Wednesday 25 October 2017

The Best Year Of Our Lives - 10 Questions from Critics Answered

Three months on from the publication of The Best Year Of Our Lives, I thought this might be a good opportunity to address some of those queries which have been raised by various people along the way. Here are the ten that spring most readily to mind:

1. I didn't say that / That didn't happen / Who is that character?

It is very important we remind ourselves that his book is a work of fiction. Yes it was inspired, and heavily, by real people and real events from a particular period of my life but a lot of what happens in the text is pure literary licence, and none of the characters are intended to be faithful representations of real-life persons.

2. The characters are treated too much like adults in language and manner

Well, the things that were important to the characters in the book are treated as though they were important in the script. But should that really come as a surprise? This is a book about young people, doing the things that young people do and thinking the thoughts that young people think. It is written from their perspective.

As for the language used, my memory is pretty clear. I don’t know how eleven-year-olds speak to one another these days but certainly no holds were barred in the 1970s when it came to profanity. I’ve tried not to overdo it and if anything my guess is that it is understated. Possibly the manner in which they converse has been infused with a tad more maturity than would have been the case in reality, but this is a story for an adult audience. I could no more sustain the narrative for 400 pages in adolescent parlance than George Orwell could have written Animal Farm in neighs and bleats.

3. The contrast between the violence and the spirituality is extreme

Indeed, but young people and the things they do are awash with contrast. I take my characters to the extremes of good and bad because there is good and bad in all of us, and nowhere is it more evident than during the process of growing up.

4. How "Christian" is the story?

This was never intended to be a Christian tale per se, just a tale of ordinary young people whose lives were touched by contact with Christianity. I wanted to explore the competing influences that any young people in such a situation would find themselves subjected to, and how in practice they would end up being averaged out.

5. What was the extent of the influence of David Bowie and Steve Harley and in what respects did they differ?

One exciting aspect of Bowie's creative output in particular was his penchant for crossover, or the fusion of different art forms into one collective experience - something he learned from his time in the company of Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground. This in turn inspired me in the writing of this book, in the sense that these creative influences permeate the thinking not only of the lead character but also of myself as author.

Bowie's command at the time in which the book was set was close to universal amongst young males who studied the rock scene. Ziggy Stardust had been killed off but Bowie's most ardent followers had already begun to understand that the artist himself lived on, and had returned in the guise of another character - the Thin White Duke. This was to become a process which would continue for decades but at the time it was still novel, and smart young people like the characters Paul Adams and Jim Gray were just beginning to get it.

Harley's influence was more personal to the two boys. They loved his songs and appreciated his special talent and, because not everybody was necessarily a Cockney Rebel fan, Paul and Jim took ownership of the experience as something which belonged privately to them.

6. Weren't platforms, loud colours and wide flares more about the early seventies than 1976?

Certainly by '76 the glam had begun to fade, but such a unique direction in fashion as was taken during the whole seventies period was never going to disappear overnight, and the followers of trends were always going to find themselves dragging a little behind those whose role it was to set them. Until punk arrived flares and heels were still the order of the day.

7. This is 1976, where are the punks?

1976 was the year the punks arrived to challenge the tank-topped and loon-panted order. This is the story of the challenged, not of the challenger. The last stand of a unique, beautiful but dying culture, majestic to the last but doomed never to return. Punk arrived in Chapter 61, as Paul closed the door behind him.

8. Some of the chapters seem peripheral to the story

People have different things going on in their lives, seldom are they always chasing one dream to the exclusion of all else. I have tried to capture the "ordinariness" of the lives of the essential characters even as they share an extraordinary life experience. Plane spotting, football, fishing, music, the youth club - no matter how spiritually uplifting the age there is only so far that the characters can realistically be lifted from their routines.

9. Paul Adams - hero or villain?

I never really intended him to be either, but you choose.

10.Would you like to make The Best Year Of Our Lives into a film, a song or some other art form?

Very much so, that would be my dream. But film making, painting, music - none of these are talents that I have, so it would be a question of finding somebody who was willing to collaborate. But yes, I can think of nothing that would fulfil me more. I live in hope.

Tuesday 17 October 2017

10 Reasons to Choose Self-Publishing

Finding a publisher who is willing to take a punt and offer an advance has long been the Holy Grail of aspirant authors as they contemplate their uncertain futures whilst putting together their maiden works. However the arrival on the scene of self-publishing has changed the game beyond all recognition.

Self-publishing in the modern age is no longer, as was once the case, a next-best scenario for writers not quite able to make the grade. Many authors today, having considered the options available to them carefully, plump in the first instance for self-publishing as a route of preference to the uncertainties of dependence upon the goodwill of a middle-man whose primary interest is invariably the financial bottom line. One could do worse by way of an example than Fifty Shades of Grey

There are, of course, many advantages to sticking with the traditional publisher route, but here are ten reasons why many opt to self-publish all the same:

1. Complete editorial control

The thing you want to say may not be the same thing as what a publisher thinks the customer wants to read. As the saying goes he who pays the piper calls the tune, and if the traditional publisher feels strongly enough your piece of art is going to be tossed about and re-purposed with solely commercial objectives in mind. With self-publishing you write what you wish to write, and trust your own judgment as to whether or not it will sell.

2. No barriers to publishing

For better or for worse, the book you submit is the one your readers will see. You are responsible for spelling, grammar, syntax and layout, and any mistakes are yours alone as it is nobody's job to spot them on your behalf. But as long as you take care of the basic housekeeping, you do know at least that your work is going to make it into print.

3. No minimum sales threshold

Modern printing technology means that books can be printed as and when ordered, meaning there is no minimum number of sales that the writer has to achieve and no financial commitment beyond the purely optional cost of hiring a proofreader or cover designer. Platforms such as Amazon's CreateSpace will make a profit even if you should only sell one solitary copy.

4. Faster process

When you upload a book for self-publishing it is live and on offer to the world sometimes within a matter of a few hours. Of course the actual writing of a book is time consuming, as is proofreading and formatting it for publication, but once that is done there is no waiting for months or even years for a publisher to get around to reading it. Hit the send button and you’re away.

5. Print On Demand

The beauty of self-publishing a paperback is that copies are not printed until or unless they are ordered. Which means no stacks of unsold copies in the garage and no financial gamble involved.

6. Ebook option

As it becomes even easier for just about anybody to download an electronic version of your book and to store it on their reader, smartphone or PC, so sales of ebooks will inevitably increase. As there is no physical copy being printed or shipped royalties on ebooks are usually significantly higher than with printed books.

7. Better royalties

Royalties on ebooks are generally up to 70% of the sale price. Even on paperbacks they are substantially higher than would be the case had it been published by traditional means. You set your own price and your royalty is determined from there - simples.

8. Easy to amend manuscript

No matter how many times you read and re-read your work there will always be a typo or two which invariably you will spot just as soon as you’ve uploaded it. Self-published books can effortlessly be taken offline and altered. Within 24 hours or so you’ll be back in business!

9. Longer shelf-life

Self-published books are available to purchase from your online store or webpage in perpetuity. They never die.

10. No longer the preserve of second-rate authors

The days when self-publishing was for substandard writers who couldn't secure a deal with a real publisher are long gone. The random and sometimes seemingly arbitrary way in which publishers seem to decide who does and who doesn't get a contract has inspired writers to look for another way, and self-publishing has risen to meet that demand. Today many established authors of proven ability and talent are eagerly embracing the self-publishing route.

Sunday 15 October 2017

The Glam Rock Files by Diana Wilde - Review

The Glam Rock Files by Diana Wilde Review The Best Year Of Our Lives Phil Andrews

When submitting an old manuscript to a traditional book publisher some years back I was told that I ought to make my work "less autobiographical". She didn't want to hurt my feelings and so she was tactful, but what her advice amounted to was that no-one much wants to read the autobiography of somebody who is not a household name.

The Glam Rock Files flies defiantly in the face of this advice, and with a great deal of success. This is the personal testimony of a schoolgirl growing up in the early/mid-1970s against a backdrop of the unique Glam Rock phenomenon in music and popular culture, an experience which we of the same generation will straight away recognise, and can only share with affinity and affection.

When Marc Bolan first appeared on our screens splayed in his sequins and glitter, we could all sense that something new and exciting was about to happen in our lives. Bolan represented a bridge between a waning late-sixties hippydom and a beckoning new age of superstars - glamorous, flippant and, above all, fun. Like many of us the author was captivated by the emerging glam scene and embraced Bolan as the herald of the new age. And, also like many of us, when David Bowie burst onto the scene a short while later and took up the baton, elevating what was already a mesmerising development onto a completely new level, she recognised him for the cultural messiah that he was, and followed him relentlessly along with his futuristic backing group the Spiders From Mars.

This is not a long book and the formatting is a bit unorthodox, but it works. The hallmark of a good book is no more than that it leaves the reader reluctant to put it down at the end of a chapter, always hankering for just a little bit more. On several occasions I found myself hanging on for a few more pages to try to find out what happened next when I really ought to have been attending to something else as had been the original plan.


The book charts with anticipation and good humour the progress of the author's love affair with the glam demi-gods, sneaking off to concerts often in stark defiance of her parents' wishes, not only revelling in the music but also waiting for them at their hotels and dressing rooms and, sometimes, managing to steal a moment with her heroes. Lou Reed, Mick Ronson, Freddie Mercury - even Bowie himself, albeit very much in passing - were lured successfully into spending chatting time with their persistent young fan.

As well as being the author's personal testimony The Glam Rock Files provides us with a fairly useful, if slightly selective, chronology of the glam era. I feel she is perhaps just a little hard on some of the less "serious" acts of the day such as Slade and The Sweet, who in my view all more than earned their place in the story of glam. On a purely personal note I was disappointed that there was no mention of Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, but then as I (or rather my lead character) argued in my self-published novel The Best Year Of Our Lives he and they were an acquired taste, not for everyone.

What made The Glam Rock Files work for me overall was the amount of empathy, and reminiscence, that it engendered. Being male and straight it would be fair to say that I spent less time than the author seems to have done during the 1970s contemplating the bulge in Bowie's trousers, but the sense of awe and excitement which surrounded the glam heroes of that unique and wonderful era was one that she and I shared very much. Those who are of our age group will know precisely what I mean, those who are younger and thereby had the misfortune to have missed it all won't be able to help but get a feel for it from this inspired work.

Saturday 14 October 2017

FREE eBook Promotion - Ends Monday 16th October

The ebook version of The Best Year Of Our Lives is available free of charge for a limited time only. This promotion ends on the morning of Monday 16th October (UK time).

It isn't necessary to own a Kindle as Amazon allows you to download a reader, also free, which will work perfectly well on your laptop, desktop or smartphone.

Go to and simply follow the instructions.