Samui Wining & Dining
All Booked Up

Writing your first book is no easy thing, as Samui resident
and author of Thailand Diaries, Peter Snelson, found out.

All Booked UpWhat was it like? How did you start? What inspired you? I get those questions all the time from people when they find out that I’ve written a book. And these are always my questions, too, when I find out that someone I know has just become an ‘author’. That’s probably because in the back of most people’s minds, including mine, is the real question – ‘Do I have it in me to write a book myself? Because if he can do it, maybe I could, too.’


My first attempt at writing happened during the four years that I spent sailing around the Med on my modest yacht. A period during which I often had plenty of time on my hands. Time which I thought could be used for trying my hand at writing. But interesting subject matter was elusive to me so, with pen poised, I tried forcing ideas. That would have been all well and good if I were a seasoned ‘pro’ and let the imagination flow, but I wasn’t. All I ended up doing was demoralizing myself, with doubts setting in that, although I’d written good business letters in the past and had always considered myself ‘a bit of a writer’, this ‘creative’ writing thing was beyond me. So, after countless fruitless hours scribbling handwritten notes, I eventually came to the conclusion that the topic for the first-timer is absolutely crucial, and I couldn’t think of one. (I later realised that it has to be something that is personally inspiring, something that comes directly from the heart, but I’m moving ahead of myself.) So at that stage I gave up the project as a bad job.


After a two-year gap, however, I was drawn into having another attempt. And to make the whole matter seem a little more ‘serious’ this time I employed a typist as I had a total lack of command of computers and keyboards. The initial effort lasted two days and although my wife, Kseniya, was very encouraging, I could see that the typist hadn’t found the material quite as interesting as we had. So I called a halt for a time of reflection. And the typist was dead right; it wasn’t the stuff of which great novels are made. So, with that, my would-be career as an author came to a second abrupt halt.


Some years later, in 2010, Kseniya and I decided to leave England and live in Thailand for economic reasons (plus I’d had been on a few holidays to Thailand over the last 20 years and loved the place). My day job as a property investor had evaporated during the world financial crisis as the falling markets are not conducive to long term investments, such as real-estate. We ended up in Bangkok on the 41st floor of a building on Sukhumvit Road after unsuccessfully trying to find somewhere to live on the islands.


And now I’m nearing the point when I actually began writing – properly. Travelling around Thailand was a passion of mine; one which I often did alone. And I cherished having an amusing or light-hearted book as a companion. I used to prop myself up at a bar and read when people would sometimes come over and enquire as to what the book was about. They were curious about what I found so amusing after seeing me chuckling to myself. And this struck a cord within me. Plus the fact that Kseniya had recently complained that all the non-guide books about Thailand were either relating tales about hookers or life within hell-hole prisons – with precious little else in-between.


And then it happened – that ‘Eureka!’ moment. Knowing that I have the ability to make people laugh in daily life, I thought that I’d try writing again, but this time using my humour and the ability to see the funny things in life as my main focus. So, without planning or discussion, rhyme or reason, I instantaneously resumed my halted journey as a writer. Sitting at the breakfast bar in the living room I churned out three pages in rapid succession. Kseniya thought I was either possessed or trying to absolve myself of our shared housework duties. She looked over her mop bemused by this typing frenzy, realising that something was going on, but sensibly left me to it.


After all our respective typing and cleaning we sat down over a glass of wine and read through the results of my labours. Both of us liked it and thought it worked. It flowed, it made sense, it was readable and, most of all, interesting. I had embarked upon filling a gap in the market – a funny travel book about Thailand. And I had my very own material accumulated during many years of travelling around this amazing country meeting all sorts of weird and wonderful people. After realising this, my writing began spluttering out until it became a decent flow before eventually reaching a veritable gush.


My confidence was sky high and I couldn’t wait to carry on. Morning, noon and night I wrote – nothing could slow me. It still read well and I laughed aloud at what I was writing (which was a good thing, as it was meant to be a funny book). Kseniya was often alongside, giving her hugely important perspective on the writing, helping me to ‘see the wood from the trees’ as the words become a blur. We had many a discussion about what to change, what to keep and what to cut out (and it pains me to say that she was right about 70% of the time!).


I wrote continuously for two months and then one evening I just stopped. I’d realised that I’d reached the end and I asked Kseniya to stop doing what she was doing and bring some wine to our downstairs terrace. With our glasses full, I announced that it was time to celebrate – the book was finally finished.


But it certainly was not finished, as we were about to find out. Editing it ourselves took a further four months and this was a painstakingly tiring job. I got to the point where I couldn’t read the beginning any more; I hated it as we’d gone over it so many times. We were going through quite a bit of money, too, and had no regular income. So, in our haste to get it on the bookshelves, we had self-published rather too quickly and hadn’t done a final proof of the printed version, which was to prove a little costly as we’d overlooked some mistakes (not so in the second edition!).


By now we’d moved to Samui so the books had to be delivered by air (another costly exercise). Nervously waiting at the freight terminal not knowing how the final copies had turned out must be similar to waiting to see if you have a healthy baby being delivered. Soon enough, the truck rumbled around the corner and we quickly tore open the boxes on the back and there she was, after many years’ pregnancy – ‘Thailand Diaries’.


Peter Snelson

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