Today I’m delighted to welcome newly published author, John Jackson. John is a stalwart of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (a graduate of their New Writers Scheme) and the Historical Novel Society – always on hand to stuff a goody-bag and a ubiquitous presence with his trusty camera. He’s also the king of Twitter, spreading the word about RNS authors far and wide with his weekly Follow Fridays. Those who are friends with John on Facebook are also regularly treated to candid camera shots and videos of the hedgehog family that lives in his garden.
After a lifetime at sea and thirty years of drafting regulations, safety procedures and the like, he decided to turn his hand to writing fiction’ An avid genealogist, he found a rich vein of ancestors going back many generations. His forebears included Irish peers, country parsons, and both naval and military men. They opened up Canada and Australia and fought at Waterloo.
Tell us about yourself – where do you live and what do you do when you’re not writing?
I’m a former ship’s captain (from the Merchant Navy), now retired and living in York. When not writing, I lead a pretty full and active life. Injury has slowed me down, but I still avidly follow Rugby on TV, enjoy food and drink, reading and travel. Unfortunately, my leg doesn’t bend so flying has become a no-no.
Give us a brief picture of your personal journey as a writer
I’ve had it in mind that I ought to write some of the stories from my family tree for many years. It was always “Historical” rather than “Contemporary”. A few years ago, I was just retired, so had the time, and met up with some other authors. These ladies were members of the RNA, and gradually they encouraged and challenged me to try my hand. Eventually, I ran out of excuses.
How do you feed your creative engine? Where do you look, or what do you do, to keep the inspiration flowing?
I’ve been luckily enough to have a family tree FULL of characters, many of whom have played a minor part on the fringes of history. Certainly, so far, they have provided me with all the inspiration I need.
Mark Twain said “Most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use.” – How much of your own fiction is based on truth?
As much as I can, but – and here lies the difference – I am writing “Fiction” not a history text. So the need to provide a readable narrative will take precedence over “historical exactitude”. The story is everything.
Tell me about your latest book and why we should all buy it?
Because it’s the best historical novel published on October 24th this year! (possibly). Isn’t that reason enough? *runs and hides. More seriously, I hope that readers can get to see something of me as they read. I certainly see elements of my author friends when I read their books. It has the added attraction, I hope, of being a personal narrative, in that it is about my direct forebears (the main protagonists are my 5 great grandparents.) It is also a tale that has not been told before, as far as I know.
If you could wave a magic wand and change something about your writing career what would it be?
To have started earlier. I would LOVE to have started writing properly 40 years ago. Now, I do feel that time is not on my side.
What comes first – location, plot, characters?
Characters. Find your characters, see what they did, and they see what you can make them do – after all, it IS fiction.
Tell me about your writing day. Do you work to a routine? Do you have a dedicated space to write in? Endless cups of coffee or tea?
I always write on my laptop, on a “trolley table” in the lounge. The writing urge CAN come on me at any hour of the day. I just wish it would come on me more often,
Anthony Burgess once said “Literature is all, or mostly, about sex”. How true is that of your books?
There’s a grain of truth there. If you are writing a book about relationships, whether historical or contemporary, you cannot ignore sex. I haven’t; sex is still a prime mover for most people.
Who or what has been the greatest help to you as a writer?
My friends and colleagues in the RNA. No question.
What has been the hardest thing for you to overcome in becoming an author?
Confidence. You have to reach a stage when your tale is told as well as you can get it, and you HAVE to send it out into the wide world. It is too easy to tell yourself “Perhaps just one more edit…..
If you could pick one of your own characters to spend some time with, who would it be and why?
A character called Mr Stafford. Mr Stafford knows everything!
What are you working on now – or next?
The Work-in-progress is called (at the moment) Strange Bedfellows, and is about the “next generation”. Again, it is based on fact and real people. Genealogy really IS the gift that keeps on giving.
Clare Flynn is the author of five historical novels and a collection of short stories. To receive a free e-book of her short story selection, A Fine Pair of Shoes, and keep up to date with special offers and news from Clare, sign up here.