Name: Jack Steele
Age Jack: Early fifties
Fiona: Where are you from?
Jack: I was raised in Hackney, London.
Fiona: A little about yourself `ie your education Family life etc
I am happily married and living in the Nottinghamshire countryside. I work full time as a printer which leaves precious time for writing. I have followed the strict regime of writing every day no matter how pushed for time.
Early years were based in Hackney, London. Berger Road Primary School was just across the road from the Bannister House estate where I lived. The school encouraged us to read by inviting us all to join the Puffin Club. All my memories of attending that school are happy ones.
My secondary school was Hackney Free & Parochial. It was a mixed comprehensive. I liked sports, making the school triple jump team. Unfortunately I was there for only a year; it was a time when drugs and crime moved onto the estate. It was for that reason that we moved away to the Norfolk countryside. The Grammar school I attended in King’s Lynn was an unpleasant experience. I took up boxing to look after myself against the bullying. It was an all-boys school with the teachers wearing gowns and calling you by your surname. It was like being at Hogwarts! The only lesson I enjoyed was English.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Jack: My debut Crime Fiction novel ‘Loose Cannon’ has just been published on Kindle. This will be the first in a series of novels following detective Joe Stone.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Jack: That was mainly due to my English teacher, Bernard Phillips, who was always positive and encouraged me to use my imagination. By the time I left school I had written a lot of stories which I stored in a box in the attic. Fast forward twenty years later when I had time to look at them again. A spark ignited which led me to write again.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Jack: You could say that moment was when Loose Cannon was published on the Kindle.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Jack: I am an avid reader of all kinds of fiction. The crime novels I read appeared to be either too descriptive with little action, or too many characters that confused me. So I decided to write one that appealed to my personal taste and hopefully to my readers too.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Jack: My style is a fast paced page turner with cliff hangers, moral dilemmas and believable characters. Thankfully the reviews so far seem to back up my intended style.
I like to think that my readers will either be lazing on holiday reading by the pool or they could be reading in bed after a busy working day. I include a lot of short chapters intentionally so that it’s not too long until the end of the chapter for a break. That’s personally what I like in books.
I write my lead character in the first person because he internalizes his emotions. This way my readers can share what is going on in my detective’s head.
The description of surroundings was not only from the time I spent growing up in that area, but also from re-visiting as an adult, to gain a more mature perspective. When it came to the action scenes I concentrate on drama and pace.
I do enjoy a good chase scene. A good friend’s advice was ‘if the character is out of breath then your reader should be.’ So you can be sure there are a few dramatic chase scenes to keep the heart racing.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Jack: There is a serial killer attacking the Mafia in London. Whoever is responsible definitely fit’s the title of a Loose Cannon.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Jack: There are times when the odds seem so stacked against my detective; yet he keeps going, despite all he endures. My underlying message is ‘If you want something out of life then never give up’.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
Jack: The description of surroundings was not only from the time I spent growing up in that area, but also from re-visiting as an adult to gain a more mature perspective. Some of the locations are imaginary. The Headquarters for example, but that grey building near to London’s City Airport could be where the Strategic Investigation Unit is based!
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Jack: No. It’s all fiction.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Jack: I have enjoyed reading books by Simon Kernick, Neil White, Graham Hurley, Sue Grafton, Lee Child, James Patterson and Jeff Abbott. All had an influence on me one way or another.
I also like reading books by Stephen King, Dan Brown and Michael Crichton.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Jack: Stephen King’s ‘On writing a memoir of the craft’ It is part biography, part collection of tips.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Jack: I wouldn’t say that Neil White, Graham Hurley and Lee Child are new authors but these have grabbed my interest recently.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Jack: Currently I am working on the 2nd book in the detective Joe Stone series.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Jack: Outside of family members, if you are pushing for just one then it has to be my best friend Clive. He has supported me from the start. I have thrown his way ‘what ifs’ and ‘how about this’ for a number of years.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Jack: I would love it to be but it’s too early to say at this time.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Jack: Just a couple of minor changes but I always want to re-edit.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Jack: Yes my English class at secondary school.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Jack: Here is an excerpt from the book.
I had to run because I had no means to protect myself. I passed through an area where the apartment blocks were a maze of entrances and exits. They could provide me with enough cover so he wouldn’t get a good shot at me. He wasn’t far behind me but I was concerned that I could run into a blocked end. These areas I hadn’t explored for a while and the landscape had changed with the constant development.
I ran out onto a road where I thought should be grassland but had now become a shop. A few youths shouted at me when I pushed them out of my way. I carried on running out to the back into the shop delivery yard which had a six foot brick wall and a large metal gate that looked like it was locked. Shouts from inside the shop behind me meant that he was too close for comfort. I ran up to the wall and used my arms to pull me up onto it. Brickwork flew out by my hand and into my face as he fired his gun.
I had jumped down onto the pavement just in time but I knew he was only feet away from me. My left leg had become sore where I scuffed it against the wall. Dust and debris stung my right eye but I had to ignore it and get to cover fast. I ran down the side street, in front of me was a line of parked cars. To the left were some wooden seats with a patch of grass. Here, a group of four teenage girls had gathered. I was afraid they could get caught by a stray bullet.
‘Get down, he has a gun,’ I shouted as I ran towards them.
They must have thought it was a prank because they just stood there, but when another shot made a car’s wing mirror shatter beside me, they screamed and scattered in all directions.
I jumped a small retaining wall, through an office car park and then I spotted the steel construction of the Glengall Bridge. It was a pedestrian bridge over the lock. Once across that I was on more familiar territory and I knew of a few places to take cover. I said a prayer that the bridge wasn’t up; otherwise I would have to stay on this side of the lock and could get trapped.
Up ahead I saw the freezing cold water of the lock. I turned the corner and my heart sank. A narrow boat was passing underneath the bridge. I couldn’t believe it. The bridge was raised so now I was trapped!
I began to panic. My options were running out. I looked sharp to my left and right for any form of escape or cover. A shot flew past my right arm. He was closing fast behind me, so I ran around to the right. It was a dead end!
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Jack: The time to sit down and write. It’s a discipline that I have to adhere to otherwise weeks fly by without anything written. Luckily for me there are friends and work colleagues who read my work and demand more from me.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Jack: James Patterson. I enjoyed his Alex Cross series of books which was an easy read.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Jack: I do enjoy taking the train to London with my wife who has accompanied me on various location visits. There are more trips planned for this year to add authenticity to my novel. I want reader’s to feel as if they are there with the characters.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Jack: J.W. Design. It was collaboration between us. We both shot the photos and James understood exactly what I wanted. The amount of people who have commented on how great it looks is truly rewarding. It goes without saying that we will work together on the next cover.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Jack: I made this book difficult for myself because I wrote the start and end to begin with followed by the middle. The idea was to create the spine of the work then add to it. What I hadn’t realized was the timeline often conflicted with the chapters so I had to produce a timeline on an excel spreadsheet to ensure I kept track of every event in the correct order.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Jack: I have learnt an incredible amount. I realized I lacked certain skills early on so I signed up for a creative writing course. Then I attended 2 courses run by the Nottingham Writers Studio.
Deborah Bailey led my first course ‘Getting it out there’. She showed the group how to publicize and raise our profile; ‘How to interview your character’ and useful websites to glean more knowledge. Afterwards Deborah helped to knock my first four chapters into shape.
Angela K Foxwood led the second course ‘Developing your crime novel’. The exercises were geared to a better understanding of the characters in my novel. I found it extremely useful as well as listening to the others in the group explaining their thoughts. We all agreed that Angela’s tuition was an inspiration.
I had two amazing editors working alongside me giving me the encouragement to finish my debut novel. Tracie and Gill gave me so much of their time; suggesting changes when a paragraph didn’t seem to work, correcting my grammar and pointing out ‘Too many He’s or I’s’ etc.
Then there were my friends and colleagues who formed my reading circle. Clive, Sandra, Chris and Paul gave great suggestions that improved the book even further.
Last by no means least was the encouragement from my wife to fulfil my dream. She has been so supportive that I couldn’t have finished the book without her.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Jack: Yes. When your mind goes blank, just take a break. Join a reader’s group and bounce ideas around. Tell them your story then await their suggestions. You don’t have to like them but it’s refreshing to gain a fresh perspective. Find good friends and family members willing to check your book for typos, spelling, grammatical errors etc.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Jack: Thank you for your tremendous support. It’s been a long time from writing the first words to its publication but this book has been a real labour of love for me. I set out to write a piece of crime fiction that I enjoyed. So when my readers say they enjoy it too then I couldn’t be any happier.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Jack: The first book I read was the Ladybird Peter and Jane books
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Jack: I laugh at British Comedy like Only Fools and Horses and Fawlty Towers.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Jack: I would discuss with Agatha Christie how she approached writing her novels.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Jack: He achieved success here because he lived well, laughed often and loved much.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Jack: I enjoy listening to music. Especially covers of popular songs by artists like am1r and Jasmine Thompson.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Jack: Favorite films: The Matrix, I am legend, Jurassic Park.
Favorite TV: Norwegian thrillers ‘The Bridge’ & ‘The Killing’
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Jack: Food – I like all kinds of food but if you are pushing me then it has to be a hot chilli con carne or fillet steak. Dessert has to be lemon meringue pie.
Colour is Blue.
Music depends on my mood. If I need relaxing then I listen to chilled classics. When I feel nostalgic then I put on music from the eighties.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Jack: When I left school at 16yrs of age I went straight into a printing apprenticeship. The traditional compositing and printing techniques have now been replaced by computers and digital printing. I was extremely lucky to learn the artisan way of compositing, book binding and printing. So I would be still a printer.
I recently visited Ironbridge in Shropshire and specifically the Blists Hill Victorian Town which recreates the sights, sounds and smells of a Victorian town. There was an old fashioned printing shop with all the cases of type and old presses. It was a great place for me to visit.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Jack: Jack Steele is the pen name of Mark Homan. I have created sites on social media to follow Jack Steele.