Monthly Archives: October 2012

Big Blog Hop – The Next Big Thing!

This week I have to thank Renata F Barcelos for tagging me on the Big Blog Hop. She writes edgy, mystery fiction and her upcoming novel, My Sore Hush-a-Bye, promises more dark and damaged characters. You can find out more on her website http://renatafbarcelos.wordpress.com/about/

So, from Brazil, where Renata is based, to Cardiff, Wales and me – let the Hop begin. (A very international blog hop this week.)

 

BIG BLOG HOP Q and A commences about my novel Telling Stories http://amzn.to/PobIhW

 

What was the working title of your book?

For a long time (and I mean long – about eight years) the working title for Telling Stories was ‘Afterlife’ because it’s set partly among a group of friends at University and made reference to the idea that these ‘supposedly’ wonderful days will end and there’s a life ‘after’ them – often one very different to the one imagined! But it had a ‘supernatural’ implication that was confusing. Lizzy, the narrator, is a journalist who tells stories for a living and, as time went on, it became more about the way people shape the stories of their lives and relationships to hide or alter the truth – so the title became Telling Stories.

 

Where did the idea of the book come from?

There were two main inspirations.

I worked as a journalist at The Western Mail in Cardiff, covering lots of crime stories and I often wondered what it would be like if I started covering a story and found it led me to people who I knew and felt were hiding something – what would I do?

Also, it came about from a story a friend told me about a wedding she had attended. It appeared quite a few people, but not the groom, knew the bride and the best man had been having an affair for years! It made me think of the secrets that couples can keep, often in plain sight. The two ideas combined to make Telling Stories.

 

What genre does the book fall under?

It’s a literary crime/psychological thriller. I wanted to write something that would be at odds with the ‘chick-lit’ format. Lizzy isn’t really a ‘plucky/sassy’ heroine – she has a dark and self-interested side that often makes her quite selfish and sometimes unlikable but I think her motivations are ones everyone can recognise and might not like to admit they sympathise with!  (Or they might hate her, either’s good!)

 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?

That’s hard because I started the book a long time ago! I always envisaged Welsh actor Matthew Rhys playing ‘Mike’ and someone like Kate Winslet playing Lizzy! They might be a bit old now as the characters are in their late 20s. I’d have to try and find another actress who could bring out Lizzy’s cold streak but still make her sympathetic. It would come down to who can do a decent Welsh accent! Maybe Carey Mulligan could play Cora. I think they’d need to be actors with a British ‘indie’ feel unless Charlize Theron would like to play Lizzie! Oh and can I have Joss Whedon to direct? He’d get the 90s vibe just right and he’d put in some banter to subtly offset the nasty goings-on!

 

What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?

Stories lie. Truth hurts. Secrets can be deadly.

Okay, that’s a tagline, not a synopsis, but I’m rubbish at synopses. They just ruin everything. I don’t even like to watch movie trailers because of the ‘spoilers.’ I’m going to keep you guessing.

 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m very lucky to be with the excellent Ampersand Agency and my UK publisher is indie outfit Cutting Edge Press.

 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About ten years, to be honest! Version after version was scribbled out and then whittled away on weekends and holidays. But once I decided to really finish it and try and get it ready to send into the scary, big wide world – about a year!

 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

People have kindly said it reminded them of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Fay Weldon’s The Life and Loves of a She Devil and even Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley – being told my writing is anything like any one of these is a massive compliment! But you’ll have to make up your own mind. I’m too biased. Reader gets the last word!

 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

 Well, it’s set in Wales but not as we know it! No sheep, no leeks, no miners, so choral singing, no rugby (but the narrator is called Jones. Well, there are quite a lot of us…). I think there’s been a gap between dealing with historical themes and Welsh culture and presenting the real 21st century Wales. The book touches on ideas of its cultural identity but it could be any post industrial city, really. My second book Holiday Money expands the setting to coastal south Wales.

It’s part of my bid to make Cardiff and South Wales the new edgy crime capital of Europe –  forget Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh or the Steig Larsson’s Stockholm and Scandanavia – Wales and ‘The ’diff’ is where it’s at! Honest!

 

That’s me done…

 

I now get to tag two others authors for next week’s hop. May I present The Two Tims, from opposite sides of the Atlantic.

 

Tim Davis (@TimDavis_Author) from San Francisco, CA, who has written about adventure, thrills and spills on the high seas in his YA book Sea Cutter– Book 1 in The Chronicles of Nathaniel Childe. It’s due out in paperback this week and has already won 1st Prize in the International Digital Awards for short YA fiction. http://bit.ly/JrPNGD

AND

Tim Vicary (@TimVicary) from York, England who is so versatile he writes reams of historical and legal thrillers. His latest, A Game of Proof exposes that justice and the law aren’t necessarily the same thing!   http://bit.ly/PhK61M

 

Take it away Tims!

(I can tag up to five authors on the hop but it seems many of my mates are busy bunnies in the run up to Halloween. If you’d like to be tagged on the hop send then me a tweet @bevjoneswriting and I’ll tag you!)

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Me and my celebrity ‘mates’ by Bev Jones: an interview with Bev Jones.

Times, they are a-changing, as Bob Dylan said, and for me that means the time has come to finally start doing some interviews to publicise my books. So this week (for a laugh) I interview myself about doing interviews. Postmodern or what?

Here goes….

Me and my celebrity ‘mates’ by Bev Jones, an interview with Bev Jones.

Bev ASo Bev, this week Indie Author Land have been kind enough to interview you on their webpage here at bit.ly/IndieAL20  (@IndieAuthorLand, IndieAuthorland.com).You used to be a journalist at The Western Mail and then the BBC– is it weird being the interviewee now and not the one asking rude and nosy questions?

Bev B – Yes Bev, it is strange now that the tables have turned on me. But a good interview, especially a nice feature, should be like a chat not an interrogation!

***

Bev A – Really? So what’s the secret of a good interview, smarty-pants?

Bev B – Well, as a journalist the idea was not just to ask someone a load of questions but to ask questions that get people to open up. Then you follow the conversation where it leads to find the hidden bits of info that make that person and their experiences stand out. It’s called finding ‘the line’, ie finding the best ‘story’ and a hook to hang it on.

*** 

Bev A – Well, you don’t seem to have a problem with talking about yourself. I must be good at this interview lark!

Bev B – It’s actually a ‘no-no’ to be sarky and condescending during the interview (that goes for the interviewer and the interviewee.)

***

Bev A – Okay, so what’s your ‘line’ then?

Bev B – That depends who’s writing about me. For instance, I was recently featured in the local paper I used to work for, The Rhondda Leader. Their line is ‘Writer Beverley lands book deal’ and it says I’m due to become an international novelist. I may also have shamelessly name- dropped to them that I share an agent with the man who wrote the brilliant Slumdog Millionaire, Vikas Swarup. This ‘celebrity’ connection has little to do with me, or the success or otherwise, of my book, of course, but it’s a ‘good line’ so I’m gonna keep plugging it!

If I could get Danny Boyle on to adapting one of my books like he did Slumdog then it’d be a different story. But I think he’s lying in a darkened room recovering from the Olympic opening ceremony watching DVDs of Shallow Grave.

***

Bev A – Okay, more obvious namedropping here. During your days as a reporter did you ever interview anyone famous?

Bev B. Yes, sort of! Rhys Ifans, Welsh actor of Notting Hill and TwinTown fame as well as numerous other movies. The interview lasted about 70 seconds at the launch of one of his films in Cardiff, way back – 20 seconds of which was him putting me in a headlock. He was very excitable and he’s a big fella – but he gave me a nice quote when he finally let me go. That’s my big claim to fame.

***

Bev A – Anyone else?  

Bev B – Lots of UK TV entertainment folk like orange-hued antiques guru David Dickinson from BBC’s Bargain Hunt and Laurence ‘your curtains are abysmal, darling’  Llewelyn-Bowen interior designer from Changing Rooms – neither of whom put me in a headlock but did give me tea and biscuits – lovely guys!

***

Bev A – Any ‘writers’?

Bev B – Yes, when I was a trainee I interviewed Rachel Tresize, from Rhondda near where I grew up. She had published her first book In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl. She was shy. I was jealous. She went on to win the inaugural Dylan Thomas Prize for her book Fresh Apples. I did not… bugger!

***

Bev A -Tell us about your writing, then. Where do your ideas come from? Are you methodical, etc?

Bev B – Leave it out! That’ll just make people doze off (besides, I’ve been tagged on the blog hop by the lovely Renata F Barcelos (  http://bit.ly/RF5Pjn  @RenataFBarcelos) for next week – more about writing stuff then.) Next question!

***

Bev A  – You’re bit hostile! I might put the ‘brain-phone’ down on you. Did anyone ever hang up or walk out on you during an interview?

Bev B – Spoon-bending mentalist Uri Gellar put the phone down on me once. He was doing a show at the Grand Pavilion in Swansea but my editor wanted to know about his friendship with Michael Jackson (it was round the time of the allegations against MJ). I did as I was told and every time he tried to tell me about his show I slipped in a question about his mate Michael. The he hung up – I probably deserved it!

***

Bev A – Sounds like you’re not best placed to give interview advice. Actually the title of this post is misleading too. You don’t have any real celebrity mates, do you!

Bev B – Are you an idiot? The headline doesn’t have to bear much relation to the piece – don’t you read the papers!

***

Bev A – Okay. So in the same vein, in your first novel Telling Stories – does someone actually tell stories?

Bev B – Yes – Lizzy, the narrator. But she’s a journalist so you might want to take what she says with a pinch of salt

 ***

Bev A – And in Holiday Money does anyone pop into the Thompson travel shop for 400 quid’s worth of Euros?

Bev B – No.

***

Bev A – Okay, here’s the shameless plug bit at the end. If people are a glutton for punishment where can they find your books?

Bev B – Telling Stories and Holiday Money are available on Amazon US and UK http://amzn.to/Pesgrl and lots of online retailers like barnesandnoble.com. Also if you bump into my mum she has a supply and is shifting a fair few!

***

Bev A – Well, better fly – got a deadline!

Bev B – Me too!

 

Bev’s idiot guide to interviews

The interviewer

Don’t just ask pre-arranged questions – listen to the responses and build on them.

Find a fresh line/hook to hang your story on by finding something unique to that person or their work – then have a bit of fun!

Paint a picture of the person but don’t be afraid to edit out the boring bits – they’ll thank you in the long run!

 

The interviewee

Think of some nice sound-bites or snippets that make you stand out and shoe-horn them into the answers at every opportunity!

Sell yourself but don’t pretend to be something you’re not – try to focus on the things that make you you rather than what you think a ‘writer’ should be.

BUT – Don’t be too honest – eg never bitch about other authors’ work!

Have a bit of a laugh! People want to read an interview with someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously, someone they think they’d like to chat to in the pub/bus queue.

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The Little Writer That Could…?

Are you sitting comfortably? Well, I’m going to start anyway. I’ve got things to do.

One week ago, in a land not so far from you, a girl called ‘me’ was given a surprise present by her mum– a copy of children’s book The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. Released in 1930 by Platt and Monk (Penguin) this was a book that had been read to her in her own childhood by my grandmother.

It’s likely that you’re familiar with the story. I only had a vague recollection of it, though I was delighted by the present with its 30s style illustrations (mum knows I love all things from the 1930s, especially book-related). But the reason my mum had bought this book for me was its message.

Again, perhaps you already know what it is as I’ve since found out that The Little Engine is something of an institution, certainly in America. There have been animated versions. It has its own website.

http://us.penguingroup.com/static/pages/yr/minisites/ithinkicanithinkican/index.html

There’s even a song sung by Burl Ives!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEhyiNVVaeU

 

Stop fidgeting, pay attention, the story continues….

The tale involves a train that must be pulled over a mountain. The train (in most versions) contains toys and presents for children and is populated by speaking toys and animals. Large engines, elegant engines and frankly, snot-nosed snobby engines, are asked to pull the train; for various reasons they refuse being too busy, too tired, and just too damn uppity. Then a little blue engine agrees to try. The plucky little engine succeeds in pulling the train up and over the steep mountain while repeating its motto: ‘I-think-I-can, I think I can, I think I can.’

 

What did Watty mean, big boys and girls?

Of course it’s a great old fashioned morality tale about the power of believing in yourself – basically of the triumph of optimism over defeatism – it’s about try, try and trying again. We want our children to take these messages to heart, to believe they can do anything they dream they can – that their only limitations are in their own mind. So why had my mum given me this book? Because, as adults we turn away from such simple optimism. She was trying to reinforce the message she gave me as a child, ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.’

 

Look out – here’s a bad and grumpy lady!

Why now? Because she knows I’m trying to finish my third novel and she knows how long it took me to write the first two, then to get them into print. And she knows that sometimes I feel like a tired old engine chugging up a whopping hill. How does she know? Because mums know these things, of course (and also, probably, I moan about it a lot more than I realise.)

This writing lark’s hard sometimes. You have to force yourself to sit down and write knowing  no one else can finish it and make it good in the hope that one day you’ll have scratched the itch you had to tell that story and then that someone will read it and enjoy it ( and maybe even buy it!) There are days when you think ‘Who will ever want to read this drivel’ (especially if you read certain reviews!)

Yes it’s easy to approve of heart-warming stories like The Little Engine but harder to take the message on board after the age of eight!  Do as I say, not as I do, right?! And if at first you don’t succeed, go drink some Merlot!

 

Wait! The heart-warming bit’s coming next!

A few days later, feeling defeated, I took a break from writing and popped into a gift shop in Llantrisant town. Browsing around I spotted a nice enamel bangle.  Imagine my surprise when I picked it up ad read the words inscribed around the outside – ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.’

I’m not particularly superstitious but I thought – hang on, is someone trying to tell me something? Like that scene in the movie Bruce Almighty where Jim Carrey thinks life has got it in for him. He cries out for God to send him a sign as he’s driving in his car – then a highway truck with a big flashing message veers in front of him bearing the words,‘Go back. Danger ahead,’ but he’s so busy whinging he ignores it. Now I’m not saying God was speaking to me in a shop in Llantrisant….but I bought the bangle. And when I next find myself predisposed to whinging I’ll try to say, ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.’

 

So the moral of this tale is?

Well, you work it out, you’re a grown-up and I aint no Watty Piper, but probably it’s, ‘Stop whining and write something.’ And, ‘Maybe mum really does know best, even when you’re in your thirties!’

 

And I lived happily ever after? (Yeah, if I ever finish this bloody book….I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…) 

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