Author Stories Podcast Episode 665 | Sadie Jones Interview

you're listening to the author stories podcast bringing you the story behind the stories and the story tellers are my heroes Matthew quick Katie Ellison Walton Dee Williams Brad Ford or a doctor or insects Robin mom Ernest Cline tempature Sharon Harris visit Hank garner calm for archives of all the shows today's guest is thanks for tuning in to author stories today we've got a fantastic show lined up for you before we get into that I'd like to tell you about some sponsors today Krystal Pico watt snobby at Pecos House the Pecos House website now has a new look she's got a team of eight people who help provide services to fiction authors and she has a full slate of services that now include beta reading she's got four beta readers now so if you're looking for beta reading services she can definitely take on your project manuscript critique developmental editing line editing copy editing and proofreading authors can also inquire by putting their books in her book lovers box which is a 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to bring you a smile and reminds us what comic books are fun be sure to visit ed Ghazni comm today speaking of superheroes and comics my friend Patricia Gilliam has a fantastic series called the heroes of Corvus begins with book one a flight between the second generation superhero named red bolt and a villain for higher name goes terribly wrong resulting in the drowning deaths of three innocent civilians and orphanage a six-year-old boy wracked with guilt bread bolt visits Cameron Wilson at the hospital every night and won't leave the boys side until it falls asleep but friended by a nightshift nurse the man in costume begins to disclose what really happened after the fight and why he feels the deaths of Cameron's parents and sister follow his actions a superhero didn't survive that night and Cameron and the rest of the city aren't out of danger this is such a phenomenal story she has released up to part four now and I cannot wait for part five to come out if you're looking for a great adventure read that's on the cutting edge of what is in today's entertainment the heroes of Corvus is the series for you by Patricia Gillen thanks for tuning in be sure to go to Hank garner comm to subscribe to the show we're on just about every platform you can imagine now stay tuned for our show well thanks for joining me again for the author stories podcast where I bring you the story behind the stories and the storytellers today I'm really excited to have Sadie Jones on the show with me she has a phenomenal new book called the snakes and when you're hearing this it'll be out available everywhere and welcome to the show Sadie oh thank you very much lovely to be here well thank you for joining me we begin each show with the same question and that question is what is your first memory of wanting to be a writer or storyteller oh um I don't have an a memory of wanting to be when I think my earliest memories would be writing um just sort of it was always the thing that I did and the thing I love doing but never it was never an ambition so much it's just you know what would I do for a proper job what I was writing I remember writing a lot of stories and stories with pictures and plays when I was small and then I got my first agent when I was twenty one or two I think oh so just you know I I have this theory that people are born storytellers and then if you choose to you know pursue the path of a writer than then you know that that can be a separate thing but I really think that there's a gene or a gift or however you want to you know call that but I think some people are just born storytellers and it sounds like you were born with that gift as well no I I agree with you and I think it I feel the same about actors and exactly artists you just find particular I mean I was very lucky came from a creative my father was a writer so I've always thought as a sort of a mixture of nature and nurture in there but where I'm always fascinated to hear about people who just at the age of five knew they wanted the black soul right and and they became from something completely different and their parents were farmers or builders and that's that really fascinates me it does me as well and and you know that is the the age-old argument over nature versus nurture and yeah I've met equal amount of people that that were surrounded by creative people and it just naturally came to them and and then you know there's that that odd duck sometimes it just stands up but yeah de lova a family it says I'm a writer and and hit like oh well okay then were you an avid reader as a youngster yes and again I think such a lucky generation because there was so little else to do we were either playing in the garden all reading or writing or making things spaceships out a couple boxes and it just I guess the hundreds of years that was children's lives there was not right I mean there was television but it was you know not very amazing or interesting and we had three channels until I was in my late teens I guess so that's that's a real gift I think boredom boredom is affected things for the mind was very a particular book or series of books that just really kind of blew open your imagination and and made you feel a part of the story the Narnia books were absolutely you know the CS Lewis those books when I I remember I mean I would read them and reread them and going through the Wardrobe into the snow but that he has CS Lewis has this extraordinary really visceral emotional and they were very unfashionable in England at the time because really it was the 70s and you know sort of liberal left-wing and they were they were I remember people sort of oh you know they're about God don't you you know I mean there are worse things for books to be about but I guess they thought that they were preachy so they were you know they assumed that we were all going to read everything that you could be picky a bit about things but I mean those books are absolute genius and I wasn't thinking about the allegory but I was in love with the morality and I did I think children all of us need that you know that how immediate and how urgent her need for good and bad and justice particularly in children's books and then as we get older with we're looking to understand things and I think that's partly why those books are so enduring I had a similar experience with Narnia and maybe in America the I think that attitude about the allegory of it maybe came later maybe that's a newer phenomenon I'm not exactly sure but I was also a kid of the 70s and I I remember loving those books and just being transported you know similarly to the kids in the wardrobe and it had a assume a similar kind of visceral you know hold on me and it wasn't until much later in life that I even allowed myself to think of the whole allegorical nature of it and was there a deeper meaning and and or you know sometimes not even deeper sometimes just right there on the surface yeah but to me they were just there were just fantastic stories and I think that was Louis's real gift was to to be able to to bring us into that world without without the baggage of interpreting all that maybe oh yes it was there and it but it was just magical it was and it was about being your best self fra the children what was so wonderful do you remember how they lost their ages when they went to Narnia they stopped being 8 or 13 or they just were people right and that's such a profound thing to do in fiction to be able to have the sort of true identity of the characters without them being hampered by being schoolchildren so they were in battles and they were as strong as adults there was no sort of boundary to their to well to our imaginations reading them I guess which was amazing both those books made me cry as well the last battle oh my goodness yeah I love them I still love them I know do you feel like that you've carried anything from those books are from the experience of those books into your writer life today yes I think that the books we read as children and and live up until a mid 20s you know you'll save those favorite books I think they never leave you and I have I think just deeply held beliefs in magical things that I have you know unicorns and all of those things which are as real to me as they probably it's embarrassing I should be embarrassed I really I'm very bad at knowing what's real and what isn't really and I think that they've and and also the way that his language the way that he wrote was very clean and very it wasn't exactly the vernacular but it was very immediate and chatty sort of straight off the page and his description were they weren't flowery but they were so rich so I think probably his prose influenced me there's that's one reason I I like to ask those kinds of questions to people because I I'd like you believe that those early influences stick with us in one way or another and the the themes and the sometimes genre and and those types of things come back around and and influence the the art that we make and I just love to hear how about those early influences and later in life when you find grown-up books that you love you you know I realized all his classical references and all the things that he wrote that obviously he was brought up with Latin and Greek and all of those stories so when you're reading or Shakespeare later and seeing all of those roots that's always that that's a wonderful thing because he was such an educator as well right exactly well well let's fast forward a little bit to to when you started writing fiction you said that you it was just one of those things that you just always did but at what point did you begin writing with the intention that the things that you are writing were going to go to a wide audience and that you are going to try and as a published author I was um well I left school as a teen um I did a levels which I guess with you is finishing high school and then I didn't go to university partly because I was very bad at being educated and I I knew that I was gonna waste my time and behave badly and I sort of wanted to experience life little did I know how I would you know adore the idea of three years of reading later often but I was so went and did waitressing and traveling and different things and I just I wrote a screenplay while I was living in Paris I was teaching English as a foreign language and living in a Attic literally and it was an extraordinary time and I was quite lonely and I wrote this screenplay that was you know the the obvious semi autobiographical thing about an experience I'd had and I sent it to William Morris in London and they'd took me on so I kind of came whizzing back thinking hanging it you know I'm gonna be I thought I'd be Woody Allen basically that I would be that and and William Goldman you know and then I just would send me unemployed for years actually learning how to how to do the job which is a lifetime thing so it was a quick start but then I kind of slow slow from then on was that first book the outcast no the outcast so that was the outcast was first a screenplay and that was Oh almost 20 years after that 15 18 years maybe after that so I was a screenwriter unproduced but forgetting her having things in development toiling wanting to give up not able to give up for years and years and years and then when I was 38 and I had my husband and my children and all of that wrote the outcast as a film script and then as a book what yeah you heard it as a as a script first and in a book what was the thought process that that she went through to realize that this should be a novel and not necessarily for the screen well I I think I was very alarmed by the idea of writing a novel and I I wasn't I liked the idea of the collaboration of film I was terrified of prose um so was sort of I was keeping myself safe by saying myself as a dramatist in a way and also I think it was a such a training ground for making stories when you can't hide behind language so the but then the outcasts had just this extraordinary life to it and I was so more obsessed by it and it was running in my mind in a way that hadn't happened to me before that was sort of almost alarming and I just couldn't that the film script was in development and not getting anywhere and people were saying how good it was and then it was just it wasn't that your basic development hell and so I wrote the novel really to keep myself sane because the childhood of the central character was unspooling in my mind and I just had to put it down so I thought I'd just have to write a book right I basically thought I'm gonna be failing in two areas now I think great but then by a happy coincidence it if it was published it was seen and and that was kind of that and it did really really well at her what is that what's the story of the outcast what what does that book about it's the story it's set in the 1950s in sort of suburban semi rural England I was it was a story about a very unhappy damaged teenage boy who is considered unacceptable and terrible by everybody around him and I thought the worst place to be a teenage boy would be 1953 and you know he's barely heard of Elvis and he's he witnesses his mother drowning early in his life and his father is very repressed and ill-equipped to deal with it and he grows up really just turning his pain on himself and not knowing how to manage and it's the story of how he blossomed eventually learned you know through through wanting to look after the girl he has known from childhood who's having it in an abusive family and when he discovers that he discovers something other than his own pain and he grows up so it's really a coming-of-age story you you said that you avoided writing the novel in the beginning that it was you were really avoiding prose after having this book finished and out and then it finding an audience what did that do for your writing confidence oh it's such a bizarre thing when that happens having I was so used to sort of writing in a vacuum and comforting myself or during myself up and you know don't being my own carrot and stick that when that book happened it was suddenly there was a sort of there was a bidding war over it and it wasn't a huge amount of money but I mean even one person wanting it was astounding and then it won prizes and it was a massive bestseller in Britain and so I knew that I had to kind of start the next one really quickly so luckily I had started the second one before the outcasts came out so that that extraordinary flick of experience where everything changed for me I was already I had one foot in another world in my next book so I was slightly cushioned from it and I think what happens is the demons that you have at one point in your life before I was published the demons where you'll never guess anywhere this will you know you'll you're probably not good enough no one will ever see this and then they immediately switch they don't go away they just turn into it won't be as successful as the next was the last one this one will never do what the first one did it'll be the disappointing second novel so whatever you do you have these these demons on your shoulder when you're working that you have to learn to put aside you know we talked a lot on the show about the the gift of anonymity that comes with writing the first novel and how that's before that novel is out there no one knows that you're writing and no one's expecting it there are no expectations on you other than you know self-imposed ones but then after that first book comes out especially if it's a success then like you said there there comes a whole different level of pressure and and expectations that come with that and how do you how do you deal with that to make it through that to kind of solidify in your mind okay this is what I'm supposed to be doing I can do this and you know so what if the second book is you know it doesn't do what the first one does this is still my life's work well I'm afraid you used the gift in an anonymity yes it's a wonderful phrase that's so exactly right and and you don't realize what a gift it is until you get their way suddenly you are not alone in your study you feel like there are eyes on it and that it's it's like having the sort of the the light put up in the auditorium and suddenly seeing everyone staring at you it's horrible but I suppose what I what I do consciously now with it and it's out of the discipline just you know dealing with the demons is just I don't well I'm lucky in one way because I don't have like a two book deal or a three-book deal like a book by book so I I can say to myself with some conviction nobody need ever see this and and I say that to myself every time I start work and I'll sort of sit down and I just think it it's fine sometimes I'll have to write with my eyes closed because I'm self-conscious but I'll just think you know you're who cares you know so you this can be terror otherwise you can't take the writ you know you have to you have to write the thing you must never write I think right you know I I can only imagine what that pressure is like for someone who's writing a long-standing series and one that that readers become so invested in characters and and and sometimes readers know more about the characters than the writers do it seems you know that they take such care with every little detail I love that idea of of each book just allowing the book to be its own thing and you know each book has its own journey yes exactly I'm thinking you know will it's like and that's also when you're writing at there's sort of two states I think there's one which is this is just absolutely horrible and I got a long way to go and I would never dream of showing it to anyone and then there's the other one where you I just have to show it to someone someone has to see this someone has to read it you might not think it's wonderful but you feel compelled to have other people look at it and and then you know what can you do then you take your chance is there a moment in the writing where that the story becomes alive and and takes on a life of its own and where it becomes bigger than you are and bigger than your control and you just kind of stand back and become part of the process along with the book yes that um those are the bits you really hope and pray for I feel you know that I'm most of the time just pedaling and struggling trying to get the engine started and doing all the what I call the maths of the story and trying to you know get my structure and make it seem as though it's alive and on fire and all those things and then there's this wonderful moment or series of moments where it has its own life and its own energy and suddenly you're oh okay now I remember the best bit oh when I and what I really struggled to achieve is the feeling of transcribing the thing that I'm seeing or that's already happened so when I write I spend a lot of time picturing a scene or a conversation or a place and then trying to describe it rather than I always feel I'm in trouble if I'm making it up on the page so that I end to work that way around that sometimes if that's not happening I just have to write through and wait for it to catch light that way when when you start imagining a new story and maybe it's a novel maybe it's a screenplay whatever what usually comes to you first is it a character is it a setting as it may be a provocative headline that you you know read earlier well what's usually the the genesis for that for the kernel of the story that begins to grow um it can be all or any of the above it each one has its own different with the uninvited guest it was I had a dream about a house and I woke up and I and I thought I've dreamt that same house before but it was a different time in history and there were different people there and it was suddenly like sort of being given a present I thought oh okay oh well that's a book if that house exists then I need to find a story for that house and with the outcasts it was it was the phrase I think there's there's something wrong with him there's something wrong with him just kept going around my mind and that sort of gave birth to the character and then I built the story around him with small wars it was the news was Afghanistan and Iraq and all the stories of war crimes that were coming out torture and that got me thinking and with fallout I don't remember what started that out I'm not sure but they all had a bit but they all have a difference but right maybe it's good that you don't remember the spark that just means that the the story became so alive its its own thing yeah your new book the snakes which is out available now and people are hearing this is is really in a lot of ways to me a harkening back to to Narnia in this story of its kind of this bigger story within a story and kind of these these ideas and themes of good and evil and I can I can definitely see that influence in this book and maybe not on the surface but as we talk about it I can see that what was the where did this book begin for you so interesting you say that I hadn't voted that at all but have called yes this it started oh it was 2016 and I knew I some reason I knew it was going to be in front and that it was a good and evil story and in some ways a morality tale which was sort of alarming and then I was living it I was in a status sort of rage and frustration with the news and I knew that I originally wanted to set it in the 1930s in Europe because of the good and evil and sort of rise of evil and menacing and then I thought well we all know how that turned out and the thing about the modern world with all of the dreadful things that are happening and the polarity of and different movements and different things and the unsettle politics across Europe and everywhere I I I needed to have that sense of urgency that I had and half of waking up in the morning and not knowing what's going to happen next um so it had to be a contemporary book so then I I ditched 32 Europe and made it modern and and then found my characters for it really through through the sins and the virtues there's a lot of allegory in the book those building blocks were sort of now you're talking about narnia of course those those building blocks of sin and transgression and all of all of that stuff was there that sort of the pillars of it did it surprise you when when you change the setting to to a modern setting and in the the story started working started clicking did that surprise you that it was easier to tell that story now it was the thing that made it come alive um and took it out of out of the freezer it was a relief yeah probably a surprise I think the there was again relief because it seemed it it felt very ambitious I was very nervous of writing us the way we live now novel I've never wanted to do that and so really the job of it was to find a way of making that um coming at that side way making that that's you know it's a it's a thriller essentially it in many ways at horror I wanted it to be as human and small a story you know it's about a marriage and this young married couple and so I needed to hide all of all of those huge themes in the small story of those people and that family and that was really when it took her um tell us about the character of be that that is kind of the central character where did she come from and and what is her struggle in the story be she she's a good person which is a nightmare to write villains you know they're full of chat and they're you you can make people sympathize with them against their will and all of that but a good person she was very difficult and I loved her and I found her frustrating to write because she is so unforgiving of herself she has very high moral standard and sort of coupled with low self esteem but ice I felt this tremendous loyalty to her because I think that she felt very much I would think you know Here I am writing this good person she's doing and saying things that we are all most of us doing and saying in everyday life we we all want people to be nicer to each other we all want to be more forgiving we all you know feel essentially generous and put upon by people behaving badly around us and writing that was unbelievably hard because feeling that is so universal but she was really tough to write and I I really I I hope I did her justice well the book the snakes is like we set out available everywhere now when when you have a story that is this emotional and this dark in a lot of places but then there are moments of levity in it is that a um is that a conscious effort when you're writing to to realize okay this is this has been pretty deep for a while let's let the reader off the hook for just a minute is that something that you plan through or is it just part of of you as the writer that begins to come out I'm not sure where how I would unravel that knot I think it's it's both things is partly instinct it's partly my own you couldn't have had enough of a thing you begin to feel worn down by it so I suppose it's a story instinct you see there was a lot of it came the marriage which is Beatrice and Dante was they so she's being he's Dan and he is a very human side of it and she is you know what a lot of women go through a lot being the good one the one who's being inspiring and generous and you know the the light and the flame for him to follow and so their their relationship and their marriage kind of provided I think some of what you're talking about that some of the laughs and the interaction between them they're having a pretty difficult time but they're very you know they have some humor about it I think yeah well and sometimes it really puts a an exclamation point on some of the darkness when you can have a little wry laugh about it there's something about dark humor that maybe you speak to some twisted is a really dark book and um and it's about grief a lot of the book is about grief and the two things that I have observed personally about grief is one that it is like like being in a very dark thriller where you feel hunted down and that's what the book feels like I think and felt like – right and the other is that you have you love that the weirdest things and it's rather surreal and heightened so it was a challenge to go that dark and – and to be truthful about what that's like you know yeah you say that the book is about grief and and it definitely is and you get that sense as a reader but when you're writing sometimes you don't know what the story is about until the end and then you start kind of reading back over and putting the pieces together and you say oh I see where I was going here even even if it was just your subconscious mind that was taking you there and and then you with your analytical mind piece it together afterward is there ever a moment in the book in the writing that you did the thread start coming together and you're like okay I know what this is now or is it just a the journey of the writing and then it all comes together afterward um that's really well expressed I don't know be so articulate about it I think well I I always know my ending so I know what I'm aiming for and I'm never surprised by that but where I am surprised to where I do get lost or where I'm trying to find it and often those paths will go off in different directions all right you know cut 50 pages and go back to the last bit where it worked all of that happen in the middle but I always I know where I'm trying to get and I'm and I know that my ending is going to describe it do exactly what you said describe frame the story retrospectively and make sense of it all and this book having it it does is about her love and it sets up expectations and then confound them so that was a that I mean that was a it was a real challenge to do knowing where I was going with it right well say he I actually loved the book and I love what you're doing the snakes is phenomenal it's one of those books that will linger with you for a while afterwards and I love what you're doing if there's a place is there a place online where people can connect with you if they want to learn more about you and maybe follow along with new news and all of that good stuff yes I'm on Twitter that's ad journ and Instagram that Sadie Jones and then my in this country it would be HarperCollins they'd have an also page bully and in the UK it's Random House penguin Random House chatter book so if anyone looks they can definitely find me excellent we're going to send everyone to to follow you and to to pick up the new book Sadie thank you so much for taking time to come on the show today thank you very much indeed thanks for listening to this episode of author stories go to Hank garner com to find all of the archives of the show and be sure to subscribe while you're there now stay tuned for a special audiobook clip from Richard gleb's that Jason crane series the ancient building war the severe cassock colors of a Puritan Minister a uniform monochrome of slate gray shingles and soot gray clouds its shadowed upper window is cross-hatched like the facets of a spider's eye the second story protruded beyond the first and bore the houses only ornament to great airdrops of wood weeping from each corner of the buildings stiff upper lip the place would have looked sinister and foreboding in its shadowed alley if not for the die-cut silhouette of a dancing sheep jaunty above the door and the two front bay windows that blazed with colorful welcoming light the windows were hung with orbs of coloured glass on staggered lengths of ribbon each orb glowed with autumnal Reds and delicate greens burgundy tints and pumpkin hues dappled raspberry and clover lime streaked with light and weightless as bubbles over a cauldron the shelves below offered crystal skulls and silver daggers and horny Devils Celtic chalices and woven dream catchers in Dreamcoat hues a primitive broom leaned in a corner ready for flight and the rhapsodic nude in bronze clutched her goat-legged lover beneath a jackal bust of Anubis the interior of the shop was even which year above a crude in Saudi fireplace a stack of brick barely holding the shape of a chimney pushed through the bar and high roof threading ancient beams that criss crossed overhead brooms and kettles and Christmas lights dangled from these alongside Halloween costumes and Chinese umbrellas pointy hats and bundles of herbs Jason wandered deeper into the shop his fingers trailed across strange bronze statuary and Aztec masks of turquoise and lapis lazuli he rolled his eyes at the luck candles and money charms but goggled indecently at a nude and anatomically correct silver nymph with long golden hair that reminded him of Kate see anything you like Jason jumped turned and jumped again the woman standing before him was the living embodiment of every hippie dippie counterculture type he'd ever seen her hair was green her face pale and round her doughy body wrapped in some elaborately woven ethnic garb her eyebrows were black and pierced in little rows and her eyes were heavily circled with midnight blue as if she'd been sucker-punched by an oil slick she tapped the glass over the nymph admiring the goddess I see Oh she practically caught him with porn you want to hold her she won't break here the woman flipped open a glass door and handed Jason the naked figure see how heavy she is you could bang her against the wall all day and barely make a dent she waggled her eyebrows obviously enjoying his discomfort he checked the price tag 700 bucks the goddess is a symbol of love and fertility don't be ashamed of desiring her the woman's long green fingernails plucked a long black cigarette from a long red case and she lit it I sense she blew smoke and studied it swirls dissatisfaction in love yes I have just the thing she pulled Jason into a side room where the smell of her cloves smoked gave way to the skunky aromas of potpourri sachets tea leaves and hanging clutches of Twiggy flowers she searched found a little bundle and pressed it into his hand this will make you irresistible rub it on your nethers twice a day and love shall surely find you Jason made a face the bundle smelled like cow manure he didn't even want that on his hands

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