Peter Kay is a travel memoir writer from the United Kingdom. His latest release with Curious Cat Books is titled, Show Me The Way To Santiago and hits the shelves on April 18th 2020!
In this comprehensive interview, you can learn a bit about his writing methods, preferences and processes.
If you're writing a travel memoir, this could be the interview you've been waiting for!
But first, here's a bit about Peter's latest release...
Show Me The Way To Santiago, a travel memoir for travellers, walkers and armchair travellers (due for release 18/04/2020 with Curious Cat Books). ISBN 978-0-9574905-2-9
"Each year thousands of people walk the various pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela in north west Spain. This book is about the author’s personal pilgrimage, following the less frequently travelled route of the Via de la Plata from Seville to Santiago, a distance of 1,006 kilometres. It’s also about the people he met along the way, their stories, adventures together and most of all, the most valuable of human commodities, which seem so underused these days, humanity and friendship."
All profits will go to the Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Society, in memory of Peter's dear friend who sadly passed away last year after a short battle with MND.
My ideas come from within.
How important is research to you when you're writing your first draft, Peter?
Very important. Whilst a chunk of my travel books are about my journey, it's important that the reader is given an understanding of the places I am travelling through in both a historical and geographical context.
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer? In other words, why are you a writer, and how important is it to you?
I wanted to write when I was a teenager, but life, family, responsibilities and career took centre stage. Since retiring from paid employment, I have been able to vent my ambition to write.
Closely related, what inspires you to write, and where do you get your ideas?
Life experiences, journeys, what is going on in the world, reading other’s work. My ideas come from within, the environment, undertaking journeys of discovery, life and its ups and downs, sometimes a conversation with someone, or a passage or phrase within a book.
Do you have a schedule for writing, or do you write only when you feel inspired? How often do you manage to write and when you do, how many words can you manage in one sitting?
I try and write each day, even if that is a poem. When I am writing a longer piece (particularly a book) I need to go away and be myself for a period of time to get into my story, the characters I am writing about and to know what will come next. On such occasions, I tend to write in two hour blocks and will usually have three or four of these each day.
Writers are often labelled as loners and introverts; in your opinion, is there any truth to that?
Certainly. When I am writing a book, I need to be away from others and be completely ‘free’ to write throughout the day. At other times I can build in a couple of hours into a day.
What would you say are the easiest and hardest things about writing a book? What do you love and hate the most about what you do?
The easiest thing is writing the first draft. The difficult thing is the subsequent refining, self-editing and then working with others to edit further until you have a ‘finished’ project. The hardest thing is finding someone who believes sufficiently in what you have written to want to publish it. I love the writing. I hate the time it takes to get from the finished product to being published and how at times this process holds you back from your next book/project.
The cover needs to both attract potential readers and be an accurate representation of what the book is about.
Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long did it last and how did you overcome it?
There have been times when I could not move on with the project/writing I intended to work on. I usually find at such times, moving onto other projects/writing helps me to produce something.
When you finish writing a book, how long do you wait before beginning the editing process and why? Do you edit your own work, or hire someone else to help you?
I gave myself four weeks with Show Me The Way To Santiago, after finishing the first draft and then spent around 4-5 months on self-editing, culminating with a few days away to finalise the book. I subsequently employed someone to undertake an edit and finally worked with my publisher/editor over a six-month period until we both agreed we had a book that was market ready.
Many people advise not to judge a book by its cover. As an independent author, what are your thoughts on cover quality? Would you say it plays an important role in sales? The cover needs to both attract potential readers and be an accurate representation of what the book is about. Both A Pennine Way Odyssey and Show me the way to Santiago had covers based on photographs I had taken on each journey.
Some people believe independent (self-published) authors produce books of poor quality in comparison to traditionally published books, often down to editing and cover design issues. What is your opinion on this; what would you say to those people as an independent author?
I have seen and read several other books similar to my own that have been traditionally published and would say there are some good and some very poor books out there. If you believe in your book and that it deserves to be read by others, it doesn’t matter which route you take to get it to your audience.
Journal prompt: have you ever been faced with such negativity? How did it make you feel?
What is your experience of publishing so far? How have you chosen to publish and why? What do you feel are the benefits of this method?
I self-published my first book, which involved ensuring the book was completely ready to go to the printers, cover designed, bar codes sourced, books supplied to the relevant authorities. I then had to fully market the book and arrange book signing events, literature festival slots and other sources. I had to also take steps to ensure there was a Kindle version. I also spent time with a local voluntary organisation to produce an audio book, too. Very time consuming but worthwhile. This book has now sold around 450 copies and is in profit. The profits have benefited a local charity. With Show me the way to Santiago, I wanted to work with an independent publisher so that the marketing, promoting and sales side of getting my book ‘out there’ was shared. The profits from this book will also benefit a charity, so it is important to maximise those ‘profits’.
If you were asked to give advice to primary school children about writing creatively, what top tip would you share with them?
Read lots of books. Reading is a great precursor to creative writing. Keep a pad and pen handy and by your bed and write things down when ideas pop into your head.
Similarly, if you were asked to give advice to secondary school children about writing creatively, what top tip would you share with them and would this differ at all to the previous question?
I would add to the above answer by stipulating that you should write something down on that pad every day. I also think it is helpful to write a short review of each book you read. Things such as: which character did you like the most and why or if you had to describe the book to a friend in one sentence, what would you write? What was most memorable about the story?
Writing about an experience is an opportunity for learning.
Lots of authors struggle to market and promote their book/s. Do you have any top tips you can share with them, and what have you found to be most effective?
Use any opportunity to pitch your book (or the fact that you have a book). Use social media, have your own website, visit local bookshops, meet other writers regularly and use their networks as well as your own.
What is your opinion on the benefits of writing on mental health issues including anxiety and depression? Would you recommend it as a form of self-therapy; of looking inward and reflecting? If not, why?
Writing about an experience is an opportunity for learning. That could be self-learning or be helpful to others. I have used poetry and am aware of others who have used this medium to describe internal feelings of depression and anxiety to powerful effect.
Do you believe that writing can be learned, or that you must be born with a passion and/or talent?
You can learn how to improve your writing, but you need to be motivated to want to write in the first place. You can learn about writing techniques like how to show and not tell the reader what is happening, how to build and create tension in your stories, how to create and use dialogue. We all have at least one story inside us that needs to find it’s way to be shared.
Journal prompt: how do you develop your writing? Do you turn to YouTube videos, blogs and books for help and advice, or do you learn through practise?
Do you believe that it's more challenging to write about beliefs, morals and values that conflict with your own? How do you feel about books that explore unusual, 'risky' themes? When reading these books, do you feel at all uncomfortable?
Context is important, I have read several crime books where characters express views that create conflict and make me feel uncomfortable. However, often the purpose of doing this is to facilitate an exploration of issues around such beliefs and values. I accept that some people will hold such beliefs and therefore not be surprised to find characters extolling them in books I read.
World-building applies to all genres, even to those where it is not necessary for authors to create unique societies, landscapes and species. No matter your chosen genre, what top tip can you give aspiring authors when world-building?
It is important that a structure for your story is created so the reader can enter your 'world’ and become familiar with the ground rules and norms within it; to be taken with you on the story journey you have created.
How do you view and define success? What does it mean to you, and do you currently feel successful? If not, what would you need to achieve to reach success?
There are several elements to success. Firstly, and most importantly in my view, do you feel you have successfully completed a book you are happy with and believe deserves to be read? Secondly, have at least some of the people who have read your work been prepared to give you positive feedback. Finally, have you sold enough copies of your book to have generated some ‘profit’. I had all three of these with my first book (albeit it took about four/five years for the ‘profit’ element to be achieved). I have already achieved the first of these criteria with Show Me The Way To Santiago. I hope over the coming months and years the other two criteria will also be met.
It is important that a structure for your story is created so the reader can enter your 'world’.
What is the secret to becoming a bestselling author, if you believe there is one? Do you agree an Amazon bestselling status counts, even if that status was for a free or discounted book?
A combination of any number of things, but they need to include: the right subject matter at the right time, being selected to be featured by a literary publication/newspaper, luck, good/fortunate and marketing.
How do you deal with rejection, criticism and bad reviews from friends, family and strangers? What would you say to someone struggling with a lack of support, or worried about online negativity?
Rejection is difficult at first, but as a writer it is part of the territory. Often it is how/who you pitch to and not your ‘product’ that is the problem. My writing would not be as good as it could be without constructive criticism. Being involved with several reading groups and continuously sharing work helps to improve your skill as a writer and gives you greater self-confidence in your work.
What question/ comment do you hate receiving in relation to writing? Why do you think it frustrates you so much, and have other authors agreed with you? What answer/s do you usually give?
“It’s all right, but it’s not the sort of thing I would usually read/not my thing.” Even if you are reading and commenting on something that may not be your bag, it is still possible to provide some critique on the quality of the writing. Not getting any feedback I can utilise is the most frustrating aspect for me.
Journal prompt: what questions do you often get asked about your writing? Are you used to answering them by now and are therefore a little frustrated, or do you still find it difficult to satisfy a reader's curiosity?
Why not complete your own version of this author interview and post it on your blog?
I am a writer and poet, who worked for 40 years in Local Government (until 2009), primarily in Social Care. I was self-employed as a Social Care Consultant for 3 years. I am now fully retired from paid employment. I also have 17 years of experience as a Trustee, with 3 voluntary organisations from 2009 until 2019.
My first book, A Pennine Way Odyssey, was self-published in 2012. I have almost finished my third book and have a crime novel sketched out, which is set in the Bradford area just before the start of the second world war. I have written and illustrated three children’s books, currently only for the eyes and ears of grandchildren.
I have been writing and performing poetry for about three years at several Open mic venues across West Yorkshire. I recently had a monologue (Mother-in-Law) performed as part of the Leeds Lit Fest at a pub theatre event in Leeds.
I am married and have two daughters and three grandchildren.
Apart from writing, I enjoy running (I have completed 12 marathons and numerous half-marathons), fell walking, long-distance walking and gardening.
Get to know Peter BONUS:
Favourite Author: I like Scandinavian Crime Novels (Jo Nesbo, Camilla Lackberg, Hakkan Nesser, Henning Mankell)
Tea, Coffee or Hot Chocolate?: Earl grey tea
Currently Reading: 'The Blackpool Highflyer' by Andrew Martin
Last Book Reviewed: 'Cilka’s Joiurney' by Heather Morris
Favourite Writing Food/Drink: Pasta Sauce and Parmesan with a real ale
A quote you live by and why: If I don’t learn something new every day it wasn’t worth getting up for. It’s a Peter Kay original but similar things appear in literature all the time, for example, 'The Advocate’s Devil' by Alan Dershowitz (2009) and 'You get What you Play' for by Jeff Farley (2012)
A huge thank you to author Peter Kay for this interview. If you would like to learn more about Peter's writing journey, please be sure to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask your questions!
If you would like to complete and submit an interview of your own for the blog, get in touch today through this website's contact form.