Welcome to the second in a series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am thrilled to introduce the very gifted, Jon Clynch, author of the supernatural thrillers The Witch of Gallows Oak and The Chapterhouse Beast. Jon has chosen the self-publishing route and it has been interesting to find out his take on the what works and what doesn’t.
- Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Yes! My name is Jon (Jonathan) and I was born in North London about half a century ago. I am an amateur archaeologist, a writer and a ‘crafter’. I love reading (obviously) and have a range of interests including history, folklore and all things of a weird or of an ‘alternative’ nature. I also have a very eclectic taste in music, ranging from classical to punk, metal to electronic.
- What do you do when you are not writing?
As a family we spend a lot of time together as I work from home and we educate our two boys here as well, so we often go out together to visit heritage sites, country parks etc. But most of the time I focus on my other work – running a small business called Jack In The Green crafts, making hand-crafted items from reclaimed wood.
- When did you first start writing and when did you complete your first book?
I have been writing for about sixteen years, but have not had the courage to let anyone other than my wife read my work, until I won a short story competition last year. This gave me the confidence to go ahead and write for real. I actually finished my first book, The Witch of Gallows Oak, in November last year.
- How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
I have always been interested in the paranormal/supernatural, I suppose partly due to my upbringing; I was raised in a Pentecostal/Evangelical Christian environment where, perversely, such things are frowned upon whilst encouraging the believer to accept things of a supernatural persuasion! Instead of reducing my fascination and curiosity, it increased it. That is not to say that I immerse myself in it too far or adhere to any dark belief system; I have a respect for it and limit my research to that which I find comfortable. My ideas often come suddenly when I least expect them, triggered by an experience or something said in passing. Either that or, as with my first book, I had the seed of an idea as I was drifting off to sleep one night.
- Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Rarely! I can hardly get the ideas down quick enough. I have many, many notes on my laptop that relate to ideas for stories I will write one day. Some have been there for over ten years!
- Do you work with an outline, or just write?
Mostly I just sit and tap away, see what comes. Though I wish I’d written an outline for my second book, The Chapterhouse Beast, (just out in Kindle form a few days ago) as I changed the plot and some of the characters’ personality traits when I was three quarters of the way through! I made a complete mess of it and if it were not for my brilliant wife, Nelly, going through it word by word I’d still be sorting it out now! As a result, my latest project, working title – And Still the Faer Folk Dance, is proving an absolute joy to write. I know it sounds cliché but it almost appears to be writing itself!
- Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I have a great affection for Terry Pratchett and his works, but as a child I was influenced by Ursula le Guin. It is amazing that I was allowed to read about wizards etc, as they were ‘forbidden’. As my tastes developed, I became a huge fan of Tolkien and remain so to this day. He was a genius of the highest order.
- Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I self-published my first two books, the first being a huge learning curve for me! I struggled with just about every single step though the worst, for me, was formatting. The ebook/kindle version isn’t quite as challenging as the paperback but still has its issues. I found a lot of Amazon’s ‘help’ features and templates vastly unhelpful and uncooperative. But then that my just be my lack of knowledge re technology! I was very enthusiastic and naïve, rushing into it without much (any) research or prior knowledge, mainly as Amazon said I could publish a book without any capital in about 7 minutes. I believe that I may approach a traditional publisher for my third book, mainly to see what the experience involves compared to self-publishing.
- If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I think I would have given it far more thought and probably passed it to a traditional publisher. The people who awarded me the first prize in the short story competition had offered to help me but I wanted to go it alone, partly as I’m stubborn when it comes to getting help and partly as I wanted to see if I was capable! As for the novel itself, there is a danger of rereading and editing it to death. No doubt if I read it through now I would think “Why didn’t I say this, or make that happen?” or “That makes no sense, why did I do that?” I think it’s best to leave it as it is, you have to stop somewhere.
- How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Out of necessity I keep the marketing costs down, mostly limiting it to Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. I admit I’m lousy at self-promotion and have struggled for seven years in that area with my woodwork business. I am always open to advice, but often find the whole world of marketing, with its trendy terminology, off-putting. With my writing I am still learning which is the best avenue. I joined loads of Writer’s groups on Facebook but find them, so far, of little value. There seems no point in thousands of authors all saying how great each other’s work is if the news isn’t reaching the buying public.
- Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Not yet! I like both the books I have written so far, though prefer the first one. My current book will, I believe, be a favourite of mine and (though I am my own harshest critic and hesitate to say this) I think that in the right hands it could be a pretty big deal. I will be massively disappointed if I can’t get this one published.
- Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
The one I published just last week is a paranormal mystery based around a bizarre murder within the chapterhouse of an old abbey, now a stately home occupied by an elderly peer and his manservant. The old man is an avid collector of occult objet d’art and the death is related to this, as well as local legends of a ‘black dog’. The detective sent to investigate this finds himself immersed in a nightmare world of spirits, demons and the ghost of his dead daughter who tragically died in a crash seven years previously, very close to the abbey. The idea stemmed from an image that came to me as I was drifting off to sleep one night!
- Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Mostly imagination, though (whether I am taken seriously or not is largely immaterial as I know what I have seen) I have witnessed a number of ‘paranormal’ things, including ‘black dog’ sightings over the years.
- What project are you working on now?
My next project, And Still the Faer Folk Dance, is based partly on a dream I had as a teenager and is set at the start of WWI up in the northern border of Yorkshire. It is going to be written almost as the memoirs of two people; the first is a woman who was a young girl who saw her father go off to war and return injured in body and mind. She recalls her feelings, thoughts and experiences, including her meeting with the ‘faer-folk’ who appear to her from the old Round Barrows bear a stone circle close to her village. The second character is a Scotsman who writes books about faires but who loses all interest and belief having experienced the war first hand. I have not yet decided how the story ends, so I can’t give away too much more!
- Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I am a huge fan of Robert Rankin with his ‘far-fetched fiction’ and would like to explore a similar idea. I love the crazy humour, tinged with occult/conspiracy theory ideas. Other than that, I like some of the characters I have created and may use them in future. When I discuss them with my wife they sound like real people!
- What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
So far I have not received any criticism and though I don’t look forward to it I would try to see it as a positive. Not everyone will like my work, I get that. There are many books I detest, that have received glowing accolades or been bestsellers. I wrote a blog on Goodreads called De gustebus non est disputandum. It means “There’s no accounting for taste” (or something very similar!) and this is very true. I have had some lovely comments and it is no lie to say I appreciate every single one.
- Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Keep going, don’t give up, don’t listen to those who say it’s too hard or not worth it. If you are writing, you are a writer – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
- Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Just, thank you. I’m not conceited enough to say I have ‘fans’ but I know people have read, and enjoyed, my work so far. I can’t thank those people enough for taking the time to read my books. It means a hell of a lot to me.
Please join me in thanking Jon for his honest assessment of the industry and for sharing his experiences. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Jon via the following links.
Please show your appreciation by checking out Jon’s work on Amazon: