Posted on 08/17/2018 at 08:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Brent Jones won a national creative writing contest in Canada when he was just fourteen.
And then he set fiction aside for other pursuits — some of them artistic, others, more pragmatic.
But ultimately, that didn’t mean his literary muscles withered into oblivion, or even that he’d peaked in adolescence.
Jones was relaxing with a beer one night a few years ago when the image of a young man doing the same, though with several more beers already under his belt, popped into his mind.
Jones found himself wondering about this man he’d just invented — why was he depressed, and why was he in such a run-down apartment?
The notes he jotted down in response served as the foundation for his debut novel, The Fifteenth of June, which has been followed by another standalone novel and a four-book thriller series.
(The award-winning fiction from his youth, however, has not resurfaced ... yet.)
Here’s what Jones had to say about returning to his childhood passion and being paid for it.
SADYE: With hindsight being 20/20, do you wish your younger self had stuck with writing?
BRENT: It was never so much an issue of failing to stick with it as it was a shift in focus.
It's true that I stopped writing fiction throughout my teenage years, but writing fiction was replaced with writing music. Performing music, as well, to a lesser extent.
Into my twenties, I poured my creative efforts into blogging, vlogging, and my career.
I do wish, every now and again, that I'd put more consistent effort into writing fiction before hitting my thirties, but such is life. I have no regrets.
I'm now doing what I believe I'm supposed to be doing, and that's really all that matters.
I guess, in my mind, the path we take is less important than the destination. If we want something badly enough, we'll eventually find a way to get there.
SADYE: We know what prompted you to start writing again, but what led to your decision to go full-time with it?
BRENT: When my wife and I moved from Toronto to Fort Erie in 2014, we decided to build our own business.
The first year was tough, but we built a successful virtual enterprise for ourselves, offering social media management services to small businesses around the world.
We were free to travel and work from anywhere, while earning a steady income. The only problem, however, was that I didn't care for spending my days on social media.
I found it draining, to be honest. I knew, after a couple of years, that I was ready for a change.
My wife was very supportive and encouraged me to take some time to think about what I might like to do next.
I toyed with a number of different ideas and eventually decided that I'd like to try writing a novel.
SADYE: Which of your characters is your favorite?
BRENT: Perhaps it's the recency effect at work here, but I'm going to have to say Afton Morrison. She's a twenty-six-year-old children's librarian from the small and fictitious Midwestern town of Wakefield.
She also happens to be a disturbed vigilante, harboring dark urges to kill, which she acts upon by night in an effort to make the world a better place.
It's worth noting, I think, that The Afton Morrison Series, a thriller told in four parts, is longer than both of my standalone novels combined.
The first book in the series, Go Home, Afton, was rewritten twice prior to publication, to get things just right. It has given me a lot more time to get to know her and develop her as a character.
She's complex. She's crass. She's witty. She takes no shit, and she's written in first-person.
SADYE: Is there a good story behind the first line in your author bio? (“From bad checks to bathroom graffiti, Brent Jones has always been drawn to writing.”)
BRENT: You mean, aside from being a smart-ass in general? No, not really. I just thought it was a clever thing to say about myself.
Although, I do recall that I was a rather curious child. If using a public restroom, I'd ask my father what the graffiti on the stalls said.
He'd usually reply, "I'm not sure. The writing is too sloppy for me to make it out." I took him at face value, but now, of course, I know better.
Also, as a kid, I used to spend a lot of my evenings and weekends writing short stories for my parents to read. They were both very supportive, even though the accompanying illustrations I doodled weren't very good.
SADYE: What’s been the most rewarding moment of your writing career, excluding your national writing competition victory
BRENT: I wish I could say hitting some sort of bestseller’s list, but that hasn't happened yet.
Some of the most meaningful moments thus far have come from strangers reaching out to me via email or social media to tell me how much they enjoyed something I wrote.
When it's a friend or a family member or my spouse telling me that, it doesn't carry the same weight.
Strangers are under no obligation to read my work in the first place, let alone seek me out afterward to offer their praise.
That's truly meaningful whenever that happens, especially when the same reader goes on to purchase and read future titles I release.
Another very meaningful moment for me happened last year at Fort Erie Public Library, and I've noted it in the acknowledgments of Go Home, Afton.
After volunteering at a program for young writers — I believe I did a short exercise on showing versus telling in the narrative — a girl who'd attended presented me with a drawing of a human eyeball.
She wrote on it that she hoped it might inspire a book I would write in the future.
That girl's name is Mackenzie, and not only did I manage to work her drawing into Go Home, Afton as part of the story, but I also dedicated The Afton Morrison Series to her.
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Categories: Author Interview