The venture of discovery continues and so does the celebration of unique voices with another Hall of Information Interview.
Paul Jameson has generously taken the time away from penning his immersive, sometimes dark and truly unique tales to answer 10 questions. This has been an honor and a journey to learn the story behind the story teller whose works I urge all of you to consider next in your reading endeavors. Some may remember earlier this year I read and reviewed his fantasy folklore-horror book and so that is where we shall begin…
Q1. I want to start by talking about your novel ‘Nightjar’ which stands out as quite a unique read. The blend of descriptive style and language you used to build a ‘feudal future’ world makes for an experience that felt like turning the pages of a classic while being new at the same time. For a modern book and a modern author like yourself, how did you find the voice and inspiration to tell a story like ‘Nightjar’?
“This is a really good question, one I’ve had to think about;
I think the voice found me…”
“I’d experimented with a number of pieces, short stories and historical pieces over the years, never quite finding my voice. Then I wrote a short story called ‘Magpie’. I think I discovered how to show rather than tell in that piece. Anyway, I was really pleased with it. I liked the voice, and it was a world I could expand on. I fully intended to work on and edit ’76 and the Odd 93’, but started on a new short story instead just to test the voice…”
“And so Nightjar was born.”
“Everything was in place around where I live. On the Greensand Ridge, a Roman Road runs as a footpath between Everton and Sandy, there is an Iron Age hillfort, and a glacial landscape that had once been shallow sea. I looked back in time to define a feudal future, had a physical and geographic anchor in the landscape, and saw two boys run down a hill.”
“Then I heard Nightjar play his flute.
I simply followed.
It really was a case of the characters wrote the story. And it turned into a novel.”
“I chose Nightjar as a character as the bird is at once a strange and ugly thing, fascinating to look at. Anyway, upon publishing the novel – two months later – a pair of nightjars nested on the Greensand Ridge locally after a fifty-year absence. That made me shiver.”
This is both fascinating and relatable, it sounds like everything aligned and came together while you also found that voice. Having the path reveal itself like it did for you is the moment of clarity where writers know they’ve got something.
Q2. There is a slight sinister and dark edge to ‘Nightjar’, can readers expect that in your other works? And please tell us more about them.
“All my stories – short and long – tend to have a dark and sinister side to them. This, I think, stems from a physically and emotionally abusive childhood, so I tend never to trust the good in things; being ever wary of the dark and nasty that hides behind a veneer of nice. But also, I’ve learned as an adult that nothing is quite so simple as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, so I enjoy creating characters with a foot in both camps.”
“Conflicted – so to speak.”
“Even my other novel – ‘76 and the Odd 93’ – a contemporary, modern psychological piece I’m nervous of because it is so dark. A cathartic exercise I needed to write to exorcise childhood demons. It took me 25 years to write and publish, features a split timeline, strawberry ice cream, a glass eye and the making of a serial killer. It’s something I hope puts the reader in a conflicted place, seeing evil grow out of innocence.”
“My other available pieces are all short stories. All dark, bordering on horror and the weird. Early experiments before writing Nightjar.”
Q3. You’ve mentioned on twitter a few times about being in your shed. Is this your main writing place? Please describe for us what that space looks like?
“I live in social housing with my wife, two adult children, three dogs, five cats and a hedgehog, so the shed is my safe space. My wife and her mum’s idea, and I love it. Bilbo (black cat) and I retreat to it, and it’s the only place I write.”
“With pictures on the walls, a decoupaged roof of the twentieth century – up until the ‘60s – a clock that doesn’t work and lots of weird knick-knacks. Books on shelves, Zippo lighters – I love Zippo lighters – my computers, music, a telly, electric fire for winter and fan for summer, hourglasses, lots of candles and a telescope. Hourglasses are always handy, and you never know when you might need a telescope. My daughter thinks it’s weird, so I reckon I’m doing the ‘dad-thing’ right.”
Fantastic and the definition of a perfect writers escape.
Q4. Of course Roald Dahl comes to mind here and he is mentioned in your Amazon profile bio, what does Roald Dahl and his works mean to Paul Jameson?
“As a child I loved his work. I think it connected with me because of the type of childhood I enjoyed – or endured – as many of his characters faced similar adversity and challenges. And yet even with all the horrible stuff going on, Roald Dahl understood a child never lets go of a belief in magic and hope.”
“There is always magic.
And there is always hope.”
I can only agree. His works make up some of my first reading memories back in the 90’s – there were a few film adaptations that weren’t too bad either.
Q5. Moving away from books and writing; what interests do you have outside of being an author?
“My family and other animals are very important to me. I love folklore and history, telly and films, books – though I struggle with reading since my brain went weird – and I love exploring woodland and ancient places; although I rarely do that these days, being a recluse and all. An old habit I need to reignite.”
Q6. Tea, coffee, beer or wine?
“Tea in the morning, coffee in the eve;
And Guinness if I can get it.”
“Although – to be honest – I rarely drink alcohol these days;
Not for a lack of wanting, more that being a recluse I prefer to stay in and write.”
Q7. Can you name three television shows or films that have inspired you?
“Tales of the Unexpected
“They’re if I’m looking at what inspired the weird in the child that became the adult. Lots of other films too, like the Wickerman, and television programmes like the Magic Roundabout, Pipkins and Roobarb. But I think reading inspired me the most. Authors like Du Maurier and Iain Banks, Tolkien, Martin Amis, classics mixed in with historical fiction and SFF.”
“So many inputs.”
“I also love television shows coming out of HBO, like Game of Thrones and the Sopranos, my favourite being the Westworld series, and I often have them on in the background whilst writing.”
Great recommendations, Westworld accompanied by a Guiness makes for an awesome evening…
Q8. Let’s talk social media; the place where I mainly procrastinate… You have quite an impressive Twitter following of 16,000+, what’s your strategy when it comes to social media? And do you think it plays an important part in modern book marketing?
“I never really had a ‘strategy’ other than to follow and follow back other writers and artists, and to help them if I can, or if they ask. I also don’t entertain anyone with RW, bigoted, or racist beliefs. I didn’t understand Twitter as a platform at first. Then I discovered it was a great place to share my main interests:”
“Folklore and History
Faerie Tales and Magic
“And connect with like-minded people.”
“Marketing falls below all of that, but I recognise it is something I have to do. I don’t like doing it – I’m not sure anyone does – but Twitter is the only place I market, and then I try to keep it low-key. It does have to go hand in hand with being a self-published author with no budget, but I see it as a marathon, not a sprint, and personally value good reviews far more than high sales. One day the sales will come.”
Sound advice and proven with such an impressive following.
Q9. Are you currently working on any writing projects? And what can we expect to see in the near future?
And I’m struggling.”
“I have this huge WIP (140,000 words) – set in the same world as Nightjar – but I’m worried I’ve strayed too far out of this world and into the Otherworld. I like the concept, but I think it may have become too complex and too much like fantasy. That said, there are also characters and story arcs in it that I love – as would anyone who enjoyed Nightjar; characters really on the edge of things.”
“I also have two historical novels I wrote when I was very ill a few years ago (2014) – first drafts – and I’ve never read them back. Or edited them. Maybe I should. At the end of the day though, it’s the Muse and characters as decide when something’s right. Me, I’m just a helpless scribe…”
Well some of the best things are born through struggle and if your current project is anything like Nightjar then I imagine it will be pretty damn good!
Q10. Finally, a question that I plan on asking all interviewees.
If there is one sentence of advice you would give someone with dreams of becoming a writer, what would you say?
And then finish.”
*And that shows, like all authors, that I need to listen to my own advice *