- When and why did you begin writing?
I worked as chemist for BP Chemicals at Baglan Bay for more than 30 years. During that time I played guitar and wrote a few songs purely as a hobby. I was also an avid reader. When I retired in 2002 I found more time to pursue my musical and literary interests. I joined a Shadows tribute band, wrote a few more songs and had a few articles published in newspapers and magazines. Writing song lyrics is similar in many ways to writing poetry, and poetry is what I have concentrated on for the last few years. To date I have written three non-fiction books, three picture/story books for children and the current book of short poems.
- How did your book come about?
‘How to be a Dog’ is a collection of all the shorter poems which I’ve written over the last four years. When my granddaughter, Freya, was born in 2010 I decided to write a longer poem as something for her to remember me by. This was published as a rhyming, story/picture book called ‘Trevor the One Eyed Tractor’. I enjoyed writing this so much that I have written mainly for children ever since. Many of the poems in this book were written in response to the monthly challenge set at a poems and pints meeting at the Lorelei in Porthcawl.
- How did you come up with the title?
I came up with the title quite simply really. The challenge set at the Lorelei some time ago was to write a poem with the title ‘How to be a ……’, and we had to fill in the blank. My son, Ian, has two dogs and I take them out occasionally. The poem was written partly from my experiences with the dogs and partly from imagination. To my great surprise it won first prize for the challenge that month. Because of that the new book could only be called ‘How to be a Dog’.
- Who designed the cover of the book? What was the inspiration behind it?
I’m very grateful to Max Cartwright who designed the cover and drew all the illustrations inside. The inspiration, of course, was the poem ‘How to be a Dog’. I gave Max some hints as to what I was looking for. He then produced this wonderful sketch of the contented, sleeping dog totally unaware of the mud-splattered settee beneath him.
- What are your current writing projects?
At the moment I am writing a six book series about Darren the Dragon. The first two, ‘Darren the Dragon’ and ‘Darren and the Draaken’ have already been published. The third book ‘Darren and Derwyn’ is currently with the publishers and will be released early in 2015. I am also working on another collection of shorter poems which I hope will be published some time in 2016.
- Do you prefer e-books or paperbacks?
I prefer hardback books with dust covers. I have a small collection of first edition hardbacks. They were not expensive because I buy books by authors that I enjoy reading, like C. S. Forester and Welsh author Richard Llewellyn. I like the feel and smell of old hardback books, there is something of substance to them. I also have a hardback collection of all the Booker Prize winning novels, although most of these are not first editions. I have nothing against paperbacks, I do buy them occasionally. Many of the newest books are only available as paperbacks, mainly because of the cost involved in producing hardback books. E-books do have their place in modern society. I don’t have any of the devices on which to display an e-book and I can’t envisage a time when I will ever buy one. I much prefer to read a real book.
- Where do you prefer to buy your books?
I spend many enjoyable hours browsing around bookshops and charity shops. There are not so many bargains in the charity shops these days because they have become aware of the value of first and special editions. I have been to Hay on Wye many times and recommend it to fellow bibliophiles. The internet is also a great source for buying books; you can find almost anything on the net. If you have one specific book in mind, then the best way is to do a cyber search for it in the comfort of your own home.
- What books have most influenced your life?
I’m not sure if any books have influenced my life. In my younger days I was fond of ‘Just William’, ‘Biggles’ and the works of Enid Blyton. I suppose these books all carry the messages of ‘honesty is the best policy’, ‘a sense of fair play’ and ‘good always winning over evil’. I have always tried to live my life with these principles in mind.
- Which writers appeal to you the most?
Where do I start? There are so many writers I like and admire that it would take a few pages to list them all. As far as poetry is concerned then I would have to mention Dylan Thomas, John Betjeman, Roger McGough, Julia Donaldson and Edward Lear. It is very difficult to single out any novelists for a mention. Some of the authors on my list include C. S. Forester, George Orwell, Arthur Conan Doyle, Roald Dahl, Michael Morpurgo and John Irving. However, one author does stand out head and shoulders above the rest for me. That author is J. R. R. Tolkien. I have read ‘The Hobbit’ eleven times and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ seventeen times. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is my favourite book and is, in my opinion, the best book ever written.
If you’d like to read more about John Davies ‘How to be a Dog’, you can visit
Or to see more of Max Cartwright’s artwork: