Writing 101 Q&A: Small Press Instead of Self-Publishing

Today I'm pleased to host Jac Wright, author of The Reckless Engineer. He's a little different than the other authors I feature on the blog: he's not self-published. I decided to pick his brain in a Q&A session, and learn how different he is from the indies I've known.

Q&A with author Jac Wright

JV: I see that the main character of The Reckless Engineer, Jeremy Stone, has an educational background similar to your own. How much of the character is modeled after you?
Jac Wright: Great question.  A lot of Jeremy’s character is modeled after me and my good friend, but even more is modeled after what I should like to be.  Jeremy lives the ideal life I should like to live and I live it through him.
JV: You’re an engineer, like your main character. If I don’t understand the first thing about engineering, will I still be able to enjoy and understand the book?

Jac Wright: Of course you will.  You will understand and enjoy the books just like you would enjoy the engineer Barney’s role in the old Mission Impossible series; like you would enjoy Indiana Jones movies without knowing much about archeology; and like you would enjoy Star Trek without being a physicist.  Everything is detailed in terms that a non-engineer would understand. The thing you would enjoy is his courageous and adventurous nature. Engineers are very good inventors and problem solvers. You will therefore enjoy his versatility and resourcefulness like that of MacGuyver, and his ingenious skills and problem solving abilities. 

JV: Your books contain a lot of drama and conflict. When you want drama, which authors or TV shows do you turn to?
Jac Wright: I grew up watching Tales of the Unexpected which is based on Roald Dahl’s adult books, the old Mission Impossible series, the Perry Mason series, and MacGuyver. My father and I had our favourite seats in front of the TV for the shows every week. At one time, I used to read Roald Dahl and Erle Stanley Garner as if I were possessed.
I also love more modern series like Columbo, Monk, Dexter, The Good Wife, and the new BBC drama Death in Paradise. As you can see, they are mostly suspense and legal drama, like my books.
The authors I adore are Patricia Highsmith, Roald Dahl, and Charles Dickens.  Secondly I also like Ian Rankin, Benjamin Black, and Michael Connelly.
JV: You’re also a published poet. What inspired you to start writing full-length novels?
Jac Wright: I studied poetry, drama, and literature for 14 years at weekend Speech & Drama school my mother enrolled me in when I was 3. Poetry was the first thing I wrote that was not for some coursework; and I started writing poetry when I was at university at Stanford and kept writing over the years. I called the collection "Shades of Love.Later on I started adding short stories to the collection.  I have about half a dozen short stories written ,which I separated out to a new series under the title "Summerset Tales."
It just occurred to me that I should write a full-length series about 2007.  One requires some level of maturity and life experience to write with impact, and I felt I was ready about this time. I knew I wanted the series lead to be an electrical engineer like me, and I knew I wanted the series to be suspense-driven psychological thrillers.
Then I knew I wanted the first story to be based in Portsmouth, Charles Dickens’ birthplace, as a tribute to the author whose works taught me how to tell a tale early in life. I have loved English literature since I my mother enrolled me in weekend Speech & Drama classes when I was 3 years old.  My mother had this rack full of books like The Pickwick Papers, The Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Lorna Doone, The Animal Farm, etc. stacked on it along with piles of Readers’ Digests. She used to read to me from them when I was too young to read; and soon I was reading them myself.  That sparked my interest as a reader and a spectator very early and Dickens’ stories were a large part of those childhood tales.
That was how The Reckless Engineer series was born.
JV: Your publisher, Soul Mate, specializes in romantic fiction. Do you consider The Reckless Engineer to be primarily a romance?
Jac Wright: Soul Mate Publishing is expanding out to other genres.  There are romantic undercurrents in The Reckless Engineer, but it is primarily suspense fiction.  The Reckless Engineer and The Closet each examines a lead protagonist who is driven by romantic love and passion; each tale examines how it can blind the protagonist and how much trouble it can get him into.  Hence, both stories are strongly romance-driven.
JV: How did you find Soul Mate Publishing, and did you ever consider self-publishing?
Jac Wright: Once the manuscript for The Reckless Engineer was finished, I had to send out about 60 letters enclosing the first fifty pages of the manuscript and a SASE (a self-addressed stamped envelope) in each.  Then it was a long process of answering responses to the queries and protracted negotiations. It was not a difficult process, but it was lengthy and time-consuming. I got offers from 6 publishers and I know I have picked the best because of the instant rapport I felt with my editor.

JV: How much impact did your agent and/or publishers have on The Reckless Engineer series?
Jac Wright: The main story was already written and the plot and characters have remained the same in essence.  However, there was about a 2 month long editing period with my editor, Debby Gilbert, from Soul Mate Publishing.  That process transformed the story by adding depth to it.  Debbie guided me to add more visceral emotion and scenes that engaged all the senses, and not purely vision.  One editing note she put on the manuscript has stuck to my mind. She had crossed out the last sentence in a chapter and had edited the one before, adding the note: "You never and a chapter on your protagonist going to sleep.  It is a cue to the reader that he or she can do so, too."  That’s right, reader, we intend to keep you up at the edge of your seats all night long.
JV: What’s your next project?
Jac Wright: Two more – The Bank Job and Buy, Sell, Murder – are half-written.I have started the fifth, In Plain Sight, with just the plot and the main characters designed and only the first chapter written. I hope to finish writing at least two of them in 2014.

Love is a battlefield. Who will come out of it alive?

Harry Duncan Wood runs a hotel in the historic city of Bath with his beautiful young wife. When he falls in love with Mill House, an old greystone farmhouse on the banks of river Avon among the soaring hills of Somerset, and sets about moving his family there, the first appearances of the cracks in the marriage take him by surprise. Is his wife seeing another man? Duncan needs to get to the bottom of the affairs for his own sanity. Sometimes, however, ignorance is bliss and will also keep everybody alive.

Jac Wright is a published poet, a published author, and an electronics engineer who lives in England. The Closet is the first in Wright's collection of literary short fiction, Summerset Tales, in which Wright explores characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances in the contemporary semi-fictional region of England called Summerset, with an added element of suspense. The collection is published as a series of individual tales in the tradition of Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers and Thomas Hardy's Wessex Tales. The first Summerset tale, The Closet, accompanies the first title in the author's full-length literary suspense series, THE RECKLESS ENGINEER, published by Soul Mate Publishing, New York.

About the Author

Jac Wright is a published poet, a published author, and an electronics engineer educated at Stanford, University College London, and Cambridge who lives and works in England. A published poet, Jac's first passion was for literary fiction and poetry as well as the dramatic arts.

Jac also writes the literary short fiction series, Summerset Tales, in which Wright explores characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances. 

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