Topher Hoffman: Hello Julia! Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for the readers at The House Of 1000 Books. I find it so amazing and motivational that there are so many authors out there that are doing what they love. Writing amazing stories. I am thrilled to get this opportunity to spend the time with you to do just that.
I see that you have a lot of books under your belt! How many novels are you up too?
Julia Colbourn: I’m working on book number four as we speak. I’m averaging a book a year so far.
TH: That’s great! It looks like you have publications that fall into various categories. What is your favourite genre to write?
JC: I love to write in many different genres – there’s usually a romance of some sort going on, but I like to write about real life situations, not cozy, unrealistic storylines. My first book is a dystopian fantasy (no elves or dragons, though!) and I’ve also got some non-fiction books that I’d like to write. My interests are very varied and I can’t see me settling into any one genre just yet. My style, however, remains the same.
TH: I like to find out in all my interviews when authors started to write. Some start at a young age, but others don’t start until they are adults. When did you find your passion for writing?
JC: I think I was born with it! Certainly, I wrote stories as a kid and revelled in writing essays at senior school, inspired by a rare gem of an English teacher. I first started writing seriously when I was at home with a young family. I had several articles and short stories accepted in magazines, but by the time I retired and had the time to return to it seriously, the writing world had changed and so had magazine content!
TH: Writing takes a tremendous amount of time, can you tell me if it ever gets in the heart of home life?
JC: I published my first book while I was still teaching – how I found the time to write it, I don’t know! Secret all-night sessions, fuelled by chocolate, I suppose! But when you have the writing bug, it’s very hard to ignore it. Now I’m retired there still isn’t enough time, as we are travelling a fair bit and have many other commitments, not to mention the time Twitter takes up (purely for marketing purposes, of course!!). It helps that my partner is Asperger – he likes to do his own thing which leaves me free to do mine!
TH: Has your family read your work, and if so what was one point that you got told as feedback that you continue to follow while writing?
JC: My sister is my proofreader, and though her preference is for cozier reads than mine, she still tells me that I write well. My cousin and several friends give me huge support and nag me to get the next book wrote, which is very motivating. My daughters sometimes mutter ‘no sex, please, mother’ but, while there is no gratuitous sex in my books, I do feel it’s unavoidable if you’re painting a true picture. There’s only one scene of a sexual encounter in my current book, so maybe, subconsciously, I’m taking their feedback on board.
TH: What is the one author that you have read that influenced you the most and what is your favourite book of theirs?
JC: If you limit me to just one, I’d have to say Austen (I discovered only a few years ago that I’m actually descended from her grandmother, which was cause for great celebration!). She was the first author to make me realize how you can use humour in a serious novel to great advantage. Trollope was another. And Thomas Hardy showed me how to not shrink from unpalatable truths.
TH: If you met that author and wanted to ask them one question, what would it be?
JC: Oh, I’d love to ask Jane Austen what sort of books she would write nowadays. She would be so pleased with the advances women have made over the last century. Can you imagine what her Twitter following would be?
TH: I read one of your interviews, and you described how you flesh out your characters. Have you ever created an antagonist based on somebody you seen in real life?
JC: No one character is based just on one person, but inevitably I use snippets from all sorts of different sources – people from my past and my present, TV personalities, even people I’ve just heard about. I might use someone’s voice, someone else’s mannerisms or body language, someone else’s facial expressions. It helps, when I write, if I can picture my character in my mind – I can literally see them closing their eyes, or changing their posture, and I can hear the tone in which they speak. The Narcissist in my current book is based loosely on a close (thankfully ex) family member.
TH: With having so many books out, you had a chance to develop so many characters. Who is the one type of character that you absolutely adore?
JC: It’s got to be the feisty female lead!! They’re all flawed in some way (as we all are) and my current main female character is badly damaged from a relationship with a Narcissistic personality disorder and at first appears weak and spineless, but she gradually wins through. Women are incredibly strong.
TH: What about out of the books you have written? Why is your favourite?
JC: My first book is my true love! I put heart and soul into it – some science, some novel religious theories, a bit of philosophy and observations of human society as a whole. There are also some hidden meanings in it, for those who like a book with layers. Sadly, I knew nothing about marketing in those days, and I just pushed it out onto the literary ocean and let it flounder on its own. I hope, at a later stage when I am more established, to come back to it and do it justice.
TH: Have you ever had a real-life problem and written it into the story?
JC: Inevitably. All authors draw on their own insecurities and childhood dramas (and many of their adult ones, too!) I went to quite a posh public school but my social life was always rooted in more down to earth circles, mainly at the local riding school where you had to muck in (and out) to earn a ride. This straddling of two worlds crops up in my third book, Seduction & Destruction, and to a lesser extent in my first book, where the female lead just doesn’t fit in anywhere. And my own partner is Asperger – there’s a whole book there, waiting to be written!
TH: To use a publisher or to self publish that is the question! If you had a chance to tell your younger writing self one piece of advice about publishing, what would it be?
JC: I think self-publishing is still my preferred choice – I’m too impatient to wait patiently for months for an inevitable rejection slip – but self-publishing involves a steep learning curve. I wish I’d known at the beginning what I know now. And I now have a huge support network through writers’ groups on Facebook and the Writing Community on Twitter – whatever question I have, someone will have the answer. And I’ve learnt so much – I never even knew what a beta reader was a few months ago!
TH: Can you tell us about your newest book?
JC: I love to look at dysfunctional relationships. They are far more common than most people think. In my latest book, I turn the spotlight on Narcissistic personality disorder, of which I have some personal experience. It was fascinating researching the topic and realizing just how common it is. I’ve also included a two-faced best friend (also drawn from personal experience). I have never understood why some people are so destructive for no apparent reason. As Paulie says, in my current work in progress, ‘What’s the matter with people, eh, Barney? You’d think they’d settle for a bit of honest love, instead of devoting themselves to making other people’s lives a misery.’
TH: Looks like you worked really hard on it! What is one thing in the book that you want your readers to take away from the novel?
JC: A better understanding of common human flaws. When we are young, we are constantly searching for the perfect job, the ideal best friend, the Mr. or Ms. Right. The sooner we realize that chasing perfection makes us miss the real opportunities in life, the better. Life is golden and so much fun, but it will never be perfect. Just dive in. Ride the rapids and learn to navigate around the immovable objects.
TH: What is the most important thing that you want your readers to appreciate when it comes to your work?
JC: I want people to feel that I’ve created real, three-dimensional characters and touched on some of the ugly realities that often get avoided in romances. I want my readers to be informed by my books and come away from them with thoughts in their heads that weren’t there before.
TH: Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers of the House Of 1000 Books blog?
JC: Writing is hard work. The best thanks any reader can give an author is a review. Please, please review any books you read. So many people don’t.
TH: Thank you for taking the time Julia to answer my questions! So there you have it, folks! Yet another lovely story for you all to check out!
Topher Hoffman: Hey Jackson, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me. I really enjoyed your book, and I thought it was pretty impressive the way it played out.
I have never read the type of story like you wrote in Paradise, Maine. How does it feel to be responsible for the introduction of splatterpunk to somebody who hasn’t read the genre before?
Jackson R. Thomas: That’s cool. Welcome to a brave new world, my friend. Consider Paradise to be a gateway drug. Once you dig into some Edward Lee or the works of Spector & Skipp, you will get the real deal.
TH: What about your family? Have you introduced your family to your books, and if so what type of feedback do they give you? Did any of them disown you afterwards?
JRT: My mom ain’t gonna see this. She wouldn’t be surprised, but I think we’re both better off if she sticks to cookbooks and biographies.
TH: You are now getting some pretty good reviews on your book. How do you deal with
the negative reviews? Do you use it as constructive criticism or do you write that person into your next book?
JRT: It is what it is. I didn’t plan on being here. If they like it, cool. If they don’t, cool.
TH: Before you start writing, do you have to go through any pre-writing routines that you do before you begin a writing session?
JRT: A cigarette and coffee. Then it’s time to roll.
TH: When getting into writing, everyone receives advice in some fashion or the other. If you could give your younger writing self any advice, what would it be?
JRT: None. I think I’m where I should be.
TH: Thanks for those, now moving onto the book, Paradise, Maine. Are any of the characters based off of somebody that you know? Please don’t say that The Watcher
is, because that guy freaks me out.
JRT: I worked with someone named, Vanis. She was a housekeeper. I thought the name was unique. I have no idea if she was into photography. I also had a friend that dated a guy named Zebulun. He claimed to be an outdoorsman, but he didn’t look the type. More like a guy who’d get eaten by the outside world. So, there are those two. As for the Watcher…he could represent a lot of things. The world is unpredictable. It’s also what we make it. Toss that together with a little carnage and maybe you get this guy.
TH: I did a quick Google maps search on Paradise, Maine. Did you know that there is a campground called Paradise Park? Were you ever there?
JRT: No, I haven’t. I thought Paradise was the perfect name for this little town.
TH: In Paradise, Maine there were a lot of violent scenes. What was the most challenging part of writing them?
JRT: Being honest. If you’re going to be brutal, you can’t be soft. The challenge is always writing it as you think it might actually happen, regardless of what happens. If it scares people-good. Sometimes, you swing and miss, but I’m happy with the way it turned out.
TH: Now that the book is almost released, what’s next on your plate? What’s the next project that you will be working on and do you have any sneak peeks?
JRT: I’m doing another draft for the follow-up to my first book, The Beast of Brenton Woods. This one is titled Rise. I don’t know when it will be out.
TH: The final question about your book. Are there any characters that you wish you would have written into the book just so you could write them out Jackson Thomas style?
JRT: In the jobs, I’ve had, that list is long. I plan to get to each and every one of them.
TH: Lastly, Is there anything at all that you would like to share with the readers?
JRT: Don’t get comfortable. There’s always another monster around the corner.
Read the book review for Fan of Horror? Read Paradise, Maine by Jackson R. Thomas
Topher Hoffman: Hello Jamie. Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Jamie Stewart: Hi, it’s my pleasure. Well, I live in Northern Ireland with my wife and our two dogs. I am twenty-eight years old and I love to write.
TH: That’s awesome! Many kids have vivid imaginations. Running around all crazy fighting ninja’s, imaginary friends who only they can see, and monsters under the bed that your parents told you weren’t real. Were you a kid like that, and if so, do any of those ideas show in your writing? If not, where do you get your thoughts?
JS: You’ve just described me as a kid. I was always an imaginative child and I lived more in my head than anywhere else. It was actually because of this that I was reluctant to read initially because I couldn’t sit still enough to concentrate. My mind was always going a thousand miles a minute creating games to play with my friends or reacting scenes from films. Because of that energy films became a fixation first. They nourished that massive imagination in my head.
Recently, I watched an interview with a director about his childhood. He said that when he would go to the cinema, he would become inspired to make films like those that he saw. He wanted not just to film stories like the ones he saw but replicate camera angles, music and dialogue. In other words, he was inspired by the mechanics that created his favourite films and wanted to learn them in order to do the same. I was not like that. Films for me were windows into other worlds. Worlds like Star Wars, which became imprinted in my head and I would run around for days afterward pretending I was a character in it. I didn’t care about the tiny things like locations or special effects. I was in awe of the bigger picture, a bigger canvas, that needed imagination to create the worlds I was seeing on the screen. That’s why writing appeals to me. I love cinema to this day but as a writer you have no limitations, no rules. You can create as big as you can dream
TH: Some people get into writing at a young age, others when they are later in life and start going through a mid-life crisis. When did you get your calling? When did you not hold back anymore and have to share with the world your stories?
JS: I started to write at the age of nine before I fell in love with reading. Even to me, this seems odd. As I’ve already said I spent a lot of my time in my head, all kids do. The difference for me I discovered was when I’d play a videogame or go to the cinema with my friends I’d relive it for hours, days even weeks after. They didn’t. When I started to write it was partly inspiration and partly frustration. I found that I didn’t recognise anyone in all those games and movies.
It became a common thing for me to say to my friends if only that would happen to us.
That’s when I discovered the Goosebumps series by R.L Stine. My friend had a copy of some of his books, the ones with the really colour cartoonish monsters on the covers (how could I not be interested in them). Again, I struggled to sit down long enough to finish one but what I discovered was I recognised and empathised with the characters in them. They were all young kids or teenagers and the idea that they could fight off a horde of zombies or Dracula unlocked a door in my head. If they could do it why couldn’t I?
So I started to write stories. Those first few years were just exercises in recreating the things I have seen or played. And as I wrote them, I realised that my writing quality was nothing like the Goosebumps books. Writing and desire to improve lead me to become a reader. I soon fell in love with books after that, it just took the right one.
My decision to publish my stuff came from a place of frustration as well. My writing had progressed and I wanted to have feedback from people that weren’t in my social circle. Again, this was out of a desire to improve but also to see if an audience would not only enjoy my work but also love it.
TH: With all your reading, you must find inspiration from many other authors. I see you reading all the time. If you could meet any character from one of those books, who would it be and what would be the first question you would ask him after hello?
It’s difficult to choose one character. I’d chose Death from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett and ask him if he would like to accompany me for a curry. I think you’d have some pretty interesting conversation with him over a meal.
JS: As time goes on you end up picking up many different tips, ups and downs with your writing, and faced with many challenges and triumphs. If you could go back in time and meet yourself, what would you tell yourself to encourage yourself about your writing?
Don’t take the job so seriously that it becomes a negative. Of course, if you want to be a writer, you should be serious about what you write but it should always be fun.
TH: You and I have talked before about your writing. Do you have anybody in your family that doesn’t like your writing? How do you know?
JS: Not really. I have people in my family that don’t read, yet still support me.
TH: Now on to your short story. Your short story Insular is amazing! I’ve read it and reviewed it and gave you a big whopping five starts. Could you tell us where and how you came up with the idea and if there are any hidden meanings in it?
JS: I used to work in a home delivery department for a retail company. The job of picking groceries for others is very monotonous but also time orientated. We had to work fast in order for the first set of vans to leave in the morning. I noticed I would go a whole two hours without actually speaking to my colleagues. When I realised how rude I was being, I then noticed that everyone did the same thing. We didn’t socialise with each other, not when we were on the shop floor. I also noticed that if I was asked I knew where almost every item was on the shelves. I could do the job as if from muscle memory. As I was pondering this and pondering what did everyone think about as they worked from aisle to aisle an image popped into my head. It was of security footage of two people in a grocery aisle and if you peered closely you could see straight through one of them like a ghost.
My brain made the connection between how much my colleagues and I were spending in our own heads and the idea of being a ghost. I was also noticing at the time how people would fall into their phones despite being surrounded by colleagues and friends. It made me consider how as a society we have the tools to be more connected than ever in human history but how we are actually more isolated as individuals than ever before. Insular sprung out of that.
TH: The characters in the story were well done, are they based off anybody in particular? If so who? If not, where did you come up with the idea to make the characters the way they are?
JS: Thank you, it’s lovely to know that they connected with you. They aren’t based off anyone in particular. Insular was a turning point in my writing career because it was the first story that I didn’t plot before starting. I had the image of the security footage in my head and I had this idea that the main character, Peter, would narrate the story as a man in his seventies looking back to a particular time in his life. I found out the rest as I wrote. It was easy to do as I was living the life of these characters, one that was very unfulfilling.
TH: You got the character creation down. I am wondering, what do you think is the best way to create a character that you want people to like? Actually, in that case, a character you want people to hate?
JS: I don’t think you can set out to do that. You can’t set out to create the best hero or villain ever written. I think the best way to write a story is to let your characters be free to do what they want to do. That way they will surprise you and hopefully readers too.
A lot of the response I have received from people over the character of Julian Kensi is that he is a creepy villain. I never set out to make him a bad guy, I set out to tell his story. I actually feel sorry for him and I think why he creates that reaction in readers is because they recognise him and his struggles. Of course, Julian’s reaction to his struggles is not something many can recognise thank goodness.
TH: Finally, I know you have done very well on your last story Insular. I know the people reading want to is next for Jamie Stewart! What’s next Jamie? Give the fans what they want!
JS: Well, since the feedback from Insular has been so positive I’ve been inspired to write more short stories. My latest one will be released somewhere at the end of March beginning of April time. It’s called Trick Or Treat, and it’s more of a traditional horror vibe than Insular. Though, in saying that it’s traditional in the sense that it throws a particular horror standard on its head.
I am also currently sitting on a finished novel called Mr. Jones that I will be releasing sometime later in the year. It’s a coming of age story set in Northern Ireland, and it’s about books, music and friendships and how they can affect a person’s life. It’s a very different genre from my short fiction, but I’ve never felt like I have to keep in one lane.
If you are you interested in checking out Jamies Stewart’s short story? Check it out here: Insular: A Short Story of Horror.
If you could pick one place on the entire planet, any place at all, that you could be during Christmas time where would it be?
For Madison Rathbone, it’s nothing less than being as far away from her family at Christmas as she can get. Evidentially, in this story, she got her Christmas wish in the form of an all-expense paid invitation for a week get-away at a lodge on a secluded island with 12 other people.
Travelling to the island on a boat Maddy learns from the captain the glorious news about her destination. What Maddy called Puffin Island is known lovingly, or not so fondly, to the locals as Deadman’s Island. That was unfavourable news indeed! That should have been her earliest clue that perhaps she should turn around and head home.
Of course, she didn’t, because that would be a short book indeed.
So, finally getting to her destination, she recognizes the mistake that she made when she comes to the estate. It was right out of thing from a horror movie, in this case, a horror book. Spooky, creepy, and pretty exhausted looking. Once she meets the rest of the guests, she knew her impression wasn’t right and that she wasn’t’ alone in her feelings.
With the scene set, what else could possibly go wrong?
The book is a page turner indeed! (Well, for me a screen tapper seeing it was on Kindle.) I found that the book was pretty exciting and suspenseful throughout. I kept on trying to guess the end of the book but just couldn’t put my finger on what I thought was going to happen at the climax.
The mysterious, isolated island couldn’t have been a better site for this story to take place. The solitude of no outside communication along with the eerie lodge gave the novel all that more spookiness.
Writing the book from Maddy’s point of view was a great choice. She was a strong character with a lot of great character traits. Intelligent, good looking, and a bit of an attitude.
With there being 12 guests to get-a-way you could assume the time it would take for the author to come up with outstanding personalities for each of the individuals. Each one was as distinct from the next as cats are to dogs.
For instance, Mercedes Brown. What a lady! She was one of my favourites. A movie star who brought the most important person to the dinner party, herself.
Don’t’ get me wrong, the main character in the book, Maddy, was great! I absolutely did like her character. But Mercedes Brown took the cake! That lady, man oh man, seems like to be the most significant bi### at a dinner party. Hopefully, Jo-Ann writes a story all around her!
Here’s a bit from Mercedes and one of my favourite parts in the book, although when she says this doesn’t impact the storyline all, was when Mercedes Brown makes her debut to the rest of the guests.
“Sorry darlings, I’ve been drinking since dawn. My agent is giving me such a headache.” Then to mark her own self-importance she goes on to comment, “I’m pleased to be with you all and will leave you autographed photos by the front door.”
Another great quote from the book was, “We need different in this world. It’s what makes life interesting”. This was said when Maddy was talking about her sister.
Now for what I didn’t like about the book. Overall, I loved the book. I had absolutely no issues with it. If I had to make any suggestions to the author, I would suggest making the book a bit longer. Just so you could create more of a back story for the characters. I am sure a lot of people don’t like that in books, but I for one, like a lot of detail and back story.
Another thing that would have been a great item to put in the book was a longer historical explanation about Deadman’s island.
Those two things DO NOT take away from the book!
Now for my recommendation. Don’t let the name of the book fool you, although it’s is called Murder for Christmas, this book won’t make you any colder if you read it in the winter. The island has no snow, only rain, so never fear. You do on the other hand run the risk of catching a chill during those dreary sections. In my opinion, this book is for somebody that needs a great read with a fabulous mystery and surprising ending.
Have you ever known a kid that was so wicked that you dreaded that the parents would ask you to babysit?
If not, you’re lucky, if so, still count yourself lucky that it wasn’t Hanna. She is one sick and twisted kid. I will get into in a few minutes, but first, let me tell you about the book.
This novel was one of the titles of the month in January for the book club I am a member of on the website GoodReads. If you haven’t heard of GoodReads, you should check it out. Definitely add me as a friend on there, I’d love to see what books you read.
Well anyways, the book isn’t that long. It’s 320 pages, which is about the perfect size. It’s also probably also a good thing the way that things were played out. It’s written from the thoughts of the two main characters. Suzette who is the mother, and Hanna, the daughter. The chapters alternate between the two of them.
In Baby Teeth a mother who is struggling with her illness, the raising of a young daughter, and trying to keep her husband satisfied all at the same time.
That sounds rough, right?
Rough is an understatement. Hanna, who is the reincarnation of the devil who makes her mothers (Suzette) life even worse. Don’t fear, Hanna has her reasons. She wants her father, Alex all to herself and she is willing to make sure that mommy is out of the picture so she can have her all to herself.
During the book, Hanna doesn’t talk and leaves her mother outplayed trying to explain to Alex how awful their child is. Alex is doubtful about that, and the more Suzette seeks to clarify, the more Hanna plays the role of a good child to impress her father.
The author made you feel how it is to be inside a youngsters head that was, can I say, crazy? I believe the word I’m looking for to describe this child is a psychopath. The hell she puts her mother through doesn’t seem to make Hanna feel bad at all.
The author did a fabulous job making Suzette look like the prey. I really felt bad for the mother. It described when she was living at home with her mother, how sick she was, and how her mother treated her. How she got married and was ashamed of being sick around Alex. Eventually, you really start to feel sorry about how Hanna treats her.
This book is a strange battle between good and evil.
So is Baby Teeth a good read? Yes, I recommend this book to all mothers of small children who do not seem as bad. Actually, I’m just joking. This book is probably not for them. This book is more for people who like a good thriller. The book is filled with a bunch ups, downs, and at times leaving you wishing that you could be there to warn Suzette out.
Give the book a read! What is the last thriller you read?
If you are interested in reading Baby Teeth you can check it out here.