Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’m a wrinkly (77 in a few weeks’ time) with two bright and energetic granddaughters who have been the motivation for the 9 books I have published under the name Grandpa Mike. The little Number Magic books are aimed at educating and entertaining bright young children with a love of maths and puzzles, but the latest – Dee-Dee and Effie Learn to Sail – is much longer and uses a story to present lessons in sailing and seamanship. Having upped my game this far, I now feel fit to tackle a 50,000-word sailing adventure involving the same two girls (who resemble my to granddaughters in a few respects). That should keep me busy at least until Christmas.
The rule my wife and I followed in bringing up our own two sons, and which underlies my books for and about children is “If a child wants to try something new, don’t tell them they’re too young – show them how. They are far more likely to get seriously hurt if they try without instruction when no-one is around.”
I have published 3 other books, under my own name – two short stories and a collection of travel articles.
I have a UK passport, but I spent my pre-teen years in East Africa, which may account for my preference for having a bit of space around me – I live in rural France.
I have never been interested in ball games (probably because I was never any good at them). Sailing is my main hobby, and I have done quite a lot of cycling and ski-ing.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Dee-Dee and Effie Learn to sail is inspired by my two granddaughters, but I have not taught either of them to sail (I did teach the elder one to paddle a canoe a couple of years ago). It is set on the outskirts of Norwich (th eoriginal one, in the UK), where they live, so readers familiar with the area will recognise it.
It is also inspired by my lifelong love of sailing, and of teaching children, including a period I spent as an amateur helper to the wonderful old Frenchman who taught my two sons to sail Optimist dinghies on a reservoir southwest of Paris.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Not to my knowledge.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Martin Gardner for the maths and puzzle books, which are my attempt to produce similar material for a younger audience.
Arthur Ransome is the main influence for the book I have just started working on.
What are you working on now?
A sequel to Dee-Dee and Effie Learn to Sail. Now that they have learned the basics, I plan to send them off round the Norfolk Broads with their little dinghies, accompanied but not too closely supervised by their parents in a hired ‘boat with a lid’. Grandpa Mike will be there to add to their skills from time to time, too.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I’m still looking for a cost-effective method. So far, Facebook has been the best, and it’s getting better as I grow my circle of friends.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Remember that cartoon of the frog strangling the heron that is trying to swallow him? DON’T EVER GIVE UP.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
First check to see if there is a market for what you want to write. (If not, that doesn’t stop you from writing it, but you’d be well advised to make your name first by writing what lots of people want to read).
What are you reading now?
If you mean today, The Music Instinct, by Philip Ball. If you mean over a typical week, then a mix of fiction from Georgette Heyer to Julian Stockwin and a steady stream of popular science and mathematics books by people such as Simon Singh, Jim Al-Khalili, Philip Ball…
What’s next for you as a writer?
Longer books. Hoping to build a series of children’s boating adventure books if I can discipline myself to writing 50,000 words or what I’ve cut my teeth on so far.
Publishing paperback (and perhaps audio) versions of any new books. Dee-Dee and Effie Learn to Sail should be available in paperback by the end of May.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
Curiosity by Philip Ball, Coot Club by Arthur Ransome, a French edition of any Maigret story by Georges Simenon, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.
Author Websites and Profiles
Mike Kingdom-Hockings Amazon Profile