Please introduce yourself.
Hi my name is Merlin Fraser, Scottish born but brought up in the Cotswold Hills of Gloucestershire before leaving to join the Royal Navy in 1963.
After the Navy, I joined the new UK oil industry that was starting to blossom in the North Sea and at last I found his true niche in life. Then as now, I enjoyed solving puzzles and challenges and found the oil business supplied both in abundance. Never a great lover of routine, I turned this skill of solving problems into a vocation that was to last for the next 30 years.
Writing is my third career and one where instead of solving puzzles I get to create them for my story characters and hopefully my readers.
When did you start writing?
Probably more years than I care to admit to but in truth I have always been a bit of a scribbler, I tried my hand at creating a Ships Newspaper but with only a manual typewriter and a hand cranked Gestetner printing machine to hand, that and being the sole member of staff to boot it was doomed.
Serious writing only started after 9/11 and the collapse of my oil industry career, not that I knew it was over at the time, but sitting watching children’s TV in the afternoons is a great motivator to get off your butt and try something new.
What motivates you to write?
Waking up in the middle of the night with a story idea that won’t quit, but also the notion that if I don’t act upon the idea immediately the thought will evaporate like the other dreams of the night. Of course, I am also a great people watcher and sometimes the things I see and hear create new characters that get stored away until needed. In addition, I am a undisciplined ‘Google’ wanderer, I may start doing some serious research but after a few key strokes, I am usually off track and visiting new places. However, it has to be said that such random wandering led me to the Pagan and paranormal worlds that fascinate me.
What genre do you write in and what made you chose this particular genre?
Tough question, I have had most success with my Inner Space Police Detective Nick Burton Murder Mystery stories, but this was not my first attempt at genre selection. Earlier I said I had spent, or wasted time watching Children’s TV in the afternoons, this led to the thought ‘what utter tosh this is’ and the thought that I could do better. Yeah right! Writing for the screen is not like writing a story, for a start you need to know what you are doing and I didn’t. However, by this time the story was in my head, so I started to write it down instead. Genre wise it crossed too many boundaries for an agent to promote to potential publishers, it was a sort of romantic, magical, fantasy, a bit like Harriet Potter meets the Walton’s if you can work that out. Anyway, it lays gathering dust on a memory stick somewhere. In addition, of course, there is also my sortie into stories for children with my creation of ‘Dust Bunny’ characters who take a young human girl into their world, something else that totally failed to capture anyone’s imagination. Finally, I have ventured into the ‘Non Fiction’ world of local history, limited interest but important to me.
What is your goal in writing? Do you have dreams where your writing should take you?
All writers have dreams, at least when we start out; we are all going to be the next Mark Twain or Earnest Hemingway, and perhaps in the days before Amazon and the internet who knows ? Trouble these days is that anyone with a keyboard and a link to the internet can flood the marketplace. There is now just so much available online that it is almost impossible for anybody unknown to shine through, no matter how brilliant his or her work might be. Not sure, I had any dreams other than perhaps the usual ones of ‘Fame and Fortune’, although I would prefer fortune to fame, retirement is an expensive business, but a little bit of fame might not hurt.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if yes, how do you deal with it?
I think all writers hit that wall at some time in their projects, I know I do. Sometimes, especially in fiction where you are trying to confound or misdirect the reader you can be too clever and write yourself into a corner. Life is another constant distraction and can play havoc with creative juices. When it happens to me I have found that the simple answer is to walk away, trying to force things just makes it worse. Do or start something else, I created the Dust Bunnies during a dark moment of total plot block in the second Nick Burton story, I didn’t go back to that story for four months. I then reread everything from my plot line, character creation notes, and the first six chapters then slept on it. At four thirty the following morning I switched the computer on, cut out two whole chapters and started from there. In the night, my brain had come up with an ending that I eventually reached eighteen chapters later. I guess what I’m saying is never give in to writer’s block, there is usually a logical reason it happens.
What advice would you like to give new, hopeful authors?
Another tough question, but an important one nonetheless. Practice your art, write for fun, start with Blogs and see if you can gain a following, which happens if you are amusing or entertaining your audience. Don’t expect miracles, remember we are all minnows in a vast ocean and if you cannot take disappointment and rejection in your stride find another hobby.
Please, tell us about your work.
When I started writing and trying to break into that world the publishing industry was in turmoil. No one took new writers seriously; especially the mainline Book Publishers, they and literary agents were all looking for sure things. Things like ‘Celebrity Kiss and Tell Cookery Books’. Of course, at the same time Amazon was establishing themselves as the new road to market and the world of the 99¢ ‘Self-Publishing’ exploded onto the online market.
I could not have picked a worse time to start out. I tried the conventional way to market before I too turned to Self-Publishing. I probably made every mistake possible, even falling foul of the Sharks in the ‘Vanity Press’ scam. (Be careful they are still around, no one who asks for money to publish your book is your friend). Yet in spite of all the expensive errors, I finally got myself into print with my Inner Space Murder Mystery series. However once there you cannot rest on your laurels you have to push, push, and push all the time. The minute you stop, you slip down and disappear. Of course, in the wonderful digital world, there are always ways of reinventing yourself and every now and then, you come across someone genuine to help you.
In my case it was a couple of guys who took an interest in my Inner Space stories and suggested that they could turn them into Audio Books. I just about bit their hands off. It has been hard work bringing that to fruition, they had one or two ideas on how to improve the story, something no writer ever wants to hear, but they were right and between us, we revamped and revised without destroying my original story or plotline. The first book is complete and to compliment the Audio version I have renamed and released a new print version with a new cover.
Thank you for being my guest. It was such a pleasure to have you here!!
Connect with Merlin:
Links to the new “Inner Space” books: