Caroline Jones Lewis, author of Journey Into Darkness
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Caroline Jones Lewis, author of Journey Into Darkness: Book 1 in The Tales of Shakespeare. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Caroline. For any of our readers that haven’t come across your work previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself and your work?
Caroline Jones Lewis: I was born in the Welsh mining valleys towards the end of the second world war, the fifth child of seven. My parents were poor and at the age of two I went to live with an aunt and uncle in Gloucestershire who subsequently adopted me and brought me up as an only child. I remained in Gloucestershire through a grammar school education, marriage and bringing up three children but then, now divorced, the wider world called. I have travelled extensively since my children left home, working for a time in the Middle East and then on return in London, where I sat on the Committee of one of the City Ward Clubs and was privileged to be awarded the Freedom of the City. Now semi-retired in the West Country of England with my dogs, I can indulge my love of writing in between commitments to my children and grandchildren. I have always loved creative writing, perhaps as an outlet from the need to earn a living in office and accountancy management. There have always been words in my head urging to flow onto paper. It seemed wholly natural that those words should be available for anyone interested in reading them.
SPS: What are your perfect writing conditions, and how often do you write?
CJL: When writing is going well I write every day, sitting at my laptop in my sitting room in the quiet of the village where I live, usually early in the morning. When I hit a hiatus I turn to diversions until the words are ready to flow again.
SPS: Can you put your finger on the moment where you decided that you wanted to publish your work?
CJL: I have always wanted to publish. For years I rejected vanity publishing, wanting to be published by an agent who considered me worthy; until I became frustrated with rejections from would be agents who, judging by the lack of crease marks at the top of each manuscript page, had clearly not read any of my work at all. For authors who have no contacts within the publishing industry or hold no significant celebrity status, it is an uphill struggle. Self-publishing represented a challenge to someone like myself whose technical ability is limited. Finally, in a light-bulb moment, I realised that it was my only option to achieve my ambition to publish and with the help of good friends more technically able I took the plunge.
SPS: Why do you think it is that you have found yourself writing in the style that you do?
CJL: It’s my natural style. To try to change that would be false and I’m sure would reflect adversely in my work.
SPS: What would you say, if anything, best differentiates you from other authors?
CJL: There is always a social motivation to my work. I am passionate about social justice and the effects of injustice on the lives its victims. There is always a need to raise awareness of the ills in society and to address them. A former boss once described me as a free spirit and I didn’t understand what he meant at the time but I do now. I would always be a ‘whistle blower’ if faced with criminality or corruption. I can’t say other authors don’t feel the same but for me, it’s the entire motivation for my work. My first published novel, ‘The Dream Robbers’, was an expression of the chaos and distress I witnessed around me following the credit crunch. I worked in the City of London during and following the debacle that resulted in our exit from the ERM and saw first-hand the financial devastation as long-standing businesses went down, jobs were lost, homes repossessed. The same thing happened with the credit crunch though perhaps not quite so severe. The first full novel I wrote but which never made it to publication, concerned sex tourism and the exploitation of children. The mistreatment of children is a particular thorn in my side and I suppose this is an appropriate moment to add that in recent years I have been a foster carer, taking in short term and respite placements for children removed from homes for neglect or other types of abuse. My latest novel, intended to be one of a series, is not a police procedural or a crime story set in a particular location such as Midsomer or Oxford but concerns the global problems of trafficking, sexual exploitation, slavery. The only time I have deviated from this motivation was with my second published work, ‘Monday’s Child’, which was written for fun and I freely admit to being a self-indulgent romp through the 1960s. I do have plans to write more in this vein in the future, but it’s a matter of fitting it all in!
SPS: Where does the inspiration for your work come from?
CJL: Life. It’s all around us.
SPS: Can you tell us a little about your most recent release: Journey into Darkness?
CJL: ‘Journey Into Darkness’ enters the dark world of the people trafficker and the fate that awaits their victims, the increasingly global web made possible by technology.
SPS: Is the story as dark as the title suggests, or is it balanced with light?
CJL: There is light at the end of the tunnel, as is always the potential in life. I like to finish each piece of my work on a tone of hope and achievement. I avoid expressing unnecessary violence and brutality. Life can be dark enough without resorting to gratuitous blood and thunder. Who was it that said there are no problems, only solutions? Well, there are problems but solutions can be found if there is the will.
CJL: How did you set about researching for the book?
CJL: My work as a foster carer has demanded regular and extensive training and has given me an insight into worlds darker than my own. I find the workings of the brain particularly fascinating, the complexity of human behaviour. If we believe all children are born innocent, what turns an individual into a monster? The nature/nurture debate rumbles on. In addition the internet is a constant source of material, as is the local library.
SPS: What’s next on the self-publishing horizon for yourself?
CJL: The second and third in the series, Tales of Shakespeare, each dealing with other aspects of the society in which we live.
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
CJL: Not originally. But now I love it. The author basically has control over the timing and publication of their work.
SPS: Has the experience so far been all that you thought it would be?
CJL: Technically I found it hard to begin with but struggled through. The difficulty for me has been on the marketing side, which is my failure. I have had neither the time nor the finances to commit and to be honest I’m just not good at it; so my work flounders in a sea of publications, many of which I am sure are equally deserving of attention as my own.
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
CJL: If you want to earn lots of money, your subject must be something unique and eye-catching. Harry Potter springs to mind. The plot must be clear, the characters consistent and credible. But most of all whichever genre you choose, always be genuine, always write from your heart. Insincerity sticks out like a sore thumb.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
CJL: I’m afraid I have little time for reading but when I do read it is usually a well-known author. I have found authors such as Khaled Hosseini and Marcus Zusak inspirational. Harper Lee’s last novel is still sitting on my bedside table awaiting my attention. Perhaps for the future I should make a concerted effort to read more up and coming authors. But in any case, I wish all aspiring authors the very best of success. Writing is not easy and deserves recognition. Good luck to all.
SPS: Thank you for joining us today, and all the best for the future.
CJL: Thank you for the opportunity.
SPS: For more information on Caroline and her work, please do visit here.