Shells Chats with author Jay Faulkner

What started you in writing?


Reading or, more accurately I suppose, having stories read to me :) I honestly can't recall a time in my life when stories weren't a fundamental part of each and every day. My parents read to me, they bought me comics (I 'think' that this was my middle-ground between being read to and reading myself), they nurtured my reading ability by getting me my own library card at a very young age – resulting in an interesting mix up, months later, where a phone call from the library, for 'Mr. Faulkner', turned out to be for the six or seven year old me, rather than my father.

I always had a very active imagination, and was constantly making up stories about me and an imaginary friend … yes, I had one of those (when I say imaginary and maintain he was real, of course! ;) ) … and our adventures so while I don't recall when it happened but, somewhere along the line, my all too familiar questions of 'why' to my parents during or after a story – where I would question the plot or characterization – turned into 'what if' instead. My answers started off as different approaches to stories, for example I remember asking 'what if Ratty and Mole got lost?' and, suddenly, Wind in the Willows turned into a pirate adventure :)

Thankfully, many years later, I haven't stopped asking 'what if' but now, rather than back then, it is about my own characters and the situations they find themselves in and (hopefully) I will be able to read my own stories to my kids and have them ask me the very same question.




Do you feel practicing the Martial Arts helps with your writing?


That is a very interesting question and, to be honest, it is not something that I had thought about before now.
An easy way to answer this is to simply say 'yes' because martial-arts underpins probably all aspects of my life. As any practitioner of any martial-art will know there comes a point in your training where you realise that it isn't just a class that you turn up to regularly, and it isn't a coloured belt/sash that you are aspiring to … it is a way of life.

I started martial-art back in 1988 and have progressed from a beginner, to a talented student right up to someone that is considered to be pretty good at what I do as I am now called 'Sifu' (Chinese for teacher) and hold a fourth degree black sash in Imperial Dragon Kung Fu as well as multiple sashes and belts in other martial arts. I teach a class twice a week and despite all of that – or maybe because – I still consider myself as a student. There is always something else that you can learn in the martial-arts … always room to improve.

Writing, for me, is just like that. It doesn't matter how much I study, academically speaking, how many writing classes or courses I take part in, how many stories I get published because – at the end of the day – there is always another story waiting to be written and, I hope, that each time I produce one it is better than the last.

The biggest help that martial-arts gives me, thinking about it, is a sense of discipline and flow. I have learned that practice and repetition improves what I do and I have no problem with setting myself a goal and ensuring that I stick to it – for example locking myself away from everyone and everything for a few hours to ensure that a draft is finished or edits accomplished. In terms of the flow that is something that is hard to describe but, simply put, it is a way of seeing life and people and the way that everything moves; I observe everything and my brain is cluttered with information (tempted to say 'useless' but you never know when an obscure fact will be needed! ;) ) which definitely helps when writing as I can visualize what I want to put down on paper.
… plus, if it comes to it, I can always resort to violence with any bad reviews ;)




How does your family feel about your writing?


They are fully supportive of it.

All of my family, and my friends too, are there with a word of support and praise which can boost the spirits when the words aren't coming as well as hoped. I'm never short of proof or beta readers either.

My wife is always very quick to ensure that, if I need it, I get peace and quiet to write which, having two small children, is not always easy. There are plenty of times when she arranges a quick trip to the park, or to see the grand-parents, if I have a deadline approaching or she knows that I am write in the middle of a creative buzz where stopping would be difficult.

My biggest problem is myself – while I realise the writing, like anything else worthwhile in life, comes at some cost I constantly find it a challenge to take time away from my family and simply write. As I work full-time, and teach two martial-arts classes, I find that my writing time is best suited to the weekend but, of course, that is also the time when I get to just enjoy my kids … so I tend to write in the gaps that I make in my time: later in the night when the kids are asleep; times when the kids are with their grand-parents; lunchtimes at work; and, of course, the times when I simply have to make a hard choice between playing with the kids or finishing 'that story' but, for now, I thankfully don't have to make that choice often.

And I've learned that sleep is over-rated anyway ;)



When writing, do you feel your emotions play a part in the characters, settings etc.?


I think that it is fair to say that everyone knows that a writer puts a lot of himself or herself into their characters and I personally stand firm on the fact that if you DON'T invest your emotions into your writing then readers won't either.
It doesn't matter to me if I am writing a story about a ballet dance in World War II Germany, or a Dwarven warrior in a high fantasy setting, I try to think of what I would do in their situation Рhow I would feel. Obviously it is harder with the antagonists, and the 'villains', but if a bad guy is nothing more than bad stuff (emotions, motivations, etc) then he is nothing more than a clich̩.

So, yes, emotions – and the things that make us all 'real' to each other such as our reactions to situations, our desires, our dreams and hopes – are pretty much the central point to how I write as, without them, stories are just a collection of words.




What do you find is the scariest thing about writing a story?

This is a toss-up between two things:

1 – when a story or character takes a turn that you weren't expecting. Non-writers (and even some writers) may not believe, let alone understand, how a writer sometimes has no idea of how a situation developed (or resolved), or how/why a character reacted as they did, or spoke as they spoke – but it happens and, when it does, it is both exhilarating and terrifying. I mean I sometimes pause and ask myself just who is actually doing the writing: me or the characters (and if it is the characters then why can't they write a bit more and let me sleep a bit more!)?

2 – when I write something so different from myself – a piece of dialogue, a character's actions or reactions, etc – that I wonder if that means that I would be capable of the same thing. Thankfully I am pretty sure that I am not a serial killer nor a zombie so, at the moment, I am pretty sure that I am just someone who is lucky enough to be able to imagine situations pretty well and write them down in some semblance of a story ;)




You have written some short stories, what is your favorite character from them?


Oh my goodness – that is like asking me to choose which is the favourite out of my two children!!!

OK, it really isn't – the answer is: the unnamed husband in 'Always and Forever' (from Rigor Amortis, an anthology of zombie stories, available from Amazon and elsewhere). Without giving too much away, in case people want to purchase the book and find out what happens for themselves, my story focuses on two individuals (husband and wife) who find themselves living in the nightmare of a world over-run by zombies – but, in my story, you don't really see any of that: no gore, no violence, no brain eating, etc. Going back to the question earlier about emotions, and my personal investment, I will admit that this story is as close to auto-biographical as one can get when dealing with the undead: I simply asked myself what it would be like to be in their position and how two very strong emotions – love and fear – would play out in the circumstances.

So, when asked to write about zombies I wrote a love story and – hopefully – one that touches other people as much as it honestly touched me when writing it.




Where can we find some of these short stories?

Well 'Always and Forever' can be found in Rigor Amortis via Amazon and another personal favourite of mine – 'The

Way Not To Wish', which focuses on a young boy and his father dealing with shared grief – is available at Every Day Fiction.

Other places, online, include Apollo's Lyre, Long Story Short, Campfire Tales and Static Movement while print includes Sull Armour, Twisted Tongue and Pill Hill Press.

The best way to find out where to read my work would be at http://www.jayfaulkner.com as the 'Writing' section lists everything, with links.





How was it to work with the small presses such as Pill Hill Press?


I have had a lot of fun, and great experiences, working with smaller presses. Pill Hill picked up four of my stories, for example, and I found them – especially Jessy Marie Roberts – to be extremely professional but, more importantly, nice, helpful and willing to go the extra mile to ensure that both sides of the story (writer and publisher) got the best out of things.

Chris Bartholomew – at Static Movement – is another small press publisher that I had a great time working with. So much so that I have been lucky enough to have been published on her ezine, in her print anthologies and taken on as an editor for another anthology (Powers: A Superhero Anthology, available at Amazon ;) ).

With 'Always and Forever' (from Rigor Amortis) I had the pleasure and privilege of working with editors Jaym Gates and Erika Holt, on behalf of the publisher, Hades Publications imprint Absolute XPress. I know that this is biased, but that's ok, as I honestly found those two to be wonderful to work with and think that the end product shows just how committed they were to it, and the writers. A sign of this is that I spend more time talking to them now (email, Twitter, etc) than some of the people that I have known for ten years … so either they are doing something right or my older friends just aren't that good ;)

I hope that I have the pleasure of working with other small presses in the future as my experiences so far have been great.





Where did the idea for 'Wednesday's Child' come from?

Ahhhh – now, obviously, I can't say too much about this currently but the idea came from me asking myself 'what if things got so bad that there was no hope left, no light at the end of the tunnel'. Out of that one question I got the 'hero' of 'Wednesday's Child', the 'bad guy' and the setting/plot all in one fell swoop.

This is a story about childhood fears come to life and how they manifest themselves in adults … and also the new fears that adults – specifically parents – feel for their children.

I can also say that while this may look like, and fall into the category of, a crime/mystery thriller – possible even a mild horror – there is so much more to it than that. I hope that if/when people get to read it they realise that the 'greys' in the story are very deliberate and that the lack of and real delineation between black and white – good guy and bad guy – was deliberate.





You founded and edit 'With Painted Words, can you tell us what it is about, how you came up with the idea and where people can find information about it?

Educationally my background is in art – that is where my first degree came from anyway – and for even longer than I have been writing I have been creating 'stuff' with pen, paper and random colours. Even if I didn't have the paper, as a child, I always had a wall, or some nice coat of my parent's, to doodle on ;)

As I said somewhere above I consider myself a visualize writer – I 'see' the story, the characters, and the scenes paly out in my head. Sometimes these are snapshots and others they are 'movies'. So it is pretty fair to admit that I get a lot of inspiration for my writing from things that I actually see, or have seen, or from my dreams.

During 2009 I stumbled across a very talented person by the name of Christopher Howard who not only manages to write amazing stories but also is one of those artists whose work makes you just stop and stare because they captivate you … and even combines them in the form of graphic novels! On top of that he is a very, very nice guy too … so much so, in fact, that after I had the brainwave of creating a writing magazine/ezine one day (and, on the very same day purchasing the domain and creating the site) I emailed him and asked if I could possibly use one of his images as the very first inspirational piece for With Painted Words.
He said yes and the rest is history! :)


October 2009 saw his painting inspire quite a few people (63, but who's counting? ;) ) to submit their writing to a fledgling 'zine and now, nearly 16 months later, we are still going strong and Chris is someone that I have nothing but respect, admiration and awe for … plus I count him as the co-creator/founder of WPW considering that his artwork inspired it and his has not only allowed me to use two of his paintings but also given his work, free of charge, as prizes during contests.

You can check out his work – and you should! :) – here: http://www.saltwaterwitch.com
I feel remarkably lucky to have people interested enough in WPW to allow their artwork to be used, to submit their writing to it and take the time out to simply read the stories. Not bad considering that the whole idea really came out of musing upon the phrase 'a picture paints a thousand words'.

You can find out more about it, submit to and, of course, read the stories at: http://www.withpaintedwords.com





How do you help to market your work?

As much as I personally don't like the term I have to say it is 99% via social networking; my own blog, Facebook (when I remember to log in), Twitter, LiveJournal, online communities, etc are all places that you will find me shilling my own work (and, to be honest, that of others that people haven't heard of but really should have too!).

Twitter, especially, is something that I came to late but have found that it is EXTREMELY powerful and versatile despite its 'limitations' of 140 characters a post. Without it Rigor Amortis would never have seen the light of day starting, as it did, as a throw-away joke on there … and when you consider that on the day of release Rigor Amortis peaked at #30 in the Horror list and #795 in the overall book list, with the editors and authors all working together to publicise it on Twitter and blogs, it is pretty impressive.

I've also not been shy about contacting other authors for a bit of cross-promotional work, or giving free copies (free to them but I paid for them) to potential reviewers. I managed to get Rigor Amortis reviewed and a give-away competition setup on one of the UKs top horror magazines and (hopefully) have something similar, but on a bigger scale, in the pipeline.


Basically I think that I am happy to do whatever it takes, and whatever I can, to help market my work.





Where can people find out more about you?

My site is probably the best place, as it has everything in one go: http://www.jayfaulkner.com

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