J.S. Strange lives and writes in south Wales, United Kingdom. His first two novels were published in 2016 and 2017, and at the end of 2018 he signed with Panther Publishing, a Welsh publisher of mystery, crime, thriller, paranormal and horror fiction. His new novel, Murder on the Rocks, is publishing with Panther Publishing on March 1st, 2019. A cosy murder mystery set in Wales, Murder on the Rocks is written by a Welsh author, and published on ST. Davids Day, the date of Saint David's death. Murder on the Rocks features a leading gay male detective, something that was important for Strange to write about.
1. Will you tell us about your most recent published work?
Murder on the Rocks is my first foray into writing murder mystery novels. I like a classic whodunit, and I have always read crime fiction. I started out writing for the crime genre, and found out it fitted better into murder mystery. It features a leading gay male detective, as there seem to be few gay protagonists, though of course they do exist and are out there. There should just be more! Murder on the Rocks sees private investigator Jordan Jenner return to work after the death of his mother. His first case is the murder of a writer in a prestigious writing group. Jordan has to solve the murder of the writer, but discovers his mother is related to the murder in some way.
2. What personal challenges do you face as a writer?
I face a lot of challenges as a writer. I have a full time job, eight hours a day, an hour away from where I live. I work odd hours, five days a week, including the odd weekends, so time is a big issue. When I do have days to write, life gets in the way, or I get distracted, or before you know it the day has gone and I can’t find the time to write. I tend to properly get into writing in the morning, and struggle to start in the evening. It’s a weird process!
3. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
The difficult thing to do is to keep a story exciting. On my last two horror novels, I was complimented on keeping up the suspense and twists. It was easy to do in a dystopian zombie apocalypse world. But writing murder mystery, trying to appeal to adult readers, and following real life situations is quite a challenge. I have to keep the story believable, whilst keeping people entertained. On another side of things, what’s difficult about the process is keeping the momentum going. If I miss a morning opportunity to write, I can’t properly get into what I’m writing.
4. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Well, my first book was a zombie novel set in London. It took four years to write. It gave me confidence as a writer. When I published it, I was 21, dreaming of instant success and a film deal. I still do dream of that, but I’m a lot more aware to the writing process as a whole, the importance of editing, the importance of promotion, and the reality of a book fading to obscurity quicker than a tweet that goes viral. I took advice from reviewers and beta readers, seeing what worked and what didn’t work. I picked up books that were about writing, and I generally began to appreciate writing as something more serious than just fun. Although, I still write for fun! I really enjoy it!
5. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Will you tell us about them?
Yes. I have a few. I have one about a haunted hotel with nuns that never made sense. I have one about a stalker of a film star who has returned home after divorcing his husband. I got towards the end and then just stopped. A new idea came and I couldn’t match them up again, but I might go back to it and redraft eventually. My zombie series was supposed to be three or four books long, but I lost the motivation after book two, because I found it really difficult to write – second book syndrome is definitely a thing – and so book three of the Winter Smith series, my zombie novels, has so many drafts. I don’t know if book three will ever happen.
6. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do read my book reviews, and I appreciate every one I get. I appreciate people that can offer constructive feedback and give me the time. Most reviews I’ve had have been helpful and favourable. I always enjoy reading people say that I have a talent, or enjoying something I’ve wrote. I have had one or two bad reviews, and a horrible rejection, and it knocked me. I doubted myself big time. But then I tell myself it’s one or two reviews that have come from a whole list of good reviews, so I try and balance them out. It hurts to get a bad review, but writers are sensitive souls.
7. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
I do! And telling what those secrets are would be the wrong thing to do. I’m currently writing the sequel to Murder on the Rocks, and there is a character based off an ex. In the first Winter Smith novel, I included my friend’s name. But there are other things in the book that are for people to read and pick out that know me, or would understand why they’re there.
8. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’m not friends with enough authors. I’d like to be! I’d love to be able to feel as though I could talk about my writing with people without showing off, or sounding like I’m being big headed. I’m actually planning to join a local writing group soon. I do have friends who are authors, so we have bonded over mutual interests and writing. They’re horror writing twins from Cardiff, and we they’ve been a massive help to me with my writing, offering advice, and showing support when the times have got tough. I envy their following and their fanbase, but other than that, they’re great people to know.
9. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Writing becomes very frustrating. There are plenty of rejections – more than J.K. Rowling ever had – and you’ll feel like giving up. Don’t. You haven’t sold millions, you haven’t become a traditional bestseller yet, but don’t stop what makes you happy. You’re improving each time. Don’t be afraid. Try new things. Keep that naïve optimism.
10. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Over thinking and over complicating their story or plot, and worrying about what people will think when they read it. Trying to be like someone else is another flaw. Write what you want to write, keep at it, and know your genre.
11. What’s the best way to market your books?
My ways of marketing vary. I use social media heavily. I don’t pay for adverts, though I might do for Murder on the Rocks. You have to have an online presence, but not necessarily a website. Follow as many writers as you can on Twitter, join plenty of writing groups on Facebook, and take as many opportunities as you can find. Make promotional material, whether that be posters to share on social media, or videos. Do everything and try anything. Murder on the Rocks has already generated a buzz, which I’m proud of, but I’m hoping to keep that buzz going after publication. We’ll see what happens!
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