Today I have another interview, this time with multi-genre author, Benedict Jones. He stops by to chat about his books, and writing in the crime, horror and western genres. Enjoy!
Interview with Benedict J. Jones
Well, my name is Benedict J Jones and I’m a writer from London who works mainly in the genres of Crime, Horror, and the Western – often blending genres together. I’ve been published since 2008 and gradually worked my way up through various short story venues until Crime Wave Press published my novella “Skewered” and collected a fistful of my short fiction along with it in “Skewered: And Other London Cruelties”. Since then my Private Eye character, Charlie “Bars” Constantinou, has appeared in two novels from Crime Wave.
In amongst that I went back to my horror roots with a grind house novella from Dark Minds Press called “Slaughter Beach” and they also collected a bunch of my weird western tales in “Ride the Dark Country”.
When I’m not writing I work for a university assisting students all around the globe and try to travel and see as much of the world as I can. As well as that I read voraciously, watch an awful lot of films, and have an interest in martial arts.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?
My latest book is the novel – “The Devil’s Brew” and sees the return of my character Charlie Bars who has appeared in a clutch of short stories, as well as the novella “Skewered”, and the novel “Pennies for Charon”.
Unlike the previous stories it takes Charlie out of his comfort zone of the Badlands of south east London and plants him in the bleak and beautiful countryside of Northumbria, the most remote and sparsely populated county in England. In part, it deals with the mental fallout of the violence that Charlie has previously inflicted, and been on the receiving end of. It’s the run up to Christmas and as the weather turns colder Charlie finds himself caught up in a case of ritual horse mutilation and becomes the protector of a family in peril. You can expect a mix of rural noir and British folk horror – a kind of “Get Carter” meets “The Wicker Man”.
Do you have a favourite character? If so, why?
I think it would have to be Charlie Bars as he is the character that I have spent the most time with – three published short stories, half-a-dozen unpublished ones, a novella, two published novels (and a third one that is close to being completed).
What probably draws me to him is the amount of myself that I initially poured into him but since then he seems to have taken on a life of his own. I often wonder if we were sitting next to each other in a pub having a beer would we strike up a conversation – and, oddly, whether or not he’d like me. I’m not sure he would.
A lot of people have commented that it is his inherent decency that draws people to him which always surprises me as even before the stories start he has done some very bad things. But deep down he is a very moral man, albeit one whose morals don’t quite match up with those of society in general.
You write in several genres. Do you have a favourite? And if so, why?
Writing across several genres and occasionally mashing them up usually means that whichever one I’m writing in becomes my favourite at that moment. Really, the reason I write across genres and in several is that while sometimes they bring the same things most of the time they allow me to explore different aspects of people. The viewpoint of a lot of my fiction tends to be the dark but each genre allows a different approach to the human condition.
For example the western often lets me take a more heroic approach with someone who will stride into the danger allowing me show evil defeated in some way. Whereas my crime and horror fiction often revels in the darkness of the human condition – and can allow me to bring in fantastical elements as well.
Why did you write this book? What was your inspiration?
The initial inspiration for “The Devil’s Brew” was a single scene that came to me of Charlie walking alone down a country lane, twelve-bore shotgun over his shoulder, just as the snow begins to fall. I didn’t have a clue how I was going to use the scene but it stayed with me and I gradually began to think of how I could build a story around it. In the mean time I started what I intended to be a standalone crime novel about a criminal fleeing from London to hide out in the North East and ending up trying to help a nearby family. That began to run out of steam and I realised that the character I had used for it simply wasn’t driving the narrative – in steps Charlie, as he has a habit of doing.
I had already got a lot of information regarding the area from my good friend and fellow author Anthony Watson. The landscape of that area of England was a huge inspiration for the story.
As well as that I went and re-watched a lot of folk horror films (“The Wicker Man”, “Robin Redbreast”) as well as “Straw Dogs” which I think played a big influence on certain parts of the book.
Did anything surprise you about the process of writing your book?
I am always surprised about where a book goes once I start it. I normally have a few scenes in my head and usually have a point “A” to start from and a point “Z” I want to get to. What comes in between always surprises me!
In part that organic nature of the story is part of what brings me back to writing each time. I like the characters to grow and speak to me and, perhaps, diverge along paths that I hadn’t previously foreseen.
It’s extremely rare that I will plot a whole story out. I like to see where the words take me and what occurs to me as I write. This can sometimes be problematic and lead to stories stalling but on the whole I like it and I don’t think I could ever be one of those writers who plots every scene out before they start – but this is just what works for me, to each their own when it comes to the creative process.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
That I think has always been with me. I have always written since I was old enough to hold a pen, and always made up stories in my head. When I was about nineteen I realised the urge and wrote a novella. Which then went into an envelope and onto a shelf. But the bug had truly bitten and I sporadically wrote pieces of short fiction which, again, I didn’t do much with.
Then about eleven years ago I decided that this was what I wanted to do and I got stuck into it. I wrote constantly and gradually began to work earlier ideas into readable stories. A ‘zine called “One Eye Grey” picked up my short story “Goin’ Underground” and then I just built from there.
How do you research your books?
That is very dependent on what I am writing. A lot of my crime fiction comes from things I see and have heard rather than from traditional research. But even in that there are things I want to know more about and get right. For instance, when I wrote “Pennies for Charon” I needed to brush up on my Greek myths, for “The Devil’s Brew” I watched documentaries on dog fighting and had a friend who lives in Northumbria send me pictures from his walks in some of the remote spots.
When it comes to my Westerns I probably do a lot more “book” research. Mainly because I hate seeing anachronisms in films or reading them in stories. One of my worst moments was when a reader of one of my early western shorts contacted me to say he thought that the hero fired one more shot than he had available to him. I checked and, well, let’s just say when the stories were collected for republication he fired one less… Thanks for spotting that one Ross Warren!
What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?
I am working with putting the final touches to the next Charlie Bars book. This one touches on the British political establishment and one of the dark scandals that has dogged it for years. It is my attempt to make sense of certain things that have come to light and wondered how the hell they could have been allowed to happen. Mix in some British gangsters, the shady world of post 9/11 espionage and Charlie is once again up to his neck in grief.
Apart from that I have returned to my horror roots and have a couple of short stories coming out in a pair of projects that look to be very exciting. I’m also still working away on a pair of longer length works set during the second world – so many things on the go and so little time.
You can find all of Benedict Jones' books on his Amazon page.
About the Author:
Benedict J. Jones is an author of crime, horror and western fiction from south east London. His work has been published in various anthologies and magazines. Since 2008, he has published almost thirty short stories. His books include, Skewered: And other London Cruelties, Pennies for Charon, and The Devil's Brew
Check out his website for further info: www.benedictjjones.webs.com or follow Benedict on twitter @benedictjjones.