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Philip Chatting ~ Harbour Views

Philip Chatting

Philip Chatting

The personal attribute contributing most to my novel, Harbour Views, has been the compulsion to observe. In that I’m probably no different from hundreds of other authors, except the very best for whom imagination towers over everything. The outcome for the book is a cast of characters that is an amalgam of people from dozens of chance encounters and fleeting sightings on the streets of Hong Kong and, not least, the city itself, with its sharp cultural distinctions, slipping into place somewhat accidentally as the story’s main persona.

If the desire to observe has any origin, it has lain in the nomadic pursuit of a human resource career, which primarily earned my living and where I spend long periods assessing the probabilities of whether certain personalities, irrespective of skills, will fit, with all their baggage of bad chemistry and unknowable agendas, into an organization’s work force.

No time is ever lost in the crowded bus or the airport lounge when constructing the circumstances of the person sitting or standing opposite. Such assessments are a solitary pursuit, not unlike the act of creative writing, which, for me, has to be totally devoid of distraction, except for the low volume of Bach or Wagner keeping the world at bay from the background.

The book’s blurb talks of the central character’s influence on the lives of others; I prefer to think of him as the thread on which a loose association hangs, until falling apart with his demise. I’ve chosen to tell the story as a tragic-comedy mix, partly because that’s the way I view the world, but also because if it is done well, it has the ability to most engage an audience. I’ll have to leave it to the reader to decide whether I have succeeded.

Humour and tragedy are not only in the characters themselves, but also in their relationships, which, with a few exceptions, are either ugly or disappointing. The exceptions are almost exclusively between fathers and sons, who, as far as the story goes, ask nothing of each other, but are yet rewarded with trust.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

The main character, Hong Kong, is a peculiar place: thrusting, bustling, colorful, unsympathetic, single-minded and unforgiving, a great town for rolling the dice and ‘making-it’ and a dreadful one in which to fail, modern and ancient and rich and poor by turns and made up of communities so separate they meet only during the course of a transaction. It is a place to experience, but not one for which any outsider will fall in love.

Creative writing as a dedicated endeavour has come to me late. The interest and occasional dabbling has always been there, but, while I was not ready to starve in an attic and deny my children to make a name, it was tempered with something else. Now, in the warmth of a supportive family, I have the permission and freedom to shut myself away with my computer, library and beloved Wagner and forget about the normal necessities of eating and bathing to pour the observations of Hong Kong and another dozen countries where I have lived and worked into stories that satisfy the joy of telling a tale. And whether in Asia or Europe, a garden shed or a under a tree, an author of any longevity has to be comfortable with being alone.

I’m much too new to the world of publishing to believe I have any answers to being a success. But, if I were to hazard a guess, begin by deciding why and for whom you write. If it’s to make money, then know your audience and give them something they will buy and appreciate and come back for more. If it’s for your sons and daughters, so that they can marvel at your invention and exchange stories about what a guy you were, you’ll probably know what pleases them. If it’s for yourself or posterity, you can concentrate on leaving behind literary gems for the future to judge.

Last, but not least, like anything else under the sun, be it tennis, public speaking, dancing or playing the piano, if you want to be any good, practice without ever being satisfied.

Philip Chatting

Click on the image below to buy your Kindle copy of Harbour Views on Amazon.com:

Harbour Views by Philip Chatting was published in the UK in paperback by Book Guild Publishing on 29 May 2014. Price: £10.99. The eBook is available for £5.49. Both are available on Amazon UK.

ISBN: 978-1-909716-25-4.

Hong Kong