My guest today is a British author who has only just dipped a toe into the wild and woolly world of publishing in the past couple of months. Her first book—a novella called Nothing Serious—was only released last month, and he most recent release—The Little Things—is her first full length novel.
Welcome, Jay Northcote.
Elin: Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?
Jay: Writing isn’t my only job—and I’m still getting use to the idea of thinking of it as a job at all!—but I’ve been self-employed for the past ten years and work quite flexible hours. This allows me plenty of time to write as long as I organise my time well. Aside from writing I run an online retail business, and also run a choir. I have two school age kids and my husband is a teacher, so I try to fit the bulk of my writing into school term times.
Elin: When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?
Jay: I’m a musician and a singer (hence the choir leading). The most creative aspect of that is probably arranging songs for my choir to sing. I haven’t written a story with a music/singing theme yet but I have a few ideas kicking around and am hoping to turn them into a novella or novel eventually.
Elin: What are you reading? Fiction or non-fiction? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?
Jay: I invariably read fiction—usually gay romance but not exclusively. I tend to gorge on reading when I’m between WIPs, otherwise if I get hooked on a book I just want to spend all my spare time reading when I should be writing. When I’m in writing mode I often read fanfiction rather than original fiction, and stick to short stories so I don’t get too distracted. However, despite being mid WIP, I just started reading Falls Chance Ranch and am completely hooked (oops) so I’m having to be awfully strict with myself and limit my reading time so that I make time for writing too.
A book that I loved recently was Superhero by Eli Easton. It was a thoroughly adorable story. The characters were wonderful and I couldn’t put it down. I love coming of age stories.
Elin: In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?
Jay: I would say most usually for me it’s situation (as in a key event or maybe a setting that sparks the idea), then the characters and plot usually follow fairly intertwined with each other. So with my most recent release, The Little Things, I found myself imagining what it would be like for a young, gay man to find himself in a situation where he was a single parent, and how that would impact on his life and relationships. Joel, the character emerged when I started to make notes on the plot ideas that came to mind and developed further as I wrote.
Elin: Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them?
Jay: All of my characters develop more fully as I write the story, but some are much more vivid from the start than others. I would say it varies quite a bit. I love it when they are very vivid right from the start; it makes them much easier to write. I had a ball with a character called Max who appears in a novel I have due out in February (Not Just Friends), because he was so real I could literally hear his voice in my head when I was writing dialogue. It made it so easy to capture him.
Elin: Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?
Jay: I usually have a strong mental image of most of my characters and certainly of the main ones. I’m quite visual and like to be able to ‘see’ the people I’m writing about, then the scenes tend to unfold in my head rather like a movie. I often use photos to spark inspiration for characters, some faces can inspire a whole story.
Elin: Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake?
Jay: I quite fancy the idea of writing something futuristic/dystopian one day, maybe something paranormal too, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be brave enough to venture out of my contemporary comfort zone. As for avoidance–I think I would be far too scared to write anything historical, because the thought of all the necessary research makes me want to rock in the corner. I have great admiration for authors who manage it!
Elin: What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.
Jay: At the time of answering these questions I’m part way through writing another contemporary novel. It’s set in London (mostly, although not entirely) and is about two guys who meet on the tube. It’s about timings and coincidences and how frustrating it can be when we meet the right person at the wrong time. I think that’s what it’s going to be about anyway—it’s still early days and my stories have a habit of meandering away from the original outline so all bets are off.
Elin: Could we please have an excerpt of something?
Jay: Here is an excerpt from my most recent release, The Little Things. I tried to pick one that will hopefully intrigue but not spoil the story too much. This is the occasion when Joel (my main character) meets Liam for the second time, under happier circumstances.
The Little Things by Jay Northcote
There are lots of things that brighten Joel’s life. His three-year-old daughter Evie is one. His close relationship with her mother, his best friend from university, is another. Joel’s boyfriend, Dan, adds spice to his child-free nights, and Joel is pretty happy with how things are.
Then one cold and rainy night, everything changes. Joel’s life is turned upside-down when he becomes a full-time dad to Evie, and his previously carefree relationship with Dan cracks under the strain.
Meeting Liam, who acts as if getting hurt isn’t a foregone conclusion, shakes Joel to the core. Their attraction is mutual, and Liam makes no secret of how serious he is about Joel. But Joel is wary. He tells himself he’s keeping Liam at a distance for Evie’s sake, when really he’s protecting his own heart. Taking a chance on this new relationship with Liam may seem a small step—a little thing—but is it one Joel can take after losing so much already?
The Little Things is available at Dreamspinner Press
“Hi.” The man stepped forward, pushing a dark curl out of his eyes as he approached. “You don’t remember me, do you?”
Joel gazed into his pale-blue eyes, so striking against his dark hair and lashes. It occurred to him to say he didn’t think there was any way he wouldn’t remember anyone who looked like this guy, but that sounded awfully cheesy, so he shook his head. “Sorry.” He frowned. “You do seem familiar… but I can’t work out where I know you from.”
The guy smiled again. But it was a smaller smile this time, with a hint of awkwardness and something else Joel couldn’t quite identify.
“I wouldn’t have expected you to remember. You were in a bit of a state at the time.” He moved closer, leaned against the railing beside Joel, and spoke more quietly now, his breath warm on Joel’s cheek as he moved close to make his voice audible over the music. “It was at the hospital, in the car park… a few weeks ago now.”
Ice filled Joel’s veins as the memory of that night came crashing back, bringing all the emotions with it. He remembered the rain, the darkness, his tears, and the kindness of this stranger who was now standing next to him, waiting for him to respond. But Joel couldn’t breathe, let alone speak.
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England, with her amazing, occasionally ridiculous husband, two noisy-but-awesome children, and two cats.
She comes from a family of writers, but she always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed her by. She spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content. One day, she decided to try and write a short story–just to see if she could–and found it rather addictive. She hasn’t stopped writing since.