For Press Use
- Brief history about yourself and how you got involved with writing?
I love stories, and I was always keen to write creatively. I flourished in the subject during my youth, but never really thought anything more of it. A comment has always stuck in my mind by an English teacher in London; He would say something to the effect:
Mr Easter, you have many facets to your vivid and fantastical imagination. I wish you would use this garden of ideas—that is, your noggin, for the good of the English language, and not as an excuse to get out of hot water!
I was never one of the clichés, and when I say that I mean, “I’ve always wanted to write from childhood—it’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” but after years of reflection, maybe my interest was locked far away in the unconsciousness. I really adored reading as a way of getting away from the troubles of the real or primary world. However, putting pen to paper, the actual writing ‘spark’, came much later in life, when I felt the need to write.
Every writer has to find their own way into writing
This is what Margaret Mahy says, and that’s indirectly what happened to me. I began penning articles and reviews for local media. A couple of years later, and I became a sub-editor for a magazine. I did this voluntary for two years and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I and learned lots regarding conceptual and copy writing, editing and proofing, the industry and I even got used to deadlines—and the narrow misses! So this was that ‘spark’ that ignited my writing, and I began to see the English Language differently, and never looked back.
- What does writing actually mean to you?
It’s a process, and one of creation and composition. It’s a never ending tale, the versatility and complete ownership of any character, any world, any story, and any outcome. And as Stephen King said (somewhere):
In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work
So that’s what I try to achieve—It’s one of my most important targets.
- Is it easy finding ideas?
Actually… Yes. My mind is constantly filled with ideas—some are great, some are decent, and some are just little shards of litter. Others just sit in the corner minding their own business. Some, stay put refusing to shift without a fight—some even go on strike!
I love making up my own stories to break from the ‘reality of reality’ and I suppose that’s another cliché, but a true one. I am a sub-creater! The hard part is not the ideas; it’s everything else that follows.
- Your favourite genre and why?
That’s a tricky one, because I sometimes despise that word ‘genre.’ Genre to me is something created for librarians and shops, something to help stack books on the shelf. So I’ll reply with ‘mainstream’, because it is a much better alternative.
Years ago, I would have jumped out saying, “fantasy!” I mean, that’s what I read and what I write, but when I embarked on a Masters programme, it opened me up to other forms of prose and conventions, some of which I would never have considered. Now, I’m interested in a breadth of forms from romance, nature, comedy, witty and diary writing, historical fiction, gothic thrillers, comic fantasy etc., That’s why I’ll stick with mainstream for the time being.
- Where have you published?
I’ve published natural history and health related articles widely in the local press since 1999, with a minority overseas. I have also had research published in Iberis, Gibraltar’s (GONHS) scientific journal, because I also have an interest in natural history.
Regarding my creative writing, I’m highly critical of myself and feel I’m still rough around the edges. I had a short story published with Kalkion online, but I think that is sadly not available. I also had a short story which won a local competition, which was consequently published in an anthology. I’ve published book reviews, the monthly bulletin of The Mythopoeic Society (an academic society on myth and folklore) being one example. I hope from here it is onward and upwards, rather than inwards and downwards.
- Writing is not your current work, what is and how high is writing in your daily agenda?
I have a first class honours science degree in Health Studies and used to work in Health Improvement for the Gibraltar government. I worked in the health industry for 25 years but sadly, that has now ended. After a period of ill-health recovery (work-related), I took a post working for the Office of the Governor in Gibraltar (Foreign and Commonwealth Office). Finding time to write is hard, by I am gradually getting back into my writing projects.
- What of the future in this field—where from here?
I love natural history photography, and have a website where I share my snaps. If I had a choice I would split myself between natural history photography, and writing. Neil Gaiman stated on Twitter, only 2% of novelists write for a living— it’s a tough world out there.
I’m also very keen on continuing as an independent author. I like the full control of my creations and going through the process of publication every step of the way.
I’d like to upgrade my website and fill it with content. The online presence will be a great place to develop and share my writing, news etc., so that’s high on the priority list.
- Tell us about your new book on the pipeline, storyline and how that will be promoted?
I’m working on a variety of projects and not sure which will be published first.
My biggest creation to date is The Realm of the Gnomes and the provisional title for the first installment is The Colour of Fire. Arrick, is my protagonist. It’s set in a fantasy world called The Verold and the region of Toralith. The world is full of enchantment, fidelity, and more importantly pacey adventure. I think the novel breeds new grounds simply by unveiling gnomes with their unique origins; ethereal skills, friends and enemies, legends and myths, which will develop their own motives, heroes, and destinies.
Arrick has no direction planned for his future. He’s the King’s son, but his irritable attitude rubs people up the wrong way, and he also refuses any proposals of inheriting the throne. For Arrick, everything regal is shadowed by an uncontrollable urge to go into the insecure kingdom—to go topsoil.
The main plot is formed around the sudden disappearance of a magical sceptre during the ‘Afterglow’ ceremony (this is a short period after a blessing which grants the gnomes extended life), and the King’s exiled brother is deemed the prime suspect for the act. However, he hasn’t been seen for years.
The sceptre holds immense power, as it is the original instrument used by the ‘Prophet’ who created The Verold and everything in it. A written prophecy states that if the sceptre dissapears, a battle would ensue to alter fate—to judge the land.
Arrick mysteriously joins an elected party to retrieve the sceptre form his uncles last known location hoping for a break in the prophecy. However, he doesn’t realise his true part in The Verold, and just how important and central he really is.
Like I said this is a mammoth undertaking and there is so much more world building and myth to write. I’ll be bold enough to say that I would also have to publish companions and histories of The Verold! Many of my other stories, some minor and some major. Skerry for example, is a major story, and part of the mythology. So, historically I have to get my world ‘spot-on’ before writing the tales. Like I said, a mammoth task.
I am also working on a comic novel as well as a series of short comical fantasy tales, a completely different saga about dominance, and the second installment to The Grimoire under the Fizbar Chronicles—so PLENTY to come!
- Anything worthwhile mentioning I may not have already asked.
Absolutely! You will find this funny.
In 1999 I wrote a book called The Grimoire (aimed at 11 year-olds but also a crossover) and was about to send it out to publishers. It concerns magic and wizards and I was quite happy with it. As I was about to pop it into a brown envelope a friend called me:
“Hey Jay! You know that book you told me about?”
“Yes,” I replied quite happily.
“Have you checked out an author called J K Rowling? She’s hit the charts with this Harry Potter and whatever the rest is called.”
“Harry Potter? You mean the wizard from that film Troll?”
“No not that. It’s another Harry Potter.”
“Oh, no . . . Why?” I said.
“You’ll be surprised. A friend has told me about the story and it does sound similar to your book!”
Well you can imagine how I must have felt, and what I did with the manuscript—yes . . . I threw it in the bottom drawer of a metal desk and turned away thinking it could have been J K Easter instead.
However, in 2011 I pulled it out and had another look at it through fresh eyes after the HP craze. I thought there is still something there of interest. The magical book called The Grimoire; and wands that talk and can be in any form—glasses, crafted wands, stones, and even a tub of hair gel! So, I revisited it, rewrote parts, tightened the prose, housecleaned it, and employed an editor and proofreader. Finally it was ready. You never really finish a work you just abandon it, and it’s quite true. I hadn’t sent it out to a publisher because I became very protected of my work; and it was my baby. So, this led me to self-publish and it is now available on Amazon and you can even purchase a hardback or softcover from Watersones (order only). I was really pleased with the achievement, and I still am.
- Last question: Do you need a qualification to write?
Difficult question, but yet simple to answer—no. However, writing is a craft and just like any other other craft it is important to learn the skills needed to perform proficiently. I undertook a Master’s degree in Professional Writing purely because I wanted a springboard into the realm of writing. I didn’t want to begin my writing career with bad habits, especially grammatical ones. I also needed brushing up on my punctuation, tenses, conventions etc. It was difficult, but very enlightening. You’re not guaranteed a book deal at the end of it so don’t be fooled thinking you will.
Once I completed my MA there was a part of me that itched for the doctorate, but every time I thought hard about it I kept hitting my head against a simple barrier: I didn’t want interpret other writers’ work; I just wanted to write my own. So, maybe a creative writing PhD will come in the future, maybe not—who knows!