Interview with Herbert Howard Jones, Author of Young Adult Fantasy THE PYEWIZ AND THE AMAZING MOBILE PHONE

Herbert Howard Jones was born in London in 1955, and went to Eccles Hall, a boarding school in Norfolk. He left after a couple of years and attended IIford County High School in Barkingside where he where he met Bram Tovey, now conductor of the Vancouver Symphony orchestra, and pianist Derek Smith who later played with the Johhny Dankworth ensemble. They inspired Jones to take up music, which he still practices today.

Jones attended Lisburn college in Ireland and then worked in a wide variety of occupations. These included in law, as a porter at the BBC, in jewellery manufacture, publishing, and commercial art. As a BBC porter he was required to hump equipment between studios and could be spotted riding shotgun around London in the old green BBC vans of that time. He was eventually sacked for lateness!

He then found a job in a Hatton Garden jewellery firm in London. As an apprentice jeweller he was required to assemble twenty-two 14 carat gold gate bracelets a day. In the two years he spent in the business he had personally made nearly 12000 bracelets, which was quite a feat, but was mind numbing work, and not something he wanted to do with the rest of his life. At this stage he didn’t know what avenue to go down next.

But the clue lay in his early life. As a young boy, he showed an early interest in the arts, particularly writing, musical composition and painting, and has pursued them as interests ever since. At this time he met the daughter of the captain of the Titanic, which sank in 1912, and consequently became obsessed with the myth which surrounded the subject. Jones remembers handling Titantic artifacts in the lady’s cottage country, and thinking that they made beautiful art ornaments! They inspired Jones to start creating collages using old bric-a brac, attaching small objects to canvas and applying paint to them.

In his teens, Jones lived with the family of author Julian Branston, whose mother was a close confidant of British comic Kenneth Williams. They introduced Jones to writer and poet John Pudney, famed as the author of wartime poem ‘For Johnny’. As busy as he was, Pudney would give kindly critiques of Jones’ earlier writings, urging Jones to say ‘more with less’. Jones described his writing efforts at this time as pretentious and undisciplined, and was frankly lucky, that ‘Pudney gave him the time of day,’

Jones found John Pudney fascinating as, among other things, he knew Pablo Picasso personally, having met him as a reporter during the war. To the aspiring and awe struck Jones, this was all glamorous grist for this artistic mill. At this time he became fascinated by celebrity, which was hardly surprising considering that his benefactors frequently had prominent people down to dinner, including the Bishop of Liverpool and others.

When Jones worked for a firm of ‘showbiz’ solicitors in London, he ran errands for screen star John Mills, and composer Tony Hatch, but felt that life as a London commuter just wasn’t for him, and so he ‘dropped’ out and went to live in Deptford. Jones justified this to himself by saying this was his ‘down and out in Paris and London period’.

Jones moved around South London and finally settled in some lodgings in Lewisham which were also being occupied by the now international artist David Mabb, presently Head of Masters at Goldsmith’s college, from whom he acquired wonderful discarded art pieces. Mabb’s charismatic and confident personality had an inspiring effect on Jones who began to look at art in a new light. In Jones’ eyes, David Mabb was ‘one of the solid group of British artists who are exponents of a new kind of socially responsible art, which is dynamic and very much at the cutting edge.’ In Jones’ view, Mabb’s art not only succeeds powerfully as a room decoration, but it invokes a strong visceral response in the viewer. If Jones was going to paint, he wanted his art to be as eloquent as Mabb’s! At the time of writing, Jones is still struggling to achieve this goal. Jones cites US artist Ron English, as his other influence.

Meeting well known people and those active in the arts and entertainment industries had the effect of shaping Jones’ view of the world, and he vowed that one day, he too would make a contribution. It was only in his fifties that
Jones has seriously sought publication. The Pyewiz and The Amazing Mobile Phone is his first book.

At the present time Jones is busily writing his second book and is painting. He hopes to have his first exhibition of art in London in the near future.

Jones’ most thrilling life moment: ‘being six feet away from Frank Sinatra when he came to the London Palladium!’

You can visit his website at www.science-fiction-fantasy.com.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Herbert. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I've been writing since the age of nine about forty years plus.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

My YA book, The Pyewiz and The Amazing Mobile Phone, is about two brothers, twins, torn apart as toddlers by a secret kidnap, and then finally brought back together again when one of them discovers the truth. The Pyewiz is the pirate wizard behind the kidnap, and it is he who forces the conflict, and it is he who, in the final analysis, is brutally compromised, but you'll have to read the book to find out how. I wrote it as a kind of personal therapy, but I also wanted to try out a number of writing theories that I had picked up along the way. One theory, is that style is more important than story substance. However, having said that, I did try and make it a story worth reading.

What kind of research was involved in writing The Pyewiz and the Amazing mobile Phone?

I had to do some research on the nature of the 'extraordinary world' that my characters found themselves in. Most of the action takes place on Charon, one of Pluto's moons and so I looked up what I could on the subject.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

I did design a book cover for the Pyewiz, but the publisher told me that my design was inadequate, so we went with a default design.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

The ride has been bumpy. The smoothest aspects have been the things that have gone wrong!

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

It took four months from signed contract to release.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I don't have an agent now, but I did briefly have quite a prestigious firm represent me in the seventies. The Marc McCormack agency had a literary division run by a lady called Ms/Mrs Egri, and she took me on. I do feel it's necessary to have an agent because they can use their contacts to help you and massage your temples when things aren't going your way.

Do you plan subsequent books?

I do have some ideas lined up for future projects, including a 'thriller' I'm writing at the moment concerning an unusual archeological find!

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I write night and day. I think I even write in my sleep! I get paragraphs coming through when I'm brushing my teeth in the early morning.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

I would obviously ask Dorothy Thompson to help me. But I would use all the media, particularly TV, which is known to boost the sales of anything! Apparently Guiness beer sales fell substantially when the company briefly stopped its tv campaign. And that's a well known European brand of beer that doesn't need to be advertised! I'd also do a Barak Obama and buy a lot of facebook promo space!

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

I've tried to promote my book on the net by building websites, have joined some social networking sites and have employed the services of Pumpupyourbookpromotion. Book production without promotion, is the surest way to obscurity as an author.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

I think the key is to have a lot of product. It increases the odds of being taken up by someone. Don't just wait on your first magnum opus, start work on the next and the next. Also, here's a tip from a well known author. Once you've gone through your list of agents, go through them all over again. You'd be surprised how forgetful they can be. Also, the second time around, an assistant or somebody else may take a shine to your work. It's not always the same people in a firm who evaluate your 'first three chapters'. Also, multiple submissions to several publishers or agents at the same time, can start a bidding war in an author's favour!!

Thank you for coming,Herbert. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

You can get it online from Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble or you can visit my site at www.science-fiction-fantasy.com for a link. Thank you!
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