Where to begin?
Well, my pen name in M.J. Webb and I live in the heart of England. I have lived away in Norwich but moved back to buy a house just yards away from the house I was born in. I suppose that just about sums me up. I am in no way nationalist but I’m proud of my heritage and my country. Folk in the Midlands are honest, loyal and hard-working.
I am in full-time employment and have worked for the same organisation for over thirty years. Writing is a passion started and fuelled by my love of reading books. The feel of that page turning is something wondrous. I read fantasy, thrillers and historical fiction mainly, though I like to mix it up from time to time by throwing in a curve ball; a book from any genre recommended by friends/members on sites such as Goodreads. Often these novels are by self-published authors and I have found several gems over the years. Though my favourite authors are John Gwynne, Stieg Larson, Lee Child and Conn Iggulden. I love that those names highlight the diversity in my library.
I am in my mid-fifties now and married to a wonderful lady who has given me two fantastic children. They are the light of my life. So much so, that when they were young, I decided one morning that I wanted to do something for them. Give them a little piece of me they could always hold on to. Hopefully, something which would inspire them in times of need, comfort them in times of sorrow and enthuse them as they navigate adolescence and adulthood.
I’m not sure I succeeded but The Jake West Trilogy was the result. Jake West shares the same initials as my son and a central character is Princess Zephany, whose name closely resembles that of my own daughter, Sophie. I launched into the first novel, ‘Jake West – The Keeper of the Stones’, without thinking it through correctly and the original concept just grew and grew. I intended to pen just one novel, maybe two (one for each child) but in the end, the tale simply took on a life of its own and evolved into a real epic. There are wizards, dragons, an army of the living dead, different species of warriors, spirits, Gods….
To be completely honest, I made every possible mistake an indie author can make; I rushed things, edited fully before learning my craft, published as each book was completed, became involved in things I should have left alone… However, despite my faults, the books were well received on the whole and the reviews were excellent. Unfortunately, electronic pirate copies appeared but it does mean that my books were distributed electronically to all corners of the globe and the last time I checked, the downloads were well over 140,000. The thought that someone on the other side of the world is enjoying your work? Immense.
So, what else would your readers like to know? Well, the hardest part for me without a doubt is publicising the novels. I think most authors would say the same. Social media helps immensely but nobody wants to read about a writer extolling/lauding his own work. Posting anywhere and recommending your own books is just naff and quite rightly frowned upon. Even though sometimes it feels like the only recourse. It took me an age to realise that there is only so much an author can do. At some point, you have to take a step back and hope that those who enjoy your work will share their experience. I suppose that is where the big boys and girls, the professionals who sign with publishers, have you beat. That, their obvious talent and the ability to run at lower pricing anyway.
Artwork is also a stumbling block for authors. A good or bad cover can really make or break your novel. In this area I struck gold. A good friend put me in touch with a talented young art student called A.J. Hateley. She produced three magnificent covers for me and has also made the cover for my latest novel, A Child of Szabo.
My advice to any would/be novelist is to go professional on your cover. Spend your limited resources in the one area people see. It can make all the difference. Make it eye-catching and put your title/name in bold print so that it strikes a chord in the subconscious.
I digress. Okay, so I had a relatively successful trilogy on my hands. Why did it take me ten years therefore to write again? Part of it was work. It is a HUGE commitment writing a novel when you work full time and have a family/other interests. It was also a sense that I did not want to write for writing’s sake. I was waiting for an idea which really enthused me. A project I believed in and couldn’t wait to explore. Something different, you know?
I found it one day in my new job. I had been encouraged to write again by fans of Jake West and friends of my own. I was kicking an idea around in my head for some time and then I verbalised my thoughts to another good friend, John Dunning. J.D.’s enthusiasm was infectious. Before I knew it, I had penned six or seven decent chapters and it was full steam ahead. I would write and then e-mail him the drafts. He would respond within days with suggestions and ideas which enriched the whole story. And when it was complete, my friend Tanya Knapper cast her eye over it to offer an alternate perspective. We made a great team.
A Child of Szabo is an adult thriller. Please be aware that it is not suitable for under 18’s.
It’s a novel about an orphan on the edge of the abyss. She is offered one final chance of redemption and recruited into a secret organisation begun by Winston Churchill just after the war. Her life story/missions/fight to bring down a leviathan, an organisation of aristocrats who control the world, killed her parents and are now trying to kill her, are told in alternate chapters. It is exciting, thought-provoking and realistic. Consequently, there are the occasional swear words (especially when she undergoes SAS E and E training, firefights, torture….. I hope and believe that fans of Lee Child, Duncan Falconer, Mark Greaney etc. will like this book. It has an immensely tough female anti-hero and she pulls no punches.
The whole process of writing has been an immensely pleasurable one. I’m not sure what the future holds but I’m looking forward to seeing what people make of this story. My last novels were penned for my children. They have been enjoyed by families around the world. That is something I will always be grateful for and proud of. This one however, is all mine. Indulgence, pure and simple.