This week’s writer is an US author who spends a lot of time in the UK. Based in Salem, Virginia, self-confessed Anglophile (Dr) Forest Issac Jones is an educator who writes crime, thriller and short stories in his spare time. A former finalist at Bloody Scotland‘s Pitch Perfect in 2018, Forest was also shortlisted in the Fish Short Story competition in 2019 and was a London Independent Story Prize 2020 Flash Finalist. He is a member of the US-based Crime Writers of Color. His novel The Greatest English Detective Club #1 reached the top 30 children’s detective books for the Kindle on Amazon UK in September 2014. His latest short story ‘A Pub, Bed & Breakfast & A Dead Body’ is included in Festive Mayhem – 10 stories of holiday mystery, crime and suspense which will be released on October 26, 2020. Exciting update: He has just signed with literary agent Terrie Wolf!
- What’s your name and where do you come from?
My name is Forest Issac Jones. I live in Salem, Virginia (USA).
- Do you write fact or fiction and in what genre?
My story that is being published in October is a fictional story and it is a mystery called, ‘A Pub, A Bed & Breakfast & A Dead Body’. This story is in ‘Festive Mayhem’ which features ten writers of mystery and suspense stories. I primarily write crime and thriller stories. I have also published a work of non fiction in the Blue Nib Literary Magazine this year. I enjoy writing in all genres for both fact and fiction but I lean toward crime and thriller.
- Are you traditionally or self-published and which route do you consider best?
I have been self-published and the big difference is that you are in control of publicity and marketing. I am currently finishing up work on a thriller novel and I’ve just signed with an agent – Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.
- What’s your work schedule like when you are writing?
My work schedule is a set one. I work five days a week 8 to 5. I usually do my writing on the weekends or some nights during the week. I am a natural writer on the weekends when I have more spare time to devote to it, though I often find myself jotting down ideas or creating scenes either with pen and paper or on app such as Evernote.
- What advice would you give to budding writers?
One is to take your time and learn how to construct stories. Read and read some more. You learn so much from other writers and read different genres as well. I enjoy crime and thriller but I also enjoy James Baldwin and Maya Angelou. Keep all of your writing. You never know when you’ll come back to it and be inspired by it. Another piece of advice is to start on your next piece when you finish something. I always like to be working on something. Practice and more practice. Last, find a support system. It is so important to collaborate with others—that is how my current story was placed in this book. I belong to a group called the Crime Writers of Color- a group that is made up of writers of color from all over the USA, Canada, and the UK. Joining them was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in terms of writing. The community of crime/thriller writers is very strong and this group is a great example of that. I thank Kellye Garrett for getting me involved.
- Who/what are YOUR favorite authors/books?
The writer that got me into reading and writing was Sidney Sheldon. The book was ‘Bloodline’. I loved his storytelling and how it took me to faraway places that inspired my imagination. Some of my favorite writers today: Attica Locke, Denise Mina, Brian McGilloway, Walter Mosley, Esi Edugyan, Alan Parks, Don Winslow, Lucy Foley, Adrian McKinty. Christopher Chambers and Ragaar Jonasson’s new Hulda trilogy reminds me so much of the old Sidney Sheldon books.
- Are you a plotter or pantster? (i.e., do you plan out your work or fly by the seat of your pants?)
I do a lot of research in terms of the area I’m writing about, etc. My short story in the new book took me to my father’s hometown so there are many nods to actual places in that area in the Walkertown/Winston Salem area of North Carolina. I think I am both a plotter and pantster as I will work through several scenarios for a conclusion to each story. I do admit to enjoying not knowing precisely where a story will take me.
- What helps you keep focus?
I keep several notebooks with ideas, words, and dialogue. I also use Evernote on my phone to jot down anything that could help with a story I’m working on or one that I’d like to work on in the future. That helps with staying focused and keeping ideas fresh. I do my work in my sitting room in my most comfortable chair in the house! I will sometimes have music or the tv on as background.
- How long did it take you to write your book/books?
My latest book that I just finished editing took about two years but I’d been working on it on and off for years. The story for ‘Festive Mayhem’ took about a year including writing, re-writing, and editing. Rewriting is something that appreciate more and more because the story gets tighter and stronger. One thing I’ve learned over the years—the first draft is what it is, a rough, first draft.
- Where can we find your books?
As for finding my older book, everything is online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Waterstones. The new book will also be found everywhere online and is available for preorder now and will be released on October 26. Thank you, Nicola for giving me space to talk about this new release. We are all very excited about it!
I chat to an author every week..
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10 questions with Gillian McAllister
10 questions with Emma Christie
10 questions with author Hazel Prior
10 questions with author Elizabeth Morton
10 questions with author Juliet Greenwood
10 questions with author Leah Fleming
10 questions with author Trisha Ashworth
10 questions with author Milly Johnson
10 questions with author Kamin Mohammadi
10 questions with author Joseph Delaney
Thank you for this interview, Nicola! Festive Mayhem has been a fun project, and I enjoyed learning a bit more about Forest. I’ll keep my fingers crossed your thriller finds a great home, Forest!