1. What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
Hi, my name is Tom Jackson, and although I originate from cold and wet Manchester, England (and am proud to call myself a Mancunian), I have lived in hot and dry Athens, Greece, with my wife and daughter for almost 35 years.
2. Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
The short answer is yes. I’ve always wanted to write. Unfortunately, for far too long, serious writing was not an option - work got in the way. What changed was early retirement. I was with a British Bank, initially in my home city of Manchester, and then here in Greece. With retirement came the resurrection of the deep-rooted desire and ambition to write.
3. When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?
At the age of ten - although my aspirations were rather limited at the time.
4. Did it take a long time to get your first book published?
As I’m sure everyone knows, with fiction you first have to find a literary agent. In today’s economic climate that can be well nigh impossible. So having tried for about a year I published my ebook independently through Smashwords. And I’m very glad I did!
5. Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
I worked for a British Bank for over 32 years, and am now retired.
6. What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it in less than 20 words what would you say?
‘The Devil’s Legacy’ is my debut novel, and I am very proud of it. The Devil’s Legacy is a contemporary mystery with flashbacks to the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
The decision to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece leads to the opening of Pandora’s Box and the unleashing of terrible secrets threatening the very fabric of British society.
7. Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?
I publish independently through Smashwords.
8. How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
‘The Devil’s Legacy’ is my debut novel. I spent about one year researching the historical elements before writing, and about two years on the writing, and re-writing process.
9. What can we expect from you in the future? i.e. more books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
Basically the same genre, i.e. mystery / crime / adventure. However I am also thinking about a trilogy set in 19th century Greece, which will be a little different.
10. Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
Although ‘The Devil’s Legacy’ is definitely a stand-alone novel, I am considering a sequel.
11. What genre would you place your books into?
A good question. I think that ‘The Devil’s Legacy’ overlaps several genres - mystery / crime / adventure / historical.
12. What made you decide to write that genre of book?
It’s what I enjoy reading.
13. If you had to choose to be one of your characters in your book which would you be? and why?
Johnnie Walker - because he really has hit bottom, and then finds a new reason to live again.
14. How long have you been writing? And who or what inspired you to write?
I took pleasure in writing from an early age. I think my first attempt at a short story was around the age of ten. I believe that my desire to write stems from reading. Every Monday I would visit the local lending library and stock up with five or six books to keep me going for the week.
15. Where do you get your book plot ideas from? What/Who is your inspiration?
Many years ago I attended a conference here in Athens on the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles. The keynote speaker at the event was the late Jules Dassin (the film director and husband of Melina Mercouri). I must admit that my initial attendance at the conference was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Like the vast majority of British nationals I had little knowledge of the exact sequence of events leading up to the Parthenon Marbles being owned by Britain, and housed in the British Museum. For me they were merely another collection of antiquities we had acquired a couple of centuries ago. We owned them! Why should we just hand them back? What was the big deal?
However, the conference stimulated my curiosity, and I became interested in the actual events surrounding the removal of the Marbles by Lord Elgin’s agents. This led me to undertake considerable research here in Athens and in the UK - including a visit to the archives of the British Museum. This research in turn led me to the undoubted conclusion that the Marbles had been removed illegally, without any proper authority. In fact, the man actually responsible for the removal, Hunt, admitted quite openly at the time that he was able to remove the Marbles only through a combination of ‘cajolery, threats and bribery’! The bottom line is that I felt, as an Englishman, I must do something to rectify the errors of our ancestors.
There have been many publications of a purely academic nature regarding the removal of the Marbles, however, I am not aware of anything fictionalising the event - and thus felt that my novel may well offer a uniquely interesting and thought-provoking perspective. As well as a good and fun read! I started with two words: ‘What if!’ And then developed the main plot and the various sub-plots from there.
16. Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? i.e. You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
I like peace and quiet. I just sit at my computer, often with a cup of tea, and close the door.
17. Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them? i.e. Your partner, children, friends, reviewers you know?
My daughter and a few friends read the original manuscript.
18. Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?
Indeed I do.
19. Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?
I’m not sure, as I’m awaiting the first official review for my debut novel. A reviewer is entitled to his/her opinion about a book, and not every reviewer has the same taste. So I think I would live with it and hope for constructive criticism. We all have things to learn.
20. How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books?
The focal point for the novel is the theft of the Parthenon Marbles over two hundred years ago, and the secrets surrounding the conspiracy are hidden in Pandora’s Box. So the Parthenon itself, and the Box on fire with elements from the story escaping smoke-like seemed highly appropriate. The concept of the cover was the result of a family pow-wow - my wife is an artist.
21. Who designed the Cover of your books?
The great cover design was by Laura Shinn in the States.
22. Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
The book came first. I think it always must.
23. How do you market/promote your books?
Anything and everything!
First, I contacted everybody I knew by phone or email to promote ‘The Devil’s Legacy’, and to ask them to pass the word - it ran into the hundreds. Then I used the internet: to create a blog, a Facebook page for myself, and for the book (my daughter and her husband beat me to it here), a Goodreads page, etc. I am arranging for blog reviews of my novel - the first ones should be out this January - blog interviews and guest posts on blogs. I’ve given a couple of interviews to international newspapers and am working on another for a Greek magazine.
As I have already said, the focal point for the novel is the theft of the Parthenon Marbles two hundred years ago, and their return to Greece. This is an issue I feel very strongly about, and I have, therefore, also been in touch with like-minded organizations and individuals internationally.
The marketing / promotion seems never-ending.
24. What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller?
It all starts with a well-written plot and vivid characterization. Most people want to sit down with a good book and escape into another world. After all, we can experience anything we want in a book. What captivates readers and draws them in is a great storyline and characters that come to life.
However, even a great book will not become a good/best seller without marketing. It will simply disappear into the mass of all the other books out there. So dynamic promotion: book reviews, word of mouth, advertising, newspaper articles, media interviews, etc. etc., are all essential.
25. Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
Not really, not yet, anyway, thank God. I’ve had moments when I had to stop for a few days to think and consider where I was going with the novel, and then I continued, re-wrote, whatever. But I’m sure the time will come when I’m stuck in a big way. It does for all writers.
26. What do you do to unwind and relax? Do you have a hobby?
Read. Listen to music. Watch a good film. Walking. A bit of gardening.
27. Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?
Yes, occasionally, but I’d rather not go into specifics. I don’t want to upset friends! One of my characters in ‘The Devil’s Legacy’ is the head of the Greek mafia. I can honestly go on record as saying that I don’t know anyone like this!
28. Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
I think there are two main messages/morals. The first is the physical message - that the Parthenon Marbles were removed from Athens two hundred years ago illegally, without any proper authority, and must be returned to their rightful home. The second is the psychological message - that in life there is always hope for a person to go on, to start again, to be re-born, no matter what has happened to him/her.
29. Is there a certain Author that influenced you in writing?
I don’t think that I modelled myself specifically on one writer. I love adventure/mystery/crime fiction generally as well as historical fiction, so I guess that I was influenced more by the genres.
30. Which format of book do you prefer, ebook, hardback, or paperback?
Paperback, although I now have a Kindle which I’m really getting to like.
31. What is your favourite book and why? Have you read it more than once?
My all-time favourite is ‘Pride and Prejudice. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it, but it must be over one hundred.
32. Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favourite/worst book to movie transfer?
The best answer to this is a quote from Steve Martin (I think it was at the Oscars a few years ago). He said something like:
I wrote a novel this year, and several producers wanted to turn it into a movie. And I said, "If you think you're going to take this book and change it around . . . and Hollywoodize it . . . and change the ending . . . . . . . . . that's going to cost you!"
Basically, books do not transfer well - with a few well-known exceptions/classics, e.g. Gone With The Wind, To Kill A Mocking Bird, Harry Potter. In many cases they are disfigured, or even destroyed. Authors have to put up with this if they want to sell their book to Hollywood. I can’t give you the worst - there are far, far, too many!
The best transfer I have ever seen was, in fact, for a BBC TV series rather than a film. It was the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. It was absolutely superb!
33. What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it? (ebook, hardback or paperback)
Funnily enough over the Christmas / New Year period I just wanted to put my feet up and relax with an old friend. So I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (again) and I’m just about to re-read ‘The Manchester Man’ by Mrs. Linnaeus Banks which is set in early 19th century Manchester (my home town). I do have the paperback version. Although it is a little known work of fiction (and some of the working-class dialect in the first chapter or so can be difficult to follow initially) it is worth the effort.
34. Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
Yes, ebooks are the future. For better or worse. Printed books will still be around for the next generation, but like gramophone records and video cassettes they will be more of a collectors item, than the norm.
35. Did you read a lot at school and write lots of stories or is being a writer something newer in your life?
As I already said, I took pleasure in writing from an early age.
I vividly remember a high school essay contest I won back in the autumn of 1963 the plot of which surrounded the assassinations of the American President, John F Kennedy, and the Russian Premier, Khrushchev. Within two months JFK was dead, and I was in a state of some shock. Spooky! It took me some time to get over the experience.
36. What do you think about book trailers?
Great if you have the money to do a top-class job. Unfortunately, the majority of us don’t have the resources. So I think it’s a no-go!
37. What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Keep writing. Work hard. Re-write and re-write. Stay positive. Don’t despair. Rejection is not failure . . . it merely tests your own resolve.
38. Do you or would you ever use a pen name?
No. Pen names were/are useful in certain circumstances, but I am happy simply to publish in my name.
Where can readers follow you?
Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5390400.Tom_Jackson
Goodreads book page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13222949-the-devil-s-legacy
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-devils-legacy-tom-jackson/1107395591
The Devil’s Legacy Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/people/@/152698424831830
I have also just started a Blog
Thanks for the great Interview.