Today on the blog, another author interview – this time from Jay Raven.
Jay writes Gothic Horror. His latest book, Crimson Siege, is out on May 22nd. (that’s Tuesday next!)
It’s the first in the “Blood Riders” series and is published by Junction Publishing.
1 What makes a good story?
Tension and high stakes, plus a plot that twists and turns, constantly surprising the reader. To maintain suspense, I always aim to start every scene with an intriguing line and end on a hook.
2 How have YOU become a better writer?
I’ve learnt to make my chapters and scenes shorter to fit the needs of the Kindle age. These days people want to read in bite-sized chunks – at bedtime, on their daily commute or during a snatched coffee break.
3 What inspires you?
In real life, people who are gutsy and positive. Optimism and enthusiasm are infectious. In fiction, protagonists who seek and ultimately achieve redemption. I want someone to root for, who has to battle their inner demons as well as their enemies.
4 What does your family think of your writing?
My wife Liz has always been hugely supportive but she isn’t really a fiction fan. (She prefers a good biography). One great thing – if she hates something I’ve written, I know for sure it will sell.
5 What was the most surprising things you learned about yourself in creating your books?
I was a short story writer for many years and got it into my head that I couldn’t write anything longer than 4,000 words. Novels seemed an impossible dream, but I’m slowly learning to enjoy the loneliness of the long-distance scribbler.
6 If you could have written any book, what would it have been and why?
Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse. It is witty, subversive, has marvellously comic characters and is packed with sly social and political comment. It’s the book that made me want to be a writer.
7 How much research do you do?
Next to none, I have to confess. I’ll check that a certain mode of transport, type of weapon or major event is correct for the period I’m writing about but I take a very Disney-esque approach to history. Everything I write about takes place is a generic “ye olde times”.
8 How do you relax?
Wine, watching movies (I used to be a film critic), eating out (I also used to be a restaurant critic) and watching snooker (I’m merely an armchair critic on that!). I can’t relax by reading – it feels like still being at work.
9 Do you have any writing quirks? (and if so what?)
I have two habits – I always stop a writing session in mid sentence. It makes it easier to pick up the thread next day. And I always write with earphones on, listening to loudish music. The music plays a twin role, it creates a bubble around me that blocks out any disruptions or distractions, plus helps create an appropriate mood.
10 Why write in your genre?
It’s one area of storytelling where the writer has full rein to investigate the darker, hidden and often dangerous side of human nature. I also love the freedom it offers. There are no rules. The only barriers are the limit of your imagination and daring.
11 How is your writing different now from when you started?
It might sound odd but my writing has become more visual over the years. I don’t ignore the other senses, but focus more on what characters see and hear. I like to describe their expressions and how their mood or reactions affect the way their eyes flash, darken or squint. It creates the same effect as a close-up shot in a movie.
12 What do people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that they don’t?
Many people wrongly think that Gothic horror is old hat and has nothing original to say. They couldn’t be more wrong. I’m excited about how many new angles and elements I’m finding. The genre is constantly evolving and it’s thrilling to put your own stamp on it.
13 Your 3 favourite authors?
Terry Pratchett – the master of mirth and human observation.
Ray Bradbury – his sci-fi writing is so lyrical it weaves an irresistible spell, magical but also disturbing.
Michael Crichton – the creator of Jurassic Park and Westworld – one of the tightest, most economic storytellers in the business.
14 In what ways do you ’service’ or ‘support’ your books?
I blog and am shortly launching a newsletter. I’ve just revamped my website at http://www.jayraven.com.
15 If you had to pitch your book in one line, what would it be?
Hammer Horror meets High Noon in the lawless badlands of 19th century Transylvania.
16 What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
Many writers examine the monsters lurking within ordinary people – I do the exact opposite. I look for the humanity inside my monsters.
17 Tell us something about your road to being published.
I was a journalist for 20 years before becoming a full-time fiction writer. It was an excellent training in writing tightly and quickly, and being able to structure a story to immediately grab a reader’s attention. I started by producing comedy twist-ender short stories for popular weekly magazines. I had an amazing stroke of luck in my first week when Chat bought two of my stories for their Summer Special.
18 Plotter or Pantser?
Plotter, definitely a plotter. My books feature a lot of characters, conflict points and subplots and it’s the only way to keep it all straight. Before I begin I’ll spend a fortnight working out every twist and turn of the narrative in great detail – every chapter and scene, every hook and dramatic opening. I even insert major dialogue exchanges. By the end I’ll have produced a 30-page “treatment” that is a mini version of the novel.
19 Your main character. What makes him or her so special?
Anton Yoska, the small town marshal caught up in the battle between vampires and bounty hunters, has a mysterious past that makes people fear and distrust him. He has a strong social conscience and a sense of honour that often works against his own best interests.
20 What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?
Are the film rights still available, and will you take a cheque?
Jan, many thanks. Fascinating, and some GOOD answers.
Here’s wishing you every success.
Blood Riders is still on pre-order offer at 99p at the time of writing – so be quick!