By Tee Tyson
In another of our occasional Pankhearst interviews, the delightful T. L. Tyson has JAKE BARTON over for a slice of her famous vegan strawberry muffin. And some cake.
First up, let’s get the boring crap out of the way. In twenty words or less, tell us who you are and why we asked you here?
Jake Barton. Indie writer from choice, traveler, free spirit, wastrel. Asked here on condition I brought cake.
Cake is always appreciated and often demanded. Now, other people might not be as well versed with your story as I am, so let’s shed some light on your…ugh, for lack of a better word, let’s call it a journey. Burn, Baby, Burn, is it your first novel?
Burn, Baby, Burn was my first novel, started a decade ago and allowed to languish for many years.
And when it came to publishing, you decided to fly solo … did you try for a traditional deal in the beginning?
My poor wretch of a novel went through the submissions mill and was seen by, or at least offered to over 40 agents/publishers in UK and USA. A dozen asked to read the whole book, many praised its (theoretical) commercial appeal, but all saw it as a risk ‘in the present financial climate.’ I decided I’d try and establish commercial viability by publishing as an e-book.
And that worked, didn’t it? I mean, it saw a lot of recognition on Amazon and the word on the street is it had a fair bit of attention from a few biggies. Without crossing any boundaries, tell us what happened and why you opted to stay solo?
In the year since I published my first book on Kindle I sold over 90,000 books. This brought renewed interest from many of the same publishers and agents who’d previously turned it down. I spoke at length to several large publishers and a top agent before deciding to stay solo. Suggestions of fame and fortune may appeal to most people, but not to me, and I deemed the consequential demands on my lifestyle and editorial interference to be too high a price.
Without coming off too egotistical, why do you think your book did so well?
When I started writing novels, I looked at what was selling and decided to write crime fiction. It suits my background and remains a strong genre for sales. I’m a prolific reader and after reading so many books thought the key to success would be having a seriously nasty villain as a centrepiece and Marcus was born.
Great, so explain to me what you think of the publishing industry today? Tell me two good things and two bad. And for God’s sake, get creative.
- Publishing is in a state of flux and there are opportunities for new/different approaches.
- Vibrant micro-publishers are now a viable alterative to the big firms.
- When submitting to publishers I was astonished to find so many who still insisted on a printed manuscript with no option for electronic submissions. So many of the firms founded in the 19th century have barely dipped a toe into the possibilities of the 21st century.
- The manner in which a potential J.K. Rowling is treated by most publishers is shameful. They take an author’s manuscript, without even an acknowledgement in most cases, sit on it for months, and then offer a curt rejection or damn it with faint praise before rejecting it. “With regret” is perhaps the most over-used phrase in the entire process and, of course, I’m only talking about the ‘good’ responses.
Alright, publishing talk is boring, let’s get to the good stuff…What did you do before you got to writing and why exactly did this novel business interest you?
I started writing again after a knee operation precluded me from doing much else for a while. I’d previously written a few stage plays and had a couple performed professionally, but this was long ago.
The challenge of writing a full length novel is one I’d considered for some time. I’ve now completed five books and the process hasn’t become any less arduous. I’ve been a teacher, an academic, a restaurateur, owned a French vineyard, a work study engineer, but for many years I worked for a Government department where my brief was to work undercover to befriend major criminals and infiltrate gangs. Invaluable research for a Crime writer.
When sanity finally prevailed, I renovated ruined houses in France, Spain and North Africa for resale and moved on to the next project. Now I roam unhindered, without any serious planning, in a small motorhome having sold house/possessions and downsized to absolute necessities only. I should add my wife is fully supportive of this ridiculous situation. She likes adventures.
What’s in the future for you, Mr. Barton? What can the readers and fans expect to see coming down the pipe?
I’m just putting the finishing touches to a collection of jottings to go to Kindle; many of which first saw the light of day in my blog. Internet access on the road isn’t to be taken for granted so I’m not writing much lately. I have three partial novels in an advanced state of neglect, but would like to write a Historical novel set in 8th century Europe at the time of the ‘Moorish’ invasion. The research attracts me and is well advanced. Sadly, the actual novel is rather less advanced.
So, we have touched on the past and future, so let me get all blunt up in here and ask, other than traveling all over and commenting on this new phenomenon of ‘mommy porn’, what the hell are you up to?
What the hell am I up to? I wish I knew. I decided when I left my former job I’d make a fresh start and just meander around for a while until I found what I wanted to do next. I’m still looking, but enjoying the process hugely.
I wouldn’t mind meandering for a bit, but it isn’t in my cards. Now, because I have to ask something clichéd, finish this sentence:
Writing should be…
…a joyful expression of what bursts from the inner recesses of the brain, demanding to be retained for future reference.
Of course, the concept is utterly ridiculous. Writing can be intended for others to read or purely for one’s own gratification. Either way, in my case, I retain the obscure, the foolish and the trivial while any lingering remnants of my former intelligence remain trapped within the confines of my thick skull.
Speaking of your thick skull, let’s delve into the more interesting stuff. I like music. Always have. If you could pick one song to be your theme song and have it play every single time you enter a room, what would it be?
I’d say ‘Sex Bomb’, but that’s delusion on a massive scale! How about, ‘Please Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood?’
Wow. Those answers are very telling. Instead of analyzing them, let’s move onto the next question … Three authors you’d love to sit down to tea and scones with?
Lee Child, as an act of worship.
John Kennedy Toole, author of A Confederacy of Dunces. Yes, I know he’s been dead for some time, which is inconvenient, but I’m claiming him as the alternative would be Pliny the Elder, whose been indisposed for rather longer.
Rory Stewart. A writer, traveller, politician and, I imagine, a scone lover.
Words of wisdom. Tell us your favourite piece of advice you’d offer others with a smarmy look of superiority.
Never go back. What’s done is done and even the best of memories are best left undisturbed.
As for advice given, when I was at a low ebb following numerous ‘close call but the answer’s still no’ responses from Publishers, I spoke at length with a woman I knew only from the writers’ site Authonomy, but have never met. I’ll call her Poppet. She told me to stop being defeatist, recognise I had a book that worked and stop wondering how to change it to suit the requirements of others. To thine own self be true, basically. Best advice, ever. Thanks, Poppet.
What is the most fascinating aspect of your life? Specifics are appreciated, unless they are dirt.
I lead a mundane, boring life. If you call divesting myself of almost all I possess and waking every morning in a different place, without any set plan for how to spend the day boring! We travel, meet people from vastly different backgrounds and cultures, live day to day without rules or future plans. It suits us both very well. We’ve both lived well and endured periods of penury in the past and have now found our ideal.
I like wilderness, mountains, swimming in oceans and waking to the utter solitude of a desert landscape. I also like theatre, city life, café society, good food, red wine and intelligent conversation. We have all these things. When we want them.
You say travel is your passion, both on blog and in an interview, so tell me the oddest place you’ve ever spent a night.
That’s tricky as there are so many to choose from. On a blanket in the Sahara desert having seen not one single person for three days, in a cave at the top of a high mountain in the High Atlas, in a ruined house with no roof but magnificent views in rural France, in a squat with heroin addicts, alcoholics and vagrants and in a prison cell (many times) – all of the above.
If you would like to know more about Mr. Barton or simply buy a couple of his books, we gots the links for youse:
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Jake-Barton/e/B004LGN83U/