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Tuesday 4 February 2014

Blog Guest - Keith Chapman - part 2

As promised yesterday, this is part 2 of my interview with guest Keith Chapman. To recap, he was an editor and contributor to various fiction publications in London in the 1960s before shifting to New Zealand and spending nearly 35 years in newspaper and magazine journalism. He returned to fiction writing in earnest in 1992, using the pen-name Chap O'Keefe, writing westerns, and also edited the Black Horse Extra online magazine. For the last four years he has concentrated on bringing out his quite considerable back-list in e-book format, rather than producing new fiction.

Chap O'Keefe, his wife, three adult children and five grandchildren live in Auckland, New Zealand. The family home is high on a North Shore hillside overlooking Hellyer's Creek and the sparkling Waitemata Harbour.


Q&A continued…

Where do you find inspiration? (I know, for example, that one of your storylines was inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle…)

Ah, the stock question which, like many, I find it hard to answer. What can be said? Writers must be readers and it's almost inevitable that they should try to emulate the writers they most admire.
"Mr O’Keefe has reworked the plot of a Sherlock Holmes story as an exploit of his ex-Pinkerton protagonist Joshua Dillard. The result is clever, atmospheric and exciting." – The District Messenger
These days, largely in retirement, I'm a great one for re-reading the books I enjoyed in my youth. I do a lot of what the ever-busy writer James Reasoner dubbed at his blog the other day “binge” reading. In recent times I've re-read consecutively all the Charteris-written Saint books, all 18 of Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer novels (plus some of the short stories), and a slew of P. G. Wodehouse books. The last six novels I've read this month have been by Edgar Wallace. I'm currently reading a seventh with no sign I'm ready to tire of them yet.

Outside of other people's fiction, inspiration can come from research in books of history and biography, especially for westerns. Nothing surprising in that, I guess.

What are you working on now?

Not much. I'll be taking a week's holiday break shortly, so I have other chores to attend to outside of being Chap O'Keefe. The e-book conversions continue – more on that later – and I'm conscious of a need to explore distribution via routes additional to Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing.

What is your biggest distraction when it comes to writing?

What others call normal living. And as the only writer in the family, I find it very difficult to explain my distraction from this normality when I'm immersed in writing work. A novel of BHW length takes me around a month to write. At the end of this time, I become a very trying person for those living in the same house. How can they understand what is going on in my surely absent mind? Why is it so important to me? Why if it's important to anyone else, does that not show in the form of proper reward? In many ways it's far easier being a salaried journalist or editor, although these situations also have their frustrations.
What’s your favourite movie?

A difficult question. I know it's not playing the game, but may I say I don't have one? Although I own many DVDs and old VHS tapes, and once used to rent as many as five a week, I watch very few movies now. I last watched a DVD a few weeks ago. It was the 1938 screen version of Edgar Wallace's The Terror starring Alastair Sim, Bernard Lee, Arthur Wontner, Wilfred Lawson, Linden Travers, Henry Oscar and Richard Murdoch. Nothing hugely special, but great, melodramatic fun!

What’s your favourite quotation?

Over the years many quotations have appealed as being pithy or singularly apt in certain circumstances. I wouldn't say any one has remained the outright favourite. The followers of Writealot might find this one worthy of their attention: “Successful writing is two percent inspiration, forty-nine percent perspiration and forty-nine percent luck.” Terry Harknett (aka George G. Gilman) said it, or perhaps repeated it, in The Writer magazine in August 1979.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be and why?

I haven't travelled widely enough to know, and have actually lived in only two countries, Britain and New Zealand. The Britain that appealed to me had disappeared before I left it, and it won't be coming back. You'd need a time machine to get there.

For a variety of reasons New Zealand was a better place to buy a home and raise a family in 1967 than it is in 2014. But it never had a publishing industry that put out much of the material I would want to read and write. A primary consideration, tending to make me reply “New Zealand”, would be that all my children and grandchildren have been born and live here.

And last but not least – what’s your favourite food and why?

Is a favourite food really important? If pressed, I'd say I prefer traditional fare like porridge, fish and chips, roast pork accompanied by sharp apple sauce... And for a quick, easy lunch I like a tuna sandwich with lemon juice, tomato sauce and a thin slice of cheddar cheese. In colder weather, it's also excellent served hot and crisp straight out of a sandwich toaster.

I know you’ve embarked on publishing your back list in e-book format. Has this been an easy task?

No! Not at all. Reformatting old Word Perfect files for the Kindle via Open Office Writer software, then uploading a Microsoft Word file is a laborious business. You have to find and put together new covers, for which I use Paint.NET free software. I can't claim to be completely au fait with “pdn”, although I do know how to design covers that suit me.

Of course, you can pay other people to do all the work for you, but in my experience westerns aren't downloaded in sufficient number to make that short cut a justifiable expense. Also you'd lose some control over the look of the product, which is part of whatever appeal self-publishing does have.

When you have an e-book completed, you must remember, too, that Amazon acts solely as a distribution channel for the self-publisher. You really need to promote, to “sell” your e-book yourself. Most of the bestselling self-publishers spend hours working through social media like Facebook and Twitter. A website is a must, and you might benefit from a blog, as long as you have enough to say that will interest a wider circle than friends and family.

For e-books, Amazon are still dominant in the US market, so you can't afford to do without them. But outside the US, Amazon appears to have introduced a scheme of regional pricing that amounts to a surcharge making your e-books more expensive for non-American buyers. The details are in the comments here:

This is annoying. The traditional book publishers had some excuse for charging extra for their books in far-flung parts of the world. But we were told the web is worldwide and e-books, having no physical dimensions or weight, would remove the additional cost of international shipping and handling.
Amazon admits it costs them no more to send an e-book to a customer in a country other than the US, and it does not collect sales tax for governments such as New Zealand's. With the new Kindle pricing for regional sub-domains – I have in mind here – Amazon has taken a backward step. The price is supposed to be based automatically on a self-publisher's US price. For example, my $2.99 e-books cost Australian region customers $AU3.99, but this is 67 US cents more than the currency exchange conversion for $2.99. Change the Australian price yourself to a more accurate $AU3.28 – which you can do – and Amazon will chop your Kindle royalties by half.

I'm considering whether to try getting around this by reformatting yet again to make my e-books available through Smashwords on other platforms. But this will also involve producing another set of covers, because some of the retailers Smashwords supplies require higher-resolution images than the ones I've done for Amazon. To avoid double taxation, I will also have to fill in more IRS forms to show Smashwords' accounts people that I pay my income tax in New Zealand... Will any of this be worth the extra tedium?
Do you envisage writing new books direct for e-book release or would you still go through the traditional publishing route?

At present I have no new books planned. If I heard of a fiction market that appealed, I would send a query letter, a synopsis, and possibly sample chapters, to the applicable publisher or agent. I'd proceed from there if this elicited a promising response. You see, I'm a writer who is just as happy with a quiet life reading!
Now please tell us about your latest book release ...

This would be Ride the Wild Country, a Joshua Dillard western thriller originally published by Hale in 2005 and Magna (Dales Large Print) in 2008. The e-book is currently available only at Amazon, and you can read the blurb and the opening pages free on your e-reader or computer.

Thank you, Keith! Below is a breakdown about Keith's books, all worth reading.

NOTE (22 Feb 2014): Keith's website has just been updated - here


As well as standalone titles, the O'Keefe westerns include the adventures of the ex-Pinkerton detective, Joshua Dillard, and the exploits of the engaging Miss Lilian Goodnight, a scallywag heroine already mentioned, better known as Misfit Lil.

Chap O'Keefe's books are published in the series Black Horse Westerns, the Linford Western Library, and Dales Westerns. His fast-moving, action-packed stories are in the Gold Medal, Ace Books pocket-book tradition, but incorporate themes designed to appeal to the contemporary reader. Similarly, to accommodate readers' changing methods of accessing quality genre fiction at best prices, the number of O'Keefe westerns available in Kindle editions continues to grow. The first title was MISFIT LIL CHEATS THE HANGROPE. Check out the listing on Chapter one can also be sampled at

Fellow western author Ben Bridges says, "I'm so glad to see that this book is starting to get the recognition it truly deserves. Take it from someone who's collected and read westerns for more than forty years, MISFIT LIL CHEATS THE HANGROPE stands head and shoulders above the current crop of competitors! It has a fabulous story with - to this reader, at least - a completely unforeseen denouement, vivid, lively characters and regular bursts of action which - and here's the important bit – stem naturally from the plot and aren't just shoe-horned in to beef things up a bit. I have, of course, read Chap O'Keefe for a long while now, but genuinely feel that this is his best to date! Please keep 'em coming, Chap!"

Reader (and author) Richard Webster says, "I'm excited to hear of a new Misfit Lil book. It's a wonderful series with a delightful protagonist. Chap O'Keefe is doing an excellent job at nudging the genre forwards, something that's desperately needed if westerns are to continue to grow and flourish."

Legendary blogger Grumpy Old Bookman once said, "Misfit Lil . . . . What a terrific name for a character, eh? This book belongs to an endangered species: the western. As for the story: totally professional, as you would expect, and a lot of fun. By my count, MISFIT LIL FIGHTS BACK is the author's sixteenth book, so he knows how to do the job. Ms Lil has appeared before, and doubtless will again."

Several Kindle e-books have also been published featuring O'Keefe's other series hero, the ex-Pinkerton adventurer Joshua Dillard. They include LIBERTY AND A LAW BADGE, THE SANDHILLS SHOOTINGS, and SHOOTOUT AT HELLYER'S CREEK.


Gunsmoke Night (1993)
The Sheriff and the Widow (1994)
Shootout At Hellyer's Creek (1994)
The Outlaw and the Lady (1994)
The Gunman and the Actress (1995)
The Sandhills Shootings (1995)
Doomsday Mesa (1995)
Frontier Brides (2004)
The Rebel and the Heiress (2005)
Ride the Wild Country (2005)
The Lawman and the Songbird (2005)
Ghost Town Belles (2006)
Misfit Lil Rides in (2006)
Misfit Lil Gets Even (2006)
Sons and Gunslicks (2007)
Misfit Lil Fights Back (2007)
Peace at Any Price (2007)
Misfit Lil Hides Out (2008)
A Gunfight Too Many (2008)
Misfit Lil Cleans Up (2008)
Blast to Oblivion (2009)
Misfit Lil Robs the Bank (2009)
Misfit Lil Cheats the Hangrope (2009)
Faith and a Fast Gun (2010)
Liberty and a Law Badge (2010)

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