Sunday, 16 November 2014

Interrogating Jodi Taylor

My chair and lamp have been dusted off and the time travelling Jodi Taylor is first up.

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?

I consider myself to be very fortunate. When I wrote my first book – Just One Damned Thing After Another – I had no idea what I was doing. They always say, ‘Write the book you would like to read yourself,’ so I did, and fortunately, everyone else wanted to read it too.
I do get the occasional note from my excellent editor, saying ‘More (or less) description here,’ or ‘Can you insert an explanatory word or two here,’ but otherwise there’s not a great deal of conflict between what I want to write and what people want to read. As I said, I’m very fortunate.

What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre you write in?

It’s having the opportunity to imagine. To create new worlds – and I’m not talking about creating new planets, but dreaming of different worlds, where different rules apply. Where there are different pasts and the possibilities are endless. Worlds over which I, as an author, have complete control.
Reading through that last bit, I do sound rather like some power-crazed despot, although I assure you, I am quite nice, actually.

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?

I was so hoping never to be asked his. I’m sure that proper writers have neat files, or a card index, or even a special box where they store their ideas for the future.
My system is slightly more chaotic. I have discovered through bitter experience  that inspiration can (an often does) strike at the most inconvenient moments and I have learned to have a notebook always to hand so I can scribble something immediately. I have to do this because, sadly, I have the concentration span of a sock.
My best ideas come to me in the bath, so there are several much wrinkled shorthand pads in the bathroom, full of blurry scribbles, which I can barely read.
Any visitor to my home would find many, many scraps of paper, exercise books, and paper napkins from cafes – all covered in cryptic notes and scatted around everywhere. About once a week, I collect them up, squint at them in dismay, and try to work out what on earth I was thinking at the time.
Are you sure you want to continue with this interview? It’s not too late to get in a proper writer if you want to do something spectacular for your 80th!

How do you manage plot bunnies (ideas that invade your mind that aren’t usually helpful to the story you’re writing but breed like…er…bunnies)?

Plot bunnies! So that’s what they’re called. I welcome them. It’s a wonderful opportunity to sit, staring into space, weaving ideas, characters, and conversations into something new and wonderful. And if they can’t be used now I might still be able to use them another day.
I don’t think any writer should ever let an idea slip by – no matter how bizarre it may seem at the time.
The best thing of all is that I can sit staring into space, while my mind soars all over the place, and because I’m a writer everyone gets excited about it. Especially if I have a pen in my hand at the time! Gone are the days of parents/employers/teachers/whoever yelling at me for daydreaming. Daydreaming is allowed! So I make my plot bunnies welcome. Maybe I could offer them a plot carrot…or plot lettuce…
Sorry, back to the interview...

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?

I think there might be a little bit of me in all of them. Not the same little bit, obviously, but just like all of us, I’m a little bit nice, a little bit naughty, a little bit bad-tempered and so on. I simply take the little bit that I want and inject it into that particular character.
For instance, my heroine and her antagonist had a face-to-face confrontation and I really wanted it to be nasty. Fortunately, because I am a little bit nasty, I found I was easily able to put myself in the antagonist’s position. I myself felt all the jealousy and resentment and hatred of someone who was convinced that she should be the heroine, and all her dislike and spite just flowed out of my pen and onto the page. It was a bit scary, actually.
I think, of all the characters I’ve created, I’d most like to be Mrs Partridge. She moves unobtrusively behind the scenes. Nothing is beyond her and she always looks elegant. Oh, if only …
The one I’d like to be with is Peterson. I know Leon is the hero, but Peterson holds a special place in my heart. If not Peterson then Russell from The Nothing Girl. He’s so chaotic and over the top and such fun to write.

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

Fortunately, I’m not married so that doesn’t arise.

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

I used to read anything and everything. Now I find I don’t often have the time, which is a little bit ironic. I do a lot of research reading and then reward myself by picking up anything that takes my fancy. I read for pleasure at night in bed, and on Sunday afternoons.
Actually, I just put that last bit in to impress you. I fall asleep in front of the TV on Sunday afternoons.

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

This is a tricky one. I’m really not sure what the X factor is. I didn’t set out to write a best seller, partly because I didn’t think I could, and partly because everyone – absolutely everyone – is always saying how difficult it is to become a successful writer. I assumed my book would simply disappear into some literary black hole somewhere and that would be the end. I would continue to write and self-publish and my family would loyally buy a copy each, but that would be it.
Whatever the X factor is, someone somewhere recognised it and offered me a publishing deal, but I’m still none the wiser.

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

I’m a bit of a perfectionist – I go over and over my book until I’m nearly blind. Or insane. Or both. My editor does the same so it’s intensely annoying to find that despite our best efforts, we’ve still missed something.
There was some comment, I think from readers in the US, who queried some of my spelling, but it’s a British book by a British author about British people, so obviously the spelling is British too.
I pass all comments on to my publishers and they do put them right so I am actually quite grateful that people take the trouble.

What is on my near horizon?

Well – I have two short stories going live on Kindle on the 13th November. The fourth in the St Mary’s series, A Trail Through Time is issued by Audible on 11th November. I’m finishing off Book Five, working on an historical novel, blocking out another short story concerning the origins of St Mary’s and trying – somehow – to research a novel I’ve been wanting to write for ages concerning a family labouring under not just one but two family curses.

Where can we find you for more information?

There’s my Facebook page – or you can email me at I do make every effort to respond.
I have an author page on Amazon, which I must update, so thanks for the reminder, and I’m on Goodreads, too.

Many thanks for the opportunity to contribute to your blog. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions and I hope you find them reasonably entertaining.
Below is a list of my books if you can find the room to post them!

The Chronicles of St Mary’s series (in order).
Just One Damned Thing After Another
A Symphony of Echoes
A Second Chance
A Trail Through Time
When a Child is Born (Christmas short story)
Christmas Present (Christmas short story)

Romance Novels
The Nothing Girl
Little Donkey (Christmas short story)

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