Q: How come you ended up as a Fantasy writer, what's so specialabout this genre compared to others?
A: I did not make a conscious choice to write fantasy; it was acompulsion that I have had since I could first read. I had awonderful English teacher when I was about 8 who read the Lionand the Witch and the Wardrobe and also many Greek legends to usand that inspiration has never left me.
I also believe that fantasy is the first and therefore theforemost form of storytelling. Man has been telling stories ofquests and heroes ever since he first built a camp-fire andgathered in a circle but I doubt he was so keen on stories ofshopping or middle aged spread. For me fantasy is about thehuman condition, of pitting people against adverse conditionsand to see how they endure and overcome by strength of characterand the nobility in their soul rather than by reaching for atelephone and ringing the emergency services. It puts man closeto the element and the environment and so, I hope, enables us tosee who we really are once stripped of the paraphernalia ofmodern technology. The magic in fantasy gives an opportunity toexplore the spiritual realm and to escape into the imaginationfar more than anyother genre. I love it!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I finished the last draft of The Lord of Necrond, which isthe third in the Book of Ond series, in March and since then Ihave been hard at work writing the next series. To expand: mymethod for composition is to get at least 80,000 words down inrough this gives me time to get the flow and basic themes andsome of the characters onto their feet only then can I feelconfident to plan the best progression of the story anddevelopment of those themes and characters.
Q: What lies ahead of The Book of Ond series, will we see morebooks set in the same world, or will you try somethingcompletely different?
A: I've started writing my next trilogy and, yes, it is set inthe same world though there has been a time lapse of about 15years allowing new characters and conflicts to enter the scene.
Q: Fantasy is often accused of presenting a very simplisticportrayal of good and evil. Do writers have an obligation tochallenge their readers, or is their job simply to give thepublic what it's already accustomed to?
A: A writer's job, I would say first and foremost, is toentertain. I believe that readers enjoy to be challenged and tobe given more in-depth complex issues which go beyond thesimplistic good and evil. Good and evil can also be a matter ofperspective. When you watch another of those wildlife programwhen the lion kills the poor zebra you have watched grow upfrom a foal, you are devastated and hate the lion but when youfollow the lion's story and watch it become decrepit withstarvation and its young dying you cheer when it has a chance tofeed on one of the many thousands of zebras. I think theauthor's job is to make the reader care about their heroesbattling against adversity so that they become emotionallyinvolved. If a book makes you laugh, smile, cry or even justthink more deeply about something then the author has done theirjob.
Q: What advice would you give aspiring fantasy writers?
A: I think the best advice I could give any aspiring writerwould be to read lots and write lots. Practise and selfcriticism is very much the key. Then the next is to write fromthe heart. Write about what excites and intrigues you otherwisethe finished work will lack passion and soul. A book must in theend breathe life into characters and that comes from acommitment and a belief in them from the author.
Q: Do you have a routine for writing?
A: Yes. While my children are either at nursery school or withtheir grandmother, I write from 9 until 1 p.m. five mornings aweek. This is by far my most productive time and left alone andin piece in those four hours I can get a great deal of work doneand can write at least 3,000 words in rough in one session. Ithen have to wait until about 7.30 or 8.00 p.m. until they areboth asleep before I can get back to work again when I shall doa couple more hours. This routine I follow religiously.
Q: What has the Internet meant for you as an author?
A: The Internet I feel, and find, is an incredible development.The craft of telling stories is founded deep in the developmentof civilisation. From stories around camp fires to epic poetry,from the ancient performances of Greek tragedies to medievalplays where they were delivered to a close audience, the writerscould see how their audiences responded to what they had writtenand so grow from that. Having people read my books or excerptson my website and to receive their reviews and discuss my workwith them in the fantastically informal medium of email isincredibly exciting. Yes, I did receive letters through the postbut, though always welcome, they could never lead to the sameease of dialogue and interchange of ideas.
My website http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~jwelch also allowsme to display excerpts from my books and tell readers a littlemore about them, creating considerable interest. I alwayswelcome emails from anyone who might like to email@example.com
The Internet makes me feel closer to readers in other parts ofthe world and for those countries where my books are not yetpublished it means that people interested in Fantasy can get afeel of the books and be able to get hold of them through sitessuch as this one.
Publishers and booksellers always used to talk of the sales ofbooks being dependent on word of mouth from readers but inrecent years this has been ignored in favour of telling peoplewhat they should read through mass advertising and salespromotions with bookstore chains. The Internet has started toput the power of choice back where it should be - with readers.