and then I spotted the famous tower, surrounded by barrage balloons. Some wag came out with the comment that we seemed to be a long way from his native Blackpool, so this one must be the inferior copy in Paris. It raised a bit of a laugh, which everyone needed. From my vantage point at that split in the tarpaulin, I could just see its outline against the star-studded night sky. Soon thereafter, our now slightly shorter convoy turned in to some great railway station and we parked in some freight marshalling yards for the night.
We were still there the next day. We were allowed out from the trucks, and met up with hundreds of other Allied prisoners in the same boat as ourselves. The marshalling yard was wired off and there was no way out of it, particularly with the guards being posted at close intervals to ensure that nobody bothered to try. Instead, somebody came up with the idea that we should have some sort of open-air church service in order to give thanks for our lives being spared. It seemed quite a good idea to me, and I offered to be part of the organisation committee. How very odd it was to be organising a church service in a goods yard in Paris. I reckoned that there were about 500 chaps there for it – voluntary absence was, of course, not an option under the guns of the Jerries – and the greater number of us were Yanks who had been captured when pushing in from Omaha and the Cotentin.
We stayed there again that night, sleeping in the open instead of in the filthy trucks. The following day there were some comings and goings as our captors shuffled us about, presumably to get the latest arrivals onto the correct transport for our final destinations. By then yet more prisoners had joined our motley ranks. Eventually, they found enough trucks for all of us, we were loaded up, and off we went, who knew where.
About John Searancke:
John Searancke is restaurant reviewer for the Tenerife newspaper Island Connections. Born in 1943 at Derby Royal Infirmary, a war baby, he lived his early life in Ashby-de la-Zouch and was sent away to be educated at Kings Mead Preparatory School, Seaford and afterwards at Rugby School. Later commissioned into the Territorial Army, he has been variously a director of a light engineering company, an hotel and restaurant owner, director and chairman of a marketing consortium, and latterly a partner with his wife in a commercial legal services company. He has enjoyed working in England and Switzerland and has homes in England and northern Tenerife, where he now lives with his wife Sally.
Connect with John:
Meet the Author at Rukia Publishing: http://www.rukiapublishing.com/meet-the-author-john-searancke.html
John Searancke Pinterest profile page: https://www.pinterest.com/johnsearancke/author-john-searancke/
Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/sjbutfield/featured-book-dog-days-in-the-fortunate-islands/
Prunes for Breakfast Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/sjbutfield/featured-book-prunes-for-breakfast-by-john-searanc/
John Searancke Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/john.searancke.1
Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dog-Days-in-The-Fortunate-Islands/867368390009475
Prunes for Breakfast Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PrunesForBreakfast
Troubador Publishing: http://www.troubador.co.uk/shop_booklist.asp?s=john%20searancke