I am delighted that JOEL HAMES is joining me on my blog today. Joel's latest book - The Art of Staying Dead - was published on 26 May 2015 and is available from Amazon.
I’d always wanted to write. As a child I loved coming up with stories and spent more time than was good for me making things up as opposed to making things add up. I suppose that was why I ended up doing a degree in that most useful of subjects, English lit. After that I became a lawyer and then a banker and just assumed all that making stuff up was a childish thing I’d put behind me.
But in 2009 I decided I’d had enough, packed the family up and moved away from the City up to the rural north-west of England. My wife’s business was geographically transferable, so that kept us going while I decided what I was going to do with the rest of my life. And in between looking after the kids and experimenting with various half-arsed business ideas, I decided (with, I must admit, much prompting from my wife) to give those old literary ambitions another crack. And thus, Bankers Town.
Where do your ideas come from?
The ideas behind Bankers Town came from the people I used to work with and the things we used to do – as well as the things I thought we might do, if we were greedier and less scrupulous (or less afraid of being caught) than we really were.
The central idea behind The Art of Staying Dead – the prison riot and what immediately follows – was, quite implausibly, the product of a dream. I woke up and there it was, fully-formed – what if you saw something, someone pointing a gun at you, in the middle of a riot, and no one believed you? And unlike Coleridge, I had the good fortune to remember the whole thing.
The sequel to The Art of Staying Dead, which is my current WIP, is based on an idea I had while driving through the narrow winding country lanes near home. It’s another what if? idea, but I’m not going to say any more because that would be giving far too much away!
Have your personal experiences influenced your writing? And if so, how?
Like I say, for Bankers Town I drew on a lot of personal experience with regard to the kind of work we did and the politics and interactions in the office. As far as fraud was concerned, though, that was all entirely fictional (your honour). Although the characters and locations in The Art of Staying Dead draw slightly on people and places I’ve known, I’d say the vast majority of that book is based entirely in my imagination.
Fast and funny, streetwise, stylish, and surprisingly relevant.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
Not so much a habit, but I do find myself forced to write with Harry Potter films and similar blaring out a couple of feet away. Does wonders for the concentration.
Do you plot out the whole book before you start or just start writing and see where it leads you?
I try to plot out the whole book – I write out a skeleton in Microsoft OneNote and follow that religiously until I reach The End. At least, that’s the idea. In reality, characters introduced in the middle of a random chapter have a habit of taking over, as do “interesting” new plot developments I kick myself for not having come up with in the first place, and the finished book ends up bearing as much resemblance to its skeleton as I do to Angelina Jolie.
What do you consider to be the hardest part of your writing?
Cutting scenes and characters that I’ve enjoyed writing but don’t add anything and detract from the pace of the book. That, and going back through the whole thing when I insert a new character or plot development and making sure the preceding events and knock-on effects still flow properly and don’t give too much away.
Do you read? If so, who are your favourite authors?
I’m a bit of a literary snob and love Joyce, Dickens, McEwan, Chatwin, David Foster Wallace, Ishiguro, Austen. My favourite contemporary writer is probably Jasper Fforde. Lately – thanks to THE Book Club on Facebook – I’ve discovered a host of really wonderful, imaginative and accessible writers like Eileen Wharton, Janine Cobain, John Bowen, John Marrs, and I’m sure I’ll come across a whole lot more.
How has your life changed since becoming a published author?
I still find it difficult to take the fact that I’m a “writer” seriously, but now if I say I’m “working” and what I mean is I’m sitting down at a computer making stuff up, I don’t have to mumble “kind of” under my breath and slink away red-faced.
'Are You Sure You’ve Got The Right Joel Hames?'
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Give it a go, don’t be scared, and please, edit or get yourself edited by someone with a decent grasp of grammar and spelling.
And lastly, why should people read your latest book?
Because it’s fast, thrilling, imaginative, surprising, funny, and just really bloody exciting.
About Joel HamesFind Joel Hames on his website and official Facebook page and follow Joel on Twitter - @joel_hames
Joel Hames lives in rural Lancashire with his wife and two daughters, where he works hard at looking serious and pretending to be a proper novelist. Joel writes what he wants, when he wants to (which by coincidence is when the rest of the family choose to let him). His first novel, Bankers Town, was published in 2014, and The Art of Staying Dead followed in 2015.
The Art of Staying Dead
Published by Amazon (26 May 2015)
A prisoner who doesn't exist.
A lawyer who doesn't care.
A secret buried for thirty years.
Sam Williams' idea of an important decision is whether to have another kebab for lunch. He's spent ten years running away from other people's pain, and he's learned not to look back. Sam needs a client, and for a human rights lawyer with a flexible conscience and an impatient landlord, a high security prison seems a decent bet to find one. But now the bodies are mounting up, the decisions are getting serious, and the pain isn't someone else's any more.
Someone wants him dead, the police would like a word, and there's nowhere left in London to hide. If Sam wants to stay alive, he's going to have to stop running and figure out why.
Click here to read my review.