Happy St. David’s Day readers! To celebrate this special day here on Rock Paper Spirit, I’ve invited Welsh author J S Strange to join me for an evening of fine Welsh food, great conversation about Jack’s new book and… murrrrderrrr! Yes, it’s a murder mystery themed party and somebody’s just been murdered. Can Jack Strange figure out who did the foul deed? Read on to find out! (Disclaimer: This is an interview with Jack for which neither of us have been paid, but there are a couple of affiliate links, from which I will receive a small amount of commission if you make a purchase)
Welcome to Rock Paper Spirit, Jack. Thanks so much for coming along to this murder mystery dinner with me. I’ve really enjoyed the meal but now it’s time for dessert. I think I’ll have the… *lights go out* What’s happening? *lights go back on* Oh, great. You’re OK. Tell me about your new book, Murder On The Rocks. It’s set in Wales, is that right? Was it important for you to write about a familiar setting?
That’s right. I had the idea for Murder on the Rocks and knew it would be set in Cardiff, and wider areas of south Wales. The setting was a very important factor for me. I wanted a novel set in Wales because out of all the crime novels I had read, there were none set in Wales. I know there are a few out there with some good following to them, but compared to the likes of Edinburgh’s Rebus and London’s Strike, Cardiff just wasn’t comparing. I was also aware of writing a ‘real’ story – that is, one that didn’t involve zombies like my last novel did. There had to be a sense of realism to the characters, their situations and where they lived, and I knew Cardiff well, and Wales is where I was born and where I live, so it was a natural choice to go with something familiar.
Have you ever used a kitchen utensil to fight crime before? *wipes prints off pizza cutter with a napkin*
Maybe not crime, but when I was drunk one time I had a spoon fight with a friend.
We’ve all been there! When you were building the characters for this book, were there any particular aspects of their personalities or any qualities that you felt it was important they had?
There were many personality traits I thought were important. Jordan Jenner is not your average nice guy. He’s not horrible, but his personality can come across quite blunt and rude. In Murder on the Rocks he has just returned to work after the death of his estranged mother. They may not have spoken or been close, but he is grieving in his own way. This makes him a character that is not forthcoming in great personality traits. Early readers have called him unlikable, and maybe he is, but personally I think that is missing the point. He’s hurting, and he’s confused. He also doesn’t like letting people in to his life, so he cuts people out or pushes them away. I’m more conscious whilst writing book two to explain this further, and make him a bit more likeable.
He’s also a gay man. His sexuality isn’t a massive plot device of this novel. Instead, he’s just a private investigator who happens to be gay. I first wanted to write a female lead, but it dawned on me that there are very little gay male leads, so enter Jordan. It was incredibly important to me to represent a gay character as the lead, especially one who did exactly the same job as other detectives. There are hints at romance, ones that will be developed at later points as the Jordan Jenner Mysteries series goes on. My main aim was to make sure people knew he was gay, and also that they knew it didn’t impact the story or who he is.
Do you believe in writer’s block or is it just an excuse for not doing any work?
I do believe in writer’s block, and actually it was writer’s block that made me write this. I had been writing horror zombie novels, which had been going relatively well. However, after book two it just stopped. I couldn’t get a plot for book three, and I had planned to write three or four. I had it all figured out in my head until book two published, and then it was gone. So I knew I needed to write something else, and I had the idea for a murder mystery novel. I intended to write a gritty crime thriller, but found the finished result was something cosier, and more of a whodunit.
Aww, no way. The murder weapon was a pizza cutter! *wipes pizza crumbs from mouth* If you were a pizza, what flavour would you be and why?
I would be a jalapeño one, with a BBQ base. I like to think I have a spicy taste!
Good choice! How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It really depends. I can get the first draft done in a few months, but before I know it a whole year has passed. My last novel published in 2017, and I had visions of publishing in 2018, but Murder on the Rocks took up that time, and is now being published March 2019. I’m getting through book two, hoping to publish it this year to keep the momentum alive, but we’ll see! I also hope to publish a third, separate book this year. Whether or not that will happen is another question!
Looks like everyone suspects the butler is the murderer. What a cliché… What literary clichés irritate you?
In gay fiction, what annoys me is the stereotypical ‘dad doesn’t like me because I’m gay’, or a struggle with sexuality with dramatic consequences to aid the plot. Sometimes it works, and sometimes there are reasons for that. People do live with dramatic consequences and families that don’t accept them, but the plot device of dramatic struggling gay people are becoming tired, especially because that doesn’t represent everybody’s experience.
Who do you think the murderer was at this party?
I’m yet to find out, because we’ve been talking. I haven’t had the chance to garner information from other attendees. But you seem very interested in who the culprit might be, don’t you?
I can’t believe you guessed it was me! OK, it was kind of obvious. I wonder what your prize is. Oh, it’s a weekend away. What’s your favourite holiday destination?
I love visiting America. I’ve been to Florida, New York, California, Vegas, San Francisco and Nevada. America is a beautiful country, and there are so many things there to see and do. I would definitely return and go other places. Amsterdam is also up there. I felt like I could live there forever, if it wasn’t for the inflating prices.
Can you tell us quickly about your previous releases, before we finish up?
Murder on the Rocks is the first time I’ve written in the mystery genre, and it’s released today. My previous releases, which are available now, were zombie novels featuring a 17-year-old socialite as she escaped London. Winter Smith: London’s Burning and Winter Smith: The Secrets of France saw government conspiracy and a lot of death.
And finally, because no Lacey interview is complete without this one question, what’s your favourite biscuit?
Definitely a Bourbon. It always has been and always will be!
Thanks for joining me on the blog today. Oh look, the murder victim is up dancing. What a comeback! And congratulations! I heard that Murder On The Rocks is already a bestseller and has hit number 1 in the Where can we download it?
Murder on the Rocks is now available on Amazon.
You can also follow Jack on Twitter at @jacksamstrange