I get interviewed every now and again, which is great, but I tend to get asked the same questions every time. And quite often I don't have time to go into any depth and give the real answers.
So I thought, for a chance, I'd interview myself. That way I can ask exactly what I want to be asked, and I can answer in as much detail as I like, and go off on as many irrelevant rants as I like. I tend to do that quite a lot.
This interview turned out to be quite long. When there's nobody to shut me up, I just keep rambling. So here's Part One.
Once you've read Part One, come back here and click for Part Two: http://www.freewebs.com/joecraiguk/interview.htm
Part Three might be up soon...
Hi Joe, hows it going?
Not bad thanks, Joe. Thanks for agreeing to interview me.
No problem. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. I know youre really busy. Anyway, come on in and sit down. Just shove those vegetables out of the way.
OK. Cool. Do you have any biscuits?
Biscuits? Er, let me think yeah sure. I always have biscuits. Havent you just had lunch though?
What are you saying? I cant have biscuits after Ive just had lunch? When do you expect me to eat biscuits? Before lunch? Thats ridiculous.
I like biscuits before lunch.
Depends whats for lunch I suppose.
What did you have for lunch today, then?
I went up the road to a great little noodle place. I had some roast duck on, erm, noodles. Is this what the interview is going to be about?
Well, I dont know. I thought you were interviewing me. Ive kind of lost track.
Oh. I suppose we better talk about books and writing and stuff.
OK, I suppose so. But thats not really what Im an expert on.
Isnt it? But I thought you wrote books for a living.
Well, I do. But I still dont feel like an expert. I come from a background full of people who really know about books and literature. Compared to them, I could never say that Id read a lot or read very widely.
Who are you talking about here? Your friends? Your family?
A bit of both. My family, certainly.
Have they written books too?
Thats not the point. They could if they wanted to easily. They could write great books.
Why dont they?
Various reasons theyre busy with other stuff, mainly! But Im hoping theyll all write something of their own soon.
Thats your two sisters and your mum and dad, right?
Right. Theyre all responsible for getting me interested in words, and stories. I used to listen to them discussing books that Id never read, but eventually Id start to feel like I had read them, because they were talking about them in such an interesting way. So even though I didnt know the details of the plot, I picked up on what made certain stories interesting.
And that meant you could come up with stories yourself?
No, its not that simple. It probably meant that I wanted to come up with stories. How great would it be if something Id written could be talked about in the same way my family discussed all these other books?
And now that happens?
Um, no. But I dont mind. Now that I write, Ive realised that my own satisfaction is more important than having my books discussed. Whenever there is a discussion about my books, I find it a little awkward, because I think what I write is pretty simple when it comes down to it. And the things people choose to discuss arent the things I find interesting.
Well, for example, a teacher might choose to talk about superpowers with a class, after theyve read the Jimmy Coates books. Or the students might all try writing a gripping opening to a thriller. Thats all great, but neither of those things is what I would pick out to talk about.
What would you pick out?
Hmmm Maybe questions like, how to come up with a twist at the end of a story. Or some of the movie references in the books, and where stories influence each other, and how ultimately every story in the world is the same, and how do we work out what that ultimate story is, and whether that means we should never write anything new because there is nothing new, because it all goes back to that one story, which we can never know anyway, and
Woah, calm down. Take a breath.
Sorry. Oh, the other thing is that lots of people talk about Nature v Nurture when theyve read my books. But I dont think thats what is interesting about the story. It certainly isnt something that interested me, anyway. If it were up to me, I would talk more about Free Will.
Free Will? You mean the topic in Philosophy about whether we have control over what we do from moment to moment.
Yeah, roughly. You know what I mean.
I was just explaining for our readers. So anyway, why isnt it up to you?
Because its not really practical to do that. Youd have to have a whole class or a whole family who had all read all of the Jimmy Coates books, and were all interested in Philosophy. I dont think thats very likely. Anyway, were you fetching some biscuits or not?
Theyre on their way. I rang for the maid.
While were waiting, do you want to talk a bit about how you came up with the idea for Jimmy Coates?
What do you mean, humph?
I mean, what is there to say? I cant really sum up how I came with the idea, because it isnt one idea, is it?
Well, it kind of is, isnt it? You know, theres this boy, and he finds out that hes
Yeah yeah, I know what you mean. OK, maybe it looks like one idea when you read it, but actually when Im writing each book, its a thousand ideas. Or more. Some of them are big and take a few days to sort out in my head, or work out how theyll work, and some of them are tiny, and they still take days to sort out in my head. There is no one big idea.
So how do you come up with any ideas at all then?
What do you want to hear? That I go into an isolation tank with a special drink of lime juice and bunny paw and after half an hour that magically gives me three ideas to choose from? It doesnt work like that. The only answer is that I sit down and think about it really hard. Sometimes Im on a train, sometimes Im in the bath most often Im sitting at my desk but wherever it happens, its always because I have a pen in my hand and some paper in front of me and Ive been thinking really hard. Thats it. No magic. Just thinking.
Now youre saying humph. Whats that supposed to mean?
I guess I wanted it to be a bit more interesting than just, I think about it really hard.
Sorry. Thats all it is. But biscuits help.
Certainly. They dont stop me thinking and they keep me happy. Whats not to like?
Theyll make you fat.
What are you saying?
Do I look fat?
Its all relative.
Relative? No it isnt. Either I look fat or I dont. Theres nothing relative about it.
I dont think I like you any more.
Thats it. This interview is over.
No I dont. If you leave now, I get to eat all of the biscuits. Look, the maids here.
Your maid doesnt say much, does she.
I dont pay her to talk. I pay her to bring biscuits.
I dont understand. Would she charge extra to talk?
Well, no, but its like oh, forget it.
Mmm. Good biscuits.
TO BE CONTINUED
Recently I did a webchat with a great bunch of people in a library in the US. It was part of their 'Guys & Books' scheme. The questions were good ones (you can judge the answers for yourselves...), so here it is...
fprlibrary: Hello Mr. Craig...Welcome to Guys and Books!
Joe Craig: Thanks!
fprlibrary: There are a bunch of us here, thank you for meeting with us. We've all read the first Jimmy Coates book, and some have started the next one...so don't give away too much.
Joe Craig: OK I won't give too much stuff away about the stories. It's great to meet you all - thanks so much for inviting me. It's pretty exciting - even though I can't see you. I can imagine you.
fprlibrary: LOL. Who is your favorite character besides Jimmy?
Joe Craig: In a way, all of the characters are a different part of myself, so I have to like all of them - especially the ones who are meant to be Jimmy's enemies. (I think I'm more like them than I am like Jimmy). But My favourites are probably Felix and Paduk.
fprlibrary: What else can you tell us about the green stripe people?
Joe Craig: Hmmm... let me see... The green stripe is obviously the emblem of NJ7. I invented it because the first head of MI5 in Britain always used to sign his name in green and that tradition has been continued so there's a big association between green and the secret service.
fprlibrary: That's interesting...
Joe Craig: In fact the head of MI5 still signs his or her name 'C', after the first boss, even if their name doesn't begin with C. A big green C. So I changed it to a stripe for NJ7.
fprlibrary: I see, that's very cool... What inspired Dr. Higgins to create Jimmy?
Joe Craig: Great question... Dr Higgins was probably inspired by the amazing potential that there is to manipulate life using genetic modification. Scientists can already do amazing things with DNA and I think Dr Higgins wanted to push the boundaries a bit and create something very powerful, but also what he thought would be useful for the government.
fprlibrary: This is true. Why not create something for good instead of evil?
Joe Craig: He thought it was for good! None of the 'evil' characters think they are evil. They all think they're doing the right thing for their country. But maybe some of them start to see where they've been going wrong and change their minds...
fprlibrary: I see....like Jimmys mom...
Joe Craig: Exactly. I think none of them realised how 'human' Jimmy would seem. They didn't know what to expect when they created him and thought he'd be more like a robot.
fprlibrary: OK....not to completely change thoughts, but we all have a different picture of what Jimmy looks like. Can you describe him exactly?
Joe Craig: I like it when people have their own images of Jimmy! So I won't say too much, but... I will say that in my first draft of the book there was a really detailed description of what he looked like but it was boring so I cut it out!
Joe Craig: Try this: imagine what Matt Damon would have looked like when he was eleven, but a bit shorter. Maybe.
fprlibrary: HA HA...
Joe Craig: But whatever image you have in your heads is the right one. That's the great thing about a book!
fprlibrary: Did you put in the Bourne reference on purpose then with the neighbors?
Joe Craig: That's right - well spotted. There are loads of other references like that as well, but harder ones to spot!
fprlibrary: Why didn't Jimmy kill the PM? It would have all ended then and there....
Joe Craig: Would it? I'm not so sure - a system is more than just one person. There would always be someone to take over. As you might find out in JC:T... And if he'd killed the PM it would have meant that he was a killer after all - and that would have meant that NJ7 had kind of won.
fprlibrary: Is Jimmy's sister an agent as well, or is she "normal?"
Joe Craig: A lot of people ask that. I don't want to give too much away
Joe Craig: There ARE other child assassins... but Georgie isn't one of them.
Joe Craig: Probably.
fprlibrary: LOL...no straight answers on that one...
Joe Craig: Of course!
fprlibrary: Why did you want Jimmy and Mitchell to meet before Mitchell had any connection with his powers, and to NJ7?
Joe Craig: Because you have to remember that NJ7 had 'lost' Mitchell. They didn't know where he was. So the only way they found him is because they were chasing Jimmy. And Mitchell has gone back to the area where Jimmy lives that night, because it's where he used to live as well. It's basically where NJ7 was going to bring up all of their assassins.
fprlibrary: Oh...I see.. Is NJ7 really MI 6 + 1, or does it mean something else?
Joe Craig: That's right - I wanted to make something that was one better than MI6 in every way. So I added one to everything, and it sounded cool so I kept it. I think the letter J is very sinister. But I like it (obviously).
fprlibrary: That's awesome....true one-upmanship....J sinister like Joe...
Joe Craig: That's right.
Joe Craig: Hey - I just found on my computer the very first draft of the first book.
fprlibrary: WOW...that's cool.
Joe Craig: And I've found that bit of description of Jmmy I was talking about. Want to read it? It's only short.
fprlibrary: Awesome....we get to see the birth of Jimmy...kind of....
Joe Craig: Yup. Nobody's ever read this before, I don't think. Give me a sec...
fprlibrary: Ohhh....insider information.....we won't tell....it's our secret...
Joe Craig: Here goes. You'll find where it did fit into the book near the bottom of page 14 of the US edition:
...Car grease blackened his usually rosy cheeks. When he saw himself reflected in the side window of the house he thought it was funny, and relaxed a little.
There was still a cute chubbiness to his face these days, which his mother loved. While his sister had thinned out and grown quite tall for her age, he had maintained a typical little boy look. The charm in his smile was at last beginning to overtake the cuteness, and soon he hoped he might be mistaken for older than he was. It didnt help that he was blond. It made old women compare him to a cherub. He wished he didnt even know what a cherub was. He bet no boys with dark hair knew what a cherub was. But his hair was getting darker every year, and, though he had never been fat, he looked forward to becoming broader in his shoulders than he was round his middle. He picked up a rock from his mothers rock garden and slammed it through the window.
fprlibrary: WOW...mixed reactions here....half of us thought this...yet not all..
Joe Craig: Yeah - everybody has a different image in their heads.
fprlibrary: We wouldn't have pictured him chubby
Joe Craig: And that's why I'm pleased I cut that bit out!
fprlibrary: Will Jimmy ever meet other spies out there like Jason Bourne and James Bond? I think Jimmy would give James Bond a run for his money....
Joe Craig: That's great! I've sometimes imagined that happening. I think Jimmy would do pretty well.
fprlibrary: Yeah us too....
Joe Craig: How about a massive fight between James Bond, Jason Bourne, Jimmy Coates and Harry Potter? It would be messy.
fprlibrary: I would hope that Jimmy would win, but I think Harry might win that one.....quite messy...
Joe Craig: No way - Jimmy would go for the wand. Without that, Harry's finished.
fprlibrary: LOL....useless without it...
fprlibrary: Why did you pick 38% percent human? Why that number?
Joe Craig: Great question... It was important that Jimmy was more non-human than human. That makes his inner fight much tougher. And in the UK you need about 35% to pass your maths exam when you're 16 (it's called the GCSE exam), so I wanted it to be about that number. Then I picked a number than sounded random - which was actually 37, and I added one so that it didn't sound random, but sounded more like I'd thought about it really hard. But it's all to do with school maths exams and what percentage you need for a pass grade.
fprlibrary: That's cool.....cultural differences abound....
fprlibrary: Here we need a 70 to pass our exams....
Joe Craig: Yeah - it's partly because I was horrified about how you could pass with such a low mark that I was thinking about it when I was coming up with Jimmy. And the differences in DNA of humans and animals is usually very small! I think we're something like 75% the same as dogs and 25% the same as tulips.
fprlibrary: Tulips funny... Felix and Jimmy are playing video games and they were bored because all the good ones were banned from America...is that really the case? Why?
Joe Craig: In the version of Britain that Jimmy and Felix live in, there are tight restrictions on products from other countries being brought in. It's kind of like Cold War Russia. Outside influences are frowned on.
fprlibrary: Interesting....Do you think that American video games are too violent?
Joe Craig: I don't at all - but Ares Hollingdale and his government might. Also, it's not really the violence they'd be worried about. It'd more to do with them being American. Even if they were all about fluffy ponies eating candy, Hollingdale would still ban them just because they're not British!
fprlibrary: We are sitting here hypothesizing about a Jimmy Coates movie or TV show....could we possibly see it in the future?
Joe Craig: Yes - possibly. I'm in an exciting position at the moment. There are a couple of companies who want to make Jimmy Coates into a movie, and a couple that want to make a TV series. So I have to decide a lot of things about all of them. Also, it might end up being a TV show first, and then a movie in a few years' time, because movies take so long to get off the ground.
fprlibrary: WOW...between writing new books...you must be really busy....
Joe Craig: Pretty busy at the moment, yes! But always trying to get lots of writing done - otherwise I'll fall behind.
fprlibrary: Would you rather have genetically enhanced strength or one awesome super power (like flying, or fire from your eyes)?
Joe Craig: Nice question! I think I'd go for... hmm... either flying or x-ray vision. No wait - I'd want the ability to move things around and control them without moving myself at all. Teleknesis.
fprlibrary: Teleknesis would make things easier for cow tipping in the US right???
Joe Craig: And that would be the best use for it.
fprlibrary: I had to slip that in.... lol
Joe Craig: I'd become the greatest sportsman of all time by secretly controlling the ball
fprlibrary: LOL....no one would realize.....
Joe Craig: MWHAHAHA!
fprlibrary: What inspired you to create Jimmy?
Joe Craig: A lot of different things. First I read Harry Potter and I was annoyed that everybody was trying to copy it by writing books about wizards. I don't care about wizards! I liked Harry Potter because the books were exciting and had twists and I didn't know what was going to happen next. So I thought - THAT'S what people should be trying to repeat. NOT the stuff about witches and wizards. So I tried to create a story that was even more exciting, with more action, more twists, but had nothing to do with wizards. Instead of a story where people do normal things in their fantasy world, I prefer a story where people do extraordinary things in our, real world.
fprlibrary: Can you tell us about the dedication in the book?
Joe Craig: Oh yes, the dedication... Mary-Ann Ochota is now my fiancée. We've been going out for 7 and a half years and 'sine qua non' means 'without whom, not'. In other words - without her, the book wouldn't exist.
(**Update**: Mary-Ann Ochota is now Mary-Ann Craig.)
fprlibrary: That's very nice....and very sweet...
Joe Craig: Yeah - that's why I put it in Latin. So nobody would throw up from the sweetness.
fprlibrary: HA HA HA very funny. When you write...what is the process like? Time spent? How does that work for you?
Joe Craig: I plan everything out really carefully first. That usually takes about two months. Then I type it up into a step by step plan which is usually about ten pages long - what's going to happen in every scene etc. And then I start writing the story (on my computer).
fprlibrary: So you outline things really?
Joe Craig: Yes, thats right. Then I write 2000 words a day until I'm done. And then I EDIT massively. That's when the real work starts - the rewriting. The whole process takes me about 5 months now, maybe four if I'm quick with my planning.
fprlibrary: Editing is the key.....Ahh I see. Spell check only catches so much
Joe Craig: Editing is so much more than spell check. I challenge every word, rewrite whole chapters, change the order of the story, polish everything...
fprlibrary: Do you know how much of an audience that you have in the US?
Joe Craig: Not sure about the US audience at the moment... Definitely smaller than in the UK, I would say especially as the publisher does no promotion for me! But I think it's growing in the US steadily.
fprlibrary: We all love it!!!
Joe Craig: Excellent! Gradually people are hearing about the series and recommending it, which is really how a series grows.
fprlibrary: When did you start writing??? Not this morning....but in general...LOL
Joe Craig: I first had the Jimmy Coates idea in 2003 when I'd been out of university for about ten months and working as a songwriter/musician. So I started writing then, and the first book came out in the UK in 2005. And today I haven't started yet! (10:58am)
fprlibrary: Luke here wants to know if you are a star wars fan....
Joe Craig: Love Star Wars.
fprlibrary: Could Jimmy go more sci-fi? More sci-fi or more spy/thriller?
Joe Craig: Jimmy is definitely influenced by Star Wars. If you read the rest of Target you'll see why straight away! I like thrillers, but I also like a bit of sci-fi.
Joe Craig: I might write a sci-fi series after I'm finished with Jimmy Coates. I love stuff about aliens, but there's not much space for aliens in Jimmy Coates!
fprlibrary: Awesome......how many Jimmy books do you predict there will be?
Joe Craig: I predict
Joe Craig: using my magical crystal ball
Joe Craig: and the contract that I have with the publisher
Joe Craig: that there will be...
Joe Craig: EIGHT in total.
fprlibrary: You could finish the series with Jimmy in space fighting with James Bond.
Joe Craig: How did you know that's what I had planned? Jimmy Coates: Moonraker
Joe Craig: Just kidding.
fprlibrary: LOL. I want to thank you for spending part of your afternoon with us. We had a wonderful time talking with you.
Joe Craig: It's been so fun! Thank so much for talking to me and for all of the great support with the books! I'm going to mention you all in my blog as soon as we're done here (turkeyonthehill.blogspot.com)
fprlibrary: Thank you very much!
Joe Craig: Enjoy the rest of the books, and thanks again for your excellent questions!
fprlibrary: We had an awesome time. Thank you again... Have a good afternoon.
Joe Craig: I had fun too. You have a good day as well. Thanks everyone! Bye! And watch out for green stripes!
fprlibrary: Thanks we will...we will Bye bye!
Joe Craig: Bye!
(11:09 am) Joe Craig is offline.