I’m really honoured to have the author and editor Robert Fear on my blog today.
Over to Robert…
I have always had an interest in books and literature but had never considered myself to be an author, more of a diarist or a travel memoir writer. I have dabbled with short stories over the years but had never published anything before the release of my diary. Since then I have also become involved in editing two other publications.
Here is some background to the three books that I have self-published.
Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia
Fred’s Diary 1981 is the edited version of a handwritten diary that I kept during my travels in Asia between February and July 1981. I had never committed any of my previous travels to paper in the way I did for this long awaited journey into the unknown. The final collection ran to 600 pages of closely written detail.
When I landed in Hong Kong in that February I had two small carbon copy books of 100 pages each and started writing everything down about my impressions, the people I met, the things I did and thought, what I ate and what things cost. As my journey developed the diary became almost a mission of its own, especially when the unexpected happened in Thailand.
The first two books lasted two months and I then had to buy additional ones along the way, all used with carbon paper. Every few weeks I would send the originals back to my friend Jan, in Frankfurt, Germany. She collected all the pages in an A4 folder and luckily they all made it back safely. I kept all the copies with me as a backup.
After returning from my travels, I settled again in Frankfurt and stayed there for five years. On my return to England I took the A4 folder containing the diary with me. It was almost forgotten for many years, only making an appearance when friends asked to see it or to read it.
It wasn’t until around 2005 that I decided to start typing up my diary onto the computer. I managed to get the first two months done but then ran out of motivation.
A couple of years later there was an article in a PC magazine about Kindle and self-publishing that sparked my interest again.
The second part of my diary was released in 2009 and its title, Time in Thailand, probably indicates to you that things didn’t go as planned. £99 to Hong Kong was published in 2011 and covers the first part of my trip where I did some work as an extra for Chinese television.
By now the bug had truly bitten and I started planning the release of the whole diary. First though, I had to scan copies of all 600 pages as they were deteriorating and writing was becoming faded in parts. Over the next two years I typed everything up and started editing the diary for publication, all in my spare time.
Fred’s Diary 1981 was self-published in December 2013 and was relatively successful with a good number of excellent reviews on Amazon UK and US. It was a long book though. The paperback version ran to 564 pages and contained 165K words.
During the first few months of 2015 further editing was undertaken and the second edition, released in October 2015, contained less than 100K words, with around 360 pages. It has also had a professional final edit and a wonderful new cover.
I am not sure what inspired me to write the diary way back then but the editing of it in recent years has given me great pleasure and bought back a lot of memories. With the advent of Kindle it has been great to be able to self-publish and share my experiences with so many people.
Travel Stories and Highlights
While working on the second edition of Fred’s Diary 1981, I started a blog in February 2015 to assist me with the editing process. Exactly 35 years later, to the day, I published an edited version of each day’s entry. This ran for 158 days from February through to July and coincidentally the days of the week were the same as when I originally wrote the diary.
To encourage people to visit the blog Fred’s Blog I started a Travel Story competition, with prizes, for entries of between 500-1000 words and ran this in parallel with the daily diary extracts. There was a very encouraging response and in all there were thirty entries from a range of well -known authors to first time writers.
It was such a success that I subsequently ran another competition for Travel Highlights of between 50-100 words. Again this went very well and in all there were twenty-five entries.
I then decided to publish all the entries in a new book called Travel Stories and Highlights. After getting permission from all the contributors I started compiling the book and it was published late last year.
Travel Stories on Amazon
This year I have re-run the two competitions. Again, there have been a lot of fantastic entries and my aim now is to produce a second edition of the book with the best travel stories and highlights from both sets of competitions. This is planned for release towards the end of this year.
Exclusive Pedigree: My life in and out of the Brethren
A lot of my spare time over the past year has been devoted to making my father’s dream come true.
It started for me back in 1992 when my father, John, was becoming increasingly frail and was confined to bed most of the time. Visits to the hospital became more frequent and the doctors were talking about months, not years.
John had been working on his memoirs for several years and had already typed up many of the chapters. He also had plans in place for finishing the remaining chapters of his book. Now he was unable to continue and my mother, Mary, called me to see if I could help. I was more than happy to.
In the evenings and at weekends I sat at my computer and transcribed the chapters that John had already finished. These were duly printed off and sent back to him. There was a regular flow of padded brown envelopes with hand written corrections made by John and more words for some of the later chapters.
I also made the trip from Eastbourne to the village of Cumnor in Oxfordshire several times. It was a period of reconciliation between father and eldest son as we discussed changes that he wanted made and planned for the missing chapters.
The last time I saw my father alive was several months before he passed away in October 1993. I sat on the end of his bed for hours as we talked further about the book. Despite being breathless and in constant need of oxygen, he insisted that I turn the tape recorder on him. There then followed the most enthralling story of an experience that he had in his early twenties.
During the months following his death, I continued working on John’s memoirs with the help of Mary and my brother, Alastair. We completed the half-finished chapters as best we could and used some of the letters that John had written home, along with diary extracts and magazine articles, to fill in some of the gaps. Alastair also wrote the final three chapters, which covered the closing months of John’s life.
A friend of the family who had print connections then took over and produced around a hundred copies for distribution around friends and family. The limited edition was published under the title Exclusive Pedigree and if it hadn’t been for a chance remark the life of the book could have ended there.
Last year I was visiting my mother for a few days. Mary still lives in the same cottage in Cumnor and is near to my brother, Alastair, who lives with his family in Abingdon. I gave her a paperback copy of the second edition of my own memoir Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia, which she wanted to read. Conversation turned to self-publishing and we started talking about John’s memoirs. Then came the bombshell, “Did you know Rob that John always wanted to have his book published properly?”
It had never occurred to me. I always thought that it was his wish to have it produced the way that it was. Now I had a fresh challenge and after discussing it further with Mary and my brother, I started looking at editing the previously published book and self-publishing it. With the experience of publishing my own memoir, I felt that I would be able to do my father proud.
But first I had to recover the files. The backup files that I had were sitting on a floppy disk and were in an old format, DisplayWrite. Neither my PC nor laptop had a floppy drive, so I bought an external one and then tried to copy the files across. Whatever format I chose the result was a garbled mess. Eventually I managed to get them copied across in plain text but then spent hours stripping out redundant data, before I could start the job of editing and formatting.
Move on a few months and thanks to the tremendous support of beta-readers and fellow authors alike, my father’s memoirs were professionally self-published in July this year. I think John would be proud of the finished results.
Exclusive Pedigree: My Life In and Out of The Brethren by John L Fear
Robert Fear: Biography
I was born in Leicester, UK in 1955. My family moved south to a village in Surrey called South Nutfield when I was 11 years old. I attended Reigate Grammar School, which was a five mile journey (mostly by train and bus). It was here that I picked up the nickname of Fred.
In 1974, after gaining 3 A Levels (English Literature, British Government & Politics and History) I started work at a private bank in the city, with every intention of working for a year and then going to university. In the end I worked there for nearly 3 years.
During the summer of 1976 I went on a two week holiday with three mates to the Spanish island of Ibiza. We had a fantastic time and all of us vowed to go back for the summer in the following year. Come the next April I went out there on my own, although two of my mates joined me later on. I ended up working in a bar called ‘Grannies’ and loved the whole vibe, met plenty of young ladies and had a great time, but didn’t sleep a lot!
I then returned to the UK for the winter and worked 12 hour night shifts at a plastics factory to get some more money together for the following summer. In the spring of 1977 I set off again, this time to hitch-hike around Europe. For 4 months I made my way through Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Greece and several islands, Italy, France, Spain and back to Ibiza again for the last couple of months of the summer.
It was during this return visit that I met Rita and this time when I left the Balearic Islands it was to head for Frankfurt in Germany. I moved in with Rita, who lived with her parents in a house in Ruppertshain, a small village in the Taunus hills.
Initially I got some work on a building site and then in a Coca Cola factory. By the spring of 1979 there was enough money in the coffers to fund a trip to the States and Canada. I started in New York where I spent a week or so before travelling on a 3 month Greyhound bus pass up the east coast, across Canada, and down the west coast where I stayed in LA for a couple of weeks. Then headed back across the States to Florida and back up the east coast to end my journeys in New York. It was an incredible round trip.
Back in Germany I got a job as a messenger at the First National Bank of Chicago. Within 6 months I had been promoted to the accounts department as I picked up the language and proved my worth. The travel bug didn’t go away though. I stayed at the bank for 15 months before heading off again, this time to Asia.
Upon my return from Asia I lived in Sachsenhausen, the bar and restaurant area of Frankfurt near the Main, often staying out late and enjoying life. Holiday allowance was generous in Germany and I was able to take 4-5 weeks travelling time off each year. I enjoyed trips to the Canary Islands, Scandanavia and Turkey.
After returning from Turkey in November 1985 my life changed as I got together with the love of my life and in July 1986 I moved back to Eastbourne in the UK to be with her.
Lynn and I are still together nearly 30 years later and have lived in the same house since 1988 (the mortgage is almost paid off!). We got married in Kenya in 1994 and are cat lovers, having had a succession of rescues.
The travel bug has never completely gone away. We’ve had great holidays in Portugal, Crete, Germany, Australia and the Seychelles.
I had to start from scratch with my career in the UK, but found my niche in accountancy and later computer software. I have had the opportunity in the last few years to travel with work and have been all over Europe as well as Singapore, Australia (for a week!), Ghana (at a Guinness brewery) and Suriname (in the middle of the rain forest).
Online articles featuring Robert Fear