Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Frank Prem has been a storytelling poet for forty years. When not writing or reading his poetry to an audience, he fills his time by working as a psychiatric nurse.
He has been published in magazines, zines and anthologies, in Australia and in a number of other countries, and has both performed and recorded his work as ‘spoken word’.
He and his wife live in the beautiful township of Beechworth in northeast Victoria (Australia).
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Devil In The Wind is my most recent work (may 2019). A decade ago the area I live in (Victoria, Australia) experienced horrific and catastrophic wildfires that destroyed forests and farmlands, townships and lives.
AT the time, I was living close enough to see the glow of the fires out my back door. The fires went the other way. We were saved, but others died.
For weeks I wasn’t able to stop hearing the stories of what had occurred and what people had gone through. I’m a poet, so I wrote them down.
Now, a decade later, I’ve put them into book form (e-book and paperback) as a way of honouring what happened, and of keeping the stories alive.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Well, I’m a poet and write in free-verse, so there’s two things right off the bat.
More seriously, I have developed a skill – a kind of empathy, I believe – with pictorial images and find I can ‘allow them’ to tell me a story, which becomes my poem. For instance, I am currently using photographs from World War 1 as inspiration for a series of poems/stories – human stories – that throw an experiential light on what happened in the context of the picture. hard to explain, and I’d be happy to provide you with an example to illustrate what I mean. In fact, it occurs to me that you might be happy to take a look at one of these pieces over on my poetry blog. Feel free if so. Here is a link: https://frankprem.wordpress.com/2019/05/20/la-boiselle-1-clip-clop-stay-alive/
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Short story and fantasy authors have been great influences on my writing. Short story writers like H. E. Bates and Damon Runyan (largely forgotten, now). Fantasy authors such as Tolkien, Robin Hobbs, Ursula Le Guin, to name a few.
To be able to tell a complete story in very few words has been the biggest lesson I’ve learnt from these greats, so far as my own writing technique is concerned.
What are you working on now?
Writing wise, I am developing the collection I referred to above, where I’m using pictures of WW1 battlefields, and ruins, and graveyards, and people to tell a human size story of what went on around those places and at that time.
Book wise, I am just commencing production of a further free verse poetry memoir of my involvement with psychiatry – as a child when my parents worked in a Mental Institution, to my own nurse training and on to my further experiences of psychiatry over a 40 year career.
It should be a cracker!
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I’m an amateur insofar as paid promotion of my work goes, so I can’t refer anyone that way.
I have a poetry blog to which I’ve attracted about 1,500 followers. These folk are a solid supportive core for my work.
In addition I frequent a number of Facebook writing/reading/book promoting groups that have been helpful to me.
perhaps the best, the very best help and method for me, though, has been to engage with other bloggers who are happy to promote and encourage a new author. have benefited from online author interviews (like this one), and guest blogger spots at other sites.
These folk have often been good enough to read and/or buy my work, and to provide reviews (wonderful reviews) that have absolutely helped raise the profile of my work and ultimately sales, as well.
What I have done here in my home environment is to sell a lot of books in person. I have utilized local media mercilessly to get interviews and photographs and other forms of free promotion in newspapers and radio. Successfully, I might add – 3 full page spreads in local papers, 3 on-air interviews and one dedicated half hour podcast of myself reading some of my work. Here is the podcast link, if you’d like a listen. https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/indigofmradio/episodes/2019-03-20T20_37_22-07_00
Soon, I’ll have some video of readings posted to my own YouTube channel.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
My advice is not to be in too much of a hurry to get published. It’s a little contrarian, I know, but taking the time to develop writing skills and to establish a sense of your own ‘voice’ as a writer is invaluable.
In these (Indie publishing) days, as soon a s book is in print or e-book form, the task of supporting it becomes all-consuming.
So I say: ‘Take your time, so that you know who you are as a writer before you get swallowed up by your own creation.’
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
The best advice I received was a year ago, when I was told that:
a) I could produce industry standard and quality books through my own initiative, and in my own name; and
b) Help was available and that I could afford to use and rely on it to get me to the end of the process.
Two books later, with a third on the way, I have found that to be true.
What are you reading now?
Reading for pleasure is a speculative fiction book released by an Australian author who has become an online friend in recent times. The book is titled: Miira (book 1 of Innerscape) by AC Flory and deals with a person translating into an online kind of avatar life as a way of achieving a kind of immortality as the persons actual human existence nears an end. I’m enjoying it very much, so far.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I have started writing in collections, rather than randomly, so I see myself engaging in more complex projects that are conceived a s a finished whole (ie I can see the shape of a book, rather than a handful of poems that come together when completed).
I am tempted by more complex and perhaps multi-media work.
Pictures and poetry, spoken word and audio books.
I suspect that some of the options that attract me will prove expensive (even black and white photographs in the public domain cost as much as AU$55.00 each to get high quality copies that are suitable to use in a book.
Therefore, mastering the art of grant applications and award submissions has to become part of my next stage of development.
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?
An omnibus set of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I find this series very nourishing, in a way that allows me to revisit the books and come away satisfied each time.
I would take at least one (I would prefer them all) of my collection of works by the French Philosopher Gaston Bachelard. For the sake of it, I’ll nominate Air and Dreams as the chosen volume. Bachelard examined poetics from a philosophers perspective and spoke in images that communicated themselves to me, resulting in a series of poems that I am very proud of and which came to around 800 individual pieces of work by the time it was done. These I hope to publish in book form, one day.
I would also take (as omnibus as possible) the stories that Robin Hobb has written that started out as the Farseer Trilogy but extended to many more books. These are books that I can return to and easily re-engage with the charactors easily, every time.