#Indie #Author #Interview: @Paul_JHBooks shares #favoritereads and #writingtips, plus his new #fantasy #adventure

Hello, everyone! I’m slowly finding my way back to the balance of teaching, parenting, and writing. Let’s start this balancing act right with an interview, shall we? Here’s a fine fellow whose fantasy adventure has recently been published by the small press of the masterful Lady of Wit and Conflict of the Heart, Shehanne Moore. Hello, Paul Andruss!


Thank you for having me over. It is a pleasure to be here. I am up for any questions you to care to ask. Fire away.

Let’s start with where the writing life begins for all of us–our reading lives. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Ted Chiang’s The Story of Your Life is neither a novel, nor under-appreciated. He has written 17 short stories in 30 years and won an embarrassment of awards.

The Story of Your Life tells of first contact. It was made into the film Arrival.  Here’s the elevator pitch: We learn to think in an aliens’ language and see time is simultaneous not sequential. Past, present and future exist together, making us observers in our own lives, unable to change a thing. In other words, imagine being up on a hill looking down at your child on a road. You see the speeding car. Know what will happen. There is nothing you can do.

A great idea, but how do you turn it into a story?

I’ve seen new authors produce stories that are no more than info dumps. We are force fed blocks of imaginative scenarios rather than left to experience the highs and lows, tension and excitement of a story unfolding. Characters are rough sketches whose actions do not move the story along. Plots are loose, falling apart when closely examined. There is too much clutter. Unnecessary characters and background details overwhelm the narrative. Turgid sentences roll endless on. You find yourself counting pages to the end.

Chiang avoids this by telling the story in the first person, non-sequentially which fits with the new time sense developing in the narrator — a linguist learning the alien language. Seeing the story unfold through her eyes we are pulled into her world.

She opens by telling her daughter how she identified her body after she died, aged of twenty-five in an accident. Two stories run parallel. One is how she learned to think in the language. The other reminisces about her child’s life. At the end we discover she is reviewing her daughter’s whole life on the night of conception — echoing the story’s parallel time theme; the linguistic past and the maternal future.

Chiang gives hints of a bigger story behind the one told. She and her husband are divorced. Perhaps when she told her husband of their daughter’s future death he could not accept his failure to protect his child, nor the guilt that came with it? Perhaps he blamed her for having their daughter, already knowing her fate. Even though every life is pre-destined.

Through his storytelling choices, Chiang turns cold hard science into something exciting, tender and ultimately, uniquely human. A story that stays in your mind long after you finish reading, as you explore the implications.

I’ll have to check Chiang out! I’ve been reading a lot of mysteries lately to get into the feel of finding the best point of view for a story. I’m also tempted to dig into some historical fiction to help me find the voice for another WIP. What kinds of research do you do for your own storytelling, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I normally I don’t do a lot of research beforehand. I just jump in. I do lots while writing though. I fact check endlessly. If a reader spots even a niggling gaffe, it can destroy the illusion.

I recently wrote Ollywoodland, a faux-noir murder mystery set in 1949, the twilight of Hollywood. Not so much a who-dun-it, more a who-the-hell-wouldn’t-want-to.

Every single thing was checked: the history of the Hollywood sign, studios, highways, Las Vegas, the impact of WW2 on Hollywood, armed forces demobilisation, where academy awards were held, what newspapers were popular, local radio stations. Every libellous rumour had to be a quote in public domain. It was hard work, but a huge amount of fun.

Things are different with the new novella Porcelain, set in the UK’s glam rock era. Because of work commitments, I was unable to get on with the story and so ended up researching and writing copious notes. I now have 50 pages of material and almost the entire story in my head. It’s frightening and exhilarating because I have never started this way before.

I know just what you mean about all those notes. When I was working my own fantasy novel, I needed to get a feel of the current animal life of Wisconsin as well as some ancient history from which my shapeshifters could grow. I even wrote up notes on various names to work with, working out origins of names for various groups, even plant names for a certain class of creature. I suppose this is something you wouldn’t want to intimidate your younger writing self with. If you could tell that Young Paul Andruss anything, what would it be?

Nothing. Not because I’m a genius, believe me. I just wouldn’t listen. How do I know? Because I went back in time AND I DIDN’T LISTEN!

Okay, if you want to be pedantic, I didn’t exactly go back in time, but I might as well have. Others told me much the same and I ignored them. What is more, I’m glad I did. If I knew what was in store in terms of the hard graft and knockbacks ahead, I never would have written a word.

I came late to writing. Out of the blue, I thought, write a short story — how hard can it be? The story was what you’d expect. Naturally, I thought it the best story in the whole world and modestly basked in my genius. Are you beginning to see why I would not want to hear anything as inconvenient as the truth?

Drunk on overconfidence, I started a second story. A short Sci-Fi romp inspired by a history book that said the Celts went naked into battle. What if they were biker gangs?

Six years, and 180,000 words later, I had the 2nd draft of Finn Mac Cool. (Let’s not talk about 1st draft, shall we?) To be fair the 2nd draft wasn’t bad, just not good. I spent the next 2 years sending it out, while attempting to write a play (abandoned) and another novel (never to see the light of day). It was rejected by 30 publishers and agents. I then spent another six years rewriting Finn Mac Cool.

When I sat down to write that short story, if someone told me it would take the next 14 years of my life, I wouldn’t have bothered. It is lucky that when we first leap out of the nest and spread our wings, we are too exhilarated to give much thought to the way down.

Noooo kidding. I loved making that first draft of Fallen Princeborn: Stolen, but if you would have told me it’d take eight years to actually publish, I’d have worked out some other projects before dedicating that much time to a single story. What would you say are some other common writer’s life traps for aspiring writers?

I can’t speak for others, but for me writing is like peeling an onion.

Because it makes you weep?

Good one. And yes it does. I was thinking more that when you peel one layer you find another underneath. As we see from Ted Chiang, each layer: plot, characters, story twists, even the language we use, contributes to a good story.

There is no trick to writing. It is a result of time, effort and a lot of difficult choices. Because the writing process is long, and solitary, we cannot be blamed for seeking instant reward.

If I did go back to young me, I would say, Don’t be in too much hurry. Remember the old cliché: there is no second chance to make a first impression.

Instead of rushing out your latest piece, put it away for a couple of weeks. When you come back, you’ll see it with fresh eyes. In the old days I thought, “That will do.” These days, I want to write something that will stand the test of time. I know a story is finished when I read it for the fifth or sixth time and do not want to change a word. Like that proverbial onion, the story has developed layer by layer.

Never forget we become authors when read by others. Like literary hookers we ask readers to spend time and money on us. Yet, as readers, how do we feel when a writer doesn’t deliver? New writers often think they are special cases, especially after busting a gut to write a story. But readers don’t see you. They only see what’s on the page. Family and friends might lavish praise, but such praise can be poison. If you think you are as good as they say, where is the impetus to improve?

And yet we struggle on, don’t we? No matter what readers say, we must write our truest, or strongest, our brightest, our darkest, our best…est. We keep on keeping on no matter how difficult the subject matter. What would you say was your hardest scene to write?

A while ago, I’d had enough of people spouting doggerel blank verse. I’m no poet but do appreciate good poetry. When poetry is good, you have no choice but to appreciate it. Firmly on my high horse I wrote According to the Muse – A dialogue. Naturally enough, it started with ‘poem’

There are people who,

Aspiring to be considered poets,

Devise mundane sentences

Usual to any written piece

And arranging them in verse

Claim it is a poem

According to the muse

It’s not

Swiftly followed by a quote from the poet Marianne Moore … ‘Poetry is a matter of skill and honesty in any form whatsoever, while anything written poorly, although in perfect form, cannot be poetry.

The Muse discusses poetry and illustrates points with some of the greats, from Emily Bronte to Alan Ginsberg’s Howl. The argument goes that poetry should intoxicate the senses, leaving us drunk on loquaciousness. As the Muse’s mouthpiece, I needed to conclude with something really special.

I decided the Muse’s closing monologue should be loosely based on Molly Bloom’s 50,000-word stream-of-consciousness soliloquy from James Joyce’s Ulysses. Molly’s gorgeous monologue is divided into 8 sentences without punctuation. It allows each clause to be constructed differently depending on which word you start. It is also a bugger to read.

The Muse’s monologue took me four weeks to write.

She requires it to be read aloud.

Under gods, man thought me tamed. Then man forgot the gods. But poetry remained. A poet seeking to invoke no longer knows how. He thinks to flatter and seduce and if he succeeds in blind fumbling excuse, believes I allow because he understands a woman’s needs. As if setting a rose in my hair like I were an Andalusian girl kissed breathless against a Moorish wall under a hot Alhambra moon was enough to make me acquiesce to his urgings for my yes, putting hands on me and kissing my neck while I thinking as well him as another draw him down to the perfume of my breasts with his heart drumming like mad in the expectation of my yes. The bloom and the breast is not his to possess or caress until my liberal yes, for this is woman talking and I am sick of love. Yes. I am no more his than a snatch of song heard on the jessamine breeze or a flower of the mountain born to die. So let me be. Yes. Set me free from the inky bars of this prison page to roll off a tongue careless as a lover’s air whistled on Palma Violet scented breath, let loose in an empire of senses where guileless yes is yes. A paradise garden of delight. A sensual world pregnant with life.

Beautifully put, Paul. Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me and all my fellow creative souls! Folks, you can check out Paul’s latest right here.

Paul Andruss’ first novel, the young adult fantasy Jack Hughes & Thomas the Rhymer is published by Black Wolf Books.

When 12-year-old Jack Hughes sees a sinister fairy queen kidnap his bother Dan, he knows his parents will never believe him. Nor will the police. Not when he says Dan vanished into thin air. If Jack wants to see Dan again, he has to save him. And not just him …

If he ever wants to find Dan, first he must save Thomas the Rhymer from a wicked enemy.

Bravely embarking on a rollercoaster adventure into the dark fairy realm, Jack and friends face monstrous griffins and brooding tapestries with a life of their own, learn to use magic mirrors and travel on ley lines that whip them off faster than sound.

Jack knows even if he returns Thomas the Rhymer to his selfish fairy queen, she might make Jack her prisoner. With the odds stacked against him, can Jack succeed in finding and freeing Dan? Or will he lose his brother forever?

If you enjoyed reading this, or even if you didn’t, Paul asks you to kindly send him all your money. If you are not quite gullible enough to fall for that one, then visiting his website will please him almost as much. http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/

Explore the book’s story http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/story-of-the-book.php

Download posters http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/art-gallery.php

Read pre-release reviews http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/thomas-the-rhymer.php

Or listen to music written for the book by classical composer Patrick Hartnett http://www.jackhughesbooks.com/music.php

Yes, Patrick loved the book that much.

And who knows?

So might you.


I’m excited to get back on track with my writing goals! We’ll take a look at them to make sure I’m not burying myself too deep (as I am oft prone to do). This will include sharing my work on writing book proposals to see if this approach could also help you meet your own writing goals. There’s another swinging interview coming your way, plus I’ve also got some keen ideas on selecting point of view for writing thanks to my summer book binge as well as mellow music for calming the soul.

Oh, and hopefully I can get Blondie off her summer sliding duff to get creating for you, too. 🙂

Ah, it’s good to be back. xxxx

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

51 thoughts on “#Indie #Author #Interview: @Paul_JHBooks shares #favoritereads and #writingtips, plus his new #fantasy #adventure

  1. Jean, thank you so much for this most enjoyable conversation. It really felt like a meeting of minds and spirits as we bounced off each other with our shared tribulations and, of course, joys of getting down on paper that annoying thing in your head (that you simple can’t let go of). Then once down on paper working your socks off to make it the best you can. There are so many of us out there beavering away in solitude, feeling like the only one, it is uplifting to remember we are part of a community, which through the hard work of developing ideas into prose, might one day shape the future. Thanks again. Paul

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the great comment. It really got me thinking, so much so I feel we could chat for hours. (Don’t worry I won’t- you have endured enough of me… believe me, even I can only take so much of me at any one time.)
      I have never thought of myself as particularly confident, and personally I’m not. But I am confident as a writer. I think I’m good – which, as we all know, is an entirely different thing to actually being a good.
      Your mention of confidence was timely as I just had 2 short stories rejected and needed some introspection. I’m not saying the short stories were great, simply I’m happy with them.
      On the subject of research I think I usually don’t research much beforehand for two reasons.
      1. I tend to write stuff I have some background knowledge of so know the rough direction of travel.
      2. In the past I found if I throw myself into reading I lose the momentum to write. It is the same if I discuss the story too much beforehand – I talk it out.
      For me it’s better to scribbledown the whole thing a quick as I can, then edit at leisure.
      Once again, thanks for the comment… really good talking
      Best Paul

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great to have you back in your groove, Jean 🙂 and that was such an entertaining conversation. Some very wise words from Paul, and I was, for just a moment, vaguely tempted to pick Ulysses up again. He’s still on the shelf though.
    Take care xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mike, that is so true about all things should be individualistic. It got me thinking about all the great writers and what they have in common – often it is nothing more than the fact they are not like anyone else. As writers one of the first things we are told is to cultivate our own voice, but sometimes that feels like just words. What you said nailed it, bringing it right back home.
      I think your moniker is great as well, for often in the medieval courts, the King’s (or Queen’s) fool was often the wisest fool of them all.
      My warmest regards Paul

      Liked by 2 people

      • I agree with you, Paul. Wholeheartedly. I honestly believe that ‘rules’ and ‘writing’ are worst enemies. We all work differently in a manner that suits, and in many ways that alone determines, say, the writers we follow. Style, panache, uniqueness are the things that create interest. To me, when penning a tome I aim to push the subject matter way beyond the border of commonplace acceptability. As a draft I can always edit should I feel I’ve gone ‘over the top’…awful phrase, my apologies…I can apply a tweak or two. As to ‘The Old Fool’ I can report that I am both those things. All the very best, Sir.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. It was odd I loved The Story of your life but then didn’t really like the movie. Another super talented writer discovered and more books to buy. Will have to double up my paper round. I definitely like the idea of research on the hoof.
    So pleased that your back and starting to find balance. Look after yourself my friend xxxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Now for me it was Arrival that got me into Ted Chiang’s short stories. I can see where you are coming from because the film lacks the impact and intimacy of the story. But I didn’t mind that because I think films need to be different to novels in many ways. I like them to stay faithful to the same plot and themes but they are different art forms. In a novel you get so much from the descriptions of the setting and how it builds the atmosphere – it can carry on for pages helping contexualise conversation and action. In a film you see the setting in an instant, all the author’s work – wiped out in one quick visual scan – no matter how beautiful the set is. Arrival is a bigger work than The Story of your Life, but the text works better on the page because it cuccoon’s you in her thoughts.
      Reasearch on the hoof is great fun, but I do confess, I do write things I have some background knowledge of. Ask me to write a romance of a proper mystery novel and I would not have a clue. Which Is what attracts me to some authors. they do what I can’t… never in a million years.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I feel like I’m going to have to experience both to properly engage in this argument. 🙂 You keep taking care of yourself and all in your little world. We’re working on our balance here, though today had much more “blah”-ness that I’d have liked. It was a beautiful day, and it’s like NO one wanted to go outside but me, the little weirdos…anyway, lol…keep sharing smiles with your amazing son. xxxxxx

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Sally, lovely to see you here. As you know it is such a big mountain to climb, especially taking baby steps. But I certainly complain about the support the community gives- there are a lot of warm hearted generous people out there who give unfailing support to other writers, like your good self. Although writing is a lonely process which involves long periods of locking yourself away. It is lovely that when you are ready to come back you are given such a warm welcome.
      Much Love

      Liked by 2 people

  4. This is such an interesting, informative interview, Jean and Paul. Thanks for sharing your ideas and insights, and for the pointer to Ted Chaing. Stories of Your Life sounds interesting.
    Good luck with Jack Hughes and Thomas the Rhymer, Paul, it sounds like a heck of journey.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Cath, thanks so much for your good wishes and as for the journey, At least it gives me something to talk about! I think you will like Ted Chiang his stories are extraordinary. One of the things I remember reading about him (and which I can’t now find anywhere) was that he wanders around with stories for months before he finishes them. I found that really liberating. The author Gore Vidal did the same- anotehr must read if you have not- try Creation- he said he wandered around with half finished novels for years.not quite knowing how ti progress it. I found it liberating because I felt it was a weakness not to be able to rush through something in a single draft… and if I could not do it then I couldn’t be up to much. These two guys gave me the freedom to think, you know what I am not goign to settle for less than the best I can do, no matter how long it takes. And once you stop putting your creativity against a clock that is very liberating.

      All my best Paul

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Peggy, so glad you enjoyed it. With regards to Ted Chiang, in my version of the short story book (UK) there is the story 72 letters … Steam-punk meets the Kabbalah with a bit of the magical phlisopher Cornelius Aggrippa thrown in for good measure. It blew my sox off in the way he created a different natural world to the one we take for granted! I am beginning to feel like a walking talking advertisment, so I will say no more! Enjoy reading him. Best Paul

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you- especially about the clever chap bit. And well done over the Kate Bush reference. I am impressed. I’m such a fan of KTB and there are references in the Muse’s monologue- in the lines:
    This is woman talking and I am sick of love (Song Of Solomon on the Red Shoes Bush sings Comfort me with apples for I am sick of love) and Set me free from the inky bars of this prison page. (In the Sensual World Bush sings- Stepping out off the page into the sesual world.) The idea of a literary character coming alive off the page appealed as my favourite books are ones where the characters remain alive in my head after I finish reading them.
    Finally, I was inspired by 2 Kate Bush pieces as titles of short stories- Watching You Without Me from the Hounds of Love and a one minute instrumental called a Quick Look Around the House Before We Go. If you fancy reading them feel free to drop your email address below and I will be happy to send them off to you. Thanks again and all my best Paul

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: We’ve Been Magicked Away in this #Podcast: Jack Hughes and Thomas the Rhymer by @Paul_JHBooks | Jean Lee's World

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