Please join me today in welcoming the lovely Jay Mountney to my blog. She had kindly agreed to give an interview for Writerly Wednesdays this week.
Jay Mountney - AuthorInterview
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I started writing as a small child and 'wrote' a play (scribed by my mother) which the Brownies performed for the village when I was five. I can remember very little about it other than that it was a fairy story, which I suppose means it was my first foray into fantasy. After that I wrote mostly plays and poetry for the entertainment of myself and my friends throughout my childhood and teens. Sometimes my efforts saw publication in school or parish magazines. When I started teaching my creative energies were sidetracked into teaching materials, some published and some just for use in the classroom. Then when I retired I found I had stories waiting to be told. I have always loved reading, and also telling myself stories when reading was inconvenient, such as after 'lights out' at boarding school, or on long car journeys. So I suppose in some ways I have always been a writer.
Tell us about your book(s).I had a couple of short stories published in online zines and then decided to self-publish three books. These were two fantasy m/m novellas (one a 'twisted' version of The Lady of Shalott and the other an equally changed version of Snow White) and a collection of short m/m stories, also with a fantasy focus. You can find them via my Amazon and Smashwords pages.
Once I'd taken the plunge into self-publishing I felt able to tackle the publication of my fantasy detective series about an elf who wants to be an investigator. The first book was already written. My heroine has some magic, including special skills, to help her, but life among the elves includes murder and mystery, and can be dangerous for Genef and for the people (and the dragon) she loves. The first two books in what will be a six book series are now available and I feel a sense of accomplishment (not least at actually achieving versions acceptable to Amazon Kindle and Smashwords) but also a deep fear about marketing the novels and making sure people have heard of them. I believe I have written stories worth sharing and that with help from others they are well edited and fit to face the world but I can only share them with a wider audience if I can make that audience aware of them in the first place.
What's easier for you, action, or dialogue, or description?
I love world building, so I love writing descriptions and I try to base these in reality even though my stories are fantasy. I take landscapes I am familiar with as the starting point for my worlds, and use plants and animals I know something about. I think it's important to give readers something they can imagine easily and relate to strongly. Even when I'm describing an elf or a flower with an elvish name I enjoy making them as real as possible for an earthbound audience. I also like writing dialogue, listening to my characters and making sure I have their voices just right and distinguished from each other. I'm less happy with scenes that involve a lot of extreme action such as fights. I have trouble with the choreography and need help and encouragement from my beta readers. However, action such as travel is pleasurable to write and I get seriously immersed in the details of murder! On behalf of my heroine, of course!
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I write in the first instance for myself and I think all writers should be considering whether their story is one they would want to read. If it isn't, why are they writing it? And also, if it isn't, can they really make it come alive for their readers? It isn't possible to please everybody; tastes differ and even a writer's closest friends and family may find their books don't appeal to them. There will be readers out there who share the writer's tastes and will enjoy their writing. Authors owe it to them to make sure every book is well edited, carefully proof read, beautifully presented, and in short, the best it can possibly be. Otherwise, it might as well have stayed in the writer's head.
Is there any genre you won't write and why?
Obviously, I have tastes and favourite genres, too. I am not a great fan of horror stories and would find them, I think, impossible to write. I'm not talking about the momentary horror of a murder in a detective story, but the kind of horror that is cumulative and is the focus of the book. I'll leave that to others. If it's well done I will read and admire, but I don't think I would ever write it myself.
What is your favourite genre to read and why?
I enjoy fantasy, particularly low key fantasy rather than high epic fantasy. I like the world building more than the battles and the home magic more than the public actions of wizards. My comfort reading includes Terry Pratchett and Tanya Huff although I have read and re-read Lord of the Rings. But I also enjoy crime stories, especially historical ones such as the Falco Series by Lindsey Davis. I like the puzzle element and the way I need to empathise with the detective solving the case. I enjoy well written m/m romance, too, though I prefer it combined with another genre such as a detective story or some science fiction. I don't think I have an absolute favourite and tend to read first in one genre and then another. That's perhaps why I chose to combine genres for my novels.
How do you publish, print, ebook or both?
I publish my work as ebooks. I decided on self publishing partly to retain control over what happened to my work and partly because I realised that it could be very difficult to break into the market with stories that might be the wrong length, the wrong genre or both for publishers. I use people I trust as beta readers and editors - people whose writing I admire and with whom I can work confidently. I make my own covers, using my own photographs and a great deal of 'photoshopping'. I also do my own formatting, which is perhaps the most challenging and scary part of the entire process. I have author friends who have used publishing sites such as Lulu to get print versions of their books but unless you can guarantee a huge print run the paperbacks end up too expensive, to my mind, for today's market so I have avoided print so far.
Do you have conversations with your characters?
I certainly have conversations with my characters. They tell me the story, sometimes all at once and sometimes unfolding it a chapter at a time. I always know the overall direction and of course things like the central crime, but the characters add details and their own perceptions which make things more interesting for me as I write. They also tell me things about themselves which I can add to their descriptions or can simply remember so that I can make them come across as truly three dimensional people.
Do your characters every run away with the plot when you're not looking?
Yes, sometimes they run away with the plot. Not the central crime (though they might convince me about the identity of the criminal), but definitely various sub-plots such as romance or other relationships with minor characters. I think this tendency on the part of characters is what keeps writing interesting both for the author and for the eventual reader.
Are you a dog or a cat person, why?
I've had both dogs and cats most of my adult life and love both equally. I am awed by the unstinting affection a dog will offer and I am mesmerised by the grace and dignity of cats. I am impressed by the intelligence of both species and love learning more about both. I find cats easier to write about and I'm not sure why. Perhaps cats lend themselves more to fantasy with their air of mystery whereas dogs are very firmly in the here and now, on earth? If I really had to choose one or the other for myself I think I'd have to choose a cat, but that's sheer laziness because they're so much easier to look after.
What's your favourite colour, why?
My favourite colour is purple: anything from pale lavender through various hues of plum and lilac to deepest royal purple. I can only wear the darker shades but love all of them. I have no idea why I like purple so much although I do like a lot of purple flowers: lavender, violets, irises and lilac are among my favourites. I don't try to impose my own tastes on my characters. It seems only polite to ask them for their favourites and attempt to please them whenever possible.
Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? Why?
This is an incredibly hard question to answer. I love the magic in Harry Potter and as someone who went to a British boarding school I love the way the school background echoes my own, with magic added. Yet I adore Lord of the Rings and admire the way it paved the way for modern fantasy of all kinds. I think I would have to say that I loved the Harry Potter films more than the books, perhaps because I came to the entire series as an adult, but that whilst I love the Lord of the Rings films I have always been able to lose myself in the books and perhaps for that reason would have to choose it as my favourite of the two series. Harry Potter gives me a world to enjoy as an outsider but Lord of the Rings gives me a world I can retreat to.
Finally, I'd like to thank Tasha for giving me this opportunity to reach out to what I hope will be a wider audience. I also hope I have given you, her readers, something of interest this Writerly Wednesday!
About the Author
You can find Jay:
The Skilled Investigators by Jay Mountney
This is a fantasy detective series with two books published so far and four to come. Genef, the heroine, is an elf in a world where elves and humans live sometimes side by side and sometimes just across borders. She needs a career and wants to be an investigator - a detective in our terms. Murder and mayhem follow her attempts to begin her chosen path. She is assisted by a teenage dragon (imprinted on her at his hatching) and her gay brother whose affairs of the heart provide the romance sub-plot. The stories follow the cases that make up Genef's training during which she receives the skills that give the series its title.
Book 1 The Scroll
Genef has to fight family and unknown villains to reach the capital, Lonis, and gain a place at the Guild where she can begin her training. The story starts when she receives her Scroll, which should tell her about her career and where she will work. But someone has tampered with her Scroll and is trying to force her into a life she does not want. And someone has committed a murder she desperately needs to solve. The people she meets are not always what they seem, and she struggles to find a way to make her dreams come true.
Book 2 The Market
Genef's second case takes her overseas, without her mentor but with her brother and her dragon. She has been sent to retrieve some stolen royal jewellery but her task is far from easy. There is murder on the royal yacht, and in the exotic Spice Islands slavery and kidnapping threaten her companions. Genef has to rescue everyone as well as fulfilling her mission.
Amazon UK | Amazon US | Smashwords
Book 3 The Crown
In this book, to be published later in 2016, Genef accompanies her mentor, Rathien, to The Ice Country in search of a crown that was sold before she could reach it on her previous mission. Scratch, her dragon, goes with them, hoping to find more dragons in the north. More death, slavery and kidnapping dog their steps but eventually they return to Lonis with the crown.
You can learn more about the elves and their land in a page titled The Skilled Investigators on Jay's Wordpress blog.