Author Interview: Rhys A. Jones
Author: Rhys A. Jones
Famous for: The Obsidian Pebble, etc.
After having the opportunity to review British author Rhys A. Jones’ young adult novel The Obsidian Pebble, I was also given the opportunity to interview the man behind the book, thanks to Robert Wood of Standoutbooks. Enjoy the interview!
OR: You are from the UK. How do you think your upbringing and surroundings influenced your writing, and the urge to be published?
RAJ: I grew up in a mining village with a long industrial heritage. My parents were keen for my brothers and I to avoid the heavy industries and we all went on to further education. But when I was growing up as a young teenager, and it’s difficult to believe it now in this time of instant messaging, we had no phone and no car and I still remember how exciting the 3 channels on TV were. But we did have a library and that, and the hills all around us to which we escaped whenever we had the chance, fed my imagination. Just when the urge to feed that imagination turned into a desire to share it with the world is a great question. I did put it on the back burner while I pursued a career in medicine, but it wouldn’t go away. And so, at last, I have had to let it out of its cage.
OR: Tell me about your writing style. How do ideas come to you, and how are you able to interpret them on paper?
RAJ: I am a plotter in that I have to have a rough idea of the beginning, middle and end of my story right from the outset. So the planning stage can take several weeks. I do find the Snowflake method of expanding ideas out from a central core useful at this early stage. Of course, we all know how sobering an exercise it is to look at that early synopsis compared to the final product, but it is a part of the process. As for ideas, they come at me from all over the place, but usually at inconvenient times such as when I have a mouthful of toothpaste and no pen. That’s a left brain, right brain thing and I have learned to trust both halves. The ideas will come and I do not sweat over it. Interpreting them on paper is a matter of sitting down and getting that first draft done. I read a quote the other day that said, ‘Writing a first draft is like pouring sand into a sandbox out of which you will make a castle.” That is very true. It’s painful and hard and sometimes demoralising and just occasionally makes your heart sing the loudest.
OR: How did The Obsidian Pebble, as well as its successors, come about?
RAJ: As with most stories, something like Obsidian Pebble, which is the first of a series (really a serial) began life many years ago. I wrote adult thrillers and then gave up on them because I had small children and they needed my attention more than writing. But as they grew older, I began writing for them and Pebble grew out of that. As I developed the story I knew that it was one that needed to be told over a longer period that one or two books. I also decided to write it for younger teenagers as that is Oz Chambers’ age as we start this journey. I was a bit worried about remembering school life, but as a parent you live it twice; once your own and then your kids’. Oh, and my wife happens to be a teacher!
OR: What authors or writings influenced your writing style and chosen genre?
RAJ: Authors that influenced my style. Well I am a big Ray Bradbury fan, as well as Tolkien. I read a lot of Blyton when I was young as well as Agatha Christie, a great deal of Science Fiction and thrillers. Of course I have to mention JK Rowling. Anyone who writes for children can not help but be influenced by her as an inspiration, and because you are always going to be held up for comparison, such is human nature. I was already writing for my children fifteen years ago, so the genre The Obsidian Pebble finds itself in — a kind of science fantasy — is an amalgamation of all of these influences. I am also of the belief that the only difference between an adult book and a children’s book is the way that your protagonist acts. I think that all action without motivation is just an empty thrill ride and I try very hard to inject reasons into everything that happens, even if these reasons are weird and wonderful ones.
OR: What do you consider to be the most difficult part of writing or publishing?
RAJ: Writing: first drafts. Some people hate polishing up a script but that’s when the real craft comes into it, I find. Publishing: finding a publisher who is as enthusiastic about your work as you are.
OR: Tell me about your family. In what ways did they influence the writing and publishing process?
RAJ: I have a wife and three children. All three are now grown up but as mentioned already, they stimulated the desire in me to write for children. I didn’t need much persuading, I’m sure most writers haven’t really grown up completely. I also have a very understanding wife. By that I mean writing a book takes a very long time and many hours alone in front of a computer. Alone. In. Front. Of. A. Computer.
OR: What was the publishing process like with The Obsidian Pebble? Do you have anything specific to suggest to future writers?
RAJ: Publishing The Obsidian Pebble, as with all books, takes a bit of luck and a lot of perseverance. My own story is that I had tried to find a publisher to no avail in the UK, and so decided to self publish. In effect this was to see if anybody liked the stuff. No one hated it and that was enough for me. I wanted to prove to myself that I could write in this genre and having done that, I did not give up and submitted to Spencer Hill Press, even though they are an American publisher. And I suppose it’s been the validation that’s given me the most satisfaction. I’m with Hugh Howey when he says; It’s a book. A real book. Full of words. That I wrote. How crazy is that?
OR: Do you have any writing projects planned for the future?
RAJ: Coming next in the Artefact series is The Beast Of Seabourne. Things are going to get messy for Oz and the gang. I am also publishing my first urban fantasy for adults. Not romantic urban fantasy — no vampires. Not a police procedural urban fantasy — no cops. I suppose if I needed to give it a sub-genre it would be an urban fantasy thriller, with a big dollop of humour. You’ll get my drift when you hear that its title is The 400Lb Gorilla.