I won’t go into the medical details other than to say that whilst it wasn’t exactly unexpected, his ultimate demise was quite sudden but it was also very peaceful. I know that, because I was with him when he died.
He was a great man my dad, a legend in fact. I know many people says that about their fathers but in his case, it was true. Indeed, he is cited by many of his peers, including Billy Connolly and Jasper Carrott, as being one of the most influential figures on the British folk scene that exploded in the 60’s and 70’s.
However, it wasn’t simply his undoubted abilities as a musician that earned him that accolade, it was as much his skills as a story teller. Oh yes, the old boy could certainly tell a tale. Indeed, a quick search of Facebook will reveal numerous threads containing ‘my favourite Derek Brimstone’ joke.
I mention this now because one of the questions frequently thrown at me is how, and indeed why, I made the transition from humble serviceman to best-selling author and screenwriter.
Usually, my answer is something along the lines of ‘it was the only way I could think of to earn a living sitting at home watching football’ but the truth is, it was because of my father. For he was the one who taught me not only how to to weave a tale, but to construct humour. Be it as a simple one-liner or in a full length novel such as Billy’s Log.
Sadly, I never really acknowledged that until recently and I certainly never thanked him for it. But the truth is that every book and film I’ve ever written has the DNA of my dad running through it and for that, I will be eternally grateful.
If you talk to any writer, they will tell you that their heads are, generally speaking, pretty fucked up. Not in the sense that they/we have some kind of mental issue (well, not all of us), but in the sense that our brains are constantly filtering random thoughts and ideas. Be they for books, characters or even simple scenes.
This is especially true of those writers who tackle contemporary issues because if we have any intention of injecting reality into our work it is vital to actually get out there and experience a bit of it. In my case, as someone who tends to feature football in most of my work, watching games really is research (which is why my local and most fabulous Watford FC supporting tax officer always tells me to deduct it against my tax!). It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
Sometimes of course, an idea will fly in and fly out, other times it’ll hang about for a bit and then be forgotten whilst a few will eventually find their way into a project. But there are others which, by virtue of the fact that they are just too good to ignore, simply wedge themselves into my consciousness like some kind of mental post-it note. And if an idea can survive my Alzheimer like memory, it generally means it is worth taking notice of.
I have a few of those hanging around and hopefully, most will see the light of day at some point in the near future. Indeed one in particular already has me buzzing even though I have two books to write before I can even think about tackling it. And much as I’d like to tell you what it is, I can’t. Or rather I won’t.
Because you see in my warped world, ideas are currency. They are after all, the very basis of my creative output and so I need to not only nurture, but protect them!
I mention this now because my new book, a comedy entitled Wings of a Sparrow, is the result of such a process because it stems from an idea I first had over six years ago. I actually pitched it to my publishers at the time and even though they turned it down, I knew it was a great idea which is why I kept tinkering with it. Now, thanks to the joys of self-publishing, it will very shortly see the light of day. Hopefully as soon as the first week in December.
Full details of what will be my fifteenth book (how did that happen??) can be found on its dedicated website but I have to say that I am genuinely excited about this one, more so in fact than I have been about a project for a long time. It just feels…. well, right, although ultimately of course, that will be for you lot to decide!
And now, having finished Wings, I am already onto the next one which is, as promised, the sequel to Top Dog, the third book in the Billy Evans trilogy.
The plot-line I’ve developed is quite possibly the best I’ve ever come up with and as I’ve been fleshing this out, I’ve been buzzing with ideas including some which will involve characters from the previous books. Indeed, I am almost certain that I’ll be writing this in a way which means it will be quite difficult to read it without having read the previous two. To me, and to others I’ve discussed it with, given the nature of the central character and the world he inhabits, that makes perfect sense but if you have any thoughts, please let me know.
Two things I am certain of are the title and the fact that it will be released as an eBook initially, all being well around late spring.
But in the meantime, I have the release of Wings of a Sparrow to deal with and that should hit the online stores in the first week of December. Test-reads have been universally positive and hopefully, given the subject matter (and the fact that there is no mention of hooliganism!) it should attract some decent press.
As ever… watch this space!!!
I know I seem to say this every month but thanks to everyone who continues to keep The Crew at number one on the free soccer book download charts of both Amazon and iTunes.
That’s into 15 straight months now which is some kind of achievement and something I am incredibly proud of. Top Dog also continues to sell really well (it’s currently at #2) so here’s hoping the new book does just as well.
As a professional writer, I’m often asked what I find most difficult about my job. Aside from the obvious answer of ‘getting paid’ my usual response isn’t finding an idea, nor is it getting motivated, it’s remaining motivated. Indeed, when a project will inevitably take many months to put together, it takes a special kind of commitment (or madness) to keep the enthusiasm and motivation going long enough to be able to sit down every day and drive it along to completion.
However, it is important to remember that motivation isn’t within us, it’s something we have to provide for ourselves. And having been at it for over twenty year now, I have learned that key to doing that are two things: routine and reward.
WRITING ROUTINE There is no way to write, only ways. Therefore it is vital that you find what works for you and stick with it.
For some, that will mean an office, a quiet corner or even the sofa whilst for others, it will mean Starbucks or even the local beach. Some like to write in silence, others like noise, some in the morning, some late at night. Whatever it is, once you have established a routine, stepping into it will help your creative mindset and you’ll be away.
WRITING REWARD A simple love of writing or a desire to tell a specific story may well be all the reward you need but for others, like me, there have to be two specific and personal incentives. The first when you hit your daily word count can be something as simple as a glass of wine or a Mars bar and the second, when you hand over the finished work, can be something major such as a holiday or even a new motorbike.
Whatever they are, keep them fixed firmly in your mind (maybe even write them as your screensaver) and make sure that when you’ve earned them, you take them and you savour them.
Fairly soon, these, like your routine, will become part and parcel of your writing life and with any luck, the process of writing won’t ever be a chore, it’ll become relatively easy. Which is pretty much what’s happened to me although to be fair, I have been doing it a long time.
So I know what works for me, the question is, what works for you?
A couple of weeks ago, whist sitting at my computer as I do most days, I had one of those gut-wrenching writing related moments when I begrudgingly accepted that what I was working on wasn’t working.
These, as you can imagine, are painful times for a writer because not only do they signify wasted creative effort, but wasted time. Worse than that, they inevitably kick off feelings of frustration and anger and can even signal the start of what some people refer to as writers block (and my feelings on that are well documented).
Anyway, when such a moments occur in Brimson Towers, any one of a number of things will happen:
1. I will make tea before simply dumping everything I’ve written and starting again.
2. I will make tea and settle into a few hours of quiet reflection (sulking) before going back and finding a way to make it work.
3. I will make tea, curse my life and lack of talent and settle into a few days of quiet reflection (sulking) before going back and finding a way to make it work.
4. i will switch on the internet and waste hours of time arguing with someone in the name of research and/or spend loads of money on eBay before going back and finding a way to make it work.
5. I will go out on a motorbike for a few hours and return with not only a way to make it work, but a way to make it better.
Sadly, due to the ravages of time on my knackered back, number 5 is no longer an option which left me with only four choices, or so I thought. Because as I switched on the obligatory kettle, it suddenly struck me that I wasn’t actually enjoying writing. Not just the project I was actually working on, but at all. This light-bulb moment instantly presented me with a fifth option and it was one which, as someone who lists ‘laziness’ as a personal attribute, had an obvious appeal. So much so that right then and there, I grabbed it with both hands. It was retirement.
Yes, that’s right. I didn’t tell anyone about it but early on in November I made the conscious decision to retire from writing altogether. It was bliss, and it lasted approximately two days.
But what dragged me back to my keyboard wasn’t boredom, it was a series of phone calls informing me that two scripts I’d written had taken major steps forward along the development path whilst another idea I’d thrown into the mix had begun to generate some serious excitement.
As motivational tools go, mentions of A-List actors and doubled budgets sit pretty high on the list and so I am happy to announce that my short-lived retirement is now at an end. In fact my writing life is more hectic than it has been in ages.
I’ve received a number of mails recently from people who are keen to write books and need advice on how to go about it.
Invariably, these mails ask about finding an agent and/or a publisher as well as any one of twenty questions relating to the actual process of getting a book from brain to bookshelf. However, whilst I’m always keen to encourage new writers, it’s fair to say that most of the people who contact me need (and receive) a reality check.
The truth is that when you’re starting out on the rocky road of penmanship, you don’t need an agent and unless you are incredibly famous or staggeringly lucky, the chances of you securing a publishing deal are pretty much zero. What you do need however, are words on pages. Lots of them.
So if you want to write a book, the best way to start is to simply sit down and get writing. And once you have a few thousand words on your hard drive, you’ll soon realise any number of things. Not least if you have the imagination and drive to actually see it through. Most don’t, but if you actually reach the point where you can say ‘yes’ to both of those questions, that’s when you need to start thinking about the next stage in the process.
Until then, it’s all about actually doing the graft. And you do know it’s hard graft right?
Given my youthful good looks (sic) it might shock you to discover that I’ve been around for a long time. Truth is, I’ve made so many trips around the block that I frequently navigate it in my sleep.
Along the way, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some incredible people but inevitably, I have also encountered some who are, shall we say, less than incredible.
That’s life of course. It would be a bizarre world indeed if we liked everyone we met just as it would be extremely odd if everyone who met us were dazzled by our individual charms. I’ve certainly met plenty of people who have come to regard me as an arsehole. Or worse.
But I can live with that. Life’s too short to work with people you don’t like and that obviously works both ways.
However, whilst normally I consign these individuals to the ‘bad experiences’ folder of my meagre brain, there will occasionally be someone who irks me to such an extent that they make it onto my s**t list. And if you make it onto that, watch out. Because at some point I will repay you in kind.
Oh yes, I carry a grudge.
I mention it here simply because I was recently given the opportunity to dust off said list and cross two people off it. Not because I had forgiven them for their transgressions, but because the opportunity had arisen for the delivery of some payback and I’d grabbed it with both hands.
Yes, I know it’s childish and yes, at my age I should be above such things, but when I’m looking at a potential cast list and see that two of the actors on it also feature on my s**t list, there is no way on earth that either is ever going to get a sniff.
The only sad thing, as I sit here basking in a warm glow of revenge, is that I doubt either of them will ever know that karma paid them a visit on my behalf.
But I know. And ultimately, that’s all that matters.
I have an admission to make: my name is Dougie Brimson and I am a professional author. That isn’t as an introduction to some kind of warped writers anonymous group, it’s a statement of fact.
I mention it because the other day someone asked me what motivates me to write and having thought about it at length, the one thought that kept entering my head was ‘what a stupid bloody question!’ Let’s get this clear once and for all; I write for two reasons: 1. I’m a lazy bastard who likes sitting down all day and 2. I need to make money to facilitate item 1.
That seems fair enough to me but for some strange reason it doesn’t seem to sit well with the literati. For them, the very idea of a writer admitting to being motivated by income rather than some holier-than-thou desire to ‘create’ is almost akin to admitting a being a Brexiter and admiring Margret Thatcher. Mind you, both of those are true of me too.
I have never really understood this thinking. After all, writing isn’t just bloody hard work it takes an awful lot of time and effort so if you’re going to do it, surely the aim must be to get published? But you will only get published if someone thinks that there is potential to sell copies and if you sell copies, you make money. That’s why it’s called the publishing business.
Yet for some reason, if you as a writer approach the process by looking at the market and giving it what it actually wants as opposed to what some editor thinks it should have, you are regarded almost as a traitor to the art form. Believe me, I’ve met people who work in publishing who genuinely seem to consider being popular as something to be ashamed of.
Well sod that. I might never win the Booker prize or receive invites to the Hay festival but I know my market, I know what it wants and I’m happy to provide it with as much as I can and as often as I can. If the literary world doesn’t get that simple commercial reality then screw them.
The reason why this is so relevant is because as some people are already aware, I’m currently working on the sequel to my novel Billy’s Log and it’s highly likely that I will be releasing it purely as an ebook.
There are numerous reasons for this (most of which are quite tedious) but the two main ones have to do with speed and money.
It can take months, sometimes years, for a manuscript to make the journey to Waterstones and even longer for the meagre percentage of the cover price to reach the authors bank.
For an eBook, it can be online within hours and any royalties in the bank within 3 months and more importantly, even though eBooks are significantly cheaper than paperbacks, that royalty is higher.
As a professional writer, that’s significant because at the end of the day, whilst I’ve sold plenty of books (around 750,000 at the last count) I’m not JK Rowling or Jeffrey Archer and I don’t get offered 6 figure advances. My income is generated primarily by sales.
Don’t get me wrong, I cannot even begin to tell you how much I appreciate every single email, tweet, letter or comment I receive about my writing and when it comes to motivation, nothing works as effectively as praise. But I also appreciate the income that my work generates if for no other reason than it buys me time, and food. So anything I can do to increase that income and the speed with which it arrives, has to be a good thing.
The downside of course, is that for someone like me who continues to sell books, by stepping away from the traditional publishing route I’m actually taking work away from the very people who have for years been in control of my career.
I get no pleasure from that but at the end of the day, going the eBook route might not win me any friends in publishing but no editor would work for nothing and I’ll be buggered if I’m going to either.
On the subject of ebooks, it continues to astonish me that over 5 years since it was first released as an ebook, The Crew has almost continually held the #1 slot on both its Amazon and iTunes chart and was the most downloaded football book of 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Additionally, on most weeks at least 7 of the top 50 football books on iTunes are my titles and I’ve also released two further books including Wings of a Sparrow which continues to sell well.
This, in spite of the fact that publicity for my work remains an elusive beast. In fact I have found it all but impossible to obtain any mainstream coverage for my work which is both irritating and frustrating in equal measures. Yes, there is obviously the ‘hooligan’ tag to overcome which is clearly and understandably an issue with some people but the fact remains, there is a market for the type of books I write and thankfully, that market seems to like what I’m providing for them.
So rest assured, as long as people keep buying them, I’ll keep writing them because to me, the reader is and always will be the most important person in the whole process. Which is kind of the point.
As someone who is lucky enough to converse with people from pretty much every point of the spectrum on which human life sits, I frequently find myself responding to questions of some kind or another.
Inevitably, the bulk of these will revolve around subjects linked to writing and be of the ‘how can I?’ variety which is fine as my work or writing will be the thing which brought us together and if someone takes the time to contact me, it’s only right that I afford them the courtesy of a reply.
Occasionally however, I’ll get a curveball question and the range of issues these can cover is, to say the least, broad. Only recently for example, I found myself explaining to someone from the other side of the world why we British drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
To be honest, I like this kind of random stuff. Not only does it tax the brain (or test my proficiency on google) but I find it quite rewarding to think that people actually feel comfortable enough to ask me these things. Especially when in some cases, I’ll have been the first Englishman they’ll have ever emailed.
My favourite question however, is one which lands in my inbox on a regular basis. It is quite simply, why football?
Usually of course, this will be used in the context of violence or hatred of some kind but increasingly, it’s being asked by people who don’t follow the game and want to know why those of us who do are so fanatical about it.
My response to this is that there is no such thing as a standard answer because there is no such thing as a standard football fan. To the uninitiated we might well come across as sheep (or even mugs) but when you look a little deeper, you’ll quickly discover that there are all kinds of reasons to explain why we are all unique in our love of the great game and our respective teams. There are even different degrees of obsession but if you want to know more about that, then you best read this.
Amongst those of us who actually get off our backsides to attend games in the flesh however, there is one common thread and that is that being a fan of the game is not just about the 90 minutes of actual football. And I mean football, not even great football. For it’s fair to say that some of the best days I’ve had as a fan have been on days when Watford have lost and I’d bet that most fans reading this will think the same.
For the simple reality is that watching football is about one thing, hope. Hope that things will get better, or at least not get worse. Hope that you will win promotion, not get relegated, beat your local rivals or even just carry on for one more season. And with that hope comes every kind of emotional experience possible all wrapped up in one simple word, passion.
To be a part of that passion and share those experiences with others is why we do it and why we love it because it’s where we feel that we belong.
Don’t ask me why we do it, just try and explain to me why you don’t.
Speaking of football and fans, my old book Rebellion is now available as an ebook.
First published in 2006, it tells the background to some of the more infamous fan protests including those at Charlton, Wimbledon, Manchester United, Manchester City, Norwich and Bournemouth amongst many others.
The other day, someone pointed out that I am one of a very few writers who have enjoyed a degree of success with both books and screenplays. Not only that, but according to them I also hold the dubious honour of covering a range of genre which very few writers anywhere can match.
Whilst I’m not sure about any of that, it is fair to say that in a writing sense I have certainly been about a bit. Mostly, it has to be said, because I get bored easily.
However, whenever the subject of my work comes up it inevitably leads to one particular question and that is ‘which one do you enjoy the most?’
Whilst both have their merits, and leaving aside the simple truth that I’ll write anything for anyone who pays me, the answer is always the same. Because if I have a blank page and am left to my own devices, I will start writing a book. All day, every day. And for five very specific reasons.
It’s easier to write – That might shock a few people but the truth is that I can have far more creative fun constructing a 75,000 word novel than I can working on a 110 pages script. And if I’m having fun, I can promise you that the words will be pouring out of me as opposed to having to be dragged out. Something which not only makes it easy for me to write but which will almost certainly make for a better read once it’s finished.
It’s easier to produce – Working with publishers can be hard work sometimes but if all else fails, I always have the option of self-publishing. It might not see the shelves of Waterstone’s or WH Smiths but let’s face it, it will certainly see Amazon and if it sells and is earning, who cares? Certainly not me.
With a film, the whole process is a nightmare which can fall apart at any moment. That’s if it gets anywhere at all which to be frank, it often doesn’t.
Control – With a book, I have no restrictions on subject matter, genre or even length. Being able to write what I want, when I want and just as importantly, say what I want, is not only liberating, it makes the whole thing both more interesting and enjoyable for me. If you need any more proof of that, have a look at my backlist and you’ll see a book about farting. Case rested.
With a screenplay, once I hand it over I have no control over anything. At all.
The End Result – A book is mine. All mine. Praise or criticism are therefore personal and either enjoyed or dealt with as appropriate and I’m fine with that. A film however, is only mine if someone slags off the script even though by the time the camera’s roll, my input into the development process will have ended ages ago.
The people – For an author, publishing is a relatively solitary game and as someone who prefers his own company, that’s exactly how I like it. For a screenwriter, the writing process is part solitude, part collaboration, part chaos. This would be great if it were an industry inhabited solely by nice hard-working honest people but sadly, it isn’t. Instead, amongst the many awesome individuals I’ve worked with are far too many arseholes who, if they aren’t simple crooks, are either bullshitters or incapable of making a decision. Or both.
So there you have it. Five reasons why I’d write a book over a movie any day of the week. And with that in mind, I’m happy if not delighted to announce that work is currently well underway on the sequel to my novel Billy’s Log. Indeed, starting work on this has underlined everything I’ve written above and more because I’m loving it.
All being well, it’ll be finished by the time we start moaning about the cold but more as and when. I might even post a teaser or two!
As someone who earns their living by writing, I am often asked what motivates me. Is it for example, a burning desire to create or is it a desperate need to put my thoughts into print? Or is it a hope that I can somehow make a difference or possibly even a yearning to leave behind a legacy of some kind?
Truth is it’s none of those things. I might have written 15 books and a few movies but there are three simple reasons why I write.
I’m a lazy bastard who likes sitting down all day.
I need to make money to facilitate item 1.
I live in desperate hope that one day soon numbers 1 & 2 will combine so successfully that I’ll be able to retire and live out my remaining days watching sport and riding motorbikes.
And to be fair, I reckon that retirement will be well earned. Growing up the son of a comedian was certainly an education but it was hard work and being one of 6 kids (with four brothers!) was certainly instrumental in my leaving home at 16 to begin what turned out to be 18 years as an engineer in the Royal Air Force.
As anyone who has served will know, military life isn’t suited to everyone but I loved every single day of it. Not just for the places it took me to and the people I met, but for the myriad of experiences I enjoyed. From going to war to swearing at royalty and all points in between.
Thankfully, my subsequent career as a writer has added considerably to those experiences but it has also provided me with an excellent way of cleansing my soul. Or to put it another way, telling everyone else. Not just about my life as a football fan but as an average bloke.
Indeed, of all my books, my comedy novel Billy’s Log is the one of which I’m most proud chiefly because it’s the closest to my own persona. It could even be called semi-autobiographical given that so many of my own experiences are included which is one of the reasons why, as my 60th looms ever closer, I have decided to revisit it. In fact the preparation is already underway as I’m gathering anecdotes whilst also working on In The Know and another movie or to.
The plan is to have both books out by the end of the year however I am not walking away from the world of film just yet. In fact the project I’m currently working on will be my biggest to date. Watch this space.
PS: I’ve given a few interviews recently and on a variety of subjects but one I really enjoyed allowed me to vent on the subject of publishing an ‘lad-lit’. Click here to take a look…
Just in case you didn’t know already, all of my books and DVD’s are available from both Amazon and iTunes.