Welcome Will Macmillian Jones, a speculative fiction writer from the land of my ancestors (at least some of them), Wales, that is.
1. Tell us a little about yourself?
Hi Jamie, thanks for inviting me along to your blog. My name is Will, and I’m an authorholic (a term coined by a writing friend of mine M T McGuire–but she didn’t copyright it in time so I’ve nicked it. There’s a lesson for us all in there, isn’t there?). I’m a just sixty poet, novelist and oral story teller based in the Gwendraeth Valley, not far from the coast in West Wales. I do a lot of walking and draw a lot of inspiration from the myths, legends and countryside of this ancient land. When not writing speculative fiction, I’m a Consultant in International Taxation–so the two jobs are somewhat interchangeable. Should I have admitted to that? Oh dear. I was lucky enough to have had an English Lit. teacher at school who encouraged all his pupils to start writing, and I sort of forgot to stop. No that’s not quite true: I did stop for a long time after I got fed up of the rejection letters, and that is possibly one of the few things in life I regret. I really wish that one Stephen King had written his book–On Writing – many years before he actually got round to it. That would have possibly given me the encouragement to keep going at the time. Now I have a lot of ground to make up!
2. If you could have written any other book by any other author, what would it be, and why?
It would be Lord Of Light by the incomparable Roger Zelazny. His speculative fiction is simply masterful. The characters are so well drawn and believable, and his prose – well I think most of us would be very happy indeed if we could write with such easy skill. I understand that his Amber stories are being filmed right now – I hope that the film makers do him justice. GRRM cannot be looking forward to that coming out. Zelazny shows us all the true value of speculative fiction. It allows an author to hold a mirror to the world we inhabit, and through that mirror to distort, rearrange and examine us and our environment in new and interesting ways
3. Tell us something about how you write? i.e. are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have any weird or necessary writing habits or rituals?
I’m a hybrid, I suppose. My humorous fantasy and the sci fi that I’m working on now tend to grow organically. I start with an idea, a concept or precept: wind up the characters and let them run. Very often I dream the next day’s writing sequence in the small hours of the night. My partner is used now to me crawling back into bed, freezing cold, at 3 or 4 am having just jotted down enough notes to make sure that I don’t forget my dreams. Luckily for me she is very tolerant… not of my cold feet though. I suppose everyone has their limits, don’t they? On the other hand the dark fantasy, or gothic horror, that I also write tends to be quite meticulously plotted. I will repeat that in capital letters METICULOUSLY PLOTTED in case either the publisher or my editor read this. They probably won’t believe it though, a tribulation that most of us speculative fiction writers have to suffer for our art.
4. What gives you inspiration for your books?
Funnily enough, my daughter was asking the same question recently. It isn’t an easy answer. About three years ago I was introduced to the ancient art form of oral story telling. It is a real skill, and I don’t pretend to be anywhere near as good as some of the tellers who live in West Wales. But learning the art from them encouraged me to read further back into Welsh Myth and the myths of other lands around the world. (Jamie’s note: I love Celtic mythology). I have found that the stories, at heart, are all universal, the themes of love, loss, hatred, revenge and greed. The art and skill of a novelist, poet, storyteller, is to look into the heart of these stories and then to weave the old stories around new characters and new settings, to show a new perspective on them and provide something that resonates with our times. And that, of course, applies to novelists too.
5. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Marketing and selling it! Yes, I know, it is the most common complaint of all the authors we all talk to, isn’t it? How to sell the work? Some days it seems almost impossible to go online without being besieged – not by Orcs or deranged dwarves but by writers begging people to buy their latest offerings. Sometimes it’s kind of hard to tell the difference.
Of course, like everyone else I can get affected by times when the stories do not flow as smoothly as I would wish. To deal with that I have two strategies. Well, three if you include sitting under the desk and sulking, of course. Fortunately I do not resort to that too often. The first coping strategy is to be writing more than one thing at a time. Right now I have two files open on my word processor: the first is the sequel to the first sci fi novel, which will come out this summer. The second is the sixth and final book in the Gothic Horror series, The Mister Jones Mysteries. Very different works, written in entirely different voices and so providing me with some variety. Should one book stop on me, there is always the other calling… the second strategy is to go and write something totally different – Flash Fiction, or short stories with a maximum word count of no more than one thousand words. Some of those have won awards or competitions, and every one has provided me with some thoughts towards a new novel. I have around twelve novel outlines that have grown from these Flash Fiction stories, just waiting for my attention.
6. Titles have always been extremely difficult for me. How do you come up with yours?
Cheese! No, honestly. I eat a lot of cheese, especially in the evening. As a result I have some very odd dreams, and they frequently suggest book titles. (Jamie’s note: Now, I know the secret. I need to eat more cheese.) Titles are really important, in my view. They not only give a clue to the nature of the work (Love Amongst the Bulrushes for example, is unlikely to be a Slasher/Gorefest (unless your view of romance is somewhat cynical) and Gunfight at the Ranch is clearly going to appeal to those who love Westerns) but, unlike the two examples I have just quoted, should also attract and intrigue a potential buyer. I try to inject some humour into the titles too where possible. I see clearly when I am standing behind a display of my work at book fairs or conventions, that the first fantasy titles to be picked up are always The SatNav of Doom and The Vampire Mechanic . I spend a lot of time road testing titles too, asking people what they think will or will not work. I have a YA novel coming along about two teenagers who get sucked into a magical world through a painting. Initially this was to be called ‘The Rembrandt House’, but this didn’t attract the audience I talked to. Changing the title to ‘The Death Boat’ however did get the reaction that I was looking for and that will be the title on release..
- Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Do you have any other books in the works?
Oh yes. As I said earlier, I am in the middle of the sixth and final in the Gothic Horror series, the fifth volume will be released very soon – I just have to work on some matters with my editor first.. After that, I have plans to write a number of stand alone Gothic horror/ paranormal works, and am already playing around idly with some concepts. I have the sci fi series that will keep me busy, the YA fantasy adventure and of course, the eighth in The Banned Underground collection needs to be finished off. I’m actually waiting until the collection of random jokes and gags has reached a reasonable level before cracking on with that one. Possibly a summer project. I also have The Last Viking to complete – a straight romance or general fiction novel. So many books to write, so little time…
Where can we find you online?
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/will%20macmillan%20jones
The House Next Door
Mister Jones thought he had finished with the supernatural world – but the supernatural hadn’t finished with him…
When Sheila Balsam finds herself compelled to buy a genuine antique in a strange little shop, she didn’t bargain for what came with the statuette – and Mister Jones finds himself once again drawn into the dangerous world of the paranormal : this time via the house next door.
An ancient evil has found a way to break from his enchanted prison and the only one who is going to stand in his way is the unfortunate Mister Jones, who seems destined to live in interesting times.
The House Next Door is the third in the highly regarded ‘Mister Jones’ collection of paranormal mysteries.