Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’m a Software Engineer, a pretty darn good one, at that, working for a Point of Sale company in Port Melbourne. Fun times, eh? I’ve always loved to read and have had a secret desire to write since forever. You can see a lot of my latent dreams spilling out into the code that I write, the documentation, the design… *sigh*. The thing is that I grew up knowing that I could never have my name on the front of a book, that authors and actors and entertainers came from a magical place of Neverwas, far removed from the real world. Sensible people grow up doing sensible things, working in sensible jobs and having a sensible career. Then you die and roll over to make way for the next sensible person.
The penny dropped somewhere around 2010.
“Authors are people,” I reasoned, “Hey, I’m one of those!”
I double checked and, sure enough, I’m a person, too. I started tapping out Adaptation on a PDA with a stylus, since I didn’t have a laptop back then, and the rest of the story goes on from there. Took a lot of sweating and nail-chewing to finally put a book to electrons, but it was worth it in the end. I’m now one of those fairy-folk who come from the far-off land of Neverwas, spinning yarns and getting my muse on at four in the morning while I’m trying to get some desperately needed shut-eye.
So far, I’ve completed the Adaptation series, six books in all, along with four Paranormology books, The Bullet, and Atlas, Broken. So at the time of writing, I’m looking at thirteen books, including the latest.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
The latest book is “Tedrick Gritswell of Borobo Reef”, a story about a detective investigating the disappearance of a VIP. Yay, another detective book, right? Missing VIP? Twists and turns, yeah, all of that. Otherwise it wouldn’t be much of a detective novel, now would it? The twist? The protagonist, and all the characters, are cephalopods. That’s right, Tedrick, is an octopus. His best friend is a cuttlefish. The scene is Borobo Reef, an unforgiving underwater world of multi-limbed mobsters, authorities, hookers, merchants and unions.
What inspired it? I was reading a lot of Lon Williams featuring Deputy Marshall Lee Winters, and I got to liking the reluctant hero, the guy who ain’t the roughest, ain’t the smarted, sure as shells ain’t the most moralistic, but deep down cares enough to want to make thigns right. The problem is that writing a book like this is actually against what I’m ‘supposed’ to be doing.
Huh? What? What’s that? Let me take a step back:
In the magical land of Neverwas, there are rules about how a fairy-author should behave. A science-fiction writer must write sci-fi. A Romance writer must write Romance. Writing a detective novel when I’ve written mostly Sci-Fi and Paranormal is not cricket. I understand, but here’s my card: I’ve figured that my writing comes under the genre of ‘Weird’. It’s an actual thing, look it up. Weird Fiction is not horror, it’s not sci-fi, it’s not paranormal, it’s not fantasy… it’s somewhere in the middle of it all. And that’s why I’m allowed to write Tedrick Gritswell, because he’s a real-world detective, doing it tough, living with real world problems. He just happens to have eight legs. Well, seven by the end of the book, but who’s counting?
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I write where I can. Laptops are good like that. And when I can. That’s not all that unusual. Hmm. Ok. If you want to know my unusual writing habits, I can let drop a few secrets. When coming up with names for characters, I use the names of my friends and colleagues. Ottavio Manieri is my wife’s uncle, as is Pietro. Hanifé was a particularly brilliant student I used to tutor. Thomas Nikolov and Jason Evans are colleagues. Rob Attwood is a fan. For places, it’s the same deal. Grosvenor was where my brother used to live. Jolimont is the train station outside the MCG where I used to work. I used to live in the suburb of Gladstone Park. Want more? OK. In every book, there’s an alcoholic beverage. Either the character is relying on it, or suffers from it or, in the case of Henry Ludlow, just wants to sit down and enjoy one! I do have issues with alcohol, and I think this is just my way of facing up to the fact that it’s an unfortunate part of my life. Sometimes I’m like Marcus, and I savour the flavour and think I’m it’s master, and then other times I’m Ryan, struggling to close the damn bottle.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
As a youngster, I’d read, re-read and re-re-read Celtic Fairy Tales composed by Joseph Jacobs. And I’d read and re-read anything by James Herriot. Dragons and giants and fairies? I’d read it. Robots, Doctor Who, alens? Read it. Edgar Allen Poe, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, H. P. Lovecraft. Anything weird and wonderful, anything out-of-this-world, I’d be up for it. Not mucn of a horror buff, personally. Not that I’m against it. Heck, I like a good ghost story, but gore and terror isn’t really my thing. Of late I’ve been reading up on a lot of classic science fiction, from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. OK, so we’re not all flying around in George Jetson jetpacks eating Space-O’s and traveling to the Moon for the weekend, but that’s not the point. The point is that mankind, throughout all the technological advances he develops in the future, will always be human, will always act selfishly and selflessly, depending on what’s inside. I think that’s one of the reasons I like Science fiction and Weird fiction so much: it’s about humans, doing human things, only that they’re doing it in a confronting setting.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on Portsmouth Avenue Ghost, the next book in the Paranormology series. I tell you what, it has been tricky writing ghost stories from a scientific viewpoint. Tricky in the sense that I can’t just let fly with a mansion filled to the brim with ghosts, apparitions and noises and groans and the like. Ghost hunting, as a science, is methodical and slow, yielding very little in the way of tangible evidence, and even less compelling evidence. Like hunting for gold, most days you’d come up from the mines covered in dirt with nothing more than a bad cough and red eyeballs. Yes, there is the occasional shining nugget but, more often than not, you’ve got hoaxes and pranks and false-leads and just sheer bad luck. That’s where Paranormology comes into it. Each book in the series deals with an aspect of the hunt – the monotony, the tedious evidence crawling, the incredulity of the public, the need to create equipment that may or may not work. Portsmouth Avenue follows up on that menace (or friend, perhaps) to the Paranormal hunter’s world, the mystic. That’s all I can say about it for now, since it’s in development.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
In terms of promoting, I haven’t found a sure-fire winner. I’ve given Google Advertising a go, along with KDP adverts, GoodReads, Awesome Gang (Hi!), Storyfinds, oBooko, even Microsoft Bing. I’ve made banner ads, paid for top and
bottom slots, designed my own and had others make them for me. I’ve made a few YouTube videos for promoting and incidental marketing. I’ve made a blog to speak about various topics on writing and the publishing process, and cross promoted with other sites. I’ve looked at Facebook and word-of-mouth and Reddit. And that’s what I think it comes down to – there is no one specific way to promote one’s books. If there was, the other options wouldn’t be around. The trick is that everyone is doing the same thing, and some are really good at it, while others give up somewhere between submission #387 and #388. It’s tough. It’s bloody tough. It’s not what I, as an author, want to be doing. I want to be writing, dammit! I want to make books, not fill out lengthy submissions online and copy and paste details from here to there. That, unfortunately, is the nature of the beast. Unless you can get yourself a decent cashroll to throw at a marketing team, you’re on your own, bub.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
My advice for new authors is the same as that I gave myself – Start writing. Wow, thanks Jez. Poignant. No, wait, there’s more to that. The first bit is ‘Start writing’. The last bit is ‘then finish it.’
I sat for too long on my stories. I wrote them, shrugged in fear, walked away and left them in the bottom of the electronic drawer because I was too damn chicken to put them up online. I was scared that I wasn’t good enough, that the stories weren’t what people wanted, that I would look like a fool and I’d spend the rest of my days apologising out the side of my mouth for my sins. What, are they letting any old shmuck into Neverwas these days? It took even longer than that since my first serious attempt at a book was thwarted by my own devices. I had written a story using a character from a computer game series and, while the story and most all characters were original, I couldn’t help but think there might be some issue with copyright infringements. I was right. After I wrote to the publisher, I was told very plainly that any involvement of their characters, incidental or otherwise, would be frowned upon. That scuttled my ship. Down, down it went. What’s the point? Why bother? All that time wasted and now I’ve got nothing but an empty page… It took a while to pick myself up again, wipe off the dried tears and get back behind the keyboard. Lesson learnt. So back to the advice – Start writing, then finish it. If you get all the way to the end and drop the words into a drawer, you’ve wasted your time. Breathe in, get everything square and take that last step to put your manuscript into the public’s eye.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
The best advice I’ve ever heard, or read, rather, comes from a book on becoming an author. I’ll paraphrase it to something like this: “You ain’t gonna make money doing this.” That’s right, it’s actually the most sound piece of advice I know. Not because I love cynicism. It’s because it’s true. Mathematically, statistically and empirically it is true. We can’t all be super-authors. The industry cannot and will not support that. In the same way that we cannot all be super-actors or super-musicians because, if we were, the term ‘super’ wouldn’t apply. 90% of people who write don’t make enough to cover their living. There, has that burst your bubble? Still want to write? Are you clinging to the hope that you’re going to be part of the 10%? Well, 90% of that 10% only make enough to get by. How about that? Think you’re going to be part of the 1% who will achieve international super-stardom and romp across the world in a flying limousine? You’re dreaming. So that brings us to a very important question, answerable only by you: “Why do you want to write?” Is it for the money? Then stop now, do yourself a favour and go and study to be a dentist. Or a plumber. Or a pilot. Because there’s no money here. Is it for fame? Again, same rules apply. 99% or writers are obscure, even within their own community. Is it because you’ve got something to say? Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. Yes, if you’re in it because you want to tell the world your story, or because you’ve got a really cool idea for a plot twist, or, dammit, you just love to write, then you belong in this world of writing. Otherwise, you’re just a tourist.
What are you reading now?
Currently I am reading “The Lone Wolf” by Louis Joseph Vance. You’ve got a young thief, a gentleman despite his upbringing, who cover is blown by ‘The Pack’ and he is blackmailed to join with them. Set in turn-of-the-century Paris, Vance paints a very colourful picture, perhaps a little too colourful for my liking, but it’s good reading and not too heavy on the eyelids.
What’s next for you as a writer?
What’s next? More books, of course! The next in Paranormology awaits and after that maybe a Tedrick Gritswell follow up. Maybe finish off Light Rain. Maybe re-work my original Darkness from Below to strip out every trace of that pesky foreign character. I’m not too sure, to be honest. I have a white-board in my study where I arrange my plans, only I’ve finished with Tedrick Gritswell and I haven’t had a chance to sit back and take stock. When I say, “I haven’t had a chance,” I mean that I’ve been doing other activities, like make videos about sausages and the like. No, really. All work and no play makes Jez a dull boy. But I’ll jump back onto the book-wagon, no problem. I mean, if I don’t write my books, who will?
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
Let’s see, what to take with me… The Bible, that’s an easy one. Then Principles of Physics – always for a refresher on how stuff does stuff. Then Celtic Fairy Tales, defo. Lastly, I think I’d go my Robert Louis Stevenson book with Kidnapped, Doctor Jekyll and The Master of Ballantrae.