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Interview with Herbert Howard Jones, author of young adult fantasy novel, THE PYEWIZ AND THE AMAZING MOBILE PHONE
Herbert Howard Jones was born in London in 1955, and went to Eccles Hall, a boarding school in Norfolk. He left after a couple of years and attended IIford County High School in Barkingside where he where he met Bram Tovey, now conductor of the Vancouver Symphony orchestra, and pianist Derek Smith who later played with the Johhny Dankworth ensemble. They inspired Jones to take up music, which he still practices today.
Jones attended Lisburn college in Ireland and then worked in a wide variety of occupations. These included in law, as a porter at the BBC, in jewellery manufacture, publishing, and commercial art. As a BBC porter he was required to hump equipment between studios and could be spotted riding shotgun around London in the old green BBC vans of that time. He was eventually sacked for lateness!
He then found a job in a Hatton Garden jewellery firm in London. As an apprentice jeweller he was required to assemble twenty-two 14 carat gold gate bracelets a day. In the two years he spent in the business he had personally made nearly 12000 bracelets, which was quite a feat, but was mind numbing work, and not something he wanted to do with the rest of his life. At this stage he didn’t know what avenue to go down next.
But the clue lay in his early life. As a young boy, he showed an early interest in the arts, particularly writing, musical composition and painting, and has pursued them as interests ever since. At this time he met the daughter of the captain of the Titanic, which sank in 1912, and consequently became obsessed with the myth which surrounded the subject. Jones remembers handling Titantic artifacts in the lady’s cottage country, and thinking that they made beautiful art ornaments! They inspired Jones to start creating collages using old bric-a brac, attaching small objects to canvas and applying paint to them.
In his teens, Jones lived with the family of author Julian Branston, whose mother was a close confidant of British comic Kenneth Williams. They introduced Jones to writer and poet John Pudney, famed as the author of wartime poem ‘For Johnny’. As busy as he was, Pudney would give kindly critiques of Jones’ earlier writings, urging Jones to say ‘more with less’. Jones described his writing efforts at this time as pretentious and undisciplined, and was frankly lucky, that ‘Pudney gave him the time of day,’
Jones found John Pudney fascinating as, among other things, he knew Pablo Picasso personally, having met him as a reporter during the war. To the aspiring and awe struck Jones, this was all glamorous grist for this artistic mill. At this time he became fascinated by celebrity, which was hardly surprising considering that his benefactors frequently had prominent people down to dinner, including the Bishop of Liverpool and others.
When Jones worked for a firm of ‘showbiz’ solicitors in London, he ran errands for screen star John Mills, and composer Tony Hatch, but felt that life as a London commuter just wasn’t for him, and so he ‘dropped’ out and went to live in Deptford. Jones justified this to himself by saying this was his ‘down and out in Paris and London period’.
Jones moved around South London and finally settled in some lodgings in Lewisham which were also being occupied by the now international artist David Mabb, presently Head of Masters at Goldsmith’s college, from whom he acquired wonderful discarded art pieces. Mabb’s charismatic and confident personality had an inspiring effect on Jones who began to look at art in a new light. In Jones’ eyes, David Mabb was ‘one of the solid group of British artists who are exponents of a new kind of socially responsible art, which is dynamic and very much at the cutting edge.’ In Jones’ view, Mabb’s art not only succeeds powerfully as a room decoration, but it invokes a strong visceral response in the viewer. If Jones was going to paint, he wanted his art to be as eloquent as Mabb’s! At the time of writing, Jones is still struggling to achieve this goal. Jones cites US artist Ron English, as his other influence.
Meeting well known people and those active in the arts and entertainment industries had the effect of shaping Jones’ view of the world, and he vowed that one day, he too would make a contribution. It was only in his fifties that Jones has seriously sought publication. The Pyewiz and The Amazing Mobile Phone is his first book.
At the present time Jones is busily writing his second book and is painting. He hopes to have his first exhibition of art in London in the near future.
Jones’ most thrilling life moment: ‘being six feet away from Frank Sinatra when he came to the London Palladium!’
You can visit his website at www.science-fiction-fantasy.com.
Welcome to Beyond the Books, Herbert. Can you tell us whether you are published for the first time or multi-published? Can you give us the title(s) of your book(s)?
The Pyewiz and the Amazing Mobile Phone is my first published work for YA.
What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
My first book was’Moofus the Mandog’ which I wrote at the age of sixteen, and was briefly represented by The Marc McCormack Agency in the seventies. They tried everyone they knew, but were not able to place it.
For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
I received six rejections, primarily from agents, and then I heard about the British Arts Council offering a grant to help new authors get their works published. So I signed up with Youwriteon.com in conjunction with Legend Press who were running the offer.
How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
felt rejected as an artist and a human being. I turned to self-hypnosis tapes for help and now believe that one day I’m going to really make the grade as an author. (Well I have to believe that, don’t I?)
When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
I chose them for the reasons mentioned above. It was a case of, they were offering my fragile ego a chance to redeem itself in its own eyes!
How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
For me it was short lived elation, long term angst! I now realise that book publishing is all about promotion, promotion, promotion! And where’s the fun in that? (Although I have to say that under Dorothy Thompson’s guidance it has been fun!)
What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
I Created a website. Currently I get an average of between 3 and 10 hits a day!
If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
In my case all roads seemed to lead to this particular publisher who is the nicest and most intelligent guy you could meet.(And I haven’t even met him yet!) He’s the ship and I’m the barnacle. But I don’t know how I’ll fare in stormy weathers though.
Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
No, but I have certainly grown as an author. I am now trying to master the art of the ‘brilliant first three chapters’. It is upon this foundation that my future career will be based.
Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
There is no substitute for the ultra-thorough edit. And I mean utra ultra. Also, I think that you have to put a spin on everything you write otherwise agents will think you haven’t got any talent. So instead of writing, ‘She drank her coffee thoughtfully,’ you have to write, ‘She drained the boiling hot java, impervious to its heat, her mind grappling with inner demons.’
What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
Discovering what I believe I truly want to write, which are occult thrillers like the ones by deceased author Dennis Wheatley. I was once the personal friend of his housekeeper, and she portrayed an amazing life. I still like fantasy, but only see its application in a juvenile market context (sneakily read by adults) .
If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
I’d like to be a fine artist like Ron English or David Mabb, who to my mind are among the most exhilerating artists of their generation.
Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
I’d combine the best of both worlds. See, I have to write. It’s like an obsession. Can’t not. Must. Am driven. Same with art. Must paint. It’s my hands see, they just love paintbrushes and keyboards.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
I see myself involved with film production. I only say this because a clairvoyant told me I’d be doing tv work. But don’t knock clairvoyants, they said Archie Leach would be famous. And they were right.
Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
I truly believe that success or failure is determined by what you put into your subconscious mind. But you have to program yourself in a systematic way. So get hold of some self-suggestion CDs and keep listening to them until your dream materialises! The trick is to keep playing the CDs, over and over again, hundreds of times until your deeper mind accepts the statements on them. A suggestion takes a minimum of a year to really take root in your subconscious! I have found that this has worked for me in other areas of my life also.