Welcome to the four hundred and ninety-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with biographer, short story and article writer Jacob ‘Jack’ Singer. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Jack. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Jack: I live in Vancouver, Canada. My wife and I decided to leave Potchefstroom in South Africa where I was born, after I was threatened by the Security Police for withholding information they wanted. They then poisoned my dog. We encouraged our children to leave, and once they had established themselves in Canada, we joined them.
The Story, The VASE with the MANY COLOURED MARBLES, is a story I have lived with all my life. It had to be made public, and after writing my first book, BRAKENSTROOM, a book of short stories about people I knew in Potchefstroom, Emily Klentjies, (Emma Kline) insisted that I write her story. It took me almost 5 years to put the story to paper. The memories, reliving history and a life that had to reveal itself, was extremely painful.
Morgen: My goodness, your life sounds just as harrowing. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Jack: I only write about people I knew, often historical, humorous or romantic. I have never considered another genre.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Morgen: That sounds intriguing. You’re self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Jack: Studying the market, and being rejected by publishers, I realized that the publishing industry was traumatized by eBooks, and that printed books were on the way out.
Morgen: They kind of are but I like to think they’ll run alongside each other, just eBooks being the bigger sibling. So your books are available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Jack: Both my books are available as eBooks, via Amazon Kindle, iTunes and Kobo. I was very involved in the process. Today I only read eBooks on my iPad.
Morgen: I’ve just bought an iPad and although it’s probably poorer for my eyesight but I prefer to read as a two-page book (anyone want to buy a Kindle Touch?). Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Jack: Charleze Theron as Emma Kline. I have no idea who should be Charlie Stuart or Marla or any other character in my book.
Morgen: Maybe your readers could tell you who they think – it would be interesting to see if you agree. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Jack: I chose the covers and titles of both my books, after a great deal of work and thought.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Jack: Marketing both books.
Morgen: Not an easy task. Do you manage to write every day?
Jack: I wrote for two hours every day. Today, I still write, but for a magazine on stock market trading.
Morgen: It’s all good practice. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Jack: I write stories that truly happened. The plots are real.
Morgen: Do you have a method for creating your characters?
Jack: I describe my characters as the people they represent truly are.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Jack: I do a tremendous amount of editing, and rewriting. The process took just over a year.
Morgen: Wow. Do you have to do much research?
Jack: Yes… to confirm what I remembered.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Jack: Third person. I am putting myself into the shows of my characters. They must tell the story.
Morgen: It is generally the most popular viewpoint. Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Jack: Brakenstroom, my first book, is a book of short stories.
Morgen: Ah yes, you did mention that earlier (I love short stories ). Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Jack: Yes…. plenty of them, all in my head, still be written, although I do have rough drafts.
Morgen: There’s hope for them then. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Jack: Plenty of rejections. I used Preditors and Editors (http://pred-ed.com) to choose the top Publishers and Agents, but became tired of all the rejections. How do I deal with them? Anger.
Morgen: <laughs> I often recommend Preditors and Editors to people (I did so only just yesterday on LinkedIn). Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Jack: No, I have never tried, nor do I think I ever will.
Morgen: Quite a few authors don’t. I used to but not so much now, I’d prefer submitting for publication (and getting paid if they’re successful!). Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Jack: No, I do not have an agent. However, I do believe that an Agent is necessary, especially to market the book. Wish I had one.
Morgen: Are there any agents reading this? You mentioned a moment ago that you’re currently marketing both books, do you have to do much?
Jack: It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort. Marketing has become an obsession, and drives me nuts.
Morgen: I think pretty much every author reading this with empathise with you (I certainly do). What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Jack: My favourite is telling the story. My least favourite is looking for errors in editing, finding them, they are always there, and correcting them, even AFTER the book has been edited by a paid editor.
Morgen: I don’t think any reader has not found one in their life time (that’s a terrible double negative… I’ll edit it out later). What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Jack: Write, write and write.
Morgen: And I’d add ‘read, read, read’. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Jack: Somerset Maughn, Isaac Asimov and President Obama. I would prepare a typical South African Braai.
Morgen: That sounds like a great party. If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
Jack: The day I read my first review of The VASE with the MANY COLOURED MARBLES. Sent to a total stranger who wrote that normally she never read books of this nature, but found that she could not put it down. When she had finished reading it, she gave it to her sister to read. Her review was outstanding.
Morgen: Wow. I’ve just had my first (a 5*) on Amazon for my Story a Day May 2011 collection (my 2012 collection is woefully late) and I was thrilled. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Jack: Gardening and enjoying my two finger 5pm Scotch on the rocks.
Morgen: As yes, the built-in measuring spoon. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Jack: LinkedIn authors. I have made many author friends, and read their advice with enthusiasm.
Morgen: They’re great aren’t they (and some I’m sure will be reading this). Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Jack: LinkedIn Authors. Their experience in writing is very useful.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Jack: Today, it is all writing for the eBook. When, on a recent holiday to Cuba, I noticed 16 people reading 50 Shades of Grey, I realized that a badly written book with plenty of SEX steals the market. As well as, of course, Harry Potter and Twilight similarities for kids.
Morgen: We’ve just been having that discussion on Facebook – I only found out this week that EL James is English (and sounds posh… as some say I do!). Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Jack: Go to my blog, http://www.jacobashersinger.com.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Jack: Yes…it is about time that major bookstores realize that if they are to survive, they have to start looking at self-published authors. Print on Demand books and eBooks are the way to go in today’s world, a similar story to the way Steve Jobs changed the music industry.
Morgen: Absolutely. We do have more power these days and self-publishing is no longer a ‘dirty word’. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Jack: Yes… tell me how to sell books so that I can retire, and spend more time writing.
Morgen: Oh I’d love to be able to tell you but sadly I’m not sure if anyone knows or they’d write a book about it (although our John Locke did)… and retire, and spend more time writing. Thank you, Jack.
I then invited Jack to include an extract of his writing…
Leonard was born Leonard Francis Sandler, in the same nursing home at the top of Berg Street that David had been born in and which, at that time, was the only respectable nursing home Brakenstroom had. His parents were originally from Russia, lured to the gold fields of Johannesburg as stories of Africa’s riches filtered through the ghettos of Europe.
Leonard’s father, Solomon, after eventually arriving in Johannesburg, soon realised that a growing city needed bookkeepers, and so applied his knowledge to auditing other peoples businesses. He worked hard, the hours spent pouring over accounting books giving him the stooped scolitic back and chronic myopia that on his tall thin frame, offered a portrait of the Scrooge circumstances had made him. His miserliness lasted until he had saved enough money to buy a small farm in the Brakenstroom district where he began speculating in cattle. With his shrewd business sense, something Leonard never inherited, he became very successful and very wealthy.
Rachel, Solomon’s wife, was a simple woman. All who knew her remembered her as the finest baker in town. Her chocolate cake was the best, and her cheesecake – well, David’s mouth would water whenever he thought of her golden topped cakes, even to this day. He could even remember the rich cheesy smell that pervaded the house as she took the cakes from the oven. Because of his Mother’s baking, Leonard was probably the most popular boy in town, although, to be quiet honest, as Mrs. Brick’s daughters matured, and boys learned more about girls, Mrs Brick’s bagels were sometimes better than the chocolate cake. This more so, when they were served with the beautiful smile and fair hand of either girl holding a plate of hot bagels fresh from the oven, dripping farm butter into mugs of sweet tea as the boys crowded around the kitchen table.
Leonard had inherited his father’s looks and his mother’s brain. Not that he was simple – far from it. He was always in the top ten at school, but he was simply not the leader he would so dearly have liked to have been. He was always a follower, basking in everyone else’s limelight and whatever his achievements were, came through hard work and dedication. As a boy he was always a head and shoulders taller than others his own age, as thin as a stick, with two large ears on either side of a very Jewish nose. His ears were so big that they earned him the nickname of ‘Dumbo’ when that famous Disney movie first hit the circuit. Then, as if to make sure he kept his balance and his feet on the ground, nature gave him a size 10 foot while he was still in primary school. He was one of those unfortunates that had two left feet and couldn’t throw a cricket ball straight no matter how hard he tried. He was simply enormously gawky, but his feet stopped growing and by the time he was in 17, he still wore a size 10 shoe.
and a synopsis of his latest book…
The story is about a young coloured girl born into the apartheid system of South Africa. As she grows up, she finds that being classified a second class citizen unbearable, and decides to cross the colour barrier and become a white.
This is Emma’s story, how she crosses the colour barrier, and how she does enter the white community, but not in Cape Town where she was born , but in Johannesburg. She becomes friendly with a Jewish Family who escaped Nazi Germany, and decides the apartheid policies of Hendrik Verwoerd, the Prime Minister is pro-Nazi, and that it will just be a matter of time before gas chambers are built. She joins the father of a friend, Charles Stuart who fought the Boers in the Anglo Boer war, and she makes a life for herself in a town called Potchefstroom, that is very pro- Government. Charlie Stuart has her join his secret organisation working against the apartheid system. She does.
Born in Potchefstroom, South Africa, Jacob Singer matriculated in 1952, and went to study Pharmacy at the Chelsea Polytechnic in London, England. Returning to South Africa, after 5 years, he met and married Evelyn Singer and they eventually settled in Potchefstroom, raising a family. While in London, Jacob realized the true horror of the apartheid system practised in South Africa. He became determined to fight it wherever he could. In his pharmacy, he thumbed his nose at the conservatives of Potchefstroom, employing Black, Indian and Coloured staff in his front shop, losing many customers, but gaining respect. It was only when the Security Police threatened him, for not giving them certain information that they wanted, that he left South Africa, once his children had established themselves in Canada.
His stories are all based on truth. Should one wish to read about historical South Africa, with a romantic twist, do read The VASE with the MANY COLOURED MARBLES.
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