This is the first part of the interview with Will MacMillan Jones. Part 2 will show Friday.
Tell us a little about yourself for the readers.
Hi, my name’s Will and I’m an authorholic*. Yes, it would be dangerous to stop me writing, as I used to explain to my ex when she wanted the lawn mowing. Otherwise I’m a fifty something lover of blues rock and jazz who single parents a late teenage daughter (who is the reluctant subject of quite a lot of my stand up comedy…). I’m lucky enough to live in the myth and mist (well, rain, really) haunted land of Wales. I constantly walk the hills looking for dragons. No jokes about my ex here, please. When I’m not writing, I do some performance poetry and a little stand up comedy with gags taken out of my books. Yes, the jokes are that bad.
*I’m a fantasy writer, so I nicked that term from a friend. We all do it, right? Only complain if you’ve never written the word ‘Orc’.
What is Have Frog, Will Travel about?
Have Frog, Will Travel is the sixth in my fantastically funny fantasy collection (The Banned Underground) about a rock n roll band composed of dwarves, a BogTroll and a somewhat drunken dragon who plays bass guitar. In this installment – all are stand alone novels – an off-white witch (she needs to pay more attention to her laundry) is being tempted by the Dark Side to join them or have her cottage knocked down by the Local Council. She sets off on a journey of self discovery, to discover: herself, of course. But along the way she discovers a bit about other witches, local government, vampires, politicians and the perils of being a woman on her own. The creation and maintenance of frogs was a subject she already understood, to the discomfort of the building inspector who condemned her cottage.
What was the inspiration for Have Frog, Will Travel?
When I first started writing, all I wanted to do was tell jokes. So I did, lots of them in each book. But to my appalled fascination (it’s rather like watching one’s own descent in madness from a safe viewing area, only going in the reverse direction and quite uncomfortable) I’ve discovered that I want to talk about some of the things that matter to me as well by pointing out the entirely ridiculous side of life, of course. Satire and jokes do this so well. [‘People think Vampires are evil. That’s nonsense. If you want to meet real evil incarnate, you talk to a Payday Loans Company or an investment banker.’]
What genre do you like to write?
Actually, more than one. Beside the Fantastically Funny Fantasy, I also write poetry – a collection might come out in 2015 – Children’s fiction, and some Horror. I’s the subject that’s horrifying, not the writing, of course. Well, maybe both. The Horror allows the dark side of my imagination to have free rein. We all have a dark side, and some days I can hear it calling in my dreams: and the next horror piece is coming. Be afraid… I usually am.
What genre do you like to read?
Mostly fantasy. Did you know that if you join an online dating site, the first thing they tell you is not to talk to girls about scifi or fantasy. Have you ever been to a fantasy/scifi convention? There are more girls there than men, mostly. Which reminds me, I must start booking this year’s tickets… But I’m not at all averse to some historical fiction. I am a big fan of Lindsey Davis and her ‘Falco’ series about a private detective in ancient Rome. There’s a fiction author called Nick Hornby I greatly admire, too.
Who are some authors who have inspired you?
No one working in fantasy can claim not to have been influenced by Sir Terry Pratchett, can they? But I’d also have to fess up to one of the world’s greatest surreal comedians, Spike Milligan. His radio scripts for The Goon Show are amazing. Then there’s Robert Rankin, another surreal fantasist who refuses to allow his plots to get in the way of a great gag. I love his stuff, too.
If you could dine with a famous author alive or dead who would it be? Why?
Everyone is expecting me to say Sir Terry at this point, aren’t they? Well I’m not. I’d be too awestruck. So I’ll plump for Spike Milligan – although we’d probably be laughing too much to eat anything.
What do you do to combat writer’s block?
I write flash fiction then. A complete story in less than 1000 words. It’s a great discipline actually, to write these tales. It teaches an author the value of each word, focuses the mind and in fact if you set out to do one a day for a couple of weeks, it helps get the imagination working. I have several pieces of work – written or waiting to be written – which started out that way.
What advice to you have to aspiring authors?
Write. Edit it. Write a lot more. Edit it again. Then hire a professional editor, and whilst they are working on what you thought was perfect and are about to find out wasn’t, write something else.
What is your next project?
For 2015: I’ve a children’s book called ‘The Return Of The Goblins’ about to come out. This is the second story about an eight year old girl who makes friends with a young dragon. In this book, her big brother and their nasty neighbor have been kidnapped by Goblins and it is up to her and her dragon friend to save them! Then there’s The Picture, a paranormal mystery about –well, bet you can’t guess from the title. After that will be the seventh Banned Underground story. In this installment the band called The Banned Underground are back out on tour and are being filmed by the record company. But there’s a hot new band touring too, so they have some competition. The real story is about a Troll who decides to follow his dream to become a film cameraman.