I am a member of the Goodreads group Swap Reviews which is a good place for Self and Independently Published books to gather some reviews by other authors.
I selected a novel, The Assiduous Quest by Tobias Hopkins, by James Faro because I like the title. And yes, I had to look up the definition of assiduous! And I must admit, this novel is definitely marked by careful unremitting attention or persistent application!
Let me begin by introducing the author, James Faro.
James Faro joined the Merchant Navy at the age of sixteen, traveling extensively throughout Brazil, North America and the Caribbean. He has lived in many countries including Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Aden and The Netherlands. Now living in Brighton, on the south coast of England, he has retained his fascination with travel and the sea which is reflected in his writing. He has a Post Graduate degree in History from the University of Sussex.
I contacted him after reading his book and I am delighted that he accepted my invitation for an interview but I’ll get to that later.
First, about his novel!
The Assiduous Quest of Tobias Hopkins
A step back in time to 17th Century Jamaica.
Genre: Historical Drama
Intended Audience: From Young Adults to General Fiction readers
The road curved for a good half-mile before it met the house; a steep valley, rich in wild vegetation, separated Toby from the property. The line of trees leading up to the front porch of the house cast long shadows across the carriageway. To the left and a little further up the slope, there were some more outbuildings which he hadn’t noticed on his first visit. The sun was high enough now to light up the east side of the property and the hill beyond was touched with a thin layer of mist: a scene presenting a magical picture of La Bruma.
And now for the interview:
What inspired you to write this particular story?
The initial idea for this book came to me in a dream. I rarely remember my dreams, but in this instance I imagined I was on a tropical island. I was walking along a track in the hills when I came across a farm hidden in the mist.
I, too, am often inspired by my dreams! Where do you write?
I live in a one bedroom cabin surrounded by woods and fields. So, at this time of year (mid-winter), I write in my bedroom: the warmest spot in the place. In the summer I like to get outside as much as possible and sit under the trees (providing the wind doesn’t blow away all my notes)
That is quite a lovely view ! On a scale from Plotter being 1 and Panster (writing by the seat of your pants) being 10, Are you a plotter or a pantster?
Answer = No 1 (Plotter)
I have to admit that I spend a heap of time working on the plot before I start to write. Then, when the story takes off, the characters take over and often lead me in a new direction. It takes a great deal of persuasion to get them back on track and I usually give in and let the story take its own course, often with a better result.
Those characters can be rascals and try to hijack a story! Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
I love painting and, as I was writing a novel set in 17th century Jamaica, it led me to seek out works from that time and in that location. I then came across the paintings of the Italian artist, Agostino Brunias, who spent some time in The West Indies and whose work, Linen Market, Dominica, I have used for the cover of the complete novel.
The Assiduous Quest is divided into three parts.
The cover of Book 1 is by the French impressionist, Camille Pissarro, who, for a time, lived in St Thomas in the
The Book 2 cover illustration is, again, by Agostino Brunias.
And Book 3 is by Willem van de Velde II whose maritime paintings I’ve always loved.
Beautiful paintings and they definitely fit the story. Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
My favorite character is Beatrice. She has many qualities I admire. She’s bright and perceptive, a survivor who’s tough and determined. She’s also a risk-taker who behaves impulsively and is unpredictable. This makes for an fascinating interaction between Beatrice and Toby. They are, in many ways, opposites. And this, perhaps, is the very reason they connect so well.
I liked her, too! How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
My least favorite character is Groot; a monster, a psychopath who has no feelings for those who he destroys. He has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I have never believed in the old adage “there’s good in everyone”. If there is any good in Henk de Groot, I certainly haven’t discovered it!
I agree and you found the perfect name for him as well! Speaking of names; how important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
Names often give an indication to the class, age, culture and social background of the characters. When writing historical fiction, it’s much the same. The resources I use are from records of ship passenger lists sailing to the colonies and, in the case of the sequel I’m working on now, from soldiers enlisted to fight against the Native Americans in New England.
The protagonist of The Assiduous Quest, Tobias Hopkins, is from a Royalist family in England; as is Elizabeth Thomas. However, the other characters in the story are from different backgrounds. Magdalena, originally an African slave, uses the name given to her at the time when Jamaica was occupied by the Spanish. Beatrice Somerset has a similar background to Magdalena. Here’s how she explains it in the story;
“I was interested in how your family acquired the name Somerset?” Toby said.
“Not me proper name. I get it from friend of Elizabet. He called . . . Erloff Somerset.”
“Oh, Peter Burlington, the Fourth Earl of Somerset.”
“That the one!” The girl’s eyes brightened. “You know he?”
“No, not very well. He is a friend of my uncle. So, what is your family name?”
“Beatrice de Benitez?”
The girl made a face.
“That seems to be fine to me, why change it?”
“Aye, aye, aye. You ask so much questions!”
Thanks for adding that insert from your book. What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
Write from the heart. Don’t write in a certain genre because you think it’ll be popular or it will sell. Write what you want to write and don’t be swayed by anyone. Choose a subject which inspires you and which you feel passionate about. Take your time and never be in too much of a rush. Plan out your plot and your characters before you start writing. Think about how you want your story to progress and how you want it to end.
Also consider attending a writing course. I hooked up with a writer’s group where we met every week to discuss our work. This might not suit everyone, but it certainly worked for me. I also invested in a week’s course with the Arvon Foundation and met a few other like-minded writers from all over the world. Along with some great tuition, we also got to stay at, Lumb Bank, the beautiful house where poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath once lived.
Very good point! Thanks for sharing that. Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I always read my reviews. I don’t usually respond to the reviewer, just accept their point of view. I think it’s a great privilege to have someone read though and comment on my writing.
As regards to advice in dealing with a bad review, I would say don’t lose sleep over it. It’s impossible to please everyone even if that’s your aim.
If the review is constructively critical of my work, I consider this seriously and will usually take on board the suggestions. After all, how can we communicate through writing without the honest opinions of our readers.
If the review is complementary, and the reader has obviously enjoyed the book, it can still bring a tear to my eye.
All very good points! Do you have any other talents or hobbies?
I was an artist in my twenties and, while I was just about able to support myself on the sale of my paintings, music became my first love. Since then, I’ve been a professional musician. Travel is another passion of mine. I’ve lived in a few countries but would still love to see more of the world and explore other cultures. I also enjoy cooking and gardening.
KUDOS for you! I’m an artist as well but I can’t say it EVER a supportive source of income. I’d love to travel Europe. I’ve got a cottage on a lake in Louisiana, maybe we can do a vacation swap!
What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
Tell as many other people as you can about the book! I cannot underestimate the power of word of mouth! Reviews are also very important to authors. Even a few lines are appreciated. A mention on a blog, facebook page or twitter is also useful. Anything to get people talking about the book.
Great suggestion and it doesn’t cost them anything! What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on a contemporary psychological thriller (under a different author name) which has been an ongoing project for the last few years. I’m also working on the sequel to the Assiduous Quest. This book is set in the same time period (1675) and will take Toby to the Northern Colonies of Virginia, Maryland, New York and Massachusetts – right into the conflict between Native Americans and the settlers of New England. I have the plot worked out and much of the material has already been written. However, as so often happens, the characters will probably take the story in a new direction and lead me into situations I hadn’t previously considered. I’ll just have to see what the outcome is. I hope to get both of these projects completed by the end of this year.
Please let me know when your thriller comes out. That’s probably my favorite genre.
Now for some fun.
Are you a compulsive shopper/hoarder?
I’m not into shopping (unless it’s browsing in bookshops) but I am a hoarder. I have a drawer full of receipts dating back months (no idea why I keep them). Maybe they give me a sense of security! When the Apocalypse comes I’m convinced my boxes full of useless stuff will protect me!
At least you can use the receipts to start a fire. Have you ever gotten into a bar fight?
Ha! Now that question has sent me down memory lane.
On one occasion it happened at a town called Manaus, Brazil, about a thousand miles up the River Amazon.
I was eighteen at the time, out on the town with my buddy, Phil. We had both been working in this region for over a year and, although the place was familiar to us, we decided to try out a new bar in the red-light district. By 2.00 am, after a number shots of Bacardi and coke, the other customers had left and it was obvious the bar staff (a rough-edged crew) wanted to pack up and go home. They handed us the tab. But we’d already paid! (or so we thought). Determined to stop us getting away, the staff blocked our way to the only exit. But, Phil, being head-strong, shouldered the door and we all stumbled out into the foul-smelling street. Phil raced down the road, leaving me in the gutter with a knife at my throat. I cursed him. But then, just as I thought my time was up, along came a taxi. The passenger window rolled down and Phil yelled for me to jump in (which I somehow managed to do). But the driver wasn’t in a hurry to leave. He spoke a few words in Portuguese to the bar staff and they all piled in the cab to join us.
Twenty minutes later, at the local jail, we discovered we still had the same amount of cash on us as we did when we arrived at the bar earlier that night. We paid the tab with apologies and hand shakes all round.
That is quite an adventure and sounds like a great encounter for a couple of your future characters. What is your biggest fear?
Just like Winston in George Orwell’s 1984, my biggest fear is being trapped in a room full of rats. I once saw a guy corner some rats in a barn and watched, in horror, as a few of them leaped up at his face. So, I sympathize with Winston when he’s strapped to a chair in room 101; two cages of rats placed on the table in front of him. Ugh!
Thanks for bringing that image to mind! I don’t know how to segue into this so I’ll just jump to it. What do you want your tombstone to say?
“Thank God that’s over!”
Love it! If you had a supernatural power, what would it be?
I would choose to be invisible. So, like a fly on the wall, I would have the ability to eavesdrop any conversation in time and space then make use of them in my writing. So good to be able to get inside people’s heads when their guard is dropped. If only H G Wells hadn’t got there before me!
With today’s technology, I don’t think being “visible” is a hindrance. Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before? Provide images if you want.
I would love to visit India. Such a diverse country steeped in tradition and culture. At school I read E.M Forster’s, Passage to India, and was fascinated by the vivid descriptions of the country and it’s people.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many documentaries on India. Where I LOVE the colors and most of the culture, I don’t think I could bear the poverty. If you were any plant or animal, what would you be? Provide images if you want!
I would be a cat. I’ve owned many cats over the years but the one closest to my heart was Fudge, a white and tabby who survived many travels until he reached the age of sixteen. I have many memories of him marking out new territories, leaping from roofs and stalking out prey.
He was a beautiful cat! What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
To complete all of my books; the ones I’m currently working on, and the stories which exist in my imagination. Something for my grandchildren to remember me when they’re older!
I can appreciate that. What is your favorite song?
This is difficult. It has to be, Desafinado, by Antonio Carlos Jobim. The music of Brazil has a special place in my heart, evoking memories of my time spent there in my late teens. The title of this song means “Out of tune” and the lyrics describe someone who is set apart from the crowd; someone who likes to make up his own mind and doesn’t need to conform to the norm.
I like it! I listened to it while I finished this blog post. What is your favorite movie?
I know this is cheating, but I have two favorites; Rosemary’s Baby, directed by Roman Polanski, and The Sixth Sense, directed by M Night Shyamalan. What I love about both of these movies is the portrayal of ordinary characters we can relate to, plunged into bewildering situations, unsure of who to trust. Also the antagonists, the elderly couple in Rosemary’s Baby who shock us when they reveal who they really are. The Sixth Sense also takes us by surprise; particularly the twist at the end which I did not see coming!
I do love the manipulation techniques used in Rosemary’s Baby and the “who can you trust” scenario and then, SPOILER ALERT, her resolution. And, now that you mention it, I see the similarities of the two characters. Good call!
And finally, please describe something (significant number of words/a character/entire scene) you “deleted” from your work and why. Because a real writer knows when to hit THE DELETE KEY!
There are so many – I hit the delete key every other sentence! Today, I’ve just deleted three big chunks from the book I’m working on now. Here’s an example deleted from today’s work:
With a further six miles to go, he trampled through the unforgiving drifts; each snow-clad step an act of obstinacy. . .
The problem is that since writing this passage the protagonist has been delayed in getting to the location – it’s now April and the snow has gone.
For more information on James Faro, check out these links.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/james.faro.73
And you can check out my review here:
Thank you, James, for being a guest on my blog. I truly enjoyed your book and I look forward to reading more from you in the future.