My name is Jamie Stewart. I am currently twenty-eight years old. I live in Northern Ireland with my wife and our two dogs. I have been writing since the age of nine. I’ve written multiple novels and dozens of short stories over the years because it’s more fun than living in the real world.
1. What is your debut novel and what inspired its story?
My debut novel is called Mr. Jones. It is a coming of age story set in Northern Ireland between 2005 and 2015. It’s about a young boy called Eli Donoghue who is adopted by his godparents after both his parents abandoned him by different means. Eli is left devastated, scarred and angry while having to move to a new environment. This is a town called Hazel, which is a small rural community where everyone knows everyone else. Eli finds that the entire population already knows about his circumstances and as a result, adults walk on eggshells around him while his peers either whisper about him or bully him. This makes the already large chip on his shoulder even bigger. That is until he meets Mr. Jones. Jones is charismatic, rude and flamboyant. To Eli he is a puzzle to be solved. He also plays the guitar and introduces Eli to music in a way that opens all the locked doors and windows in his head. The story takes place over ten years and is set at three separate significant periods of Eli’s life.
Mr. Jones is a story about music and books and the effect they can have on people’s lives. It is also a story about friendship and how it can change as people grow. Though it is primarily a coming of age story, it has elements of comedy, drama, romance, suspense and even a hint of horror. It will be available sometime around May of 2019.
Mr. Jones was inspired by my own upbringing in Northern Ireland. The reason why I was initially attracted to writing is that I wanted to write stories like the books and movies that I enjoyed but have them set in the world around me. As a reader I looked for books set in Northern Ireland and discovered none reflected my personal experience of living in the country. This was because Northern Ireland had endured a traumatic period of history known as ‘The Troubles’. I had, thankfully, limited experience of that period of time. I had this image in my head of two people, one was in his late fifties and the other was a boy, sitting on a porch bench together as the sun set. The older of the two was playing a ruby coloured guitar. That image was my light bulb moment. Not because I knew that I had a novel but because I wanted to find out their story. As I wrote I found I was writing about things I experienced.
With that in mind Mr. Jones is a work of fiction. My own life is not as dramatic Eli’s. I just found that the character’s experienced a lot of the same highs and lows as I did.
I also have a short horror story called Insular about obsession, the power of imagination and the joys of working in retail that people can check out now. It’s available worldwide on Amazon as an ebook.
2. Do you write one specific genre or are you a multi genre author?
The stories I write are based on how they present as ideas. As I’ve already mentioned I’ve published a short horror story called Insular. I wrote it in the horror genre because that’s the genre the idea came to me as being in. Mr. Jones is a coming of age story because that’s the natural way it developed.
The types of books I like to read have influenced it. There’s leanness to the writing style that I used that is straight from a thriller book. I think it blends well with the underlying theme of Mr. Jones as it was written with the intention of grabbing readers from the first page and pulling them through the story.
My hope is that readers will get the same depth of character as they would get if they were reading something like The Shadow of the Wind or Perks of Being a Wallflower but also the story will have the pace of a book like Gone Girl. I think books that are like these encourage readers to revisit them and find new things each time. Those are the type of books that I love.
3. Do you have any memorable quotations or ‘one-liners’ that you have written and love?
At the moment it’s this one from Insular:
‘Remember now, the others and I were working people, working to get by, month to month. They keep their heads down and push through, and when they can, they dream.
Their dreams are an escape. That wasn’t possible with Julian stalking the aisles, his ever-grey pallor, his wasted figure serving as a reality check. That’s what was scary.
When there were no dreams anymore’.
I love it because it is exactly the tone of the story I had in my head. You never write down an entire story on the page the way it is in your head but that extract above encompasses what I felt Insular should be about.
4. Do you have a favourite character that you have penned to life and why is this your favourite character?
There are loads. Mr. Jones is one because he knows life is short and he does whatever he wants to do and says whatever he wants to say. He doesn’t hold back. There’s character whose nicknamed English simply because he speaks with a wartime accent from 1940s, writing how he reacts to things was always fun. Nina Jones, Jones’s granddaughter, is a favourite because she has Jones’s zest for live but more sense. One of my favourite characters is from the novel I am currently working on. Her name is Daisy Hill; she’s a motor mouth that has this brilliant resilience and strength to her. She’s always fun to write because I never know what she will say or do.
5. Are there any close friends/ family who have proven to be a pillar of support to you in your writing?
I have people in my life that are very supportive of my work. My wife is amazing at given me a straight answer and she’s the person I go to when I’m stuck on a particular point in a story. I also have a very supportive friend whose enthusiasm for my work encourages me to work harder. He is the first person to read my stuff and tell me what worked for him and what didn’t.
A first draft is written purely for the author unearthing the story but everything after that you should be written with a person or people in mind. My wife and my friend are those people for me.
6. What are you currently working on?
Having written Mr. Jones, which was a novel from the vein of write-what-you-know I am writing a book from the vein of write-what-you-enjoy. I am currently working on a horror novel set in 1983 in Kansas, USA. It’s about a runaway called Joe Cage who gains employment at a travelling carnival and on his first day on the job a little girl goes missing inside the ghost ride. Joe suspects that the culprit is someone else that’s working at the carnival the only problem is he is the police’s number one suspect. I am immensely enjoying the writing process of this book. It is only in a first draft stage but it’s been a delight uncovering this story.
7. What has been your greatest challenge as an author thus far and how are you dealing/have dealt with it?
My greatest challenge has been promoting my work. Being a self-published author provides a lot of creative freedom but it is difficult to promote my work financially. It’s for this reason that every reader that has bought my stories or shared them or reviewed them is so important because they are making it possible for me to provide them with more material. Those individuals allow me to do what I love, which in time, allows me to produce more work for them to read. The only way authors can be authors is because of readers. I encourage everyone to review or share or post about what they are reading because it encourages others to seek out that author. If readers do that you’re giving authors the opportunity to produce your next favourite story.
8. How do you deal with criticism and how has it helped you as a writer?
I understand that writing is subjective and what one person loves can be what another person’s hates. When I receive criticism based on subjectivity I feel sorry that I couldn’t provide that person with a story that suited them and wish them the best in finding it. When it’s criticism based on technique I look at it as an opportunity to learn and improve.
9. How has social media helped in promoting and marketing your books?
It has been great to draw awareness to when my work is released, when I’m having deals on my stuff or on updating people on ongoing projects. However, I do feel frustrated by how far social media can go, which is why opportunities like those provided by Idle Sky Books are important.
10. When writing your novel which aspect of the writing process do you find to be the most challenging?
The second draft for me is the hardest aspect, as it requires a lot of criticism of my work, which can lead to self-doubt. However, I also love refining a story into the best version it can be.
11. How do you measure success as a writer/ author?
At this moment in my life I measure success by how I feel about my work and how readers react to it.
12. What short term and/or long term goals have you set?
Short term I aim to finish the first draft of the current novel I am writing. I aim to complete a second draft and get in contact with publishers who are interested in it. I’d like to write more short stories and publish them.
My long-term goal is to be able to support myself full time with writing while bettering my writing style.
13. Do you have any upcoming book releases or events?
Mr. Jones will be released sometime in May. I will be offering free events for my short story, Insular, that people can keep up to date with by following me on Goodreads. I may also publish another short story in October.
14. What are your favourite book(s) and/or author(s)?
My favourite authors are: Stephen King, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Joe Hill, Shirley Jackson, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, J.K Rowling, Gillian Flynn to name a few. I love everything book written by these authors.
15. What advice will you give to other Indie Authors or those who are thinking of writing and publishing?
Focus on your story; tell it as best you can, then focus on marketing it. The only other advice I can think to provide is to constantly look for ways in which you can improve and grow as a storyteller. The best way to do that is to read a lot, read what you love and read what others love.
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