INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR JAY NORTHEARN
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
I write under the name Jay Northearn. I decided that Chris Mills isn’t right for a fantasy writer. Hopefully my pseudonym makes things feel a little more windswept and interesting.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
Ideas emerge from all kinds of corners, and though I feel a fraud saying it – but for me, ideas do not generally come from the world of books. I love film, art and music, and it was a track by Peter Murphy ( ex-frontman of Bauhaus ) from one of his solo albums that gave me initial inspiration for ‘Beyond Falcon’s Reach.’ His music is shadowy, dark in places, shimmering in others, and often dramatic. The song in mind conjured landscapes and characters that I just had to give substance in story-form. I began by writing ‘blind’, letting my free-flowing, non self-editing head take over, then before I knew it I had the beginnings of a novel. It wasn’t until I uploaded to a writing platform and got Featured status right from the first chapter that I considered this a truly serious project.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
I have always loved sci-fi, fantasy, myth, the ancient world, and have always been fascinated by the paranormal. Right from a young age I have sensed and seen enough odd things to believe that our perceived standard reality is only a limited portion of the wider scheme. Therefore, the speculative fiction genres have obvious appeal for someone with these instincts. No matter what the sub-genre is, whether it’s sci-fi, dystopia, horror, fantasy, steampunk, or whatever – the great over-arching theme is what if? Coupled with this, there was some interesting friction in my childhood, as my Mum was a religious studies teacher and my Dad was an atheist science lecturer. Mum was very what if in a spiritual universe, whereas Dad was fixed to a predictable Newtonian universe. Alas, both my folks are gone now to their respective universes, but their contrasting viewpoints remain influential within me to this day, and I don’t see that as a hindrance. To be certain about everything can bog down one’s creativity, but to be somewhat confused is far better for the muse … and I’m a poet and don’t know it! No surprise that Mum admired both the theological and fantasy writings of C.S Lewis, and my brother Tim had a huge map of Narnia on his bedroom wall. All those imaginary mountains, forests and seas to gaze over … priceless! It’s only within the last few years, however, that I’ve had a serious crack at fiction writing. I have other creative preoccupations in art and music, but I think ‘Beyond Falcon’s Reach’ is the most serious, committed, kick-arse thing I have ever done to be honest. It brings together many elements I have enjoyed in writers like Michael Moorcock, Robert Silverberg, Tolkien ( of course ) and Frank Herbert. I also find that fiction writing draws upon my visual sensibilities for description, plus my dramatic side for characterization and dialogue. I’ve really enjoyed narrating audio recordings of Prologue and Chapter One and Two. These are available for free listening on Soundcloud:
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
As I’m a working man who has to get up to the sound of an alarm clock, I don’t have unlimited tracts of time for writing. To write ‘Beyond Falcon’s Reach’ I’ve had to wake extra early to steal a couple of precious hours per day when nobody else can distract me. That’s the only way for many writers who have the usual life responsibilities. I don’t adopt a super-strict writing goal, but if two weeks go by and I’ve done no writing, then I do get uncomfortable. There’s the fear of going rusty and not being productive enough, so I will try to keep some momentum going from one week to another.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
I am now working on the sequel to ‘Beyond Falcon’s Reach’ which might have the title: ‘The Usurper Incendus’, but we’ll see how it pans out.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
None of the names in BFR have any special or cryptic meanings, but I like them to seem credible – as in not wildly outlandish names for the sake of being fantastical. I like fantasy to be fairly grounded, so the names in BFR are not too different to the familiar, e.g, Danule ( Daniel ) , Tobin ( Toby ) and Kathben ( Kathryn ).
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
Maybe supernatural horror and sci-fi, but no solid plans yet.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Generally finding the right work-space and time … that’s the opening gauntlet. My main challenge in the craft itself is searching for expressive and descriptive modes that sound fresh. As for being conceptually original – if you spend months researching all other books in existence to ensure you’re being utterly unique, how would you find time to write? At some point it has to be an act of faith; that your particular twist on a theme is twisty enough.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
Youtube trailers are a great way to promote as moving/ sequential images have greater power to engage potential buyers. Look at the way people buy books in shops. After bring pulled in by the cover, they look at the blurbs and teasers. I think a good Youtube trailer performs the same function online. Static images are easy to dismiss in a nano-second. It’s important to give people a flavour of your world.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
‘Beyond Falcon’s Reach’ of course. It’s my only serious writing accomplishment so far.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Still a slave to the alarm clock, but with sufficient miracle stardust, I might be getting up for the sole mission of writing. However, I am realistic. It’s so hard just to get noticed, let alone sell thousands of copies.
Have you always liked to write?
Not always. I have also followed my visual art interests in producing abstract art for wall-art publishers. I love songwriting and recording music too.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
I don’t consider myself experienced enough to offer iron-clad wisdom, but allow me to echo the advice of Neil Gaiman:
- Don’t search for the market because it doesn’t exist. The only market is the one you create for yourself.
- Be true to yourself. Tackle themes you are truly interested in, otherwise your work will be shallow and unconvincing.
- Don’t give up. If at least some people ( hopefully ones with good discernment ) love what you’re producing, then you’re doing something right and it’s worth soldiering on.
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
Multi-platinum, T.V set destroying rock star. I’m too long in the tooth for that now, but I suppose I could still smash up some hotel T.Vs if they let me.
What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?
Editing, especially the fine-tuning. It’s like that infant game of hitting something back into its hole, only for another anomaly to pop up. It’s like an endless purgatory, but has to be done.
What are you working on now?
The sequel to ‘Beyond Falcon’s Reach.’
Why did you choose to write in your genre?
It comes most naturally to me. I have a vivid imagination, and also a strong visual awareness ( from my art background ) that comes to the fore in world-building descriptions. Small wonder that I’m not into TV soaps and kitchen sink drama. Life can be dismal enough without replicating its most banal aspects. Having said that, I don’t see speculative fiction as simple escapism. The genre has long served to articulate issues that can change the lives of every human being on the planet. At present, A.I is the boss beasty – the digital bogeyman beneath our beds. There’s nothing escapist in pondering how highly evolved A.I will affect our homes, our jobs, and our entire culture. It’s an encroaching reality bringing promise and horror in equal measure.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
I’ve always loved Tolkien, naturally. Being so learned of Scandinavian mythology and languages, Tolkien recognised the relative gap in the English diaspora for an equally expansive mythology, so he invented one in the form of Middle Earth. Sub-creation at its finest. Other favourite authors are Iain Banks, Michael Moorcock, Frank Herbert, Robert Silverberg, and I’ve developed a recent liking for the murder mysteries of writer, Jason Goodwin. I love his spice-scented intrigues within the fading embers of the Ottoman Empire, mixed with so much humor and the author’s immense historic knowledge of that part of the world. Reading The Janissary Tree will make you really hungry because it describes Turkish cuisine with great aplomb.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?
I can only speak for my debut novel ‘Beyond Falcon’s Reach’. Linden is my favourite character because his initial persona is a transient thing. Behind his geeky awkwardness and guileless charm is … well, I won’t give the game away, but let’s just say: something else!
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. I’m not trying to be clever saying that, but truly, both. It’s a curious feeling when you have written a significant chunk, and then you flop back in your chair as if you’ve just endured a pilot’s flight-sim test.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
That’s the killer headache that hits you from bad sitting posture and staring too long at the monitor. I’ve made myself quite ill at times. It’s something I need to be more aware of.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
This represents the eternal conundrum for artists of all kinds. To answer, I think of the words of Dave Lee Roth of Van Halen in a magazine interview. He said that when writing a song, he never considered if it was to be commercial or niche or whatever. He just asked himself a simple question: is this good? His evaluative philosophy was a self-enforced, blissful ignorance, a kind of air-headed absolutism, but I think it’s safe to say that it worked for the band pretty well!
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
‘How the Hell did that Happen?’
Where can your fans find you and follow?
I have various digital hang-outs, but most relevant here is my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JayNorthearn/?modal=admin_todo_tour
Beyond Falcon’s Reach is available from Amazon and other retailers:
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview ❤️
And thank you!