This interview is the first in a series of author interviews I’ll be posting over the coming months. So without further ado, I’d like to introduce historical fiction author, Vince Rockston.
Vince grew up in the protected environment of the island of Jersey (Channel Islands, GB), and then studied physics at Imperial College in London. Later, he had the chance to participate in a research group at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, which allowed him to use leading-edge technology and the most powerful computers of the time.
His priorities changed when he met a sweet, Finnish au pair and they decided to get married and start a family. Now retired, Vince lives in a beautiful Swiss village with his wife. They share a house with their son, his Brazilian wife, and their Chihuahua.
In his spare time, Vince loves to go hiking in the mountains and exploring the woods and pastures surrounding the village on the e-bike he was given when he retired. He plays online Chess, Sudoku or Words with Friends and is heavily involved with supporting Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
Welcome, Vince. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me and my readers this month.
I’m glad to share a few personal insights.
Okay, then. Let’s dive right in. Firstly, can you tell us a little about the book you’re currently working on? What’s it about?
Aquila, set on the Isle of Elba in the 6th century, is the story of the life-changing encounter between the troubled Pagan lad Silvanus and the Christian hermit Cerbonius. Over several years, Silvanus has to deal with the temptations of wealth, a flirtatious girl, being robbed, falling in love, and facing the wrath of a bitter father, while all the time living in fear of Aquila the Avenger, the local manifestation of the god Jupiter. A dark secret plagues his conscience until near the end of the book.
That sounds fascinating. Where is the Isle of Elba, exactly? My history isn’t great, but isn’t that the island Napoleon got exiled to?
Elba is one of a group of small Italian islands between the mainland and the currently French island of Corsica. Yes, Napoleon was exiled there and, although he only spent 10 months on the island before escaping and again attempting to conquer the world, he left many marks of his stay on Elba.
What drew you to Elba?
Having grown up in Jersey, I’ve always loved the sea and small islands fascinate me. My wife and I were attracted by the possibility of travelling by bus from home for a week-long guided hiking tour. The group proved congenial, the guide excellent and we discovered a very beautiful island with a rich history.
How often do you write, and do you have a special time during the day to write?
Work, family, and other activities mean that I’ve never had a special routine for writing, though I write mainly in the evenings.
Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
I’m a perfectionist and have always been rather strong as regards grammar and spelling, so first I do the editing myself. Then I have critique partners and professional editors work on it. Scribophile is a valuable online community that can help with this process. At the moment my book is going through a beta-reader cycle, so there will probably be more changes coming. I must say I get very annoyed when I read poorly edited indie-published books. After much revision and editing, I have submitted my manuscript to several agents and publishers. One has shown interest so far, which is very exciting for me. In the meantime, I’ve been working on some ancillary short articles to be published on my blog.
Do you think that a book’s cover plays an important part in the buying process?
I’m sure it does, although I find it difficult to assess which covers are more effective than others. I have put together some suggestions for my book, Aquila, and am now processing several proposals for a cover design. I have no idea about typography, although my son assures me it is of paramount importance, so I trust the designer to do what’s right.
What do you think of “trailers” for books, and do you have any plans to create one for Aquila?
A video trailer, if it’s well done, certainly appeals, especially to the younger, visually-oriented generation. I have a specialist in the family and have experimented a bit with making videos myself, but it’s very difficult to make a quality trailer that is exciting, not too long, and teases the viewer enough that he/she wants to buy the book. At this stage, I have no plans to make one for Aquila.
Those are all my writing and book related questions done, but I’m curious to know more about what you are doing to support Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Can you tell us a little about that?
There’s been a massive influx of refugees from Afghanistan, the war-torn Middle East and many African countries into Europe in the last few years. Each one has a tragic tale to tell of what forced them to leave their home and of their horrendous experiences en route. Many find their way to Switzerland, where they are given temporary accommodation in disused military barracks or underground air-raid shelters – not very attractive! The lucky ones who aren’t sent back to the first European country they passed through – usually Greece or Italy – are distributed among the towns and villages. Not everyone is happy with this approach, but I have been given the task of caring for the two Syrian and one Iraqi family in my village, which means visiting them at least once a week to bring them their allowance and helping them with administrative matters, doctor’s visits, school issues, German courses, etc. Over the months I have become quite attached to them.
What does the future look like for these three families? Are they able to settle in Switzerland? If not, what will happen to them?
At the moment, their permits only grant them a temporary right to stay. But, unless the situation changes dramatically for the better in their home countries in the next few years, and bearing in mind that the children are becoming integrated into the Swiss education system and culture, there’s a good chance that they will receive resident status later. This was the case many years ago for a Macedonian and an Afghan family I looked after; they have settled well and the kids have grown up and found work.
Thanks for that, Vince. All the best with your work with the refugee families and for getting Aquila published. Now, where can people find you online?