By BRUCE DENNILL
Author Bryan Andrews‘ new book Mykonos tells the story of Jacques, a South African experiencing difficulties – difficulties in his relationship with his wife and children; difficulties in his relationship with his work colleagues; difficulties in his relationship with God. To give himself some relief from the problems and some space to work through them, he runs away to the Greek island of Mykonos. There he meets George, a handsome gigolo who tries to take advantage of him and Costa, a huge bear of a restaurateur who befriends him. While facing up to his ghosts and sorting out his relationship with his wife, Jacques becomes the catalyst for some dramatic happenings in the lives of George, Costa and some of the other islanders.
How do you know when an idea is worthy of developing into a book? With songs or other shorter formats, you can get to a point of knowing if something will work relatively soon, but getting several thousand words into a manuscript and then deciding it’s a waste of time is far more frustrating.
I mull over a possible story for some time before putting anything on paper, and will often bounce the idea off people that I trust. For example, I am currently working on two books. The idea for the one came from an impression that was captured in my mind in Egypt in 2000 and the other from a scripture (Mark 14:51) that stopped me in my tracks in 2015.
When you do decide that a theme or story is worth exploring, how do you go about unpacking that?
My first step is to “sort out the main character, Who is he/she? Why would the story revolve around him/her? What is his/her background – who were his/her parents; where did they live; were there siblings, and so on.
Research: how much do you do, and how detailed is it?
This depends on the storyline, but I normally set stories in places that I have visited – Mykonos and Athens for this book, Egypt and Paris for my next one. I then check the geography of the setting as it would be stupid, for example, to have a modern character walking from Central Paris to Versailles on a day visit. I check modes and times of transportation and the basic nitty-gritties. If the story is of an historical nature, I will check history dates, customs and where possible, figures of speech and place names. It would be a bit pointless writing about Tel Aviv in a novel based at the time of Christ, for example.
How much planning do you do before beginning in earnest? Do you have to know where you’re going to end up before you start?
No. I start by praying for the opening lines and then follow the story as I believe the Lord is leading. The story is often as much of an adventure for me as it is for the reader. I regularly have to stop writing to pray over the next development to see which direction the Lord wants to take the story. While at the time, it seems to me as if things are bitty, the continuity and flow are signals to me that the story has followed the Lord’s leading.
If the hundreds of memes about writing are to be believed, sitting down and actually putting words on a page is perhaps the toughest part of the job. What are the distractions you battle with the most when trying to work?
I run a travel company as well and I find my thoughts are often deflected by e-mails, phone calls and “difficult customers”. My writing environment is another problem for me. In the winter, my office/study is freezing, and I find I can’t work unless I move out onto the patio to work in the sun. In the summer, the reverse is also true sometimes.
What’s the weirdest or craziest way you’ve found to avoid meeting a deadline?
I don’t set deadlines. If I did, I would probably feel so pressurised that I wouldn’t meet them. This would start a vicious circle of feeling inadequate, then pressurised, then inadequate…
Daily goals: what, for you, is an acceptable daily target, in terms of word count or the quality of what you complete, be it a sentence, a paragraph or a chapter?
To put on paper what I believe the Lord has given me for that day. I won’t switch off my bedside light until I have done so.
What have you found are the best ways to get this done?
I walk around with a notebook and will write whenever and wherever there’s an opportunity. I will then sit at my laptop and capture what I have written, editing as I go.
If writing books is not your full-time job, how does completing a project fit in with your other duties?
My travel business provides my bread and butter, so that must take priority. But I have never really had a problem marrying the two . I can, and do, carry a notebook on an aircraft, into hotel rooms and so on. That just means that I might not do a daily capture of what I have written.
Marketing new books – print or digital: what fresh ideas do you think could be introduced to the process to make new work more accessible and appealing to both new and established readers?
This is where I hit a brick wall every time. I am now working with a new online publishing and marketing company to see whether they can do what I have no clue on how to do!