Thursday, October 24, 2013

Featured Author: Will MacMillan Jones

Will MacMillan Jones was here in March to talk about his book, Bass Instinct. I'm happy to have him back today to tell us about his latest novel, The SatNav of Doom, a comic fantasy, published by Safkhet Publishing Limited.

About the book: 

Once again, the Dark Lord has a cunning plan. And once again someone else is going to have to carry it out for him: that's what henchmen are for, isn't it? To hench? Oh, and to be sent on the risky missions...

Not that this one should be risky. What could be easier than secretly inserting computer spyware into a laptop, using a Banned Underground gig as a diversion? The Tax Office probably does it all the time. But the Tax Office is not normally being chased for an unpaid credit card bill for a huge round of drinks. (That's the politicians. And the henchmen, of course.) 

And it isn't just any laptop the Dark Lord wants to spy on either. The Government is struggling to find the way out of the Recession without a road map, and what better aid than a SatNav linked to a computer? If the Dark Lord can get inside information on future economic policy, maybe he can clean up and buy a new Mercedes.

Then there is a mystery: where did the time-traveling SatNav come from in the first place? What if the original owner wants it back?

Magic, mayhem and macro-economic policy collide in the latest surreal installment of the acclaimed comic fantasy series, The Banned Underground.

Book trailer: The Amulet of Kings

Interview with Will MacMillan Jones

How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I’ve always been interested in writing, I think. I was lucky enough to have an English teacher at school who encouraged all of his class to write, and I enjoyed it at school.  Then I wrote my first book in my twenties.  And awful rubbish it was as well. But it formed the basis (after a lot of reworking!) of the first book I had published, The Amulet Of Kings - the first in The Banned Underground series. I’ve been lucky enough to be signed by Safkhet Publishing to write a series of eight of these comic fantasy books for them.  Which I think means that they like the books.

I'd say so. The SatNav of Doom is a very interesting title. What’s the story behind it?

Over the last couple of books in the series, I have been more than a little abusive towards my SatNav character. I have a bad habit of taking inanimate objects that have a big influence on our lives and giving them personalities of their own. SatNavs have come a long way since they first started, and one night I was listening to an inane politician (I can’t recall which one, there’s so many to choose from isn’t there?) going on about a Road Map. Then I realized that he wasn’t involved in the transport system, but the economy – and a SatNav seemed a perfect fit! And as neither SatNavs (I refuse to own one) not politicians are particularly helpful to us in our daily lives, Doom was a natural fit too. Anyone who has ever been misdirected down a narrow country lane their SatNav believes to be a four lane superhighway (on the grounds that one was proposed fifteen years previously but abandoned unbuilt when the funding was used instead on a fact-finding mission to Barbados) will connect with the idea.

How did you create the plot for this book?

Amy, I think I’m in love with you for this question! The idea that I actually create the plots is wonderful, you need to go out into the world and tell everyone! (Especially the publisher, who often makes urgent inquiries about this very question.) Truthfully, I start with the germ of an idea and then I let the characters loose on it. After a while, we all meet up over a drink or two. I tell them what they are going to do to bring the book to a successful conclusion, and they tell me to get lost. After eating the pizza and drinking everything I’ve laid on, of course.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

I have to say, it’s still one from my first novel, The Amulet of Kings. I love writing one-liners, and I love misunderstandings, word play and puns. Plus a bit of surreal humour now and again. This line is still so good that it needs no introductions. You don’t need a scene, a setting, a background. It doesn’t matter who delivers it. I reckon that five books later, I’m still looking to top it. Oh, I shouldn’t say that, should I? Actually, there’s a gag in book 6 (the current work in progress) that might manage it, but for now:
“I know it’s live yogurt, but is it meant to come when it’s called?”

I love it. How do you get to know your characters?

I meet them in the pub, of course! I’m a writer! Observation. People watching. These things are vital. I don’t go heavily on the character descriptions, you see: I like the readers to fill in the details in their own imaginations. So a hint here or there, a small character trait, is enough for me to pass along an impression. Gloria, for example, is a dragon receptionist. (Really a dragon, this is a fantasy!) I leave her as tall, dressed in grey, and her heels click aggressively when she walks. Now who hasn’t met a receptionist/PA like that? 

Well, I've never met a real dragon as a receptionist, but the other description certainly fits with some I've seen.

I always have my Moleskine on me for notes of people I’d like to write, too.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

In this book, it is one of the less central characters: Gloria, the love-lorn dragon receptionist. People can be so prejudiced, can’t they? Just because she’s got a teenage attitude to live, despite being a couple of hundred years old, and has a bit of a secret thing for her Boss, the less than competent and unhappily married Dark Lord. It’s not easy being grey, you know. And people are so easily offended by casual incineration, too.

Go figure. What would your main character say about you?

This one I can escape. You see, I don’t actually have a main character. Some reviewers have found this a bit awkward when reading the series, but I actually have quite a regular cast list. In fact, the publisher (demonstrating undue sagacity) insisted from the first book that I write a cast list for every novel, to help those readers who have a bizarre desire to understand what’s going on. I mean, I hardly know so why should they?

But this is the epilogue to book 6, coming sometime next year. It’s a conversation (yes, in a pub – they are musicians!) between two of the characters. One has been reading a local paper.

“It says here that one of the author’s shorts has won a literacy prize.”
“It’s not news that his underwear has a life of it’s own. Sounds like it writes better than he can too.”

One of your characters has just found out you’re about to kill him off. He/she decides to beat you to the punch. How would he kill you?

As a humourist, particularly in the comic fantasy field, I’m not allowed to kill the characters. The uproar from the regular readers would be too much to handle. So, I’m safe from that. But they already like to get their own back. The musicians took me out drinking, and left me on my porch, fast asleep (yes all right, insensible through excess drink. I’ve confessed. Happy now?) and naked, having thoughtfully dropped all my clothes in the pond. The Dark Wizards drove past when I was asleep – this time is after midnight, so I had an excuse – and magically bricked up my front door before driving off. I’ve heard there’s something being planned for the next book, but I’ve no idea what.

My, your characters are devious little boogers. Where’s home for you?

At the moment, I live in Wales. A lovely green verdant land, full of myth and magic and legend...and great rugby and wonderful micro breweries, too. What’s not too like? But my heart lies in the Lake District, and I have firm plans to go and live there once my daughter finishes college and heads off to University to do something so insanely complex and technical that I certainly cannot spell it, and can barely pronounce it. Such is progress.

What would your dream office look like?

I’ve got it already! Nya,nya,nya. A smallish room, with a large window overlooking fields, and a wall completely covered in bookcases, full of my favourite books. No idea how many there are, I’ve never counted them. In one corner is my treasured hi-fi, and a collection of proper vinyl records, and some cds and tapes. The chair has molded itself to the shape of my bum after many, many years of use. Perfect.

How did you find Safkhet Publishing, and how long did your query process take?

Like everyone else, I was just lucky getting publishers. And I’m greedy, because I’ve contracts with more than one company. Safkhet Publishing, who picked up my humour/fantasy do not do horror. They don’t like reading it, so will not publish it: which I think is actually pretty cool of them really. They decided in the end not to take my children’s work, as they felt they couldn’t do it justice, so (cross fingers) that may yet have a third home!

All authors get a lot of rejections. I was still getting rejections from earlier queries after my first book had been released. One problem a lot of authors have is that they rush the query process, and end up sending their work to unsuitable agents/publishers. Take the example of my horror work, which does very well. I offered it to my fantasy publishers first because I trust them and we have a good relationship: they were happy with me sending it elsewhere because it isn’t their cup of tea. But if that had been my first book, I could have sent them the submission, and waited eagerly for a reply...which would have been negative of course, however good the work was. You must, as an aspiring author, do your research first. But if you believe you have written a good book, you owe it to yourself to try the query process before jumping into self publishing, however attractive that option may seem.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Easy one! I’m either hiking, messing about with my beloved Les Paul guitar, or out doing research for the next book. That’s the thing really, once you buy into writing as a way of life, it soon takes over everything else, doesn’t it? And you never stop looking around and getting ideas for stories.

That's very true. What are you working on now?

I’ve got two books that I am concluding at the moment: Have Frog, Will Travel which is the sixth in the Banned Underground series, and The Picture: that’s the sequel to The Showing and is another paranormal/horror adventure. In addition, I am always writing short stories, and several of them have the potential to be turned into full novels in time.

Other books by Will MacMillan Jones:

The Banned Underground series was described in a review in the Guardian newspaper Books Review site as:
Lord Of The Rings as written by Milton Jones to the Soundtrack of Led Zeppelin IV...

The books are:

The Amulet of Kings
The Mystic Accountants
The Vampire Mechanic
Bass Instinct

All of these are available through any bookshop, specifically Amazon, Smashwords, KOBO, and Nook.

His first horror release:
The Showing, available in print or ebook on Amazon.

Book trailer: The Vampire Mechanic

About the author:

Will lives in Wales, a lovely green verdant land of myth and legend. He does his best to support local culture by drinking as much local beer as he can, and shouting loudly at the TV during international rugby matches. In between, he writes fantasy to keep sanity at bay.

Connect with Will:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter      

Buy the book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Waterstones 
Coming soon: