In the hotseat today is John Searancke, author of Dog Days In The Fortunate Islands, Prunes for Breakfast, and recent release, The Reluctant Hotelkeeper
Welcome to Rainne’s Ramblings, John.
Would you please start by telling us a little about yourself and your background?
My name is John Searancke and I was born in 1943 at Derby Royal Infirmary, England, and thus a war baby. I lived my early life in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, a market town in Leicestershire, and was sent away to be educated at Kings Mead Preparatory School, Seaford and afterwards at Rugby School one of the great famous English Public Schools. Later commissioned into the Territorial Army, I have been variously an hotel and restaurant owner, director and chairman of a marketing consortium, and latterly a partner with my wife in a commercial legal services company. I have enjoyed a long working life in England and Switzerland and now live with my wife Sally in West Sussex and northern Tenerife, where for five years I occupied my retirement as restaurant critic for a Canarian newspaper.
You became an author late in life. How did your journey as a writer begin?
I had always wanted to write a book, but never either had the time, or felt that I possessed the skillset to do so. Only after retirement came the moment to make the dream come true.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Peace and quiet on the one hand, and the taxing of my limited mental ability on the other.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
“The Reluctant Hotelkeeper” is my third book, and forms the prequel to my first. It charts the calamities that befell me as I struggled to keep an old family hotel going, save it from bankruptcy, and turn it into a profitable and well-known concern. I wrote it because readers of my first book asked me what I had done with my life.
What is your favourite scene that you’ve written? Can you give us a peek?
Meanwhile, for my part, I recalled the tale of how one morning, on the way to the new kitchen, and walking through what remained of the old original hotel kitchen, I thought that I had been transported into another lifetime, a cross between Dante’s Inferno and a Victorian Christmas. I had stopped dead in my tracks.
There at the far end of the room was an unrecognisable person covered almost entirely in feathers. Any feathers not attached to that person were swilling around the room like a cloud, all but obscuring the far doorway, before landing softly to form a light covering on the floor tiles, much as I imagine the interior of a duvet to be.
On closer inspection, the mystery person turned out to be my mother! What had got into her mind I do not know, but she had, unbeknownst to anyone else, decided that her contribution to that particular Christmas was going to be the plucking of all of the pheasants that had just been delivered. Swooping on the box of birds and snatching them away from the hapless potboy, she manoeuvred herself into a spare space, which happened to be adjacent to the top of a chest freezer. Clearly, tidiness was not going to be her watchword during this process. Feathers were pulled out, legs and heads were chopped off with gay abandon, and finally, the right hand was plunged into the bloody interior, emerging clutching a large handful of intestines, slimy heaps of which adorned the top of the freezer. Cleaning up after her was a bit of a trial, but I was glad that she had made the effort. I suppose that she could identify that with long bygone times and tasks that she had undertaken all those years ago.
The Reluctant Hotelkeeper is being made into a movie, what music would you use as a soundtrack?
I used to play some classical music very softly in the background at one time in my hotel. When any of the staff queried it, I told them it was from Swan Lake, where everyone looked serene on top but were paddling furiously down below, unseen to our guests. Just as the staff should be!
Why do you think this book will or should appeal to new readers; what makes it stand out?
If you enjoy reading about one man’s trials and tribulations in turning an old building into a successful hotel, then this is for you. There were some hard times, and these have not been glossed over.
What has amazed me is that a number of readers have told me how humorous this latest book is. I did not set out particularly for humour, but I can see the funny side now.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
I have written three books, all of which have been published. My favourite is “Prunes for Breakfast”. People have been kind enough to say that the wartime story of my father from enlistment in 1940 to capture in Normandy and then incarceration in a German Prisoner of War camp touched them deeply. It moved me too, particularly the main battle scene, which I had researched in depth on the battlefield in France.
Here are 3 very brief synopses of my books:
My first book, Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands, tells the stories of moving my family and dog to live on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean. It received much acclaim and is available in paperback and e-book formats.
Prunes for Breakfast is my second book and records the life and times of my father throughout WW2, including a cache of unpublished personal letters with details of his landing in Normandy, fighting through the bocage and later capture and incarceration in a German POW Camp. It is available in paperback, e-book and audio formats.
The Reluctant Hotelkeeper is my third book and forms a prequel to Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands. How to (and sometimes how not to) bring an old building back to life as a country house hotel. It is available in paperback and e-book formats.
Who designed your book covers?
All three book covers have been created by my very talented brother in law. I gave him a brief requirement of what I was looking for, and he has interpreted my thoughts into splendid covers.
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.
At the moment I am reading the Boudica trilogy by Manda Scott. I simply cannot put it down, and I am in awe of her writing skill.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
You are only here once, so make the most of it.
How do you spend your free time?
We are lucky to have two small homes, one in West Sussex, England, and the other in Puerto de la Cruz, Canary Islands. We move between the two and there never seems to be a dull moment.
If you were ever stranded on a deserted island what would you miss and which three books would you take along?
Can I please be stranded with my wife? If so, then plenty of tea and coffee need to be landed with her. Those 3 Boudica books by Manda Scott can go along too, because I am sure that I shall read them.
A genie grants you three wishes: what are they and why?
I would like to see a bit more of the world, and I would like to take a holiday with my son and my grandchildren. Wives can come too, of course!
If you had to move from Tenerife where would you go, and what would you miss the most about it?
We love the weather and the people in Tenerife. I could imagine living for a spell in Italy though, to explore that country.
If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be, and why?
I regret not being closer to my father. We were estranged. All very sad.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Here are my three book front covers, together with the links to them. If you happen to read one, please do leave a review…I am still learning this new craft.
Thank you very much for joining us today, John.
Find out more about John Searancke and his books: