A REAL PAGE-TURNER: AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR ROBERT FEAR

This year saw the launch of the UK’s latest literary prize – the Page Turner Awards. Created with the goal of “changing writing careers”, the eBook Award sought out the very best work by national and international self-published authors, and the Writing Award searched for unpublished writers actively looking for a literary agent or publisher. Entrants from both awards were picked over by a prestigious judging panel comprised of bestselling authors and publishing industry veterans.

Among the winners in this year’s inaugural Awards is Eastbourne-based travel writer Robert Fear, who received a special commendation from the judging panel for his captivating memoir, Summer of ‘77: Beaches, bars and boogie nights in Ibiza.

We spoke to Robert, who was the top scoring UK author in the eBook Non-Fiction Award category, about his achievement and his writing.

Q. Congratulations on this achievement. How do you feel?

A. I am delighted. This is the last thing I expected when I entered the competition. It is fantastic to gain this level of recognition for my book. 

Q. What was the inspiration for Summer of ‘77: Beaches, bars and boogie nights in Ibiza?

A. My inspiration was the six months I spent on the Spanish island of Ibiza in 1977, when I was 21.

Before writing Summer of ‘77, I had self-published two other books:

Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia - based on the handwritten journal I kept while travelling through Hong Kong, Thailand, India and Nepal.

Exclusive Pedigree: My life in and out of the Brethren - my late father’s memoirs.

Publishing these motivated me to recollect my experiences from that life-changing summer in Ibiza and write about them.

Q. Can you describe the writing process for your memoir?

A. Planning for the book started in 2016. It was fortunate I still had the letters I received while working the season in Ibiza. Otherwise, I would have found it difficult to remember what happened over forty years ago. I transcribed the letters and created a timeline around them. This triggered memories of events from the time and I began writing.

I completed the last chapter in May last year. After a brief break, I started self-editing my words and making the story concise and readable. Next steps included the choice of a title, commissioning a cover design and creating the blurb. Then came a professional edit which reduced the word count by 10 per cent and provided a real polish to the book. I published it in October 2019, on my 64th birthday.

Q. This isn’t your first memoir. What prompted you to become an author?

A. It was the launch of Kindle around 2008 and the possibility that gave me of self-publishing my diary. The first part that I released, Time in Thailand, covered an eventful period in my travels. I will not give away the story, but the title hints at what happened.

Author Robert Fear is the top-scoring UK author in the Page Turner Awards’ eBook Non-Fiction Award category.

Q. What do you think are the key elements a memoir should include to be engaging?

A. The primary aim is to captivate the reader. To do this, the author must make sure the book includes plenty of compelling action, with dialogue where possible. The narrative needs to flow and achieve that goal of all writers, of being a page-turner. I am always pleased to hear someone say they could not put my book down.

Q. You have travelled around the world. What would you say are the most important life-lessons these experiences have taught you?

A. I have been fortunate to visit a lot of fabulous places, both as a traveller in my twenties, on annual holidays, and with my work as a software consultant.

Travelling has taught me how to relate to people better. It is easy to make assumptions about individuals, but everyone is different in the way they approach life. I have learned to listen to others and empathise with them. This has made me less self-centred and able to appreciate the world around me more. 

Q. Your books to date fit within the memoir and travel genres. Have you any ambitions to write in any other genres?

A. For Summer of ‘77, I adopted novel-writing techniques and reviews mention that my memoir reads like a novel. This challenged me to tackle a different genre and expand my creative skills. I am now studying online for a novel writing diploma.

Q. As a self-published author, what advice would you give to others who want to release their own books?

A. Be persistent and follow your dream. The priority is to get your thoughts down on paper. After that, refine your manuscript. Then you will need outside help. My recommendation would be to hire the best cover designer and editor you can afford. Your completed book needs to have the most professional finish possible when you release it.

In his commended travel memoir Summer of ‘77: Beaches, bars and boogie nights in Ibiza, author Robert Past recounts his six-month stay on the Spanish island of Ibiza as a young man.

Q. You also publish collections of travel stories featuring contributions from other writers. How did this come about?

A. While working on the second edition of Fred’s Diary 1981 in early 2015, I began a blog to help with the editing process. To encourage people to visit my website, I started a travel story competition (500-1,000 words). It was such a success that I ran another one for travel highlights (50-100 words). That went well too. I published a selection of these in a book called Travel Stories and Highlights.

In 2016, I re-ran the contests. Again, there were lots of fantastic entries, and I released a 2017 edition which included the best contributions from the first two years. 2017 and 2018 saw the competitions repeated. This led to publication of the 2018 and 2019 editions of Travel Stories and Highlights.

Last year, I changed the format and introduced an Authors Showcase to the blog. An anthology entitled 40 Memorable Life Experiences was the result. This year, I hosted a showcase for Inspirational True Stories and aim to publish the strongest of these early in 2021.

Q. What’s next for you as an author?

A. My next project will be to write a novel. I have plenty of adventures to draw on and am excited by the prospect.

Summer of '77: Beaches, bars and boogie nights in Ibiza by Robert Fear is out now in paperback and eBook editions, priced £12.95 and £3.99 respectively. It is available to buy on AmazonFor more information, visit www.fd81.net

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