Welcome to the six hundred and fiftieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre novelist, guest blogger and spotlightee Jack ’J’ Griffith Mitchell. 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: In the 1960s I answered an ad for a “salesman who can sketch” for a prominent custom lighting fixture company in San Francisco. I put my art training to work, did a sketch of a church lighting fixture, and dropped it off the next day. I got the job! So for twenty-five years I worked with architects and designers on custom lighting designs which have been installed world-wide and have garnered a number of awards.
After retiring to the wine country in Sonoma County in California I wanted to do something different, so I began writing (at age 70!). I started with completely handwritten manuscripts, done mostly in a local coffee shop, then transferred them to the computer at home. Subsequently my wife, Dorie, edited them. Now I work out the story in my mind in advance and then type it directly on the computer. Dorie still does the editing.
Morgen: Mary Wesley had her first novel accepted when she was 74. 🙂 What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Jack: My favorite genre is family sagas set at the turn of the last century and into the 20s, 30s and 50s. I’ve not only considered other genres but have written novels that would be considered crime, humor, and biographical fiction. And my first attempt at writing was a sci fi novel.
Morgen: A real mixture. What have you had published to date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Jack: To date I’ve published six novels: “The House of Indiscretions,” “The Royle Blue Bloods,” “Jeremiah Bascomb—A Heart Divided,” “Death in Edenville,” “How Well Did You Know Stanley?” and “Pola—A Biographical Novel.” The seventh, “The Heritage Tree,” is completed and will be published soon. I write as J. Griffith Mitchell. Outside of the literary world I’m known as Jack G. Mitchell.
Morgen: You’ve self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Jack: I got tired of hardcover book publishers saying, “This isn’t exactly what we’re looking for.” And the electronic world presented a great opportunity to try it on my own, particularly since this seems to be the wave of the future.
Morgen: It certainly is, and the way I went. Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Jack: At this time all my books are eBooks, though I’m still planning to have them published in print. I don’t have an e-reader, so any reading I do is on the printed page.
Morgen: I prefer editing that way, especially for my five online writing groups because I send them the scans with my red pen splatterings. 🙂 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: I’d say my favorite book is the one not yet published—“The Heritage Tree,” followed by “Pola—An Historical Novel.” Favorite character? Mary Eleanor in “The House of Indiscretions.” In “The Royle Blue Bloods” I visualize Jane Fonda as Allison, Sally Fields as Amelia, Josh Brolin as Jereb and Catherine Zeta Jones as Marguerite.
Morgen: What a great cast list. Did you have choose the titles / covers of your books?
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Jack: “The Heritage Tree,” written in the form of journal entries by the generations of women in the family, reflecting their viewpoints. It’s completed and ready for publication.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Jack: Normally, when I’m working on a project, I write every day, but at the moment I’m not. I seldom have writer’s block, probably because I’ve formulated what I plan to write ahead of time.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Jack: I visualize the beginning, middle and end, and then I just let it develop in my mind before putting it on paper.
Morgen: Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names, and what do you think makes them believable?
Jack: I set the characters’ personalities and then let them develop themselves, which is what I feel makes them believable. I guess their names just happen.
Morgen: As they often do. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Jack: I don’t do much editing of the plot or story line. As time goes on, yes, my writing is more fully-formed, and my wife, Dorie, handles the more technical editing of text.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
Jack: That depends on the story. On my current novel, “The Heritage Tree,” I’ve done extensive research, since it covers one hundred and fifty years, and “Pola—A Biographical Novel” required a good deal. On my other works it’s been a matter of little or no actual research—just imagination.
Morgen: That’s the thing I love about writing. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Jack: I prefer third person. However, since “The Heritage Tree” is written in the form of journal entries that one is mostly first person. Second person isn’t my style.
Morgen: It isn’t most people’s (writers and editors) but there are a few of us who are mad enough to love it. 🙂 Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Jack: I’ve done no poetry and have done non-fiction only in articles. And yes, I have written some short stories.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see the light of day?
Jack: Oh yes!
Morgen: 🙂 Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Jack: YES! #!#/** Then let it roll.
Morgen: <laughs> Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Jack: I have in the past. Time Warner had a good program some time ago, but that ended.
Morgen: What a shame. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Jack: My wife acts as my agent. I wouldn’t say agents are absolutely vital, but in this market they’re mighty important.
Morgen: I’m sure your wife will be glad to hear that. 🙂 How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a “brand”?
Jack: My wife handles all of it. Bless her!
Morgen: She’s a marvel. It’s great to have someone so supportive behind you. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Jack: My favorite aspect is the actual writing and seeing how it develops. Each book is an adventure and I go where it leads me. Sometimes I go back and read some of my work and I’m surprised and ask myself, “Did I really write this?” My least favorite aspect? The relatively few days I just can’t get going. As for surprises? When the characters take over the story.
Morgen: I love that about them. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Jack: Develop a thick skin, patience, and determination.
Morgen: 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: From the nineteen twenties–F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda, and Marie Dressler. I wouldn’t cook. The cook would.
Morgen: Another of your wife’s attributes? 🙂 Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Jack: Well, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Morgen: That’s very true, especially when it comes to authors finding their patch of ground in this industry. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Jack: No, I’m not.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
Jack: I join my group of friends of various ages (55 to 85), interests, and occupations for our morning coffee and start the day off with a laugh. (I’m the only writer, though.) Then I think about what’s next. I’m far beyond party tricks, and I never had a hobby. Everything I’ve ever done was for a reason, not a hobby, since I was a professional designer.
Morgen: Are there any writing websites and/or books that you find useful?
Jack: GoodReads.com, Shelfari.com, and LibraryThing.com Then there’s Book Daily.com and Joan Stewart at http://www.pulicityhound.com but these are more on the marketing end than the writing end.
Morgen: I think most writers probably need more help with the marketing these days so thank you for those. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Jack: I’ve joined Facebook and Twitter but don’t have the time to do much with them. LinkedIn and a number of LinkedIn groups have been very helpful and have pointed me in new marketing directions. I’ve also listed my books on LibraryThing and am in the process of getting them on to GoodReads and Shelfari, which I hope will bring good results.
Morgen: Fingers crossed. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Jack: Getting published in hardback is going to be even more difficult than it is today, and today it’s really tough. eBooks are becoming the future, and with the evolution of indie eBooks the competition has become even greater. The bestseller that brings fame and fortune is becoming a more nebulous thing. So, future writer, get used to it!
Morgen: 🙂 Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Jack: My blog address is currently http://www.jgriffithmitchellnovels.blogspot.com. My novels and descriptions are available (just search for J. Griffith Mitchell) at http://www.amazon.com, http://www.barnesandnoble.com, http://www.kobobooks.com, http://www.books.google.com and Apple iBooks. There’s also an article about me at http://rohnertpark.towns.pressdemocrat.com/2012/02/news/from-lighting-to-writing.
Morgen: Thank you, Jack. It’s been great having you back today.
I then invited Jack to include an extract of his writing and this is from ‘The Royle Blue Bloods’…
“Have a seat, Uncle Andrew.”
Andrew placed himself in one of the large over-stuffed armchairs.
“May I pour you a brandy, Uncle?”
“No, thank you.”
“Oh, I think you should,” Jacob responded quickly, “because, well because, Uncle, you’re going to need it.”
“I will? And why is that, Nephew?”
“Because, dear Uncle Andrew, I know you killed my father. Now, how about that brandy?”
Before Andrew could answer, Jacob had poured the drink and handed it to him. Andrew didn’t drink it, placing it on the table next to him.
The remark hit him as if an invisible arrow had been released and lodged in the pit of his stomach. It took every ounce of his emotional control to hide the fact that the carefully aimed arrow had hit its mark. He casually lifted the drink from the table and forced himself to take a sip, wondering if it would go down, then angrily said, “What in God’s name do you mean by saying something like that?”
“Oh, Uncle, I wouldn’t use God’s name if I were you, because God had nothing to do with it. I’d say it was more like Satan himself.”
Now really upset, Andrew flared back. “If this is some kind of a joke, it’s not funny, and I’m leaving.”
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Uncle, because you haven’t heard my theory yet. Now mind you, it’s just that–a theory.”
“A theory? What kind of a. . . theory?”
“Well, let’s start at the beginning, which would be the night my father died. I just happened to be passing by the library and heard, as anybody within earshot could have, you and Father going at it hot and heavy. I guessed it wasn’t just two brothers fighting over their toys but rather about something Father had on you. Or he objected to your little business ventures.”
I then invited Jack to include a synopsis of one of his books…
Though raised in poverty, POLA NEGRI became the first European star of silent films, later conquering Hollywood, where she had affairs with Chaplin and Valentino. In the 1930s she returned to Europe, where she was Adolph Hitler’s favorite movie star and reputed to be his mistress. Her many friends and associates included Sara Bernhardt, George Bernard Shaw, Albert Einstein, the aristocracy of Europe, and such film luminaries as Ernst Lubitsch, Emil Jannings, Marion Davies, Norma and Constance Talmadge… and her not-so-good-friend, Gloria Swanson.
Her career began at eight as a ballerina, sponsored by the Russian tsarist regime. A serious illness prevented her from dancing, so she turned to acting and became a stage star at fourteen. She continued to be a star in the new medium of film, progressing from the silent era, through early talkies, into modern-day films until 1964.
The backdrop to her fabulous life was the Russian Revolution, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, escape from Europe during the dark times of the Third Reich, and rebuilding her life and career in America. Through several marriages the only constant thing in her life was the lasting, loving, loyal relationship with her mother.
After retiring from a twenty-five year career in designing award-winning custom lighting fixtures and light sculptures J. Griffith Mitchell moved to the Sonoma County wine country in Northern California, and turned to writing. His first novel, a sci-fi endeavor titled THE GENES CONSPIRACY, will never be published, since in the intervening years most of what he had proposed in the book has become reality.
His currently published works are THE HOUSE OF INDISCRETIONS (a woman determined to keep her home, whatever the cost, through blackmail, prostitution, and a Prohibition-era speakeasy); THE ROYLE BLUE BLOODS (a four-generation dysfunctional family empire which eventually destroys itself through greed, blackmail, and murder); JEREMIAH BASCOMB – A HEART DIVIDED (runaway orphan at fifteen, business mogul by forty, and a secret kept); DEATH IN EDENVILLE (a heinous crime, its unforeseen ripple effect, and retribution through another unspeakable crime); HOW WELL DID YOU KNOW STANLEY? (a zany romp through the adventures of an astute but introverted businessman seeking romance in strange places); and POLA—A BIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL. (based on the life of Pola Negri—from poverty to ballerina to stage actress to movie superstar and princess.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
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