Ted Polet books


Ted Polet


Despite having been an author for many years, I never turned to fiction until I had been in retirement for a few years and one day sat at the keyboard, putting a few words to a new text file. The starting point was an idea for a seafaring adventure, without realising I'd need a plan to bring it to a successful conclusion. A year later, the manuscript had grown into a book which I translated into English as THE CARGO. It had evolved into something far more than a sea adventure. The next one, named THE BATAVIAN, followed soon, and a third, TWO FATHOMS DEEP, recently joined the other two. In my work so far, apart from my old profession of seafaring, inevitably my interest in the complexities of present-day society plays a part.


I have been writing professionally for many years: process handbooks, policy papers and research reports. Very uninspiring stuff really, but a challenge to my writing skills nonetheless. And I published - in 1975 I wrote in a leading technical journal about the risks of handling dangerous (chemical) cargoes in dry cargo ships. At the time I also started writing about my other hobby, railway modelling.

In 1978 I was approached by a publisher to write a book on this subject, which appeared in two Dutch language volumes in 1980. Later, for the same publisher, I produced two extensively edited translations of English language books on the same subject. I have been writing about the hobby for years, and I occasionally still do, mainly in English. In addition I run a number of websites on the subject, all of them bilingual.


Fiction writing is a very different thing from writing a research report. I admit I have no idea how other authors tackle this and I'm not going to write a step-by-step recipe in a cooking manual. It doesn't work that way - I myself at any rate learned best from jumping in at the deep end and making mistakes.


The starting point of a manuscript in my case usually is a single image in my mind which I hope leaves the reader wondering what will happen next. From there I start writing, a page, a chapter, more chapters, until I inevitably get hit by doubt. Am I on the right track? How do I carry on? The plot develops as I go along, I have no more than a vague overall idea. I am very unsure of what I write and always re-read my text with a critical view - some passages will be re-written countless times before I am satisfied.

The process of writing continues in fits and starts, often I go one pace forward and two paces back. In THE BATAVIAN I was stuck in such a way that I decided to insert a three-year pause into the story and carry on from there, describing the intermediate period in flashbacks before picking up the thread.


Writing must be in my genes - my father was a technical journalist and my mother had the knack for languages, speaking excellent English and German even in her old age.

I also feel that writing starts with reading. I practically devoured books since my early youth, due to my parents having shelves crammed with books. Funnily, although I am Dutch, I mainly read English - my first English book, read at age 14 in the middle 1960s, was Mr Midshipman Hornblower by C.S.Forester, who was a journalist and a naval historian and knew everything of the age of fighting sail in Napoleonic days.

His writing style was such that I read away avidly, trying to understand the meaning of the English sentences from the context and avoiding a dictionary unless I really needed one. I was unable to put the book away and in due course understood the story and its context, even though I didn't yet know all the words.


Fiction is a form of entertainment - a book needs to captivate the reader and has to be difficult to put aside. When I read a chapter there must be an urge to turn a page and read on, and then another.

Inevitably in my writing there is some autobiographical content and also, emotion - some parts in my books I cannot re-read without feeling emotion. The main characters in my books have almost become my friends, which isn't surprising as I created them myself.


My fiction needs a convincing background. I will not say I always get it right, but anything that doesn't fit makes me uncomfortable and compels me to do further research. In THE BATAVIAN a fictional international incident takes place involving Kastellorizo, an island in the contested Greek-Turkish border area. It is fiction, but as a reader I want you to have a feeling it might have happened in reality.

I was at an advantage, once having visited the island myself. For my book I researched the conflict between Greeks and Turks from Ottoman times till today, including all the wars, mutually inflicted outrages and political developments. Inevitably controversy turns up, which I then try to get to the bottom of. And to my surprise, a news item appeared recently of a real incident in the area I describe in the book, supporting my fiction. This is the cherry on the cake, confirming I was right all along!


If I have managed to write captivating fiction against a believable background and a book which my readers feel unable to put aside, I have succeeded in what I set out to do.


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