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Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Interview with MJ Webb, Author.

MJ Webb is the author of Jake West – ‘The Keeper of the Stones’.  The book started out as a project for his children that he thought would take countless years to complete (hence why it was aimed at teenagers and young adults, even though his children were two and three years old at the time).  He started writing and couldn’t stop.  Forty-three chapters later he realised he had an epic on his hands which would delight and enthral young minds.
A fulltime worker and dad, he has very little spare time and had to sacrifice things in order to write this novel; his gym membership went (gone up a notch on his belt), golf clubs were sold (paid for a few flyers) and hisTriumph Daytona went to some lucky chap from Lincoln.  His marriage somehow survived the ordeal and he and his wife are still on speaking terms (though it was touch and go for a while).
It’s been the hardest, most fulfilling thing he’s ever done and to finally see it in print....  Priceless !

Tell us about Jake West – ‘The Keeper of the Stones’ in a few sentences.

My debut novel is an introductory novel intended to be the first of a three book series.
When fifteen year old Jake West and his best friend, Ben Brooker, help Jake’s grandfather clear his attic of the junk he’s collected from his years of travelling, the boys discover an old chest containing a beautifully carved wooden box.  The box contains a set of five mysterious stones and, when they erupt to emit a bright beam of light, it sparks an epic journey which will lead Jake into a dangerous world and to the discovery of some strange family secrets.
In an instant he becomes the latest in a long line of world protectors, a symbol of hope to millions and prey to all the warriors, wizards and evil tyrants who now know of his and the stones’ existence.  When fifteen year old Jake West and his best friend, Ben Brooker, help Jake’s grandfather clear his attic of the junk he’s collected from his years of travelling, the boys discover an old chest containing a beautifully carved wooden box.  The box contains a set of five mysterious stones and, when they erupt to emit a bright beam of light, it sparks an epic journey which will lead Jake into a dangerous world and to the discovery of some strange family secrets.
It’s an epic tale set in a war torn fantasy land of deposed Kings, wizards and ferocious warriors. A story of courage, honour, loyalty and friendship. But it’s also about coming of age and facing ones fears.

The fate of millions on this world and countless others now lies in the hands of a teenage boy from Lichfield; if he can’t protect the Stones.......

How did you come to write this particular book?

I was looking through a book club magazine, trying to take advantage of the introductory offer and choose some books for my children. I wanted ones for when they were much older, but I wasn’t impressed with the choices and I found myself thinking, ‘I could write a book.’ The more I thought about it, the more the idea gripped me and I raced for a pen.  Forty-three chapters later, the plot had grown beyond all recognition and I realised this was book 1 of a series of adventures.


If you have a favourite character in your novel, why that particular one?

I love the main evil warrior, Sawdon. He is awesome and incredibly scary but you can’t help but admire his sense of pride, loyalty, honour and the respect and adulation he has earned from his warriors. Wouldn’t want to face him in battle though.


Where and when is your novel set and why did you make these specific choices?

Lichfield, England. Present day. I love this city. It’s full of history and character. The people are the kindest I’ve known. There’s a real feelgood factor surrounding the place even in the worst of times and it’s always welcoming.
The fantasy land of Rhuaddan on the continent of Estia. It allows my imagination to run riot.

How can people buy your book?

Online at www.authorhouse.co.uk and .com where it’s at it’s cheapest. Also on other sites including Amazon.

What qualities make a successful writer?

A vivid imagination, the ability to absorb information and learn continually, humility and a sense of humour.  Oh and patience....  Lots and lots of patience.


How do you set about writing a piece?

I set out a loose plan of where I want to go/get to. Then I completely ignore it and let my pen foxtrot all over the page until my fingers ache. I read it back, edit it 32 times (not really) and decide enough’s enough. Really, my limited available time means that I often sit down not knowing what I’m going to write, only that I have to write something. I’ve found forcing it out actually works and I’m soon in the groove and flowing until I can’t stop.


Beginning writers make many mistakes; what do you think is the most harmful?

Impatience. Submitting before your work is ready and burning those valuable bridges as you rarely get a second chance.

To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer?

It depends if you can afford a full professional edit. I couldn’t and it was therefore vital. My readers may not care, but those in the industry I’d like to impress sure do.

How much revision of your MS do you do before you send it off?

Oh absolutely loads of editing and re-editing, right up to the last minute.  Never satisfied.

To what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world?

I think it can be harmful to pigeonhole people’s work. Because mine is classed as fantasy, many publishers and agents would not even look at it. I think that is a little short sighted and wonder if they passed on J K Rowling’s books for the same reason? I respect their right to make that decision, but I wish they’d have just taken a glance at it.  (SA – this is a common problem for fiction writers who step into the fantasy world – I suspect many agents and publishers have no idea of the richness of the genre. But, to be pragmatic about it; if the agent/publisher isn’t keen on the genre, they’re hardly going to devote time and effort to it, are they?)

What single piece of advice would you give to writers still hoping to be published?

Take all advice on board but make up your own mind in the end. You should know if your work is good enough and if you believe in yourself, persevere and keep trying. You have to be in it to win it.

What are you writing now?

The sequel. Seven chapters in its untitled and absolutely blooming brilliant. Lol

Do you have a website or a blog that readers can visit?

Yes. www.jakewest.co.uk  I’m also on Facebook in the Fans of Jake West Group. 

Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?

I’m happy at home in England. A nice country cottage somewhere and a roaring fire. Bliss.

Where do you actually write?

Martini. Anytime, anywhere, any place. The search for peace and quiet is endless. Anyone free for babysitting?  

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