A writer like you: Marcus Jones

A writer like you: Marcus Jones

Meet Marcus Jones, an author, world traveler, and explorer of culture.

After traveling widely as a Merchant Navy Officer, Marcus Jones built a career as a senior engineering executive in the Marine and offshore oil industries and attained a Doctorate in Risk Management. During this time he has researched and written numerous complex technical documents for major clients and governments around the world. He has visited and worked in over 100 countries and continues to travel widely. He is passionate about seeking out obscure, exotic or unusual cultures, foods, and wines, particularly those developed by the less affluent in society. He was first published as a schoolboy but has only now been able to free the shackles enough to write full time. He is currently editing his second Novel ‘Game set & Catch, writing his third ‘Timbuctou’, and researching his fourth ‘Snap Tackle and Pop.’

You’ll feel inspired by Marcus’s early writing years, his FOUR novels (each set in a unique world), his straightforward strategies to overcome procrastination and stay motivated, and his writing advice.

Let’s dive into the interview, shall we?

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? 

I was an avid reader long before I became interested in writing. Quite by chance I discovered John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath was a profound experience and I read it over and over again and something weird happened in my head. I found that after reading it many times, I suddenly acquired an insight into the author and was able to understand what he was doing. How he used words to create mood, manipulate my thoughts, make me hate a character and love another, and be afraid, and worried and happy. I started reading novels beyond their narrative and was enriched by every experience.

I was about 12 when I wanted so much to be a writer, and I wrote just about anything I could, anywhere. I would sometimes sit under the shade of a tree with golden orioles flying by, songbirds singing and exotic fruit and flowers scenting the air. I would write with a stick in the sand, and leave it there for the wind to blow away. I borrowed pennies from my mum to buy second hand books on the agreement that I would repay her when I got published and the debt was growing.

I remembered being punished endlessly for being naughty at school and coming home with purple and blue swellings across my bottom and thighs from canings. Mum applied her magic home made ointment on them and asked why I was so naughty, and how I could be top of my class academically and yet so naughty. I remember lying across her lap my thighs stinging while I pondered the dilemma. Then out of the blue, the answer came to me. It was not my fault at all. It was Satan tempting me and egging me on. ‘Well, why don’t you write a story about it,’ she said. ‘Your teacher might like that.’

I went to my room and lay on my belly because it was too painful to sit, and wrote a poem. It was called ‘Satan Never Sleeps’. My teacher loved it, it was published in the school annual and I won a prize for it.

The following year when I was thirteen, I sold my first short story to a magazine.

I had a new poem in the school annual every year till I left school. That’s when I became addicted to writing.

What has shaped you into the writer you are today? 

Since those early days of writing in the sand, I have learned to observe, assimilate and tell stories. Now after travelling and working around the world I have accumulated a knowledge base that is desperate to be reconstructed into interesting and intriguing novels.

What are you writing now?

After seeing widespread sexual abuse and exploitation almost globally, I completed my first thriller ‘Biteback’ (85,000 words) about the sexually abused being inspired through social media to retaliate and ‘Earmark’ abusers with frightening and sadistic backlashes. I won a Nanowrimo challenge with this manuscript.

I am just completing my second Novel ‘Game, Set & Catch.’ (currently 75,000 words) With some of the same characters working for the new cyber security unit in London to disrupt and destroy criminal and state sponsored cybercrime. It questions whether the third world war has already begun in cyberspace, and many countries sleepwalking through it.

I have just started my third novel ‘Timbuctou’ (15,000 words) about the plight of black migrants traversing the blazing Sahara and the stormy Mediterranean beyond in search of a dream while being exploited endlessly by criminals and people traffickers.

I am also researching my fourth novel ‘Snap Tackle & Pop’ about the proposed Chinese Beltway – a superhighway to Europe and the political, commercial and criminal tensions the new ‘Silk Route’ creates. I love immersing myself into the four different worlds of my current novels and switch between them frequently in the company of my leading characters.

What have you learned about writing?

Writing is a skill and has to be learnt. One could not buy a violin and immediately become a great violinist, so why would writing be any different?

I have read numerous how to books on writing and respect all the authors for adding their ha-penny worth to the knowledge base, but ultimately each writer must find their own process, style, voice, characters. I believe the best way to do this is to read voraciously and write.

A Russian theory posits that there is an infinite reservoir of oil deep down in the earth, and if one drilled deep enough one would access it. However, technology does not exist to drill that deep today. I believe something similar exists for all art and science. There is an infinite resource of knowledge and inspiration and if one works hard enough at writing every day and is deeply enough immersed in it, one may eventually gain access to this reservoir. Reading intently may help accelerate this process. It’s a metaphysical thing, some people pray, others meditate, others still contemplate, and others focus so intently on their work that they can fleetingly tap into this resource and take giant leaps. I believe the same is true for music, poetry, painting and its how great scientific discoveries are made. Millions of people before Newton saw apples falling?

I have a few other important points. The first is to set one’s sights clearly. I identify some iconic writers and then consider how I can up my writing a few notches to be better than them.

The second is to strive to write without boundaries and to break down the barriers set by society, religion, culture, political correctness and numerous other factors that restrain us everyday.

The third is to have a predefined strategy for editing. The strategies should include, foreshadowing, enriching the characters, adding intrigue and suspense, making locations and environment exciting, and delivering on the promises made at the start. I believe when a first draft manuscript is mapped out in front of you, inspirations will appear at a frightening pace, and will help turn that rag tag manuscript into a work of art. I believe masterpieces are made during editing.

What prevents you from writing, and what tactics do you use to overcome those writing barriers?

Procrastination is the biggest barrier and foremost of its culprits is the internet and social media throwing constant temptations at you.

I refuse to use the internet when I am writing and if there is a temptation to google a name or place or whatever else, I make a note of it in red on my manuscript and continue writing. Because if I went online one thing would lead to another and several hours later I would have lost all concentration and ability to continue writing. My easy solution is to have set hours for writing sessions and ban the internet during those hours.

How do you stay motivated to write?

I am never just researching, or writing, or editing because I have four novels at these different stages. So I can switch from one to the other depending on my mood.

I also love the spaces created by my novels. One is set in the freezing forests of Russia, the second is in the UK and the Mediterranean, the third is in Timbuctou and Libya in Africa, and the fourth is in Asia. In a few minutes I can go into any one of these worlds in the company of known and trusted friends and granted, some despicable people too – but I can kill the nasties any time I want!

I must think of a plot set in New Orleans soon because I love it so much. I could sit on Bourbon street or the French Quarter all day listening to Tuba Skinny. So no additional motivation needed.

I love my spaces.

What are your current writing goals, and how do you plan to achieve them?

I want to complete at least two novels a year, and at a push could probably do three. I am currently writing international thrillers but am also tempted by the hundred years or so of British colonial transition because my family were deeply involved in these turbulent times.

What is your ultimate writer dream? 

My ultimate dream is to find a good agent who can advise and help me with that little icing on the cake that is necessary to get published. Meanwhile I observe, read, write, learn, take inspiration and pleasure from everything around me and the occasional lightning strikes from the infinite reservoir of wisdom.

Thank you, Marcus.

My FREE THE WRITER takeaway is an action this week; as Marcus suggested, I’m going to schedule internet-free writing hours and switch between multiple projects at various stages in the writing process. What about you?

If you have more questions for Marcus, please share them in the comments below. Don’t forget to follow him on instagram (@novelsquawk).

Free that writer,

Rachel Michelle

5 FREE THE WRITER takeaways from William Zinsser's On Writing Well

5 FREE THE WRITER takeaways from William Zinsser's On Writing Well

Writing prompt of the day: Write a paradelle poem.

Writing prompt of the day: Write a paradelle poem.