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Friday, 13 August 2010

Author, Steven Jensen, Interviewed.

 Steven Jensen is an author from South Wales, UK. His first book, The Poison of a Smile, will be published by Night Publishing, late 2010.

SA:  Tell us about The Poison of a Smile.
SJ: For many years, I was intrigued by what I view as the ambiguous mindset of male artists, particularly those within the Pre-Raphaelite circle of the Nineteenth Century. I was struck at how idealistic, yet callous, some of these men were in their attitudes towards women. An example: the artist Dante Gabriel Rosssetti buried his finest poems with the wife who killed herself because of his infidelities. Some time later, in need of money, he had her body exhumed and then published the poems to great fanfare and commercial success. This disconnect between Rossetti's supposedly broken heart and the 'desecration' of his wife's tomb for personal gain is as incredible to me as I'm sure it would be to most people. But then, artists are rarely 'most people'. Not surprisingly, Rossetti suffered a mental breakdown before too long – he even claimed that  Elizabeth haunted him. Rossetti, poet and painter (as is my character Daniele Navarro), slowly fell apart.

Initially, I planned to write a nonfiction title but finally decided to pour heart and soul into a fictional treatment of that decadent world. As it stands, this is a story of revenge, but an ambiguous vengeance which is devoid of basic human instincts - when a dead soul takes revenge, it is both dispassionate and intellectualised; such malice is a mere entertainment to them. The Poison of a Smile is effectively a ghost story in which the living haunt themselves...

Many of Poison's chapter titles were inspired by the work of the surrealist René Magritte. I love the chosen titles of his paintings...I find them enigmatic and interesting. Sometimes I've used these titles directly – The Scars of MemoryThe Enchanted DomainThe Treachery of Images, for example – and, on occasion, I've invented my own or combined Magritte's titles: The Poison of a Smile is one such combination. The book's title suggests deception, a lure to snare the unwary, a contradiction and a fractured persona; all these things are the very essence of The Poison of a Smile.

SA:  What qualities do you need to be a successful writer?
SJ: Patience, perseverance and determination. This is an industry unlike any other and, as such, patience is not merely a virtue but a vital component of a writer's psychological make-up. James Levine said: "I thought I'd write one book and the world would change overnight," but such instant success is rare indeed and often brings its own problems; better to hone your craft in the time spent waiting for 'overnight success' to arrive.
SA:  What is the single biggest mistake made by beginners to writing?
SJ: Confusing brutal but supposedly 'honest' criticism with objective truth and good advice; technical excellence is all very well but a singular writing style is of more importance. Story is all.
SA:  How did you come to write this particular book?
SJ: In addition to my other source of inspiration - the Pre-Raphelite Brotherhood - I was inspired by the legendary life of the Surrealist artist Salvador Dali. Half-genius, half-madman, Dali was the quintessential charlatan, particularly towards the end of his career. Although not as malicious as my character Cristian Salazar, Dali nonetheless possessed many strange and dubious traits. He expected his followers and patrons to treat him as a king, and his whims became identical to royal commands, at least in the mind of the self-named 'Great Dali'. Along with his wife Gala - who behaved more like his muse or familiar - the man had a definite penchant for malice, and an affinity with madness.
SA:  What are your writing habits?
SJ: I'm very much a 'mood' writer - I have to feel it. The creation of atmosphere plays a major part in the quality of my writing, so I obey the whims of inspiration and never treat writing as a mere occupation.
SA:  Do you have support, either from family and friends or a writing group?
SJ: Practically everyone I know has been supportive, and the long but rewarding learning curve (thanks to guidance from new and established authors from My Writers CircleAuthonomy, and Inkpop) has really helped me.
SA:  Do you think writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?
SJ: I can only speak from my own experience: one improves over time, and through the guidance and support of those one admires and respects.
SA:  What are you writing now?
SJ: My second book, titled The Passion Bearer, a project which is close to my heart. This is a more traditional Victorian-style ghost story:

'As a child, Daniel Grant stumbled across Kelreigh, an abandoned manor house, while lost in the woods near his grandmother’s home. For years afterwards, he was unable to find the house again. 

Now aged twenty-five, Daniel discovers the house anew, refurbished and occupied. Soon, he befriends the resident family, Joseph Fontaine and his daughter Celeste. The house is filled with memorabilia of Joseph’s youngest daughter Ariele; Celeste claims Ariele was murdered by a stranger who entered their home through the forest yet, curiously, 

Joseph believes she will return to Kelreigh one day. In time, Daniel finds himself in love with Ariele, or at least, the flawless Ariele of his imagination. But Celeste tells him a very different tale of her sister… 

Daniel discovers that the Fontaine family have never sought Ariele’s killer. But is she really dead? And if not, who is haunting Kelreigh?'

I also plan to write a prequel and sequel to The Poison of a Smile.
SA:  How can people buy your book?
SJ: The Poison of a Smile will be published around October/November this year, and will be available from Amazon, CreateSpace and other online outlets. Pre-order enquiries should be directed to:

SA:  Do you have a website or a blog that readers can visit?
SJ: Shadows & Illusions
SA:  Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?
SJ: A quiet hotel in a coastal town. Or better still...a haunted house!

Word of the Day is divorced from the post that precedes it and produced in response to a request from a follower to provide just such a service.
Word of the Day; gothic – a word with many meanings, but, for writers – a style of writing which relies on complex plotting and supernatural or horrifying content. ‘Gerald tried to emulate the gothic style of “Dracula” only to produce a novel so derivative, inconsistent and overblown as to be risible.’
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