Name: J.E.S. Hays
Where are you from? South Carolina, USA. I was “born and raised” here, as we say in the South, and though I love to travel, I always come home to SC in the end.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc – I come from a long line of storytellers. My father and two of his brothers were Baptist ministers, and my mother was a teacher, so I learned early on how to spin a good yarn and communicate clearly. I live in a little house full of books and photographs, and when I’m not off in my own little universe, I’m outside somewhere with a camera in my hand. I also supervise the Creative Writing categories on the WikiAnswers.com website.
I have worked as a: janitor, wait-staff, short order chef, park naturalist, assistant park ranger, teacher, and am currently a pharmacist. You can see that I have a bit of trouble settling on a career! I have three college degrees: a Master’s in Education and B.S. in both biology and pharmacy.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’ve just finished the first novel in the Devon Day and the Sweetwater Kid collection, OUTLAW SECURITY. I’ll be sending that around on the agent/editor circuit this year. The anthology, DOWN THE OWLHOOT TRAIL, will revert to my sole ownership next year, so I’ll be shopping that around as well to find a larger publisher than the original.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always been a storyteller, ever since I learned that it was a great way to become the center of attention! I come from a theatrical family: we were always singing or telling jokes or stories, and I had to have a good tale if I wanted to beat out the competition for center stage. My imagination is full of stories – always has been – and the trouble is sifting one out of the mass inside my head. I’ve been writing down my stories since high school, but never really considered selling them until recently.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I knew I was a “real” writer when I sold my first article to the local newspaper in college. I just haven’t taken the time to pursue that career until recently.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve had this one character in my head since I was in grade school. He’s a trickster and a trouble-maker, a real rascal. I’ve written a few stories about him over the years, but a couple of years ago, a friend challenged me to write a book about him. I started with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer’s Month) and just kept going.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I have a spare style – nothing overblown or melodramatic – with snappy dialogue that pulls you into the story. I think my humor drives the story as well, and I’ve been told I write like a combination of Louis L’Amour and Robert B. Parker.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
OUTLAW SECURITY is a play on words. The characters decide to invent a security firm – this is in the 1800’s, remember – and they’re outlaws themselves, so it’s security FROM outlaws BY outlaws. It’s also security for them because they’re trying to go straight and have the freedom not to worry about being arrested.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
My characters are scoundrels, so I hope people don’t get the idea that I think stealing is right! I try to portray open-minded, caring people (though they’d deny being “good” to the bitter end), and to show that people are all basically the same, no matter what their race or ethnic background.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I have a lot of real history in my books. I like doing the research, finding out what restaurants the characters might have eaten in, or what it was like to ride a train in the 1800’s. The situation – a couple of outlaws blackmailed into working for the government – isn’t entirely unrealistic, though to the best of my knowledge, nothing like that ever happened back in the Old West.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I use everything I’ve ever experienced when I write, of course, as all writers do. I don’t use actual events or people in my stories, but I use the emotions I’ve experienced, and I use traits from actual people in my characters.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
I adored Andre Norton when I was growing up: her adventure tales inspired me to come up with my own adventures for my characters. Louis L’Amour has inspired a love of descriptive writing, and Robert B. Parker taught me how to write dialogue. Tony Hillerman and Craig Johnson showed me how to craft a mystery story. Anne MacCaffrey and Laurie R. King just write great stories.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I suppose I’d have to name Robert B. Parker, if I were pressed. I’ve studied his writing more than any other of my favorite writers, to see how he crafts his tales.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I just finished Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. It’s totally different from my style of writing, but I saw the movie and it peaked my interest. I’m also re-reading some of Anne MacCaffrey’s Pern books, just for the language and craft of her writing.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m working on the next Devon Day and the Sweetwater Kid novel. This one will involve them in the treaties between the U.S. and the Republic of Hawai’i.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My friends have always been behind my endeavors, even when I had trouble seeing myself as a writer.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Eventually. I’d like to get to the point where I’m bringing in enough to cut back to part-time on my “day job.”
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, I’m pretty satisfied with it at this point.
I don’t really like to share what I’m writing at the moment, but I can let you have a sample from the last book.
The Pacific Express shuddered to a stop amid a cloud of steam. The Sweetwater Kid allowed himself a smirk as the point of the cowcatcher gently ground against the platform of logs that spanned the rocky cut. He’d measured the distance perfectly.
The rest of the train, most essentially the car containing the army payroll, sat trapped atop the trestle. Johnson’s Gorge was the perfect site for Sweet’s plan: a hundred-foot drop to the dry river bed, a half-mile cut through the mountain that was barely wider than the train itself, and a labyrinth of red rock which could have hidden the army whose payroll was about to be stolen.
Devon Day and the Sweetwater Kid were hardly amateurs, after all. In the outlaw business, you didn’t last more than ten years without being exceptional. And Dev and Sweet were exceptional — even if Sweet did say so himself.
The Sweetwater Kid was small and dark. At the moment, he sported a mustache, which he looked forward to removing once the job was over. His hair was beginning to grow out of its short cut and form those curls so attractive to the ladies back home. Sweet shoved a stray curl back under his hat, hefted his rifle and peered down at the scene he’d orchestrated. He felt a thrill run up his spine. There wasn’t much to compare with the feeling of a plan come to fruition.
The train chuffed and smoked, drowning out anything except a determined bellow. Sweet tipped his hat back, stepped to the speaking trumpet he’d wedged between two rocks and bellowed.
“Good morning, gentlemen.”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I have more trouble keeping the tension and conflict going – I tend to veer toward the humor if I don’t watch myself.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No, but I usually manage to fit in one “research” trip every year – to the Southwest or to San Francisco.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The anthology cover was designed by JMS Books, with some input from myself.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Actually finishing it! This was my first novel, so I had to learn to stick to my guns and keep going.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that you just have to keep going, one step at a time, and you’ll eventually reach the finish line.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Plant your arse in a chair and get started! It doesn’t matter if you only write one paragraph a day – in the end, if you keep going, you’ll have that book finished.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Buy a copy for everyone in your family! I hope you enjoy reading about my lads as much as I enjoy writing about them.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No, but I did learn to read quite early, so it was likely a Golden Reader or other children’s book.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Almost anything can make me laugh. I have a quirky sense of humor, and sometimes find humor in situations that make my friends look sideways at me. I have had the odd cry over a sad movie, but I’m more likely to cry at a beautifully written passage in a book.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I’d love to meet some of my favorite authors, and I’d like to someday have a chat with Edge from the band U2.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
“She never stopped wondering” because I don’t plan to.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I love photography – I have several shelves full of photo albums. And I enjoy my WikiAnswers.com categories.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I don’t watch a lot of TV, though I do like to have something on in the background while I work. That’s mostly science shows. I especially like “How It’s Made,” and nature documentaries. I have a soft spot for Christmas movies, though, and will watch the Hallmark Channel in December.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music:
I tend to gravitate toward either Italian food or Mexican, depending on my mood. I like Fall colors: reds, oranges, yellows and rich browns. I like almost any sort of music except hip-hop/rap, and my favorite band is U2.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I’ve always wanted to have one of those really creative jobs where you just sit around and solve problems all day.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website?
If so what is it? You can find me on http://www.jeshays.com or on Facebook at JESHaysBooks.