Author Interviews

* you can find the original interviews and much more on my 'everything writing' blog (, including author spotlights, guest posts, book reviews, flash fiction or poetry - new items posted 6am UK time Monday to Saturday and writing exercises at 6pm very weekday.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Author interview no.480 with writer Don Darkes (revisited)

Back in September 2012, I interviewed author Don Darkes for my WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to the four hundred and eightieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with non-fiction author Lawrence de Robillard aka Don Darkes. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello Lawrence, or should I call you Don?
Lawrence/Don: Guten morgen Morgen! (Sorry I couldn’t resist that – a little international pun eh?...) Thank you for inviting me here today.
Morgen: Guten morgen (and it is morning here in the UK). You’re very welcome. Please tell us something about yourself, and how you came to be a writer.
Lawrence/Don: I was born in '54 as Lawrence de Robillard and reborn on June 6th 2012 as the Writer Don Darkes.
Morgen: We’ll go with Don… my father’s name (whose birthday was June 7th). :) I also have an uncle Lawrence… well, Laurence… and I have a really small family! :)
Don: My choice of pseudonym is due partly to the fact that I am penning a Biographical Memoir entitled, Darkes Life of Crime. The memoirs of an intriguing man, the original Don Darkes, who was marked with this pseudo identity, at birth in order to maintain a dark secret and the fact that like him, my given name is also an accident of birth concealing my true heritage. The irony tickles my love of the bizarre and my sense of the ridiculous.
Following more than forty years killing myself at exciting and successful careers in the Building, Manufacturing, Information Technology, Franchising industries I find myself at this point combining them all into my new role as a Writer and Author.
I repudiated my Psychology degree in the mid-seventies prior to serving my mandatory National Military Service in a top-secret Electronic Warfare unit, clandestinely deployed in Rhodesia, (Now Zimbabwe) a horrendous episode in my life, for which I later received a medal. (The subject of a novel in progress, Scrambled Eggs.)
During the eighties, at the height of apartheid, together with (then) illegal “non-white” partners I built a successful manufacturing company. Following a series of traumatic events I sold it and opted-out to buy the yacht upon which I was shipwrecked together with my wife, our five year old son and four year old daughter at a remote part of Madagascar. After returning destitute to South Africa I rode a ripple in the wave and sold my Internet start-up in order to distribute rare organic chocolate and to research a challenging historical novel exploring an intriguing link between the Jewish Holocaust and Madagascar. This book will be entitled Bread From Air.
Currently, together with my wife, son and two daughters we reside high off the ground amongst the branches of a Casuarina tree whilst my fantastic family works together to build another yacht, our family ark, and a tribal-canoe-concept catamaran. When we launch our boat, Sea Shoes, it will be temporarily moored at Richards Bay in magnificent KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, whilst we get to grips with it before setting off again. At the same time I am working on several books sharing the common denominators being; my love of history, first hand experiences and my belief that fact is stranger and far more interesting than fiction.
I came to be a writer as the result (literally – no pun intended) of having a loaded pistol, cocked and placed against my head.
Morgen: Wow. That’s a whole galley of book content there. You write non-fiction, what do you decide to write about?
Don: I have been fortunate to have a varied and exciting life and met, and continue to meet interesting and unique people. My first book, Pisces and the Sailfish, relates the True story of my Family Adventure and Disaster that was the best thing that ever happened to me. So it was a natural first choice. This memoir is called Pisces and the Sailfish because of the curse that was placed upon the vessel. She was originally cursed, when she was originally named Pisces (the Star-sign), and possibly had added curse -kudo's, karma or debt, when I symbolically renamed her by painting a Sailfish outline over her launch name, effectively renaming the boat, which is considered bad luck by sailors…
Morgen: I’ve heard that (and have a sailing / writing friend – hi Tony!). What have you had published to-date? Do you write everything under your pseudonym?
Don: I have only two published works, the first things I ever wrote, based upon opening chapters of Pisces and the Sailfish, written almost two decades after the actual events. They were written for a True Short Story Competition. See[_id]=1609 The Tortoise the Sailfish and the Duck. For twenty years I could not bring myself to write the entire story for reasons that will become apparent in the book. I was waiting for someone to die- or worse. When the readers of my first short story begged me to tell them more – I partially relented and wrote a harmless (to my psyche anyway) additional opening chapter and submitted it in the following year's competition. This was the second piece I have ever written. It reached the finals again. See[_id]=19351 Fly on the Wall. I wrote both of these pieces under my own name.
In May 2012 I read a long awaited obituary and something released inside of me. The Ultimate Revenge is Outliving your enemies and of course Revenge is a Dish Best Eaten Cold!
Thus fortified I wrote the entire story, sitting in our tree-house, only mildly pestered by cheeky monkeys, tiny ants and bat-eating squabbling horn-bills, over a six week period. For a number of reasons, some mentioned already, I decided to write under a pseudonym, Don Darkes. Suddenly the pain went away – it was not really me any more. You would think my Psychology training would enable me to understand this – but it remains mute.
Morgen: Life is one big mystery. Douglas Adams said the answer is 42 and all we have to do is find the question. I understand you plan to self-publish, what lead to you going your own way?
Don: Initially I was absolutely against self-publishing, seeing it as vanity and ego polishing. This was not helped by the slick proposals I received from several on-demand publishers. Whilst I can understand they have their place, they were not for me. Then I met a visionary. Mark Coker. He had suffered this route too and written a book that no-one would publish. He refused the ego trip implied by pay to print. So he started Smashwords, an eBook publisher. Rather than attempt to paraphrase him, perhaps you should check him out. I guarantee you will be inspired when you understand his good clean honest common sense approach.
I shall be publishing Pisces and the Sailfish on Smashwords as soon as I complete the editing and polishing. (Or sooner if I can find a Guardian Angel Editor to help me do it.)
Nevertheless, and this is where I hope this interview may help me. Building on my experiences gained in my last career, Internet and the Information Technology sector, I shall be relying heavily on beta-testers. Like Microsoft or other great companies, I know the job is never done, the work is never perfect. The first impressions of a trusted group of users will be heard and used to make the product better. Therefore I shall be offering a free pre-release copy of Pisces and the Sailfish for download, to anyone who contacts me via my website at or my email at and agrees to review the book.
Morgen: If you come across anyone willing to review books generally could you point them in my direction ( and I’ll gladly list them on my Reviews page. Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Don: “Thankfully eBooks are immortal.” (Quote Mark Coker) I believe Mark when he says it’s a great way to find your audience. Once I find my audience and they start to spread the word, only then shall I consider it is time to fell a forest and go to paper and Print. There is a paradox here which intrigues me. With my professional background in long term document archiving for banks, governments and insurance companies I learnt that paper records and hard-copy original documents are regarded by them as sacred and eternal and that electronic documents are regarded as ephemeral and temporary. They believe that only paper lasts, Paper rules in their worldview. The realities of commercial publishing today see unsuccessful book titles quickly making their way to the recycling plant to be made into toilet paper if they don’t earn their keep in a very short space of time on the limited and expensive retailers shelf space. By this yardstick many writing legends of the past would have vanished down the toilet. Ebooks on the other hand are not only resurrecting long forgotten authors and making their works live again, but since eBooks are never removed from the cheap and infinitely expandable book retailers shelves, an author can wait until his audience is born instead of vice-versa. Suddenly pixels are forever and paper is history. I love it! So for me, and I suspect the future of publishing, it is eBooks first because they last forever and Paper is last because it doesn’t. You can quote me on that!
Morgen: I have a quotes page. I’ll have to add you to it. :) Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Don: The titles and covers are critical. I am still working on mine. I shall have all the say. Well, excepting for the opinion of my wife, and my son... oh and both my daughters. Well my wife of course... Oh, and the feedback I get from my beta- readers. Oh yes can you see (thumps chest) I am the boss!
Morgen: :) What are you working on next?
Don: The next book on my drawing board (if you can call a stream of consciousness connected via a keyboard to a pixel generator -a board.) is the Sequel to Pisces and the Sailfish, Second Time Lucky. This book is being written now, literally as it happens, with most of the same main characters, plus a new daughter and a cat, -only it takes place twenty years later. It records our family's journey from another gun-at-head incident, this time involving all of us, to where we are now, the Casuarina Tree in Zululand, where we slept high up in the branches, for over a year and follows our journey onward, encountering amazing people, animals and bizarre experiences as we work toward being able to sail away from the urban madness again. (Phew if you can work out what I just said – please explain it to me)
I have another nine books on the drawing board. Its as if a log was jamming up the river finally worked itself free when I got the Sailfish off my chest. I am not sure in which order I shall complete them but possibly the third one will be another non-fiction work, the memoir of my alter ego- Don Darkes. It will be entitled either My Life of Crime or by (you guessed it) Don Darkes- written by me, Don Darkes, as told to me Don Darkes by the real Don Darkes. Oh boy I am getting confused.
Then I have a trilogy, not sure yet they will be entirely Non-Fiction, Historical Fact-based Fiction (is there such a genre?) or if I will chicken out and write it as pure fiction. The first book in the trio named, Bread from Air, explores the fascinating links between the Jewish Holocaust and Madagascar and some of the incredible women who disappeared through the cracks in history's floor. After that is a non-fiction (but maybe not) memoir covering (or rather uncovering) my (until recently) top secret time spent performing my compulsory National Service, waging electronic warfare, wearing another countries uniform, and shi**ing myself in a foreign country with a price on my head. The title for this one is provisionally Scrambled Eggs.
Morgen: My goodness. With so much to write about, do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Don: I am terminally lazy and ill disciplined. I don’t manage to physically write every day. I shall have to change. Knowing this my family herds me into the cubicle every morning, hatch and goes off to have fun mixing epoxy, sawing wood, laying fibreglass and seeing the sunshine reflecting off the sapphire blue sea. Serves them right! Jokes aside, I believe that an author is always writing. Even if a scribe is falling (with a chute) from an aeroplane or digging a ditch he is writing – with and in his mind. Therefore the act of connecting consciousness to keyboard is not writing – it’s transcribing an (e) book.
Morgen: I agree. When we’re not actually writing we’re thinking about writing… I know I am. :) Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Don: Er? Editing. That’s not writing. That’s work. Hard work, editing. Did I mention that I am desperate to find an editor. I agree wholeheartedly with Mark Coker when he says “Writers should spend their time wisely and Write and Editors should Edit!” Sorry Mark I got a bit carried away with the creative misquote- but I think I got the gist of what you said. Experience and practice and practise help too.
PS. Did I tell you I am desperately seeking an Editor?
Morgen: I edit at reasonable prices. :) Take a look at my editing and critique page. Do you have to do much research?
Don: Probably too much. Every day I live and breathe its research, and research and yet more research. Reading on the other hand is not research, it’s plagiarising, unless of course you steal the works of many other writers and that’s research! When I am reading that is the only time when I am not writing. For the Bread from Air book (perhaps books) I have already ploughed through over two hundred, heavy, boring, non fiction history tomes and the complete works of Winston Churchill. (ZZZZZ!)
Morgen: History was my worst subject at school (I seem to recall getting 2% in one test… I may be wrong) so I’m right there with you but a lot of writers adore history and do very well writing it (and I’ve had agents tell me they want more of it!). Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Don: So far that describes all of them. I spent most of my life writing something and then tearing it up the next day. Of course with digital it’s so much easier to tear up and with fewer paper cuts!
Morgen: It is, although I keep everything because you never know. Do you pitch for submissions and / or are you commissioned to write?
Don: I pitched my work to twenty Agents and one publisher. I don’t think my writing or grammar is good enough to be commissioned to write. But who knows, Pigs can Fly you know?
Morgen: It’s all in the writing – if they see something underneath that shines then the grammar doesn’t matter so much. I’ve heard writers say Dan Brown isn’t a great writer (and the same about the EL James and her Fifty Shades of Grey Series) but the story hooks people (there are more readers out there than writers) so that’s what matters. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Don: Yes, a lot. Cowboys don't cry so I grab an angle grinder and work on the boat. In actual fact, when I get a rejection – even if it's a Cockroach Letter (is there time to tell that joke? – ok – another time?) I embrace it. At least it’s a response. I am alive and someone replied to my plaintive cry to be heard. Far worse are the six weeks waiting for the bomb to go off, waiting by the email box impatiently and then nothing happens except silence. Is that rejection or dejection?
Morgen: Do you enter any non-fiction competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Don: I did, once, and the so and so's never awarded the prize money. I know that 'cause my son built their website and saw what was going on. I don’t know of any others but will not enter any if they ask an entry fee because my son and I know what a great business it can be. (We prepared a serious Internet based business plan and put down a deposit on our own island, -based on the prospects)
Morgen: I’m sure there are scams out there but in the main they’re legitimate. A writing group I chair runs the yearly H.E. Bates Short Story Competition and we charge (£4 / 3 for £10) because we have to pay the judge (this year we have crime writer Stephen Booth), rent the hall for the prize giving and of course give prize money. I avoid competitions that charge an disproportionate fee to prize money or only have a PO Box with no website. I have a competitions calendar and try to check out the information I put on there but I do have a disclaimer that I’ve not entered most of them so can’t guarantee their legitimacy. It’s a shame that there are people out there who will rip people off but that’s life… sadly. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Don: I do have an Agent. It’s my incredible wife and she loves me too much to tell me the truth. I would love a less gullible or lovable Agent. Of course I would love a real Agent in my corner, one that knows what they are doing, but I am not holding my breath waiting for the stampede.
Morgen: I don’t think anyone is and I’ve heard even agents are becoming publishers so it’s a tough time to be one right now. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Don: I know I will have to do the marketing and creating and growing the brand myself. Hooray for Morgen with an e – she has offered to interview me and kick start the process!
Morgen: :) Happy to oblige. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Don: Favourite. The awe on my family's faces when they saw me print the first couple of hundred pages on the ink-jet printer we keep under a tattered tarpaulin under the boat.
Least favourite. The sweat-inducing, back breaking, bottom-numbing work doing all that research! Never mind the self-doubt and angst. Darn I would rather be mixing epoxy or sanding fibreglass.
Morgen: I’m not a fan of research either but at least we have the internet. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Don: Get a real job!
Morgen: Oops. I gave mine up in March (and don’t regret it) and swapped it for two lodgers. :) If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Don: Hoo boy. I lay awake all last night on this one. Bill Clinton, Xaviera Hollander and the Pope accept my invitation to dinner. No, No, that's not it. Can I tell a funny story now? Terribly sorry (Can we edit this out?) - covers keyboard so the readers cant hear either of us frantically typing and editing it out.
Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin join us for lunch around a South African Braai. It’s like a barbecue but with real meat and glowing aromatic hardwood charcoal. (No hamburgers and no fire-lighters!) We pass around the mampoer (like moonshine only stronger and made from Maroela Fruit- You know?- The devilish little yellow wild fruit that gets Elephants tipsy after they fight off the greedy monkeys and horny mouthed bush pigs to slurp up the rotten ones from the forest floor.)
Winston on the other hand does not bat an eyelid as he puffs on his cigar. His completely at home here under the African stars around a crackling fire. Heck! We should have shot him when we caught him spying for the British army when he was skulking around the veld here during the Anglo-Boer war. But then I suppose that Ghandi would have put down his stretcher and refused to eat in support of his bosses – the British Army.
'Dolf and Joe are going to squirm when I serve the Puff-Adder boerewors. Our ten foot long, thick farmers-sausage filled with mashed up herbs and liberal fragrant spices and a lot of ground up deadly snake meat. South Africa’s answer to Japanese blow-fish – but with a lot more bite.
I shall hold my breath in anticipation when I ask them, “Why did you cosy chums not tell anyone what you discussed, when you all met together in that dark room, that stormy night so long ago in whimsical Vienna. (rubs hands with anticipation and laughs like a maniac)
Morgen: That does sound like fun… I’ll hope they say “yes” and that I can join them. :) If you had to choose a single day to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
Don: Tomorrow. Because I have lived and loved today already. Despite my identification with a chameleon, I don’t believe in looking over my shoulder. I live in the moment and regret nothing, not even my many, many mistakes.
Morgen: There’s nothing we can do about the past, is there… other than write about it. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Don: I can sleep when I am dead.
Morgen: I keep telling myself that when I go to bed at midnight and have to get up at five (to take the lodgers to work). Do you write fiction? If so, are there any differences or similarities between writing non-fiction and fiction?
Don: I have yet to write my first work of fiction, other than some (lies all lies) tax returns. Can I plead the Fifth?
Morgen: You could but I’m in the UK so it wouldn’t mean anything to me. I should Google it, shouldn’t I? Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Don: The Heroine of my Pisces and the Sailfish and Second Time Lucky books, my wife Anne (soon to be reborn as Dianne Darkes (shh!) is my favourite character in the books, as a person in real life and as my best friend, mother of my children, wife, lover, confidante, and anchor.
I would love her to play herself but I fear that someone will fall in love with her and kidnap her for himself. If I was forced to choose an actress to play her it would be Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren or Pauline Collins as she was in Shirley Valentine.
To play Don (That’s me?) First choice Ian McShane, as he was in HBO's Deadwood or a Young Richard Burton, Peter o” Toole or Sean Connery. (I wish!)
My son, Bill Darkes, a young John Lithgow. My Daughter Morgan Darkes (with an A!) the British Garden show actress, dogsbody and fearless woman Charlie Dimmock.
My youngest and darkest daughter, Luna Darkes, is the most difficult of all as she transforms and grows daily and surprises me all the time. Blond and wickedly, satirically intelligent with a biting wit and a heart of gold. What actress would you choose- I have not found any that comes even close to the real thing. Can she play herself?
Morgen: Great choices. I’ve been a fan of John Lithgow since he appeared in the airplane section of The Twilight Zone movie. He was brilliant in 3rd Rock from the Sun (he’s brilliant in anything he does). I've not seen Deadwood but loved Ian in Lovejoy (but hated the book!). Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Don: I lack education so I just crank out the story as it happened. I have been told (by an agent rejecting my submission) that I have an honest voice. Sheesh I wrote to him- we never spoke on the phone!
The beauty of Non-fiction is it’s easier to tell it like it is, er was… er, happened...?
Morgen: That’s true although the facts have to be even more accurate, but then you’re writing from your experience so that would be easier (although you did say how much you love research). :) Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Don: The characters remain pretty much as I found them. Sometimes I may use a composite of nuances and inspirations from other people. Names I sometimes change in order to protect the innocent. Given that I always create the new name encoded in such a way that they know and I know who they are. (I have a lot of dirty washing to air innocently)
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Don: Hah? I mean I beg your pardon? I have absolutely no idea what the second person is. I enjoy the first person point of view, especially when I can be someone else though.
Morgen: Second person is ‘you’ rather than ‘I’, ‘he/she’. It’s not easy to pull off – I explain it (and give an example of it) on my blog’s second person page. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Don: I am building a boat, an Ark really, together with my family and I am working with a group of previously disadvantaged South Africans to build a writers group. We want to write a Rosetta Stone series of books about life in the cauldron that is Africa and particularly South Africa. I dare not tell you more about the Rosetta Stone concept until we can get it copyrighted.
I also have a younger daughter that is completing here education via “Home-Schooling” using the UK's Cambridge System. I spend as much time as I can with her to make up for the lack of social interaction that she suffers as a result of not being at the conventional systems for destroying individuality and creativity, (er I mean)... conventional Schools. With the little time that is left I try to catch up on my breathing and sleeping.
Morgen: They are both useful. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Don: I am a keen cyclist (won the biggest amateur cycling event in the world some time back) a scuba diver, sky diver (broke my leg and have 22 stainless steel screws to remind me every time I pass through an airport) Sailor, boat builder and I love cooking. (almost as much as I adore eating.)
Morgen: I’ve never been a fan of jumping out of planes and less so now… Are there any writing-related websites that you find useful?
Don: One revolutionary has influenced my thinking. Mark Coker the founder of Smashwords.
Morgen: He’s opened up a wonderfully big door, hasn’t he? I actually prefer Smashwords to Amazon (but don’t tell Amazon that!) and have sold more there too, although what I have (only a short story collection and writing guide so far – currently working on the novels) went up on Smashwords first (late last year vs April this year). Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Don: The linked-in sites are incredible, and I participate (to the detriment of my writing time) in a number of the Writing, sailing, Home Schooling, Ecology, Off-the Grid, Travel and Publishing site that I can.
Morgen: LinkedIn’s great isn’t it; so helpful whenever there’s a query and keeps me more than topped up with interviewees. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Don: Thankfully Ebooks are immortal. Did I say that already? Killing forests is soon going to be a thing of the past. Epublishing, and electronic publishing is going to change the way writers write, market, promote, sell and update their books. I am known as a visionary on these things (I was giving lectures to the boards of large companies three years before the Internet changed the world as we knew it – forever). I will be blogging (and participating) in the coming eBooks Revolution with all virtual pens blazing.
Morgen: Oh me too. I think all authors would like to see their books in print (I would) but eBooks are where the future is. I’ve only had a handful of interviewees say they wouldn’t read them. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Don: I have a website and a blog at of course you can call me also on Skype at don.darkes and we can chat and you can see my boat and my tree-house, that is if the monkeys, crocodiles, hippos, fish eagles, snakes, and our pet dolphin don’t distract you.
Morgen: They would, I’d love to see them. :) Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Don: Yes. Thank you for asking. I am a new writer and Literary agents tell me, “have yet to find your voice”. I also need to better understand my audience and find them. My first manuscript is poised at a crossroads, it’s short (50,000 or so words in its raw state) humorous and written as vignettes that allow it to be read easily without having to understand a complicated plot or lose the thread of the story. But I feel it lacks something. Thus the crossroads. I would like to explore one of the major themes- but fear it might alienate those that wish to be entertained, and not challenged. I would like to go forward, to cover more than the crisis but fear it may not be interesting for readers who only wanted a good escapist yarn and to know who and why I tried to murder someone.
I come from a background of software development and the birth of the Internet. We learnt the value of beta-testers to test drive new software even if it meant giving it away for free. So I need some unnamed genre, Memoir, Family Adventure Book beta readers. If you, the reader would be willing to be my guinea pig (can we edit that out?) … er a beta-tester, please contact me and I shall arrange for your free copy if you will tell me warts and all what was good and bad about it.
Morgen: Please do folks (and I’m sure they don’t mind being called guinea pigs). I’d review books if I had another 12 hours in my day (I do review short stories). Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Don: Yes! How did you come up with and develop this excellent facility and where do you see it taking you?
Morgen: Thank you very much. :) I’d heard that creating a blog was a good thing to do. I used to have a Blogspot blog (I do again now,, but it just replays the – currently earlier – interviews) but did nothing with it so had 372 visitors in a couple of years. I deleted it when I’d met philosopher Nigel Warburton when I was volunteering at the Oundle Literature Festival last year who had over 2 million visitors and an average of 1,000 a day so within two weeks (31st March 2011) this one was born. A couple of months later I was interviewed on another blog and found it such fun that I started doing them and the rest, as they say (in France), is histoire. Thank you, Don… Lawrence. My regards to Dianne. :)
I then invited Don to include an extract of his writing…
6612 Cold Sweet Revenge
I have waited impatiently and very bitter for almost twenty years to write the final chapters to this story. Whilst I have often fantasised about revenge and what I could or should have done, it is only recently that I realised that I should have forgiven and forgotten a long, long time ago. Nevertheless I have to admit that I experienced intense pleasure and a sweet release in being able to enjoy, with relish, the truth in two of my favourite old saws about revenge when I recently read a long awaited obituary. ‘Revenge is a dish best eaten cold!’ And, ‘There is no sweeter revenge than outliving your enemies!’
6792 Jamais vu
Jamais vu (from French, meaning "never seen") is a term in psychology which is used to describe any familiar situation which is not recognized by the observer. Often described as the opposite of déjà vu, jamais vu involves a sense of eeriness and the observer's impression of seeing the situation for the first time, despite rationally knowing that he or she has been in the situation before. (Wikipedia)
As the first rays of sunlight began to peel away the darkness at dawn on June seventh I could see that it was low tide and that the pounding waves were crashing some way off from where I sat huddled with my shivering family. A silver flash of reflected sunlight summoned me from where a shimmering object lay within the expanse of sand exposed by the receding ocean. “Wait here.” I ordered as I stood up and stepped sleepily onto the glistening beach ignoring the protests from the hardy villagers who had shared our all-night vigil. At first I did not notice how my footsteps filled up and sank then vanished behind me as I single-mindedly drew each foot from the sucking white sand and staggered doggedly forward to stand exhausted above my glinting steel objective. Puzzled and perplexed I scratched my head, wincing absent-mindedly as warm blood oozed afresh from the wound on my aching skull as I struggled to recognise at what I was looking. As I sank up to my hips in the cloying muck I recognised with dismay what the all too familiar shape sticking out of the quicksand in front of me was.
and a synopsis...
Pisces and the Sailfish is a Family Adventure and Travel Memoir follows the first part of my young family's adventures after we abandoned our secure, comfortable and meaningless existence in suburbia to follow our dream. This often humorous account, relates how we unwittingly bought a jinxed yacht, watched it smash itself to pieces and with no prior experience, skills or training rebuilt it, sailed away, rediscovered paradise, punished betrayal, found ancient treasure and how we survived sharks, lemurs, walruses, a lynch mob, a curse, gas, flaming epoxy and quicksand. It also relates how in answer to my prayer, we lost everything and experienced heart-breaking generosity that altered our lives and welded our family even closer together. This book also reveals for the first time how and why I tried to commit murder. If I rewrite it the Synopsis will look a little more like this
This book, a frivolous, humorous, deliberately flippant and self-indulgent memoir, is an exorcism and catharsis. It covers how, after having a gun to my head I opted-out, sold up, bought a yacht and together with my young family sailed away. (To where we were going - I have yet to find out. Worse still -we never arrived.) Then we were shipwrecked and had to return, in chains, to "civilization". The book may possibly be named Curse of the Sailfish – referring to the Jekyll and Hyde nature of what I have come to believe was a cursed boat.
Either way I intend to self publish it once I find a editor/ mentor and guide that I can work with (and afford – in every sense of the word – although I believe I cannot afford not to have this facility) who will be prepared to partner with me as I write the other nine or so, mainly "non-fiction" books that I wish to write.
Lawrence de Robillard writes as Don Darkes. This choice of pseudonym is due to the fact that he is also writing a Biographical memoir provisionally entitled, Darkest Africa My Life of Crime, or Darkes Africa, the life story of an incredible man, Don Darkes, who was given this identity, at birth, in order to keep a secret and the fact that like him, Lawrence’s given name is also an accident of birth concealing his true heritage. He is fifty-something and has been ecstatically married for over three decades to his incredible wife Anne who bore him three miracle children.
After repudiating his Psychology degree in the mid-seventies he served his mandatory National Military Service in a clandestine, top-secret unit stationed in (then) Rhodesia – for which he received a medal. (The subject of a novel in progress) During the eighties, at the height of apartheid, together with (then illegal) “black” partners he built a successful manufacturing company which he sold to buy the yacht upon which he was shipwrecked together with his wife Anne, their five year old son and four year old daughter.
After returning destitute to South Africa he rode a ripple in the wave and cashed in his Internet start-up in order to distribute rare organic chocolate and to research a challenging historical novel, Bread From Air, which explores an intriguing link between the Jewish Holocaust and Madagascar. Currently, together with his wife, son and two daughters they reside high off the ground amongst the branches of a Casuarina tree as the family works together to build another yacht whilst Lawrence also works on several books that have as a common denominator, his love of history and his belief that fact is stranger and far more interesting than fiction.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the questions. You complete them, I tweak them where appropriate (if necessary to reflect the blog ‘clean and light’ rating) and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
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As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do, and a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words (and post stories of up to 3,000 words). Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me posting it online in my new Red Pen Critique Sunday night posts, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

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