I am so excited to be doing today's post as I had the pleasure of interviewing Jac Wright, author of "The Reckless Engineer". Besides being an author, Jac is a poet and Electronic Engineer. You can find Jac at the following:
1. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or did you want to be something else?
I loved English literature even before I could read or write because my unusual mother used to read Charles Dickens’ books, George Orwell’s works, and other adult classics to me when I was just a toddler. And then I continued the pursuit when she enrolled my in weekend Speech & drama classes when I was 3 year; I studies drama, poetry, and literature every Saturday for 14 years. However, I thought of it as a hobby only for a long time. My parents drove me to be a medical doctor and I rebelled to become an engineer because I was good at and love mathematics. I think of myself as an engineer moonlighting as a writer now.
There was one aspect of the culture and education at Stanford University when I was a student there – the idea that you need not be pigeonholed into just one area of talent – which liberated me. You can be a “Renaissance man” who can excel at many things that are considered the opposites of each other. Stanford liberated me from my limited self-image. I started writing seriously when I took my Freshman English course during the first year at Stanford, and then I kept writing over the years.
I first thought about presenting my work for publication only from about 2008. One needs a level of maturity and life experience to write with impact and I felt that I had reached this stage about that time2. How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?
A full-length novel takes one year to write, but the idea for is usually sparked and will have been working at the back of your mind for as long as three or four years before you sit down and start putting the first words on paper. After that I write in spells as and when the inspiration comes to me. Sometimes I might leave one story aside and write a bit of another story that will have come to me as a strong image. The finished manuscript goes through a further month of two of editing stages with your publisher.3. How do you come up with themes for your stories?
I cannot deliberately pull my inspiration. It has to come to me naturally from somewhere in a creative place deep in my subconscious mind. I can only keep myself distracted and focused on the other passion in my life, engineering, or reading a good book or two, waiting for it to come. I can try to help it along by immersing myself in the environments and settings that might spark something creative at the back of my mind.
For example, this June I woke up with this image of a fugitive, a man escaping from the van transporting him from prison to the courts that had had an accident and overturned by the roadside. Prisoners wear regular clothes in England and are not chained. He runs into the crowds and a bus parked behind a mall to hide among the people only to find that it is a film set. The actor playing a main character of the movie and the director are having a fight. The actor suddenly punches the director in the face who falls backward. My protagonist fugitive hiding among the supporting film crew catches him and breaks the fall. The director gets up, wipes the blood off his nose, fires the main actor loudly, and asks him to get out of his movie set. He turns to my protagonist and asks: ‘You there, what’s your name?’ ‘Art Miller,’ he gives a fake name. ‘Art, you are playing Michael Fallon. His trailer is yours now. Go with my crew and get dressed.’ And there I have the plot, the main characters, and the first chapter of my standalone work to come, In Plain Sight.
The core idea of the plot and the main characters in it come to me as a sequence of images, like a segment of a movie or a disjointed dream from some creative place at the back of my mind like that.
4. Do you have a schedule of when you write?
There is no routine. I write in spells. At times I might write all day long for over a week, and then I might not write anything for several weeks. At times I might write for a few hours a day. I find I cannot force myself to write; if I do it feels contrived and does not come out quite right. I have to wait for the inspiration to come to me. When I hit the Writers’ Block I just have to leave it and do something else until it comes to me.
5. How are you able to balance other aspects of your life with your writing?
I am an engineer moonlighting as a writer. (Isn’t that a romantic image?) I love both equally. However, since engineering is my “day job” I have to commit to at least a Monday-to-Thursday schedule for it. I write during my free time, in between engineering contracts, or when I am able to take time off. One had to play the bills and these other responsibilities are burdens at the back of your mind that distracts you from your writing.
I wish I were financially independent, with my own engineering firm I am a director of kind of like my series lead character, Jeremy Aiden Stone, so that I can write when I want and do my circuit designs and programming when I want. I am working towards that kind of independence.
6. What elements do you think make a great story line?
I love suspense. I like to combine it with thrilling action that requires my heroes and heroines to be firstly very resourceful and secondly, cerebral. And I love the big unexpected twist. I grew up watching Tales of the Unexpected featuring Roald Dahl’s work, and Mission Impossible, Perry Mason, and MacGyver. I also loved reading Dhal, Agatha Christie, and Earl Stanley Gardner alongside my classics – Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad, Dickens, and Somerset Maugham.
My stories are character-centric. Firmly entrenched in Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury school of writing, I figure out the character’s primary psychological need and I keep him or her true to that psychology. So they are not all good or all bad. My heroes have faults and do wrong things sometimes, and my villains do good things; but they all remain true to their psychology and struggle against it because of demands from other characters and from their own conscience.
And then I love to build a world for them even if that is a little corner of the contemporary world that we live in.
Suspense, action, deep characters in an interesting setting, a psychological thriller – that’s a great story.
7. What was the hardest thing about writing a book?
Having to deal with conflicts other people start and other responsibilities for looking after your financial commitments that distracted me from my writing was the hardest thing. It distracts and takes you away from your writing.
I do not like some aspects of marketing much either even though I like interviews like this. I wish I were more financially independent so that I can hire an assistant who will take care of the routine aspects of marketing for me.
8. How many books have you written so far? Do you have a favorite?
I have two stories published, The Closet and The Reckless Engineer. I also have my collection of poetry published in literary magazines.
Two more – The Bank Job and Buy, Sell, Murder – are half written. I have started the fifth, In Plain Sight, with just the plot and the main characters designed and only the first chapter written.
I have a hunch that In Plain Sight is going to be my favourite.
9. Do you have a favorite character?
Strangely enough my favourites are two of the supporting characters.
The first one is Magnus Laird, a bumbling solicitor. He is definitely a loveable Dickensian character who I created specially as a tribute to Charles Dickens whose writing inspired me early on in life.
The second character is Otter, the gay half-black actor working in the London West End. I develop him further ad Jeremy’s sidekick in the series from the second book, “Buy, Sell, Murder.”
10. Where do you write?
I like to have one large room with tall and wide windows or French patio doors with a lovely view and peaceful scenery. My solid oak pedestal desk and comfortable chair is set to the side of the window. I need a king size bed and a comfortable armchair in the same room with plenty of adjustable lighting. The room should be carpeted wall-to-wall. I like my PC with a wide screen on the desk and also my laptop so that I can write from my bed or my armchair when I feel like it. I like having kittens and puppies vying for my attention around me while I write.
I have sometimes written on trains or in pubs and bars, but I like to return to my comfortable room for serious and long sustained writing.
11. When deciding on how to publish, what directed you to the route you took?
With my poetry and short stories I went the traditional route - I published them through literary magazines. I wanted to go through the traditional publishing route for my full-length novels also. It wasn’t difficult to get a publisher. I got offers from 6 publishers after the first round of manuscript submissions and I know I have picked the best. It is a long process, but it is well worth it because the editing process with my editor, Debbie gilbert, transformed the work by making it more visceral. The cover they art is spot on – pure gold. I knew I wanted to go the traditional route because I wanted to focus my time on writing and on my engineering work.
12. Have you gotten feedback from family about your book(s)? What do they think?
I feel a little shy about presenting it to family because the stories contain romance. I come from a very conservative family in which one “does not speak of such thing.” I have therefore presented it only to a few selected family members. They think it is outstanding.
13. What kinds of things do you like to do outside of writing?
I am an Electronics Engineer moonlighting as a writer. I am dual qualified in Computer Science and Electronic Engineering with specialization in Machine Learning or what is commonly known as “Artificial Intelligence.” There is nothing I cannot do that can be done in software.
I read and write to relax. I also watch a good number of DVDs and my favourite TV programs like Dexter, The Good Wife, and Criminal Minds. I love bodies of water. So in the evenings I go running by the sea or along the bank of a river depending on where I am
14. What kinds of advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing?
Read the classics from an early age. Reading and studying poetry helps your prose shine with vivid imagery; and reading plays help dramatic scene setting.
Take creative writing at University or as an afternoon class when you can find some time.
Do not allow feedback from the crowds and the Internet or what you read to drown out your own voice. Quiet the mind and listen to that creative voice in the subconscious that will create something unique for you.
16. What is your favorite book? Favorite author? Do you have an author that inspired/inspires you to write?
I adore the works of Roald Dahl (his writing for adults) and Patricia Highsmith.
I hero-worship Patricia Highsmith. Her character creation in The Talented Mr. Ripley is unique and unrivalled to this date, even though as a Buddhist I find her excessive rewarding of the bad at the expense of the good hard to stomach. Her writing is almost a close psycho-analysis of the character falling perfectly into Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury school of writing. Her POV is perfect and her work is a master-class in compelling character creation.
Roald Dahl was a master in suspense story-telling in the short form with an unexpected psychological twist.
These authors are my deepest influence
17. Do you have any go to people when writing a book that help you with your story lines as well as editing, beta reading and such?
Writing is a solitary process for me. The story-lines and ideas have been all mine thus far. However, I do love my editor whose guidance has transformed the book and made it shine.
18. Are you working on anything now?
I have two stories – The Bank Job (Summerset Tales #2) and Buy, Sell, Murder (The Reckless Engineer #2) – half written.
I have started the fifth, In Plain Sight, with just the plot and the main characters designed and only the first chapter written. I have a hunch that In Plain Sight is going to be my favourite.I should like to finish all three in 2014.