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.
Welcome to Pump Up Your Online Book Promotion, Herbert. Can we begin by having you tell us what The Pyewiz and the Amazing Mobile Phone is about and why you wrote it?
This 500 page novel written for young adults is about one boy’s quest to rescue his twin brother, who was kidnapped by a pirate wizard as a child. The hero of the story, Terry McTrain, helped by his best friend Will, come across a unique mobile phone which has the ability to transport the boys to Charon, Pluto’s innermost moon, where the Pyewiz, the pirate wizard, dwells. But there are complications, and Terry discovers that his twin is not too keen to acknowledge the identity shattering truth that he is confronted with. Indeed the Pyewiz has adopted Terry’s twin as his nephew, and this effectively throws a spanner in the works. However, the two brothers become privy to a secret about themselves which explains why one of them was kidnapped in the first place. They are both indigo children, possessing unique personal powers, and although these powers are quite subtle, they are useful enough to be utilised by the Pyewiz. But Terry only has one thing on his mind, which is to bring his brother home, back to earth. And this becomes the thorn in the Pyewiz’s side, who must battle it out with our hero, Terry McTrain, if he is to win the day!
I partly wrote the book because I wanted explore certain aspects of myself, using it in a cathartic way. And I suppose like a lot of writers and scientists, I wanted to know if I could create life!
The Pyewiz and the Amazing Mobile Phone is a science fiction fantasy novel for young adult. Why did you choose this genre to write? Did you choose it or did it choose you?
I’m glad you phrased the question that way, because in a way the subject matter chose me. I’m convinced that the book was either,(a) imbedded into my DNA before I was born, or, (b) was the natural outcome of a way of thinking over the years. But if I was consciously trying to do something, it was, that I was trying to see what would happen if I put elements of myself into the story. Would the characters solely mirror me? Or would there be a kind of isotopic effect? But the real spur to action came when I met a workman who came to remove some rubbish for me, and I immediately saw him as a character in a book, a pirate wizard. He was big, hearty and had a special something about him. I think he could have been a comedian, if life had dealt him with different cards! The genre itself was the only vehicle which fitted my fantastical story.
In regards to promotion, what have you been doing to promote your book online?
Although I’ve got some websites up and running, I’ve been fortunate to be able to engage the excellent services of PR coach Dorothy Thompson of Pump Up Your Book Promotion, to launch my book to a wider audience.
Of all the promotional items (bookmarks, press kits, etc…) you have used to promote your book, which one was used most effectively?
To expand more on my answer above, I would say that you can’t beat the expertise of a PR firm who know how to reach your potential reading audience. I’ve tried using press kits, and this kind of promotion, for me, was like a drop in the ocean! It’s out there on the net somewhere, not that you would notice! Pumpupyourbookpromotion have the vital connections, the unique relationship with blogs which will give an author the exposure he needs. Before I discovered P-U-Y-B-P, I used to trawl author advice sites, coming away with a very disheartening impression of authors rapidly sinking into obscurity and not knowing how to effectively promote themselves. So in my book, DT rules OK!
Do you feel that the Internet has opened doors for authors who never dreamed they’d ever see a publishing contract and how has it influenced you in regards to your own publishing journey?
The internet has certainly opened doors, but I’m not sure if these are just circular, going round and round and not getting the writer very far, or whether they can really launch a meaningful career. Certainly more and more people are turning to the net for their intellectual and entertainment needs. So I have to side with the netists and say that the internet, being an information medium, must be an ideal platform for the aspiring writer. In my case, all the contacts that I’ve made, have been made over the net, occasionally being helped along by snail mail. When I wanted the name of an agent, I’ve found it on the net, ditto the name of publisher. Offline activity is starting to come off a poor second! I now see the emergence of an entirely new breed of author, that I’ve called the cyberwriter, who won’t have anything to do with the offline world at all!
If you were in the middle of Manhattan (or any busy thoroughfare) and you wanted to call attention to your book, what would you do and what would you say?
First I would get a street vending license, otherwise the NYPD would move you on. Then outside the offices of Harper Collins, I’d set up a table and a large placard with the words, FREE BOOK FOR FIVE MINUTES OF YOUR TIME. I’d then speak through a PA system and offer the public a free book, if they agree to receive promotional emails about my products. They would also need to give me their home address, and the address of someone else who might be interested in this kind of book. Also I would elicit a promise from them to read the book and answer a questionnaire that I will send them through the post. I would also give them a run down of the book and say something like, “The positive ions that come from the back of a TV set can make your child’s brain sluggish. So why not encourage them to read a book instead? Why not this free book? It’s about a twelve year old boy’s quest to rescue his twin from a pirate wizard, and it’s written in an entertaining easy-to- read style suited to teenagers, etc etc. ..”
If you could trade places with any author just for a day, who would it be and why?
Earnest Hemmingway, because he probably would have spent the whole day in a bar! Then come nightfall, someone like Ava Gardner would probably turn up for evening toddy at his Key West residence, and then go skinny dipping in the pool! Now that is what I call writing!
Lastly, how do you determine your book’s success?
I’d ignore the critics and gauge the success of my book by the way the public reacts to it. The public are the only people I care about. They will either be the making of me or not!
Thank you for coming, Herbert. Can you tell us where everyone can pick up a copy of The Pyewiz and the Amazing Mobile Phone?
Yes, you can get the book from amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Powells.com, Whsmiths.co.uk or you can stop by at my website at www.science-fiction-fantasy.com.