William Fraser – WIP Interview and writing African fantasy

William Fraser’s stories are from the spice scented breezes of the Zanzibar archipelago, the remote grasslands of the Serengeti and the dark side of Kilimanjaro.  His first novel, The Spirit Tree was inspired by a  yearlong stay on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.  William worked and traveled through Southern Africa for eleven years before settling in Tanzania in 1999.  He now splits his time between Tanzania and the U.K.

William, thank you for being here. Before we talk about your WIP, why don’t you tell us a few things about yourself?  

I am never comfortable talking about myself and since childhood have hidden behind the characters I create for my stories.  I was born and raised in South Yorkshire and learned my love of travel and adventure at 28 when I visited South Africa for three weeks loving it so much I didn’t return home.  Eleven years later I moved to Tanzania where I worked for a safari ground operator and wrote about Tanzanian/Kenyan cultural tours which developed into writing stories set in East Africa

Exercise in lean writing: give us a synopsis of your current WIP in under 200 words.

It is Kilimanjaro,  the year 1800  and the King invites boys on the cusp of manhood to attend the annual Mbora Trails.  From the very beginning there is one boy, Nuhu, who stands out from the rest.  The King is convinced this Nuhu is the one foretold by the ancients who would restore ‘Upinde’,  the sacred drum, to its rightful place.

Nuhu’s best friend, Minja, dies during one of the trials and he becomes concerned that other boys seem to be disappearing without explanation, too.  Nuhu investigates and discovers the Shaman – who has tapped into an ancient power that feeds on human souls  – is behind the disappearances.  Nuhu confides in the King who is murdered the following night .  Noah is framed for the murder and runs for his life.

Heading for the grass plains and sanctuary with the Elders of Kikatiti, he is armed with a copper tipped spear, perused by his rival, Leopard and helped occasionally by his dead friend, Minja.  His only hope lays in outrunning his enemies and securing the help of the Elders of Kikatiti who are the keepers of the lost secret of the drum – the only means to overcoming the Shaman and the power of the Legion.

Are you happy with the pace of your work? Do you aim at a specific word count each day? 

I try.   It is important to be disciplined but it is difficult to accomplish as it is important to achieve.  I used to be obsessed with completing a set amount of work each day.  With my latest project I concentrate on getting it right.  This means I am working (in word count terms) at a much slower rate than I would like.

Plotter, pantser or both?

Plotter, well no, well sometimes . . . hmm, maybe both.

What’s your worst enemy in getting that first draft finished?

Starting a new project I always find daunting but once I start, I go for it.  Towards the end of a draft sometimes doubt raises its ugly head.  Self doubt, is the enemy.

Have you ever experienced lack of inspiration or drive to write? If so, how do you motivate yourself? 

Yes,  all the time!  I overcome it by forcing myself to write, even if it’s uninspired drivel.  Often in these so called dry times some of my best ideas are hatched.  Or sometimes I cut myself off from the radio, TV, mobile phones, and internet.  I spend hours in self conflicted solitude, clearing my head of all the baggage.  I wrestle with silence and in the silence, eventually, the inspiration comes.

Could we take a look at your workspace? Is there a particular place you find inspiring for writing?

I have two.  Walking along the cliffs on the North Devon coast and walking in Arusha, Tanzania.  My laptop and office are not inspiring at all!  If I find myself staring at the laptop mouth open and brain switched off I abandon my work space to think – only returning once I am bursting with ideas about my characters and/or plot.   

Now your photo is pinned on my Featured Writers’ Workspace board in Pinterest. Apart from Word and Google, do you use any other writing or research tools and apps? 

No,  is the easy answer.  Google is my friend, albeit a rather controlling friend with designs on world domination.  My stories are about the life and culture of Tanzania and the fantastic folk of Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Nairobi and the Rift Valley .These are better than any app.

How do you intend to celebrate writing “The End” on your draft?

I usually have another project demanding my attention.  Often I have two or three on the go at the same time, all overlapping one another.  There never seems to be an end.

Which book publishing processes are you going to outsource and which are you confident enough to undertake yourself? 

I usually publish through Smashwords and Kindle although I am considering using an agent.  My editor has approached an agent so I may be published through a more traditional route in the future.

You blog here. Do you follow a specific branding pattern with your posts or is it a free writing platform? 

Although I am not comfortable with blogging I have a blog page.  It is more of a free writing platform – I am thinking about shutting it down.  The only reason I have it is because I am told it is a must to have one.  It is never a good idea to do something for which you have no heart or skill…   It is better, for me, I think to blog through third party sites that are far more interesting and professional than anything I could create.  It takes up so much time too.  I’d rather spend the time writing stories.

Is African fantasy the genre you will brand yourself with or do you see yourself branching out in the future?  

I am passionate about everything East African and love to share that love with anyone who will listen.  I can’t see me branching out for a while.

Thank you, William, and best of luck with your projects!

You can purchase The Spirit Tree on Amazon and Smashwords


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