Name : John M W Smith (It’s my real name!)
Where are you from : Oxford, England.
A little about yourself `ie your education Family life etc :
Topped my school in my final year exams. Went on to graduate at university with a BA(Hons) degree in history.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
A Russian publisher discovered me online and signed me up to provide my series of twist in the tale short stories anthologies to be translated into Russian as ELT teaching aids. The first one went to number one in the bestsellers chart at the best bookshop in Moscow. There is very little money in it, but huge satisfaction and a tremendous morale boost.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing around 10 years ago. I saw a short story in a magazine and said, well, I could do better than that.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I had my first story accepted. It was 1000 words and I was paid £300 (around US$450).
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I find this a hard question. What inspires us to do anything? A feeling, deep inside, that one can do something. That it is within our grasp, that it will fulfil us/bring us fame/make us money, or a combination of all three.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Simple, direct prose, plain English, using the correct words in the correct context.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
By referring to a particular sentence or a particular idea or thought in the story (I’ve never found this difficult).
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, I do also write novels. For young adults and for grown-ups. Mainly it’s a message involving accountability (what goes around, comes around). The strengths and weaknesses of human nature, and the inability of human beings to ever change— the study of history taught me that we never change. Our nature, impulses, needs, desires, emotions, capacity for self-delusion, cruelty etc, our motivations and their sources are the same today as they were 1000 years ago.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I can never write complete fantasy. If I do write fantasy it must have some elements of believability, especially in terms of how the characters think and behave. I could never do complete magic. In general my writing is as realistic as I can possibly make it
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Sometimes. Maybe it comes from reading about other people’s lives. I find them more interesting than my own life.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
The Magus by John Fowles. Ernest Hemingway– all his books. And yes, mentors; one or two teachers at school, and a well-known UK literary consultant. Especially the latter.
Fiona: What book are you reading now? I am reading several at the same time. I cannot remember them all. Sorry. They are mainly self published books by other independent authors who would like me to read and review their work. I did recently read Martin Amis’s latest novel called The Zone Of Interest. It was extremely good.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
How new? I am a fan of Somerset Maugham, Stephen King, James Hadley Chase, O’Henry. Newer than that? Sorry, none apart from Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, Richard Dawkins, and Fay Weldon have impressed me much.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
More novels for adults. More twist in the tale stories. In other words, business as usual while trying to find enough time to market my books online.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The well-known UK literary consultant whom I mentioned earlier. I can’t give her name as I don’t have her permission. Her words were like rays of sunshine that lighted up the darkest corners of my despairing soul.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
100% yes. It’s what I’m good at. It’s why am and what I am.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. Why should I want to do that? Didn’t I know what I was doing? Didn’t I do well enough in the first place? Why not? I never let the world see my work unless I am satisfied with it. Unless I have edited it many times, re-read it many times over a considerable period of time.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
No. It’s just that I was a voracious reader, reading anything and everything, and gradually came to realise that I, too, could do what those writers were doing. Often better!
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
It is set in Iraq, in the time of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. That’s it, I can’t tell you any more.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
All writing is a challenge. If it isn’t then you are not writing well enough. If I only manage 100 words in one day but I believe that I have ended up with the best 100 words anyone could have written, I’m more than happy. It has to come naturally. You cannot force it. I cannot understand writers who set themselves targets of so many thousands of words a day. To my mind that is the mindset of a hack.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have mentioned my favourite authors already. I have no one favourite author. I need to be drawn into a piece of writing in the first couple of sentences…… or at least in the first couple of paragraphs. If not, then I will abandon the book.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Yes. Not physically. Mentally. In the words of one Moody Blues’s song, “thinking is the best way to travel……”
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Sleeping Lions Publishing
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Finding the time. All the rest is tiring, but not hard. It is uplifting and joyful for me. It feeds some deep down need within me. It refreshes and reinvigorates me. How then, can it be hard?
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Plots will sort themselves out in the end if you allow them to ferment and mature in your subconscious for long enough.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Be realistic about yourself. You either are a writer, or you aren’t. And only you know the answer to this. Don’t waste too much time in writing groups, forums, and taking writing tuition.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Try to out-guess me. I enjoy that. My aim is to always surprise you at the end— and never let you guess what that surprise is.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No. I guess I was far too young to remember.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Life. The human condition.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would like to meet and why?
I would just love to have lunch with Nigella Lawson, and look deep down into her eyes as we converse. That would be my idea of heaven!
Fiona: What do you want written on your headstone and why ?
“He tried his best” (because I always do).
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
No. Who needs them? Why should we need them? I don’t have the time anyway!
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I hardly ever watch TV. I only watch a film all the way through if I fail to guess how it will end within the first 10 minutes of watching it.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music ;
I eat very little. Lobster Thermidor is my all-time favourite. Red. Mozart, Beethoven, the Moody Blues, and CAKE.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Jumped off the top of a multi-storey car park! Writing is all there is that gets me through this life on a day-to-day basis.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it? Website: http://jmwsmith.webeden.co.uk/#/wacky-and-scary-stories-series/4557479940 http://sandybrownmattblack.moonfruit.com
Also please feel free to view all of my books in one place at Amazon Central. Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B005H3ACF8