Authors Electric: Dennis Hamley
Dennis' ebooks are:
The Joslin De Lay series
Book 1 Of Dooms and Death
Book 2 A Pact With Death
If you’ve ever read The War and Freddy, you’ll know that Freddy was three when the Second World War started and nine when it finished. He’s exactly the same age as me. There’s a coincidence!
I was born in Kent but spent most of my childhood in Winslow, Buckinghamshire,. The Second Word War was raging and, like Freddy, living in a country at war was all I knew until I was nine. I think the war was the biggest shaping experience of my life.
In 1946 I went to the local grammar school, The Royal Latin School, Buckingham.. After that, and after two not very glorious years in the RAF, I went up to Jesus College, Cambridge, where I read English. Many years later I took some time off writing to complete a PhD.
All my working life – in a job, that is, not just writing – was spent in education, as a teacher and adviser. I also worked for the Open University. I finally ended up as County English Adviser for Hertfordshire.
My first-ever book was published in 1962, Three Towneley Plays, modern versions of three medieval Miracle Plays for schools, but I didn’t start writing seriously until 1971, when I started my first children’s novel, Pageants of Despair. This was published in 1974.
After that I was writing in the moments I had free from teaching and advising until 1992. In that year, fed up to the teeth with dashing round the county peddling the then new National Curriculum and seeing a job I loved take new directions that I didn’t like, I retired early to become a full-time writer, which I’ve been ever since. I’ve lost count of how many books I’ve written, but there are over sixty now, all sorts – novels, short story collections, books for schools, non-fiction for all ages.
In 1985 I started the “Lending Our Minds Out” writing courses for children at the Pearse House Conference Centre, Bishops Stortford. After I retired early, Philip Levy, the owner of Pearse House, and I decided that these courses offered too good an experience to let die so we set them up for primary school pupils from all over the country, using Youth Hostels as venues. These courses ran until 2004, when rising costs meant they had become too expensive for most schools or parents to afford. Many hundreds of children had been to them over the years. And now there’s a chance that I may be able to start them afresh, here in Oxford.
Since moving to Oxford, I’ve lived a very eventful life indeed. I joined Writers in Oxford, a society for local published writers which includes Philip Pullman as one of its members. For the last three years I have edited The Oxford Writer, its quarterly newsletter. In 2008 I was asked to be Tutor for Short Fiction for the Oxford Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing. It’s wonderful after all these years to be teaching again, especially with such able and responsive students. I also work for The Oxford Editors, writing reports on books sent in by new writers asking for guidance and editorial help and also mentoring them in their writing afterwards, a process which can take months, even years, and is entirely fascinating.
A lot of my time now goes on preparing out-of-print books as ebooks for Kindle and later for other formats like Kobo, Sony and Apple. The world of publishing is in a sorry state at the moment – at least, it is for people like me who have been writing successfully for a very long time but are now seen to be not profitable enough any more and so find getting new publishers difficult. There are many in the same position, including some very famous names. So we have to take matters into our own hands. As a result we feel suddenly free and in charge of our own destinies, like farmers giving up their ruinous contracts with big supermarkets and opening their farm shops.
The main reward for any writer is to be read. That’s more important than earning lots of money, more important than being famous. If nobody reads you then you’ve got no chance of either. This is why so many of us are turning to open access publishing on Kindle and the like. This is why some writers, including me, are planning to set up their own publishing co-operatives, to reissue some of the books we have put on Kindle as high quality printed editions and publish new ones. After all, nothing in the world can really beat the feel, the smell, in fact the beauty, of a new book – or the indefinable romance of an old one.