Welcome to the Join Up Dots business coaching podcast interview with James Barrington
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Introducing James Barrington
James Barrington is the pen name of todays guest joining us on the Join Up Dots free podcast interview.
He is an author and a man who quite simply could be a guest on Join Up Dots for a whole week.
His history has so much packed into it, its a struggle to decide where I want to start.
Well lets start with telling you that he was born in Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and as has made his way through many different positions to where he now finds himself as an established and successful author.
How The Dots Joined Up For Peter Stuart Smith
From working in a mortuary, a garage and on a production line.
James Barrington did what many young men did back in the day and joined the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air arm as a pilot.
He served 21 years protecting the United Kingdom across the world, not least around the area of the Falklands during the war against Argentina.
Later, he worked at Headquarters in London which required continual work that was classed ‘Top Secret’.
Including United Kingdom preparations for war and transition to war (the ‘War Book’), and he became very familiar with techniques for intelligence gathering in numerous covert operations.
If that sounds like a full life of activities and passions, then our guest had other ideas, and upon leaving the military picked up his pen and started writing under a series of pseudonym that has pushed him high into the bestseller lists across the world.
So what would he call his true calling in life?
Would it be the writing, the military career, or I suppose working in the mortuary (please don’t tell me it was the last one!)
Well lets find out as we bring onto the show, to start joining up dots with the one and only Mr Peter Stuart Smith
During the show we discussed such weighty topics with James Barrington such as:
How Peter would move the recently deceased around the mortuaries for descendants to identify them, whilst they were…..well being more relaxed than they should be!
How even if the job might seem boring then there are elements in all of them that will make you who you are in later life!
Why he believes that his big dot in life was the moment he sent his first attempt at writing to a Vauxhall magazine, and how it changed his life!
Why you must focus on the “Catch-a-bility” of the first page of a manuscript, so the reader is grabbed by its content and will read on…that is how they will get published!
How be believes that there are two types of writers….tree writers and wood writers and the difference between the two.
How To Connect With James Barrington
If you enjoyed this episode of James Barrington then why not listen to some of our favourite podcast episodes such as Karl Vadaszffy, Sean Swarner or the amazing Tom Ziglar
Or if you prefer just pop over to our podcast archive for thousands of amazing episodes to choose from.
Audio Transcription Of James Barrington Interview
When we’re young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling join up dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here’s your host live from the back of his garden in the UK David Ralph
David Ralph [0:26]
Yes, hello there. Good morning world and welcome to Episode 167 of join up dots I hope you all are living the life that you deserve, because that’s what this show is about on a daily basis. If you’ve been listening to the other hundred and 66 shows and boy, you’re listening to them in their droves, then you will find out. It’s a similar theme that we touch on and what we’re trying to do is inspire you guys that get off your backside, stop being victims and actually take control of your life because once you start taking control of your life is amazing the things that can happen. Well, today’s guest is a man who quite simply could be a guest on join up dots for a whole week his history has so much packed into it. It’s a struggle to decide where I want to start. Let’s start with telling you that he was born in Cambridge in the United Kingdom and has made his way through many many different positions to where he is now, where he finds himself as an established and successful offer. from working in a mortuary Yes, a mortuary and carriage or garage as you say, in America, and on a production line. He did what many young men did back in the day and join the Royal Navy fleet as a pilot, and he served 21 years protecting the United Kingdom across the world, not least around the area of the Falklands during the war against Argentina. Later, he worked at headquarters in London, which required continual work that was class top secret, including United Kingdom preparations for war and transition to war, the war book, and he became very familiar with techniques for intelligence gathering in numerous covert operations. Sounds all a bit James Bond to me, if that sounds like a full life of activities and passions when our guest had other ideas, and upon leaving the military, picked up his pen and started writing under a series of pseudonyms that has pushed him high into the bestseller lists across the world. So what would he call his true calling in life? Wouldn’t be the writing? Would it be the minute to Curia? Or I suppose working in the military? Please don’t tell me it was the last one. Well, let’s find out as we bring on to the show to start join up dots mo one and only Mr. Peter Stewart Smith, how are you, Peter?
James Barrington [2:33]
I’m very well and the mortar? He was in some ways the high point of my career.
David Ralph [2:38]
It’s a dead end job. That one, isn’t it?
James Barrington [2:41]
Certainly, yes, yes. Very long.
David Ralph [2:44]
Well, let’s cut right to the chase. Because I must admit, I’ve got that kind of sort of slightly warped way of thinking and is mortuary kind of gallows humor when you’re in now although it’s awful, because you know, dead people. But is there a kind of? Well, it comes out especially with the English, the English will find humor in positions that you wouldn’t expect it to. And as a young man working in a mortuary, was it a kind of funny environment? Or was it just grim?
James Barrington [3:13]
It was both really, there were there were occasional funny instance. I mean, one of the things we used to on a regular basis was under British law, when somebody dies, they have to be formally identified the entire been in hospital for six months or something every knows who they are, they still had to be identified by the nearest and dearest. And obviously, this is a very traumatic experience. And quite often we’d have to do viewings, which meant laying out the body. So you pull the body out of the fridge, cover everything basic set the face, because that’s the only thing the relative is going to actually want to see or be able to see. And you will them in you say them. Is this your husband, john, whatever. And then if they say yes, then that’s the identification you will them out very occasionally that there would be an and an extraneous sound, we put I’m trying to think of how to put this actually quite politely when the process of D competition starts in the body are can be expelled from various orifices. And one of these obviously, is the usual orifice. So sometimes you’d actually be doing a viewing and the body would quite gently fart at you.
David Ralph [4:23]
Did we all have that problem? Peter? Yeah, exactly. In the grave,
James Barrington [4:27]
even beyond the grave? Yeah. Didn’t happen very often. But when it did, it was quite difficult to keep a straight face.
David Ralph [4:32]
And what what did the sort of the relatives say? Did they laugh as well? Or did they just look shocked? Or?
James Barrington [4:40]
Well, normally, I don’t think a lot of them notice, which is probably a good thing. Because it’s such a traumatic experience anyway, identifying a loved one that you really don’t, you focus on that you don’t focus on much else. And quite often use you somebody will be saying something to them, and administrator will be down there in the mature with them and saying, you know, is that is this your whatever, Father, Son, whatever. And they were, you’d have to say things to them three or four times before it kind of registered. So hopefully most cases they genuinely did not notice. Occasionally though, there would be a little a little smile at the corner of their of their mouth, you know, and you realize they had actually heard?
David Ralph [5:19]
Well, one of the things we talk about on join up dots is bad, no experience is wasted. That’s the beauty of connecting somebody history. When you look at yourself now, obviously, Uber successful living into houses across the world, you’ve got countless books and the different names on the best sellers list. Do you look back to see working in the mortuary and the gay marriage and kind of thing? Yes, actually, I took x y Zed from that that’s actually made me who I am now.
James Barrington [5:49]
to large extent, yes, I think one of the things about writers is they’re normally quite double people, I’m quite del ask anybody who knows me, they’ll tell you that. Because basically, most of the time you’re not, you’re not participating so much as observing. Every time you meet somebody new whether it by be by telephone, as we’re as we’re doing at the moment, or actually in person, or even simply sitting in a bar or restaurant and looking at somebody on the on the other side of the room, you do kind of mentally pick out bits of their character and bits of what they’re saying. But so the way they hold themselves, their gestures or something like that. And in my case, certainly I do think to myself a lowcock and work him into the next book about such and such. And so you do tend to do a lot of observing. And you don’t tend to do very much in the way of getting getting in there and getting out front. So all experiences really are terribly valuable. And I can still think of things that instance that occurred when I worked in this particular hospital mortuary back in the day, and even a couple of things that happened in in the garage, which were not what you might call desperately exciting, but I can remember them. And again, you can still work that kind of thing into current stories or short stories or whatever. So yeah, it’s all experienced is valuable. I,
David Ralph [7:06]
your colleagues and your friends are a very wary that you might be assessing them and they might become a character. In your books. I tell you a story that happened to me, I met a chap who wanted to be an offer. And he used to might be kind of short stories, but he would send off to magazines for publication. And he wrote this one called Vietnamese pot bellied pig, always remember this. And the very first words of the story was Vietnamese pot bellied pig. And the very last words was the same thing. And he kind of connected it. And he said to me, what do you think about this story? And I sort of took it home and it sat by the side of my bed for a couple of days. And he said, Have you read it? And I went? No, I haven’t been a bit busy. I’ll read it tonight. So I went home for all right, he’s chasing me, I better read this. And I started reading it. And I used to be a trainer up in the financial center of London. And when I was younger, I used to have sort of quite long flights, kind of Hugh Grant ish kind of hair. And there was a particular kind of English vibe about me. And I was reading this story and this this character in there, called Darren, I think it was he, he started being described and I thought, Oh, he sounds a bit like me. And then it got into the middle bit. And he was a trainer in the City of London, I thought got this bloke really sounds like me. And then he started getting into is really kind of adult x rated kind of content, which was like really kind of shocking. And I was kind of delighted that he’d written me into this story. But I was also shocked that he’d written me in such a way that really wasn’t relevant to my life at all I kind of wished it was because Blimey, the things that this boat was getting up to was absolutely astonishing. And I gave him back the story. And I To this day, I think I wish I had a copy of that, that I could share around to people. And so the your sort of friends and I Cooley disappointed, but they haven’t become characters in your book and equally shocked. But they there’s elements of them that is quite visible to them if I were to write read your work.
James Barrington [9:11]
That’s a very interesting point. Interesting story. So I wish I’d read that story. Well,
David Ralph [9:18]
I was really pleased I was. Yeah,
James Barrington [9:22]
to some extent. I tried to pick bits out of characters. I mean, just to digress very slightly. The first series of books I wrote with them at Millen, and I wrote them as a as James Barrington that was my kind of writing name. And the hero that was a chap called Paul Richter, who was a kind of a troubleshooter for the Secret Intelligence Service, that kind of thing. And he was essentially an amalgam of two or three people that I knew during my military days. one of whom was on occasion, I think seconded to the SS, but he wouldn’t often talk about what he was actually up to, but he would return to the the station with a distinctly sunburn skin, and maybe sporting the odd injury and you think well hang on a minute, you know, he’s not been to a beater and lying on the beach, I mean, he’s actually been doing something much more interesting than that. And so he became a kind of a one half of the amalgam or quarter, the amalgam, and other bits came in from other people that I knew. But one of the problems you have as a writer is, in the case of your story, in particular, if you were of a sense to the retiring disposition, and that story had actually been published in a daily newspaper or a magazine or something, and people are able to recognize you from it, I mean, recognize that it was definitely about you, you will actually have a good case to go to law to try to get the story withdrawn or seek damages or something like that. So if you are writing about somebody in a in a derogatory or faintly derogatory fashion, or even in a fashion, which makes them feel uncomfortable, then you do have a potential legal nightmare to contend with. So although I do pick bits of different people out of the out of my friends and colleagues and people that I may meet, I do try to make sure that the finished product, the character in the book is completely different to them in every single way, just with, they just have the same kind of marriage matters, they’d like to cigarettes in the same way they drive the car the same way, something like that, which is recognizable, but it’s not in any way derogatory, if you can kind of see where I’m going with,
David Ralph [11:31]
I know exactly what you’re saying in any in your next book, if you want to write about a really sexually attractive podcaster, who’s doing a show from the United Kingdom, I give you permission, you can take me and you can create what you want with me.
James Barrington [11:46]
Okay, I might take you up on that I’ll see. I’ll see how it goes.
David Ralph [11:50]
Just put it out there. And it’d be a badge of honor, but I can wave around. So when when you started your your history, you’re working in the mortar in the garbage and all that kind of stuff. Could you ever imagine that you were going to end up where you are now with all these books and publishing companies and and life that you’ve had? But is it so different? Or was there elements of your life that kind of was already connecting it up?
James Barrington [12:17]
A bit of both. Really, it’s it’s, I think one of the fundamental things about being a writer is that if you’re, and it’s it sounds trite, it sounds like a truism, which which it obviously is. But if you’re a writer, what you do basically is right. And I been writing, I started writing when I was probably about 14 or 15. And in fact, the very first thing that I wrote and actually sent off to a magazine was published. And that was a magazine called a box or motorist that dates it straight away, doesn’t it? antediluvian, virtually. And it was basically a very, very abusive letter. But in written in good English, but quite abusive, because they’re publishing an article in the magazine that made no sense at all, it was written by somebody who had no idea what they were talking about. And even I could see that I had my a level English under my belt. And I thought, right, I will picture is them. So I banned off this letter. And I thought no more about it. And literally about a week later, I got a letter back from the magazine containing a check for a fiber. And fiber in those days was quite a lot of money. And a note from the editor saying that they’re taken up the more libelous bits, and they were going to publish it in the next issue. And that kind of set me going because I realized that although I was doing all sorts of other stuff at the time, I did realize that I had some kind of an ability with words, and I could actually put them together in such a way that people were prepared to pay for them, they prepared to actually buy the words off me. And that was what you might call it a kind of a cathartic moment, really, I mean, it was a realization that I could do other things that didn’t involve working for somebody. And it kind of went on from there. So I started writing articles and short stories, things for a whole host of magazines, all of which are now defunct, hopefully not from what I wrote for them. But things like superbike, custom car, target gun resident abroad, I had a whole raft of these going at the time, and I found I had a pretty good success rate, I was getting about probably 6070, 80% of the stuff I sent out published. And that really for for a freelance article writer is a pretty good strike rate. So right from those days, I thought, well, you know, I might be able to do something and more than anything else, even then, what I really thought I would like to do was become an author, a full time author eventually. But of course, to become a full time author is a very, very long road indeed. And it took me an awful long time to actually achieve it.
David Ralph [14:49]
Well, it is not just a long road to achieve it, I think you need to have experienced to be able to write in depth characters and plot structure, don’t you, you, I don’t think your books now, you could have written when you was like 15 1617, if they would have been very naive and ripped apart. I remember hearing Stephen King, the famous horror over writing. And, interestingly, against yours, he used to send writings to publications constantly, constantly, constantly, and nobody wanted them not at all. And so he, right I got, I’m not going to go with this, I’m going to write a book, if I write a book that’s going to be harder for them just to sort of throw away. And he wrote Carrey which was about a girl going through sort of teenage years and turning a bit mental at the end and destroying everyone. And he wrote it. And he got to about three quarters of the way through it and threw it away himself, because he’s competence was shocked to pieces, by the lack of reception that he was getting from the publications. And it was his wife, who picked out the bin ready and went now Come on, you’ve got to do this, you got to finish this, this is good. And so he finished it up and the rest is history. So that it’s not so much that you fine tune your talent. And those beginning days, I think it just gave you extra competence to do more of it, which obviously been fine tune your talent as well. Do you think that?
James Barrington [16:11]
Yes, I do. You’re quite right. It’s, the more you write, the better. I mean, there is a very famous story about an author and I can’t remember who it was now, who was asked to give a presentation to a group of people who are interested in, in becoming authors, they were all at the article writing stage, that kind of thing. And he apparently walked onto the stage looked at the audience and said, How many of you want to become authors, and they all put their hands up, obviously, because that was what they were there for. And he said, then go home and write and walked off the stage. Now, that’s, if you like a kind of an extreme example. But I do believe that writing is a craft and a skill like anything else. And you’ll only get better at it by doing more of it. So even if you write an article or a short story or something and send off to a magazine and the editor this rips it to pieces, awesome. It sends it back with a no fangs note attached to it. You still learn something even from that, and you can go and if you get feedback from an editor, we should do very occasionally, if he if he comes back and says, Oh, yes, that’s okay. But what you need to do is build up to a bigger climax or your main characters not believable, because those are kind of golden nuggets. And you should definitely host those in a note whatever there’s actually been said, and then use those in whatever you’re going to write next, or when when you rewrite that particular story. But you’re quite right. I mean, the more the more you write, the more you actually can write. And the better hopefully you get at it. There was also I just tried to think there was a character in the Guinness Book of Records, some Englishman who’s been writing for some, like 50 or 60 years, and and all that time, he’s only had one thing published. And this was in the parish magazine somewhere. And it was on the strict understanding that it was not there was no financial remuneration for it. What’s However, now I think in that case, is probably time he took up golf or something, because clearly, whatever it is, he ain’t got it.
David Ralph [18:09]
Well, you say that, but he’s in a Guinness Book of Records. That’s
James Barrington [18:15]
that’s a kind of a negative claim to fame, I guess. Yeah. I just felt so sorry for him. Because he, you know, I think it’s got to the point now where it’d be quite upset if he did get paid for anything
David Ralph [18:24]
in the rights. But he shows me with him, that it is the love of the task, and not the reward. And I think that’s where so many people struggle today, Peter, especially sort of the youngsters, and we talked about this quite a lot. We call it the sort of X Factor syndrome, where you see that somebody goes to a whole, they get up, they sing a song, and suddenly they’re playing Madison Square Garden. And you kind of see that on a TV program. And you think that’s how life is. But it’s not. It’s the incremental gains, it’s the hours upon hours upon hour of fine tuning it until you become the overnight success. And I think the fact that he is still banging away banging away, and he’s not looking for, you know, publications, he just loves the task. And that’s half the battle, isn’t it? Oh, which is I absolutely,
James Barrington [19:13]
absolutely agree with you. And I mean, you’re right. I mean, it’s the old joke about Madison Square gardens. How do you get the Madison Square gardens? practice? Yes. And it’s quite true. You know, you you do. But there is a there is today, I think because of reality TV shows like x factor and Britain’s Got Talent and all sorts of other things. And there’s along the same lines, there is this kind of instant gratification ethic, where people think, Oh, you know, I can sing a bit, if I go on, they’ll find Simon Cowell will take me on, and I’ll have a number one hit. And sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t. But writing i think is because that’s obviously my particular field. Writing i think is a bit different to that. Because with the best will in the world, you can’t put use an instant book, you know, there is there is there’s labor involved in it. My first book was called overkill for Macmillan. And that without a word of life took me 10 years to get accepted. Now, that’s an awful long time. And that’s an entire decade. And in that decade, I start off with the original idea I wrote the book didn’t like it started again, rewrote it, I went from the first person to the third person back to the the first person back to the person again, playing around with it, kicking, kicking different ideas around putting things in taking things out. And it really was 10 years almost to the day after I started that I finally found a literary agent in London, who was able to take it on and was prepared to represent me and and then sell the book. So it’s it’s a long, long process. And I think it’s probably longer in publishing than it is in almost any other creative arts field, if you like, somebody can stand up and sing a song, and it might have taken them a week to learn, and the song might well be a hit. So that is kind of instant gratification. But you just can’t do that with a book. You know, it’s it’s a long, long process.
David Ralph [21:10]
No, I agree with that I’ve actually written two books myself, never going to be published, it was just something that I wanted to do as a task to do. And I found the hardest thing, if I and I’m going to say this from my point of view, but I’d be very interested from your point of view as well, for authors or people who want to write who are listening to this, I found with mine, the struggle was not getting the story out. But I was trying to make it too perfect as I went along. So I would write a chapter and then I would go back and edit it. And after a period of time, I was actually bored with the story. And I looked back at night after about three years, and I found it and I thought oh, I read a bit. And it was pretty good. But I remember the struggle was the actual editing. And if I had just gone and just written 365 pages and vain gone back over it, it was a much easier and probably pleasurable process. But I was trying to make every single line gold nuggets of gold as I go across. So how do you do it? Do you just kind of with the greatest sense of vomit on the page, get the story out and then go back and fine tune it?
James Barrington [22:17]
Yes, basically, that that’s the way I think I think the thing with writing is there there are, there are as many different techniques as there are different writers, my personal technique is that I, I just get it down, what I will do normally is I won’t do much in the way of editing. But when I get turned on the computer, first thing in the morning, what we’ll do is I’ll read what I wrote the previous day, the last chapter or part of a chapter or whatever, that’s not really to critique it or anything, it’s just to kind of get myself to read myself back into the flow, yeah, to read myself back into the story. So I know where it’s going. And then I just crack on and do it. And I don’t actually edit it in that in the sense that you’re talking about until I’ve actually got the whole thing finished. And then I’ll go through it at least at least three or four times before I’m happy with it and bang it off for the publication. And that that to me works well. But I’ve I’ve got other friends who do it the exactly exactly opposite way they can’t start chapter two until chapter one is completely done and dusted. And it’s been polished and refined within the inch of his life. And I I have a theory that if you do that, you actually end up losing something of the initial spark of the story, something of the emotion that kind of drives us or right whatever that particular story is about. And the other thing but just again, a slight digression is that I’ve always been told there are kind of wood writers and tree writers. And the idea is a tree writer is somebody who stands at the trunk of a tree, the story metaphorically speaking, and they look up and they can see every single branch, every single twig and every single leaf, and they just put it down on paper. And a wood writer is what I am. And that means that I walk into a would at one end. And I know I’m going to come out at the other end. But what happens in the middle, I’ve got no clue about until I actually get in there. And I find not having a distinct plan. I mean, I know that I don’t make it sound too, too simplistic, but I don’t have a detailed synopsis to follow are normally put down something that runs for three or four pages with my kind of background of the story if you like and I’ll basically follow that. But what I find is that when I get into the story, some character or I might have actually introduced just to be shot or something, suddenly cert turns out to have some part of a skill or knowledge or ability or something, or is important for some other reason. And I find he takes over the story to some extent it becomes an integral part of it. And I have to follow him through all the way to the end. And I think although that sounds a bit a bit sort of woolly minded, if you like, to me, it means the story is always alive, because what’s happening is as much a surprise to me writing it, as it hopefully is to the reader who finally gets around to reading it.
David Ralph [25:00]
I think that’s that’s spot on. Really, I think I’m a word podcaster I start with a blank piece of paper. Because although I kind of know the guests background, most of the time you actually find the interesting stuff isn’t their background, it’s what is what you find on the journey of the conversation. And I like the fact that every single show is totally new totally inspiring to me. And I actually enjoy the conversation and I think hopefully the fact that I’m enjoying it will come across because you know you need a spark you need if it was just you and me go Yeah, so what did you do next? But did you know it’s gonna be rubbish isn’t it?
Jim Carrey [25:41]
You know is
David Ralph [25:42]
yes, I’m wondering I’m looking down at your list and you’ve got a great name Peter Stewart Smith that would look good on a on a book. So why do you write under so many nom de plumes as they say James Barrington, Max Adams, James, Becca, jack still? Where do you get those names? And why do you hide behind? Because you’ve got a brilliant name m&e?
James Barrington [26:03]
Well, it depends on the point of view, I’ve always thought is rather dull and boring. But there you go. The I have got one book out there which is which is by Peter Stuart Smith, which is an E book and it’s basically just called inspiration perspiration publication. And it’s a kind of a cheap little guide on Amazon to to the entire process of writing book and getting it published. But that’s the only one and the reason why I’ve chosen different pseudonyms is partly my choice and partly the publishers choice. When I wrote the very first book I I decided to call myself James Barrington because I grew up in a village called hostel in Cambridge or just outside Cambridge. And the net nearby village was called Barrington and always liked that name is very critical village as well. And I thought, okay, I’ll call myself Barrington, and I cast around for Christian name and I thought, well, James Barrington kind of rolls off the tongue so that’s why I called myself and those the books I wrote as James Barrington were a series of kind of global thrillers they were Tom Clancy style thrillers, you know, nuclear weapons, aircraft explosions, all this kind of thing going on. My agent who is an extremely competent man, who is now a very good friend of mine called Luigi but no mini runs the lb agency in London. He’s always been looking out for my best interests. And whenever he’s he kind of smelt or saw any kind of an opening, he would instantly put me forward. So he contacted Transworld or transport contacted him and said, they were looking for somebody to write historical mystery thrillers. So he said, Oh, Pete will do that for you. And then came to me and said, Oh, can you do a historical mystery thriller, so I put some together and transport bought it. But because I was under contract, to Macmillan to write global thrillers as James Barrington, we had to have a different name because it was a different genre. And there’s young thing is actually quite important because if you just take a really extreme example, and I don’t believe this is true for a moment, but let’s just say you’re a big Barbara Cartland fan loving
David Ralph [28:13]
all of them I’m wearing pink at the moment.
James Barrington [28:15]
I’m getting worried about you my their chat. But if you were just for the sake of argument, Barbara Cartland fan all her books are basically the same. It’s all kind of fluffy pink. Boy Meets Girl boy loses girl boy finds girl they will get married everybody’s happily ever after. They’re all exactly the same book, not denigrating her as a writer is a very popular market. She was very good at what she did. But if she was still around if she decided that the next Barbara Cartland book was going to be one about lesbian vampires in Venice, then you as a dedicated Barbara Cartland fan will be a bit miffed when you picked it up and turned to the first few pages and found bloodletting and all sorts of other stuff going on. All around the place sounds perfect book that does that tell you? But you can see where I’m coming from. And so authors who write in different genres almost invariably tend to have different names to go with it. The guy who created the rebirth series has to writing name’s Ruth Randell also writes is Barbara vine. Not a lot of people know that. But I mean, this is the case. And of course, most famously recently, the Harry Potter creator, bless her cotton socks is also Robert Galbraith. So you can see because she’s because she in that case, decided she wanted to write a kind of an adult, relationship driven book or whatever you’d like to call it, it would clearly be inappropriate to be JK Rowling because people will be expecting wizards and Harry Potter and all the rest. So to some extent, it’s driven by the publishers and and that’s why I’ve ended up with so many because once my editor sorry, once my my agent successfully flogged me to Transworld penguin also wanted me to write a book for them, which was going to be a ghost written Autobiography of a guy dropping bombs on the Taliban in Afghanistan. But they wanted me to do that as James Barrington because they reckon penguin reckon that the thriller audience I’d already built up through Macmillan would be the kind of people who buy that book as well. So that made some kind of sense. But then later on, my agent also sold me to Simon and Schuster, to write a historical conspiracy thriller. And I needed a new name for that, so that I then became jack steel for Simon and Schuster. And then the flop me again, Tim Miller on a different contract to write Second World Wars for this is Max Adams. And Max Adams, in fact, was entirely the choice of Macmillan, they wanted the they didn’t do anything with it. But the idea of what I think was they wanted the X of Max to be turned into a swastika, or something on the cover, to kind of, you know, convey the image of what the book was actually about. So really, it’s been a crazy, just changing name, changing genre. And the two things really kind of going hand in hand.
David Ralph [31:08]
I’ve got a good name for you. What about this be your next book, and I don’t know where this has come from Peter, it’s totally off the top of my head. JOHN, john is the first name. And he surname probably exotic, up, dots join up dots Well, that would work perfectly when it
James Barrington [31:28]
would work perfectly. Especially I’ll put a link to the website alongside his name each time it occurs in the book,
David Ralph [31:33]
absolutely spot on that that’s what we’re going to do. So just before I play our first motivational speech, I’m just jumping back to Stephen King again. And I just want to sort of get your, your sort of feeling on this. He wrote under a pseudonym as well, he wrote under the name Richard PacMan. And he’s logic of doing that was, once Stephen King became Uber successful, he almost felt that he could write anything, and it would go to the top. And he became dismissive of his craft. And he just thought, you know, I don’t even have to work at this is going to be a best seller. So he wrote under Richard Backman, to see whether his work was holding up because of the quality of the work or whether it was just his name. Have you ever had those feelings? When you’re writing your book? Do you kind of think to yourself, actually, I could almost just throw this together? Or could you understand the logic of what he was thinking?
James Barrington [32:27]
I can actually understand the logic of it. And it’s never really happened to me, because although I’ve been I’ve been very successful in in a number of different genres. I’ve never reached the kind of level that Stephen King is, is working at. But he’s absolutely right. And unfortunately, this is one of the problems these days with the kind of cult of celebrity that we have as well, because if you see a particular name on the front cover of a book, and no names, no pack drill, but you know, the kind of people I’m talking about the that book is going to be in the charts, even if it contains 350, blank pages, or 350 pages, each with a single word, or it doesn’t matter, people simply buy it because of the name on the front cover. And I think that’s really rather sad. My agent goes on alarm in about this, because he is the agent for an awful lot lot of celebrity authors in the UK. And okay, a lot of them are actually quite good writers, he does tend to pick people who actually know what they’re doing. But he says it is a bit depressing from his point of view, because he finds a new author comes along the sense of a manuscript out of the blue, he really likes it. But he knows absolutely, he’s got almost no chance of selling it because the publishers aren’t interested. Because taking on a new author, again, I can only talk about UK figures if you like. But for publishers to take on a new author, they’ve got to be committing upwards of 25,000 pounds for the first book. And the first book almost certainly won’t make any money. It’ll be the second book, the third, but the fourth book, those will be the ones actually bring something back into into the coffers. But the first book is again. And from their point of view, why would they gamble, let’s say 50,000 pounds to take a figure at random, when they know that if they just promote the latest celebrities book for that amount of marketing spend advertising it TV, adverts, flyers in the tube, whatever, they would actually get back far more than they’re ever going to get back from that new author. And the problem is they go where the money is. And new authors find it very, very difficult these days to get into publishing in any way at all.
David Ralph [34:33]
It’s sad, isn’t it? There’s so much talent out there. And there’s so much opportunity now with the internet. I’ve had a guest on the show a couple of times. And he story is fascinating episode, I think he’s 132 and also episode seven. And he decided that he was going to write a book and he’d seen a story of a lady who had self published and she’d written this book. And it was a huge success. And so he bought I’m going to do the same. And so he wrote a book. And he sold five copies. And they were basically to himself, he’s dog, and he’s mum and dad bought one. And he couldn’t understand it. He was thinking why this is a great book. And then he realized, it wasn’t that it wasn’t the content it was but nobody knew him. So he changed focus. And he started going off to publications and online publications saying Can I write for you can I write you can write you and building up his name, he then went on to sell 80,000 copies of the book. And he’s now on the Huffington Post. And he’s doing great guns, and he’s living in Hawaii, and really sort of living the dream. But he struggled so much, but he still didn’t go down the digital publication movie he did himself.
James Barrington [35:40]
Yeah. And I have to say, and this is something that I probably shouldn’t be saying. But the reality of the situation with the publishing world today is that a new author does not need a literary agent, and he does not need a publishing house. And lots of the major success stories of the last few years particularly things like 50 Shades of Grey, things like that, those people have actually not gone the conventional publishing publishing route. Until the book, The ebooks, the electronic books have been so successful that the publishers basically beaten the path to their door and handed over a check, which is about the same as the GDP of some of the world’s smallest countries. The I happen to be personally acquainted with the the lady in the UK, who signed up el Grace 50 shades trilogy. And the the check for that was a life changing amount. And even that she had to actually persuade l sorry about your great ale James had more or less persuade her to take it because she was just making so much money with the electronic books that she didn’t need a publisher really, she really didn’t need a publisher.
David Ralph [36:48]
is astonishing isn’t it is astonishing how the world has changed in so many ways. And it gives us so many opportunities that maybe we didn’t have five or 10, 1520 years ago. And I’m suppose putting it all together is the words I’m going to play now. And I’m always keen to get the the understanding and your your perception of whether these words are relevant to you and our words that we should promote out to the world. So this is Jim Carrey,
Jim Carrey [37:13]
my father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him. So he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant. And when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. And our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.
David Ralph [37:41]
Do you think the world are too conservative? Do you think that they don’t go for what they love?
James Barrington [37:47]
Yes, I think to a large extent, that’s true. The problem is, you can actually understand the pressures. I mean, you know, a man and woman meet, they get married, they have a couple of kids, they need a house. So you’ve got you’ve got to pay for a house, you got to pay for Cairo to pay for the kids educational to pay for food and drink and clothes and all the other stuff. And if it’s a choice between sitting down in a in a Garret or an attic, or a shed somewhere, and trying to write a best selling book, or, or not necessarily writing, but just painting, painting oils or something like that, whatever you want, whatever it is your passion, that is your passion. Or alternatively, going for your 30,000 a year with a small company car thing for some company in in London, basically, you’ve really got to, you’ve got to get the money come in, you’ve got to really take the safe option. And I think a lot of people do that. I absolutely agree what Jim Carrey said, you, you couldn’t be let go from the safest Jeff in the world. Or alternatively, you can be an absolute success at doing what you really love. And it really is a very, very difficult situation a very difficult conundrum. In my personal case, what I was quite lucky about I suppose is because when I joined the Royal Navy, I joined as a pilot, I supposed to be a helicopter pilot, but I had a retina problem in my right eye. And that stopped me flying. So I end up doing air traffic control and a bunch of other stuff. But that was a solid job, which then when I left the military paid me a solid pension, I gave me a nice gratuity. So I was get to some extent set up anyway. So I could then when I decided to try to become a full time author, I did have some kind of financial backing. But trying to do the same thing at 25 with two kids. And all the rest of it is a very, very different situation. And it is it’s a very difficult choice. And all I would really say is, if you do want to become a full time author or something like that, don’t give up the day job. Don’t get the day job for two reasons. First of all, because the day job will actually keep you in in food and drink and keep a roof over your head. But also, the day job may ultimately be all your bad got because if you’re not successful, your chosen aren’t, then you may never make any money from it. And one of the slightly disturbing statistic is I’m a member of the British society of authors, and you need to be a published author to join that they did a survey must be three, four years ago now something something like that. And they found that only about 70%. Sorry, only about 30% of full time authors in the UK were actually making from their writing more than the national minimum wage. And you’ve got also bear in mind that that was a statistic. And of course statistics can lie. But the statistic also included the people like JK Rowling, who were enormously successful, and they will bring in millions as it were into the part as well as people were just struggling to get by on just writing one halfway successful book every year. So writing in particular, and I can’t really talk about painting, or anything like that, because I don’t know much about it. But from a writing point of view, it is a very, very precarious existence to be in. And you really do need some other means of financial support another job, money in the bank or whatever before you can try to embark on it full time.
David Ralph [41:13]
Because Because on this show we we started off talking about the leap of faith at the beginning about leaving your job and following your passions, blah, blah, blah. But we’ve kind of morphed over the last maybe 6070 episodes to the slide of faith, but actually goes with what you’re saying. Find your passion, find the thing that you really love doing and work on it around your your income producing whatever you’re doing. And so once you get to that point where you could go Yes, I can now step is just you lift up one leg and you’ve landed in the your new position. And but leap of faith, I have some people that say to me, oh, just just quit, and you’ll be so panicked, you’ll be able to get it done much, much quicker. And I kind of see what they’re saying on that. Because every hour of every day, you’ll be hustling like a madman, try to get it. I’m not that comfortable with that. I think that you’ve got to as you were saying at the beginning, you’ve got to work on your craft, and you’ve got to build it up. And fortunately, you can do a lot of fine tuning and, and shaving bits off that weren’t working for you, whilst no one’s looking in your direction, until you can suddenly say, Oh, yes, I’m an overnight success. But it’s been a five years, six years seven year path. So So do you think that that speech what what fascinated me with that you kind of agreed with it, but you said it was very, very difficult for somebody who’s married blah, blah, blah, which I agree with you should we even be playing that speech to kids. So instead of them coming out the education system, and just following the path that their parents did and getting a job up in London or whatever, just because it pays a salary, should we be inspiring them at a younger age to find that thing that they love?
James Barrington [42:53]
I think we should. But I think I do think as we said, as been saying a few minutes ago, you need to kind of temporary with reality well, because the particularly in the anything to do with the arts, I mean writing, painting, music, all the arts, unless you are exceptionally lucky. And luck. Luck does play a huge part in this, unfortunately, because it shouldn’t. But you do need some kind of luck to make a success of it. But you do also need to be aware that you have to earn a living. Unless you’re in the fourth position of having a daddy around smooth or Northumberland or something, then you do need to get money coming into the household in order to simply pay your your general living expenses. But I do think that inspiring kids at a young age is a very, very good idea. Because if they have got some kind of a talent, then that talent should definitely be nurtured. One of the things I do on a, on a fairly regular basis, I go and give talks in schools. And one school in particular in North London, I’ve been to three or four times now. And the last time I went there, the English the head of English who’s a personal friend of mine had arranged a kind of a let’s give the kids something to do about writing test. And he he asked them to write the first chapter of the thriller. Any anything could be science fiction, murder, mystery, police, procedural global thriller, whatever it was they wanted. And then he sent them all to me, I critique them and then went to the school and talk to the kids explain what I thought they’d done right and what I thought they’d done wrong. And it was very, very interesting. The they’d all done a perfectly possible job. One guy I was a little bit concerned about because he’d only written about 10 pages, and the body count was about 65 by the end of that time. And I thought either this guy is going to be writing the most amazing thrillers in the future always going to be spend the rest of his life in Parker’s you know, as a convicted murderer. I don’t know which way is going to go. But there was one story that just actually absolutely grabbed me. It was a fairly simple story. And I’m I read an awful lot of people who write do read an awful lot because you have to know what else is going on in your chosen genre if you like. And normally I can look at a story and I can say oh yeah, well, what’s going to happen here is x y Zed. The ending of this particular first chapter caught me completely by surprise, like a kind of a punch in the stomach. It was just so out of left field, I just did not see it coming at all. And the whole story is beautifully written. I said to the teacher article, I said the one that’s really stood out was this particular one here. And of course, I didn’t know who would actually written it or anything like that. And it was a funny little mousy girl at the back. And she put her hand up very, very shyly and said, Oh, I did that. And I said, Well, you know, if you want to become a writer, you certainly could you have the ability and the talent right there. And I taught the teacher afterwards. And I said that was that was a very, very impressive story. And he said, she’s taught in Latin, she’s taught in math, just top in English, it says top in general science. And this girl, just a basic polymath that she whatever she turns a hand to she just does really, really well. And I’ve got no idea what her eventually career is going to be. But I can absolutely tell you now without knowing anything else about her, that she’s going to be an enormous success or whatever it is. And she is definitely the kind of person whose talent needs to be nurtured.
David Ralph [46:25]
Can you see that success with people generally, obviously, you’ve got a critical eye and you will assess people, not just sort of physically but their characters, you absorb them for your books? And do you see some people and you think, Wow, you your yoga, your pattern? And yes, I can see your Cold Spring ready to go.
James Barrington [46:45]
To some extent I can Yeah, I used to do. I don’t do it now. So I don’t have a time. But I used to a bit of manuscript critiquing for people. And one of my proudest moments if you’d like was when one of the students for the better expression, who offered his manuscript to me to be critiqued, was taken on by a major UK publisher, and are two massively successful publishing contracts. And what was interesting about him was he sent me a manuscript and I critique it. And basically, you can tell I think, fairly quickly from reading what somebody has written whether or not they can write that that’s not usually in a doubt, you can tell whether they they know the English language well enough to be a writer. And you can tell from the sentence construction and the way they put things together, whether or not they can convey what they’re trying to convey to the reader. But there were fundamental problems with this book. And I always try and pick out the positive. So I said to him, okay, you can write, that’s obvious. But this story needs far more to be happening on the first few pages. The whole point about writing a manuscript is the very first person who reads it may well be an editor at a publishing house or literary agent, if the first paragraph and the first sentence, do not grab them, why should they bother reading on you have to go in with a bang, you have to actually get their attention right from the word go. So it’s so
David Ralph [48:07]
is it Peter is so quick? Yeah, within the first half a page, you’ve got to grab them?
James Barrington [48:12]
Oh, yes, absolutely. When you think about it, no literary agency, and no publishing house employs people to read unsolicited manuscripts. These are manuscripts which are sent by them, without being asked for hence, unsolicited. And they are sent to them by people who are just trying to get published in in the first place. So by definition, they have no publishing history. When the editor or the literary agent picks up a manuscript remains, he’s got half an hour spare, or he’s just about to get a train somewhere, or he’s going out for lunch, and the guests for lunch hasn’t arrived. He’s got just a few minutes, and then those few minutes he’ll pick it up. The first thing I’ll read will be the covering letter. The second thing will be to be the first page manuscript, almost invariably, if the first page of manuscript does not grab him, why should I bother reading on? If he’s not interested, he won’t be able to find a publisher who’s interested. And if the publisher can’t, can’t be interested in it, then why would he put it out for the readers because the reader won’t be interested either. So you really do need to grab them right from the very start. And you can see this in all of the most successful books. If you look at, if you actually break it down, analyze the first paragraph, the first page and all the rest of it, you almost invariably find that there’s a question that’s being asked, and the unique human beings are very inquisitive, we’re interested in things and if question is asked, we need to know the answer. So that’s a very, very good technique to actually get people hooked and get them going straight away. And a genuinely that is about all the most literary agents and editors will read. And if they don’t like the letter, and they don’t like the first page, it’ll simply go back there won’t read anything else. There was a case, and I can’t remember who the author was. Now, somebody who was fairly well known, complained quite bitterly, that when she was trying to get published, she was convinced that sun the manuscript she was sending out, were coming back unread. And she actually sent out a new set of manuscripts, which contain basically just something like three pages, and the rest of the page were completely blank. And none of the publishing houses said anything to her about why they’re blank pages, so clear, they’re not actually read them. And the point really is, she was saying, well, this is disgusting, they should read it. The publishing house point of view is complete opposite. If the first page doesn’t interest me, why the hell am I going to sit down and read all the rest of it, because I’m not interested at either. And so the point she was trying to make was really misunderstood. She was trying to show the publishing houses weren’t thorough. But the reality was, her first pages weren’t good enough. And that’s the point they weren’t good enough to encourage the reader to read on. And bottom line is, if the agent doesn’t like it, and the editor doesn’t like it, why should the reader like it?
David Ralph [50:56]
It’s funny, it takes me back to my, my previous life in the in the banking world up in the City of London. And we used to have these folders that come around, probably twice a week. And they were human resources, kind of documents that you had to read, it was sort of health and safety and different things. And you’d have this grey folder, and you’d open it up, and there’d be a water paperwork that they want you to read. And there was a checklist, and your name was by the side, and you just basically ticked it and handed it on to the next person. And you pretended for months and months and months. And then one day, there was like a ripple through the office, I was about 470 people in the office. And somebody when someone says just got 300 pounds, and we went what you mean 300 pounds, and they went at the back of it about two pages from the bag, there was an envelope. And it said, if you get this far through here, take this envelope, there’s 300 pounds in it, and it was dated, and it been going around the office was about six months. And nobody had bothered getting to the end of this being and so it this money just been sitting there all the time, because it just you knew it was going to be boring from the word go. So you just sort of moved it on. And so from then on, we always used to start from the back and sort of flick through and there was never any money in it again. But it was the same thing, wasn’t it? we kind of knew it wasn’t going to have any punch. So why would we proceed through?
James Barrington [52:17]
Absolutely, that in my previous life when I was in the military, and I discovered quite early on that the compiler classified files, especially those classified above top secret, most of them are so dry and dull and boring that you genuinely can do almost you do almost anything rather than that, right? She said read the stuff. It really is not not very, not very much fun at all. And and the juicy secrets you expecting to find out often not all that juicy, or indeed, all that secret.
David Ralph [52:47]
Are you still in top secret mode is certain things that you know, and I’m not going to ask you because that’s not what it’s about. But other things that you couldn’t share.
James Barrington [52:57]
Their Well, when I was when I left the military, the roar Navy, I was forbidden from traveling to any Soviet Bloc countries for a period of five years. And that was primarily because of the work I did on the Warburg. Because that is the the United, I can tell you what it contains, without telling you what’s actually ended if you if you see what I mean. It’s basically the way that the UK would counter any Soviet invasion was always basically predicated on the basis that the Soviets will be the ones doing the invading. And it was just how we would actually cope with it, what we would do our disposition, the forces, how we would get reinforcement and resupply aircraft and ships over to the UK without getting shot down. all this kind of stuff. And it was the one of the things about a classified document is the classification of the whole document is the classification of the highest classified page within that document. So you can have a most of the been restricted, some bits confidential, some bit secret, but it is one page which is top secret, or cosmic obviously could a wall or any of the other more exotic classifications, then the whole document becomes cosmic top secret, or whatever. And most of it was not very interesting. But it was incredibly detailed. And obviously, if I had managed to retain any of that detail if I had been captured by the Russians interrogated and all the rest of it and pass on them, but I knew if there had at that stage being an invasion of Europe by Russian forces, the information that I knew would have been of help to the Russians. Not much help to be honest, because I wouldn’t remember much about it, because they were very, very Dell documents. But yes, to some extent. And of course, when I joined the Navy, I had assigned the Official Secrets Act. And when I left the Navy, I also signed if your secret yet again, to prove to confirm that I would not dis disclose anything I’ve learned during my service time. to anybody in the future. Anything that was that was classic articles.
David Ralph [54:55]
So there’s no sort of themes from from what you’ve read, that has its way into your book where maybe you don’t know at the time of writing it. And then when you look back and read it, you think, oh, Blimey, I think this was in a top secret document.
James Barrington [55:09]
Not No, not really, because the top secret documents, the meters, if you like is in the detail, the devils in the detail. It’s the facts and the figures and the names of the places and all this kind of thing, which is important kind of stuff. What I did try and do though was because I had been kind of immersed in in a number of bits and pieces of this kind of thing, classified documents and classified operations to obtain intelligence, all this kind of stuff. What I tried to in the books for Macmillan, the global thrillers was to impart the kind of flavor, if you like, of what I’d actually been involved in into the book to make them believable and specifically believable to somebody who was also in the trade as it were. So that I would like to think that anybody picking up one of my books who’d been in service in the military, or the anything like that, would recognize the fact that I knew what I was talking about. But as far as the classified stuff is concerned, the most bizarre experience, I suppose really was when I was doing the book about Afghanistan, which was essentially me ghost writing it for the role neighbors, most senior Harrier pilot, we had to be so careful in writing that that we didn’t tread on anybody’s toes because we were talking about information that was classified top secret and above. And of course, we’re also talking tactics. And it was not beyond the bounds of possibility that the member of the Taliban or Taliban sympathizer would obtain a copy of the book. And if there was anything in it, that would give away the game as far as the British tactics in Afghanistan were concerned, then that could obviously have a very adverse effect upon our troops. But what was funny about it was the Minister of Defense knew all about the book, because they actually put really put us together at the very beginning to actually write it. And they of course, had them the manuscript before we could actually get a publication by Penguin. But one of the things that was I found rather peculiar was, and I don’t believe this will be a secret to you, or you wouldn’t think it was was a secret. But if I said to you that the SS have been involved in Afghanistan, you probably wouldn’t be too surprised. That’d be effect. Absolutely.
David Ralph [57:19]
James Barrington [57:20]
Yeah, I couldn’t put that in the book. Because it never actually been officially acknowledged by the British. So whenever, and there were quite a few bits about the SS, because this Harrier pilot was quite often going down on the shooting range, and the SS guys over there with all sorts of exotic weaponry and then blast were targets for a while. We couldn’t actually say the rest is so we had to call them something vague, like unconventional warriors or, or something of that nature. Although everybody reading the book would absolutely know we’re talking about the SS or the SPS, or one of the secret squirrel outfits. But we couldn’t actually say it because the British government never actually acknowledged at that stage, the SS Russia and Afghanistan. So the classified information is a kind of a slightly strange area to be in, and sometimes things you think, Oh, my God, I can’t possibly say that. That’s perfectly okay. But something that you think, Well, everybody knows this, or you can’t put that in? It’s very odd
David Ralph [58:20]
that does it does it take away the kind of pleasure in certain areas to writing a good story when people are going, Oh, you can’t say this, you can’t say that. Because I think I would go on, I can’t be bothered when somebody else do it.
James Barrington [58:35]
Well, it was a job I enjoy doing very much, because I, I mean, I’ve never flown in a hurry up. And I’ve controlled Harriers on many, many occasions when I was involved in ships at sea, and on air stations and all the rest of it. So it was something it was a project I had, I had a lot of time for. So I was prepared to kind of, you know, take take the rough with the smooth as it were, and just really get on with it. But I can I can actually understand that how would irritate some people to think Well, no, this is simply ridiculous. There’s no reason why you can’t do this or say this. But bottom line is without the mo D approval for the finished manuscript. Penguin, we’re not going to publish it, if I didn’t publish it, I wasn’t going to get paid. And at the end of the day, I worked on this book for the better part of the year. And when somebody says, Oh, we have to get this approved. You can’t really afford to turn around and say, Well, I’m not bothered about that, you know, the money comes into it as well.
David Ralph [59:30]
Yeah, I can see that you’re, you’re better man than me, Mr. Smith.
Unknown Speaker [59:37]
Pork, the new program,
David Ralph [59:39]
I would set it up as an E book and sell it secretly. That’s what I would do, I would go a different route. So so just before I send you back in time on the seminar, my I do want to play the theme of the show, and that is the join up dots speech. But Steve Jobs said back in 2005, and I am fascinated. And as I said, at the very beginning, you are quite simply a guest that could be on join up dots for a whole week. There’s so much breadth to your your history that I would have liked to have gone in different directions. But I am very fascinated to see whether you think that there is a theme that runs through Can you connect the dots of your life. This is Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs [1:00:16]
Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leaves you off the well worn path. And that will make all the difference.
David Ralph [1:00:52]
So is that true to your life? Can you look back to Cambridge, through the mortuary to the garrard’s to the Royal Navy and can you see see the dots of your life?
James Barrington [1:01:02]
To a large extent I can not so much the mortuary although I suppose some aspects that do still resonate with me to to to some extent, and probably not the garage, but certainly the Royal Navy, I mean all of lots of the wall. In fact, my character in the million books is a Royal Navy Harrier pilots or former Royal Navy Harrier pilots. I mean, I’ve drawn extensively on my my experience in the Royal Navy, to create him as a character. And as I said before, he’s a kind of an amalgam of two or three people that I knew while I was in the service. So yes, to a very large extent that’s true. I
David Ralph [1:01:38]
think dotting your life and Peter is there. Is there one that when you look back, you go Yes. If it wasn’t for that, Peter Stuart Smith would not be here today, as we are talking to you.
James Barrington [1:01:51]
Yeah, probably. And this does sound a bit a bit bizarre, probably the very the seminal event, if you like, in my writing was that letter to the Vauxhall motorist, because I that was the moment I genuinely believe we jumped sorry, genuinely realized that people were prepared to pay me hard cash in this case of check for Fiverr for what I was what I was prepared to write. And, and that was an interesting moment, I don’t think until that time, the idea of eventually becoming professionals had ever actually occurred to me. Because I was I know I was 1819, something like that I was trying to decide what to get to go to university to read and all this kind of thing. And there’s a lot going on. And the idea of actually writing for living or writing to supplement my income, up till that point have never ever actually occurred to me. But once I got the check in my hot little hand, it did change me in a in a considerable way. And after that, as I said before, I wrote lots of stuff for magazines, and I got a pretty good success rate with it. I also of course, wrote while I was in the Navy, as well, I wrote an awful lot stuff there for publications that were both classified and unclassified, and for magazines as well, I carried on doing it.
David Ralph [1:03:08]
So last two questions before I send you back in time. Obviously, on your list of books, you’ve done a ton of books here. Well, what would be the one but for the listeners out there listening to this conversation, thinking, this is an offer I’ve never dipped into before I’m going to seek seek him out on Amazon, whatever. Is there one that you would go Yes, that’s a really good one to start with, that I’m very proud of and really gives a flavor of my writing style.
James Barrington [1:03:35]
Yet, I think the the what the book that I am, because I get a song I sound some stuttering and stammering floating around like some doddering old man. Because I’ve written in so many different genres. I’ve got favorite books in all those genres. However, the genre that I enjoyed writing in most was without doubt, the global thrillers. And off the six books that Macmillan published for me in that genre, the one that I enjoyed writing the most. And the one that I think is probably the best of the lot, and certainly got the best reviews, was manhunt. And that was slightly strangely, it was the last Macmillan book in the in the, the Paul Richter series, but it was chronologically the first it actually explains how this guy goes from being an unemployed Harrier pilot, to becoming an agent of the Secret Intelligence Service. And it’s quite a, it’s quite an interesting Chase, if you like it goes all the way across Europe, from Russia, through France, and then all the way back to England. But most people who read that say that it’s the one they enjoyed the most, it was one I enjoyed writing the most. And it was, oddly enough, the one that I started writing before I wrote overkill, because I wrote an awful lot of the book in the very first instance, because I needed for my own peace of mind, to know where my character come from. So I put a lot of it together as kind of notes and bits and pieces on the computer. So I actually had a good idea of what he was like, and where he was, because I think with writing, you need to be able to think your author into predict the situation know exactly what he’s going to say and do. If you can’t see that you’ve not got a very good character, if you’re driving at you need to be able to predict the way he is going to react.
David Ralph [1:05:19]
I heard generation being interviewed. And he said, Oh, it’s easy. He said, all I do I create a really good character, I get them into trouble, I then get them out of trouble when they get back into trouble. And then I get them out of trouble. And he said, that’s pretty much he’s born all the way through. Did you have a format like that?
James Barrington [1:05:38]
I do the same kind of thing. In fact, when I’m when I’m doing the books, I normally there’s some kind of overarching theme through the book. So but particularly with the historical mystery thrillers, there are themes in those which go back to the early days of Christianity, this kind of this kind of stuff. But what I do try and do is I try and give the bad guys as much help as I can, which sounds a bit of an Irish thing to say. But what I what I’ve never liked is books where the hero or the heroine or whoever gets out of trouble so quickly and so easily that it just seems to be believable. So I try to paint my hero into a corner as far as I can. By giving the bad guy all the resources I think he needs or the bad guys all the resources they need. And then I go into my write the next chapter as my hero again. And I try and see how he can get out of it in a way that actually makes sense. And makes logical sense. I can’t have him You can’t have this kind of with one bound jack was free scenario, you have to actually went if he’s going to escape, there has to be a good reason for him to escape. And he has to do off his own bad, it’s got to be something that makes sense to the reader. I want the reader to read that particular bit the book and say, you know, yeah, that was good. Yeah, I wish I could have done the same thing. And that’s circumstance, you know, that kind of reaction.
David Ralph [1:07:02]
So So could we see these as like a kind of James Bond? situation? Could could any of your books become movies?
James Barrington [1:07:09]
Oh, very easily. Yeah. Yeah. I’ve been told by editors in the past that I that I write in a kind of a filmic manner. And by filmic manner, what they mean is that you could actually convert the book into a movie very easily because I’m actually writing it almost as if I’m looking at it through a camera. I’m I’m describing stuff that’s that’s going on around the hero or around the bad guys, or whoever. And you could convert them into into films really quite easy. I’m also about of interest. I’m working at the moment with a British film director on an idea for a spy thriller to be set probably in London. But we’re just at the talking stage yet is there’s nothing actually in in in concrete as it were. But hopefully something will come out of that in the fairly near future.
David Ralph [1:07:53]
Well remember the name john yet john up, Doc, yeah, you keep on pushing them, keep on pushing coming up. Now, this is the end of the show, I really don’t want this show to end. But this is a part where I have to send you back in time to have a one on one with your younger self. And if you could go back in time, and have a conversation with a young Peter Smith, or James Barrington. What would you tell him? And what advice would you say? So I’m going to play the theme music and when he pays out you up? This is the Sermon on the mic.
James Barrington [1:08:47]
Well, Peter, my younger self, sit yourself down there and just listen to this. One of the interesting conversations I have with my literary agent shortly after he agreed to take me on and and shortly after, in fact, he’d he’d sold my first books 2 million was when we were discussing the attributes of a writer. And he said to me, Peter, what do you think the best attributes are for any writer, anyone who wants to become an author? And obviously, I thought for a minute, I didn’t want to appear like a complete idiot in front of this very important man in my life. And I said, Oh, well, you know, probably, he’s got to have a excellent commodity English language, I’d obviously he’s got to have a talent, he’s got to be able to tell a story. He’s got to be able to persevere to actually continue to the end the book, he’s got actually get the book finished and get it out there. And he said, Yes, yes. And all those are very important. Obviously, you’ve got to got to know what you’re doing, and all this kind of thing. But he said, What’s the one single quality that he absolutely must have, if he said, become successful? And again, I thought for a minute, and eventually I said, Well, probably just writing talent. He said, No, writing talent is important. But that’s not the most important quality. He said, the most important quality for any writer, you can express in a single word, and that word is persistence. And for a few minutes, I have a few moments, I didn’t really understand what he was driving up, but then it costs it suddenly dawned on me, it doesn’t matter how good a writer you are, it doesn’t matter what books you have pen doesn’t matter what the quality of writing is, it doesn’t matter how good the story is, or anything else. If those books are sitting on the hard drive of your computer, or they’re printed out and sitting in the back of the wardrobe in the spare bedroom, nobody’s actually ever going to see them. What you have to do as a writer is a right. But far more importantly, is you have to get the books out there to where somebody can read them and see them. And if they, if they write back to you and say, I’m sorry, this is rubbish. Okay, fine. You rewrite it, you keep on going, you are persistent. You keep trying and trying and changing and improving all the rest of it all the way through your career as a writer, until finally, finally, somebody actually sits down and says, Yeah, this is okay, I’ll buy this. Let’s have lunch. Let’s talk about a contract. And that was a bit of a another bit of a cathartic moment for me, I suppose. Because I already had a bunch of stuff tucked away in various drawers that I mentally speaking drawers or bits on the hard drive the computer or whatever, that I really didn’t think we’re good enough to write a to publish. But after that, I realized that actually, if you can write almost anything is possibly publishable. So that was one reason why, after that, whenever he came back to me, and they said, Are you interested doing a whatever, for a different publisher? I invariably said, Yes. And just then went away and did the work. So speaking to my younger self, a career as an author is somewhat precarious. But if you are a writer, that is what you want to do. And if you are going to become a writer, then what you absolutely have to do is persist, you have to keep on doing it. Don’t take no for an answer. Keep right on writing. And that’s all I’ve got to say to you. Thank you very much.
David Ralph [1:12:31]
Peter, how can our audience connect with you?
James Barrington [1:12:35]
Oh, I’ve got various email addresses. My website is I’ve only got one website up at the moment for my main publisher, which is www dot James dash becker.com. They can reach me through that. I’m on Twitter, I’m on Facebook, I’m also on LinkedIn, and they can easily find me on those as Peter Smith. And if any anybody wishes to send me an email directly, they can get me at p Smith. That’s just p email@example.com. Or if they don’t fancy delving into the walls of the Anderson email address system. They can also reach me on Peter Stuart Smith. That’s Peters Joe Smith with no underscores no dashes no firstname.lastname@example.org. And the Stewart is spelled s t u AR T
David Ralph [1:13:27]
will have all the links in the show notes. Peter, thank you so much for spending time with us today, joining up those dots of your life. Please come back again when you have more dots to join up. Because I do believe that by joining up those dots and connecting our past is the best way to build our futures. Peter Stuart Smith, thank you so much.
James Barrington [1:13:44]
Thank you Russia sorry, in Georgia, I’d love to come back. Just let me know when
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