Hello Phil, can you please introduce yourself?
I'm Phil Jones based in North-West Scotland
How long have you been writing?
Seriously only since about 2008.
What first got you interested in writing?
I have always been an avid reader - and I thought I could do as well if not better than some of the books I read.
Which writing group do you attend? And when did you start going?
North-West Highland Writers' Group (joined February 2011)
Why do you attend a writing group?
The ability to meet other writers, obtain meaningful feedback and peer review, share ideas and experiences involving writing, help aspiring writers who have no other means of assessing their ability, sharing a common goal (to get published).
What is the most valuable thing you have taken away from your writing group?
That negative feedback is as valuable as positive feedback. I'd rather know what I'm doing wrong than what I have done well (I probably already know the latter without being told).
What genre(s)/types of things do you write? What drew you to this/these genre(s)?
20% Poetry (that's what started me writing 'creatively') - because it allowed me to explore my love for words.
80% Fiction (especially unconventional stories of perhaps a darker nature - Young Adult fiction is a particular favourite genre at the moment) - I suppose I like writing what I'd want to read myself.
Are there any genres that you don’t enjoy writing? Why?
Journalism - any fact-based essays/memoirs (these hold no appeal - although my first ever published book was a hill-walking guide).
Have you ever had anything published?
'80Hills in North-Western Snowdonia' published by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch April 2011.
'Summertime Blues' self-published on Kindle (as a stand-alone novella and also a short-storycollection) both 'published' November 2012.
Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers? Have you received any rejections?
Yes - and yes.
You mentioned earlier that you've e-published. What do you think of this process?
I believe there is room for both. I accept that self-publishing on the likes of Kindle usually circumvents any editorial process so can lead to poor quality material being made available that would normally never see the light of day.
Who/what influences your writing? Where do you get your inspiration from?
My favourite writers - Thomas Hardy, William Faulkner, Michael Connelly, James Ellroy and Jo Nesbo.
I also have a fertile and quite disturbing imagination. I never struggle to come up for ideas - trusting my subconscious to work in the background when necessary. I believe the more you read the more ideas spark off other writers' plot handling.
How do you come up with your characters’ names and personalities?
No set method. I let the character tell me their story (I just take dictation). Their personalities emerge from the way they tell the story or behave in each situation.
Do you have a writing routine?
I used to try to write for at least half an hour each day - often stream of consciousness scribbling just to clear away the brain garbage. Now I tend to wait until I know I have something that is crying out to be written - so it might mean I write nothing creative for a fortnight or longer. But once I'm set to go it's a case of sitting back and letting the words/ideas flow. I probably write my best stuff late at night.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
I have a very sketchy idea of what the plot is going to be about - a definite opening scene and a vague idea how the story will end. Then I let the story find its own way from start to finish. It's not a case of 'hoping for the best' - I trust my subconscious (and to date it has never let me down).
Do you have an editing process?
I share some work with fellow writers (especially any parts I know are not working well). Then I edit and edit, then edit some more. That's what takes longest. I read all dialogue out loud - if it sounds off then that means it's poorly written.
What is your writing environment like?
Indoors - sometimes in silence, sometimes with my iPod - everything goes into a cheap notebook first. Then I usually transfer whatever I've written onto laptop at the end of the day or early the following morning (depending how late I finish). 90% of the time I redraft as I type from paper to disc. I also find it helps to read through what I have written the previous day to get back into the groove before continuing with the next part.
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
Most - escaping into a world I have created and seeing how my characters cope with situations or problems I have set them.
Least - the slow process from written word to published book.
How important is it for you to share your writing?
It depends - some of my work was never shared until made public. But having a novel read by the intended audience before submission is worthwhile (as long as it's not a family member or good friend).
Have you ever entered any writing competitions? Have you ever won?
Yes - I recently won the Red Telephone Young Adult Novel competition 2011 with 'Dreamgirl' (written under the pseudonym Cyan Brodie') - due for publication June 2013.
Have you ever attended an open mic night for spoken word performers, and either an observer or a performer?
I'm wary because I'm a better writer (I hope) than performer.
You'll never know unless you give it a try. What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
If you don't enjoy what you're writing how can you expect anyone to enjoy reading it?
What advice could you give to a new writer?
Take your writing seriously - but never take yourself seriously. . . Always write to express rather than impress. . . the same old clichés I'm sure you've already heard elsewhere.
Would you rather write a masterpiece and only sell a handful of copies, or produce a badly written book and sell millions?
I would hate to be popular if it meant compromising my standards so I suppose 'masterpiece' would be my choice. But I'd rather be known as an entertaining writer than a literary giant.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
Hill-walking, photography, music, 'irresponsible' drinking.
What types of things do you read? Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
Crime fiction, psychological thrillers, some classics. I guess most people who have seen my work can tell who I like to read most.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
'The Sound and The Fury' or 'To Kill a Mockingbird'
Do you judge books by their covers? How important is cover art to you as a reader and a writer?
Strangely yes - uninspiring or formulaic covers that suggest a factory-produced novel can be a turn-off.
What is your favourite/least favourite book to film adaptation? Would you like to see any of your work on the big screen?
Favourites - 'Plein Soleil' (first adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's 'The Talented Mr Ripley' and 'Rosemary's Baby'
Least - 'The Great Gatsby'
I'd love to see 'Dreamgirl' make the big screen (or even small screen come to that) - but it doesn't have a Hollywood ending
What are you working on at the moment?
A novella set in Mississippi in the 1950's and a contemporary crime thriller (for young adults) set on the West coast of Scotland.
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
Opening from 'Zoe's Poem' short story - taken from my 'Summertime Blues' collection :
Some weeks I barely register. I’m little more than a faint shadow fading into the washed-out wallpaper. Dialogue reduced to body language – muted and cryptic at best.
He acknowledges our routine, I’ll give him that. He nods cautiously if I ask him a question. He keeps to the same regular hours. Never misses a mealtime. Civility as we know it. Safe. Simple. Structured like an algebraic formula. Both sides balancing as per the laws of nature. Equilibrium maintained. Whenever we sit together in the kitchen for a coffee, or at breakfast, he’ll always angle a smile at her empty chair then swivel it my way. But by then it is too late - an afterthought twisted into a shy wrinkle of regret. I don’t have the heart to confront him with his grief any more. I have my own pattern recognition system to override day after day.
I’m always here for him. Wife, sister, mother, partner in crime, concubine, therapist.
It has been eight months now and I can sense that things are getting worse. Not to the extent where we have to talk about it – not yet. He has closed all ports – sight and hearing running on autopilot now. But he does sense my need when I draw close to him. That I do know, reaching out to him as we lie next to each other. Staring into each other’s private nightmare. Splashes of black on charcoal grey. Words like cobwebs strung out of reach inside the ceiling corners. Too timid to face the reflected grief in each other’s eyes.
© Phil Jones
Thank you very much Phil.