Author Interview Roger Michael Ward Turn Out The Lights

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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, Roger Michael Ward, author of Turn Out The Lights, shares what inspired his story about how politicians manipulate the electorate.

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Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed Roger Michael Ward about his life and career, the inspiration behind his new book, Turn Out The Lights, and his creative writing process.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

Roger Michael Ward on The Table Read Magazine
Roger Michael Ward

My name is Roger Michael Ward, I’m 70 years old,  married with two grown up children and live in Sevenoaks in Kent in the UK. I was once a teacher then went to work in industry and finally ended up owning my own printing company. I have various interests including walking, sailing, astronomy, cooking, piano and music in general.

When did you first WANT to write a book?

About ten years ago I went on holiday to Kefalonia, a beautiful Greek island. Whilst out walking I came across a memorial to Italian soldiers who were massacred by the Nazis in WWII. I decided to research the event and came across an account of the Katyn massacre, the elimination of 22,000 Polish by the Soviets in 1940. The circumstances of this event and the cover up of the truth for over 50 years drove me to imagine a scenario where such a shocking event could occur again in the future.

When did you take a step to start writing?

It was during the Covid lockdown in November  2000. I had time on my hands and decided to write an outline novel and entered a competition, The Nanowrimo, whereby you have to complete 50,000 words in one month. 

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

I had thought about the book for several years but it wasn’t until November 2000 that I began to formulate the first draft which I completed in January 2021. After that I worked on it and revised it many times before finally publishing the completed work in April of this year.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Turn Out The Lights?

The biggest challenge was to create a story about one of the worst atrocities imaginable and to make it light-hearted and interesting. What struck me was the amateurism of Stalin and his lieutenants; tasked with the elimination of 22,000 they set about shooting them one at a time, 7,000 by just one man over 28 days. It was almost unbelievable. Indeed, obtaining accurate information about the Katyn massacre was tough but I found Wikipedia very helpful.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

I wanted to show how ordinary, innocent people with their own stories to tell, could be manipulated by the misguided ambitions of politicians, so I chose to account the lives of single men and women living in two guest houses in Newcastle, their work and ambitions including some romances, and their fates.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

Well, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet and the members of MI5 were inspired by Stalin, his Politburo and the NKVD, the forerunner to the KGB.

What is the inciting incident of Turn Out The Lights?

Well, there are several threads, the stories of individuals and their aspirations. For one of the characters, Harry, an innocent and naive student, his life changes when he falls head-over-heels in love with Miley, a Polish lap-dancer!

What is the main conflict of Turn Out The Lights?

Again, another thread is the conflict between PM Mallin and his Foreign Secretary, Trotter, a parallel of the conflict between Stalin and Trotsky. We all know what happened to Trotsky!

Did you plot Turn Out The Lights in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

I created much of the story mentally whilst on a walking holiday. Scrambling up and down mountains puts me in a very creative place. The detail emerges once you start writing, but the outline plot remains.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Turn Out The Lights need?

One of the beauties of writing with Word is you can revisit the manuscript several times. I received some useful feedback from various people.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

I think you have to feel very strongly about the reason for putting your thoughts into writing. It is an enormous task and you will need the  motivation to keep going. After that, believe in yourself. That is the toughest challenge.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

Yes, it’s the story of the biggest fraud in German history. It was such a simple idea, and it could happen again!

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Not so much proud but more satisfied that it was completed. I hope the world will never forget the events of Katyn.

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