An interview with myself #2








How old were you when you wrote your first story?

Ten.

There was a teacher at the school I attended who made all the pupils in his class write a story every week. The kids who wrote the best stories got to read theirs out to the class.

There were only two kids who ever got to do that – me and my best friend Martin.



How many books have you written?

I’ve written eight books, three of which have so far been published. These are:

Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse, released by KGHH Publishing in May 2016;

ZOMCATS! published in October 2016, again by KGHH publishing. It’s about a plague of zombie cats, all running riot leaving blood, death and mayhem in their wake; and

Confessions of an English Psychopath, which was self-published in December 2016.

I wrote my first novel when I was seventeen. It was a collaborative effort with a good friend of mine (Martin, mentioned above). He and I wanted to be writers. We had a lot of fun writing it, but we never tried to get it published. Perhaps that’s just as well; there were some good ideas in it, and some decent writing (mainly that of my friend!) but I doubt that either of us would want to see it in print today.

I wrote my second novel in 2010. It was called ‘The Mountains of Frankovia,’ and it was awful. Then I wrote another novel, and another, and I began to improve.

The moral of this story is that the best way to learn your craft as a novelist is to write lots of novels. Don’t worry, the effort won’t be wasted; you can always go back to your unpublished novels at  a later date when your skills have improved, work on them, and make them publishable. That’s what I’m planning to do with mine. (Except for ‘The Mountains of Frankovia’ – it’s so bad that it’s beyond salvation).



     Anything you won't write about?

No, not really.

I’m prepared to write about anything at all provided that I set my moral compass first.

So if I were to write about, say, torture, I’d make it pretty clear where I stand on that – but at the same time, I’d try not to be obtrusive about putting my value system on it. There are few things that ruin a novel more quickly than an author who conspicuously brandishes his moral code at you!

Can I give you an example of how far I’m prepared to go in writing about anything?

I wrote a scene involving a prostitute and drug dealer in one of my novels, in the first person, from the point of view of the prostitute.

I didn’t shy away from some very graphic detail. I’ll read the scene for you, so you can appreciate what I mean.

*Fumbles with a pile of manuscripts and picks one out.*

Before I begin, I should explain that this is nothing like my published work. My published novels are funny – some people have described them as “laugh out loud funny” -  but this piece of writing is anything but funny. It’s from a novel called Keeping Me – which hasn’t yet been published.

Here goes:

-----oo0oo-----


“I stood in front of the wardrobe and took off my clothes and took a long hard look at myself in the mirror while I was naked. I looked myself full in the eye, and then I looked my body up and down very carefully.
It was a long time since I’d looked at myself – I mean, really looked at myself – and I didn’t like what I saw.
You know how every second person you meet these days is overweight? Well, I’d been bucking that trend for years. While everybody else had been eating junk food and getting fat, I’d been eating junk food and getting thin. Skeletal. Even though I was still on my Heroin high, I could see that my arms and legs were little more than sticks, and I was pretty sure that I didn’t smell too good, although you can’t check that in a mirror.
My skin was the color of coffee made with milk, but lately it looked as if the milk had curdled. My eyes were dark holes set in the skull that my head had somehow become. I looked as if I was going to Hell, fast, in a handcart.
I remembered my pledge to myself to get straight and I wondered if I had the strength to carry it through. What time was it? Was it morning, noon or night? Was the clinic open yet? Should I forget about going straight for now, and go out and earn some money to pay Ratboy and go to the clinic some other day? (It was always some other day).
My thoughts were interrupted by a knock at my door which made me jump. I didn’t answer. Another loud knock. Then a voice came from behind the door.
“Ali, are you in?”
It was Ratboy.
“Ali?”
I kept quiet, but that didn’t help me, because the door opened. Ratboy just pushed it open. Fool that I was, I hadn’t locked it after he’d left the other day. Not that locking it would have done much good. The door frame was rotten and even I could have broken in if I’d wanted to. Anyway, he marched right in and got to see me naked.
You know how disgusting it feels when some random guy looks at you and undresses you with his eyes? Well, that’s the feeling I got when Ratboy looked at me, even though he didn’t have to undress me with his eyes or in any other way, because I wasn’t wearing so much as a stitch. Those verminous eyes of his flickered with excitement as he cast his lecherous gaze all over me. I tried to cover up my tits and my pubes with my hands so he couldn’t stare at them, but I didn’t feel like I was making a particularly good job of it.
It might sound weird that a woman who fucked for a living was concerned about her modesty, but I’ve only ever given men access to my body on my terms, at least when I could help it. I didn’t like the idea of Ratboy or any other man seeing me butt naked without my express permission.
“That’s quite a welcome you’ve arranged for me Baby,” he said. “I always knew that deep down you really liked me, no matter what you said. You were just playing hard to get, weren’t you?”
I backed away and reached behind me for some clothes or anything at all to cover my nakedness. My hand found a sheet and I pulled it from the bed and wrapped it around my body. It smelled of piss and cum and there was a dark stain in the middle of it, but I didn’t feel I could afford to be choosy about what I wore right then.
“No need to dress up for me,” said Ratboy. “I liked you just the way you were.”
He came towards me with a look in his eye that I didn’t much care for. I’ve seen that look in men’s eyes many times. I know what it means. It was obvious that he had a hard on and he had plans for what he was going to do with it.
He had a sick grin on that ugly face of his and his whiskers were twitching with excitement.
“You keep the fuck away from me Ratboy,” I said.
He stopped.
“Whatever you say, Baby, as long as you pay me for that little present I gave you the other day. I know you’ve been using it. I can see by your eyes that you’ve had a few smokes recently.”
“I’ll pay you later. I don’t have the money right now,” I said.
He shook his head.
“That wasn’t the deal, Baby,” he replied. “The deal was that if you couldn’t pay me in cash, you’d pay me some other way. Remember?”
I remembered all right.
“I never agreed to that. You said that was the deal. But I didn’t agree to make that deal with you,” I told him.
It was the truth, but I knew he wouldn’t see it that way.
“No. But you used my gear and you don’t have any money and now you have to pay me and I’m not prepared to wait.”
He came towards me and that sick smile of his got sicker and sicker and more twisted than ever. Just then I saw the carving knife lying on the floor right where I’d dropped it when he’d last visited, so I let go of the sheet I’d wrapped myself in, and I ran over and crouched down and grabbed the handle of the knife, but before I could pick it up Ratboy stepped on the blade. Try as I might, I couldn’t get it out from under his foot.
“You’re playing hard to get again, Baby,” he said. Then he bent down and grabbed my hair and dragged me over to the bed and flung me on it.
“It’s Show Time,” he said, pulling his belt out of his pants, “and you might as well enjoy it because it’s going to happen, no matter what.”
I writhed to one side to get off the bed but he used the belt like a whip and he brought the buckle end of the belt down next to my head to stop me. It slammed like a bullet onto the area of mattress I was about to roll onto, right in front of my nose.
“Try that again you little bitch and I’ll bring that belt buckle down on your face,” he said. “And if I do that to you, you’ll look so ugly that the most desperate John in town won’t pay so much as a forged penny to fuck you.”
Even though I was high I was scared, and I didn’t want that belt buckle hitting me anywhere at all, least of all on my face. 
While holding his belt with one hand, Ratboy somehow managed to pull down his pants with the other and then he sort of dived on top of me. He didn’t weigh much, because he was a skinny little runt, but he was bigger and stronger than me and although I tried to fight him off, I could tell I was fighting a losing battle.”

I’ll leave it right there because I don’t want to give your readers any plot spoilers.

-----oo0oo-----


I’d like to emphasize something here: please don’t buy any of my other novels  expecting them to be anything like this.
What they have in common with this piece is that they’re dark. But they’re also funny, which makes them very different to the excerpt I’ve just given you.


Tell me about you. Age (if you don't mind answering), whether you’re married, have kids, etc...

I love that question – largely because it’s so easy to answer! – I had to think about the answers to your previous questions.

I’m a  youthful 61 year old.

I’m married, to a gorgeous, pouting woman seven years my junior who looks like she’s about twenty years younger than me. How she does that, I don’t know.

I have two daughters, aged 27 and 31. They’re both very outspoken and nothing shocks them, not even my books. 

A few (very few) people have been outraged by Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse, because of the sex in it. There’s a scene which, well, let’s just say it’s reminiscent of a scene in Deliverance. I asked my youngest daughter (who has read the novel) if she found it outrageous, and she looked puzzled by the question.

  

    What's your favorite book you have written?

Probably Manchester Vice.

It’s a noir crime thriller due out in November 2017. It’ll be published by Coffin Hop Press as part of their ‘Noirvellas’ line.

Although it’s branded as a ‘Noirvella’, it’s of novel length being some 73,000 words long. 



     Who or what inspired you to write?

Any number of things.

I read Marvel Comics when I was growing up and I spent a lot of time trying to write comic strips with superheroes like the ones I’d read about.

In my teens I got into science fiction and horror.

Looking back on it, it was these influences which were mainly responsible for inspiring me to write. I think it shows in the writing I do. (Not that there are any superheroes in my books!)


   

     What do you like to do for fun?

Oh, you know, maim and kill people, especially those I don’t like.

Apart from that, writing is fun.

But I also like to exercise, go walking in hills and mountains, explore, meet new people, spend time with my kids and with old friends, party, read, go shopping, enjoy a few sherbets (that’s a Brit expression for drinking beer) and party.


       And what traditions do you have when you finish a book?

I put it to one side for a couple of days then I read it through and try to improve it. I do that at least another couple of times, and then I decide whether it’s good enough to send off to an agent or publisher.

Lately I’ve developed another tradition: I send it to a couple of friends of mine who are kind enough to act as beta readers and give me feedback which helps me to improve my work.



       Where do you write? Do you like peace and quiet or music?

I need peace and quiet.

I write in a spare bedroom which has a pleasing view overlooking a tree-lined valley. When I’m not looking at a screen with words on it, I look out of the window and watch the trees swaying gently in the summer breeze. (Or winter gale, if it’s that time of year!)


        Anything you would change about your writing?

I’d make it better if I could!

Seriously, I’m always looking to improve, but I find it hard to put my finger on any particular thing I’d change.

I like to think I’m an original writer who comes up with new ideas. I also have a love of words and I like to think I use them in striking ways in my novels. Those two characteristics of my style are both very important to me.

So maybe if I could improve on those areas in particular, that would be something I’d aim for.



            What is your dream? To be a famous writer?

Yes, of course I’d very much like my books to sell in great numbers, and I’d like the name Jack Strange to be globally recognized. I can dream, can’t I?

(If you’re reading this, you know what you need to do to help me -  it’ll only take a couple of clicks of your mouse and a very small expense – and you just might just enjoy it!)




     Where do you live?

In a town in the north of England called Huddersfield; the part of town I live in is known as Birkby. It’s only a half-hour walk to the town centre from where I live, and less than a ten minute walk to a great bar called the ‘Magic Rock,’ so it’s the perfect place as far as I’m concerned.


         Pets?

We used to have a cat once. We were all heartbroken when she got ill and died. Me, my wife, and both our daughters. I haven’t been able to bring myself to get another pet since then. There are one or two pictures of our family cat on my Facebook pages.


          What's your favorite thing about writing?

Can I cheat, and tell you my favorite two things?

Writing, in my view, does something to the brain, a bit like meditation. It has a calming effect. It’s a great feeling. You could call it ‘the joy of writing’!

Other than that, I love the connection it can give you with other people. When someone on the other side of the world says he (or she) has read my novel and liked it, that’s amazingly gratifying.

Anything else you’d like me to include please feel free to tell me!

OK, here goes: Kids, buy my novels - You know it makes sense!


Confessions of an English Psychopath





Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse





ZOMCATS!






If you want to try before you buy, take advantage of the free download of the opening chapters from Amazon and see what you think. If you like it, buy the whole thing.

And please get in touch.

You can send me a message on Facebook

Or Twitter:

@jackstrange11

Or email me:


And feel free to visit my website and read about me:


Reach out to me!

Finally, please note: I use affiliate links to market my books in my blog. So I may make a few pence or cents extra on the deal if you buy a book (or anything else from Amazon) after using one of my links. I doubt I'll be able to retire on the proceeds though!


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