Cap’n Joe: Can you tell my readers a little about your background nationality / ancestry?
Karl Wiggins: I’m British. Born on the South coast of England, which I think accounts for my love of the ocean. As a child I lived in a place called Cannock Chase in the Midlands, which was the scene of the infamous Cannock Chase Murders. Three young girls were sexually assaulted and murdered by a man called Raymond Leslie Morris. He died in prison only this year. The murders covered a three-year time span and one of the largest manhunts in British History. As children we didn’t really understand the implications of this and our taunt at school was always, “The murderer will get you!” Despite all this it was a happy time and we roamed the woodland walks and trails without a second’s thought to danger, only coming home when we were hungry or it got dark.
When I was 11 our family moved to London, and I went through a tough time of it at school because the education system was different. I found myself bottom of the class and in five years didn’t really improve much from there. I just believed I was stupid, and no one bothered to tell me any different.
As to my ancestry, I’m ¾ London and ¼ Irish, but I don’t hold with all that Plastic Paddy bullshit. On my father’s side my family were plasters from Harlesden, in North-West London, an area now known for its vibrant Caribbean culture and possibly unofficially London’s reggae capital. The area has a rich boxing culture with immigrants mainly from the Caribbean, Ireland, Columbia, Portugal and Brazil. My mother was born in Peckham in South-East London.
An ancestor of mine, Jesse Wiggins, was hung for stealing sheep, and I don’t know how I feel about that. Was he a dashing, swashbuckling ‘outlaw’ or a desperate, brutal criminal?
I’d like to think he was a rustler or possibly a highwayman, a ‘knight of the road.’ Dick Turpin perhaps, or maybe Sixteen-String Jack Rann, who bantered with the crowd and danced a jig before he was executed. But in all reality Jesse Wiggins was probably hungry, and stole a battered old sheep to feed his family.
Cap’n Joe: When did you start writing and how did you feel when you’d finished your first book?
Karl Wiggins: Oh wow! It wasn’t like that at all. I was sitting outside a scuba-diving club in the Algarve when I first started to write. There were half a dozen divers milling about in various stages of undress. Some were washing their gear out in the diptank and a couple were sitting back with a beer in their hands reflecting on the reef they’d just dived. I knew all of them, and they knew me, and I knew that each and every one of them had pissed in his wetsuit that day.
This isn’t a Hell’s Angels thing or anything. It’s just that the temperature drops on deep dives and one way to keep warm is to have a piss in your suit. I’m a Dive Leader with almost 150 dives logged, but looking back that was one of the first things I learned as a novice. A metaphor for my life that I accepted with a philosophical shrug of my shoulders.
With long hair and a beard, and skin toasted sunset bronze by the Portuguese climate, I didn’t look out of place outside a dive club on the Algarve. A couple of tattoos and an ‘interesting’ scar on the left shoulder completed the picture. What did look out of place was the laptop Compaq word processor sitting there on the table in front of me.
I’d previously thought writers were supposed to use a typewriter and go tap tap tap tap, slam the carriage return, tap tap tap tap, slam the carriage return, tap tap tap, “Oh bollocks!” rip the paper out, screw it up and sling it across the room to join the rest of the crumpled pieces of paper that had also missed the bin. Then stand up and walk to the window, still in their dressing gown of course, and stare out at the view sipping cold coffee.
It was the thought of the cold coffee that finally persuaded me to follow my wife’s advice and buy the thing. And it was really pissing me off. I had no idea how the bloody thing worked. The instructions she’d left me made no sense whatsoever. In fact it had taken me 45 minutes that morning to get the bloody thing turned on and working, much to the entertainment and delight of this beer-bellied bunch of sub-aquanauts. Their laughter jangled in my ears as they trudged down to the beach, heavily burdened down with buoyancy jackets and tanks, masks and fins. And I can assure you that with copious amounts of post-dive alcohol, it had not abated at all.
But I persevered. My first book ‘Grit – The Banter and Brutality of the Late-Night Cab Driver’ details a particularly scary part of my life, driving cab amongst gangs of Bloods and Crips in South-Central L.A. I was robbed, I was chased, I had a gun shoved in my face, one of the other drivers was shot, but what did I expect? I was white London boy driving cab amongst gangs who arguably the most violent in the United States. Despite all this, people tell me there’s a lot of humour in the book.
So how did I feel when I’d finished the book? Relieved. All the memories had been ghosted away. They’re still there, of course, but they don’t me anymore.
Cap’n Joe: While writing, where do you look for when searching out new words, or for advice with grammar and punctuation?
Karl Wiggins: I’m actually not bad at it myself, although I like to experiment, to break the rules if you like. I once co-authored a book for a chef. It was an unproductive relationship, but upon reflection I eventually came to understand the parallel lives of the writer and the chef.
A chef’s magic is his ingredients, how he can substitute one for another, then break with convention by changing it all around again without once referring to the recipe. And then just at the death complete the beauty by adding another element never previously thought of. Well words are the writer’s sorcery, our dark arts and our sleight of hand. They’re our enchantment and our temptation. Sometimes both the chef and the writer overindulges himself and it gets out of hand, but that’s how we like it, it’s how we’ve ghosted some of our best creations.
A real piece of writing is one in which the writer has tried to enrich not only the book, but also his understanding of the words. The words themselves have to be open to new ideas and suggestions, and the writer himself must have the audacity to attempt new things and to risk failure. Every one of the big breakthroughs in the art of literature has possibly started as what many would call a ludicrous or even laughable idea as the writer occasionally balances a routine piece with an investment in the eccentric and untried. Over time, the reward is usually worth the risk.
To produce new works he’ll use a kind of sixth sense as well as the logical process. He’ll enjoy playing with words, and that’ll help his brain to relax and produce better ideas. His study is where he discovers order and finds hidden meanings in the words. He’ll enjoy expanding the boundaries of what is feasible, and is possibly motivated more by the writing than by the hard cash that is the reward for writing.
Cap’n Joe: With the number of hours spent writing, did your family members support you or complain about the time spent away from them, or do you just shut them off?
Karl Wiggins: That’s a very interesting point, and I thank you for having the audacity to raise it. I guess my wife, Sue, has got used to me by now, but I suspect she doesn’t really approve. It must be terribly hard to live with a writer because his mind is always in two or more places at once. I make every effort to stay in the present. If anyone comes into my study when I’m writing, which they do a lot, I immediately take my glasses off, spin around in my chair and attempt to focus entirely on the conversation. My face possibly gives off the impression of full attention, but inside I’m in turmoil. I’m making every effort to focus on the conversation in front of me whilst still holding onto the thoughts in my head that I’m desperate to get down on paper.
I’ve held onto thoughts for months, possibly years, and at times it can be very stressful. There’s a book I desperately want to write, but I’ve got two more I want to finish first, one I hope to publish any day now and another that I’m having so much fun writing that I can’t wait to get back to it. So my mind’s all over the place.
I also see humorous material – which is my genre – all around me so I keep adding to my list all the time. Ha ha, I wish I could get writer’s block once in a while to give myself a break.
I mentioned above that it must be tough on a writer’s family, and that’s very true. Although I work in construction management I’m hopeless at D.I.Y. A lot of blokes at work say, “There are a few jobs the missus wants me to do over the weekend,” but Sue does most of the D.I.Y. jobs in our house, only calling on me for something that requires strength. She’s a very hard worker, a machine, but tends to tut and sigh about it a lot. You can’t really blame her, can you?
I’ve got a friend who sits on the sofa and snuggles up with her boyfriend every night to watch telly. She could never live with a writer. But saying that I don’t really think Sue understands or appreciates the mind of a writer either, even after all these years. I sometimes feel she thinks I’m wasting my time, but it’s not as if I’m down the bookies or the pub or chasing other women!
There are TV programmes we like to watch together and as I feel family time is important I’ll always come in and watch with them. So I’ll give up writing time to sit together and watch a TV show, and as soon as it starts both Sue and our son get out their I Pads and start searching out stuff on those. So once again I feel like I’m on my own in the room, and want to get back to my writing.
It’s a wretched occupation, that of the writer.
Cap’n Joe: Did writing your first book benefit you in any way and if so, how?
Karl Wiggins: Yeah! Well, not my first book, Grit, which I published Print-on-Demand, but the first book I e-published, ‘Calico Jack in your Garden.’
I’d been doing a lot of writing on Facebook and various writers’ sites, developing a small fan base. More than one person told me that whenever they saw an e-mail from me or a new Facebook posting they would go and get a cup of coffee before starting to read it, and they would then howl with laughter. I have an inappropriate sense of humour and this appeared to be appreciated by more and more readers.
I contacted a Scottish writer, Denise Marr, who I think is extremely talented, and suggested we put a book together on our observations of life. With Denise’s Scottish colloquialisms and straight talking I felt we could compliment each other very well. I suggested calling the book “Marr-mite” after Denise’s last name, indicating that people would either love us or hate us. But in the end we decided to go it alone. However, big Shoutout here for Denise Marr. Watch out for this extremely talented Scottish writer in the future.
So I went it alone, and there was one reason I was anxious to complete the project. As I mentioned earlier, I’d been co-authoring a book with a chef, but he was of the opinion that we should now start touting the book around the agents and publishers. I wanted to prove to him that we didn’t need them, we could go it alone, and that they were all dinosaurs anyway. So when I published ‘Calico Jack’ he saw the possibilities.
I was also anxious to get his book out there because I know an armed robber who is currently writing his book in jail. Well, I know his wife very well, she’s a friend, I’ve only ever met him once, and he impressed me as a really nice guy. It’s a book I know would sell, so at the time I was hoping to partner him with it. I also know a Gypsy bare-knuckle fighter and was kind of interested in writing his story.
Nothing came of any of this, and right now I haven’t the time to co-author or ghost-write anybody’s book, but I guess my motivations are always slightly different from a lot of other authors.
Cap’n Joe: So do you think your style of writing appeals to everyone?
Karl Wiggins; No way! I’m very much aware that I have an inappropriate sense of humour that isn’t to everyone’s taste, and that not everyone ‘gets’ me. But I’m alright with that, in fact I take it as a compliment because if all I write about is autumn mists and weary rocks and caramel brown rivers and turquoise waters and babies smiling and musical brooks and the eternal war of the sea and the shore and all that other great stuff then I’m not being controversial enough.
I can write in that manner, as I think I’ve demonstrated in my book ‘Words are our Sorcery,’ but for the most part if you’re looking for books that are all sweetness and light, hoping that we can all work together to make the world a better place, please give my books a miss. They’re not for you. My books are often me making every attempt to bring to life all the not-so-ordinary people that cross my path, even if most of them break my balls.
This does, however, have the affect that a lot of people smile, laugh or wet their knickers, and either way you look at it that’s got to be a success.
Cap’n Joe: Did you use friends or family members as Beta readers for your first book, if so who?
Karl Wiggins: Joking, aren’t you!
Cap’n Joe: What advice would you give to other writers?
Karl Wiggins: Enjoy it! Enjoy your writing. If you’re struggling at it and are of the belief system that you’ve got to write 1000 words a day no matter what, you’ll find yourself approaching your work with about as much enthusiasm as you carry the shopping in from the car. And trust me, the reader can tell.
Secondly, if you’ve got writers’ block then stop writing. Take six months off; spend a year at the beach, hitch-hike around the world, whatever. You’ll come back refreshed with so many thoughts and words flowing around your brain, pulsating and swimming, knocking into one another until you can finally ambush them and leak them out onto the page. This, believe it or not, is how I write.
Cap’n Joe: The self-publishing industry has received a little bad press recently. Any thoughts on that?
Karl Wiggins: Erma Bombek once famously stated, “It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else,” and it’s true.
Isn’t it funny how the perspective changes with the point of view? Take a band, for instance. If they go out and record their first album themselves, sell a few copies to their mates, try and persuade a local record store to stock the album and promote it every time they do a live gig, then everyone gives them a pat on the back, congratulates them and generally blows smoke up their arse. They’re being proactive, right? They’re not hanging around, waiting for someone to discover them. They’re putting hard-earned pound notes behind their belief in their own ability to entertain.
“Fair play to ‘em.”
And, of course, it’s the same thing when someone opens a business – a restaurant, or a clothing stall, or a record shop or scuba-diving school. It’s a different story when an author does exactly the same thing though, isn’t it? “Is it one of these self-publishing things?” people say.
Well six years ago, for the first time in history, more books were self-published than those published traditionally. The following year, 2009, 76% of all books released were self-published, and since then traditional publishing houses have continued to reduce the number of books they produce.
Two years ago the number of self-published titles in 2012 jumped to more than 391,000 in the U.S. alone, let alone in the UK and the rest of the world.
391,000 self-published books. That’s 59% more than the previous year, and 422% over 2007.
The traditional publishers and literary agents have had things their own way far too long, and the only thing that keeps them from realising they’re a dying breed is nothing but their own bloody arrogance! They’re an endangered species and they must surely be feeling it in their bones.
How dare certain people, with their egotistical, autocratic and moth-eaten sense of their own self-importance look at me sideways and ask “Is it one of these self-publishing things?”
Cap’n Joe: Any final words?
Karl Wiggins: Yes, I love to hear from readers. Please contact me. You can find me on Twitter on @HoboKarl or you can talk to me on Amazon.
And please leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. If you’ve enjoyed my writing or even if you hate it, please let me know. Feedback is vital to a writer, and Amazon reviews are so important to a struggling scribbler. I always make every effort to reply to readers who are kind enough to reach out to me and let me know their thoughts.
I cannot stress how much I enjoy contact with readers.
Cap’n Joe: Where can readers go to find your book?
Cap’n Joe: Thank you Karl for perking 🙂 up my day by sharing this awesome interview with us all. It’s been a great pleasure getting to know more about you!
Kind Regards Cap’n Joe