Wednesday, 16 December 2015

An interview with action-adventure writer, Rob Jones

I had the chance to interview Rob Jones, the action-adventure writer of the successful Joe Hawke series.


Congratulations on your first adventure book in the series featuring former Special Forces specialist, Joe Hawke. The Vault of Poseidon has gone to #2 in UK Amazon's men Adventure chart. You must be chuffed.
Thanks very much. I’m really happy that people are enjoying The Vault of Poseidon so much and I’ve had some really supportive comments on social media and email which is a great encouragement.
Describe your book in few sentences.
The Vault of Poseidon is a fast-paced action-adventure novel about a former Special Forces soldier trying to solve the most ancient archaeological mystery of all time. Along the way his journey takes him from London to NYC to Geneva and on to Greece where the trouble really starts…

Tell me a bit about yourself.
I grew up in England and Australia, I love foreign languages and cultures and I’ve travelled a lot, so I think this is why I enjoy the escapism inherent in adventure-thriller novels. I like how they can transport you away from the stress and difficulties of everyday life, and that is why I enjoy writing them so much. 
Your books are pretty fast-paced with action centred around ancient treasures. Where do you get your ideas from?
I usually start with a myth or legend and then wrap the story around that. I’m a life-long reader of publications like the National Geographic, and between those and the internet there’s no shortage of ideas! Watching ideas evolve is one of the great pleasures of writing novels. 
Which authors have inspired you?
I like authors who can bring some fun to serious ideas, so I would say Clive Cussler, Matthew Reilly and Andy McDermott are three very inspirational writers for me, and also Scott Mariani and Dan Brown. There are also a lot of writers from outside the genre who have inspired me including C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Agatha Christie, Colin Dexter, Michael Crichton, Stephen King… the list could go on forever.
Your books are full of action, just like a movie. Was that a conscious decision?
Yes. I want to try and give people a kind of “movie in their hands”, or on their Kindle, when I write these stories.

Joe Hawke is a very interesting hero - I love his humorous side. If they made your books into a series, who would play him?
I was asked this recently and coming up with someone to play Hawke was harder than I thought it would be. In the end, I settled on a shortlist of two or three well-known actors, but I’m going to keep them to myself because I want people to create their own Hawke in their minds when they read about him and not see the face of an actor just because I’ve mentioned a name!

Do you plot your novels meticulously or start your novel without a plot?
I generally plot in advance but inevitably the characters start to make their own way through the story and sometimes I have no option but to follow them. I find the best way to start is with the central theme, and then build around that, but you have to trust your characters in the end.
How do you research your books?
My background is in historical research so I try and bring some of that into my work, including using journals and so on, but mostly I use books and the internet and then add imagination!
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
My advice to anyone starting out at the very beginning is to make sure you have a real interest in the subject matter at the core of your stories. Also, remember that a good story takes several drafts, so don’t give up after your first draft – the real writing happens after that.
Your second book in the Joe Hawke series is called "Thunder God." Just one look at the title and they would think it's about Thor. What is it about?
I            Initially, I considered writing an adventure about Thor, but there are so many stories about him that I started to research elsewhere. Most cultures have a thunder god and it wasn't long before I started reading about Chinese myths and legends. Thunder God is about a criminal mastermind set on destroying the world order and it links into the themes set out in The Vault of Poseidon. Thor could well be in a future story though…

Will we get more Joe Hawke novels in the future?
I’ve already written the third adventure for Joe Hawke, and that will be the third and final novel in the initial stories that I set up with Poseidon, featuring the “immortality arc”. Right now I’m researching Joe Hawke 4, which is a very exciting standalone novel in which Hawke must once again save the world while dealing with the terrible aftermath of The Tomb of Eternity (Joe Hawke 3)…
Thanks, Rob - looking forward to read more Joe Hawke books.
My thanks to you, Rex, and all the best for the future.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Something to be proud of

I'm really chuffed at the moment as I have written 74,000 words of my adventure thriller within two months. That was possible because I set a goal, aimed for my standard word count, and wrote everyday, but I'm kind of exhausted so I have decided to give writing a break for a week - get my breath back, read a book -the Revelation Code by Andy McDermott - and then return to the laptop and write another 50,000 words and then the 1st draft is over.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Excellent adventure writer called Rob Jones

  During my break from novel writing a few weeks ago, I have been reading an excellent adventure ebook called "The Vault of Poseidon" by Rob Jones. It's a really fast-paced book with a memorable hero called Joe Hawke. Below are the links to "The Vault of Poseidon" on Amazon if you want to check it out. He's also got a new ebook out, called Thunder God, which is the second book in the Joe Hawke series. 

The Vault of Poseidon
Uk -

The bitter pill of rejection

Rejection is a dirty word to aspiring authors - and all the top authors have experienced it before getting an agent/publisher. We all know about J.K Rowling, that example is quite legendary; William Golding's book Lord of the Flies had been rejected 20 times. And John Le Carre was rejected and was told "he had no future".  So this just proves that the gurus of the book industry aren't always right -they can be dead wrong. And most of us unpublished authors always use this fact as a crutch, especially when one gets a kick in the teeth via a short, albeit robotic letter which was copy and pasted in an email and sent to us, and it all varies to being very cold to atleast warm - unless we get a feedback, to us it always looks like it has been served cold.
   My first adventure thriller had taken me three years to write, and I definitely felt like Ben Hur after the chariot race when I had completed it. In my mind I thought: yeah, I'm going to impress someone, cause I believed in my book. Maybe I was naive. But I always believed that one has to be hopeful, but perhaps I was too hopeful. On October 2014, after years of slogging with my manuscript, I sent it to the agents - mainly in the UK - and I thought I would get a full manuscript request - so I waited and .... Progressively, on each week, the rejection letters kept piling up, killing my hopeful attitude dead. I did get some feedback, however minuscule, but rejection, no matter how it's dressed, is rejection. For my second book, I was hopeful but overly so - the bruises attained from my last setback dampened it a little, but I sent the submission to 28 agents - not all in one go - and the answer was the same as the last.
   To be honest, with my second set of rejections I felt very dejected, annoyed, and downhearted. Perhaps, it was a confirmation that there's something wrong with my writing, or its not what they're looking for. Whatever reason it is, it's not a good feeling, its a very gloomy feeling; sometimes I felt that getting a date with Scarlet Johansen was much more likely than getting agent.
   The question is: how do we cope with these feelings and not throw in towel. Most experts would say, don't take it personally, and just write your next book. I agree with this advice 100 percent. What made John Grisham, John Le Carre and J.K Rowling eventually overcome rejections? Persistence. And that's what I'm doing; I just concentrate on my next book whether than being bitter, and remember, the publishing business is a business - they aren't charities. The unfortunate fact is that not every one of us can get published, but the thing to also remember is that no one knows their luck, not until they try it. But the one thing that spears me on is my love of creating new plots and characters - if we try to remember what had made us write in the first place, then that would be a great help.
   Also what can help to make you feel that you aren't alone in this quest to find an agent is by joining a writers forum, or tune into social media, converse with other aspiring authors who have tasted the bitter pill of rejection. Or read author interviews about their journey to publication.
  And another thing to consider is self-publishing - before, if you got rejected by an agent/publisher it was the end of the line, but self-publishing is an avenue that can allow us to reach a readership. I have personally decided on this venture, and hopefully I'll have an ebook out on amazon.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Plotter and the pantster - the best of both worlds

There are risk takers out there, people who aren't afraid to make a business decision that can just hurt their careers, or jump out of a plane without a parachute ( perhaps that isn't a good idea) but there are people who like to take risks or charge into something not knowing the outcome, or at least not caring for it too much. I'm such a person, no, not in jumping out of a airplane or any other def-defying endeavour. So in which avenue  am I a risk taker or a go getter? 
   Yes, you've guessed write ( I hope) - in writing. How? My natural feeling is too jump into a book after a small contemplation of what to write, and just go into it, hammer and nails, not knowing if the plot would work, or not knowing the characters too deeply. I normally just learnt about the characters as I went along. I'm a pantster, and it has it's plus points: excitement of the unknown, spontaneity, lack of rigidity, to name a few. The downsides are obvious: lack of planning leads to writers' block, a messy and an incoherent 1st draft, and a lengthier time writing the 1st draft pitted. The latter plagued my first adventure book, which took me four years.
   Now before I say how I counteracted the lengthy writing time, let me put plotting in a nutshell - its the opposite of a pantster and the plotting writer, to varying degrees, plans the book more ( some really plan to the last detail.I.E. Jeffrey Deaver) and has to know the characters and their goals and motives more. Pantsters would call this boring and over methodical and plotters would call pantsters fly by nights, who start fast and then fizzle out cause they don't know their plot inside and out.
  As a pantster, I always disliked overly planning, and still do, but I have realised that a little planning makes a more smoother journey, and that's how I wrote my last book's 1st draft within four months. I adopted at least forty percent of the planning method, melded it into my daredevil writing method and voila, I finished the 1st draft in four months. Plotting cuts down delays or the unsureness of writing which contributes to days of not writing, or the writing flowing.
  Now I'm not saying you should do the same - if either sides suits you, then fine, but I feel that adopting this method helped me. Likewise, plotters could try being more spontaneous and less OTT in being meticulous. 
  Whatever it takes to get the job done is the motto.

Friday, 27 November 2015

A foray into social media

A year ago I had no idea what a twitter or a blog was - ok, I heard of them. I'm not exactly living in planet Zod- but I wasn't sure how it worked, nor did I think I would like it. How wrong I was. I have come to love blogging and following people on twitter. This is a short blog really to say that if anyone wants to follow me on twitter, they can @AuthorGrainger.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Goal setting when writing a book

  Let me tell you that completing a book is no easy feat - getting started is just as daunting as getting to the finished line. For most writers, it is like slogging a heavy sack over ones shoulder, especially if it's your first attempt to write a book. 
   Some people write a book, do well, then fizzle out. There's a number of reasons for this: a lack of planning, self doubt, and a lack of motivation. There's one way to tackle this problem of not finishing this book, and it isn't by hiring a literary fairy Godmother to turn your book into a well-read, complete book. She might be able to turn pumpkins into carriages, but I am afraid you have to finish the 1st draft by hard graft yourself.
    And one thing that will insist you in completing a book is by setting a goal. Trust me it works, and this is from a guy who spent four years writing a book; in most of those years I wasn't productive and I spent most of my free days lying in my bed waiting for Cleopatra to feed me grapes ( she didn't arrive  by the way). I tried to get back into my book, but I just kept on saying to myself, "I'll start it in a few minutes," but I just kept putting it off, and ended up writing nothing.
   But when I did, eventually, I got into a flow, and one thing that helped me to complete the 1st draft was by setting my word count and also booking a time with yourself to complete that word count. I work full time so it was important for me to put some time aside to fulfil a standard word count I set for myself. For example, I had chosen the mornings before work and after work in the evenings. I placed an hour aside for each allocated time, and told myself that I have got to write a certain number of words. In my case, each days word count was 900 words - give or take I had to reach that number. So I aimed for 400 in the mornings and 400 in the evenings, but most times I was going over that time. Morning time, especially after you've just got up, was the best time for me and I easily completed 900 to 1000, so by evening time I would write much more, notching up to 1,500-2000 in a day. Eventually my new word count standard became 1,400 words per day - and that's how I completed the first draft of my book.
   So my advice is: set a standard word count number; start low, let's say with 500 words per day, and I'm sure you will supersede that number as you rattle along; whatever number is your everyday word count becomes your standard word count and hopefully that standard word count will be passé as you end up with a new standard word count.
   What also helps is by silently setting the finish date of your 1st draft. For example, with my last book I promised myself that I would complete the 1st draft in four months time, so I was under a personal deadline. I did meet that deadline by the way. It's actually the first thing you should do before setting a word count per day or allocating time. It puts a little pressure on yourself - it's like a silent promise to get the job done. A challenge. If you don't meet that deadline, then you just stretch it to another month or so. Look at professional authors tied to publishers' contract where they have to meet the date - they can't afford to miss days, and most times they complete the deadline. 
   And you can goal set with any part of your writing, from concocting the idea to researching it and actually starting the book. 
   I'm not a so-called expert on writing but what I shared is what I feel helps, and that's by experience. I have completed two books and I am writing a third. But everyone has a different way of working but setting goals is a good way to reach that finished line. 

Thursday, 19 November 2015

More fun in Adult Fiction

   In my view, especially as a person working in a library, I can see that most of the books in the crime and thriller section are quite simply gloomy and very topical. Crime fiction is one of the most popular fiction, and has endured its popularity for many years, mainly because people like a mystery to be solved. Now I'm not bashing crime fiction,  but it is just a bit too topical, overly grim - too much like reality, so it is hardly an escape. I can understand that people like their fiction served hard and gritty, showcasing the brutality of life, but where's the pure fun in fiction?
   I particular love old style mysteries like Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers where detecting was fun, but now reality is so much to the fore. To me, Alistair Maclean, my forever favourite adventure thriller writer, is another example of weaving fact with fiction and at the same time giving you fast-paced escapism. Heroism was at its best, now they are seriously flawed, and highly cynical.
    That's why I thrive to make my adventure thrillers fun - sure, there might have serious moments but the whole point is too entertain and escape. I believe a lot of people want this, rather than just read ultra serious books merely mimicking the headlines. Books can be topical, but fun too.
    I believe that YA typifies that fun and escapist element, and has less cynicism. Sure, its market is different, but these books are pure escapism, and that's why some adults read YA. In the library I work at, I have seen plenty of adults borrow them, and I'm not too surprised when I learn that it's for them and not for their children. One example sticks out in my mind is when a lady came in and borrowed a handful of YA books. She told me that she prefers YA books for the very reason that they are fantastical, light, escapist and she found AF was too dark and gritty.
   There's room for all types of books but I would love to see more fun and entertainment in books.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

An introduction

It's hard to write your first blog, but I'll start with a short introduction. I am an aspiring author, well, they say you should call yourself a writer regardless of whether you're published or not, but we will stick to the word aspiring, at least in terms of wanting to be published. I have been writing since eleven years old after reading a western by J.T Edson, and since then I have read numerous books over the years, ranging from horror, old-style mysteries, thrillers, and action-adventure fiction, which I'm now writing.
   I feel my writing has improved since I was in my thirties (I'm now 42), and have shouldered on trying to get an agent, with no luck. Fifty odd rejections so far and I'm still rolling with the punches. I am writing the second book in an archaeological-based action adventure, on the lines of Matthew Reilly, Andy McDermott, and Clive Cussler. It's got plenty of adventure, humor and adrenaline-packed action, so much so that I've taken a breather for a seconds while tapping it out. I'm halfway through the 1st draft, so thing's are looking good.
   My first book in the series will be hopefully out in next April via Amazon, if I don't get an agent by then, which, judging by my literary crystal ball, looks very slim. Anyway, I'll sign off for now - got to return to my writing.