Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Interrogating Andre Jute

Andre Jute, the man, the myth

How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?

Oddly enough, for a marketer and a professional communicator, none. It just never occurred to me that a writer should, or could, give readers what they want until I met all these genre writers in indieland.

D’you see, my formative years as a writer and particularly as a novelist were spent under the influence of the last of the great cosmopolitan gentlemen publishers. They published the books they liked, which were the same books I liked to write. Our standing arose from the quality of our books, not the quantities we sold. It’s a peculiarly American idea that one can measure the worth of a writer by how much he earns. (I doesn’t even strike me as ironic that my books sell so much better than those of many writers who are in it primarily for the money. Justice isn’t ironic, it is fair.)

I suspect that my readers would be insulted if I pandered to them as shamelessly as some of the genre writers do. I take it for granted that my class of reader follows me to new ideas and approaches, and forgives me the inevitable failed experiments, because they love the excitement of the challenges as much as I do.

What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in.

I’m not a genre writer except by the accident that I like to read thrillers, and therefore anything I write has a good deal of tension in it. When I have a compelling idea, I just write a novel, without considering what genre it will fit into. It has helped that all these years I never wrote a book on spec, that my books were always commissioned (that is, contracted and paid for by the publisher before I wrote a word of them), so I could be as surprised as anyone else at where the characters drove the novel!

Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them?

Small stuff like that I make up on the fly. I do have a purple steamer trunk full of sheets with ideas. I give other writers sheets at random when they run out of ideas. But I have so many ideas, I never use the Purple Cornucopeia, as one thriller writer who has had recourse to it five or six times christened it. I can’t remember when I last didn’t have half a dozen books on the boil.

How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with?

Christ, what a horrid idea. In my youth I was dangerous. As a soldier and a revolutionary I was more feared by my own side, who knew how badly I shot, than by any of our enemies. I sailed around Cape Horn twice in a ship of my own construction, and, let me tell you, I’m no woodworker! I raced cars and planes and offshore speedboats; when the man from Porsche saw that I raced on rear track control arms I bent up in Black & Decker Workman from soft aluminium, he fainted dead away. I was a professional polo player until a rival team owner put a prize on my head for winning too often and I got shot. Nobody would believe such characters! Nor would my life as a writer make anything but a dull character. I work 14-16 hours a day. My friends are mostly housewives who cycle, which is what I do for exercise. I’m not even a drunk.

Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?

No. We never discuss my writing. I haven’t even mentioned that yesterday I published a new novel.

I’m not one of those “authors” who spray their “artistic” anguish over everyone they come into contact with. It’s only amateurs who cannot leave their work behind when they rise from their desk. Most people I meet never discover that I’m a writer.

What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?

Well written thrillers, badly written thrillers when no well written ones are available, history, biography, farce, the classics, physics, electronics, superior literary novels — by “superior” I mean with a storyline and characters who develop, not formless kitchen sinkers and suchlike crap that their “writers” fondly imagine must be “literary” because they are utterly devoid of any novelistic characteristic or the slightest storytelling appeal. 

What lengths do you go to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?

I suppose I have the background from my time in advertising to invent something, but fortunately my subjects and my treatment of them are usually so far outside the mainstream that nothing promotional needs to be invented. The London Evening News described one of my books as “so bizarre, it’s probably all true.” After that one needs tell no lies, just smile enigmatically!

How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?

Nauseated. New books, written on computers, are easily made respectable. But my experience with republishing books only available in print, and recovered by optical character recognition, has been — there is no other word for it — sickening. I despair of ever getting a clean book.

What do you like most about visiting KUF?

That Lou keeps out the schoolyard bullies who make the Amazon fora so unpleasant.

What is on your near horizon?

A great deal because I’m privileged to be the beneficiary of much volunteer help. (Anyone who is irritated by misspellings and poor grammar, and who has time, can be an editor; write to me, andrejute at coolmainpress with the commercial extension, if you want to volunteer). In a couple of weeks I publish the screenplay and the radio script adapted from my novel, already published, AN ELECTION OF PATRIOTS. In October we publish the first of the dozen parts that make up COLD WAR, HOT PASSIONS, a saga of seven interconnected Russian, American and British families that spans 75 years. We continue to edit my protégé  Dakota Franklin’s RUTHLESS TO WIN series; she’s a winner in the Best of the Independent eBook Awards. OCR permitting, we shall eventually reissue enough of Andrew McCoy’s Lance Weber novels to permit us to slot in the two exciting new novels he has written especially for the uniform ebook reissue. There are also my own books to be OCR-ed, of which several are timeless and, people think, should be reissued. My next writing project is a fictionalization into a multi-part saga of my family’s antecedents. (Try the Brittanica for our history.)

Where can we find you for more information?

More than you ever wanted to know about me, including a list of places where you can contact me directly: http://coolmainpress.com/andrejute.html 

My blog, Kissing the Blarney: http://coolmainpress.com/ajwriting/ 

My recent books, and books I edited too: