I am happy to have A.J. Griffiths-Jones as my guest this week for Author Interviews.
A.J. has written several novels including a cozy mystery series. I hope you enjoy reading a little about her and her writing.
Thank you, A.J. for participating in my interview.
About Writing/Books/Being an Author
1. Do you remember the first book you read that had an impact on you – in what way and what was the name of that book?
I remember reading a book called ‘Demons by Daylight’ by horror author Ramsey Campbell when I was about ten years old. It sparked my imagination for ghostly stories, mysteries and things that go bump in the night. It also taught me that stories don’t always have to have happy endings.
2. When did you first realize you wanted to write?
I don’t recall a time when I didn’t want to write. It came naturally to me from an early age & I wrote my first full-length novel at the age of twelve. Although it’s never been published, that book is still sitting in my desk drawer.
3. Who is/are your favourite author(s)?
I love the creative mind of Kazuo Ishiguro, the way in which Hannah Kent takes historical true stories and brings them to life and the life lessons hidden in books by Paulo Coelho.
4. What is your favourite thing about writing? What is your least favourite thing about writing?
My favourite thing about writing is creating the characters. I build a ‘personality board’ next to my desk and build their likes/dislikes, traits & looks before I even put the first word on a page. My least favourite thing has to be the hours spent advertising & promoting my work, it’s a tough life but you have to try to get your books seen.
5. Where do your ideas come from?
My ideas come from all over the place, conversations, funny scenarios, dreams. For example, the story for my latest release ‘Black Sparrow’ began when I was at the airport waiting for my luggage to come down the carousel. I noticed two passengers with identical luggage & thought ‘What if their suitcases got mixed up?’, hence the tale began.
6. I’ve often found that creative people have more than one talent, what is yours?
I’d have to say cooking. I can create food from almost any culture & absolutely love experimenting in the kitchen. My husband never knows what he’s getting for dinner, one day it could be Italian, the next Chinese, but everything we eat is homemade from scratch.
7. If you could jump inside a book for one day (as an observer) what book would it be?
‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ I love the Finches & would love to know what goes on behind the closed doors in Boo Radley’s house.
8. When you create characters, are they completely made up or do they resemble or remind you of people you know?
It depends on what type of book I’m writing. I never knowingly create characters that resemble friends or family, but I have been known to use certain bad habits & gestures that I’ve seen in the people around me.
9. Have you ever created a character “out of thin air” only to run into someone in real life that reminds you of that character either in personality or their features?
Yes! In my second book ‘The Seasiders’ I created a character called Grace Thomas & then met a woman in my morning swimming club who’s exactly like I’d imagined, right down to her ritual of having a hair appointment every Thursday!
10. How do you come up with titles for your books?
Generally, the title is the last thing to be written. I have to get a feel for the places & characters before coming up with a suitable title.
11. What are you working on now and can you tell us about it?
I’m currently working on a historical book based on the true story of Jusztina Szilagyi, who was the second wife of Vlad Dracul in 16th century Transylvania. It’s quite an amazing tale & has taken a lot of research. It’s both tragic and heroic so hopefully I can give poor Jusztina a voice.
12. Have you won any awards for your writing/books and if so what?
I won the ‘Jack the Ripper Book of the Year Award’ in 2016 for ‘Prisoner 4374.’ It’s a historical biography of convicted poisoner Dr. Thomas Neill Cream.
A Little More Personal
13. What is one thing you haven’t done but would like to do?
I want to establish a permanent home overseas, probably in France, that’s my ultimate goal. Somewhere with good weather, weekly fresh food markets and peace to enable me to focus on writing every day.
14. Can you tell us about an embarrassing/funny moment?
There are too many to mention! The latest one was on a long flight when I got up to go to the toilet & had to walk all the way to the back of the plane as there was a queue at the front. It was only on reaching my seat again afterwards that I realised I’d walked all the way back with my skirt tucked in my knickers! I’d wondered why I heard giggling!
15. Have you ever experienced something weird you could not explain?
I currently live in a very old house & there have been lots of strange happenings that I can’t explain. Clothes have moved during the night & heavy footsteps can often be heard.
16. Are you superstitious? Do you have any rituals for good luck?
I’m not very superstitious at all & don’t have any rituals as such. The only thing that I do after completing every book is open a special bottle of Australian wine called ‘Rabbit & Spaghetti.’ It seems to spur me on for the next project.
17. What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?
Whilst working in Japan in my early thirties, my boss threw a welcome dinner for me & my colleagues. I was presented with a piece of meat which I presumed was being shown to me before they cooked it. Unfortunately, I was expected to eat it raw & didn’t want to upset my hosts, so I swallowed it with copious amounts of beer. Afterwards my boss told me it was raw whale meat.
18. Do you have a favourite vacation spot? Where?
My favourite vacation spot is a fishing harbour town called Akbuk, in southern Turkey. My husband & I have had a holiday home there for the past ten years and absolutely love it. It has great restaurants, calm azure waters and spectacular views along the coastline.
19. Can you tell us about one of your favourite childhood memories?
I used to spend a lot of time with my grandparents when I was a child & we would often go away for weekends in Wales. Having picnics on the beach, fishing in the rivers and playing board games at night was the perfect time.
20. What makes you happy?
I’m always happy! I just love life & try to live it to the full. On an everyday basis, it’s the little things that make me smile, listening to music, reading, going out with my husband & playing with Humphrey my Chinese cat.
21. If you aren’t writing (or doing anything associated with writing), what are you doing?
I try to swim as often as possible in the mornings, a necessity to keep my joints supple. I also love meeting up with friends to have lunch & go shopping. My hobbies include cooking, reading, going to classic car events with my husband & visiting historic houses.
22. Have you ever met anyone famous – who?
In the late 1980’s & early 1990’s, I lived in London & met lots of famous people. When the BandAid single was being recorded, it was at a studio by my house & I met Bob Geldof. I’ve also had tea with Neill Flynn from New Zealand band ‘Crowded House’ whilst arguing our very opposite ‘Jack the Ripper’ theories.