Friday, October 27, 2017

Interview with Myron Edwards author of Mistress of the Rock

Tell us a little about yourself, Myron.

I live on the ‘Island of Love’, Cyprus, with my wife Niki, whose background is Greek Cypriot. We have been here about 12 years. I have two kids with Niki, Alex (27) and Emily (20) and one from a previous marriage, Craig (31). I started work as a travel agent and stayed in the travel business for some thirty years; during that time, I played in a band as a drummer. I was competent, not great, and could keep a rhythm.
I have diversified in my working life on more than a couple of occasions. I became a copywriter for JWT, ran my own company from an idea I created called Tubewalking, which was short-distance short-walking maps for commuters and tourists in London. I have also designed and produced web-based and arcade games for the gaming industry.
During my time in Cyprus, I was a Creative Director for an ad agency, creating ad campaigns for all media, including TV, Radio, Press and mainline advertising. When the financial crash happened, once again I had to diversify, so not just concentrate on writing but find a job. I found one in the financial industry, where I have worked for the past 5 years. I am still in that industry.

Can you tell us what got you into writing?

My first step into writing was as a free-lancer writing scripts with my former band member, Phil Campbell, who had experience in the film industry, as he was a runner for Hammer Films, amongst other jobs he did. We wrote for the BBC and a very popular duo who were one of Britain’s best loved comedic pairs, accepted our material. We went our separate ways while still remaining friends to this day. But I started writing more satirical pieces for programmes such as ‘Week Endings’ and ‘The News Huddlines’, as well as ‘Not the nine O Clock News, a Kick up the 80’s with Tracey Ullman and The Marti Caine Show. All popular shows of the 80’s. During this time, I was at JWT in another capacity as a Travel Manager but was persuaded to take the copy test, which I passed and was enrolled into JWT as a junior copywriter. I was writing daily at JWT so naturally I started to develop plots for potential novels and screenplays. But it wasn’t until I came to Cyprus that I wrote my first book.

Share a short excerpt from your novel

Chapter One

Cyprus 1991

‘Corporal Richard Cole reporting, Sir.’
     ‘You’re late, Cole. Get on board now, the transport leaves in twenty minutes.’
     ‘Yes, Sir.’
     Cole’s kit was already heavy and the extra burden of running for the plane left him breathless. He thought he was fit at twenty-five, and he should have been, but apparently, he still needed extra exercise. He bolted up the steps and boarded the transport plane, taking the seat next to a young soldier who was far too wrapped up in a magazine to notice him.
     Richard removed his cap, revealing a short haircut for the trip, as deserts were not the place for hair that touched shirt collars. In the intense heat, he stroked the back of his head. His hands returned wet and his face dripped droplets of sweat, which fell onto his fatigues. He looked around as he leaned back on the rough seat. He was about the same size as most of the other soldiers but his youthful looks made him look younger than his age purported and that of his companions. His face also appeared well-tanned compared to the pasty expressions of some of his fellow travellers. And like Richard, all were in uniform and kitted up to their eyeballs. Everyone buckled in and waited for take-off.
     It was February thirteenth. The Gulf War, Part One, had begun just over a month ago and the air-war was in full swing. The despot Saddam had been as stubborn and ruthless as the day he invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990. The diplomacy that followed by various countries and the UN was going nowhere, so the order to initiate an airstrike came on January sixteen. The ground war would soon follow. It was where the aircraft was headed.
     War had never occurred to Richard when he first signed up. Sure, the Falklands had stirred the patriotism of the British people and made the country proud again but although the Falklands was a bitter and bloody conflict it was a domestic affair between two countries, Argentina and Britain, and if most ‘Brits’ were honest at the time, not many of them knew where the fucking Falklands were anyway. It was, after all, Maggie Thatcher’s Waterloo and it worked for her.
     This Gulf War had much wider and sinister connotations. Not only were the ‘Brits’ involved but also most of the free world, with the US fronting the adventure. For whatever reason was given, there was no doubting Saddam was dangerous for the world, with the implications for the Middle East frightening. Under this cloud of uncertainty and fear, the green and pleasant land of England would seem a million miles away, even though they were only just a few hours from the hot scorching desert of Kuwait.
     En-route to Kuwait they stopped in Cyprus, landing at the civilian airport in Paphos, as the military fields of Akrotiri and Dhekalia were already full to overflowing with combat aircraft of all types and sizes.
     At Paphos, the plane touched down around 4pm, the sun still hot as the troops left the aircraft and thumped down the metal stairs to the awaiting trucks, boarding twenty men at a time. Richard took the last place at the back of his truck. The engine roared with life and with all formalities of customs and immigration dispensed with, it began to rumble along the coastal road out of Paphos. After all, this was war, albeit secretly hosted on Cyprus.
     This was Richard’s first visit to the island and from what he could see from the back of the truck it looked like a fine place to visit. From his small vantage point at the back, there seemed to be a good deal of activity going on, with lots of cars and people hurrying about. And amongst them was a collection of Greek Cypriot soldiers kitted out in green camouflage uniforms waiting along the roadside.
     In this tourist-like atmosphere it was all too easy to forget that this was a divided land, invaded by the Turks in 1974, after an unsuccessful coup by the Greeks led by then-President and Archbishop Makarios. The island was divided by a thin green line which ran from the North to the South and was policed by the UN. Under such circumstances the fragile peace inevitably seemed vulnerable, yet it held.
     The green line was a constant reminder to the Cypriot people in the south that their island was occupied—at least some of it including the wonderful beach resorts of Kyrenia and Famagusta, which were cut off and entrenched with mine fields and guarded by Turks.
     These resorts had once been deemed to be among the classiest in the Mediterranean, with hotels and restaurants patronised by tourists from the world over. Only now, these fine accommodations and eateries were home to the rats, snakes and scorpions that occupied them. The analogy of vermin in these occupied resorts was a good description of the occupiers for many Greeks. Still, it remained a sad and sorry state of affairs that those who were about to become involved in a new conflict could not resolve this one first. Perhaps one day they would try.
     As the truck started to move out of town, the convoy meandered along the picturesque road towards the base at Episkopi. The sun had begun to dim and the road became windier, as the trucks struggled round and around the bends, slowly at first then accelerating through the gears to gain momentum. The driver purposely crunching the gears from time to time just to make sure none of his occupants had fallen asleep. The inside of the truck was hot, the new temperature something the soldiers were not yet acclimatised to. As the convoy reached a tight bend, one of the guys at the front looked out of the canvas window and shouted to the rest of his companions. ‘That’s Aphrodite’s Rock.’
     Richard looked out of the back of the open truck and saw one large rock embedded in the shore and two smaller ones rooted in the sea. The sun reflected on their colour, making them shimmer against the stunning blues of the Mediterranean. The white tufts of surf lapping against the base of the rocks as if licking them.
     ‘Petra Tou Romiou the Greeks call it, birthplace of Aphrodite. Goddess of LOVE,’ purposely accentuated to make an impact.
     ‘What, those old rocks?’ came Richard’s somewhat bemused retort.
     ‘Yep, that was where she was born, they say, came out of the sea, just there.’
     ‘Bollocks.’ Richard’s astute friend of the magazine made his contribution.
     ‘Precisely, that is what she’s made of, some Greek god’s bollocks, well, dick actually, cut off and thrown into the sea from which came Aphrodite. Aphro, meaning from the foam.’
     ‘You’re a scholar then?’ Richard asked his learned friend at the front.
     ‘No, just read it in the guide book. Amazing what you can learn from these things.’ He passed the book down to the back of the truck.
     Richard opened it to the page on Aphrodite’s Rock, nodding his thanks.
     Magazine man raised his head. ‘Must be an omen, seeing that today, what with it being Valentine’s tomorrow, maybe we’ll get a shag.’ The last comment was lost in the laughter that now enveloped the rest of the truck as the convoy wound its way higher up the hill and over the escarpment of Aphrodite’s Rock, which had finally slipped out of sight.

Which do you prefer: print books or e-books when you are reading?

Books in print is my preference. I like to hold a book, I feel closer to the story that way.

I agree, but I do like my kindle fire when I am on vacation, I can carry lots of books in a small amount of space. Have you been given any helpful advice?

Yes, and I have always respected people’s opinions, so yes, I have, but sometimes you must go with your gut feeling and that usually is for me what I do.

Currently, what are you working on?

The third part of the Mistress Trilogy.

Tell us a little bit about your main characters.

Richard Cole is a veteran British Soldier of the first Gulf War, who developed PTSD after he was ordered to be an observer on a mission to Highway 80 in Iraq. He found solace with the fascination of the legend of Aphrodite, who throughout the conflict was his constant sanctuary from war. On returning to Cyprus some years later, he pays a visit to her birthplace and this starts a stream of events which catapults him into a new and terrifying world of the unknown where choices are to be made.
Aphrodite, the mystic Goddess of myth and legend was born from the waves at a site called Petra Tou Romiou; she is an ephemeral spirit that at first protects, then taunts, and finally haunts Richard until his very soul is under her spell. Unable to fight her, he eventually succumbs to her seductive powers so that he will become hers.
Julie Cole, Richard’s American Boston-born wife, is a focal part of the story as she lends sanity to the story. She is more mature and astute than Richard. Is charismatic, good looking, and sexy, which makes her a difficult adversary for the temptations of the Goddess.

What is the easiest part of the writing process?  What is the hardest?

The easiest part for me is constructing the story, I often think of the end and build backwards. The hardest is finding time to write, especially if you work full time.

I know exactly what you mean.  Finding time to write with three kids and working is a challenge. Do you have people read your drafts before you publish?  How do you select beta readers?

I have an excellent editor, Athina Paris. She has transformed my story from my first draft which I sent to her, offering excellent critique, which I follow. It should also be said that James Hill, my publisher, has been a shining light in this whole project and he too read the draft, before publishing. Together they make a formidable team. For test subjects, I choose friends mainly, some family, but you are not always sure with family that you get a balanced and honest appraisal. I also ask people who are writers or are associated with writing.

I think it's important to find a good team when writing.  Getting valuable feedback is critical. What brought about the idea for your book?

An epiphany moment on my very first visit to the rocks in the early 90’s. I saw something on the walls of the restaurant that day, which at first surprised and then stunned me, at that point I knew I had to write this book, no matter how long it would take. It was only when we moved to Cyprus did I began this journey.

What was your writing process like?

When I was in advertising I used to think in pictures, I found that so much easier to visualise the concept that way, the same is true for writing. I visualise the plot as if it was on the screen and then adapt it for the book. I wrote the screenplay before I ever wrote the book.

Myron, any last words you'd care to impart with us?

I am grateful for the opportunity to bring the story of the Mistress of the Rock to people’s attention. I know people say there are no original ideas, but I can say this hand-on-heart, you will never read or see another story like this in your lifetime, the image of the Goddess is totally unique and real, whether you believe it or not. My ultimate dream is for Mistress of the Rock to be made into a movie, as I believe it could be good for the island of Cyprus, bringing tourists, expanding the culture of the island, and providing a lasting legacy for the Aphrodite legend.

Thanks so much for sharing with us.  Happy Reading!!

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