An Interview With: Gareth P. Jones

This week I had the honour of interviewing renowned children’s writer, Gareth P. Jones, author of the series The Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates, The Society of Thirteen, Death or Icecream? and many more brilliant children’s books. I first came across him during an author event at my university and, captivated by his energy and passion, I immediately went and purchased a copy of The Thornthwaite Inheritance, (review coming soon). I knew at once that he would be an interesting and inspiring writer to interview and his insightful and humorous responses have not let me down!

What kind of thing do you write?

Mostly I write what comes to mind. Mostly these are children’s stories. I write for lots of ages but in honesty I don’t write for any age other than my own. I think that’s all you can do in the end. Write to please yourself and hope other’s like what you’ve written.

When did you first seriously pick up a pen and start writing?

I am yet to seriously pick up a pen and start writing but I remember writing my first book (unpublished of course). I was doing a writing course once a week and holding down a customer service job. I wrote mostly at work. I was quite regimented and focussed as soon as I decided to set my mind to completing a book. I thought about it mathematically, thinking about how long my chapters were, how long it needed to be and therefore how many chapters would be needed. I still do this sometimes. It helps to make the mountain of writing a book feel more climbable.

Why do you write?

Because it’s fun and I think it’s the thing that I’m best at doing.

Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Anywhere and everywhere. And on a bad day, nowhere. Children are a great a source of inspiration. My own and the kids I meet when I visit schools.

What are you working on at the moment?

The first in a new series to be published next year. I’ve been struggling with it a lot. Not sure why but I think I’m over the worst of it now. I hope so. The deadline is on Monday.

What writers inspire you?

Any who had to work for success and struggle to get noticed. Ian Rankin is especially inspirational on this subject. Those writers who were lucky enough to be successful with their first book will never fully understand what it’s like for the vast majority of writers. As Lynne Truss once told me, people think getting published will be the end to all their troubles. In fact for many of us it’s only the beginning.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m a slow reader. I used to worry about that but now I accept it and enjoy the books I slowly read. Also, I seem to spend most of what you would normally consider reading time writing so books can last a long time. Recently I have been slowly reading David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten because I have just published my own collection of short interlinked stories in disguise as a novel, Death or Ice Cream?

Do you set aside a certain amount of time to write or do you write when the mood takes you?

Yes, I set aside the time when I am awake for writing. I almost never write when I am asleep. Unfortunately my deadlines do not allow me to wait for muses to descend.

How do you like to unwind when you aren’t writing?

Playing. Playing with my kids, with my musical instruments, with my wife and friends. Playing is a great way to unwind.

What advice would you give to those thinking of picking up the pen to write?

It depends. If they are writing a shopping list, I’d say try to write the list in the order that you’ll find the things in the supermarket. If they are writing a book, I’d say write and write but don’t get attached to anything you write. It’s all disposable. Nothing is guaranteed entry into your final book until the type is set.

I’d like to thank Gareth P. Jones for taking time out of his busy writing schedule to answer these questions. I know that I have found his answers hugely inspiring as a novice children’s writer and I’m sure my readers will too. If you have not already read any of his work, I urge you to do so as soon as possible! I’ve recently finished reading The Thornthwaite Inheritance, which I can highly recommend, and will be posting up a review shortly. In the meantime you can find out more about his work here, or follow him on Twitter here.

Keep reading! x

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Coming up soon

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Gareth P. Jones

 

I’ve managed to get an interview with British children’s writer Gareth P. Jones, writer of The Dragon Detective Agency Series, The Society of Thirteen, The Thornthwaite Inheritance and many more beloved children’s books. I’ll be publishing the interview in the next day or two so do keep a look out for it. I’ll also be doing a review of the The Thornthwaite Inheritance shortly. In the meantime why not check the author out for yourself here.

Watch this space! x

An Interview With: Myself

This week I decided to interview myself to give you a bit of an insight into who exactly I am. I discovered whilst doing it that I actually learned a little bit more about myself too!

Tell us a little about yourself:

I’m a novice writer at the beginning stages of writing the first ever children’s novel that I’ve ever fully committed myself to. I’ve recently decided to take a year off from training to be a primary school teacher and so am taking the time to dedicate myself fully to writing.

What kind of thing do you write?

 As I mentioned, I am a very novice writer and so I am writing as much as I can at the moment, not limiting myself to one particular genre as I find that with every piece I write I gain a wealth of experience. I’m hoping to be a children’s writer and am currently focusing on a children’s novel whilst also writing short stories for practise.

When did you first seriously pick up a pen and start writing?

 I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a child of about 8 or 9 years old but I’ve only seriously considered it as something that I could really go for in the last month or so.

Why do you write?

 I’ve been a book worm for as long as I can remember and have always loved the idea of writing children’s books. For me books have always been other worlds for me to fall into and get lost in and I would love to be able to create another world for other children to enjoy. If I could write something that just one child loved I would be very happy.

Where you do find your inspiration?

 I don’t really know where the inspiration for specific ideas and characters come from, they just seem to appear in my mind when I’m thinking of something entirely different. I read a lot, especially children’s books but find these are normally the source of great anxiety for me rather than inspiration, as I can’t help comparing them with my own writing. I’m very much inspired creatively by the environments around me and I find specific places incredibly motivating for writing.

What are your ambitions as a writer?

 Ideally I l would like to become an accomplished children’s writer, having several books published. I understand that there is very little money in writing and that doesn’t concern me so much. I’d like to have my books read and loved by children and if any money comes my way as a result of that then that would be a nice bonus. My ambition right now, however, is to simply get this book finished to a standard that I am personally proud of.

What do you read?

 I read very widely, anything and everything. My favourite author is John Steinbeck, but I also love the works of Terry Pratchettt which couldn’t be more different. My all time favourite book is Jostein Gaarder’s The Solitaire Mystery, and have a tattoo dedicated to it.

In terms of children’s books I’m very much a Harry Potter fan, having read the books first a couple of years ago after resisting for so long. I also love Philip Ridley, Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman. I have a particular love for dark children’s stories.

These are just a few, it would take an age to list of the books and authors that I love.

What are you reading at the moment?

 At the moment I’m reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman which I’m really enjoying but which is also making me very anxious about my own writing which I can’t help comparing it with!

Do you set aside a certain amount of time to write or do you write when the mood takes you?

 I have a very strict timetable for my writing. I’m a big procrastinator and so I find that if I don’t have a timetable to stick to I’m likely to achieve nothing at all. I also have a set number of words that I want to write each day. At the moment that is 1000 words a day, Monday to Friday. It’s a small amount and so is not at all daunting whilst also being a good minimum amount to aim for each day. I’m treating writing as a full time job at the moment, with a daily weekday timetable of 9-5, with regular breaks for exercise and food scheduled in too.

Do you find it difficult to give up ownership of your writing to a reader or do you enjoy letting others read your work?

 Previously I have been very conscious about letting anyone read my work but now I’m quite happy to publish stuff on my blog and to ask for other people’s opinions. I know that I have a long way to go before I am an accomplished writer and everyone has to start somewhere so I’ve stopped being self conscious about sharing my work. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still get a bit down-hearted when I’ve written something I felt was good that gets a poor reaction from others though!

How do you like to unwind when you aren’t writing?

 I love all things creative and spend a lot of time painting and sewing. Writing can mean long periods of time sitting still and so I make sure that I do yoga and walk everyday which I find really relaxes me and clears my mind. I’m currently obsessed with vinyl and my favourite way to spend a weekend afternoon is rifling through the contents of a record shop and spending my limited money on new records to take home and indulge in.

What advice would you give to those thinking of picking up the pen to write?

Go for it! I put it off for a long time thinking that I wasn’t a good enough writer before realising that I may well be better than I think and that I wouldn’t find out until I gave it a go. Having started giving it a go I now know that I’m not good enough yet but that with practise I can only get better and so why not keep on with it.

Illustrations

So I’ve now made a decent start on my children’s story and am starting to really get into the thick of it. I find that I produce much better work if I can force myself to keep the momentum going and so I’ve been making the effort to really absorb myself in my characters and the story. I cannot constantly write though. I need to have frequent little breaks in order to take a step back and reflect on what I’ve written. I try to remain engulfed by the story throughout these breaks however, and today I did a couple of quick illustrations of the characters to help me really picture them when I’m writing.

Although I do enjoy art and spend a lot of time painting and illustrating, I do it very much for my own enjoyment and so do not plan to be illustrating my book myself. This particular illustration was done very quickly and not meant for an audience at all so please do be kind about it. I’m posting it up here purely as a taster for what the book is about. It also reveals the title of my book: A Villain’s Daughter.

Here’s the illustration with a small extract:

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“She was the spitting image of her mother: tall and slim with long, raven black hair that fell poker straight down to the base of her spine and was always brushed back neatly out of the way. She very rarely left the castle and lived a nocturnal life and so hardly ever saw sunlight. As a result her skin was the milkiest of whites and she had dark, shadowy circles around her vivid green eyes.”

Keep reading! x

It’s official!

I began this writing journey a few weeks ago during a quiet period whilst I was off ill from university (I’m training to be a primary school teacher). I picked up a bad chest infection over Christmas that I’m still trying to shift and whilst getting treated for that the doctors became concerned about my heart and so I’ve been having various tests done to find out what is wrong. As a result I started to suffer from stress and anxiety and so didn’t return to university. And so, to try and at least achieve something with my time off university, I picked up a pen and began writing.

I ended up missing so much of my course that I wasn’t sure if I would be able to continue with it and so things have been a bit quiet on writing front whilst I dealt with the added stress from the worry about all of that.

On Friday everything was finally sorted out and my university and I decided that it would be best for me to put my course on hold for a year, picking back up where I left off next January. This gives me a year off to sort out my health and my stress issues whilst still allowing me to finish my course and eventually qualify as a teacher which has been my plan for some time now.

So what am I going to do with this year off that lies ahead of me? Whilst I’ll eventually get a part time job to bring a bit of money in, at the moment I’m in no rush to do that, preferring to focus on getting my mind and body healthy again first. I have a small amount of savings that will keep me going for a while and so there’s no real need to stress about all of that yet. Plus, I have the comfort of knowing that I will be returning to my course in a year’s time and so there is no pressure for me to find something “to do with my life” as I know in the near future I’ll have a teaching qualification under my belt.

And so I find myself officially a writer! A so far unpublished and very novice writer, but a writer none the less! I’m dedicating myself fully to writing at the moment, with renewed determination to get on with and finish my book. It’s going to be slow process as I’m learning how to write whilst I try to complete it but I’m excited by the prospect of working on it whole-heartedly until it is finally complete.

So get ready for a burst of writing from me, with regular updates on my progress and the inevitable problems that I will encounter!

Mia the Writer! x

An Interview With: Peter Vaughan

As an aspiring writer I find that sometimes my optimism can wane and doubts start creeping in. Writing is a lonely and difficult job and I often wonder whether I am on the right track. During these moments of self-doubt I find it useful to talk to fellow writers, sharing experiences, insecurities and ambitions. This week I turned to fellow writer, Peter Vaughan. He has been writing for longer than me and agreed to answer a some questions for me, providing a very interesting insight into the mind of a fellow writer:

Tell us a little about yourself Peter:

I’m a writer and musician from South London. Self-taught, and unpublished in any regard.

What kind of thing do you write?

I write short stories, anything between one paragraph and thirty thousand words. Poems now and again.

When did you first seriously pick up a pen and start writing?

During college, when I began to read great books. I kept a few diaries and wrote a lot of lyrics.

Why do you write?

Because words translate abstract thoughts into concrete forms, images into symbols, and I find that translating my life in order to understand it or to explain it to others, or for its own sake, comes most naturally to me.

Where you do find your inspiration?

Often in better writers than myself; if you are ever lost in your own life, they can show you some part of the world worth heading into, some unsearched nook. The harmony or disharmony between nature and humanity seems infinitely interesting too.

What are your ambitions as a writer?

To colour my style with the influence of as many geniuses as I can find, and then drain that colour out through an image, something simple, something that will force me to forget those influences and write as myself.

Are you working on anything at the moment? If so, what is it?

I always have a few stories that are waiting for me to forget them if they are not good, or if I am not ready to write them, or to complete them if I can. I have just finished something about family and am trying to piece together a comedy about the debauchery of my last year.

Which writers inspire you?

Orwell makes me crave clear sightedness and honesty, and Hemingway honesty and courage. Dostoyevsky for divinity and Camus for earthliness. For humour, which is almost the most important feature, Douglas Adams, P.G. Wodehouse and Vladimir Nabokov.

What are you reading at the moment?

I have just put down Narcissus and Goldmund by Herman Hesse, a philosophical and beautiful journey into the Dionysius/Apollonian split. I read Flush by Virginia Woolfe earlier this week, a biography of a dog owned by a 19th century female poet.

Do you set aside a certain amount of time to write or do you write when the mood takes you?

Routine is the best way to ensure that I can write. If I wake up every day and dedicate two hours in the morning to writing, and perhaps another three or four later on, then it all comes very easily. I cannot write and work a full time job, or wake up at someone else’s house. I write very quickly on holiday, having no worries about making dinner or going to bed.

Do you find it difficult to give up ownership of your writing to a reader or do you enjoy letting others read your work?

I would sincerely hate to be misunderstood. I like to read what I’ve written to people, but I will only be truly happy letting people read my work when I am a much better writer than now.

How do you like to unwind when you aren’t writing?

Music is my first love and film my third. People are the meaning of life, and I spend much of my time in the company of others.

What advice would you give to those thinking of picking up the pen to write?

I’d share Orwell’s rules for writing, which are imperfect, as all advice is, but get one thinking:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

 

A big thank you to Peter for answering these questions and for allowing me to post them on the blog for others to read too. Writing is a very personal thing and so I take my hat off to anyone who is brave enough to let others enter their world. I wish you every success with your writing, Peter, wherever it is that you chose to take it.

Happy writing!x

 

100 words – War

A deafening, blood-curdling scream resonated through the air. Who was it? Would it never end?

It was nearly ten minutes before Elizabeth eventually realised that the screaming was in fact coming from her own mouth. As soon as she realised this the screaming stopped. Her throat felt raw. Looking down at her trembling hands, she saw that they were dripping with fresh, warm blood. Some of it her own, some of it not. She continued to stare down at the blood in silence, struggling to remember how it had got there. It was remarkably bright, the blood, almost unreal looking.