An Interview With The Best-Selling Author Of The Desolate Garden, Daniel Kemp
What a pleasure to meet a real gentleman, even if only on the net. Best-selling author Daniel (Danny) Kemp has both feet planted squarely on the ground while his typing fingertips live the clouds. As a debut novel writer like myself, success stories like Mister Kemp’s tale ring out like urban legends. Eureka! With a view to encouraging ‘Indie’ writers, I asked Danny to talk about life and especially love as he and I share the fate of the incurable romantic. It gives me great pleasure to introduce Daniel Kemp, ‘The Real Deal’.
1 Please tell me something about your past that gave you a clue you might want to write.
At the risk of making this interview the shortest you’ll ever likely do; there were no clues. Although I went to a very good grammar school I was more interested in playing rugby during school hours, and chasing girls when not on a playing field. I was good at rugby. I won’t embarrass myself and tell of the mistakes I made over girls, but the last thing on my mind was ‘lessons’ in class.
I started to write as a direct result of a road traffic accident that left me out of effective work for almost three and half years. I was fifty-seven at the time. That incident has been well documented elsewhere and although it’s not painful to relate, it is boring.
I wrote my first story about an Italian girl growing up surrounded by crime, and old family issues, whilst at home unable to do much else. More than anything it simply gave me something to do.
Anyway, I sent off a synopsis, and a copy of the first three chapters, to about a hundred or so literary agents, put my feet up, sat back waiting for the telephone calls to flood in. Surprise, surprise it didn’t happen. Months past, during which time I’d had two letters more-or-less telling me I was an idiot and couldn’t string two sentences together, so I almost gave up hope. Then one night, just after dinner, an agent rang.
He said that he was interested, and would take a chance on me. That brings me nicely to your second question about setbacks, of which there have been many.
2 Did you ever have a setback that you overcame in the move to become a writer?
The story that attracted an agent found no publisher. With hindsight I can understand why. It was at best an okay story but no more than that. This was stated by that agent. Without trying to inflate nor deflate my ego he told me my writing was, on a scale of one to ten, about five. He added that I had a talent but it was ‘raw,’ only improving if I was to write another story. I set about penning The Desolate Garden. Now came the biggest decision I had to make. The proposition was to put to me, fairly and without bias, either to go down the same route of submitting to traditional publishers, or an introduction to a self-publishing company, and pay for its publication.
I chose that direction, now having no regrets. Here there are two things of which you must take account: First, I had no knowledge of the writing world, and the term…Vanity Press…was unknown to me. Second, I had little, if any, grammatical skills.
I paid for an editor, believing that she would provide the grammatical ability that I lacked. That was not the case, I had been misinformed.
The book was published in March 2012. By the end of April that year I had signed a contract with a London based film production company to render my story into a $30,000,000 movie. That’s not a setback is it, but what was to come was! The film producer, who had read my story found many mistakes in the novel. It was he, without charge, who did the proofreading. I had to persuade the publisher to reprint at his cost, which he did, but it left me embarrassed and disparaged by those eager to point out the errors that I had made. Believe me, there were many who revelled in that role.
The book remained on sale for about three months before the corrected new edition was available. During that time I was doing Waterstones signing events acutely aware of the situation. Those who bought that bad book are now possibly never going to buy my work again, but I could do nothing about it. I was not in a position to recall those flawed copies nor repudiate the allegations of being ‘vain.’
Every day throws up setbacks of one kind or another. Elation over kind reviews are countered by not as well expected sales. I have had fantastic reviews for both TDG and my new novella, Why? But it takes more than just reviews to sell on any great scale. Publicity is not given to the unknown in this world.
3 Tell me something warm about someone who supported (or supports) your writing effort?
My wife has been my saviour in all of this, watching my emotions go up and down more times than Tower Bridge opens. But for as many moments that have floored me, there has been more that have raised my spirits back up. I can only pray that will continue to be so.
Another very important person in this regard would be my fourteen year old granddaughter, who has all the natural characteristics of girls of that age but she will always find the time to chat with me about my work. Not only do I find this warming, I also find it amazing.
4 Give aspiring Indie writers one piece of advice.
See through the lies that people will tell you. Very few writers become overnight sensations, but you will come across many who claim to be ‘bestsellers’ without being so.
5 I am drawn to your writing because you are an incurable romantic and so am I. Why is love so important to you in your writing?
How we love, defines who we are.
I fell in ‘love’ for the first time when I was sixteen when I discovered girls, but until I married, about twenty years ago, none of those ‘loves’ were anything but lusts.
Love can be so many things, becoming impossible to separate from simple passion but intimacy without love, relying solely on sex, is shallow, and I would argue, artificial.
Love is a deep emotion encompassing everything from loyalty and devotion to compassion and charity. I like to explore the depth of love felt between the characters I write. They live in an imaginary world, but to some extent so do we all. Reality throws pressure on the love we have for a partner in life.
The love we have for another must transcend the love we have for ourselves. In a novel that can be the case, but how often would that be so in real life? There’s the conundrum, which I find so fascinating.
We use the word so glibly, describing anything that we like, that it can become worthless other than in a novel.
Thanks Danny. Best of luck. Readers should take a gander at “Why” by Mister Daniel (Danny) Kemp.