About the Book An ominous blackmail letter appears at an inopportune moment. The recipient’s name is accidentally blurred out upon arrival. Which member of the Glass family is the ruthless missive meant for? In the powerful sequel to Watching Glass Shatter, Olivia is the first to read the nasty threat and assumes it’s meant for her. When the mysterious letter falls into the wrong hands and is read aloud, it throws the entire Glass family into an inescapable trajectory of self-question. Across the span of eight hours, Olivia and her sons contemplate whether to confess their hidden secrets or find a way to bury them forever. Some failed to learn an important lesson last time. Will they determine how to save themselves before it’s too late?
Each chapter’s focus alternates between the various family members and introduces several new and familiar faces with a vested interest in the outcome. As each hour ticks by, the remaining siblings and their mother gradually reveal what’s happened to them in the preceding months, and when the blackmailer makes an appearance at Olivia’s birthday party, the truth brilliantly comes to light.
Although everyone seemed to embrace the healing process at the end of Watching Glass Shatter, there were hidden cracks in the Glass family that couldn’t be mended. Their lives are about to shatter into pieces once again, but this time, the stakes are even higher. Someone wants to teach them a permanent lesson and refuses to stop until success is achieved.
This is a brilliant sequel to the first in this series: Watching Glass Shatter. Both books can be read as standalone novels but I would recommend reading Watching Glass Shatter first before Hiding Cracked Glass. It is clear from reading the second book how confident a writer James Cudney is. He introduces the characters and the storyline from book one in an effortless way – I was really impressed. Particularly, as I know how difficult it is to write a series (I am currently in the process of doing this myself and finding it mighty hard!)
The second book has a different feel to the first. The emotion I experienced when I read about the death of the father in book one was intense. Here, the tone is slightly lighter to begin with and more focused on the threat of a blackmail note, secrets, and the possible parties who may be involved. Various possible scenarios are eked out about who the blackmailer might be and with all the secrets in the Glass family it’s not surprising that many are feeling vulnerable and worried.
As with the first book in the series, the strength of the writing lies in James Cudney’s ability to create great characters complete with flaws and weaknesses.
This is why these two books truly do grip you. The characters are so believable, engaging and authentic. I love character driven stories and the mystery aspect completes the story in such an engaging way.
James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.
Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind and my body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels and suspense thrillers. I think of characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.
Reader & Reviewer
Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read 2 books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review and post it on all my sites and platforms.
Blogger & Thinker
I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.
Genealogist & Researcher
I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.
Genres, Formats & Languages I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings.
I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available. All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook)and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.
Today, it is my great pleasure to welcome author of family drama and mystery genres, book reviewer, and enthusiastic supporter of the writing community James J. Cudney to my blog.
Jay is sharing some fascinating insights into his writing life. And Jay’s books are on promo during May! (So whatever you do don’t miss out on the offer links towards the end of the interview.)
In my interviewer mode I sometimes like to call myself MJ… So, donning my MJ superpowers… Lol. Let us begin.
MJ:I’d love it if you could tell me a little about yourself and your writing journey.
Jay: Writing has always been part of my life, but it went on the backburner after graduating from college. I’d jot a few lines down here and there… everyone at work would send me their documents to proof or fix. Friends would ask for advice on how to summarize a situation or meeting. Then I worked for 15 years in a complex corporate and technology role. I had no time to write, but when I left in 2016, I decided to explore my passion again. Three years later, I have eight books. I seriously don’t know how it happened… I mean I do… but really… it feels like someone else lived this life and now that I’m back in a corporate technology role, figuring out how to balance both of these versions of me at the same time is almost impossible. The one thing I do know: I am thrilled to be a part of the literary book world, and I will never leave it again!
MJ: I’d love to find out more about you. Where are you from? What anecdotes would you like to share? What makes you tick?
Jay: I was born in Fort Myers, Florida in the USA. Various ancestors immigrated to the US between 1750 and 1900 from Germany, England, Ireland, and Scotland. Three of thirty-two branches seem to have arrived before 1750 but I cannot be certain when. The last person to emigrate was in 1910, so we’ve been here for a very long time. They mostly settled in the PA-NY region, and my immediate family all grew up on Long Island, the suburbs of New York City and not too far from the Hamptons. Although I lived a 45-minute drive or train ride from NYC, I only visited a handful of times before I turned twenty-one years old. My parents weren’t big fans of the city, and as an only-child, I didn’t get out very much. It’s amusing that I now live here, and my parents visit at least one Sunday a month for brunch and to wander around a new neighborhood with me. I also like to learn about new cultures and visit different parts of the world. I’ve been to Europe, Asia, and South America. I’ve been to Canada and Mexico numerous times, and 35 / 50 states. I would love to get to Africa and Australia this decade. I much prefer colder weather, so I’m even open to a trip to Antarctica and the Arctic Circle.
MJ: Some ‘marketing experts’ advise that you should have one photo of yourself on all of your social media. I notice you have several, and one with a very fetching bow tie. What are your thoughts on this? (I tend to think it is nice to have more than one photo as it gives an indication of aspects of the author’s personality.)
Jay: I agree with you 100%. When I think of a single picture, I think of fake advertising. It’s a specific pose to reach a specific audience. I have one professional picture which was taken on my last day at a prior job, so I could use it on LinkedIn for future networking. I like having different looks so my personality shines through. I love the bow tie photo – it’s from a wedding I went to in Florida three years ago… for… the narrator I mentioned earlier! Thank you for the compliment. That’s pretty much my natural everyday look… okay, joking… it’s definitely not the normal me, but I do like to have a bit of fun in my photos.
MJ: Yes, why not and we both like avatars! Here’s yours!
MJ: I’ve never been to New York, or to the USA. Sigh. As we are confined to our homes during this time it would be lovely if you describe your favourite view from your home? Or a favourite place you enjoy going to.
Jay: Quarantine is definitely an experience we shall not forget. I don’t mind it much because I’m a homebody, but I do miss getting out to see friends or eating at restaurants. I’m lucky in that I have a large one-bedroom apartment in a safe and quiet part of the city. It also has a seven-hundred-square-foot terrace and I’m on the top floor, so I can see great horizons and look upon parts of the East River. I have flowerboxes and large trees on the terrace, including a small arbor and several bushes, as well as a dining area and a lounging area.
When I feel trapped, I can step onto the terrace and experience a bit of nature and the sounds of the city. Sometimes it’s too windy, but it’s usable from March thru November, as long as the temperature stays above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I spent a good part of this morning assembling a raised flower bed to grow vegetables this summer. Tonight, we’ll eat outside. It’s a bit of a magical place.
MJ: How delightful. I love your colour scheme and how nature joins you on your terrace.
MJ: You read and review so many books. I’m in awe. Do you believe that all authors should read extensively/review? How important do you think it is for an author to read in multiple genres?
Jay: I am a lucky guy, and I am grateful for all that I have been given. I live with my partner, but we do not have children. We have a rambunctious two-year-old shiba inu dog named Baxter.
Other than those two, and my job, and visiting family and friends, my time is pretty much my own. I am able to prioritize non-work hours to focus on writing, reading, and blogging. Up until three years ago, I didn’t have a blog nor had I written a book, so my reading choices came from book series I’d come to enjoy and finding new books at the store. Suddenly, when my blog took off and I published my debut novel, my reading choices skyrocketed. I was getting books from publishers for free, subscribing to NetGalley, and meeting bunches of indie authors who wanted to share book reviews. I made it a priority to get to know them, as it helped my own book marketing skills and I built a network of amazing people around the world. Now, I feel guilty because I’ve met so many wonderful authors yet I cannot find the time to read all their books. I split my reading in half now. Fifty percent comes from series or authors I enjoy reading, and the remaining half comes from indie authors I’ve met or new authors I occasionally try to help when time permits. I do think authors should read in all genres they write in, plus a few others to learn how to blur the lines. It’s hard to review when I’m writing or editing, so I need to balance those pieces. It’s important for authors to know their limits and not spread themselves too thin. It’s also important to make connections and help others just as we’ve been helped in the past.
MJ: We’re on the same page. I’ve had so much help in this writing journey so I love to pay it forward by helping other authors too. It is all about community. I love your dog – so cute!
MJ:How do you manage your time? I believe you returned to full-time work recently. I also work full-time (but for now I am on furlough.) Generally, I find it difficult to find the time to do what I want… But, you seem to smash it, what’s your secret?
Jay: Thank you – that means a lot. I do pride myself of multi-tasking and achieving a lot in a brief amount of time. I’m super-organized and keep an Excel document with a list of tasks and a list of posts planned for my blog going out for 3 months. I have several ‘open’ spots for when something new comes up, but it contains all my marketing plans for my own books, all my blog segments, and all the books I plan to read. I fill in once a week with something new that comes up… that way, when someone asks if I can share a post on them, I sometimes can make it work. I also know when I am tapped out and can’t do anything else, given my schedule.
I get up 2 hours before I start work so that I can spend 90 minutes clearing my email and social media accounts. I want to start work with confidence that I’m not already behind. I run through it again at night, balance cooking, the gym, and errands, and then I make time to read for an hour or so before bed. I keep to a routine, and I ask myself every morning – what are my priorities today? Nothing changes them, short of an emergency or better method of accomplishing a task… I’m dedicated to keeping this running smoothly, and when I need the downtime, I take it. That’s the only real advice I have in this realm, but it works for me.
The new job after three years has been difficult to adapt to. I lost ten hours a day, which basically equates to reading 2 books per week and writing 10 chapters per week. So… I knocked my Goodreads Reading Challenge down from 208 to 104 this year, and I will publish only 2 books instead of 3, as originally planned. I’m sorry about the work situation for you. I hope things change quickly… it’s a little scary what the future could bring, but maybe it will turn around faster than we expect.
MJ: Yes, it is scary. I hope the turn around is faster Jay. Thank you so much for your kind words. Luckily, I’m at that stage in my life when writing full-time is my end goal. Perhaps that goal post might be brought nearer than I originally expected.
MJ: What are your favourite authors and books. What have they taught you?
Jay: I’m a big fan of Agatha Christie, Ken Follett, Kate Morton, Edgar Allan Poe, and Henry James. Although I’m not nearly as talented, I’m probably a combination of all five of these amazing authors. They’ve taught me how to balance the detail and depth of a character with letting readers have their own imagination. Often a review will say I’ve added too much to the picture, but I think there’s always room for creativity, and what I project might be different from what the reader perceives.
MJ: How did you find your recent video interview experience with Valentina?
Valentina is so easy to work with, and I actually relaxed more than I expected. Two years ago, I was on a radio show, and I spoke too quickly and softly. I was better this time, but I still felt like I could be more personable and outgoing than I come across. I recommend all authors do something like this, then learn how you’re perceived. It helps you create your image and figure out how to interact with others in a way that makes you shine. You should give it a try, then we can learn more about you too. 😊
MJ: Oh, how terrifying! I am considering starting a Youtube channel but will need to get some practice in before I dare to chat with Valentina.
MJ:If you could introduce me to one of your favourite characters what would they say to me.
Jay: Help! He’s making me do things I never thought I’d do. Please, I’ll pay you to stop him from controlling my actions. (Ah, there’s my humor coming out…)
MJ: Love it! Every book needs at least one funny character.
MJ:Finish and edit this sentence to reflect you, the day to day Jay: Each day one of my socks goes missing… (This happens to me all the time!)
Hmm… did the washer or dryer eat them? Each day one of my socks goes missing… Baxter has an unhealthy fetish for fabric, and he is vicious about socks. If there’s ever a sock that falls from the drawer or the laundry basket, he steals it. Aggressively, then he growls when I try to take it back. It’s nuts. He’s the sweetest dog until socks are involved. I find half eaten socks all over the apartment. I’ve threatened to make him pay for the replacements out of his dog food allowance.
MJ: Now I know who the culprit is. Baxter has been teleporting here to eat our socks too. Naughty doggy!
MJ:How do you decide on the titles for your books.
The titles in the Braxton Campus Mysteries are a play on words. The 1st and the 2nd word mean one thing together, and then 2nd and the 3rd mean something entirely different. Take the latest: Frozen Stiff Drink. Frozen Stiff means you’ve got a dead body. Stiff Drink means you need something to relax. Not only are those the two themes to the book, but it’s a clue to the murder weapon in this mystery. It’s the same setup for the first five in the series too, except Academic Curveball is only two words. Here’s where I messed up… I honestly thought curveball was two words, so the title was Academic Curve Ball, meaning Academic Curve and Curve Ball… the book was about grades being changed on the baseball team, so it was a cool title… then a beta reader pointed out that it was one word. I was heartbroken for days and thought of different titles… couldn’t work it out!
MJ:Giveaways of books, got any tips?
Jay: Rafflecopter has some free options. I like doing random comment winners on a blog post. Ultimately, people want free stuff, so you have to do them… but then shipping can be expensive for physical books. I usually focus on audiobooks or Kindle editions. I participated in the Goodreads giveaways when they were free, but when they went to over $100, I didn’t see the value in getting your money back, so I stopped doing those. Instagram has become very popular for them.
MJ: How do your family and friends respond to your writing career? Are they supportive?
Jay: They are supportive. My mom and a few other relatives read all the books. Some haven’t said anything, and occasionally… it bugs me. I’d happily give them to them for free, but I don’t like pushing my work on others either. Friends have surprised me. Some haven’t offered to help in any way, shape, or form. Others who weren’t that close have been super supportive. I think it just comes down to those who like books read them, those who aren’t readers ignore it! I am totally okay with it because everyone has their own online stores or products and services. I can’t or haven’t done tons to help them either… it’s impossible to keep up, and with friends, you always know they’d be there if you really needed them to be. For the most part, they all think it’s cool. I hardly ever bring it up around others tho, as I feel weird about it. It’s not a secret, but I tend not to discuss my writing career with friends and family unless they ask me questions.
MJ: Do you plot a little, or a lot? Or not at all?
Jay: 100% start with a plot and detailed outline that notes 2 or 3 scenes and the key things to happen in them. But it might only say something like “Kellan goes to the diner and overhears a conversation that provides him a clue about the time of the murder. Involves Character A and this location.” As I’m writing the beginning of the scene, I decide who else should appear in it from the supporting cast, so that I can share side stories and keep the feel of a wonderful small community. I try to include 3 or 4 of these in each book so I can have a larger series in development over time.
MJ:What do you think of social media? Any tips for managing the time suck that it is.
Jay: I absolutely hate it. But it’s absolutely necessary. Routine is best. I have one for all sites I’m on. I follow it in the morning and again when I’m done with work. If I let myself go on again before bed, it’s more casual and I’ll just randomly check for tags or people that I’m curious about. It’s important to limit your time, otherwise you’re going down the rabbit hole. Two hours max a day for me, and then I force myself to switch to genealogy, Spades, or random Wikipedia reads.
MJ: Tell us about your audio book journey. How did you set about transferring your writing so it could be listened to in audio form. Are you a keen audio book fan?
Jay: This one is interesting. I do not like audiobooks. I am a quick reader, and I often read a book in less time than the average reader. This is only because I’ve read over a thousand books this decade, so it’s just become the norm to me. Listening to an audiobook is generally 4 times as long for me. I don’t have that amount of time, plus I like to imagine my own voices for the characters. So… big reveal… shocking, I know, but I don’t actually listen to audiobooks. I also get distracted too easily. If I have headphones or earbuds, I can walk around the apartment. I find myself making coffee and cleaning something, then 10 minutes have gone by and I tuned out of the book! So… I can’t listen to one. I’ve listened to most of mine, because that’s the right thing to do. My publisher handles the selection process, and then the narrator will reach out to me for any tips. I’ve never picked my own narrator… too bad, a good friend of mine is a narrator and I would’ve loved to give him the book! But I’m glad for those who have been selected, and they all bring something extra to the story and the setting.
MJ: It’s great to see that you have your books translated into other languages. How did you arrange this, was it a complex process?
Jay: Oh! This is another one my publisher handled. They told me they were beginning the process, and I had to provide some guidance. A month later, I saw the ad for a book I wrote in Spanish, and I didn’t even know it was done. Shocked, I say! So… I wish I could help there, but I wasn’t directly involved. I’ve now got 5 in different languages, so I’m eagerly figuring out to market them and learning German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish so I can share new types of posts. I’m someone fluent in Spanish, but only in conversation, not in book marketing!
MJ: Have you got any pearls of wisdom for a new writer?
Jay: Know your goals. If you want fame, money, influence, etc. If you just write because you want to write and have no plan or thought about where to go, you won’t (in 99% of the cases) be successful. Be sure to have a 6-month, 1-year, 2-year plan so you can pace yourself and see modest wins in the beginning. Adjust and adapt. Re-baseline. Always think about the future needs and plans.
MJ: Would you ever consider doing a Tik Tok video? Or do you prefer not to.
Jay: Umm… I’ve heard of it. I’ve seen a few. I’m so inundated with everything I have to do now, I can’t take on anything new! LOL I supposed I should learn it at some point tho, right?
MJ: I’m tempted, but… it might embarrass my kids. Not that that would stop me!
MJ: Share a funny story to cheer us all up in Lockdown.
Jay: I wear glasses and contacts. Before quarantine, I wore contacts to work every day. Now that I’m home all the time, I tend to wear my glasses. I try not to wear contacts much now unless I have an important work meeting and need to go on video chat. When I’m walking Baxter in my mask, and it’s a glasses day, they fog up. I’ve almost stepped into traffic, bumped into signs, and had to stop in the middle a sidewalk simply to be able to see and not fall down. It’s embarrassing, and I now put a tissue at the top of the mask. Someone once stopped on the street, about six feet away, and said, “Are you okay, do you need me to call an ambulance?” I must’ve looked like such a fool just staring into space waiting for my glasses to clear up. I mumbled something like “all good, just waiting for my spectacles to defog, ma’am.” As the person walked by making an odd noise, he said, “Actually, I’m a sir.” Lord, I shouldn’t ever talk to people. I’m a mess.
MJ: Lol. That happens to me all the time! No, not being called Ma’am or Sir, my glasses fogging up!
Jay’s books are on promo during May. This week its his debut 2017 novel Watching Glass Shatter, Download the Kindle format here as it’s only .99 from 5/17 thru 5/21.
Frozen Stiff Drink: Death at Danby Landing, the 6th book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, will be available as a .99 Kindle download. via Amazon.
The 3rd book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries series Flower Power Trip is on sale for only .99 cents from 5/20 thru 5/24. You can download it to your Kindle here
The 4th book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, Mistaken Identity Crisis, is available for only .99 as a Kindle download from May 21st thru 25th. If you haven’t experienced this mystery and family drama, get it now via Amazon.
Not only were many of the books in the Braxton Campus Mysteries discounted to .99 this week, but the 5th book, Haunted House Ghost, is also available as a Kindle download for only .99 from 5/29 thru 6/2. To take advantage of this discount, visit Amazon via this link..
Father Figure is a .99 Kindle download from 5/23 thru 5/27 – help yourselves! Thank you so much for your support in sharing, downloading, reading, and reviewing. I appreciate it! You should pick it up before the virtual book club coming up soon… check it out @ Download @ http://mybook.to/FatherFigure for only .99 this week.
James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education,Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries.
Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.
I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries. There are six books currently available in multiple formats: Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook. Some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German. The books are Academic Curveball, Broken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, Haunted House Ghost, and Frozen Stiff Drink.
My paperback release blog tour continues this week with a fabulous tour organised by Jennifer Marston. Please do support the tour and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway to win a cash prize by visiting the blogs mentioned above in the Tour Schedule. Today, Sunday 22nd April is the last day to enter!!!!
“This is a book brimming with supernatural happenings, a mysterious cottage and a family problem that needs solving. I definitely recommend this to anyone who loves a good mystery as it will reel you in”
I’m delighted to Welcome Ian Probert to Kyrosmagica for a lively Q & A session. Lovely photo Ian. Very casual. That floor is spotless. So, first things first let’s start off with the preliminaries, the getting to know you questions, before I start to tease you into revealing more.
Where do you live now? If you could live anywhere in the world where would that one place be?
I live in Islington and I couldn’t think of anywhere better to live. I’m a bit like Douglas Adams. He was an Islingtonophile. I interviewed him at his house once but ended up spending the afternoon listening to Randy Newman. It was enough to put me off Randy Newman for life. We spoke a lot about John Lennon. He had a bootleg of Real Love, which the ‘threatles’ eventually made into a pretty terrible single. It was a bog shock when he died. But then when isn’t it?
Have you always known that you wanted to write? When did you start writing? Did you have a Eureka moment or did you just come to it gradually?
I’m going to sound big-headed but at school I was only good at two things: Art and English. As a kid I filled exercise books up with terrible stories about vampires. However, as a working class kid growing up in Bristol writing was what other people did. As such I had a succession of dead end jobs until one day I found a typewriter and sent something off to a magazine. I was lucky that the first thing I ever wrote was published. These days I’m more used to rejection.
What inspired you to write? Favourite authors maybe, and/or some other more mysterious source of inspiration/influences?
My first professional job was writing letters to fellow students’ banks at art college. I was paid in beer and discovered that I was really good at it. Inspiration? Well I can give you a list of people that I like: Brett Easton Ellis, Paul Auster, H E Todd to name a few off the top of my head. But they weren’t the inspiration. The inspiration was LIFE. Like most people I occasionally have something to say. I find that I can communicate better through the written word. I’m crap at talking. I splutter and sound like an idiot. My wife is great at this. She tears me to pieces in an argument.
Kyrosmagica – Me too, I communicate better through the written word too. Speaking is much, much harder.
If you could summarise your love of writing in one sentence what would that sentence be?
I’d paraphrase Joseph Turner. ‘Writing is a rummy business.’
What kind of special qualities do you think a writer possesses? Apart from a touch of madness!
A writer or a GOOD writer? There’s a big difference. We all have differing opinions of course, but to me a real writer should be able to hit the ground running. To engage the reader from the first sentence and, more importantly, to make the reader forget that they are actually reading. To me it’s never been about the number of words you know, or where you place the commas. It’s how you present your ideas. It’s ideas that make a writer, not words.
Do you follow any particular routine of writing? Are you a structured writer? Or do you just throw caution to the wind?
I’m completely unstructured. I work when I feel like it at any time of the day or night until I start to bore myself. If I’m bored so will the reader be. That’s not to say that I don’t admire people such as Nick Hornby and Zadie Smith who, I believe, rent offices and treat writing like a 9-5 job. It’s horses for courses.
Kyrosmagica – I’m unstructured too. So identify 100% on that one.
Would you consider yourself an introvert, extrovert, a people person or an animal lover? Sorry, for the silly question but I reckon a lot of writers are animal lovers, and well there seems to be two writing camps, shy writers and more outgoing ones, and those who are just plain obsessed with their dogs and cats. Or a family man perhaps? Just trying to get a handle on you as a person.
Who is Ian Probert?
I’m old enough to recognise and to have come to terms with the fact that I’m completely weird. My wife sees it too. So do other people who know me. I seem to spend most of my life trying to put up a normal front that people will find acceptable. I’m certainly not alone in this. I’m a curious combination of incredible egotist and whimpering insecure baby. A compliment can make me a friend for life, a criticism can make me reach for the switchblade. Years ago a journo at the Big Issue gave one of my books a bad review. I actually waited outside their offices intent on taking it up with him personally. Thankfully he
didn’t appear. Do I like animals? Not really. I don’t understand them. I can see that as a species we have a deep rooted, fundamental urge to enjoy a symbiotic relationship with other creatures; but me, I’d rather have a Playstation. You don’t have to feed it. It doesn’t need walking. It doesn’t cover your clothes in hair. And you don’t have to organise people to look after it when you take a holiday. You can’t play video games on a pet either.
Kyrosmagica – I admire your bravery. All those pet lovers out there will be incensed. Yes, incensed!
What made you write Johnny Nothing? Was the book born out of a sense of boredom, or dissatisfaction with life?
Well it’s been pretty well documented elsewhere that I was very ill for about 15 years and I wasn’t able to write. I was close to death. When I finally got better I had a creative burst of energy and wanted to write something for my ten-year-old daughter, who didn’t have much of an idea that I used to write for a living. It ended up – I hope – being for kids and adults. I think it’s actually a fairly political book. Although naturally there are lots of fart jokes.
Kyrosmagica – So sorry to hear about your illness Ian. Glad you got through it. Must have been dreadful, fifteen years. You deserved one heck load of a creative burst of energy after suffering that long. Oh and what a combination!Politics and Wind. Sounds about right!
How important do you think a title is? How did you choose the title of Johnny Rotten and your other books?
A title is very important. Which is why I didn’t call the book ‘Johnny Rotten’. Had I done that I may well have attracted an audience of ageing punk rockers, which wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. However, I wanted to attract kids. So I called the book ‘Johnny Nothing.’
See what I mean? I’m too sarcastic for words. Make one simple typo and I jump on you.
Kyrosmagica – Oops sorry, Ian, I deserved that! It’s my generation. Johnny tends to equal rotten in my sub-conscious. I must have been listening to punk rock when I typed up the questions.
Since I’ve proven myself to be an incompetent punk rocker I may as well try to redeem myself with a couple of excellent quotes:
John Lydon: “You should never, ever be understood completely. That’s like the kiss of death, isn’t it? It’s a full stop. I don’t ever think you should put full stops on thoughts. They change.”
Freddie Mercury: “Is Billy Idol just doing a bad Elvis pout, or was he born that way?”
Back to my Questions! Who are your greatest supporters and your most difficult critics?
My wife is unbelievable. She has complete and utter faith in me. Which is something that I certainly don’t have. If it wasn’t for her I would probably stop writing and become a waiter or something. Most difficult critic? All of them. I can’t think of a writer who can take any criticism. Most writer refuse to read reviews because they find it too hurtful. I can have hundred good reviews but the bad one is the only one I will remember.
Kyrosmagica – It must be tough. I am always very aware of this when I’m reviewing, I try to be honest, and fair. People forget how much time and effort authors invest in their writing. Writers bare a little bit of their souls on public display.
I think the choice of illustrations in a book can make or break a book, do you agree? There is a darkness to the illustrations which makes the book visually startling and different. How did you find the illustrator for Johnny Nothing?
Kyrosmagica – This is the moment when I confess that I want to kill you, a writer and an artist, how talented can one person be!UGH! Take a look at the artwork from Johnny Nothing and cry!
I’m over that outburst now. BACK TO MY Q AND A!
I believe you have self-published and also traditionally published. What are the pitfalls of both methods, and what method of publishing would you recommend to debut authors?
Oh blimey. I’m still trying to get my head around this myself. I don’t know. In traditional publishing you might get an advance and some help with the marketing but not much else. They get you in the papers but take 80% of your earnings. Most traditional publishers still expect you to do the bulk of the marketing. In indie publishing you get no advance but a bigger slice of the pie. Obviously you have to do all the marketing yourself, which is really hard. Did I say INCREDIBLY, UNBELIEVABLY difficult? Newspapers won’t review your books and you struggle to get on the radio or telly. I don’t think that either method is satisfactory but I do enjoy the independence of indie publishing. I do, however, miss interacting with other human beings.
If you could choose one quote to inspire others to write what would it be?
‘Marley was dead to begin with…’ If you can begin a book better than that you’re going places.
Kyrosmagica – Ha Ha! Scrooge, Humbug!
What are you working on now?
Something called ‘Dan’s Dead’ in which the hero dies on the very first page. It’s going to be a pretty short book!
Kyrosmagica – Sounds intense, but intense is good.
Now here’s to a wonderful excerpt of Johnny Nothing. CHEERS! ENJOY!!!!
EXCERPT OF JOHNNY NOTHING
Bill had a shaven head and was wearing a blue tracksuit. He was almost seven feet tall and built like an outdoor toilet made of brick. Bill didn’t realise this but he was a distant descendent of Neanderthal Man. He had only one eyebrow – one long bushy eyebrow that reached right across his forehead. He looked like what you might get if you force fed a member of Oasis with a half-tonne black plastic sackful of steroids. And if you were brave enough to be present when he took off his tracksuit you would discover that his back was so covered in hair that he was able part it with a comb. If Bill had had more of an interest in fashion, he might even have considered giving it a curly perm and perhaps a few extensions. On his right arm, Bill had a tattoo which simply read ‘Bill’. This was in case he woke up one morning and forgot who he was. This was actually less unlikely than you might imagine because standing next to him was his twin brother. His name was Ben and he was identical to Bill in every way except that the tattoo on his arm read ‘Bin’ (the tattooist was either South African or not a very good speller). He was wearing a red tracksuit. Bill gave Mr. and Mrs. MacKenzie the tiniest of smiles and managed to grunt ‘hello’. Ben gave the couple exactly the same tiniest of smiles and also managed to grunt ‘hello’.
The two men were standing protectively close to Johnny. They were so large that in the confines of Johnny’s bedroom they looked like giants, which they were. They were so enormous that each of them had their own postcode. They were so gigantic that they had their passport photos taken by satellite. They were so humungous that you could spend all day thinking up rubbishy jokes about how big they were and never adequately describe just how indescribably, earth-shatteringly ENORMOUS they were. By no stretch of the imagination could you call them small (unless, of course, you were a lot bigger than them). The pair of Goliaths were having to stoop slightly so as to avoid head-butting the ceiling, which actually even looked a little scared itself. They were a terrifying sight. Even scarier than a school trip to a Weight-Watcher’s nudist
There was a long, pregnant silence in the room like this:
This eventually gave birth to an even longer post-natal silence, which, in the interest of preserving the rain forests or the battery on your Kindle, I shan’t demonstrate.
The four grown-ups eyed each other nervously. Bill and Ben looked at the Mackenzies like they were looking at insects that could be squashed into pulpy insect juice any time they so desired. The Mackenzies looked at Bill and Ben like they were looking at two giant skinhead Neanderthal bully boys who had just appeared from nowhere in their recently and unexpectedly decorated council flat. Johnny looked a little scared. Finally Billy Mackenzie managed to get his mouth working a little and spluttered: ‘Who are you?’ And then: ‘What do you want?’ There was another long silence – let’s call it a pause – while Bill and Ben looked at each other as if trying to decide who was going to answer. Finally Bill spoke: ‘You the boy’s parents?’ he demanded in a voice that sounded like an angry rhino with horn-ache. Although if he was clever enough he would have realised that this was a rhetorical question. There was yet another long silence (you’ll be relieved to hear that this is the last silence you’re going to get in this chapter) before Billy Mackenzie mumbled ‘Yes’.
‘We’re Johnny’s bodyguards,’ continued Bill. ‘We’re here to make sure that everything’s hunky dory.’
‘Hunky dory?’ Mrs. Mackenzie suddenly found her voice. ‘What do you mean ‘hunky dory”?’
Now Ben spoke: ‘What my brother means to say,’ he explained. ‘Is that we’ve been – how shall I say – contracted – to make sure that this young feller’s affairs are in order.’
‘Get out of my house!’ interrupted Mrs. Mackenzie, suddenly feeling a little braver, although she had no idea why.
Bill and Ben looked at each again for a moment. They did this almost as much as your mum looks in the mirror. Or you dad looks at websites that he shouldn’t be looking at. ‘First of all,’ said Bill, ‘This isn’t a house – it’s a flat.’
‘And second of all,’ said his brother. ‘We ain’t going nowhere. And neither are you.’
‘Johnny who are these men?’ Mrs. MacKenzie asked her son, ignoring the two giants.
‘I’m sorry mum but…’ Johnny started to speak but Bill cut in like a pair of scissors that chops sentences into bits.
‘…What the young feller means to say is that the fun’s over.’
‘The fun’s over?’ repeated Felicity MacKenzie numbly.
‘That’s right,’ continued Ben. ‘You’ve had a right old time. You’ve been spending his money like it’s your own. You’ve been ripping the poor young feller off. And we’re here to put a stop to it. From now on things are gonna be different.’
‘I’ve had enough of this,’ said Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘Nobody speaks to me like this in my house…’
‘Flat,’ corrected Ben.
‘Nobody speaks to me like this in my flat. Billy, call the police!’
As usual Billy MacKenzie did as he was told. He reached into his pocket for his mobile phone. Before he had the chance to even turn it on the gigantic frame of Bill was towering over him.
‘That an iPhone?’ asked Ben.
‘Erm… Yes,’ said Billy, who could only watch as the huge man took it from him and with one hand crushed it into a chunk of buckled metal and shattered touch screen.
‘I think it’s broken,’ said Ben. ‘You ought to take it back to the Apple store. Tell ‘em that you’re not getting a decent signal.’
‘Right!’ cried Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘We’re leaving! You’ll be very sorry you did that. I’ll fetch the police myself!’
Now the giant frame of Bill was standing in front of her. He was holding something in his hand that looked a little like a child’s toy space gun.
‘Know what this is?’ he asked. Although once again he wasn’t clever enough to recognise that this was a rhetorical question.
Mrs. Mackenzie regarded the object for a moment. Then she shook her head.
Whatever it was she guessed that it was not intended to provide pleasure, happiness or fulfilment. Anything that has a trigger and a barrel and goes ‘bang!’ seldom does.
‘Come on Billy!’ she said. ‘We’re leaving!’
Bill stood in front of her blocking the doorway. ‘Not so fast,’ he said, not so slowly. ‘It’s called a Taser. See this little trigger at the front? If I press this it’ll give you a small electric shock. It won’t hurt you…Well not too much anyway.’
Bill raised the object and gently touched Mrs. MacKenzie on the arm. There was a loudish bang and a flash of blue neon light and Mrs. MacKenzie collapsed groaning to the floor. She was conscious but wasn’t able to move her arms and legs ‘Oh my gawd!’ said Billy Mackenzie bravely charging out of the room in terror.
He got as far as the stairs before there was a second flash. He, too, crumpled to the floor. Bill dragged him back into the bedroom by the scruff of his neck.
Johnny Nothing got to his feet and stood over his two parents. He looked anxious. ‘Are they… Are they… OK?’ he gasped.
‘Don’t you worry yourself,’ smiled Ben. ‘Give em a few minutes and they’ll be right as rain.’
‘But they’ll think twice before they try to run off again,’ said his brother.
Ian Probert has been scribbling down words ever since he learned to spell the phrase: ‘Once upon a time…’. He is the author of Internet Spy, Rope Burns and a bunch of other titles. Internet Spy was a bestseller in the US and made into a TV film. Rope Burns is a book about why books shouldn’t be written about boxing. Ian has also written things for a shed load of newspapers and magazines. When Ian was a student he used to write lots of letters to the bank manager.
“Great new kids book alert! My two are in hysterics reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert (and I am too).” Jane Bruton, Editor of Grazia
“Oh, Wow! Dark, sordid, grotesque and hilarious are only a few words I can conjure up to describe this hilarious book.” Lizzie Baldwin, mylittlebookblog
Johnny Nothing is best-selling author Ian Probert’s first ever children book – although adults are enjoying it too. The story of the poorest boy in the world and the nastiest mother in the universe, the book is earning rave reviews. Children and grown-ups are all laughing at this incredibly funny kids book
THIS BLOG claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and you do not wish for it to appear on this site, please e-mail me with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.