Lord David Prosser, affectionately known as Lord Daud, is the author of three superb and deliciously funny books set in Barsetshire and I discovered that he is as witty in person as he is in the books.
Wanting to get to know the man behind the books I asked him a number of -cough- insightful -cough- questions. I can’t honestly remember what the first one was but it must have included the term ‘rofl’ because this is what he said :
Lord Daud: “Yes, I’ve met ROFL and a few of it’s cousins, though
it took me a long time to twig that LOL wasn’t Lots of Love.”
ACF: You’ve just answered a question I hadn’t even thought to ask! Clearly your computer knowledge extends well beyond spam but how did you learn gaming terms??
Lord Daud: “I think these terms have gone well beyond gaming now and entered every day life. During a conversation with a Facebook friend he introduced me to the first few of these including ROFL and one or two others. As I asked about the first one he’d come up with another and suggest I tried to translate it. FOCROFLMAO was a late attempt of his and I decided to stop after I’d guessed Fell Off Chair..”
ACF: lol – I had to look that one up myself! While we’re on the subject of computers I’d love to know where the inspiration for the spam responses came from? They made me laugh almost as much as Oscar!
Lord Daud: “I was getting almost daily emails from a psychic telling me she had my lucky numbers and special dates ready as soon as I’d paid my fee. I suggested if she was so confident of her abilities that maybe she could trust me with them up front and I’d forward the fee out of my winnings. For some reason the messages stopped soon after. Like most people I seem to get a lot of unwanted spam and decided humour was the best way to deal with it since frustration got me nowhere.”
ACF: From inspiration to craftsmanship. You seem to write as effortlessly as someone who has been writing all his life. How did you learn your craft and what advice would you give to those of us still asking, ‘are we there yet?’
Lord Daud: “Well, apart from the first four or five formative years I have been writing all my life. Starting quite early with’ Please excuse me for forgetting to include £5.00 in this letter for you but I’d already sealed the envelope before I remembered’.”
“In all honesty I probably went through the same stages as everyone else. Hideous poems when a lovesick youth, to writing references for people I hardly knew, for jobs they couldn’t possibly do, without offending them.”
“I loved my English lessons at school as the teacher (Chalky White) could be relied upon to tell ghost stories if we could get him in the right mood.”
“When I retired I had a bit of fun when someone asked me about my day and I responded as a diary entry. The rest is History…well English really. I doubt you can say I learned writing as a craft but I’ve always been a keen observer of people.”
“The best advice I can give anyone is to persevere. I honestly do think we all have a story though some are better able to tell it than others. Speak to someone you trust about the idea you have, if they agree it would make a good story set yourself the task of writing one chapter. Know in advance where the chapter is going and then just make the journey getting there as pleasant as possible for a reader.”
ACF: I’ve read two of your books – My Barsetshire Diary and The Queen’s Envoy – and they were more than pleasant but I believe you have a third book as well? Can you tell me a little about it?
Lord Daud: “More Barsetshire Diary is an attempt to fool the reading public into believing I know what I’m doing. The first book left me hanging in the air with a promise made by Lady J that I would assist the Dreaded Edna with her campaign to become a Local Councillor. I decided readers of Book 1 might like to know what steps we took in trying to achieve that and whether Edna could be made ‘marketable’. Also thanks to Lady J’s generosity I am stuck with fundraising to save the childhood home of another formidable woman, Diana The Dowager Duchess of Cheam.”
“I was lucky enough to enlist the services of a fine young illustrator to create cartoons for this book to try and make it easy to envision some of the situations that occur in the various chapters. Since the illustrations include some of me, I advise those readers with a delicate disposition to look away now.”
ACF: -grins- Ahem. Getting back to the nitty gritty of writing for a moment, I’d like to ask a rather serious question. You seemed to shrug off the craft as ‘just English’ but I think we both know that there is a lot of poor English out there, both spoken and written. Where do you stand on the ‘creative writing class’ vs ‘just read, read, read’ debate?
Lord Daud: “And I thought we were friends! You are of course right. There is a lot of poor English out there since educational standards are dropping in my eyes. ( Not that I have educational standards in my eyes…). Gone are the days when Grammar Schools brought out the best in those pupils more inclined towards schoolwork while secondary schools perhaps helped those who were more gifted in crafts (woodwork. metalwork etc. not basketweaving).”
“I think since pupils were lumped together it’s brought the standard of education down a notch and the three R’s just aren’t given the same emphasis anymore. It’s almost Dickensian that a child can leave school unable to read properly and unable to do all but the simplest mental arithmetic.”
“So, dragging myself back to your point. I think read, read, read is probably the best way forward in not only leaving school with a glimmer of education but also with an active imagination. I can’t talk of the benefits of a Creative Writing Class as I’ve never attended one. No doubt it would help teach someone the craft of putting a story in order but I don’t think it would help generate the ideas that reading does. These days youngsters rely on someone else’s imagination by playing games on the computer. We’ll probably find that most of the writers out there probably spent more time using their own imagination as a child and were avid readers themselves.”
ACF: I’m in the read, read, read camp as well and have glasses to prove it. I can’t move on without asking what books /you/ like to read.
Lord Daud: “Books I like include Sci fantasy like Anne McCaffery, I read anything by Dick Francis, John Grissham, (Sir)Terry Pratchett, Harlan Coben, Sue Grafton and lately George R.R.Martin.”
ACF: You’ve just listed some of my favourite authors! As a kindred spirit [and a veteran of three indie books] I’d like to pick your brains on the question of publishing. Many writers, myself included, face a dilemma when it comes to publishing because we would like to have the imprint of a traditional publisher but recognize that it makes more sense to self-publish. I know you chose to take the indie path. Would you mind telling me what influenced your decision?
Lord Daud: “Like you I think most of us would like a traditional publisher however I had no luck with agents in the 6 weeks I gave myself and decided to go Indie because I’m impatient.”
ACF: What about the marketing aspect?
Lord Daud: “These days few publishing houses do the promotion they once did and so it’s left up to you to do as much as possible on the net, personal appearances and signings and through press interviews. If you’re happy to do that then maybe Indie is the way to go and save the money.”
ACF: Once you did decide to go indie, how did you find the self-publishing process itself?
Lord Daud: “I started off with Createspace but didn’t like the fact they paid royalties by cheque and it cost me for the bank to convert it. I went to Lulu for the other two books because they pay into a paypal account making life easy. I also found that Lulu.com are good for printing as they do print in various Countries while Createspace (the Amazon arm) only print in the US and postage for you and your customers can be steep. You’ll also need to check if Australia has a tax agreement with the US and apply for exemption if so or you’ll pay US tax on all royalties. The tax exempt forms can be downloaded online from the US Tax office and I’m pretty sure there’s a list there that informs which countries have an agreement with the US for exempt status.I still haven’t sorted my tax exempt status as I refuse to send my passport in the post.”
ACF: Hmmm…definitely food for thought there; taxation is not something that’s ever come up in any of the forums I visit so it’s not something I’ve ever had to think about until now… and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. Thank you. Information like this is invaluable to all of us.
And now to the future. Will you be taking us back to Barsetshire with a fourth book? I hope the answer is yes because The Barsetshire Collection has a nice ring to it. And then there’s Oscar…;) He’s become something of a pin-up in this house!
Lord Daud: “Before my wife became ill I had just started the fourth book which is a continuation of my adventures as the Queen’s Envoy, the Official Secrets Act having now released some more information I could share. Unfortunately that’s now been put on hold as the need to write has disappeared. Perhaps I’ll get back to it some day since Julia is certainly prompting me to do so and Oscar wants to return from his enforced holiday and get back to .”
ACF: I’ve only ever been on a horse once in my life and Jim [the horse] spent the whole time standing in one place, cropping the grass, so the only trait I share with Lady J is a love of coffee and lots of it. Nonetheless I feel a kinship with her and hope that you will continue her story one day soon.
Speaking of stories, how is your ah…diet coming along?
Lord Daud: “The diet is fine thanks. I have just had some fat free pork pies with a touch of magic in that they never seem to touch the sides on the way down. My sylph like figure is probably maintained because of the sacrifice I make in drinking only Diet-Pepsi.”
ACF: I wish you hadn’t mentioned pork pies… Before I race off to raid the fridge can I ask one last, all important question? What are your thoughts on the meaning of life?
Lord Daud: “The meaning of life is to find those things you love to eat and then avoid anyone or out debate anyone who tells you they’re bad for you.”
And on that note I bid Lord Daud, and all of you, farewell!