With Simon Palmer – Author of Lost Innocence
KC: You’ve written your first novel. Tell me about it.
SP: It’s called ‘Lost Innocence’ and the idea for the story came as a vivid outline in a dream. It’s about a young artist who comes to Thailand for the first time to sketch ‘street girls.’ All was going well until he was allegedly tricked by one of the girls and ends up in prison waiting to be sentenced for a crime he claims he didn’t commit. He’s offered a way out through a cash payment and an admission of guilt but declines and decides to stay and play things out. Inside the prison he meets a convicted drug smuggler and together they await their fates. Meanwhile his grandfather, a once brilliant lawyer, flies out to save his grandson but with the extreme heat of Bangkok and a weak heart, Nigel has problems of his own. He hires Harvey, a PI who is assisted by Bo, a beautiful Thai who was once a Working Girl herself, but the deeper they delve into the corruption of the city, the more dangerous things become.
KC: The legendary “Night Owl”, Bernard Trink once wrote, in the process of doing a book review of a first time author, that people who have been to Thailand for any length of time between two weeks and 20 years feel impelled to write a book about it. He then goes on to be pretty tough on those individuals who fall in that category. What sets your book apart from the herd of first time authors and self-published authors found in Thailand? Put another way, why should people give a hoot about your book over all the others?
SP: I’d like to think that ‘Lost Innocence’ is a little different because it reads as a True Crime, initially, but it’s actually fiction. Although some of the characters are based on real people and actual events, the story itself is completely fictitious. It starts off with all the grit and grime of a Thai prison and its dire conditions but then family values and friendship come into the mix with a twist of romance, comedy and a hint of erotica.
It’s extremely difficult to sort it into one particular genre which I believe makes it appealing to a wider range of reader and the fast pace, heavy dialogue and simple style of writing, makes for an easy-read. Also there is not just one main character to follow all the way through, there are several, so you, as a reader get to choose who you really want to follow.
KC: You mention one of the settings is a Thai prison. From what I understand, unlike a few non-fiction authors who have written about Thai prison experiences, you’ve never been incarcerated in Thailand. Is that true? Why choose a prison setting?
SP: It’s true I have never been incarcerated in a Thai prison. I initially wrote ‘Lost Innocence’ purely from my imagination. I then had the opportunity to meet a convicted convict from Australia who opened up to me and shared his experiences inside over the last seventeen years. I interviewed him on several occasions, so some of Michael and John’s experiences in the book did actually happen. I also researched online and was inspired by other True Crime books that I’d read in the past.
I didn’t choose to write the book in a prison setting. The story was so vivid in my dream that I knew I had to write it. I’ve never felt sympathy for criminals before but I do feel the conditions in prisons here and in many other Countries in the world are inhumane.
KC: James Thompson, the Nordic noir writer who died tragically and unexpectedly earlier this month once said, “Writing books is a funny game. You’re a fool and a dreamer as long as you haven’t published anything, and when you’re successful, you turn into a genius.” In your case your first book actually originated from a dream. Tell me more about your dreams, figuratively and literally. How important are they to a writer to get them to the genius stage?
SP: I think creativity can come in many ways. We all dream, we just don’t always remember what we do dream. I sleep next to a huge whiteboard stocked with markers and often wake up and start scribbling something in the middle of the night. As a writer you never know where and when inspiration will strike. I write onto my I phone when I’m out, describing people I see on my travels. I find it easier that way and certainly more believable to the reader to describe from real people. As far as getting to the ‘genius stage,’ I don’t feel I have a right to comment. I’m certainly not there and may never be. It’s more about the journey for me, not the success or the big pay cheque at the end of the month. Having people enjoy what you do is success in my eyes and I’ve already had a good share of reviews with my first book. In my eyes, I’m already ‘living the dream.’
KC: You and I share a favorite author that sells a ton of books every year – John Grisham. What do you think Grisham does well?
SP: Grisham was one of the first authors that I read who, for me, broke the rules. In ‘The Testament,’ the main character narrated the story and then killed himself, in the very first chapter. That hooked me for the rest of the book. He wasn’t afraid to take chances and I think in such an over-crowded writers world, to stand above the rest, you need to take chances.
KC: Tell me your two favorite British or Irish authors, dead or alive, and why you like them?
SP: I like so many. Stephen Leather was a major influence with his Thai based book, ‘Private Dancer.’ I read that a while ago and loved how he threw the reader right into the action and loved the style and the mix of characters. When I first read that, it inspired me to write a Thai based book. I’ve currently written two and have two more to come. I also really enjoyed Jeffrey Archer’s prison diaries. I loved the style and simplicity in which he wrote it. I tend to steer away from over descriptive books. I’m all for the story.
KC: The seven deadly sins are: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. Pick an instance in Lost Innocence where one or more of these sins are committed and tell us why the sin occurs?
SP: I’d take Lust. Stan comes over and forgets what he’s actually doing in Thailand. He ends up in quite a predicament and it occurs because there is so much temptation and Stan, quite frankly, is a weak, horny guy.
KC: In all societies, illusions and truth play their prominent roles. Perhaps even more so in prison society. Without getting into the guilt or innocence of your character, what illusions did he fall for in Thailand and what truth does he learn by the end of the book?
SP: Michael was totally engrossed in his Art. So much so that it overcame any lust towards the ladies he had before him. He trusted his models too easily and once he was in trouble and offered a way out, he didn’t take it. He was stubborn and set in his ways. Without giving too much away, I’d like to think that he learnt regret by what he lost but also gained strength for what he went through. He’s such a stronger character in ‘Two Years Later,’ the sequel to ‘Lost Innocence.’ I’ve already written the outline and I think it’s looking good.
KC: Talk more about the craft of writing. When did it first occur to you that writing would be a pleasant avocation or a dream vocation? How different is screen writing from novel writing? What did screen writing teach you that you brought to your novels?
SP: I think you have to love story-telling to be a writer, or at least to write fiction. It takes time, energy and so much patience to get it right and even when you do get it right, or you think you have, you need to be able to handle criticism and rejection. Again, for me, it’s about the journey not the reward. I’m grateful for the opportunity and time to write and am loving all the feedback, positive and negative. You can learn from the negative and hopefully only improve. I have still so much to learn.
I was always writing something since my father was a singer-songwriter and writing lyrics. For me it was either writing poems or lyrics. Since school I was telling stories and writing dialogue.
Screenplay writing is very different to writing novels. It’s a lot less descriptive and very dialogue heavy. I prefer to write screenplays but then you can easily lose control once the movie is made. With a book, you can keep most of what you write. That is why I turned to novels. I wanted the control. Screenplay writing taught me how to write tight, compelling dialogue which hopefully I have brought over to my novels.
KC: Tell me more about Two Years Later. Will your P.I. and Bo be brought back as recurring characters?
SP: Most of the characters in ‘Two Years Later’ will be back, especially Harvey and Bo. Harvey and Michael both have a score to settle with Nincotte. Without giving away too much to those readers who are yet to read ‘Lost Innocence,’ ‘Two Years Later,’ goes a little darker and is full of action and surprises. Nigel’s journal plays a small part, so Nigel’s voice is heard once more. It will come in two parts as LI did and will answer all that was left open in LI Breaking Point. But my next book is actually ‘Working Girl.’ It should be out this year.
KC: Tell me about your publisher, Spanking Pulp Press. How did you get connected with them and how have they helped you? What advice would you give to someone considering self -publishing versus using a small independent publisher in the Amazon age?
SP: I met Jim Newman in a Facebook chat room. I had an agent at the time in London, but that wasn’t working out. Jim asked me to send three chapters of LI, so I sent him the whole book and he loved it. He invited me to the ‘Bangkok Noir’ night at a bar called the ‘Check Inn 99’ on Sukhumvit soi 7. I met him and other Bangkok based authors such as Christopher G. Moore, John Burdett and Dean Barrett. I was impressed.
Spanking Pulp Press have helped a lot with copy and content editing, putting LI out there and advising me along the way. I think using a small independent publisher can lift you a little bit over the self-publishers but then once your book is out, all the marketing is still up to you. Small publishers don’t seem to get involved in it. If you can do it by yourself and get it right, then go for it, but any mistake will hurt you and you won’t be taken seriously.
In the Amazon age there are so many authors having a go, it’s easy, as a new author, to get lost in the mass of self-publishers. Anything you can do in the beginning that can help you get noticed, do it. The best advice I ever got was from an author called Skye Turner. She told me to get my name out there. I talk to other authors every day, talk in groups, comment, just to get into the writing community. It seems to be working, slowly. I’m also extremely lucky to have a good friend at Pixel Fox web design. James has done so much. Book covers, book marks, cards, videos, adds. Together we keep it interesting for the reader rather than posting the same add every day. The writing world is changing all the time. Whatever you do, keep it fresh and interesting.
KC: If you were to die, unexpectedly, next month give me an original quote that you would like to be remembered by?
SP: “Damn he’s dead. Now we’ll never know what happened….”
KC: Thanks, Simon for an interesting look at the world of writing and publishing. As a wise actor once said, “Live long and prosper.”
SP: Set phasers to stun, Spock!
Kevin’s review of ‘Lost Innocence’
This was my first Simon Palmer reading experience but it will not be my last. I consumed part 1 of Lost Innocence in one sitting. The pacing of the book is great as is the writing. Full disclosure: prison books are not my thing and never have been, with the notable exception being The Chamber by John Grisham. There is plenty of action taking place behind bars and inside the outside bars. Michael, a talented artist drawn toward young ladies, has been framed and it becomes a family affair to get The Accused a fair shake in the land of shake-downs. The P.I., Harvey Gould, makes a memorable entrance along with able assistant, Bo but not until near page 100. A good call as the Bangkok P.I. genre is pretty heavily saturated. The mix of odd lot characters makes for a brisk and entertaining read. The book is marketed as a bit of a cliff hanger. I got Part 1 for free at Spanking Pulp Press web site and then bought Part 2 at Amazon for less than three bucks. Palmer is someone to keep an eye on. A nice balance of well crafted descriptive narrative and entertaining dialogue intertwined into a good yarn.
To read reviews or to buy this book, click on: amzn.to/ZqNrSj