Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Swan Morrison is a pen name. My real name is Brian Huggett.
I live with my wife and two cats in Hampshire, England, and I have been publishing work on the Internet and in print since 2001.
In 2000 some friends and I began an online competition called ‘the Booger Prize’. This was a monthly cash prize for humorous writing of around five hundred words. We called the genre ‘Short Humour’.
It is absolutely true that we wrote to the Booker Prize organisers in 2002 demanding that they change the name of their competition to avoid any confusion with ours. At best we were expecting a negative reply that we could publish. Almost immediately, however, they changed the name to the ‘Man Booker Prize’. We took this as an illustration of how seriously Short Humour was being taken in the world of publishing. Some people persist in believing that it was just a coincidence.
I started to write Short Humour at that time and had a page on the old site under the pen name of Swan Morrison. I continued writing when the site closed, and by 2006 I had written one hundred pieces. I created the Short Humour Site at http://www.short-humour.org.uk/ to publish these online.
A ‘Writers’ Showcase’ was created as part of the new Short Humour Site to include the work of those who had contributed material to the Booger Prize and work by new contributors.
I have now published three books of my own Short Humour – each containing one hundred stories, dialogues, poems, letters, spoof news reports, articles and songs.
These books are called:
‘A Man of Few Words’,
‘A Man of a Few More Words’,
‘A Man of Yet a Few More Words’.
The Short Humour Trilogy website can be found at: http://www.short-humour.org.uk/writersshowcase/The_Short_Humour_Trilogy.htm.
In addition to the above books, ten comic songs that were published in A Man of a Few More Words are also available in a book called ‘The Swan Morrison Songbook’.
I published my first novel, Judgement Day, in September 2014.
The Judgement Day website can be found at: http://www.short-humour.org.uk/writersshowcase/judgementday.htm.
I published the novella, Deep Black, in September 2015.
The Deep Black website can be found at: http://www.short-humour.org.uk/writersshowcase/deepblack.htm.
In addition to my own writing, I have published five other books – each of which contains Short Humour by fifty different contributors to the Short Humour Site.
These books are called:
‘People of Few Words’,
‘People of Few Words – Volume 2’,
‘People of Few Words – Volume 3’,
‘People of Few Words – Volume 4’,
‘People of Few Words – Volume 5’.
All profits from the books I write or publish are currently donated to the UK registered charity supported by the Short Humour Site, Friends of Teso (Uganda) – http://www.friends-of-teso-uganda.org.uk/.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book is a novella entitled ‘Deep Black’. The core theme appears in any number of stories although my favourite manifestation of it occurs in the 1959 film by Alfred Hitchcock called ‘North by Northwest’.
My plot is totally different from that of Hitchcock’s film, but it also explores the consequences of mistaken identity.
I also try to incorporate elements of many different genres in my books. Deep Black touches on some of the same genres as North by Northwest including comedy, espionage, romance and cold war intrigues in the context of a fast moving adventure thriller.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I always carry a diary/notebook with me and record ideas that I might use in a story.
Once I have developed my main characters, I try to let them take on their own lives. Often, therefore, I do not know exactly what is going to happen next.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
The list of my favourite writers of humour is a long one, but includes: P.G. Woodhouse, Douglas Adams, Spike Milligan, David Nobbs, Woody Allen, Terry Pratchett, Tom Sharpe, Ben Elton, Alan Pinkett and R. L.Tilley.
I would like to add a special mention for Robert Benchley and the Canadian humorist, Stephen Leacock, whose Short Humour would have been an enormous privilege to exhibit on the Short Humour Site had they still been alive to give permission. They remain something of an inspiration to me, the latter having been born in the village in which I live.
There are certain structures that appear in comedy writing that do not occur within more serious work in quite the same way. One man who understood this, and indeed invented some of the conventions used today, was William Shakespeare. On re-reading Deep Black, I was amused to identify themes that also occur in plays such as ‘Twelfth Night’.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a book called ‘Charlotte’s Lake’ which explores what might happen if some of the peculiar consequences of quantum physics in relation to sub-atomic particles applied at a macro level.
That may sound rather complicated, but the premise leads to a lot of simple comic consequences and, rather spookily, to events that seem to actually take place.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I promote my books via a number of websites. That starts with the Short Humour Site. In addition, each of my books also has its own webpage with links to sites where the books can be obtained.
I use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any sites that genuinely provide free listings.
I would not mind paying for listings, but I remain uncertain as to whether simple exposure of a book among thousands of other books significantly promotes sales.
Every time I publish a new book, the downloads of my other books increase, and I therefore assume that a fan base is gradually growing.
From my own personal experience as a reader, I think that feeling some engagement with a writer, or a book’s content, is probably what encourages people to buy. Having previously read a book by me or having had one recommended by a friend are two things that I believe are having a gradual effect – in addition to people having read stories on my website.
Starting out as a complete unknown, I have priced my eBooks as free, thus far, although downloads are now at a level that I will put a price on my next book and see what happens.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
There is more than enough advice available for new authors in terms of technique, and I do not feel that I can add to it.
One thing, however, that all writers must manage when they enter the marketplace, particularly via a conventional publishing route, is rejection.
Here are eight thoughts about having work rejected:
1 – All writers have material rejected, even the most successful. That may not be about the quality of the piece submitted but just about what editors need for their magazines at specific times.
2 – If there is a constructive response accompanying a rejection then you can learn useful things from it.
3 – Some submission processes and editorial responses demonstrate, possibly unintentional, arrogance and/or discourtesy. That is the editor’s problem, not yours.
4 – In submitting a piece of writing to any editor, you are simply offering that piece for publication. You are not seeking approval of your style, nor basing any part of your self-esteem on the outcome.
5 – A rejection of a piece of writing is just a rejection of a piece of writing and happens for all sorts of reasons. Don’t take it personally.
7 – Don’t give up.
8 – Don’t even think about giving up.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Advice that applies to me does not necessarily apply to others. A lot depends on why a person is a writer.
The best advice for me is to write what I feel inspired to write.
I write because I love it. It is rewarding if people enjoy what I produce but, at the end of the day, I write material that I want to read. I could not write to a formula or to a specific market.
If that is ultimately commercial suicide then so be it.
I am retired and have no need for income from writing. In fact, the money I make is donated to a local charity of which I am one of the trustees, and my current intent is to give away any future profits that I make from this hobby.
What are you reading now?
These days I read many more factual books than novels. Real life is more amazing and surprising, and it generates better ideas for stories, that anyone could ever invent.
At present I happen to be reading a biography of Willian Ash, the real-life prisoner of war on whom Steve McQueen’s character was based in the Great Escape.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I will not be rushing ‘Charlotte’s’ Lake’ there is lot to explore within the main premise.
I am, however, beginning to practice public storytelling of my own short stories and poems.
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?
I am not sure if the complete works of Shakespeare counts as more than one book but, in the tradition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Desert Island Discs’ I will consider it as one.
Once again, in the ‘Desert Island Discs’ tradition, I would take the Bible. I am not a Christian, I would be taking it because it is a magnificent and diverse work of literature that could provide inspiration for an infinite number of storylines.
My two final choices would be the complete works of Douglas Adams (OK, I am counting that as one book too) and Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.
In common with William Shakespeare’s comedies, Don Quixote is still fresh, brilliant and remarkably relevant to the modern day – over four hundred years after it was written. That must surely be the test of great writing.