welcomes as our guest, best-selling author, Larry Jeram-Croft author of the Jacaranda trilogy and the Jon Hunt Series. Larry spent thirty years in the Royal Navy as a helicopter pilot and engineer. He then worked in industry for seven years before retiring. When he retired, he and his wife bought a yacht and went to live in the Caribbean. It was this experience that led to the idea for his Jacaranda trilogy.

Norm: Good day Larry and thanks for participating in our interview.

Why do you write? Do you have a theme, message, or goal for your books?

Larry: I write mainly because I enjoy it.  Its nice to make money as well but I was realistic when I started and knew that becoming the next international best seller was always unlikely.  The fact that I have had a modicum of success is gratifying but not essential.

With my naval novels I was fed up reading mainstream military fiction clearly written by people who didn’t have a clue about the reality of modern warfare.  As I have had an interesting career in the Royal Navy I used this as the basis for the books. Also, no one is writing in this area at the moment so I saw an opportunity.  As for my other books, three years cruising the Caribbean in my own boat taught me a great deal about the amazing amount of history locked up in the islands. I wanted to tell some of those stories.  So I guess my theme is to take real life situations and weave a narrative around them.

Norm: What do you think is the future of reading/writing?

Larry: Reading is never going to go away, especially with the use of modern devices such as Kindles and tablets.  Writing is now a growth industry although one wonders how some of the mainstream publishers are going to survive as they seem to have their heads in the sand.  Their pricing strategies are strange and they seem to want to only focus on successfully authors. Consequently, more people are moving to self publishing. This may mean there is more dross out there but also there wonderful books that would never have succeeded under the ‘mainstream’ system.  Even JK Rowling almost gave up.

Norm: How long have you been writing? And how long did it take you to get your first major book contract?

Larry: I’ve been writing 7 years. I’ve never had a major book contract for fiction.  My novels are all self published. Initially, I did have two agents after I started sending my first manuscript out (Jacaranda) but neither seemed to want to move at any speed.  Some years later after my sales were going well I was approached but by then knew that I would never take a contract. You lose control of your product, pricing and timescales and are still expected to do the majority of the marketing.  That said, my non-fiction work is under a mainstream publisher but these books are specialist aviation books. For the first book, I made a submission and was accepted before the book was written. The second one was even easier.

Norm: What do you think most characterizes your writing? As a follow up, do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two?  Summarize your writing process.

Larry: I try to write a book so that once people start it, they want to know how it ends – sounds easy but it seems to me that many writers miss this most basic point.  I also want people to know that large parts of my stories are true – I always put notes at the end of each book telling the reader what is fact and what I’ve made up.  My writing process is simple, I know what I want the story to be about, I know where it will start and I have an idea where it will finish. I do not structure in advance.  I then write most of it, in the bath, on the Golf Course, walking the dog etc. But I also then sit down with a chapter in mind and often find I’ve ended up with something completely different.  If I get stuck I walk away until inspiration comes back. I find that a free flowing and unforced approach works for me.

Norm:  What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?

Larry: The best and only thing I’ve found useful in learning to write – is to read!  I’ve been a prolific reader all my life and these days find I am far more critical of other writers.  I’ve never had any formal training or attended any courses although in the navy we were taught to be concise and logical.  I can’t really say I’ve found anything that was not useful but maybe that’s because I just sat down and got on with it.

Norm: Many people have the skills and drive to write a book, but failure to market and sell the book the right way is probably what keeps a lot of people from finding success. Can you give us 2-3 strategies that have been effective for you in promoting your book?

Larry: I’m not sure I agree with ‘marketing and selling the right way’ is the road to success.  This may sound a little simplistic but I haven’t really had any ‘strategies’ as such although I do have a blog and web site and author’s FB page.  However, what I always advise budding writers to concentrate on is – tell a good story – its that simple. I know some people who write much better prose than me, who know their grammar, syntax and punctuation better than me but really can’t tell a tale.  

If your book is good and a reader enjoys it – then it will get reviews. Reviews seem to me to be the best marketing tool by an order of magnitude but they cannot be acquired by any other strategy other than writing something that people want to read.   Spending a fortune in time or money marketing a lemon will fail. Writing a really good book will succeed.

Norm: Could you tell our readers something about the Jon Hunt series and your most recent novel, Conspiracy?

Larry: The Jon Hunt series is loosely based on things I was either directly involved in such as the Falklands War or military operations I was peripherally involved (in or knew people who were).  Many of these operations are not really known or understood. For example, in my second book ‘The Caspian Monster’ set in 1983, the world almost went to nuclear war but the West never found out until three years later. My aim was to write a series rather like a modern Hornblower and follow the career of one officer through the events of the last century and see him mature and climb the promotion ladder. Each book is a stand alone novel although most of my readers seem to read them all in sequence.

Conspiracy’ is about the Second Gulf war but starts at the time of 9/11.  Although I am not normally a believer in conspiracy theories, there are some things about the attacks on the twin towers and more particularly the Pentagon that day that don’t add up.  I was also very much against the invasion of Iraq and the lies told about threats to the UK and the presence of Weapons of Mass Destruction. So I put my main character in the middle of the political situation as the US and UK make the case for war and then give him the chance to do something about it on the ground during the war.  It was a perfect opportunity to give my man a moral and effective role in the war and allow me to expose some of the lies told at the time. Once again, I put the facts in the notes at the end of the book and leave the reader the option of looking further.

Norm: What are some of the references that you used while researching this book?

Larry: I read several books about 9/11 and also spent quite some time on You Tube, not that anything you see there is necessarily factual but it gave me a flavour of what people were thinking.  For the war itself I knew several people who were involved directly and spoke to them at length.

Norm: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?

Larry: The book was a logical progression of the series but as I said before I wanted to expose some of the lies and disinformation that various governments spread about the reasons for invading Iraq.

Also, the series needed to come to a logical conclusion which this book provides. That said, I have carefully ensured that there could be at least one more (as well as possible prequels). Bearing in mind the amount of feedback I’ve had from readers asking for more this is looking quite likely.

Norm: What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish the book?

Larry: When the next one’s coming out!! As I said I’ve been careful to leave the door open. I also want people to think about some of the issues I raise and maybe have a look for themselves.

Norm:  What was the most difficult  part of writing this book and what did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Larry: The hardest part of this one was getting a plot that worked around the reality of the actual situation both before the war and during the action on the ground.  The bit I really enjoyed was getting it right. I was worried that it might have been seen as contrived but I must have got it right judging by the feedback I’ve received.

Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your work?

Larry: Seemples – I only sell through Amazon, both for Kindles and paperback. Also the first four books also have audio versions.

Norm: What are your future projects?

Larry: I have a non- fiction book about the Royal Navy Wasp helicopter currently with my publisher.  I am also working on a new novel. This one is historical fiction and yet again based on a true story.  In 1803 the Royal Navy managed to place a battery of guns on Diamond Rock – a tiny almost inaccessible island just off the coast of Martinique in the Caribbean.  What happened next is one of the most amazing stories of the time, yet almost forgotten by history. This novel will give a full account of what happened but I have also woven a love story around it to give it some colour and more depth.

Norm: As this interview comes to an end, what question do you wish that someone would ask about your books, but nobody has?

Larry: Good question!  And I’m not sure I can answer it.  As long as people enjoy the books and occasionally tell me so then I’m pretty happy.  I didn’t start out writing to delve into deep moral or philosophical issues. I wanted to write books that I would be happy to read myself.  In that, I feel I’ve succeeded.

Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.