English American Cuckoos on the Border of England and Wales

I'm delighted to welcome the author of a delightfully English-American book to my blog for an interview today. Author Peter Maughan doesn't really live in a little village called Batch Magna, but if you read his novel you'll travel the British Isles wondering if England and Wales lie on some border just around that next bend... Go to http://www.batchmagna.com/ for a sense of the scenery awaiting you, and read the book to meet Miss Wyndham, village spinster and true crime enthusiast,  the surprisingly American squire, 9th baronet Sir Humphrey Franklin T Strange, or Humph, as he likes to be called, the Honourable Clementine Wroxley, and more...

Welcome to my blog Peter. What can you tell us about your current release?

 It's a Kindle edition called The Cuckoos of Batch Magna. It's what might be described as a feelgood book, set in the mid-1970s in a river valley in the Welsh Marches, the borderland between England and Wales. In a small village, Batch Magna, the death of the squire, the 8th baronet, leads to the title and what's left of his estate being left through the ancient law of entailment to a distant relative. And so it is that Humphrey Strange, or Humph, as he likes to be called, an amiable short-order cook from the south Bronx, finds himself most remarkable to be the 9th baronet and squire of Batch Magna. Manipulated by his Uncle Frank, a small-time Wall Street broker with his eye on the big-time, Humph finds his has plans for the old place; the entire estate is to be turned into a theme-park of rural England - a vacation paradise for free-spending millionaires. The tenants of the  dilapidated houseboats on the estate's stretch of the river are given notice to quit - and it's then that Humph's problems begin. Each faction sees the other as the cuckoo in the family nest, so led by randy pulp-crime writer Phineas Cook and Lt-Commander James Cunningham DSO, DSC and Bar, Royal Navy (ret), the motley crew run up the Union Jack and the battle ensign and prepare to engage.

It all sounds great fun, and very English to this ex-pat. I'm really looking forward to reading it. Can you tell us about the journey that led you to writing?

Well, I started out as an actor and worked also as a fringe theatre director, and as a script writer (scripts for pilot – or pitching - films for independent film companies). I had quite a few short stories and non-fiction writing on the English countryside published, and a novel  seemed to be the next logical step. And I was helped by that background – actor, director, script writer, I am all of these when writing. I write the script, see the scene through the eye, as it were, of the camera, and then act it out on paper.

That's a neat way of looking at writing. What is the hardest part for you?

Getting down on the page – I write in longhand first –  what I, the director, ‘see’. Somerset Maugham said there were three rules when it came to writing the novel – the  trouble is, that no one knows what they are. Well, as far as I am concerned, there is one rule that if not kept will leave your story on the page, when it should take on a second life: in the imagination  of your reader (because reading should also be creative; should be more than  mere intellectual comprehension of the words). And it is this: you must ‘see’ the scenes you are writing – or, to put it more actively, you must ‘watch’ them happening, as they happen (particularly necessary I think for thrillers and crime novels).

I never write longhand 'cause I can't even read my own writing. I'm guessing your theater experience must help with this. Meanwhile, do you have a musical playlist you listen to while writing? If so, what kind of music?

No. I need silence. I need to concentrate, to fully see and hear that life on the other side of the camera (‘Quiet please!’ on the set.)

I don't listen to music or silence when I'm writing. I don't listen to my guys trying to talk to me either, which they seem to find mildly frustrating. Perhaps that's one of my quirks. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I don’t think I have one. I’ve read about other writers arranging their pens or paper in a certain way before starting, and can only wonder at their evident neatness.  I write in a blitz of paper, yesterday’s work waiting to be typed up, scraps of character details, bits of dialogue, notes on future scenes, etc.    

Do you plan any subsequent books?
The Cuckoos of Batch Magna is the first in a planned series. I have two sequels finished and waiting their turn – and that particular hiatus is, in part, the reason I left my last publisher to go solo.

So, what's your latest news (book-related or not!).

Interest (and so far it is only that) shown by a UK independent film company in the novels.

Wow! Congratulations! And finally, do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Yes: thank you. And to add that I have had quite a few references in reviews and other feedback to Batch Magna being a place people have enjoyed visiting and were reluctant to leave.  I find that very satisfying, the thought that I have taken those readers out of themselves, given them, as feelgood books/films should, for that short while another  world to live in. That, as a writer, will do me.

'Twould do me too. Thank you Peter and it was great to virtually meet you.


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