Hello. I am author, Rebecca Scarberry (Scarberryfields on Twitter). Thank you for visiting my blog today. I have another interview below. This interview is with author, John F. Hanley (jf_hanley on Twitter). I’m certain you’re going to enjoy getting to know John just as much as I have.
Scarberryfields: Can you tell us a little about your nationality?
John: I was born in Jersey in the Channel Islands, which is twelve miles from France but over 100 from England. It may be closer to the French but it has been British for over 800 years. The French have tried to conquer it on several occasions and the island still has fortifications to resist them if they try again.
Therefore, I am proud to be British. It is self-governing under UK protection though that didn’t count for much when Nazi Germany invaded in 1940. They occupied the island for five years and strengthened the fortifications beyond all reasonable military necessity. One of the reasons they lost after D-Day was because they had so many troops sitting on their bottoms in the Channel Islands, which were by-passed by the Allies.
My novels are written against the background of the 2nd World War and follow a group of friends as they develop under the stress and danger of that period. The action in each book is focused into a short period and written from the perspective of Jack Renouf who is nearly nineteen when the stories start in 1939.
As I was born after the war and grew up surrounded by the artifacts of German occupation I’ve always been fascinated by what my parents’ generation had to endure. This prompted me to write about what it might have been like if I had been nineteen in 1939, rather than 1965 and off to war and not drama school in London. The main character is not my alter ego but we do share many of the same experiences and the principle setting for Against the Tide is where we both spent a huge chunk of our youth.
Scarberryfields: When you finish a novel, do you miss the characters?
John: As I have embarked on a ten book series and completed three already, I’d say the characters are with me all the time. I’m in love with two of them! This will sound very soppy but when I read about some of the things that happen to them and listen to their words, I become quite emotional. This is patently absurd and probably shows an unhealthy obsession with them but it is nevertheless, true!
Scarberryfields: While writing, if you need help with punctuation, grammar, etc., where do you turn?
John: I was an English and Drama teacher for thirty-eight years so I have seen every variation of spelling, punctuation and grammar that can possibly be imagined. My brain has become so confused by this that proof reading by someone else is vital.
Scarberryfields: With the number of hours spent writing, do family members support you or complain about the time spent away from them?
John: I’m retired now and though we have two little grandsons to look after during the working week, my wife doesn’t complain too much. My mother used to always accuse me of having my nose stuck in a book but she soon realised that was a better place for it than leaning over the sink and breaking plates. I do my best but I am a slave to my imagination and the keyboard.
Scarberryfields: Does writing benefit you in any way and if so, how?
John: I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer and never feel bored with life as I find it so easy to disappear into another reality. I often write chapters in my head while I am exercising especially when I am swimming which I try to do every day. Sometimes I lose count of the laps I’ve completed because one of my characters has done something I didn’t expect. I don’t expect to make any money out of writing but it gives me a focus and is immensely satisfying.
Like so many writers, I decided to enter into a partnership arrangement with a publisher to get my book into print. Agents are not interested in new authors unless they already have made either a good or bad name for themselves. I can understand why as publishing is not cheap and why risk money on unknowns. Therefore, I have risked my own but by choosing a well-known commercial publisher I have experienced exactly the same process as selected authors but retained more control over production design and values. Marketing is largely down to me though my publisher has an active department which has provided several opportunities I wouldn’t have been able to acquire on my own.
Scarberryfields: When you’re writing, do you shut-off all social networks?
John: I’ve only just started social networking and I now understand how distracting it can be. Because my first novel has only just been published, I find most of my time is taken up with promotion, sales and organising others. My website designer suggested I use twitter to discover potential readers. I’ve gone from four followers to nearly 800 in two weeks. It’s been great fun and I’ve met some fascinating people, though I doubt very many of them will buy my book. I’ve bought several of theirs though!
Scarberryfields: Did you use any family members as Beta readers for your debut novel?
John: One of my daughters is a teacher with a degree in English but she is too busy coping with the insane demands the educational establishment makes on her to have the time to help. My wife will proof read though she has about 400 hundred other things she rather do.
Scarberryfields: Do you feel social networking as a marketing tool, is beneficial?
John: It creates awareness but, from my limited experience, I would suspect that there are far more sellers than buyers using it.
Scarberryfields: What is the last book called that you completed and published?
John: Against the Tide is my debut novel. It is the first in a series of ten. The second, The Last Boat, is ready for production but I want to see the reaction to ATT before I press the button. I’ve also written the last in the series. I’ll be sixty-six this month and I wouldn’t want to pop my clogs and leave any readers, who chose to follow me, without closure!
Scarberryfields: Where can readers go to find your books?
John: My website is the first stop: www.johnfhanley.co.uk
This has links to all the major outlets worldwide, including my publishers.
It also contains information about the series along with background detail and many photographs.
Post Jersey Launch Report (September 15, 2012)
Superb weather for the launch at the swimming pool. Picture taken by a friend, while press photographer captured me with game in progress behind.)
It was so warm for September that I had a swim in the pool after the book signing – not so warm about 17c but very refreshing.
I was interviewed for an hour by a features reporter for the local daily newspaper and an article will appear this Saturday along with a photo taken at the book launch.
Later that day I was interviewed live on BBC Radio Jersey for fifteen minutes. The presenter was very skilled and ensured I got all the relevant information out on air. Although I have experience of live radio, it’s important that someone keeps me on track, as it is so tempting to shoot off in so many different directions.
Waterstones, the national book chain, have signed copies of my book on sale in their Jersey branch. I thought they might just tuck it in alongside Jack Higgins (real name Harry Patterson) who lives on the island but, to my delight, I found they had placed it in a very prominent position with a large poster and author information.
Against The Tide is now on sale in a range of outlets on the island as well as worldwide through the distribution network.Scarberryfields: Thank you, John for taking the time to answer my questions. Congratulations on the launch and I see the book is already getting rave reviews.