Interview with author Eddie Jones

Give us a brief summary of your life till now and how it led you to write.

Blessed . . . that’s how I would describe my life. Early on, God blessed me with the gift of solitude, of making my own fun. When my best friend / next-door neighbor moved away when I was eleven, I learned to play basketball, football, and baseball by myself. I won’t bore readers with the mechanics of how I structured these games, but I kept score, impersonated real players, and found I enjoyed playing alone nearly as much as with a team. This stretched my imagination to the point where voices spoke to me, called plays, and argued with imaginary refs. (Yes, imaginary refs called penalties on me. Weird part was, I was also the ref.)

In high school, I finagled my way onto the school newspaper. I was and remain a terrible grammarian. I plant typos that spout only months after a piece or book is published. But I love telling and writing stories. Wait! What I meant to say is that I plant typos that sprout. See? This is what I’m talking about.

This problem with grammar continued into college at N.C. State. I flunked English 101 twice my freshman year before skating through with a D minus on my third attempt. Of course, I decided to major in English with an emphasis on journalism. I immediately went to work doing anything other than serving as a reporter at a newspaper. The guy at the county fair who takes your ticket for the whirlybird ride earns more than your average reporter.

Over the years I’ve worked for International Paper, IBM, started, ran and sold a web design business, started, ran and sold a small book publishing company. I also ran and sold a boating magazine and co-founded a boating website. Through it all, I continued to write, because, at my core, that’s who I am: a man of words. Some of those words I spell correctly.

What prompted the idea of the Monster Mysteries, with a preternaturally smart teenaged boy as the sleuth?

To be honest, my love of reading the Bible is the source of the weird monster murder novels. I’ve always been what I call a God-freak. When I was in high school and college, I’d read the Bible for fun. Its stories amazed me. I’m still convinced the Bible is the best speculative fiction book ever published. Angels become demons; creatures from heaven engage in intimate acts with the daughters of Eve. There’s much speculation on who these heavenly beings are and what exactly went on. Floods cover the earth. Dead people rise from the grave. A man who claimed to be God died and came out of the grave. Soon after, he floated up into the clouds and vanished. That’s sci-fi stuff.

When it came time to write middle-grade fiction, I decided to stick with what I knew, because honestly, if the stuff in the Bible happened, it’s pretty scary stuff. Men turned into animals, people told to drink blood, spirits inhabiting humans, demonic possession, ghosts walking on water. Except it wasn’t a ghost walking on water. The Bible says it was a man. So you have to ask, which is more terrifying? Seeing a ghost floating across the water or a human walking on water? Anyway, for me, the Bible’s supernatural stories are so bizarre that I don’t have to make up too much to develop my plots.

Your teenagers are smart and savvy, and while the adults speak down to them, Nick and the other young characters demonstrate their maturity and solve the cases.  How do you accomplish this without making him a smart aleck?

Nick’s sarcastic attitude is a work in progress. Early in the series, Nick comes across as too snarky. That was my natural voice you hear. I’ve been called arrogant and condescending, and at times I think that’s a good label for how I present myself. My pride is the greatest barrier to my work as a writer. In my natural voice, Nick is snarky. As the series developed, I tried to make him less of a know-it-all and more of someone who realizes he may know a lot, but he doesn’t know nearly enough. That causes him to be more accepting of different people and more patient. If his growth comes across in the story, then I’ve presented Nick well. If not, I need to keep working on that aspect of his character – and mine.

Where in the world did you find Zane Van Wicklyn? He’s one of the best audiobook narrators I’ve ever heard, bar none.

Zane was a godsend. I wanted someone who was the same age as my character. I also like giving people who are starting out a chance to be found. Zane understood that neither he nor I would probably make a ton of money on the audiobooks, but he’s a young actor who wanted to build his portfolio. I felt blessed that he would take on the series and put in the work he did. My prayer remains that one day Zane will look at those royalty checks and conclude his time playing the role of Nick was time well spent.   

Tell us about your next project.

Phantom Gunslinger released Nov 2, 2020. This is the fifth book in the Monster Mystery Series. No Good Stede Goes Unpunished released Dec 1, 2020. That’s the fourth book in the Caribbean Chronicles pirate series. In early November, as soon as I finished final edits on No Good Stede, I looked at the next day’s writing schedule and saw an empty day. No projects, no deadlines. I felt lost. So the next evening, Nick and took an imaginary bike ride to a graveyard outside of Savannah, Georgia and witnessed a Gullah woman call a dead boy up from the grave. I’m on the second draft of that story now. In this one, we’ll explore if psychics and mediums can really speak to the dead.

What’s your research process like?

I Google locations, look at places from street views, search online for real accounts of people involved in paranormal activities. In the old days this involved trips to the library and archives. Now it’s faster and easier.

What’s your writing routine? Do you have a dedicated office, or do you write at the kitchen table? Do you write longhand or type everything?

I write on a keyboard, always have. I took typing in high school and like most subjects, earned a C. I hated formatting envelopes and professional letters and all. When I was younger, for one year, I took piano. Mom wanted me to continue, but piano is really hard. At least for me, it was. Typing is like playing the piano, only without all those chords and fingers dancing and, you know, pretty music. I started on a manual typewriter, switched to electric, and when the first personal computers came out, I got a Radio Shack model. Other than a few surfing and sailing trips, my wife and boys have never seen me go anywhere without my laptop. I write for an hour or two in the morning and again for a couple of hours in the evening after my walk. 7:30 AM to 9 AM and again from 6 PM to 8 PM. Morning writing is where the editor-writer shows up. At night the crazy “what if” writer appears.

Do you outline your stories or let the characters take you where they want to go? Do your characters speak to you?

Because I’m a pantser by nature, I need structure. Otherwise, I write myself into too many corners. Fortunately, there is a pretty defined structure to murder mysteries. For me, writing is like planning a trip across the country: I have a pretty good idea where I’m going, but I don’t have the exact route mapped out. Like, say, I’m going to drive to California and decide San Diego is where I want to end up. I’ll throw some clothes in my duffle bag, grab some snacks for the road, make sure I have my board and wet suit, fill the tank and start driving west. Along the way, I know I’ll have to stop to sleep, eat, and take side trips to see things I find interesting. But the whole time I know I’m on my way to California. Short day trips are fine as long as there aren’t too many and they show character development. But if the reader sitting next to me in the passenger seat asks, “Why are we in Minnesota?” then I know I’ve strayed too far. I mean, there is a killer out there, and we need to find him before he kills again. 

What writers do you admire, past or present?

John D. MacDonald because he could tell a story so well and paint scenes in bright colors. Mark Twain because he had such a way of stringing words together and saying things in an understated way. It is truly a shame how some have tried to deride him for the choice of words he used in his works. Twain was one of the earliest champions of the disenfranchised. Dave Barry because if Barry wrote a grocery list, it would make me laugh.

What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like least?

That I get to make up stuff (lie) and get paid a little for it. Politicians make up stuff (lie) and get paid more. I’d rather be a writer.

What little personal quirk would you like to reveal to your readers?

My name. Okay, so your readers will probably read my name, but I’m talking about its meaning. An “eddy” is a circular movement counter to the main current. Turns out that’s been my life’s approach to almost everything. If the crowd goes one way, I’ll go the other. I know this has been a tough year for a lot of people, and I don’t mean to dismiss the suffering and pain in any way, but COVID has been a blessing for me. COVID gave me an excuse NOT to be with people, not to go out, not to visit. I’ve been able to write more with fewer interruptions. I’ve been able to stick to my routine of writing, mentoring authors, swimming in the middle of the day, marketing books, walking at the end of the day, and finishing with my wind-down writing time in the evening. Honestly, this has been the best year ever to be a writer – for me, anyway. I’m also a germaphobe who goes across the current and loves staying in his cave.

Except when the surf’s good. Then I’d rather be out catching waves.

Eddie has FREE Audible codes for two of his recent releases — contact him for details: eddie@eddiejones.org

Eddie’s website

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