Q: Why did I write Rhamin?
“I became interested in wolves when I was 6.
When I was about six years old, my mother and father received a visit from a cousin whose grand parents had emigrated from England to Minnesota in the USA. My father had gone out to do some jobs on his farm and whilst my mother prepared a meal, to keep me entertained the visitor told me a tale about a wolf that had stolen a dog puppy and about how that puppy when grown up had been seen a year or more later running with a small pack of wolves. I have no idea if the story was true. I never saw him again after that visit, and no one in my family were ever able to recall much about him except for who his grandparents were. But his story had been so vividly told that it remained fixed firmly in my young mind and over the years it became expanded and embroidered in daydreams and fantasies. That’s where Rhamin was born.
At school I was continually reprimanded for day-dreaming and even now, when I see interesting people or animals, I have a tendency, in my mind, to see them in a different context.
I also disliked the way wolves are, more often than not, depicted as bad and evil animals. Wolves rarely attack humans and cases of fatalities from wolf attacks are rarer still. See my Author’s Note.
But I think the final thing that made me set pen to paper was that I wanted to tell the story of the dog puppy being stolen by wolves and when my son got a Rottweiler, and she turned out to be a big dog with a poodle’s brain, then I just couldn’t stop myself. It’s as if I was destined to wait till he got Lexa. She is a big dog but her size is exaggerated a little in the book, of course.”
Q How long did it take to write?
“In November 2006 I began writing my stories in novel form with a view to seriously trying to get them published. I wrote the novel Rhamin as two separate stories originally. They were already formed in my mind and each one took about three weeks to write. But then I combined them into one story, First Contact and No More the Fool. They are the two parts of the complete novel Rhamin.
I wrote and rewrote the story again about twenty times after that. That took many months.”
Q: Did you send the story off to many publishers?
“I sent the manuscript of the novel to about every publisher I could think of. I got some good responses from a few but no offers to publish. I had so many rejection slips I seriously considered giving up trying but my wife kept saying I should not give up, so I started sending the manuscript out to agents. Again, a few were encouraging but none offered to take the novel onto their books. One agent out of them all gave me some advice and said they would be interested in representing me if the story was condensed, so once again I re-wrote the story cutting it down in size and completely re-writing each chapter. That took a year or so and my wife read the story aloud time after time while I re-edited each and every sentence. However, when I re-submitted the novel to that agent I could not get any response, not even a rejection letter. But I was glad of their help at the time. Rhamin is better for it.”
Q:When did the offer to publish come from Thomas Hamilton?
“Thomas Hamilton & Co. liked Rhamin from the start. They were the 34th publisher I contacted. That was in 2009. I’ve had a lot of help getting the book just right. I’m glad that their faith in me has paid off.”
Q: You took a law degree?
“Yes at Leeds University.
I always wanted to be a lawyer, but in my final year I realized that the legal system was for either very rich people or very poor people. Those in between did not get justice if they could not afford to go to law. There is a winner and a loser. In either case, the lawyer is always a winner, but, win or lose, the client does not always get justice, but rest assured, they will get a hefty bill.”
Q: Were other things about the legal system you didn’t like.
“Don’t get me started.”
Q: So what did you do when you left university?
“I went into computers. After that, I became a farmer.”
Q: You became a farmer?!
“Yes, I bought my first farm when I was 22, but also continued working in computers for another 4 years, when I left my job and bought a milk round. I did that for three years before buying a bigger farm in South Wales at the age of 29.”
Q: Have you written any other books?
“Yes, in 1987 I published a maths book for children with difficulties learning mathematics. The books are still advertised on Amazon though it has been out of print for some time now. It was called Making Maths Easy For All Students.
Thomas Hamilton & Co. has just released my next novel Lucy Lockhart. It has a sequel to follow called The Wall of Silence. Rhamin also has a sequel that is being edited at the moment called Blue Tooth.”
Q: Are all your books children’s stories?
“They were all written as children’s stories but the publisher has marketed them for both children and adults. They are what are called ‘Crossover’. Up to now, more people are buying Rhamin from the adults section where it has been displayed in both sections of the book shops.”
Q: Have you written any adult stories?
“I have done an outline of a story about wolves that is likely to only be in the adult category. I have yet to see what it turns out like because each story I have written evolves as I am writing it.”
Q: In your book, wolves are captured and put in a safari park. Do you dislike safari parks?
“No, not at all. I love the safari parks I have visited. But I have visited some appalling and unpleasant zoos.
The safari park in Rhamin is only one part of the story.
Rhamin is fiction, but in true life you get bad people and bad animals. Rhamin is about just that. Good and bad wolves and good and bad people. Without giving too much of the story away, in Rhamin, the man with the safari park is a bad man. A wolf saves his life and he repays it by capturing it and putting it in a prison camp. It’s a question of morals, of greed of a man who puts profit above his debt of honour. Some debts cannot be paid in money.
Overall, Rhamin is a story about honour, friendship and loyalty on the one side and dishonour, greed and duplicity on the other, both in the wolf society and in human society. There are men and women of honour and I believe there are animals just the same. I think that animals have a propensity to be honourable more so than humans really.
Many of the fables are about honour, like the Lion and the Mouse.”
Q: So you think safari parks are prison camps?
“First of all let me tell you an ancient fable about The Dog and the Wolf.
A wolf had had no luck for several days, catching nothing to eat despite expending every effort. It was going home despondently when it met a big hunting dog that was on its way home and was clearly well fed and in no way hungry. The dog was obviously having a better life than he was, so he enquired what the dog did to be so well fed.
‘I do very little,’ the dog said. ‘I just guard the house and drive away beggars and thieves. I show affection towards my master and I remain submissive to the rest of my master’s family and in return I get all my food prepared, and I get a warm place to sleep. That’s about it really.’
The wolf thought about this. He risked his life every day, he had to go out to hunt whatever the weather, often when it was raining or freezing, and he was never sure when he would eat next. He decided he would adopt the same lifestyle as the hunting dog and walked along with him for a while. As they walked, the wolf noticed a mark on the dog’s neck where its fur was rubbed away.
‘What’s that mark on your neck?’ he asked the dog.
‘Oh that. It’s nothing really. It’s just where my collar rubs when I am chained up.’
The wolf stopped and thought for a moment. ‘You mean you are not free to go where you please?
‘No, not always. But what does that matter?’
‘It matters a lot,’ said the wolf as he turned and loped away.
In some places, including Britain, safari parks enable us to see wolves and other animals as near to the wild as we can. It’s a compromise. Zoos and safari parks are not like reservations or open, unaffected countryside. In the wild, animals live their lives their way. In zoos and safari parks the animals wait for the food to be brought to them. They never hunt. They never know what the feeling is like to have adrenaline running through their whole bodies, to plot and to chase and to actually catch their meal, or to celebrate together after obtaining it. In enclosures, even the pelicans, the penguins, the dolphins and the seals have dead fish fed to them.
However, my novel Rhamin is about free wild wolves anywhere in the world. I have nothing against animals bred in captivity, or those moved to save them from depletion if they are an endangered species (as many of the animals are in safari parks). Wolves became endangered because of mankind and their intolerance. There are none left in the British Isles and they were almost wiped out in Europe and North America because of cockeyed legislation. It is only recent legislation that has stopped the hunting of wolves and even now they are still being needlessly killed.”
Q: In the novel Rhamin, there is a dissident wolf called Solin. Does Solin project some kind of moral in the story?
“Just like in human life there are dissidents, traitors and insurgents in animal society. Some want to leave the pack. Some want to take over and challenge for leadership. Like us, animals fight over territory, they fight over leadership, and they fight over the ones they want as mates. Not a lot of difference there then.”
Q: Do you think Rhamin is a controversial book?
“I like to think that it opens up a debate for readers to weight their own thoughts about life in general. As I have said, Rhamin is a book about honour, friendship, and loyalty (and disloyalty) on the one hand and dishonour, treachery, greed, and duplicity on the other. As we go through life we see all these traits in people’s characters.
Obviously, in the story the wolves are anthropomorphic. **”
Q: Are the characters in Rhamin based on people you know?
“My eldest sister was over sixteen years older than me and was already at work when I was born, so I never grew up to play with her like I did with my other sister who was seven years older than me or my brother who was two years older than me. My elder sister was more like a stand-in mum. However, she had a big effect on my life in many ways, in particular when I failed my eleven plus and she persuaded my mother and father to send me to a little private school. Or was it a small public school? I never did work that one out. (I wasn’t aware that she was the one who had persuaded my parents at the time of course. I found out many years later). Anyway, it was there that I met a teacher who said something to me. I don’t know why he said it or even why he said it to me. He said ‘You are part of everyone you meet.’ And that has stayed with me all my life. Everybody has some effect on you even if you don’t really notice it. If they are people you like then you absorb some of the things you admire about them, however miniscule the effect. When it is someone you dislike then your reaction is the effect of meeting them. It could have an explanation in some deep mathematical equation concerning action and reaction, or perhaps the answer lies in the Schrödinger theory in quantum physics; or perhaps it is all to do with pheromones. But whatever the explanation, people you meet can have a greater effect on you than you could possibly imagine.
So to answer your question, I think that whoever we conjure up in our minds for a story, good or bad, we base them on people we know or have met or have seen. Often characters are a combination of people, not just one.
Raymond Rozalski is, to some extent, based on my father (who happened to be called Raymond). Ben is based loosely on my son, (and possibly myself as a child) and his fearlessness in the story comes from one of my daughters. His and Margos’s psychic gifts are based on my other daughter and on my wife and possibly on other members of my wife’s family. So my characters are a kaleidoscope of different personalities.
Lexa is based on… well, Lexa of course! No surprises there.”
Q: Who are your favourite authors?
“Favourite authors have written some of my favourite books. Not all their books are my favourites.
Charles Dickens – about half his books. I love his style.
Sir H. Rider Haggard, – King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quartermain
A.A. Milne – Winnie the Pooh
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit
John LeCarre: The Night Manager, The Spy who Came in from the Cold..etc
Michael Crichton – all his books.”
Q: What were your favourite books when you were younger?
“Although didn’t start school until I was five years old, I could read by the time five. My brother, who is two years older than me, used to lie in bed with me in the mornings, going over all the things he had learned in school the previous day. However, I was a late reader of books. But once I got going I gained momentum rapidly.
I can remember reading King Solomon’s Mines by Sir H. Rider Haggard at least three times when I was twelve. I had read all the Agatha Christie novels and all the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novels including The Lost World by the time I was thirteen or fourteen and I read every western I could lay my hands on. I was a member of the local library at Ovenden near Halifax and I borrowed three or four books a week. Half of them were non-fiction.”
Q: What non-fiction books did you read?
“I read books on everything from Astronomy and Architecture to Physics, Taxidermy and Zoology. There were very few subjects on which I didn’t read a book at some time or other. I just worked my way through the shelves.”
Q: Who are your favourite actors? What are your favourite films?
“There are new actors and actresses coming on the scene all the time.
The old long time favourites are:
Arnie: Terminator, Total Recall and Twins
Ian McKellan: Lord of the Rings. I’m looking forward to The Hobbit.
Lawrence Olivier: Richard the Third
Sandra Bullock: While You Were Sleeping; and lots more
Anthony Andrews: The Scarlet Pimpernel
Anthony Hopkins: Most of his films
Alec Guinness: Kind Hearts and Coronets; The Ladykillers; Smileys People
Sean Connery: His later films
Charles Laughton: Hobson’s Choice.
John Mills: Hobson’s Choice, Mr Polly and lots more
Margaret Rutherford: Lots of films including Miss Marple
The new actors on the scene include:
Sharlto Copley: District 9
And many more I haven’t caught the names of yet.
Like my favourite writers, the list is endless really.”
Q: What do you do in your free time? Do you have hobbies?
“I read, of course. Not as many books as I would like. I write. I research. And I spend time with my children and grandchildren.”
** Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics to, or, recognition of human characteristics in non-human creatures and beings, phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts. Examples include animals and plants, and forces of nature such as winds, rain or the sun depicted as creatures with human attributes such as motivation, ability to reason and the power to converse. The word is derived from the Greek ‘anthropos’, meaning, ‘human’ and ‘morphe’, meaning ‘shape’ or ‘form’.