Please introduce yourself to my literary foodies!
Hi, I’m Joey, I’m 34 and I’m an indie author. I’m disabled, and chronically ill. I started writing when I was 19 and had just been retired from the working world on medical grounds. I decided that a lifetime of doing not much would drive me up the wall so I picked up my pen and took a previously-written book to pieces and wrote it again. Once that was done, I moved on and then from there a career was born. I’ve published eight books so far, with my ninth due out in the summer. However, I’ve finished twelve books in total, and I’m writing another two at the moment. I’m almost at the end of both of them and then I’ll move on to my next two. My books are all young adult, most of them are crime & mystery, although the series I write is also paranormal, and I’ve written one romance.
Do you do any work outside of the writing kitchen? Any non-work interests?
I love to read, usually crime and mystery books, but I can also be found with some chick lit, or even young adult dystopian and paranormal fiction. I also love going out and about looking for Tupperware with the aid of a GPS unit, which is otherwise known as geocaching! It’s a great way for me to get out in my electric chair and see new places while doing a treasure hunt! I love it!
What is your latest dish to be served up? Are there any past pieces of literary cuisine you think we should take a bite out of?
My most recent release is Dying Thoughts – Fourth Week (can be found here in paperback & here in e-book). It’s the fourth in the Dying Thoughts series which tells the story of Tara, who has a paranormal gift that allows her to see the last moments of someone’s life when she touches something they owned. In the fourth book, someone close to Tara is kidnapped and she works alongside her police contacts to try to bring them home safely.
My next book, which is due out in the summer, is a standalone called Destination: Unknown. It’s a mystery with hints of paranormal, concerning fifteen-year-old Harriet who lives with her chronically ill mother in an old house. One day she sees a ghost, and then the next she steps on a paving stone in her back garden and is sent back one hundred years to 1910. She then meets Dot, who wants her help to prove that her father is innocent of a crime. I’m really excited about this one, as it’s based in the Railway Village where I live. The village was built in 1840 for the railway workers, and is a historic site. I live in one of the houses, and they are all – from the outside at least – period accurate. I loved writing it and I’m hopeful that my readers will enjoy it too!
What made you want to put on the chef’s hat and whip up your own books?
As I said above, when I was 19, I got retired on medical grounds. I have had a lifelong lung condition, but on top of that I also got sick with M.E (also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and Fibromyalgia, which meant that I couldn’t continue working without putting my health at more risk. I had always been someone who loved to tell a story, even from a young age I was always making things up in my head. Of course I had bigger plans than writing at that point, I was going to become a doctor and help people with similar conditions to mine. When I got sicker in my teens, it became clear that wasn’t going to happen and I started doing a more conventional office job. And then I got even sicker and that was off the table too, so I decided to take up writing. I was first published with Author House in 2005, and then went indie with my own label in 2011. Since then, it’s been all I want to do and all I will ever do.
Do you have a genre of specialty or do you dabble? Why?
I started off with young adult because at the time, I *was* a young adult. I always loved a good mystery and thought I could have a go at writing one myself. With that done, I wanted to stay in the genre I knew I could write, so I started the Dying Thoughts series and almost without realizing it, I branched out into paranormal mystery. I stuck with that for a long while because I knew what I was doing and I was comfortable with it. It was only really when I realized that I could branch out that I decided to dabble with a young adult romance novel, and I’m told that sometimes it’s more contemporary than romance. The majority of my books are crime and mystery, but I don’t feel like I will always stay there. I’ll dabble and find new genres to try as I grow as a writer.
Style! Every literary chef aspires to have their own unique one! What do you think sets yours apart and why?
I think because I write from the point of view of the protagonist, I bring a unique look into the mind of my characters. I seem to have a good idea of what goes through the mind of an average teenage girl – probably because I was one at one point – and I bring a unique story to life through their thoughts, actions and situations. While I do think it’s true that nobody these days can think of an idea that hasn’t, at least in some way, been done before, I do think that it’s a talent to be able to take something that’s been done and make it your own. That’s what I do with my books.
Even the best of us find inspiration is the dishes of others. Do you have any literary inspirations, heroes, and influences?
I have always been a prolific reader. I remember when I was a teen. I would meet up with my best friend at the library in town, where you could take out eight books at once on your card (eventually they upped it to sixteen!) and we’d go there, return the books from last week and grab eight more. It was the way we spent our Friday nights until we finally left school. Even now, I still average about ten-fifteen books a month reading-wise, so I have a lot of inspiration from literary figures. I love Harlan Coben, his way of writing a mystery has always drawn me in from the first word. I also adore Sue Grafton and her alphabet series; I am now anxiously awaiting the last two in that series and I re-read from A to X pretty much once a year or more. I have also read all of Kathy Reichs and her young adult series, Virals, which have had some influence in my choice of staying in the young adult genre.
As far as other indie authors go, I love and adore everything that Jana Petken has written. I had never really read historical fiction before, but I grab everything she writes and devour it. I also like Jennifer Loiske who is another young adult, paranormal fiction writer and I know she has read my Dying Thoughts series and enjoyed it. There are a bunch more of writers that I will one-click buy without even reading the synopsis, but I don’t have the space to name them all!
Let’s get into the meat and potatoes: the art and craft of writing itself! Do you have a preference of points-of-view when you write?
I generally enjoy telling the story in first person, from the point of view of the main characters. I have once written in third person and a friend said I should do that more often, but I find it easier to tell the story how I want it to be told when I have access to my characters innermost thoughts. It also tells the story the characters want to tell, if that makes sense. They may not always be reliable narrators, but it gives the reader a chance to see it all through the eyes of Tara, Tally, Lynne or Hope, or any of my other main characters. I have thought seriously about telling the story from a different point of view in the last Dying Thoughts book, but as that has not been started yet, I’ve not had to make a decision!
Sparse or wordy, how do you like your descriptions served up? Are you a Hemmingway woman or do you like some saucy adjectives with your nouns?
I’m a mixture of both. I love reading long descriptions and picturing it in my head, but at the same time, sometimes I don’t. There are some scenes in my books where I have gone to great lengths to make sure everything is described, but generally speaking my style is more sparse and left to the reader’s imagination. I think there are times when it’s better to describe sparsely and other times when it’s best to go into great detail and I am neither more for nor against either one. I just like to go where the mood takes me!
Picking off the menu of base literary conflicts, what’s your favorite and why?
I’ve never really given this a lot of thought, but I guess my go-to is man vs man. I generally like to have my stories with a clear good guy and bad guy. In my crime fiction, usually someone’s committed a criminal act, and the protagonist needs to find the answer as to who, when and sometimes why. I am also partial to man vs society; I do love me some dystopian fiction and I have always wanted to write my own, but as of yet have not thought of a meaty enough plot!
What do you think is more important to your recipes, plot or characterization? Why?
Now that is a hard one because I fully believe that you need to have a good amount of both to be able to produce a story that works well. It’s all well and good have a great, engaging plot, but if your characters are flat and lifeless then it all seems to fall apart. On the other side, if you have engaging characters with excellent characterization that brings them to life, but a dreary, pointless plot then you’ll have a story that kind of falls flat. You need a mixture of both to bring about a good story, so because of that, I think it’s an equal split. You need to have good characterization that brings your characters to the front of the reader’s mind, but you also need to make sure that the plot backs that up.
We all know that the first taste means the most! What do you do to get that first bite hook with your readers?
I generally try and start in the middle of an engaging scene, have the reader get a full taste of what the life of the protagonist is about and where the story will take them. If it’s a Dying Thoughts book, I’ll usually make sure there’s a scene that tells them about Tara’s gift and it’s effect on her life, as well as what the story has in store for them.
The most important of questions: Cake or pie?
See, I’m English, so to me this is a no brainer, it’s always cake! While we do have some sweet pies, it’s much more likely to be a cake and the pie to be something savory and I do love to keep my sweet tooth sweet!
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to aspiring literary chefs out there, what would it be?
My advice would be to keep going. I reached out to a lot of traditional publishing houses before I decided to go indie. I got a lot of rejection letters and I mistakenly thought that that was the only way I could ever get my books out into the world. Due to my conditions and the fragile state of my health, I struggle with stress – it’s the quickest way for me to flare and possibly end up in the hospital. I was offered a traditional contract, but realized very quickly that the way I wrote would have to change, and I would have to put myself under a lot of stress to meet deadlines. I ultimately decided that I couldn’t do that and keep writing. I didn’t want it to become something that made me sick when it had always helped me to forget the pain and issues I faced daily with my health. I made the decision to keep going, to keep writing and when I found a way to publish under my own label as an indie author, it opened up a lot of doors for me. It’s not completely stress free, but it is something I can do that still keeps the writing fun, my stress levels down and allows me to release one book a year as well as keep writing. So, to anyone who wants to publish, keep going, you will get there!