Also, today there's an exciting Crooked Cat three-way blog hop going on. Please read on to find out how to follow the hop!
I believe you're not new to writing, and that Myopia isn't your first published work - what have you previously had published?
My first story was accepted for a small press magazine in 2004, and I had a non-fiction title published in a limited run in 2002, which is soon to be republished as an e-book. But I consider my first big success to be my collection of short stories A Glimpse of the Numinous, published by Eibonvale Press at the beginning of 2012. That gave me the extra boost of confidence to believe in what I was writing and it even got some excellent independent reviews.
That confidence has obviously led you to being published by Crooked Cat. Myopia was just released on Friday 14th Dec - tell us something about it, please.
Myopia is a YA novel exploring bullying and individual identity. The book deals with the lesser-known form of prejudice against people who wear glasses. It contains a slipstream element – as the protagonist realises that short-sightedness is not actually a disability, but just a new way of looking at the world - seeing ordinary things from a different perspective. For Jerry, being short-sighted convinces him he can see into a new dimension. The book also contains elements of being humiliated by bullying. The style is gritty and street-wise (but without going all ‘Ali G’, innit!). I’m also hoping it will appeal to teenagers of either gender, and even be enough of a ‘cross-over’ for adults to enjoy it.
Catching that captive audience is the most difficult thing. Were there any triggers which led to the plotline for Myopia?
I was born with a squint and was that kid at school with NHS specs and a patch over one eye. I’ve always been intrigued by people’s reactions to glasses. The stereotype is the geek; a bookish type. Often in films and on television a character wears glasses to signify being a nerd and only when the glasses are removed do they supposedly become attractive or worth knowing. It’s very shallow. My characters talk about seeing ‘beyond the glasses’. As a parallel to that in the novel I also have a character called Parminder (Mindy) who has suffered racial prejudice. She becomes an important character too.
Jerry is a very determined young lad who has to deal with being quite viciously bullied and there are some quite tough scenes in the book – as well as humour. Jerry also experiences awakening desires for the lovely Mindy and his relationship with her is integral to the plot.
Then what would you say is Jerry's biggest challenge?
Jerry wants to tackle bullying in creative ways – refusing to resort to violence or revenge. In one moment of hubris, though, he begins to believe he has super powers. He has to work out how he should respond to all these experiences and it becomes a little overwhelming for him.
Is there a particular part of a novel that you find difficult to write?
I do remember reading my first draft and realizing I had stumbled down something of a blind alley. One major idea really did not work, so I had to do some restructuring and much rewriting until it all fitted together again properly. The redrafting definitely improved things. The other difficulty with writing a YA novel is keeping the language appropriate for the audience. I originally had more swearing in it to be realistic, but then toned it down when I imagined students reading it in classrooms. It’s the classic debate: should art reflect life accurately or does the artist act responsibly knowing the work may influence others? Answers on a postcard please …
Do you tend to write about places you’ve been to…or just ones you would like to visit?
I set this novel in Crawley, where I live. I had fun imagining Crawley Town FC as a premiership team getting to the European Champions League final. It’s a minor moment in the novel – but it pleased me greatly. I’m also happy to invent locations or write about places requiring research. Either is fine – I have quite a vivid imagination. The school scenes were fun to write too; as a teacher myself I think I can write about teenagers pretty well (although my students might not agree!).
A writer doesn't always like their main characters the best. Who would you say is your favourite character in the book?
I really enjoyed creating Mr. Finn, the school’s Deputy Head, who develops into one of the most sympathetic characters. He’s an old-fashioned teacher who genuinely cares about Jerry’s plight. He’s strict with the bullies but kind to others – which is how it should be. He was one of those characters who took on a life of his own and kept growing.
Now that Myopia is launched onto the market what's your writing priority?
I’m half-way through another YA novel which contains more explicit fantasy (or slipstream) elements. I’ve just finished an adult novel set in Nigeria during the 1960s Biafran War. It uses a lot of information from my own parents’ experiences there as missionaries The finished manuscript is currently propping up a number of publishers’ and agents’ slush-piles. I’m also considering turning Myopia into a script. I can imagine it as a mini-series.
That's a busy timetable you've got for yourself. And now for the last and very important question...
What's a favourite snack food that you might nibble on while writing?
Peanut butter on malt bread. Don’t be prejudiced. Try it ... you’ll thank me.
Here's a little more about Jeff:
Jeff's a British writer whose novel Myopia has been published by Crooked Cat Publishing. His collection of short stories, A Glimpse of the Numinous, contains horror, slipstream, romantic and humorous tales. His non-fiction work, The Age of Chaos: the Multiverse of Michael Moorcock, has recently been revised, expanded and retitled in e-book form as The Law of Chaos. Many of his stories have been published in various anthologies and magazines in the UK and USA, and he’s also enjoyed some success with articles, some of which have even been translated into German.
Today, Sunday 16th December, there's an exciting Crooked Cat three-way blog hop.
I am being interviewed by Jeff about my latest release- Topaz Eyes on his blog. Please pop in and leave a comment. http://jeffgardiner.wordpress.com
And I'm also a guest at fellow Crooked Cat author, Cathie Dunn, where I'm talking about what my main characters might eat and drink in the European locations featured in Topaz Eyes. Please stop by there, too, and say hello! http://cathiedunn.blogspot.co.uk