Anthony Bellaleigh - what can I say about this wonderful guy and author with a fantastic imagination?
I've gotten to know Anthony a little more than many authors whose books I've read over the years and it has been an absolute pleasure.
Believe it or not, he even introduced me to a genre which I had never experienced until reading his science-fiction/fantasy thriller Firebird. I had been such a sheltered reader up to that point - living in a blissful, oblivious world where love made the world go round and mysteries were solved, with criminals being punished for their crimes.
Thunder is another book he wrote which has grabbed hold of me and will always stand out in my mind - about a character who lost everything, whose soul was scorched and, later, turned into someone new.
However, Anthony Bellaleigh is not only a fellow author; he has become a dear friend. It's wonderful having him in my corner of the world and it truly is my pleasure to introduce you to this fascinating man. I caught up with him and asked a few questions about his life as an author and his responses are stated below.
Norma: What does being an author mean to you?
Anthony: Ha! I thought you promised you’d ask me easy questions?!
My gut reaction is this: on my Wordpress hovercard, it states, “I write to amuse myself and entertain others,” and I guess this probably sums it up.
Writing provides me with an outlet for my somewhat crazy imagination and I certainly get a lot of fun out of it. Maybe it’s just some sort of very strange personal ‘therapy’? At the same time, I want my writing to be entertaining and, hopefully, uplifting for anyone who reads it. I try to make sure readers will come away from the experience feeling positively, rather than negatively, challenged.
Norma: When did you first realize that you wanted to write and publish a book? How old/young were you at the time?
Anthony: I’ve toyed with the idea since I was a child. I had several aborted attempts between school age and my late twenties and was in my early thirties when I started the project which became Firebird.
To be honest, I didn’t know whether I could write a full length novel so, at the time, I set myself three simple objectives: could I do it, would I get any fun out of it and, if I finished it, would anyone else like it? I never set myself a publishing objective...
Norma: From its inception, how long did it take you to write and publish your first book? Was the experience mostly rewarding or filled with varying levels of frustration?
Anthony: It took around ten years to complete the first draft. This was mainly due to my work and family commitments and the resulting lack of free time.
What I didn’t realise was that I would then spend another five years editing it. For instance, my style and language skills had changed enormously during the ten year writing process and the first part of the book had to be rewritten for consistency throughout.
As an aside: editing is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult things for an Independent Author to do but, in all honesty, though I was very proud of the first draft, I can’t begin to tell you how much better I feel about the current version.
Norma interrupts: I know exactly what you mean! I'm certainly glad you took the time to read, An Affair to Remember. Your insights and suggestions really made my story come alive; I can't believe how much my book has changed from the initial version. I just wanted to say thanks, once again, but go on; continue with what you were saying, please.
Anthony continues: You're welcome, Norma. As for frustration, I believe that, like any art form, you can only seriously write if you love what you’re doing, so the only memorable frustration for me was the lack of feedback and contact from the traditional publishing business.
In the end I had to pay an agency to proofread an early version of the book and give me some completely independent professional input - which I can tell you was, at the time, a very critical though, ultimately, extremely valuable experience and one that I’d recommend every serious writer to invest in.
I understand that the industry has limited resources to nurture new writing skills but it sure doesn’t make it easy for new writers to garner constructive criticism or even to get noticed in the first place.
Norma: Are you currently writing another book which you hope to publish at some point? If so, we'd love to hear more about it.
Anthony: I have another two mainstream books in development at the moment. I’ve been working on the outlines whilst I’ve been editing Firebird so they’re both very well developed. The story lines are again fairly complex and I’ve elected to focus on the slightly simpler one so that I can, hopefully, get it finished in a reasonable period of time.
Thunder is another thriller but without the sci-fi component and my aim was to wrap a very serious central theme into a nice thick layer of full throttle, page-turning, entertainment. If I got it right, it will contain a subtle, and critical, commentary on another of humanity’s more unpleasant traits. Firebird also does this; few have noticed.
The opening line of a blurb for Thunder could be: “Mine is a love story, written in blood.”
Norma: Who has been a major source of inspiration for you as a writer/author?
Anthony: Hmmmm...Just about everyone I’ve ever enjoyed reading and there have been many, many, great writers. If I had to pick one, I’d probably say Michael Crichton.
Norma: What is your ultimate dream, in terms of being a writer/author?
Anthony: It would be nice to write full-time but I know that it's probably unrealistic; it’s so very difficult, particularly for Indie Authors, to get noticed and generate sufficient sales to make writing a viable income stream.
This is why we love it so much when our readers help us spread the word about our books and, personally, I am extremely grateful for the help I’m getting from my readers around the world. Thank you so much to all of you.
Norma: What is one of your favourite quotes? It can be from a book you wrote or something you heard throughout your life. If you did not write it, please cite the source, if possible.
Anthony: “Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead!” Henry V (act 3 scene 1), William Shakespeare.
I love this monologue (which extends to the entire Scene) for its heroic encapsulation of leadership, bravery and optimism. Shakespeare furnishes his embattled King with wave after wave of inspirational hook-lines, one after the other, such that even the most timid reader (or watcher) can feel their confidence blossoming, their courage building and will end up feeling ready to face even the most dreadful adversity. If you want to see it delivered perfectly then seek out Kenneth Branagh’s outstanding film version of the play.
Norma: Tell us a little about your life. What does an average day look like?
Anthony: If I’m not on a paid work assignment, I get up early - around 6:00 a.m. - and spend the first two hours networking and doing book promo. Then I spend the morning looking for work or catching up on business paperwork since I run my own very small contracting and management consultancy business.
I commit the afternoons to creative writing - either research, drafting or editing - but I won’t force myself to write, as it only ends up getting deleted. I work until I get tired - usually between 7:00-8:00 p.m. - and then get some food and chill out in front of a DVD or play games on my Xbox. At around 10:00 p.m., I’ll retire to bed with my Kindle for a bit of bedtime reading.
If I’m on an assignment then I’ll still be up early and finish late but I have to set aside the writing and just make use of any spare time I can find to play with ideas in my head.
It’s amazing how much thinking time we can find if we don’t just throw it away; for instance when driving or commuting. I think that the best ideas are often a composite of several bad or half-baked ones so I think it’s important to spend as much time as possible generating a pool of raw ideas to tap into.
Norma: What are three of your favourite hobbies?
Anthony: Writing/Reading (I count this as one), skiing and watching Motorsport (Formula 1)
Norma's closing thoughts:
Anthony, it was wonderful getting to know you on a more personal level. I'm so glad you were able to carve time from your busy schedule to answer these few questions. I definitely look forward to reading Thunder.