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Expat Interview - John Dodds

Quest Bulgaria would like to thank John Dodds, an English writer living in Bulgaria for

allowing time to answer our interview questions for expats.


Where are you from and tell us a little bit about your background?

I was born in Scotland and I've lived in Bulgaria for three years. I trained as a journalist, but most of my career has been working as an arts publicist for two of Glasgow's leading arts organisations, Third Eye Centre and The Tramway. Before coming to this country I worked in the communications department of Scotland's social investment agency, Communities Scotland (who used my skills as a graphic designer as well as a writer and editor). I am also a diploma-trained person centred counsellor, and worked as a volunteer counsellor in Edinburgh for two and a half years.

When and why did you move to Bulgaria?

My wife, Carole and I, moved here in 2008. Her brother was looking for property here, and we investigated the possibility of a holiday home, near Tryavna. We loved the place so much that we wanted to live here permanently. A combination of hard work and good luck made that possible. So here we are!

When did you start writing?

Since as early as I can remember I loved to draw and write stories. My first ambition was to become an artist, but writing soon took over. Probably I was scribbling stories from the time I learned how to write, but it was really an inspirational English teacher at secondary school who encouraged me and saw potential. I think I started submitting stories to magazines when I was 18 or 19.

When was it that you first considered yourself a writer?

I don't think I could ever put "writer" on my passport, but in the sense that I've had stories published since I was in my early 20s, probably I could technically call myself a writer from that point.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I hope not. Or, rather, my styles differ, depending on what I am writing. My crime work tends to be in a tighter, almost journalistic style, but other genres, such as horror, fantasy and the like can be more descriptive. I'm told I have a distinctive authorial "voice" - which is different from "style". An element common to all my work, though, is that it is character driven, rather than plot driven. Characters create stories, not plots.

Has moving to Bulgaria opened any doors concerning your writing career?

No, I wouldn't say so. It's given me more time, and inspiration, to write, though.

Do you enjoy life in Bulgaria?

Absolutely. We live in a quiet village, with a few terrific Bulgarian neighbours. We're close to a beautiful town, Tryavna, which is both a beautiful tourist spot and a working town, so has the best of all worlds.

Could you briefly summarize what your newly released books are about?

Bone Machines, my first novel, was originally published in paperback by a small press in the UK. That edition is now out of print, so I republished it in paperback from lulu.com and Just Imagine It have published the eBook version. It's also available as a free podcast. It's set in Glasgow and is about a serial killer who is an artist who makes sculptures from the remains of his victims. The second novel, Kali's Kiss, also features my detective from Bone Machines, DI Tom Kendrick, and is about illegal immigration, drug factories and ritual killing around the Indian and Pakistan communities in Glasgow. I am trying to find a literary agent for that one. In June this year an anthology of mine called Warriors and Wenches, comes out, under my pen name J.T. Macleod - five tales of historical and supernatural romance. I have a collection of my short stories out, too, called Dr. North's Wound and Other Stories (from lulu.com)

What inspired you to write them?

Bone Machines simply drew on my arts and journalism background. I worked with contemporary artists a lot, and they often made very challenging, non-figurative work that was often controversial. I took that idea much further. Kali's Kiss was inspired by an article I read in The Guardian newspaper about witchcraft killings in present day India. Warriors and Wenches started as a single story submission to a romance fiction publisher Melange in the USA. They liked it so much they invited me to write a whole anthology.

How do you go about publishing your books, what's the publishing procedure?

My first book I submitted to a publisher. They liked it and published it. I haven't yet cracked the big, mainstream publishers, but I feel like I'm getting closer. Otherwise, it's mainly short stories I've had in publication, simply by submitting everywhere I could. Self-publishing is different - I use lulu.com for the paperback versions. You need to use their template to format the interior pages, and either do the cover artwork yourself, or get an artist or graphic designer to do them for you. Smash words is good for eBooks, using a similar approach, but I was approached by Just Imagine It Ink to publish they eBook, which they are now doing, as well as promoting it.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Always write like to mean it. Don't try to be clever for the sake of it - insincerity and artificiality are the enemies of good writing. Otherwise, sit down, every day if you can. And write. And keep on writing.

Are you working on anything new now, any new projects?

I am at the closing stages of a noir crime novel, called Bright Baby Blues, about an American private detective who has been employed by a former KGB man, now a gangster, to track down his blackmailing wife in Bulgaria. I've also begun work on a steampunk novel.

And what plans do you have for the future?

I want to try my hand at young adult novels, probably in the fantasy or science fiction genres. I've got some ideas buzzing around in the back of my brain. I just need to get them out of my head and onto paper.


My blog:

Bone Machines eBook: http://www.justimagineitink.com

Warriors and Wenches from http://www.melange-books.com/