Still living the dream in rural Ireland
Nick and Lesley’s desire for a better life in the countryside was a long-held dream. Unforeseen events and a leap of faith forced that dream into reality, but moving to rural Ireland was only the beginning of their story.
Foreigners in a foreign land, they set about making new friends, learning the culture and expanding their collection of chickens and unruly dogs. But their dream home was in desperate need of renovation, a mammoth task they attacked with the aid of a DIY manual, dwindling funds and incompetent enthusiasm. With defunct diggers, collapsing ladders, and shocking electrics, what could possibly go wrong?
Will their new life live up to expectations, or will the Irish weather, dangerous roads, and a cruel twist of fate turn this dream into a nightmare?
- Did or do you like to read comic books or graphic novels?
By coincidence, I was discussing this with my wife, just the other day. I do not recall ever reading comics and I have certainly never read a graphic novel. Although I can understand the attraction of having something with so many pictures as an easy and entertaining bridge between films and the written word, it has never appealed to me. Although some of these graphic artists are exceptionally good, I prefer to create my own mental images. When I read, my mind creates its own vibrant pictures. As an author, my aim is to help my readers do the same. If they feel the need for pictures to enhance my books, then I haven’t done my job well enough!
- Whom did you inherit your love of books and reading from?
As a child, I was introduced to the wonderful world of books by my sister, when she gave me her well-thumbed copy of Winnie-the-Pooh. A short while later, I discovered The Story of Doctor Doolittle, by Hugh Lofting. I believe I read all 13 books in the series in a month. Introducing a child to the joys of reading is the greatest gift anyone can ever give.
When I was a student living in Norwich, England, my first flat was next door to the best second-hand bookshop in the city. What heaven! Back then I read a lot of sci-fi books and thrillers, purely for the escapism. My father was a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Military kids get moved around a lot. With so many transient relationships in their lives, it can be practically and emotionally difficult for those children to develop friendships. Books are loyal friends for a lonely child. I think most of us read a lot.
- When you need a character in one of your books to meet a grizzly end, do you sometimes picture someone nasty you have met in real life and think ‘got you’ LOL?
I certainly wouldn’t be the first author to say, “Don’t piss me off, or I’ll make you a character in my next book, then kill you off!” It’s certainly very tempting sometimes. Now you mention it, when I wrote ‘Wrecking Crew’ it never occurred to me to seek some narrative revenge. Perhaps, because I have such a vivid imagination, I would struggle to give someone I knew a grizzly death – unless I was prepared to do it in reality. Likewise, when I was writing those painful passages about real people who died in my memoir series, ‘Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds’, I had to maintain some creative distance by changing the names or physical description. Only then could I let the emotions flow.
- How do you come up with the names for your characters?
When I’m writing thrillers, I first create a mental picture of the character, before hunting through lists of names until I find one which feels right. In my memoirs, primarily to save any embarrassment or law suits, I usually change the names. Although all of the stories are true, many of the characters are a blend of the best bits from two or three people. I’ll usually tweak the names in the same way.
- Do you write other things beside books (and shopping lists 😉 )?
Yes. Back when I had a proper job, I wrote a lot of corporate stuff. Mostly training courses and reports, it was all terribly dull. I am also a golf coach, so a short while after we moved to Ireland I began writing an instructional column for a local newspaper. After several years, I had enough content to write a golf book. It was a number one bestseller for a bit and gave me the incentive to begin writing full time. These days I write a blog too, although not as frequently as perhaps I should. I’d like to do more, but producing a new book every nine months or so, is time consuming and keeps me pretty busy.
- If a movie or TV series would be made from your books, would you be happy with the ‘based on’ version or would you rather they showed it exactly the way you created it?
I’d be happy with either, as long as it came with a huge royalty cheque! Joking aside, our memories of events tend to be unreliable and shadowed by emotions. That’s why eyewitness testimony is at best a dubious measure of what actually happened. In my ‘Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds’ memoir series, I’ve done my best to tell the tale as accurately as I could. However, even my best recollection of any particular incident is likely to be somewhat inaccurate and like any writer I’m inclined to colour my descriptions for dramatic effect. Obviously, thrillers are a different story (please pardon the pun) so there is more scope for artistic license if ‘Wrecking Crew’ was ever made into a movie. In either event, if someone wanted to take any of my books onto the big screen, I’d say, “Have at it!”
- Who would you like to interview?
That’s a tough question. There are so many inspirational people and great writers I’d be honoured to meet. Just now, the first name which pops into my mind is Richard Dawkins. He wouldn’t naturally be at the top of my list – ahead of worthy heroes who have lead exciting lives or people, particularly women, who have overcome hardship and discrimination to make fantastic achievements – but technically, Dawkins is an excellent writer. For some people, his subject matter may feel unpalatable (he’s an atheist, ethologist and evolutionary biologist) but his ability to explain complicated concepts in a wonderfully concise manner is first class. As someone who finds his own writing on complicated matters inclined to circle the drain, before being rescued at the last moment by my excellent editor, I envy his talented writing style.
- Do you have certain people you contact while doing research to pick their brains? What are they specialized in?
When writing my memoirs series, I’ve largely been relating events for which I have personal experience, so there hasn’t been as much need for research. Whenever I found my memory was a little vague, my photographs and diaries were of great help to fill the gaps. Many of my professional colleagues would agree the internet is a great research tool. Google street view is a super resource for visually jogging my memory with regard to places I’ve visited.
Writing thrillers, or books on subjects outside of my narrow field of knowledge requires a considerable amount of research. Long before I began writing ‘Wrecking Crew’, I read a huge amount about computer security and spoke to several people with expertise in that area. They were very kind in helping me reach a level of understanding where I could write with confidence. Not everything went to plan though. I also took a course in lock picking and over several weeks of practice became quite proficient and knowledgeable. However, that 3,000 word chapter was eventually edited down to just a couple of lines. Oh well, perhaps I’ll have my hero picking locks in the next book!
- Is there someone you sometimes discuss a dilemma with?
My publisher has partnered me with an excellent editor. She’s my go-to person if I need some advice and she’s never let me down. Also, my daughter has a level head, so she’s a good sounding board if I’m conflicted on something. Over the years, I’ve learned the value of taking advice, listening carefully and quietly thinking things through before making a decision.
- What is more important to you : a rating in stars with no comments or a reviewer who explains what the comments they give are based on (without spoilers of course).
I think both are nice, although an explanation can be useful, particularly if there is some commonality in the comments. I’m always appreciative that someone has taken the time to share their opinion, even if their comments are less than glowing. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. My ‘Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds’ series has almost 1,000 positive reviews and more than half are five stars. I’m delighted the books are so popular and tremendously grateful to all of those readers.
Thank you, Nick Albert and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the author
Nick Albert was born in England and raised in a Royal Air Force family. After leaving College he worked in retail management for several years before moving into financial services where he quickly progressed through the ranks to become a training consultant. As a very passionate and reasonably talented sportsman, Nick had always wanted to use his training skills towards creating a parallel career, so in the mid 1980’s he qualified and began coaching sport professionally. After a health scare in 2003 and in search of a simpler life, he and his wife Lesley, cashed in their investments, sold their home and bought a rundown farmhouse in the rural west of Ireland – a country they had never before even visited. With little money or experience and armed only with a do-it-yourself manual, they set about renovating their new home, where they now live happily alongside a flock of chickens, two ducks and several unruly, but delightful dogs.
In 2017 Nick was signed to Ant Press to write a series of humorous memoirs about his life in rural Ireland. Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds (book one) was published in September 2017 and soon became an Amazon bestseller. Book two in the series was published on 1st June 2018 and book 3 in August 2019. Book four is due out in early 2020.
Nick is also the author of the twisty thriller, Wrecking Crew, the first in a series of books featuring reluctant hero Eric Stone.