Q&A with Richard Dee

Andorra Pett

I am happy to say that I got to be part of the blog tour for Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe. Below I have a Q&A with the author Richard Dee, who was kind enough to answer my questions. Please keep an eye out for the upcoming review on Wednesday!

What is your favourite childhood book?

Once I learned to read, there was no stopping me. I devoured Enid Blyton, then I moved on to Narnia. I also read a lot of comics and graphic novels back in the day, it’s hard to pick a favourite, I think the Famous Five were the first to give me a love of adventure, particularly because the cast were ordinary people, thrust into unexpected things, having to use their wits to survive.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

Lord of the Rings was a game changer for me, as was Dune. They showed that if you wanted to, you could create a whole world, or even a universe, complete in every detail. Everything worked and had a basis in logic; there was never a point when you couldn’t believe that it was all possible.

What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel? Tell us about it.

That’s tricky; I have to be careful in what I say here. I’m a huge fan of self-published authors, especially the ones that few people have heard of. I champion them whenever I can, people like Helen Hollick, Alison Morton, K.Y. Eden and James Mortain. They put in as much work as any big name author and deserve as much credit. There is so much good writing just under the mainstream

Which book was the first to make you cry?

Fluke, by James Herbert. I was expecting a horror story, what I got was…, well you should read it. I would be very surprised if you were not as moved by it as I was.

What would you think are the most common traps for aspiring writers?

With the rise in self-publishing, it’s easy to think you’ve finished a masterpiece and press publish before it’s really ready. Editing is so important, and you can’t self-edit! So is a proper cover and a good layout with a sensible font.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

Perhaps you could say that it is, after all, you’re creating a world and you have the power to give life to it and your characters. You can just as easily destroy them as well but that doesn’t mean that I think I’m omnipotent. It’s an ability, like cooking or driving a lorry, you have to remember its limitations and the responsibility that comes with it.

When did you decide to become a writer?

I wrote a short story in 1979, and made it into a novel in 2013, so you could hardly say that it was a thing I rushed into. Life got in the way. When I retired, I kept having ideas and in the end, they got to the stage where I just had to start writing them down. One led to another.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I changed my surname; I thought that Richard Dee looked better on a book cover. My real name isn’t a secret, it’s just that you can hide behind the other one, to a certain extent.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

It would be very easy to jump on a bandwagon. I’d rather try to be a bit different, even if it means that it takes longer to get noticed. At the end of the day, I’d rather set the trend after next than hang on the coat-tails of the last big thing.

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I have noticed that you write both standalone books and series. Which do you enjoy writing more and why?

I never meant to write series. That came about from reader’s comments, asking for more adventures or explanations. As I started to expand my stories, they almost took on a life of their own. The characters develop and you can see what they could have done, or will do. It’s great to think that people enjoyed a book enough to want to know more, that the characters engaged with them in some way. I do enjoy starting new projects, separate from my ongoing ones. But with all the sequels, prequels and spin-offs, it’s getting harder to find the time for new stuff.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your go to advice to overcome it.

I have several projects on the go at any one time. If ideas dry up for one, I switch to another. Illness seems to empty my mind of ideas, if I get a cold I can’t write.

If you could give younger self advice about writing, what would it be?

Don’t delay, I wish I’d done more writing when I had the time. I would be so much better at it by now.

Did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I enjoyed the challenge of completing the first book so much and it opened a dam in my head. I started getting more ideas and I realised that I had to get organised to make the most of them. So it changed my habits, I carry a notebook around for plot suggestions, I listen to conversations in coffee shops and I pay more attention to the things I see.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

To be honest, I don’t plot my novels in detail before I begin writing and I don’t research until I have to! I get an idea for a plot and just start writing, creating the best setting to amplify the plot as I go. I try to make the setting another character, with its own emotions and relevance to whatever else is going on.

Research happens as I need to justify the things in the story. Everything I create is based on a known fact; I just expand or modify it to fit into the narrative.  In the case of my future universes, this means starting from a truth but blurring the point where reality and my imagination meet. In the case of my Steampunk novels; I tried to see how society could thrive without oil or electricity and where it all led.

In both cases, the results can be surprising. Once you get started on research, it’s a fascinating way to spend time. There is so much serendipity and unintended consequence in science; it’s amazing how we have got to this point. And who knows where we will end up?

Did you find it difficult to write from a female perspective in Andorra Prett and the Oort Cloud Cafe? Do you find it different from writing from a male’s perspective?

It seemed like a fun idea to try and write from a different point of view. It was a challenge and a way of stretching myself. To be honest, having a wife and three daughters helped me tremendously; parts of all of their personalities are in Andorra. They helped me see things from a female perspective.

How do you select the names of your characters?

I try and match the names up to the personalities, to give you clues as to what sort of people they might be. Having said that, you can also give good guys bad names, just to confuse matters. At the basic level, they have to be easy to remember.

Is there any part or scene you edited out of Andorra Prett and the Oort Cloud Cafe, that you wish you had included?

Andorra Pett was originally a short story, about a person who was running away from it all and went to the edge of civilisation. People suggested that I extend it into a novel. When I started expanding the short story, I had a whole load of ideas for things that Andorra could get up to. I soon realised that there were far too many adventures for one book, once again I seemed to have created a series. The sequel, Andorra Pett on Mars, is written and due to be published in April. The third book, Andorra Pett and her Sister is half written and will follow. I also have an idea for Andorra Pett takes a Break, goodness knows when I’ll get to it though.

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What was the most difficult scene for you to write?

Action scenes are tricky, you need to pare the writing down to make it all happen at speed. At the same time, you need to keep the tension and realism. You have to make sure that you keep only the important things and ditch the waffle. It’s no good if the description of a thirty-second fight lasts for twenty pages.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

There are a lot of bits of information that allude to the second and subsequent books, they will make sense when you read them. I also scatter clues and red herrings in the background, in throwaway remarks or actions. Even though I think that I know where they all are, occasionally a reader will praise me for something that I didn’t realise I had said or got a character to do. Or they will ascribe a meaning to a section that I hadn’t considered.  It’s rather strange to be complimented for one of those.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I love my readers, they may only be a small group (so far), but they are loyal and very complimentary. It’s thanks to them that I have series and their reviews that keep me going. They demand sequels and more information. One reader even has a crush on a particular character. It first I wondered if I wasn’t giving them enough, now I can see that I wasn’t giving them too much.

At the end I would very much thank you for taking the time to answer the questions and for the opportunity to review your book.

My website is www.richarddeescifi.co.uk, there are lots of freebies, extracts from all my work and a new post about writing, either mine or someone else’s, every week.

I’m on Facebook: RichardDeeAuthor

And Twitter: Richard Dee Sci-fi

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe Full Banner

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café

Meet Andorra Pett; with her trusty sidekick, she’s taken over a derelict café. On a mining station. It just happens to be orbiting Saturn!
She’s hoping for a fresh start, away from all the drama of her old life. It’s a chance to relax and start again in a place where nobody knows anything about her or her past.

But the café holds a secret, and secrets have a habit of coming out; whether you want them to or not. And being accident prone doesn’t help. The more you try to pretend that you know what’s going on, the worse it gets.
Andorra’s plans for peace and quiet get lost amid the revelations and skulduggery and she soon realises that the fate of the whole station lies in her hapless hands.
In space, you can still trip over your feet; the question is, will you land upright?

Purchase Link

Author Bio –

AP - Richard DeeA native of Brixham in Devon, Richard Dee’s family left Devon when he was in his teens and settled in Kent. Leaving school at 16 he briefly worked in a supermarket, then went to sea and travelled the world in the Merchant Navy, qualifying as a Master Mariner in 1986. Coming ashore to be with his growing family, he used his sea-going knowledge in several jobs, including Marine Insurance Surveyor and Dockmaster at Tilbury, before becoming a Port Control Officer in Sheerness and then at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich. In 1994 he was head-hunted and offered a job as a Thames Estuary Pilot. In 1999 he transferred to the Thames River Pilots, where he regularly took vessels of all sizes through the Thames Barrier and upriver as far as H.M.S. Belfast and through Tower Bridge. In all, he piloted over 3,500 vessels in a 22-year career with the Port of London Authority. Richard was offered part time working in 2010, which allowed him to return to live in Brixham, where he took up writing and blogging. He retired in 2015, when he set up and ran a successful Organic bakery, supplying local shops and cafés. The urge to write eventually overtook the urge to bake but Richard still makes bread for friends and family. Richard is married with three adult children and two grandchildren.

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Rocky Rocks and the Colourful Socks by Seniha Slowinsk

Title: Rocky Rocks and the Colourful Socks
Author: Seniha Slowinsk
Genre: Picture book, Children’s fiction
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publishing date: 1st of February 2018
ISBN: 9781912262274

Synopsis: Can you help Rocky Rocks find his socks? If you can see, you must tell me, what colour sock you can see?
I’ll give you a clue, it rhymes with bed, could it be the colour…

My Review:

Rocky Rocks and the Colourful Socks is a nifty little picture books which will teach the youngest readers about colours as you search through Rocky’s house looking for socks.
The book is written in light rhyme which makes it easy to read out loud and easy to remember. The illustrations are large and colourful, which makes them entertaining.
I would recommend this book for the youngest readers, as the text and illustrations are fun.

My Anxiety Handbook by Sue Knowles, Bridie Gallagher & Phoebe McEwe

Title: My Anxiety Handbook
Authors:Sue Knowles, Bridie Gallagher & Phoebe McEwe
Genre: Teens & YA, nonfiction
Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Publishing date: 18th of January 2018
ISBN:9781785924408

Synopsis: Helping young people with anxiety learn to recognise and manage their symptoms, this anxiety survival guide teaches 10 to 21 year olds how they can overcome their biggest worries.
Showing that anxiety is a normal human emotion that many people face, this book helps young people understand the ins and outs of their own anxiety and helps them to challenge the difficult patterns they may get into. Co-written with a college student who has experienced anxiety herself, it is a relatable and straightforward guide. As well as providing tried-and-tested advice and exercises that are proven to reduce feelings of anxiety, it includes recovery stories from young people who have managed their symptoms successfully.
With practical chapters on sleep, exam stress, transitions, and seeking extra help, this is a go-to guide for any tween, teen or young person living with anxiety.

My Review:

I think that “My Anxiety Handbook” will be a very handy book for any teenager who suffers from Anxiety. As aimed at young adults as well I think this book might be trying to cover a bit too much ground. Anxiety in young teenagers will be quite different from Anxiety in a late teens, beginning of twenties somethings.
That aside I think this book is interesting enough, that it will draw in anyone who struggles with anxiety, simply because it provides you with a tool belt to deal with your anxieties. Also, this book strongly validates that anxiety is a real thing, in a world where most people will suggest that you just need to pull yourself together. It lays out the ground work of techniques you can try on your own, in order to overcome (ar at least cope) with your anxiety.
What I call “the psychology part”-of the book, might be a bit too heavy for some younger teens, but I think that anyone who suffers from anxiety and want to do something about it will keep through.
The book also have some interesting stories from people who experience anxiety on a daily basis, and I think that this is a much-needed perspective. It can be very soothing and liberating to read that you are not the only one who suffers, because when you have anxiety it can really feel like you are suffering alone. I am saying this as someone who is a very angsty person with social anxiety, and I really enjoyed this book and reading the stories of other people.
For me, I think this book might be the best fit for someone in their mid-teens, but I would not say that someone from outside of that group shouldn’t read it.

Planet of the Orb Trees by Barton Ludwig

Title: Planet of the Orb Trees
Author: Barton Ludwig
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Publisher: Heartlab Press Inc.
Publishing date: 14th of December 2017
ISBN: 9780995044159

Synopsis:Environmental disasters have forced most of humanity to live inside Roaring Rocket Amusement Park. Everyone is happy riding broken-down rides except for Kai. When Kai spots a healthy tree inside a giant maze, he wonders if orbs from that tree can transport him to a new green planet. Kai’s friend, RJ, tries to talk him out of his dreams but Kai persists.

My Review:

I enjoyed the premise of this post apocalyptic world where a group of people have taken refuge withing an amusement park. Kai, is not convinced that he is safe at the amusement park, he want to flee the flame-ridden planet to find a safe haven. Despite his friend’s warnings he set out on a journey to get to the biggest Orb Three, because he is convinced that his escape lies in this three.
In his journey Kai learns a lot of lessons about other people and about being kind.
I did enjoy the story, but the story felt too rushed and it lacked any depth in its characters. The artwork was nice, but whoever was tasked with drawing a camel for this book does not know the different between a camel and a dromedary. Camel are two-humped, the drawing in the book is one-humped (that is a dromedary). As a children’s book I believe that things like that should be on point, because these books are supposed to not only entertain children but also educate them.
The book also had a few inconsistencies where there were talk about not having any coconuts and then suddenly the orbs were called coconuts.
Apart from that it was an okay read.

The Girl Who Said Sorry by Hayoung Yim

Title: The Girl Who Said Sorry
Author: Hayoung Yim
Illustrator: Marta M.
Genre: Children’s Fiction , Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Self-published
Publishing date: 5th of October 2017
ISBN: 9780993717482

Synopsis: Too girly or too boyish. Too thin or too fat. Too quiet, too loud. Be ambitious, but don’t hurt feelings. Be inquisitive, but don’t interrupt. Be outspoken, but don’t be bossy. Most of all, be yourself — but be a lady. What’s a girl to do in a world filled with contradicting gender expectations, aside from saying sorry?

My Review:

The Girl Who Said Sorry is a short and easy read, this is a book intended for 4 – 8 year olds. It does serve a good narrative for all the things that girls are told to do but not to do from an early age on. This is a picture book, and the illustrations are simplistic and colours are used sparingly. I think the design goes very well with the books theme.
This book does cover a topic in great need for coverage, and I think it that this book could definitely help both child and parent. This book could potentially help a little girl to get on the path of discovering herself.

The Awakened Dreamer by Kala Ambrose

Title: The Awakened Dreamer
Author: Kala Ambrose
Genre: Nonfiction, Religion & Spirituality
Publisher: Llewellyn Publications
Publishing date: 8th of December 2017
ISBN: 9780738753119

Synopsis: Your dreams can be an important part of your decision-making, relationships, and problem solving—if you know how to properly use them. The Awakened Dreamer shows you how to remember your nightly dreams, interpret what they are telling you, and use daydreams to manifest your desires into reality.
Kala Ambrose helps you combine daydreams with powerful visualizations that can be channeled into your nightly dreams, strengthening the connection between your conscious and unconscious self. Learn how to use your mind, body, spirit connection to achieve your goals and discover valuable insight on different kinds of dreams, including recurring, teaching, visitation, and lucid dreaming.

My Review:

To start off I want to say that Llewellyn is my go to publisher when it comes to alternative books and spirituality, and The Awakened Dreamer did not disappoint.
This book can easily be used as a tool to understand your dream and even  help you remember your dream (because you dream every night regardless if you remember your dreams or not). The book is easy to read and provides clear instructions for how to dream and how to interpreter your dreams. The author manged create this book and instructions while coming across of genuine and down to earth, without seeming pompous.
I would recommend this book for anyone who wish to gain insight into understanding their dreams.

Kid Authors

Title: Kid Authors; True Tales of Childhood from Great Writers
Author: David Stabler
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction & Middle Grade
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publishing date: 10th of October 2017
ISBN: 9781594749872

Synopsis: The series that includes Kid Presidents, Kid Artists, and Kid Athletes now chronicles the lives of Kid Authors!
Here are true tales of famous writers, from long before they were famous—or even old enough to drive. Did you know:
• Sam Clemens (aka Mark Twain) loved to skip school and make mischief, with his best friend Tom, of course!
• A young J. R. R. Tolkien was bitten by a huge tarantula—or as he called it, “a spider as big as a dragon.”
• Toddler Zora Neale Hurston took her first steps when a wild hog entered her house and started chasing her!

My Review:

Kid Authors tells the stories of some great authors’ upbringing and how their childhood came to shape their fiction. The stories are made simple and straight forward making them easy to read and enjoy. J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, Edgar Allan Poe, Ronald Dahl, and Judy Blum are just some of the authors you get to drive into the childhood of. The red band that binds the stories together are how all these people had to face challenges, like childhood bullies, being orphaned or huge spiders, and the story shows how they still persevered. The stories are accompanied with simplistic illustrations illustrating events in each authors’ story. I found Kid Authors very entertaining even though it is intended for children, and I think may avid reads would enjoy to read this book in order to hear about the childhood of their favorite authors.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Magical Realism
Publisher: William Morrow Books
Publishing date: 18th of June 2013
ISBN: 9780062255655
Purchase Link:

Synopsis:Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl

My Review:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane has been advertised as Neil Gaiman’s first book for adults since Anansi Boys. Reviewing a Gaiman book is always hard, because of the nature of his stories and how they might be intended for adults or children but their themes are so universal that they cannot be locked into either.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane was written for adults, but because we see the whole story though the retrospective eyes of a 7-year-old boy much of it reads like a children book. The story touches on human mortality and centralises the innocence of childhood where everything is magical and new. The story starts off slow, but the Gaiman stated that it starts off slow to deter young readers before things get to the grotesque parts.

The story sucked me in from page one, the nostalgic overtone of the story kept me interested and kept me reading. Following the story and feeling with the horror of childhood fears. As all Gaiman’s books “the Ocean at the End of the Lane” is instantly quotable, where Gaiman picks at the truth and reality of the human condition and mortality.

“I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this story for beginning to end, even though it was a very short story. The characters felt real and I was sympathetic to the main character, and the ending came together in a beautiful bittersweet knot.

“And did I pass?”
The face of the old woman on my right was unreadable in the gathering dusk. On my left the younger woman said, “You don’t pass or fail at a being a person, dear.”

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

Title:The Travelling Cat Chronicles
Author: Hiro Arikawa
Genre: General Fiction, Literary Fiction
Publisher:Random House UK; Transworld Publishers; Doubleday
Publishing date: 2nd of November 2017
ISBN: 9780857524195

Synopsis:It’s not the journey that counts, but who’s at your side.
Nana is on a road trip, but he is not sure where he is going. All that matters is that he can sit beside his beloved owner Satoru in the front seat of his silver van. Satoru is keen to visit three old friends from his youth, though Nana doesn’t know why and Satoru won’t say.
Set against the backdrop of Japan’s changing seasons and narrated with a rare gentleness and striking humour, Nana’s story explores the wonder and thrill of life’s unexpected detours. It is about the value of friendship and solitude, and knowing when to give and when to take. TRAVELLING CAT has already demonstrated its power to move thousands of readers with a message of kindness and truth. It slows, above all, how acts of love, both great and small, can transform our lives.

This is a very delayed review, because it took me longer to finish this book than I anticipated.

My Review:

The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a charming and heartbreaking story about a cat and his owner traveling across Japan trying to find a new home for the cat. The story starts out, innocently, with the tomcat’s point of view, from before he knew his future owner Satoru, before the cat’s got a name.
Being a catlover this book sucked me right in from the very start. Nana (the cat) portrays a good picture of a cat, he is very much like the sarcastic and sassy way most cats will be described by their owners. And the voice of a feline is very much alive and personified in Nana.
As the story goes on Nana warms up and we learn more about Satoru and his past. The bond between Satoru and Nana grows with each chapter. While reading I did not want this book to end, I did not want to get to the final chapter and I had to take breaks from reading (Hence why this review is over a week later than I planned).
The end is inevitable, unless I quit reading the book, and it is heartbreaking. In order to avoid spoilers I will not discuss the ending of this book. However, I will warmly recommend this book to any catlover and anyone who enjoys Japanese literature, because this book hits home in both departments. From the first page, like with Murakami, you know you are reading a book translated from Japanese: it is just how the story is narrated, the way everything is described and the attention to vivid details that pops out at you. And going with a sarcastic, sassy and a little stoic cat, you can never go wrong.

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung

cover120802-mediumTitle: Quiet Girl in a Noisy World
Author: Debbie Tung
Genre: Graphic Novels
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publishing date: 7th of November 2017
ISBN: 9781449486068
Purchase Link: amazon.co.uk

Synopsis: This illustrated gift book of short comics illuminates author Debbie Tung’s experience as an introvert in an extrovert’s world. Presented in a loose narrative style that can be read front to back or dipped into at one’s leisure, the book spans three years of Debbie’s life, from the end of college to the present day. In these early years of adulthood, Debbie slowly but finally discovers there is a name for her lifelong need to be alone: she’s an introvert.

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My Review:

As an introvert this book was very appealing to me. It was a bit grueling going through the first pages hoping the author and illustrator would perfectly capture the essence of introversion. Page after page she hit introversion on the spot and conveyed her autobiographical story in a way that made me both smile, laugh and cringe, because I could absolutely understand where she was coming from.
Even though some of the quick comics were a little exaggerated, I believe that Debbie Tung managed to show the life of an introvert and the challenges introversion pushes upon introverts.

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The illustrations are simplistic and grey scale which adds to a nostalgic feeling where we follow Debbie Tung from childhood to adulthood, from a miserable working to an artistic success.

The story she illustrates shows how society highly prefers extroverts over introverts, and how introverts need to early create survival mechanisms, because the introverted steel focus or researcher mastermind is not appreciated before we are far into adulthood.

The book visualizes the need both extroverts and introverts, and how these two conflicting personality types can work perfectly together by showing each other mutual respect and understanding.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from finish to end.