Welcome to the tenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with autobiographer Jon Magee. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found at https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/blog-interviews.
Morgen: Hello Jon. Can you please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Jon: I am currently a Baptist Minister in Scotland, married to Joan and have 3 daughters, 2 sons and 5 grandchildren. However, I was the son of a member of the Royal Air Force and soon after leaving school I also joined the RAF as an Electronic technician. My youth was noted for one thing, a nomadic life. By the time I had finished my education as a teenager I had been through 14 different schools. My first 30 years of life I had not been anywhere from birth more than 3 years maximum, and most would be a lot less than that. Formal education was a struggle, though there were many other aspects of life that would open my eyes to things I would never have learned from a book. Perhaps a part of the coping mechanism of a youth living an unsettled life was the reason that I would find it easier to quickly forget the people and places of my past. The reasoning being that I could not settle if I was always looking back at where I had been. I could speak some more on that, but for a moment let me share with you an experience that took place in 2006. It was just another funeral. Never a week went by without a phone call with a request from the community usually from people with no church connection. On this occasion I had often met the deceased when visiting a local nursing home, but never the family. Her son lived away from the district and all the arrangements for the funeral were made with the daughter. The first opportunity to talk with her son was at the “tea” that followed the funeral. As I spoke with him and his family I began to realise that they lived in a district that I knew very well, I lived there briefly as a teenager. I recognised some of the places he spoke of, but not the people. Then, as he spoke of a business in the locality the memories began to revive. I remembered the name of the family that owned the business and spoke of them. I felt safe, because I thought the family no longer was there, and that seemed to be confirmed as he spoke of the name of another family who owned the business. That was fine, until his daughter interrupted and said, “But that’s the maiden name of the wife of the couple who now are the owners.” She mentioned her first name and I knew the name instantaneously. As teenagers we were close, but with my nomadic life, and the unreliability of the postal system at the time we lost touch. Never seen or heard of each other for 40 years. What shocked me most was that she was the only one I remembered. It was a difficult time in my life and many had played a part in supporting me. Why could I not recall who they were? Move forward to the beginning of 2007. For health reasons I needed to take time out from work. Life was always very active for me with a keen interest in the community where I live, so taking time out was something that seemed so alien. Perhaps that was one reason that I did not give a lot of serious thought to writing, there was never the time. I would write small items for magazines and local newspapers, but nothing more than that. Often I thought about spending more time writing, but time was not a luxury that I possessed. There was always another project to engage in. So, I have to take it easy, they said. Take time off, they said. I could not imagine sitting “twiddling my thumbs”. What was I to do? I thought back to that funeral, and the conversation that was exchanged. As an adult I have considered that every person we meet in the journey of life is a person to be treasured. We all develop in accordance with how we interact with each other. Yet, I wondered how true I had been to that concept in my youth, if the “treasured” people were forgotten. Could this be the reason that time had been thrust upon me, time to reflect and honour the people of the past? I was beginning to learn an important lesson as I sat at my computer recording as much as I could reflect. There is much character and human interest stories that need to be recorded in real people as well as the stories of fiction. It was an action intended as a personal exercise, but as a story of 18 months of my life emerged I was encouraged to publish. It was my first book, with another on the way. But what is true for all of us is this, if a dream of writing is to be fulfilled, it needs to be given time out of our lives to put it into action.
Morgen: I can relate to what you say in that I’m a secretary and used to ‘temp’, rarely working for one company for more than a month (my choice so perhaps I’m a nomad in my professional life) and we’d often promise to keep in touch (which we rarely did) and I’d later see those former colleagues and recognise their faces but rarely remember where from, or certainly their names. You would think that having worked together they’d be imprinted on my brain but I think you’re right, we hold on to the information that we cherish (especially so in the case of writing-related for me) and the rest swims around a pool that needs to be dredged every now and then. 🙂 What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Jon: In my Nomadic life I spoke of, I have lived through some of the milestones of late 20th century history. In the 1950s I was in Singapore during the Chinese riots, and the latter part of British colonial presence. 1960/62 I was in Germany at the height of the cold war. 1966/67 I was in Aden (Yemen) during the conflict and terrorism at the time and the British evacuation out. I was in Cyprus during the military coup and the Turkish invasions in 1974. My writing reflects those kinds of experiences, bringing a personal input to historical events. As to whether I would consider anything different, then the answer is yes, given the right circumstances.
Morgen: I can see a few adventure/military novels in there. 🙂 What have you had published to-date? How much of the marketing do you do?
Jon: I have 2 published books. The 1st one was “From Barren Rocks to Living Stones”, which tells of the experiences in Aden in 1966/67. The 2nd was “Paradise Island, Heavenly Journey”, which relates to Singapore. I am responsible for most, if not all of the marketing. This includes public speaking engagements, book signing, press releases, interviews, radio shows as well as interacting on the internet. I have even attended a reception in the Scottish Parliament that was in “honour of Jon Magee as an author“.
Morgen: Wow. I had a week in Edinburgh with my German friend (and dog) a couple of years ago. I’d never been to Scotland (despite invitations/hearing how lovely a country it is) and was immediately hooked. I hope to return in the not too distant future for the Edinburgh Book Fest, especially as it comes just after my birthday. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Jon: I am currently working on my 3rd book which tells of the events in Cyprus, leading up to and including the military coup and the Turkish invasions. Beyond that, I have thoughts of something different in the writing world, but for now I will keep my readers in suspense about an exciting possibility ahead.
Morgen: Ah Cyprus. I’ve been three times (twice in one year). If I had a holiday home (although Germany’s close to my heart) it would be a place in the hills with a sea view (ditto Brighton). Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Jon: I try to write a bit each day, though it does require some balancing work with marketing etc. to carry out as well.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Jon: Though I have much experience in the areas in which I am writing, research is also crucial, so time needs to be spent in gathering together material and deciding how it should be put together.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Jon: I always live with the confidence of the hope that lies before. Whatever I am writing, I write with a desire to reveal a message within each piece of work.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Jon: Through my writing I have discovered an opportunity to reach out to a wider group internationally sharing the things that have come from my heart. I am enjoying the challenge that comes with that. The least favourite is that in contrast with the direct communication with people I meet there is not always the opportunity of seeing the reaction to aspects of what I am saying. Part of being human is the desire to have a 2-way interacting with others.
Morgen: Absolutely. All though I love being alone (which I never am, thanks to my dog) I do love the interaction with my characters so as long as we’re writing we’re never alone. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Jon: If a dream of writing is to be fulfilled, it needs to be given time out of our lives to put it into action. Remember that it will often be like a hurdling race, look beyond the hurdles to the finishing line. If you look to the hurdles you will fall over them all. With that in mind, keep persevering no matter how hard the tasks may seem to be.
Morgen: Couldn’t agree more. Put the effort in, and the harder you need to try, the more rewarding the successes will feel. What do you like to read?
Jon: I feel that a writer needs to have the influence of a wide variety of reading, as well as time experiencing the realities of life. As such that is what I have done throughout my life, historical, fiction, biographical as well as spiritual and devotional books.
Morgen: In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Jon: I live in Scotland. My experiences with the local media have been advantageous in overcoming any difficulties of getting the word out about my work. This has also led to similar contacts with the media throughout the country, and even in a major newspaper in Yemen.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Jon: I am on Facebook and also LinkedIn. The Facebook link for my book, “From Barren Rocks to Living Stones” is http://www.facebook.com/pages/From-Barren-Rocks-to-Living-Stones/283465875540?sk=info#!/pages/From-Barren-Rocks-to-Living-Stones/283465875540?sk=wall. The Facebook link for my book “Paradise Island, Heavenly Journey” is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Paradise-Island-Heavenly-Journey/133686193356313?sk=info. The link to my profile with LinkedIn can be found at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=112432495&trk=tab_pro.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Jon: Morgen, this interview cannot be complete without saying thank you for giving this opportunity of meeting your followers of your blog. If any wish to find out more they can contact me on Facebook, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Morgen: You’re so welcome. Our chat brought back fond memories.
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