Wednesday, 9 May 2012

M.J. Webb Interview

Welcome M.J.Webb thanks for talking to us today and letting us have a little insight into you and your books.

Q: Tell us about Jake West – Warriors of the Heynai
Hi and I’m very pleased to be here. Warriors is the sequel to my debut novel, ‘Jake West – The Keeper of the Stones’. The Jake West series was penned for my children and this is book two of three. I’m well into writing book three as we speak. It’s a fantasy epic adventure aimed specifically at teenage boys, though I have been delighted to find that it is being read and enjoyed by readers of all ages, from nine to seventy-three that I’m aware of. The main heroes are two ordinary fifteen year old boys who get thrust into an extraordinary world when they discover a strange box which unearths some even stranger family secrets. Chased across worlds, hunted by fearsome beasts and feted as the saviour of millions, the hero they have been waiting for, Jake West has to fulfil his destiny and live up to the greatest of expectations. Warriors sees the journey continue as Jake seeks the stones needed to restore the Heynai’s weapon and tackle an evil wizard and his legions of monsters. Book 1 was penned primarily for my son, this book was written more for my daughter. Because of this, there is a very strong female heroine who kicks ass, as well as an army of warriors risen from the dead, a dragon, spirits, wizards.... Everything you could want in a good story.

Q: What’s your genre and why did you choose it?
I suppose if you were to pigeonhole it, you would have to say fantasy, though I believe it stands on its own as a young adult fiction story. I’m not one for labels as I think it deters some readers. It also puts off any literary agents and publishers who dismiss novels upon hearing the word, fantasy. I love the genre but I’d like to simply say that it is a good yarn. I chose fantasy because I was writing to inspire my children. The books have strong themes of loyalty, trust and bravery. I also wanted something that did not take too much research, as my full time employment meant I would have limited time. With fantasy, everything is generated in your own mind.

Q: What’s the biggest obstacle you faced with your writing journey?
That’s an easy one; time. Or more accurately, lack of time. I work full time and I have a young family, it’s very hard to juggle the three. I can go weeks without a day to write, any author will tell you that is an impossibly frustrating situation. I have usually forgotten where I was and have to re-read all I’ve done before I can begin. Also, I don’t have the luxury of waiting for it to happen. I have to force it out and hope I get in the zone so to speak. It’s not ideal and I’d love to be able to devote more time to my writing.

Q: Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?
From my children. I write for them so I try to imagine what they would like to read. It has to be exciting but real, believable. There has to be edge of your seat moments and humour. I try not to fill the pages with too much ‘gumph’, or Information dumping. I think I failed in that regard a little with book one but it still reads well and one day I’ll re-edit it. It was my first novel after all. My ideas came from nowhere, I never considered myself to be creative until I began to write. My imagination was stimulated like never before and I could not stop. There are very few characters based on real life, though some have certain characteristics and names of people I know.

Q: Who or what are your influences?
I had not read a fantasy book from start to finish before beginning my novel so I had no influences as such. I used to read military books and biographies in the main. Since writing I have branched out and read works by Tolkien, C S Lewis, Patrick Rothfus and Gail Martin amongst others. I’m still learning about the genre though so my journey has only just begun. One thing is for certain; I can never be accused of plagiarism.

Q: Are you self-published, legacy or a combination?
I am self published. The first book was through Authorhouse and the second Lulu. I did submit the first to several agents/publishers but was not successful. I wanted a book for my children so I decided to self publish. I do not regret that decision and I think the stigma attached to self publishing is dwindling all the time. I’ve read many self published works which are, in my opinion, as good as or better than their published counterparts. In most cases the only difference is the editing.

Q: What was the hardest part of your self-pub / publishing journey?
Authorhouse were too far removed to be of any help, being based in America. They only seemed interested in me if I was paying more money. I was a number on a list and I think they missed the boat. If they had listened to me, fought my corner, we could have enjoyed far more success and made more money in the process. Lulu was easier and cheaper, the only difficulty came from the fact that I had to do everything myself, with no help. Once the artist was on board (A J Hateley), it was a much more satisfying experience.

Q: What format are your books available in?
They are available in all formats; On Amazon as Kindle and paperback, on lulu as hardback and on several sites besides. WH Smith and Waterstones have it on their database and I know of at least one store that has it on their shelves. All the customer has to do is ask if it is not, though it is probably cheaper to order online. As I joined KDP Select on Amazon, I had to pull the ebook version from other sites.

Q: How many books have you published so far?
Warriors is my second, I’m hoping to have book three out by the end of the year. It is untitled at present but it will finish the series, although there is scope for so much more. That will depend upon demand and my own situation/circumstances. I’d love to continue writing but it is a lot of hard work and it detracts sometimes from my other commitments.

Q: What things did you outsource, if any at all?
Only the artwork. I found a brilliant young art student called A J Hateley who I convinced to work with me. She produced some exceptional artwork for both books and I’m glad to say she has received acknowledgement and credit for her work. She’s become a very good friend and I turn to her for advice on a whole range of issues. In fact, she proofreads my work when possible and I am quite often astounded by her insight.

Q: What’s the best bit of advice you received when starting out?
To be totally honest, most people advised me not to do it, to start small with short stories etc. I’m so glad that I ignored them. J  I think people like Gail Martin, Charity Parkerson, Lynn Hallbrooks, Mike Maynard (fellow authors I met on sites such as Goodreads, Facebook etc) were a massive help with their encouragement and knowledge once I had begun. Mike for example helped me with establishing a website presence. No man is an island, we all need help from time to time, the authors above proved to be the nicest people who were willing to share their experiences and help. I can’t thank them enough.

Q: What advice would you offer to the future Debut Authors out there?
Seek as much help and advice as you can get but stick to your guns if it matters to you. There are plenty of reasons not to do something, you only need to find one to do it. Don’t publish too early, wait until your work is the best it can be. Don’t give up or give in, there will be highs and lows along your journey so expect them and ride the waves. You can never please everyone so you will have your fair share of critics/bad reviews, listen to what they are saying if constructive and valid, but disregard them if not, remembering that the reader has taken the time to look at your work and earned the right to have an opinion. Most of all enjoy the moment. If your writing does not fill you with excitement, how do you expect it to thrill your readers?

Q: What’s next for you? Any projects in the pipeline for us to look forward to?
Book 3 is almost twenty chapters in and I’m thrilled by it. There’s a lot of editing and writing ahead but I believe it will finish the series in style, with some unexpected twists and turns. After that, a well earned break during which I intend to explore the works of other authors. Unless of course the writing bug bites...?  I have toyed with the idea of another genre, set in a time I know well, but we shall have to see.

Q: Any favourite Author that you are a fan of and would recommend?
I’ve met tons of great authors through Goodreads. Many of them write in genres I do not read such as Charity Parkerson, whose books are excellent I am told. I’ve also showcased some on my site like Michael Rivers, Mark Rice and Glenn Starkey. I think readers should explore the works of unknown authors, to discover a hitherto buried gem must be an amazing feeling. As far as established authors go, I like Patrick Rothfus’ style, C S Lewis is a must for all children, and Tolkien is still the undisputed master of all things fantasy. I would say read everything you can, cast your net far and wide and enjoy delving into murky, unchartered waters. You may catch a shark, or a tiddler like me. :-)

Q: Give us one of your favourite quotes……………….
‘As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ Gods, they kill us for their sport.’ William Shakespeare
Q: And finally tell us something random about yourself to make us chuckle………………………….
I was once regressed and under hypnosis recounted a tale of my former life as a Roman soldier, including a battle against Spartacus.

Thanks so much for Joining us today M.J. its been great chatting to you.

Webb also has a feature on the blog. To read it click here  

Also check out the first book in the Jake West series The Keeper Of The Stones.

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