INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR OF THE "BLUE MOON DETECTIVE SERIES" J.H. SKED
Hello J.H.! It is so wonderful to have this opportunity to interview you. Tell us more about your "Blue Moon Detective Series" and the inspiration behind it.
Hi Kitty, thanks for having me! Blue Moon Detectives is a series about a group of paranormals running a detective agency, and the cases they get involved in. It began when a twitter buddy of mine mentioned that her basement was pretty creepy, and we both agreed our washing machines were possessed (mine tries the Great Escape across the kitchen floor at least twice a month).
Then I started playing “What if?” and the main characters – Billy, Astrid and Ruth – showed up and kick-started the series with a short story, Basement Blues. I had so much fun writing it I decided to see if they had a few more tales in them – I reckon they’ll be around for a while. I still want to know who Billy’s dad is, how Astrid got changed, and what happened to bring Ruth back as a ghost. The only to find out is to write.
I found this rather humorous in your biography, why do you have a tendency to cause electronic malfunctions on a regular basis?
Oh, I so wish I knew the answer to that. I’d make it stop! I’m not sure if it’s related to the fact that I’m also pretty accident prone or not, or the fact that when I was about four I thought sticking my finger in a broken electric plug socket was fun, so I did it repeatedly until I fused all the electrics in the house..
It’s a standing joke with my friends and family (I’m banned from touching any expensive electronic toys, which is sad because I love them. I make cooing noises at gadgets, and then they start to emit beeping noises and smoke) and the standard brief to the IT guys at work is to “make it Janet-proof”. I once had every light in every room I went through blow as soon as I flipped the on switch. The climax happened in the bathroom, which was fitted with some horrifically expensive inset ceiling bulbs. All seven of those little darlings exploded, with lots of tinkling glass noises and a few sparks. It’s enough to give a girl a complex.
You seem to have a love of a lot of different genres, if you had to choose just one that you love most what would it be and why?
My first true love was horror, but I’ve always loved a great story that had an element of paranormal in it. I guess I love the idea that there are things that can’t be explained away just be shining a torch on it. I love the idea that the world is a mystery, that there are hidden corners that we will never fully understand, and would probably leave screaming if we did. Cold rationality can’t accept dreams, and part of me always feels a certain stab of pity when someone refuses to entertain the possibility of wonder. What a sad way to feel.
What is the next big thing coming from you and when will it be available?
I’ve got a collection of shorts I’m doing with DogWorld author Jason McKinney, and another project we’re planning together that I’m really excited about. I’m also working on the follow up to WolfSong (more traditional fantasy, with lots of blood and magic and people with attitude problems and shiny pointy weapons). The next book in the Blue Moon series is planned for the end of this year, hopefully in time for Christmas. The working title so far is Fur Thing.
When writing, would you say that your fantasy world controls you, or do you have control of it?
I’d say in the first draft it definitely controls me, and by that I mean the characters tend to pitch up and tell their story. Rewrites and editing is when I take the controls back.
Who are some of your most profound inspirations both in writing and in life in general?
Okay, I’m going to blather a bit in this section – feel free to cut if you need to!
Life in general – definitely my family. My parents and my brother are probably the nicer, untwisted version of what I could be like, minus the warped sense of humor and penchant for things that bump in the night. Nelson Mandela, who showed the entire world that revenge isn’t an automatic response to injustice. A lot of the time the most inspirational people are the everyday ones who do extraordinary things, who choose to do the right thing in different circumstances. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or heroic. It just has to be decent.
Writing – Stephen King was my idol from a very young age, when I got my hands on a copy of Cujo. He manages to reach in and just push all the mental buttons. Terry Pratchett does the same; and my personal opinion is that if you strip away the comedy/satire elements, his books are scary as hell. Neil Gaiman and Peter Straub – American Gods and Floating Dragon are examples of writing that make you close the book and shiver, they’re just that perfect.
Illona Andrews, Patricia Briggs and Lilith Saintcrow, who’ve come up with three-dimensional female protagonists that you just have to root for, even if you don’t agree with their decisions, and male characters that I don’t always want to hit very hard on the head with the common sense and decency stick.
The indie writer community in general is amazing. They push the boundaries in places and ways most of the established publishing houses won’t take a chance on. Guys like Stant Litore, Jason McKinney, Joseph Garraty,Jason McKintyre, and Thea Atkinson who write stuff that keeps you glued to the page and wanting to know what happens next. Bert and Christina Carson, who are both great writers and just all round good people. I’d go so far as to put these guys into the life in general and writing category as inspirations. They’re who I want to be when I grow up.
In all your books so far who is your most favorite out of the characters you've created and why?
It has to be Billy. I just plain like the guy. I like the fact that he’s a big, strong guy who has a strong decent streak and a very strong personal definition of justice, and right and wrong, but is also a great big softy. Underneath the muscle and wisecracks there’s a guy who’s intensely loyal, but not in Astrid’s kill-any-threat kind of way. At the end of the day he wants to be with his family and friends and maybe have a really good coffee and relax, and he ends up arguing with gods and revenants and needing to use a litter box at least once a month instead.
What is the one piece of advice that you've received in your life that has been most beneficial to you and why?
When I was still very small, my family went to the Kruger National Park for a holiday. I went outside and found a grasshopper twitching and crawling with ants. My gran found my trying to rescue the grasshopper and crying when I couldn’t save it. When I told her it wasn’t fair, she sat down next to me and patted my knee.
“Life is often not fair. Things will happen that you can’t change and that is just the way of the world. But sometimes you’ll be able to change things. Those are the best times.”
Then she helped me bury the grasshopper.
Tell us about life in South Africa!
Crazy beautiful! It’s a very vibrant, constantly changing country. Every climate you can think of, from desert to forest to ski-slopes.
Like anywhere it has rough parts and dark patches, but the people are fantastic and it has to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I miss it terribly sometimes.
Do you have any advice you'd like to share with other authors, or in general that you think would be beneficial to our readers? Also we'd love you to share your links and let us know where we can find out more about you.
Keep reading, and keep writing.
If you write, socialising on media like twitter and different writers forums will help you a lot, from tips and advice to amazing support. Your writing will constantly evolve but you have to write to get there. Get a thick skin, and get decent, honest and helpful crits from people you can trust. Hard as it can be, having someone point out what you’re doing wrong is more helpful than someone telling you that your writing is amazing and you’re the second coming of J.K. Rowling, as long as it’s done constructively. Not everyone will like your stuff. The more you put out, the higher the odds that someone hates it. This is a good thing – the world will be a very boring place if everyone liked the same stories by the same writers.
Readers are important. Putting your writing out for someone to read is one of the major reasons you write. It isn’t about money, or fame, and there are very few writers who live a celebrity lifestyle. You write because you want to share a story, because you hope that somebody reads your words and laughs, or cries, or has to sleep with the light on because the story crawled inside their skull and is bouncing off the furniture in there. You were a reader before you were a writer, and you never stop being a reader. You never stop being that person that hopes the book you pick up next takes you into a different world.
Don’t. Spam. Your. Readers. Just don’t. I bounce around on twitter a lot, and I do it because I like interacting with people. I’ll tweet links to interviews and specials, but what I really like is just chatting. When you start spamming twitter, or forums, the odds are high the only follows you get back on twitter are from auto sex-bots, and the best you can hope for in forums is a polite silence. I understand you’re desperate to sell books and get the word out, and it’s a fine line between mentioning things in the right place and overstepping the mark, but irritating potential readers in their social network area is not such a good thing. It’s like having an advert running on your bath sponge – you pay attention for all the wrong reasons.
Readers – your reviews mean more than you can ever know. You’ve taken the time to read the book – taking the care to put through a review, whether you liked the book or not, is invaluable. Pointing out why you did or didn’t like or enjoy a book or part of it, even more so; some of the best feed-back I’ve had was from someone who Good Reads who couldn’t quite get into WolfSong. Writers learn a lot from their reviews, even when they sting.
I’m on twitter (@jhsked), Good Reads (http://www.goodreads.com/) which is a great site to interact with both readers and authors. Readers may be interested in LibraryThing, (http://www.librarything.com/) where you can sign up to get advance copies and new releases in exchange for honest reviews as well as join different groups and catalogue your book collection. Feel free to swing by my blog, www.jhsked.blogspot.com and say hi – visitors always welcome, and if you turn out to be a troll, I’m going to keep you and name you Ethelbert and introduce you to my yeti.