I first met Dani when he asked me if I would be interested in judging some of the stories for the Iron Writer Challenge. Dani J Caile is a teacher and proofreader (BA in Philology specialising in Pedagogy) who is currently residing in Budapest, Hungary. After a lifetime of reading clones and a decade of proofreading coffee table books, in retaliation he has written 4 fantasy books and 1 novella, including ‘Man by a tree’, ‘The Bethlehem Fiasco’, ‘The Rage of Atlantis’, ‘Manna-X’ and ‘TDX2’, all based on his own neo-plantonic universe. He has also published a series of short story compilations on Smashwords.com called ‘Dani’s Shorts’ available for free, all based on the Iron Writer Challenge. His stories can also be found in other anthologies, such as ‘Tales from Darker Places’, ‘Circuits & Steam’, and soon-to-be-realised ‘Baby Shoes’, ‘The Desert Bus’ and many more. When not writing, dabbling in Shakespeare, teaching English, proofreading, washing up, hoovering, and driving all over the place, he is busy with his loving and long-suffering family.
Here’s Dani’s answers to my 20 questions. Enjoy!
How long have you been writing novels?
Since November 2011. An advert for NaNoWriMo appeared somewhere on a website and I thought I’d have a go. I was writing essays for college at that time and needed some ’light relief’. Been writing ever since. It’s like a disease.
Tell us a little bit about your latest book ‘How to Build a Castle in 7 Easy Steps’.
Hidden within this pre-civilisation light-humoured romp, there is a story about publishing. Actually, it’s based on my experiences so far in the whole market, including my time in the background of an ex-publishing house. There’s a clue to this. If you look at the 4 POVs it’s written in, they all have one thing in common: survival. One of them dies. But you don’t need to take my books so deeply, readers enjoy them without it.
In an ancient and long-forgotten deranged land, obsessed with power, greed and mud, one boy alone stands up to the problems around him. His is a typical stor of ‘boy meets girl, boy turns into soup, escapes, boy meets girl again, boy is kidnapped and becomes the ‘chosen one’ for a tribe of cannibalistic, vampirish, desire-driven, crazed warriors, boy leads them into battle, loses the chance to bed hundreds of Amazonian women, and finally wins the girl’. Come, accompany him on his fantastic, wonderful, superb journey. Or follow the cat.
Hilarious! With his usual dry humor, Dani J. knows just how to draw a laugh from his readers. This book is no exception! I’m reminded of a number of older movies and television shows whenever I read Dani’s work. The Carry On series of movies comes to mind, as well as the sitcom Fawlty Towers. Then there’s the American classic ‘Robin Hood Men in Tights’. If you enjoy a light-hearted tale with satirical and dry humor, then you’ll find this book irresistible!
I prefer something with class, something smooth, which makes you think. Anything good. It doesn’t need to make me laugh, in fact, autobiographies make me laugh. Saying that, at the moment I’m into Huxley’s early novels and Woolf’s short stories.
Are you writing anything new at the moment?
I’m working on a dry humour Detective Thriller. I’ve been working on it for a while now, haven’t got far. It’s about desire, beauty and love. I hope I finish it soon. Other than that, I’m working on some short stories for anthologies.
Do you have any advice for us regarding small publishers?
Thankfully, I’ve found one which will bring me up to the next level from self publishing. My new publisher will take copies of my book to book fairs and conventions in the USA along with the rest of their portfolio. They also found a great artist for the cover. But don’t expect your book to be thrown onto the bookshop shelves for all to see. The big publishers have that monopoly. And watch out. Many small publishers aren’t interested in your writing, only your money or your followers/readers.
What in your opinion is the best social media as regards marketing books?
Facebook isn’t fantastic, and you have to tweet a lot to get anything to move on tweeter, unless you have 20k followers. The best option is to get involved with other writers. Some writer groups have ’get famous quick’ schemes, while others want to better their skill. I’ve tried both and the latter is the best. I found a group of about 120 writers called The Iron Writer, and they are fantastic. They do a weekly Iron Writer Challenge every week. Look them up.
Is the secret to selling lots of books to do with blogging ad nauseum, gathering thousands of ‘virtual’ friends, or just writing a good book in the first place that people want to read?
Personally, you have to write a good book…but in my experience, I’ve seen that if you can get away with an ’okay’ book in the right genre, and increase your ’gathering’ in the thousands, you can gain some success. If you have both, you can make some money.
Which genre of books do you think sells better than others?
That’s easy: Erotica, YA fantasy, including all that shape-shifting, Thrillers and Sci-fi. Unfortunately, humour doesn’t get much of a following, unless the word gets out…still waiting on that one.
Why did you move from the UK to Budapest?
The food is fantastic. In the UK, I was living out of boxes you stick in the microwave. In Hungary, everything has a taste. Tomatoes are a good example. Another thing, the weather is fantastic. The winter is winter, the summer is summer. In the UK, you can have all four seasons in one day. There also seems to be a larger percentage of beautiful women in Hungary than in any other country. Thankfully, I married the most beautiful.
Do you teach English to children or adults in Budapest? If children, how would you compare discipline in the classroom there to that of British schools?
When I first moved to Hungary, I taught adults, but now with two daughters, I’ve moved to teaching children. Discipline has gone down since the emergence of android telephones and tablets. It’s not a national problem, it’s global. Sign of the times. Once people realise that their lives have become shallow and selfish with technology, we will never be able to deal with this problem.
Are you and your wife and children all bi-lingual, or do you find that most Hungarians speak English?
I’m not bi-lingual, unfortunately, but my two daughters are. My wife speaks English at an advanced level. In the home, she speaks Hungarian, I speak English and in that way, the kids get the best of both worlds. Most Hungarians do not speak English, though it is usually the second language they do speak, other than German, which was taught to the older generation.
What do you like doing best – proof reading or teaching?
Both have their pros and cons. I can do proof reading at any time of the day, even through the night. Teaching is fun but can be draining.
In your opinion, what is the general standard of books that you proofread? Are there usually hundreds of glaring errors?
I proofread both fiction and non-fiction books. The latter is usually a translation from Hungarian, filled with errors. The fiction, however, depends on the individual standards of the writer. We all have our own personal errors, mostly only a few. There was one writer, a self-proclaimed No.1 Nigerian writer who sent me a 56 page book to ’review’, a review swap deal, and I found myself proofreading it for him, as it had over 2000 errors. Funnily enough, it also had dozens of 5 star Amazon reviews. I sent him the corrections but didn’t review it. He refused to even read one page of my book. Some people.
Do you often get homesick for the UK?
Absolutely not. I had 30 years growing up in the UK and it was enough. In my area, those seen as outsiders were treated with contempt. I thank them. They created me.
Would you want to live in Budapest permanently?
I’ve lived in Hungary for 14 years now, it’s becoming a habit. So long as the dictatorship doesn’t throw me out of the country, I’m staying.
What is your favourite book?
’Crome Yellow’ by Aldous Huxley. It glides along, with depth and beauty. You can feel that this is a writer who knew what he was doing.
If you had the chance to save one possession in a fire, what would it be?
A possession? Difficult, as I’d be saving my loved ones first, but if I had to save an object, it would be my crummy 15 year old computer tower. It has all my work on it.
Who is your favourite band?
At this moment, Catatonia. Their songs ring true for me now. Other bands include the Pixies, Marilyn Manson and when I’m in the mood, Frank Zappa.
Where will you spend your holidays this year?
Croatia. We’ve been planning to go there for a long time and it’s now or never. The sea is so clear and blue there, you can see the rocks below.
Have you ever been skydiving or bungee-jumping?
No. I don’t think I’d trust bungee-jumping but skydiving, now there’s something I have to try.
Thanks for the opportunity, Stevie!
Thank you Dani!