Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Hi Fiona. Thanks for having me.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi I´m James Hartley and I´m 44.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I´m from the Wirral in England. Just over the Mersey river from Liverpool.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
Well, I was born in England but I haven´t lived there since I was seven years old. I grew up in Singapore, Scotland and Oman. I went to school in those countries and the UK too, and to university to study journalism in London. I´ve travelled around the world doing odd jobs and teaching English and now I live in Madrid, Spain. I´m married to Ana and I have two kids, Carmen and Matty who are 8 and 6 years old.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Cold Fire, the second book in the Shakespeare´s Moon series, has just been accepted for publication by Lodestone Books. It´s based on Romeo and Juliet and will be coming out in Spring 2018.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I´ve always written, ever since I can remember. Always liked it. Always been quite good at it. That’s not meant in a big-headed way, but I´m useless at maths and languages for example. English, and writing, has always just been something that I´ve been able to do – including making up stories. People have always liked them.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As long as I can remember. I never drew pictures as a kid, I wrote stories. I wanted a typewriter for my birthday instead of a bike – things like that. It got serious when I won second prize in a national short story competition when I was about 15 years old and one of the prizes was supposed to be having my story published in a book. In the end the organisers decided not to publish the book and that disappointed me terribly. I basically spent the next thirty years trying to put that right – and eventually did. Trying to decide if you are a “real” writer or not is a horrible thing. Some people say if you write, you´re a writer. For me I had to get a book published. I needed it in a shop. I suppose I needed an audience. I put myself under a lot of pressure but eventually I got there.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The first book in the Shakespeare´s Moon series, The Invisible Hand, was inspired by my love of Macbeth and the desire to write about the boarding school I went to for about four years.Lots of people have asked me over the years what it was like to go to a boarding school and there is also a tradition of boarding school literature – right up to Harry Potter. This was a good way to revisit my schooldays and have a setting for the Shakespeare-based books I wanted to write.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Both The Invisible Hand and Cold Fire are quotes from the plays they are based on. The Invisible Hand also links into an idea in the book that there are Writers at the school in the book who have special powers. These powers are like an invisible hand writing the story of people´s lives.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
No, not really. I don´t actively try to write in a particular way. I´ve always thought that you need to get something of your own personality into your writing but not in an intrusive way. Your own personality makes a big difference to the story but it´s also important that the story comes first. I liked clarity and I respect the characters in the story but also the reader. I want the story to entertain. I think books are largely entertainment.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
St Francis´ School in the book is basically Box Hill School in England, a boarding school I went to in the 1980s. Some of the teachers are based, physically at least, on literary figures like Beryl Bainbridge or Malcolm Lowry or Enid Blyton. There is a character in Cold Fire who looks like one of my oldest friends, another who looks like someone I used to teach, but neither of them speak or act like those real people. In the third book in the series, my own children are the main characters, although of course it´s just versions of the two of them.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Nope. Only mentally.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
An inhouse designer at Lodestone Books, my publishers. Some of the short stories based on the books were designed by Lpixel, who has a website at www.lpixel.com
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
To be inspired to read and enjoy Shakespeare´s plays, which can seem difficult or daunting when you´re a student. Also, to be aware of the power of ideas and the imagination. The ability for humans to transmit, understand and believe in ideas is unique on the planet. It´s been instrumental in our human story and it´s something that most people take for granted without actually thinking about what they are doing, and why. Almost everything we believe in and think we are comes from ideas, or is based on ideas.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favourite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I´ve seen bits and pieces from new authors but no-one´s knocked my socks off. Most of my favourite writers are dead – often long dead. I love a Portuguese writer called Eca de Queiroz, for example, because his writing is so alive. He can bring a town to life, show what people are really like despite their words and actions, and can do this in an entertaining, profound way. He also wrote many different types of books, often on controversial or unfashionable subjects. Now he´s lauded but in his lifetime he was frustrated and criticised. He also suffered by being from Portugal – the writing world is incredibly snobby and there was just no way that a Portuguese could be better than English, American, French or Russian writers (let alone Asians). The best he could hope for is what he got – and what he still gets – to be compared to them.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Nobody. I´ve been thrown crumbs over the years but never given out and out support, apart from family and friends.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I´d like it to be but from seeing the way authors are paid, I doubt it.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Well I started Cold Fire, which is based on Romeo and Juliet, with the idea in my head that love didn’t exist. That it can´t: it´s just a name we give a biological function. As a great romantic and believer in love, I wanted to convince myself over the course of the book that I was wrong.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I don´t know really. I do have a very clear picture of all of the characters but no actors jump out at me. As the book is set in a school, among teenagers, it would be great to see some young unknowns given the chance to shine.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
If people are constantly telling you that what you write is good, don´t give up. If you´re doing it for money or fame, it´s probably not going to be worth your while. Try to think of an original idea, and think who you think would like to read your book. Make sure those people know about it when you do publish. Don´t expect anything to happen without some hard work on the marketing and self-publicity side. Get ready to take criticism. Don´t be vain. Make peace with the idea that writing for the public is a business, with all that entails.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
That if they go to my website, www.jameshartleybooks.com, and sign up to my newsletter, they will get an exclusive St Francis´ short story and all the latest news as soon as it happens.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The Mother Tongue. A book about the English Language by Bill Bryson.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Not really, but the first series I loved was the Secret Seven by Enid Blyton.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Everything can make me laugh. I tend to get angry rather than cry, although cruelty and suffering with children involved is really painful. The Rocky movies also make me cry, especially Rocky II.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Maybe some of my distant family.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Writing is a hobby, really. I also like running, reading and watching football.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I don´t really watch TV – can´t stand adverts, although I love football. I´ll watch most films apart from horror.
Fiona: Favourite foods, colours, music?
The only food I don´t like is blue cheese. I like everything else. Blue is my colour and with music, I love more or less everything. Blues, metal, funk, pop – especially Asian pop – rock n roll, rap, grime, classical – I really like everything. Not that big into techno or boy bands, though. Or Coldplay.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I would love to learn how to fly small planes but it´s expensive – so maybe I should concentrate on learning Spanish properly.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
See you soon!
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Yep, as I mentioned earlier, my website is www.jameshartleybooks.com and I also have a Facebook page, James Hartley Books and I´m on Twitter at jameshartleybks.I also have an Amazon author page – as James Hartley.