Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
My name is Tim Moss and I am a British adventurer*. I have written two books:
- How to Get to the North Pole and Other Iconic Adventures, a practical guide to seven epic expeditions such as rowing an ocean, crossing a desert and climbing an unclimbed mountain. Each chapter is available as a standalone ebook (which makes it look like I’ve written a lot more books than I actually have).
- With the Sun on Our Right: the people we met while cycling the world, an account of a 13,000 mile bike ride I undertook with my wife, Laura.
What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)?
I decided to write How to Get to the North Pole after spending years writing and researching expedition articles for my website. I thought that for all of the effort I was putting into maintaining a blog, I may as well turn it into a book.
Of course, writing a whole book took vastly more time and research but the principle was sound because I ended up with a book to show for it, and not just some blog posts.
The second book was a natural corollary of the trip of a lifetime. We had so many wonderful experiences while cycling around the world that we wanted to share them. It was partly for our friends, family and followers who had been part of our journey, living the highs and lows with us. And it was partly just for us. An opportunity to capture some of the stories while they were still fresh, so we could look back on them in future years.
Besides, I like a project and a sense of achievement, and attempting to write a book around a full time job seemed like a suitable challenge.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
Getting outside and exercising is what inspires me most. Riding my bike over hills or running through fields.
How do you deal with creative block?
I was working full-time when I wrote my last book, so I did a lot of the writing during my lunch break.
As such, with only a few hours a week at my disposal, I “couldn’t afford” to get writer’s block. I could not let any of those precious minutes go to waste.
To deal with this, rather than sticking to a linear process, if I was struggling to find inspiration where I left off the day before, I would switch to writing whichever part of the book I did feel like writing.
(For the record, I’ve answered these interview questions whenever I’ve had a spare few minutes at work. And, sure enough, rather than tackling them in order, I’ve found myself jumping to the questions for which answers come to mind first).
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
I’m not a professional author or critic so I can’t claim any expertise on this subject. However, I think the easiest mistake to make on a book like With the Sun on Our Right (i.e. an account of a journey) is to try including everything. I think the better travel writers probably skip out 90% of their times/experiences because they are mundane and uninteresting. Instead, they can pick a handful of the best bits and make a whole story out of that.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
I tried to design the cover myself. I came up with a few different options and posted them online for my friends and followers to choose their favourite.
There was a lot of debate, lots of good ideas and lots of contradictory views. But there was also a significant minority who just said: “To be honest, none of them are good enough”.
One of the people reading the comments happened to be a designer, who got in touch. I’m really glad I made use of her services because, predictably, the final design she produced was infinitely better than anything I had produced.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
I do not have thick skin so negative reviews hurt.
Actually, the rare review that is outright negative isn’t quite as hard to deal with as the minor criticism or faint praise. Rightly or not, the former can be written off as sour grapes or someone who “clearly didn’t get it”. I can justify that in my head: their problem not mine.
But when people critique my writing in a subtler way (e.g. “It reads OK”, “It’s no Shakespeare but…” or even the half-hearted: “An enjoyable read”), I take it more to heart. Because I know how much time, effort and emotion went into my books, anything short of rapturous adulation will always fall short of my expectations.
And, by the way, if anyone actually offered rapturous adulation then I wouldn’t believe them!
How has your creation process improved over time?
Pass! I’m not sure it has!
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
The best thing about writing my second book was how quickly I felt like it started coming together and how satisfying it felt to pull all of the pieces together and feel like I had something close a book.
The worst thing was having to cut out entire sections of my book that I’d spent days research, writing and honing. But some parts simply did not fit with the flow of the story and had to be culled. I slightly got around this by including these as ‘Deleted scenes’ in the bonus material I offered with the book.
The most surprising thing was the amount of time it took to edit and rework. I was lulled into a false sense of security by my first book, which required very little editing due to the nature of it (a practical guidebook, broken down into lots of short headings and subheadings). However, for With the Sun on Our Right, it turned out that reaching a finished first draft (i.e. 100,000-odd words that ran from the start of our trip to the end) was not even half way to being finished.
The book is infinitely better for all of the reworking – for which I’m very grateful to my wife and other reviewers – but it was hard work.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
My last book was about cycling around the world. I was aware throughout the writing process that most people aren’t interested in bikes, that 90% of what happened on the road was boring and no one wants a day-by-day account. Instead, in aiming to serve my readers, I left the vast majority of our experiences on the cutting room floor, even though that often meant glossing over entire countries and leaving out some of my favourite experiences.
Similarly, even if it might not be the most natural thing for me, I knew that readers would want to know a bit about me and my wife as people. So I included some personal stuff too, which I hope gave a fuller picture and a better understanding of our trip.
That said, however, I could never dedicate that much of my life to writing a book that did not bring me personal satisfaction. If I didn’t feel like it was meeting the standards I expect in a book,
What role do emotions play in creativity?
Do you have any creativity tricks?
What are your plans for future books?
No immediate plans!
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
I set the Guinness World Record for the longest distance cycled in a rickshaw.
My wife and I ran the length of every London Underground train line.
I once travelled around the world using eighty different methods of transport.
My friends and I were the first people to climb a previously unclimbed mountain in Siberia.