Q&A interview with Alan Jones

I would like to welcome Alan Jones author of  The Cabinetmaker and Blue Wicked to my blog page. Alan has kindly offered to take part in my Q&A Interview…. So without further ado here is Alan Jones

Can you tell us a little about yourself and background Please?

I can’t give away too much detail about myself due to my need to keep my real identity hidden. I’m not sure some of my clients would appreciate the seriously dark and gritty nature of my writing, and it wouldn’t be fair to the others in our company if my books were to have an adverse effect on our customers.
I can say that I’m married, on the top side of fifty with grown up children. I was born and raised in Glasgow but I now live and work on the Ayrshire coast. I work in the animal health industry. I have a forty year old sailing boat which I use to explore the west coast of Scotland and the Irish sea in summer. I’ve been forced to retire from football but I still make furniture in my spare time. I love reading, watching films, cooking and I try to play a bit of golf, badly.

When did you know that you wanted to become a writer? and how did you go about it?
I’ve always been an avid reader since a very early age. My parents never had a TV, so reading was my entertainment – I used to read a book a day until I was in my early twenties. Since then, work and other commitments have reduced that significantly, but I still love to read. At school, English was one of my worst subjects and I hated the way they made us dissect a book, but creative writing was my saving grace which allowed me to get the English Higher that needed to get into university (along with maths and sciences, which were easy by comparison!)
I didn’t really seriously consider writing until about fifteen years ago, although I had always had a vague notion to write at the back of my mind. I read a particularly disappointing series of books that year and thought to myself that I could do better, but it proved to be harder than I imagined.
After a number of false starts and a variety of different plot ideas that never got off the ground, I started writing and planning seriously when the story that eventually became The Cabinetmaker began to gel in my head, but there were long periods when I didn’t quite believe that I could do it and the project lay dormant.
I’d started refurbishing old furniture and making new pieces from recycled wood when I first got married because I could pick up stuff that was being thrown out and turn it into some really cool bits of furniture with very little outlay other than my own time. I read a lot about skills and techniques and taught myself as I went on and I was lucky to come across craftsmen in the rural places we stayed who recognised my passion for cabinetry and helped with advice and free tuition in return for a helping hand with tasks from time to time. Eventually I built my own workshop but I’ve had a chance over the years to work with really amazing craftsmen, learning about the other aspects of being a furniture maker.
Taking inspiration from that, the story slowly began to wind itself around the central pillar of a cabinetmaker who tries to do his best to get justice for his son when he’s murdered, and the killers walk free. I wanted to write about the relationship between the cabinetmaker and one of the young detectives on the case, and because I was also a very keen football player, I saw this as another way for them to interact. I had been brought up in Glasgow, and went to University there, so I knew the city well, and I loved the grit and the humour of the place and its people. It was natural for me to base the story there.

Can you tell us what genre your books are and the audience you write for?
I didn’t really start out to write an out -and-out crime book; it was really more of a study of the relationship between the two main characters, with the crime as the focus at the centre of it but it has definitely been received as a crime novel, even if it is slightly more of a slow burner than most crime stories. My second book, Blue Wicked, is firmly in the full-on in-your-face crime story. Naively, when I wrote the first book, I thought that the readership would be 90% men (woodwork\crime\football\swearing etc) so it came as a shock the majority of bloggers who kindly agreed to read and review my book were women. This has been even more marked since I published Blue Wicked, my second book. Having said that, I’ve never made a conscious decision to write for a particular group of people; I just tell the story as I think it should be told, and hope that it will find enough readers who will like it.

What is your writing process? and how long does it take?
I come up with a central idea and the main character first, and flesh out a rough plot. I then do a detailed timeline, which is added to and edited constantly as I write the book. I hate to admit it, but I do the timeline on a spreadsheet, which seems very unromantic and out of sync with traditional writing, but it has a number of great advantages. I usually make the pivotal point in the book day zero, and I can add or subtract a number of days from that to find out when subsequent or previous events happened. It automatically calculates which date and day of the week each event happens on, so if I put an event in three months ahead, I can adjust it so that it happens on a Friday night, if that’s what’s needed in the plot.

I don’t necessarily write in time order, or book order. I will jump about, writing bits here abd there when the detail comes into my mind, and then go back and fill in the bits that are missing. I find this helps because if I write the ‘scene’ where the detective solves the case, I can then go back and write the detail of the crime to fit in with the story. It also means that if I’m stuck at a piece of narrative, I can go and write another part of the book. It’s surprising how often the problem seems to resolve when I return to the difficult bit.

My first book took about 10 years to write but the last third of it was written in about four weeks – I seemed to get to a certain tipping point and the rest of the story poured out. Blue Wicked only took a year to write and edit. My third book is taking a little longer, because I’m getting slightly side-tracked doing promotional stuff for the first two books at the same time. It’s nearly there, though.

Are your characters based on anyone you know or are they just fictional?
I get totally under the skin of all my characters; that’s the only way I can write dialogue for them. They are a mixture of bits of me and people I know, have come in contact with, or have read about in newspapers. A few have come from completely nowhere.

Have you wrote about a personal experience in your novels?
For my character’s backgrounds, I’ve used my own experiences to flesh out their lives but having never murdered anyone (I thought I’d better clear that one up), or solved a crime, I’ve had to rely on talking to others or just using my imagination. One of my relations is a DI in Glasgow and another is a criminal defence lawyer. Having said that, apart from a little background, I tend to write the book then check with them afterwards, to tidy up any glaring errors.

What research do you do?
I mostly write about stuff I know well, but I’ll still do a bit of research to check for accuracy, and I also do a bit of timeline research to make sure actual events in my story are correctly timed. I try to use locations I know well, but I’ll revisit them to make sure the details are all correct. In the book I am currently writing, a Glasgow man travels to London to try and find his daughter who has gone missing. I don’t know London as well as Glasgow, so I used google maps and google earth extensively, along with the amazing street view, which puts you right there, even to the level of being able to go inside pubs and other places. I’ll still have to take a trip down to London to double check the locations I’ve chosen. I’m also looking for someone that knows London really well to read the first draft of the new book, and make any comments on the accuracy and realism of the locations I’ve used.

Who would you like to co-write with and why?
I don’t think I could co-write. I would be a nightmare to work with.

What’s your favorite book?
Trainspotting, by Irvine Welsh. Just amazing.

What’s your favorite food?
That has to be a curry. Lamb Dhansak with naan bread.

What’s your favorite film?
Shawshank just came out on top but Silkwood came close

What’s your favorite song?
Again, I’m under pressure here. Ultimately, Teenage Kicks by the Undertones just edged out
The Sex Pistol’s Pretty Vacant. I can’t escape my 17 year old self!

How can readers find out more information about yourself and your books?
I have a website for each book:
Each contains four free chapters and an Audio Slang Dictionary for those who aren’t completely familiar with the Glasgow dialect.
I regularly post news and comment on twitter @alanjonesbooks
and on my facebook page www.facebook.com/AlanJonesBooks, both of which you can follow.

Thank you Alan so much for taking time out to do this interview. 
Thank you to, I have enjoyed it.


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