Sunday, October 25, 2015

Interview with Author John M W Smith

Hi, John,  first of all, tell us where you're from.

Hi Patricia, thank you for interviewing me. I’m from Oxford, in England.

Oh, what a great place to live. I'm originally from England, but have never been to Oxford.  Can you tell us something about yourself.

Firstly, John M W Smith is my real name. I stood first in my school in the GCSE ‘O’ level exams, and then went on to do a BA (Hons) degree in History. I worked in publishing for 10 years, rising from a humble rep to a position where, the only person earning more than I, was the managing director. But I grew disillusioned with the corporate world, too much pressure, too many lies and bad politics and not enough time to do what I really wanted to do, so I turned my back on it and started writing and doing any old job to keep the wolf from the door, and am still hoping to see my ship come home one day, bearing aloft my name in lights for all the world to see.

Wow, what an interesting career, John, though I can quite understand a writer getting frustrated when working in a corporate publishing world, yet having no time to write.

Yes, it was extremely frustrating.

Well, as you know, I’ve read and loved many of your books and plan to read every one of them, and I’m pretty sure your name will be in lights one day.

Thank you, Patricia, I’m thrilled that you liked my stories.

Ok, John, now tell us what makes you tick?

Well...I swallowed this little clock a few days ago, you see, and ever since then I’ve been, seriously, I’m only being flippant because I don’t know quite what to say in answer to this question, and I am determined not to avoid any of your questions. Why should I? I’ve got nothing to hide! I find the company of women more interesting than that of men, because women are more interesting and more articulate. This is why I like writing for them, as I have done in my Wacky Stories series of books of short stories. So it’s the company of women that makes me tick. Also very good writers.

Well maybe that’s why I love your stories so much. You seem to know what women like. So, John, tell us how long have you been writing?

I’ve forgotten. A few years, I guess....

And what inspired you to write?

I don’t think anything in particular inspired me to write apart from when I would read books and think to myself, “Well, I think I could do better than that....!” So that was my only direct inspiration. The other sort of inspiration comes from something deep inside, which one is born with, and which just has to find expression, and has got to be indulged, nurtured and developed as life without it would be unbearable.....the urge, the compulsion to write paints my entire existence in vivid technicolour. Without it my life would be in black and white. It really is that simple!

Oh, I completely understand what you’re saying, John, and I love the way you’ve explained it. I’ve always believed that authors will find a way to write and publish, no matter what the obstacle, even if it takes them years to do it. And you write in so many different genres, so tell readers what they are.

Well, as I said, I write Women’s Fiction (short stories). I also write YA/Teen series, fantasy, and also Adult Thrillers set in foreign lands under strange and unusual governments.

I’ve read your books in all those genres and they’re all fantastic, but which is your preferred genre to write?

I can honestly say that there is no one genre that I prefer above the others. It depends on what plot jumps up in my imagination, and then I decide which genre it would best fit into.

When you write, do you use a computer, a tablet, or handwriting?

I write everything in longhand on A4 ruled paper in a ring binder, in black ink. Then I transfer that first draft onto my computer and print it out, double-spaced. Then I edit it first with a red pen, then again with a green pen, then again with a purple pen, and finally with a blue pen. Each edit can involve sweeping changes, additions, deletions of entire pages and substitutions, and lots and lots of “polishing” as I want my prose to have rhythm, like a well written and catchy have an attractive cadence when it is read aloud, be easy to read, and have a hook thrown in as often as possible to keep the reader interested. I do not stop until I have achieved this to my satisfaction, and usually this editing process takes as long as it did to write the entire first draft, but I really enjoy it, it is truly a labour of love!

Do you know, John, you’re the first writer that has explained something I actually feel compelled to do when writing, and that is to add a beat to my sentences. They have to sing to the rhythm in my head or I get frustrated with them. I think that is one of the reasons I love your books so much, as well as the great plots and surprise endings of course, and I love the dark humour in your stories.

Thank you, Patricia, I'm pleased you get my humour.

I do and I love it, John, so tell us where you go to write, and to think up these wonderful plots?

At work. At home. On the pot. While I am watching TV or eating. In bed. Anywhere and everywhere. I carry a clipboard everywhere, as well as a ring binder with sheets of A4 paper. Sometimes I will pull over, stop my car and write a few sentences that have come to me while I was driving along.

On the pot? Too funny, John.

Well, time is precious and I don’t like wasting it.

I better not ask you if you were on the pot when you filled in my questionnaire then.

On the pot when I filled in your questionnaire? No, No! This is serious business! I was sitting at my desk with a large teddy bear keeping me company!

Really? A teddybear? Sure you were, John, now seriously, tell us what your first book was and what inspired you to write it?

I was being serious! Anyway, I wrote a whole bunch of 'Twist in The Tale' short stories for the weekly, Women’s Weekly magazines in the UK, and when they were accepted by some of the most popular weeklies in the UK I was encouraged and started to write more. I ended up with six volumes of short stories which would appeal to everyone, not just women. I love writing twist in the tale stories, and all my short stories have twists in them.

I can vouch for that, John. I never guessed any of your endings.

Well, I'm pleased about that, Patricia, and I was thrilled when my twist in the tale stories were picked up by a Russian publisher and they are now all published in a number of volumes, translated into Russian with the English text included—they are used in Russia as English Language Teaching (ELT) aids for students, as well as being bought by the general public there on the strength of the stories alone. Here are the covers of a couple of these volumes:


Wow, John, that is fabulous, you must be very proud of that! 

Yes, I certainly was.

Do you have a favourite book that you wrote? If so, which one?

That is like saying which one of your children is your favourite child. I cannot say I have a favourite child, they are all equally precious to me, as I worked very hard bringing them up....sorry, developing them and working on them and putting my heart and soul into their mean into writing them well. So please don’t ask which child...sorry, which book is my favourite...or my other books would kill me!

Oh, that’s funny, John, and your books ‘killing you’ would make a great short story with a twisted ending. So where do you get the ideas for your characters?

My characters are amalgams of those characters I have found in the stories of other writers. They develop slowly, at a subconscious level, like good coffee slowly trickling through a percolator to produce a tasty and bracing hot drink. Also people I meet or strange people who act peculiarly and are written about in the Press.

Oh, heck, I better watch what I say, or I’ll end up in one of your future books as some strange character.

You'll never know.

Well, I might just add you as a character in one of my books then!

An action hero, I presume?

You'll just have to check my future books to find out, won't you, but seriously, what sort of stories do you like to read?

I will read anything. Even the directions off the back of a medicine bottle if I come across one. I can’t help it, I pick up anything that is in print, a sweet wrapper, a magazine, a book, an instruction manual, anything. With books, I prefer those which quickly draw me in with the first sentence and then the first page. If I read two pages and find my mind is wandering, then I give up on that book. A writer is asking a reader for one of their most precious possessions; their time. So a writer had better make sure s/he is giving value for money and time!

I agree with that, John, because most authors are even pickier about books because of time and wanting to just get on with their own writing. So, what is it that inspires your stories?

A desire to say something nobody has said quite in the way I would like to say it. In a way that I would like people to take note of, because I think they would be interested in what I have to say.  Well, basically, a desire to “wow!” people.

Well, you certainly do that with your writing, John. Now tell us, is there someone in your life that has supported your writing dreams?

Of course there is. But I’m not telling!

Okay, do you listen to music while you write?

No. Never. Must have complete silence. Birdsong, rainfall, distant rumbles of thunder are all acceptable, though.

Any authors that have inspired you?

James Hadley Chase. Ian Fleming. Stephen King. William Dalrymple. V S Naipaul. Kingsley Amis. Fay Weldon. Doris Lessing. Jeffrey Archer. O’Henry. H H ‘Saki’ Munro.  Frederick Forsythe. Richard Dawkins. Jim Corbett. Roald Dahl. Adam Mars-Jones, Ernest Hemingway. Edgar Allan Poe,  and many, many others.....

And who makes your Book Covers?

I do. With a little help from my friends......or one friend in particular, who is far more skilled in art and design than I am!

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Don’t give up your day job. Only write if you can’t help yourself from doing so. Don’t “try” to write. If you have to try then give up. It must come to you as naturally as breathing.

What is your work in progress?

A Murderous Act In Iraq (just finished the first draft)

Oooh, I’m looking forward to reading that as I really enjoyed your last book in that genre. Do you have any hobbies that you try to fit in when not writing?

Walking long distances. Reading, and more reading. Daydreaming.

Oh, another daydreamer. I love daydreaming and hate it when someone snaps me out of one when it’s giving me an idea for a plot. Have you travelled, John?

A lot! A heck of a lot. I speak three languages and can get by in a fourth.

Wow! That is amazing! You're multi talented. Now, are there any other authors you would like to meet if you had the chance?

No. When you meet authors in person they are usually uninteresting. They are not in writing mode. They only truly come alive when they are writing, otherwise they are retiring types who do not usually enjoy the company of their fellow man.

That maybe true, but not always. Though I agree that most authors tend to want to talk about their own books or writing, and I'm guilty of that sometimes. Well, it's been lovely interviewing you, John, and good luck with your new release, I look forward to reading it. Do you have a blog or website?

Thank you for inviting me, Patricia, it's been a pleasure. Here are my websites:

My Blog: Here!

My Website: Here!

Great, now tell the readers where they can buy your wonderful books?

Just click the yellow link below!

Amazon: Here!

Smashwords: Here!

Here is a sample of some of John's great books: