Hello James, and thank you for your interview.
Can you please tell us who your writing hero / heroine is, and why?
Hi Melanie, thanks for having me. My writing heroes are the writers who inspired me to write, who I read when I was young. That would be Enid Blyton and, later, Iain Banks. I loved the Adrian Mole books. Most of my heroes now are dead! People like Eça de Queiroz, a Portuguese writer, Malcolm Lowry and Beryl Bainbridge.
Can you tell us about Will’s Page for young authors?
Will´s Page was set up in the memory of a young writer from the north of England who died of cancer. His family got in touch with me through one of his teachers and I published some of his short fiction on my website. The idea is that I use his page to publish young people´s writing. If anyone reading this thinks they want to see a story they have written in print, please send things to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It makes things easier if you include the email address of a parent or teacher. I´m interested in any type of writing of more or less any length. If you like writing and if other people like reading your writing, I´d love to hear from you.
You live in Spain. Do you think that helps with your writing, if yes, why?
No, not really. I was born in England but I´ve lived more time outside the country than in it, so living abroad is usual for me. I love England but I love all the places in the world I´ve lived – like France, Germany, Thailand, Singapore, Oman, Libya and Syria. These days living in Spain is great for me as I love Madrid and I have my family here. It´s quite easy to get home too.
What does an average writing day look like for you?
I work as an English teacher in Madrid so most of my day is taken up giving classes. As far as the writing goes, depending on what I´m working on I´ll try to write for at least an hour a day. Mornings are the best time for me, when I feel freshest, so I do any research or preparation work in the evenings. I like to go to sleep thinking about an idea or problem and then wake up and see what my sleeping mind has come up with. I usually get some good ideas in the shower or going for a quick run in the morning and I tend to write fast when I do finally sit down. Like I said, I write for an hour or so – whatever feels natural. I don´t work to word limits. If I finish a chapter quickly, great – I stop. Sometimes, if I don’t have time, I make notes for the next chapter or episode. These days I also have to factor in at least half an hour or so for social media stuff and emails.
Are your wife and children proud of your writing achievements?
I think they are, deep down, but they keep me grounded. I try not to be too precious about writing. It´s something I´ve always enjoyed doing and something I´ve worked at doing well for almost all of my life. I´m one of those people who wrote little paper books from 5 years old. I think the best thing about getting books published and getting some recognition as a writer is how it makes you, as the writer, feel about yourself. It took me over 25 years to get my first book published. That´s a lot of time spent alone wondering what you are doing, a lot of rejections and a lot of words. If publishing books has helped us at all as a family, it´s because it´s made me a calmer, less frustrated person!
Where does your love of Shakespeare come from?
School. Macbeth. Taught to me by a great teacher called Mr Topp. Shakespeare´s quite tough to read alone and I´m no expert, but there´s just something about the plays and the use of words which hits home time and time again – especially when you have some help at hand (I use the Oxford School Shakespeare books and watch plays on the Globe Player). For me it´s not a snobby academic thing but simply a wonderful way of seeing and describing life. Shakespeare, as a writer, could get into people´s heads and show what was motivating them and what they thought. He could do great romance and great drama. He could do the lot – and write it all with brilliant poetical flourishes. He coined words and phrases we still use and his plays work on many levels hundreds of years after he wrote them. He´s just very impressive from the writing point of view. He also did all this coming from a small Midlands market town, making it big in London during his lifetime and retiring to enjoy the fruits of his labours. He´s world famous and he did it all with a kind of twinkle in his eye and left plenty of mysteries behind – what more do you want?
Tell us about your latest book.
Lodestone Books are gearing up to release Cold Fire, the second book in the Shakespeare´s Moon series, at the end of the year. The Invisible Hand, the first book in the series, based on Macbeth, came out in February. There´s also a kind of teaser trailer short story called Heart of Winter which is free on Smashwords and introduces the series.
Cold Fire is about children at a boarding school who get wrapped up in the plot of Romeo and Juliet. It´s a slightly darker, deeper book than The Invisible Hand. It´s about a group of friends at school and what they do when a naked boy called Romeo turns up on the school playing fields.
On August 15th I´m also publishing the first volume of a long “faction” book I wrote a few years ago about Napoleon´s exile and death on St Helena. That one´s called The Napoleon Diaries and is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle. If you´ve got any interest in Napoleon or what went on on the island, I think you´d like it.
Can you tell us about the great competitions that you have launched recently?
Earlier this year I ran a competition with Shakespeare´s Schoolroom in Stratford-Upon-Avon, where Shakespeare went to school, and the winners got their names into Cold Fire. We are hoping to do something similar again this year in the build up to the publication of the book. To make sure you stay up to date, subscribe to my website at www.jameshartleybooks.com and I also have a Facebook page – as James Hartley Books. Or you can check out the Shakespeare´s Schoolroom website.
If you choose one thing to make your writing life easier, what would it be?
I don´t know. Money, maybe. More time? Really, I don´t think you need anything. Maybe some sort of prize or official recognition, if only so I could enjoy the sensation of having people knock on my door instead of me knocking on theirs. The best thing in the world for a writer is to have readers – people who enjoy the story – and I´ve been lucky enough to visit schools where the students have painted huge murals from my books or written poems or plays based on the actions. That type of thing is priceless.
I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions James. Best wishes for continued
Thanks for having me, Melanie!