Name Lex H Jones
Where are you from Sheffield, North England
I’m from Sheffield, in Yorkshire, North England. I was also educated there, on what may be the foggiest hill in all the land. It’s like Silent Hill without the monsters. I live with my girlfriend, plus 3 cats, 3 chinchillas and an unusually large hamster called Derek.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I have recently had my first book published, Nick and Abe. I have written several books before this but this is my first one to be published. It is available on amazon and Waterstones websites, as well as smaller retailers.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I think I started doing it for the sheer fun of it around aged 14, but didn’t really start taking it seriously until my early twenties. I’ve just always had stories filling my head that I wanted to put down on paper for people to read.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s a tricky one. I’ve been writing for over a decade now but I was only traditionally published (by which I mean I have a publishing contract as opposed to self-publishing as an ebook.) earlier this year. I like to have milestones to work towards, and I feel that titles have to be earned. So whilst I’ve technically been a ‘writer’ for years, I wouldn’t have called myself an author until I had a book that people could actually buy.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I had stories in my head that needed to come out. My first book that I wrote (not the one I have had published, incidentally) was a series of 4 books chronicling the adventures of a set of characters. It was quite episodic in nature, almost like reading four seasons of a television show. The inspiration for it came from all over the place, but I just had to get these stories out of my head! They were taking up far too much room and the characters were far too noisy, so I had no choice but to write them down.
My first published book, Nick and Abe, was a very similar case. I had this idea in my head, and it just grew and grew. What if God and the Devil spent a year on earth, as humans? To see who had the most to learn? But what if doing this made them take a second look at their relationship with each other? That was the key inspiration for it, really. The relationship between these two cosmic beings. Popular culture likes to depict them as the heads of two warring armies, but the (few and far between) scenes with them together in the Bible itself contradict this. They seem amicable, almost friendly. And later interpretations point to the Devil being the first angel. God’s first son. I wanted to take that idea and run with it.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My writing is very character-driven. Whatever genre I am working on, I like to keep the focus on the characters, to make them three-dimensional, and to make the reader care about them. Other than that I don’t think of myself as having any specific stylistic traits, but apparently beta readers who’ve read a few of my books have said that there are these things they now call “Lexisms”, which are little plot points and ways of telling the story that only I could come up with. I’m not really aware that I’m doing this, but it’s nice to think that there’s somehow a form of secret signature on my work, consciously or otherwise.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Nick and Abe are the names of the main characters in the book. Nick is the Devil, named for the old English “Ol’ Nick” name for Satan. And God is Abe, named because he’s based on the multiple versions of God that are labelled ‘Abrahamic’. It’s a simple title, but as the book focusses so strongly on these characters, it just made sense.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Despite the religious theme to the book, I’m very much an atheist. With that in mind readers can be assured I’m not trying to force any kind of spiritual viewpoint onto them. The message that I would like them to take away, if anything, is to fix things whilst you can. If you have relationships that could be made better, then pick up the phone and do it now. Tomorrow might be too late.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
About as much as can be, given that the main characters are God and the Devil! I’ve tried to ground these characters, literally and figuratively, to make them relatable beings. They don’t show off ‘superpowers’, there’s very little shown that falls into the realm of the supernatural or holy. I put just enough of it in there that you don’t forget who these characters are, but at the same time I didn’t want it to seem like a fantasy or sci-fi story.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The core theme of the book is about a fractured relationship between father and son. Thankfully that isn’t something I personally suffer from. However, I do know others who’ve been through similar events, and whilst I haven’t directly used them, I have drawn upon the emotions that these conflicts and resolutions brought out. Emotion is key in a story like this, so if the characters are experiencing something that you as a writer have not, I think it’s important to consult with somebody else that has.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
My favourite book is A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. It’s a wonderful Christmas story, but if you strip away the festivity of it, and even the ghosts, you are left with a powerful story about change. About how it’s never too late to make things better, and that this often starts with taking a good hard look in the mirror and working on what you see there. There have been times in my life where I have had to re-evaluate what matters to me, and change a lot based on the honest answers to these questions. It’s not always easy and it can cost a lot, emotionally, mentally or even financially. But it’s worth doing if it makes you and the people around you happier.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m just finishing off Revival by Stephen King, and then the next book in my pile is Godbomb by Kit Power. Kit is actually a friend of mine so I’m looking forward to reading his book. It’s nice to read a book knowing you can contact the author at any point and tell them how great their book is.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I think the term “new author” is a risky one, because some folk (like me) have been writing for years but only just made it to publication. So we’re “new” at it to readers, but not to ourselves! With that in mind though, writers who are relatively new to me: I mentioned Kit above, but I’ve also read work by Taylor Grant, William Meikle and Kevin Lucia lately, and I now want to read more by all of them.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I have a series of books that focusses on a Victorian detective (at least initially) in a supernatural version of London, that I keep returning to in-between other books. Before I work at finishing that, though, I am working on the last draft of a “noir” style crime thriller that I will be putting out there (hopefully) for publication relatively soon.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
There are two that I have to mention, really. My friend Kc has always supported my writing, reading draft after draft of the same stories, providing honest feedback and generally being a good sounding board. He’s also a musician, so I often provide the same for him. We have a mutual rule of absolute honesty, so if something is terrible we will each say so.
Through the writing community I also became friends with Emma Audsley, who has been something of a mentor in the early stages of me becoming a ‘proper’ writer, whatever that is. She provided help and guidance, without hand-holding, and is always beaming with pride whenever I achieve another step on the ladder. She’s also quick to point out when I’m being an arsehole. Which is important.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
It’d be nice, but I don’t think it’s financially viable at my current level of readership. I’m quite boring and sensible with money, so I wouldn’t be happy having a “gig” income (never knowing what you’re making from one month to the next) unless I’d already paid off my mortgage. So for now I’m more than happy to keep my writing as a hobby that occasionally provides some extra pocket money, rather than think of it as a career. That way I don’t lose focus either, because I’m writing what I enjoy writing, rather than worrying about what will sell.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
If it was possible, then the title and names of the characters. At their initial conception, the characters were called Ben and Jerry. This was because they saw an ice cream truck drive by and got their names from it. Unfortunately the Ben and Jerry ice cream company wouldn’t allow me to use the name, so I had to change it.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I’ve always loved stories; first being read them, then reading them myself, then finally writing them. I first realised that other people might like to read them when I was about 8 years old and a teacher took me to one side after a creative writing project to suggest that I seriously consider fiction writing as a career when I grew up. I never gave this much thought until the same thing was said by more teachers later in my academic life, and eventually enough people had said it that I decided to give it a go.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Absolutely, this is a sample of a scene with Nick (the Devil) talking to Abe (God) and going back to the very start of their relationship with each other:
“I remember the first day,” said Nick, sat at Abe’s bedside. “The very first, the one where I opened my eyes and saw you looking back at me. You told me who you were, and that you’d made me. That I was your son, and that I was your first. There was just you and me and this glorious field that went on forever. You said you’d made that too, and the soft breeze that blew through it. I asked why, and you said ‘because making things is beautiful’. I asked if you were going to make anything else, and you said yes. I asked if I could help, and you just smiled. That goofy little smile of yours, and you just said ‘Why do you think you’re here? It’s no fun doing this stuff alone.’
So we started with the bang, do you remember that? Shit it was loud, we both laughed because we didn’t expect it. And then we watched as things started to take place. A thousand, thousand candles lit up in the night sky, and you named them stars. Around some of them little balls of rock clumped together and you called them planets. I asked you what my name was, and you said Lucifer, and that it meant bringer of light. And that I’d help bring light to your most incredible creation yet . . .”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
In real life conversation I can be a bit of a waffler. I’m not a nervous speaker, I just sometimes “over-egg the pudding” when it comes to explaining things. I go further than needed, put simply. I worry about this transferring itself to my writing, so that’s one of the key things I look for in redrafts. Get to the point, Lex, your readers aren’t stupid.
Fiona: Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’m something of a philistine in that I don’t have one singular favourite author. I admire different authors for different reasons. I love the obvious classics like Wilde and Poe, but I also admire Lovecraft for helping to create a concept that would be used in horror for decades to come. This idea that perhaps mankind is the creation of Gods, but not kind ones. Perhaps they see us as ants and would wipe us from the map at any point? That idea finds its way through to the work of modern authors like Stephen King, as well as movies like Prometheus. I think to cement a concept so strongly in fiction that other writers are using decades later, is something to be admired.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
My books so far have taken place either in fictional places or the past, so no! Although I’d happily travel to different times if somebody wants to get me a Delorean or a TARDIS. That said, even when I create a fictional place I like to keep things consistent. So I will draw a map of my fake city and make sure I know where all the key places are.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The initial concept of the cover is from the scene at the start (and then again at the very end) of the book. It was my idea to use it, my artist girlfriend did a sketch for it, and that was formalised by the publisher’s own people.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Finding a human voice for God and the Devil that wasn’t too obvious. If I was playing for laughs it would have been ridiculously easy, but I wasn’t. I was aiming for real drama and emotion with the book, so I wanted to try and strip away any of the ‘too tongue in cheek’ parts of their character and write how I think they would be as real people in the modern world.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I think from looking at the various things people believe about their individual religions, I came to a better understanding about why they choose to believe it. Religion and spirituality isn’t for me, I’m far too rational and logical for it to work with my brain. But in reading everything I did to research this book, I do have a much clearer idea of why these stories mean so much to people.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
The internet is full of people giving advice and you should ignore most of it. I’m not going to add to that collection, as there’s no “magic road” to get yourself published and be successful. I am sick of seeing articles titled “how to be a successful author…by this guy you’ve never heard of.” It’s redundant. There is no set path, it involves a lot of luck and ‘right place right time’, and that’s just the truth of it. So all I can offer is to keep writing, and make sure you are enjoying doing it. Write what you love and your passion will come through on the page. Don’t write something because you think it will sell, write the story that you’re burning to tell the world.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you! Writing is fun but the endgame is always knowing that people are reading it, engaging with it, discussing it. So everybody that reads my book, particularly those who take the time out of their day to leave a review afterwards, deserves a massive thank you.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I remember reading books with my mother and sister, but I think the first one I ever sat down and read by myself was a small children’s horror anthology called Scary Tales. It was illustrated and told three short horror (ish) tales and I loved it. I still have a copy.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
All sorts of things make me laugh, my sense of humour is weird and varied. People falling over (assuming they don’t seriously injure themselves) is hard to beat, for some reason. Scripted comedy can’t compete with someone slipping down the stairs. I think it’s in our genes, because even monkeys laugh at that.
As for crying, I’m not a crier. Real life or fictional things just don’t get that reaction from me. I feel the emotion, sure, but it never seems to get as far as my tear ducts.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I would like to meet my Grandad again. I lost him when I was in my early twenties, and he never got to see me doing what I do now, writing and getting published. It’s something he knew I was interested in, and would often tell me stories and listen to my own. I’m sorry he never got to see what it developed into.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
“Nice shoes, Dave.” At some point a guy named Dave is going to walk by that grave wearing new shoes, and he will absolutely crap his pants.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Quite typically, I suppose, I like reading as much as I do writing. I also love films, music and videogames. My favourite social activity though is games nights with my friends, which involve increasingly stupid games that never fail to get really competitive.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m a comic book fan, so I am currently enjoying all the TV adaptations, like Daredevil and Jessica Jones on Netflix, or Arrow, Flash and Gotham etc on network TV.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Meat and biscuits (not together), black and red, and my favourite musicians are Tom Waits and Nick Cave. That said I love music overall and there’s only a very few genres that I can’t stand at all.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Something that often surprises people about me is that I’m rather good at manual “manly” work. Building things, fixing things, installing things. Neither my writing nor my 9-5 job really involve that, but if I started my career path over again I would quite like to give something like that a go. I can imagine it’s quite satisfying walking past a building and thinking “I helped to make that.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/LexHJones
My Twitter is @LexHJones
You can find my book here: https://www.waterstones.com/book/nick-and-abe/lex-h-jones/9781908586940