Friday, February 19, 2016

AMONG THE STACKS: Lex Jones


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, Lex.  Welcome to The Gal.  It is a pleasure having you here today.
            Let's start this off with an "easy" one: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Lex Jones:
I'm 30 and I'm from Sheffield, North England.  I've been writing as a serious thing for about a decade now, but my first book, Nick & Abe, was published in January 2016.  I love reading as much as I love writing, and I often beta read or proof/edit other authors' work.  I live with my girlfriend, three cats, three chinchillas, and a very fat hamster.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Lex Jones:
I don't like dogs.  Sorry, I just don't.  One attacked me as a child and that was that.

I once got bitten by a bat.  Oddly, I still quite like bats.

I love parties and gigs and nights out, but I'm actually teetotal and always have been.

Most of the books I have written have a subtle reference to one of my other books in them.

As a teenager, I was very interested in stage magic, and to this day know how many tricks are done.  Although I try to stop myself ruining them for people, I couldn't help myself when I was forcibly 'volunteered' by a particularly obnoxious magician at a wedding once.  I think he regretted his choice of 'volunteer' after that.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Lex Jones:
A short children's horror anthology called Scary Tales.  It was an illustrated book of ghost/monster stories and I just fell in love with it.  I still have a copy in one of my bookcases.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Lex Jones:
Revival by Stephen King.  It's a good book, not his best, but there is a slow building of dread and discomfort towards the end which is very nicely done.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Lex Jones:
I've always loved writing stories for the fun of it, since being a child really.  Whenever we were given creative writing projects at school, I would always really enjoy those.  The first thing that made me really think about writing seriously was when I was 8 or 9, and a teacher suggested to me that I ought to consider pursuing it as an adult.  I had a few such comments going through adolescence until finally I took it onboard in my early twenties.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Lex Jones:
Somewhere quiet!  I like to be undistracted and really 'get into' the worlds I am trying to create.  So any room in the house where I can do that is fine.  I do it on a laptop, though, so I'm fairly flexible and mobile.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Lex Jones:
I like to get in the right mindset for the type of book I am writing, and I usually do that by listening to music.  Not just any music, but something that really helps set the scene and tone for what I'm trying to put on the page.  This may often involve closing my eyes and picturing scenes from the book at the same time.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Lex Jones:
If I am explaining a complex point in a book, I often find that I explain it far more than I need to.  I think I need to get better at trusting the intelligence of the readers and manage with far less information sometimes.  Otherwise I am at risk of waffling, and I think that's far less forgivable on paper than it is verbally.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Lex Jones:
I think my writing style is my own and I don't feel as though it's inspired by anyone else, really.  And if I'm completely honest, I wasn't inspired to write by other authors.  There's plenty of authors whose work I adore and enjoy and enthuse about, but there wasn't any author who I read that made me go "I want to be a writer, too."  It was just something that I always enjoyed doing and eventually decided to take seriously.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Lex Jones:
For me, it always comes back to characters.  Whatever the story... horror, action, sci fi, romance... I have to find the characters interesting or I can't get into the story.  Conversely, if I DO find them interesting, I don't much care what genre I am reading.  Once I care about what happens to them, I'm invested in the story by proxy.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Lex Jones:
I think the reader needs to appreciate their worldview, what they're about and why.  For me, that's the key to loving a character even if I don't agree with them.  If I am aware of a character's motivations, if I understand them, then that's a big part of it.  This may not be the same for everybody, but for me a character doesn't even have to have that many likable traits for me to love them.  Took at a personal level, characters like Sherlock Holmes, Jack Reacher, or even Batman are basically arseholes, but I still love them.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Lex Jones:
That's a tricky one!  I try not to put too much of myself into any of them, really.  In fact, whenever Iv'e had a comment from an early draft of a book that goes along the lines of "I could hear you in that part," then I remove it.  I don't want people seeing/hearing me, I want them seeing/hearing the character.  With all that said, I think the only character of mine who (organically) ended up with some traits I have myself, is a detective named Harkins.  By the very nature of him, Harkins is somebody who doesn't quite fit in.  His outlook, the way he views the world, his reactions to it, are often at odds with the majority, and he finds it much easier to fit in with the other misfits of the world.  That's definitely drawn from me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Lex Jones:
I like to give the basic idea for my cover, and then have an actual artist or designer put it together.  The cover is representative of the story, I don't see how (or why) the writer would refuse to even have any input into it.  That said, unless you also happen to be an amazing designer than you probably shouldn't do the cover yourself, but I'd at least expect the writer to have a defining influence in it.  As for whether I'm put off by bad ones, it depends how bad we're talking.  Lots of books have basic, dull covers, and that doesn't put me off.  But those terrible ones you see on self-published Kindle books, where folks have drawn things on their computer... well, enough said.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Lex Jones:
My books are often focused on the supernatural, so I've had to learn a lot of otherwise useless information about mythologies and beliefs regarding various monsters and deities.  One of my (as yet unpublished) books is set in Victorian London, so I took the time to bolster my existing knowledge of that time and place as well.  With regards to writing itself, I have learned a lot about pacing, about what to reveal when, and the value of getting your books edited.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Lex Jones:
There is a scene in Nick & Abe, which I'm going to struggle to explain without giving spoilers so forgive the vagueness of this answer.  The scene deals with an emotionally charged situation, a conversation between two people that has been building for a very long time.  It was difficult to write because the words spoken between them needed to be clear and get across the right point, but also painted with the right emotion.  I went back and forth with several drafts for that one.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Lex Jones:
I don't know of any other books like Nick & Abe in the current market, that's a start!  For one thing, it's tricky to pinpoint what genre it falls into.  Most 'expert' types have labelled it as literary fiction, but that's obviously a very broad category.  Reviews of the book seem to agree that nobody has ever come at this subject (God and the Devil) from quite the same angle, and I think that gives it a unique feel.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Lex Jones:
The book title is simply the names of the two main characters, Nick and Abe.  I played around with various other titles, but that one made the most sense because the book really is the story of the two of them.  Choosing some random Biblical-sounding word seemed a bit too 'on the nose,' and I don't like when authors try and give their a book a title that's more pretentious than it needs to be.  The book is the story of Nick and Abe, so the book is called Nick and Abe.  Nothing else seemed quite right.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?  

Lex Jones:
I have done several short stories before, but I much prefer writing a novel.  It gives me time to explore much deeper plot threads, and more importantly, to focus on and really get to know the characters.  If you've written a whole book about a character, then you've spent a lot of time and words making clear who they are, and because my stories always tend to be character-driven, I much prefer it that way.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Lex Jones:
The only book I have published is Nick & Abe, and the target audience for that is very, very broad.  It's the tale of God and the Devil spending a year on earth as mortal men.  So religious types might like it, but atheists (like me), who merely see these characters as interesting works of fiction, may like it from that angle, too.  I've also written it in such a way that the spiritual aspect of it is played down, so for the most part it seems like a relationship drama between a father and son.  In fact, if readers take anything away from the story, I would like it to be the idea that sometimes it's worth trying to fix things.  That if they have a relationship that could use some patching up, it would be a good idea to pick up the phone before circumstances make it too late.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Lex Jones:
Originally the book was called Ben & Jerry, because the characters saw an ice cream truck and named themselves after it.  But the ice cream company refused to let me use it, so I had to rename the characters.  Beyond that, in the earlier drafts there was a lot more "tongue in cheek" jokes about the fact that Nick was the Devil and Abe was God.  Little "nudge and wink" moments that were played for laughs.  I decided that I didn't like these, so took most of them out.  There are still a very, very small number in there where I thought that they worked for the scene, but I decided that I wanted to play the story as straight as I could, so a lot of them had to go.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your 'trunk'?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

Lex Jones:
The very first thing I "properly" wrote and gave people to read was a series of four books, told in episodic fashion, chronicling a particular city four years before the end of the world.  It focused on a dark angel whose job of protecting the city from otherworldly threats grew increasingly difficult as the End of Times approached.  This forces him to find allies in a police officer, a Nephilim, and various other odd characters.  The books were very rough, very sketchy and early early work for me, but beta readers loved them.  The enthusiasm for it lasts to this day; I even have a close friend, a musician, who wrote an album partly inspired by these stories.  The notion to return to that series, to redraft it and make it fit for print, is very strongly in my 'trunk.'  But I have several other books, including another series, that I want to write first.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Lex Jones:
As with any writer, I guess that depends which way the wind blows!  Ideally more books, covering genres such as crime, supernatural fiction, dark fantasy, and apocalyptic worlds.  But all of that relies on finding publishers who like the ideas enough that they'll help me get them out there.  The response to Nick & Abe has been great, though, so I am quietly hopeful, whilst still humble and grateful.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Lex Jones:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Lex Jones:
Just an enormous thank you to everyone who has bought my book, reviewed it, told people about it, posted about it on social media, messaged me to say what they enjoyed about it, or done anything else that made me feel it was worth all the hard work.  I write books in the hope that they will get out there in the world and find people who enjoy them, so confirmation of that is always amazing.

About the book:
Every once in a while, God and Lucifer visit the earth and make a wager.  Now it's time for the next one; the most daring yet, and quite possibly the last.  "This venture to live as men for a full year has been such a hilarious idea to start with.  Prove Abe wrong... again... then head back to their respective domains and gloat about it forever.  Only it hasn't worked that way.  Things were different now.  Having omniscient sight removed from him actually made Nick see things more clearly than he ever had.  There's harm in getting too close to a picture, but a different sort of harm comes from getting too far away from it."  
            What starts as a simple contest becomes something more as their newfound humanity forces them to reevaluate their relationship not only with the world, but with each other as father and son.  Seen through the eyes of two men, on opposing sides of a family feud of epic proportions, each of them faces trials, heartache, love, and real pain as they learn what it means to be human.  
            Can old wounds ever really be closed?  Can the past truly be forgiven?  And can anyone ever fall so far that it's too late for them to be caught?  "After the fall?  You rise."

About the author:
Lex H. Jones is a British cross-genre author, horror fan, and rock music enthusiast who lives in Sheffield.  He has written articles for The Gingernuts of Horror and Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog websites on various subjects covering books, film, video games, and music.  When not working on his own writing, Lex also contributes to the proofing and editing process for other authors.
            Lex's first published book, Nick & Abe, is available for purchase from Amazon, Waterstones, and various other book sellers.  The book tells the story of God and the Devil spending a year on Earth as mortal men, to see who has the most to learn about the world they created.  Things don't go as planned, however, and their newfound humanity forces them to re-evaluate their relationship with each other and maybe, just maybe, start to repair it.

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