Author Richard Underwood answers frequently asked questions about the books he has written, beginning with why all his books are now free.
Q) Why are your books free?
A) All my books have previously been available from mainstream booksellers in paperback, hardback, or eBook format. I’m now in my late 70’s and still writing, but what I don’t need is the hassle of dealing with book sales and royalties. My books have been on sale all over the English speaking world and royalties have been arriving from the publisher about three months after each sale and have then had to be accounted for in tax returns to HMRC (UK sales) or IRS (US sales). Life is too short at my age, so I instructed my publisher not to distribute any more paperbacks once their current print run ended. All my books are now out of print, and I have no current liable for tax on royalties. Distributing them as free eBooks ensures they are still available for readers to enjoy, but without accruing any future tax liability.
Q) Why are your books not available on Amazon?
A) All my books have been on sale on Amazon in paperback and eBook format in the past, and you may still find some second-hand paperbacks being sold. However, you probably won’t find any of my current books on Amazon as I have made them all available free and Amazon don’t usually list free books. You should find them on most other sites including Apple Books, Barnes & Nobel, Smashwords, etc. The other reason I tend to avoid Amazon is that they are a monopoly. When my publisher previously had my paperbacks on Amazon, Amazon paid a lower rate of royalty because my books were on sale in bricks and mortar bookshops such as Waterstones, WH Smith, Barnes & Nobel, etc. They pay a much higher rate of royalties to authors who only sell via Amazon, and the online market is so large that this encourages authors to pull their books from bricks and mortar bookshops and only sell them on Amazon. This in turn makes it much more likely that those bricks and mortar bookshops will eventually be forced to close.
Q) What are you writing now?
A) The last novel I completed was ‘Spied’ the third and final book in the Ann Perkins Detective Agency Series. I am currently researching and writing ‘A Brief History of Consciousness’ the second book in my popular science series about life and consciousness which is due to be published in the Autumn of 2024. I have plans to write a third popular science book once that has been completed, and I also plan to revisit the Ann Perkins Detective Agency Series to write screenplays.
Q) What made you write your ‘Ann Perkins Detective Agency’ books?
A) I was broke, depressed, and wondered how to make some money. That led me to consider robbing a bank. Not me, exactly. I was a law-abiding pensioner, but it got me wondering how someone who had never robbed a bank would go about it for the first time. I had no idea how to get hold of a gun, how to disguise myself, what was the best time to rob a bank, or which bank would be easiest to rob. I also knew that, with my luck, everything would go wrong. The more I thought about it, the more of the first story took shape. My villain was as clueless as I would have been, and everything went wrong. So wrong, in fact, that he ended up as a hero rather than as a villain.
Q) What made you write your ‘Overcoming: The Salvation Army’ book?
A) There have been lots of books on Salvation Army history, but high ranking Salvation Army Officers wrote most of these to cover the early days of the Salvation Army, or to commemorate a territorial centenary. The Salvation Army ordained and commissioned me as a Salvation Army officer at London in 1976. Following my ordination, I worked in hostels in Glasgow and London, and in corps appointments in England and Scotland.
Q) What made you write your ‘A Brief History Of Life: From The Origin Of Life To The End Of The Universe’ book?
A) I saw my first dead body in 1964 when I was seventeen years old whilst working as a medic in an RAF hospital. I saw my last dead body whilst nursing in a casualty unit of a hospital in 2016. In between, I had been a police officer in Greater Manchester, frequently having to notify family members about unexpected deaths, followed by twenty-years as a minister of religion during which time I had officiated at numerous funerals. I’ve been fascinated by life, and death, all my life. When I viewed dead bodies, I saw they were the same in the minutes after death as they had been in the final minutes they had lived. Why is someone alive one second, and dead the next? What’s the difference? They have the same organs and the same cells? They are, essentially, the same person. What makes someone alive and someone else dead? The more I read about the subject, the more I realised how little we knew. Scientists can’t even agree on a definition of life. I also realised we should all be experts. I’ve been alive all my life, and so have you. We should all be experts because we have viewed living things all our lives. In the case of our own lives, we’ve viewed it from the inside as well as from the outside. We should know what life is and it should be easy to define, so what is it that makes the subject so difficult? Those thoughts led me to a lifetime of study, and the result culminated in me writing several academic papers on the subject, and ultimately to the writing of the book. Life is fascinating, and I hope I have conveyed some of my own fascination through my writing.
Q) What made you write your ‘Brief History of Consciousness: From individual consciousness to quantum consciousness’ book?
A) When I was researching the first book in the series, about life, I discovered there were hundreds of different definitions of life, non of which are universally accepted by every scientific discipline. If life is difficult to explain, consciousness is almost impossible. We see life all around us, and can examine it in numerous plants and animals, but when it comes to consciousness, there is nothing to see and little to examine. The only consciousness we can examine in depth is our own, and even that is a mystery to us. My consciousness is unique, and nobody has the consciousness I have. Built up from everything I have seen, heard, tasted, touched, smelt. I am also acutely aware of every thought, every emotion, every love, every loss, every fulfilment, and every disappointment I have ever had. Scientists of different disciplines can’t even agree what consciousness is or where consciousness is located. That, to me, is its fascination, and it has fascinated me for years. With the help of Manchester University, I am currently making sure I can review all the most recent research papers, and condense them into a more readable format suitable for a popular science book.
Q) What do you read for pleasure?
A) I usually read fiction and non-fiction.
Fiction: Usually detective stories, spy stories, war stories or thrillers. I also like science fiction, but only if it’s well written and I can see myself in that situation. If it’s unbelievable, I don’t enjoy it.
Non-fiction: Mainly science based physics, astronomy, and biology.
Q) What is your e-reading device of choice?
A) I had an old Nook for many years, but they are no longer available in the UK. I have recently changed it for a Kobo Clara 2e and it has been an excellent choice which allows me to carry hundreds of books around. That said, I still buy paperbacks. I don’t think you can beat the feel of a ‘real’ book.
Q) Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
A) I grew up in North Wales. There was nothing but countryside at the back of the house, rolling hills and farmland leading towards the Snowdon mountain range. The lack of light at night meant the sky was always full of stars, and the garden was full of insects. I can remember watching ants in the garden and wondering if they knew I was watching them, and I remember looking up at all the stars in the clear night sky and wondering if someone was watching me.
It made me appreciate the vast difference between the smallest and largest things in the universe and has influenced several of my scientific papers.