Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
My name is Neal James, and I have been writing since 2006. By trade, I was an accountant for over 40 years until retiring finally in December 2018. Writing has been something of a hobby for me, but as my stories and books have gained popularity amongst a growing band of readers the enjoyment has increased considerably. I have ten books currently in publication:
- ‘A Ticket to Tewkesbury’ – a spy thriller set in 1992, but with its roots in the end of WWII
- ‘Short Stories Volume One’ – a compilation of 36 pieces spanning a variety of genres
- ‘Two Little Dicky Birds’ – the hunt for a serial killer in the UK
- ‘Threads of Deceit’ – a crime thriller tracking a young man’s fortunes against a backdrop of drug trafficking, murder, betrayal and fraud.
- ‘Full Marks’ – the story of my DCI, Dennis Marks, and his career with the Metropolitan Police.
- ‘Day of the Phoenix’ – the sequel to ‘A Ticket to Tewkesbury, taking the story on to the General Election in 2007.
- ‘The Rings of Darelius’ – a science fiction saga telling the story of an advanced civilisation under threat of extinction.
- ‘Twelve Days’ – a collection of stories set in my home counties of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, and loosely based around the song ‘The twelve Days of Christmas’.
- ‘Three Little Maids’ – the sequel to ‘Full Marks’ and telling the story of the murder of a school teacher in London.
- ‘Short Stories Volume Two’ – my second anthology with a similar mix to its predecessor.
What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
No real life stories as such, but I do build my characters around people whom I have either known or worked with. That said, I do blend characteristics to form my own ‘players’. I also use instances from my past to try to illustrate my plots and give them a good grounding.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
It can be absolutely anything: a story in the news, a word or phrase that I’ve heard, an image which comes to me at a random time, or even another author. I read widely and try to let famous writers’ styles stimulate my imagination. Once a story takes off, it f=does seem to go its own way at times.
How do you deal with creative block?
I move on to another project – something new and completely different from the one which has stalled. It seems to work every time, and I can go back to the original idea later with fresh thoughts. It’s happened to me a few times, and I’ve come out the other end on each occasion.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
Lack of research is the killer. Writing something without taking the time and trouble to find out if the plot is plausible is always going to land a writer in the mire. Famous authors are not immune, and I’ve come across a number of instances where the story I’m reading has come to an abrupt halt as I’ve read something which has clearly been incorrect.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Titles: these are the bane of my life, and I’ve learned to write the book and then go back to the title at the end. ‘Two Little Dicky Birds’ is a snappy title, but it began life as ‘Network of Fear’. The more I wrote, the more the initial title seemed wrong, and it wasn’t until I was three quarters of the way through the writing that the final one came to me.
Covers: My publisher usually comes up trumps and they seem to know what I have in mind. On occasion I have used third parties to design them and this has always been accepted well by the publisher.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
I tend to shrug my shoulders and take the stance that you can’t please everyone. No matter what you write, there will always be someone who thinks that it could have been better. Reviews of all my books on Amazon have been very positive, and readers are constantly asking when the next book is coming out.
How has your creation process improved over time?
I no longer go chasing a storyline liked I used to do. I find it easier to let the idea come to me. Stories are out there just waiting to be heard by you – all you have to do is open up and listen to them. Recently, readers have given me story titles and challenged me to write a piece around them – I find this immensely satisfying.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
The worst thing, and it was in ‘Threads of Deceit’, was writing myself into a corner. The plot came to a shuddering halt as I ran out of story line. A chance conversation with a friend some three months later finally solved the log jam.
The best thing was getting my first book, ‘A Ticket to Tewkesbury’, accepted for publication in 2008. The buzz was unbelievable, and to see it in Waterstones shop window set the seal upon it.
Most surprising? That would have to be seeing ‘Three Little Maids’ as an audio book. I’d experimented with a number of short stories on my own, but to have one performed by a professional was amazing.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I try to mix what I like to write with what I know my readers will like. Fortunately for me, the two things seem to go hand in hand. The personal satisfaction comes from actually finishing the reading and getting a nod of approval from my editor – without that, I know that I’m on a loser.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
When using some real-life scenarios from my own past, I can get deeply involved in that part of the story, and I have to try very hard not to make those passages too personal as that would detract from the story line that I originally set out.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
Only insofar as I don’t write unless I can feel the story moving on. To try to force a plot would, in my view, take something away from the fluidity of the book in question. I’ve left manuscripts ‘on the shelf’ for months until the right stimulus came along.
What are your plans for future books?
I current have two more completed volumes of short stories waiting to be read and edited, with a fifth volume at the half way point. I’m also working on ‘Shadowman’ – the sequel to ‘Three Little Maids’, and finally ‘Dreamkiller’ – a paranormal thriller.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
Is bring an accountant turned author quirky enough? I’ve used forty years of experience to guide me through some plot lines, and I can turn a word or a phrase into a story without too much trouble. A number of readers have told me, light-heartedly, that they would not like to live inside my head.
Links to the books on my website, with individual links on their pages to Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble etc:
Works in Progress: