Hi there, guys and dolls! Happy almost midsummer. Hope you are all having a lovely time, whatever you are getting up to. I sure am, and part of my fun in the sun is enjoying a tall, cool drink in the shade with my dear writer friend, George Jackson. This dear and creative soul is very prolific, with over twenty-five books to his name, ranging from fantasy to mystery. Today we are chatting about his Falls series of books, terrific cozy mysteries he has penned about his favorite small town and the people who make it tick. I’m pleased to announce his latest in the terrific series (number 24) is THE FALLS: THICKER THAN WATER and available now.
1. So tell me a little about your series and main characters.
First of all, thank you Barbara Jean, for inviting me to your blog. I have a great deal of respect for you and your dedication to the craft. I appreciate the opportunity and feel honored to be here.
Now, as far as The Falls small town mystery series goes, the story and the characters come mostly from the place I grew up. I was born and grew up in Fair Haven, Vermont. A small town just a few minutes away from the “city” of Rutland. And The Falls wasn’t the first series I ever wrote. The first series I created was Dragon World, a six book fantasy series loaded with valiant dragons and courageous dragon riders, magnificent warriors, determined white wizards, powerful, savage barbarians, amazing Amazons, and a truly badass Dark Lord.
Truth is, I’ve always written. Usually at night after work (I was in education for 40 years, 29 of them being principal of several schools ranging from elementary school to high school) when I was so tired the words would swim before my eyes at times. When I was young, I wrote short stories…horror and thrillers mostly. Then came the dragon stories, which I started off on an old IBM Selectric. I have written off and on ever since.
Once I retired from the school system in 2009 and moved to Florida, I got down to writing seriously. I revised DRAGON WORLD and put in a lot of time trying to get a literary agent. That frustrating process lasted a couple of years, and dozens of rejected inquiries from agents using Jeff Herman’s Guide to the publishing world to track down suitable people and agencies. However, it seemed that agents wanted either published authors or “the next guaranteed great best seller”. Since I had neither to offer, and even opening dialogues with agents seemed almost impossible at that point in time, I finally decided to go the route of self-publishing.
After the fantasies, I was ready for something different. I decided to write a mystery and set it in the place I knew best, rural Vermont. That decided, the first book in The Falls series, THE FALLS: IN THE DEAD OF WINTER, poured out of me. The characters came from people I had seen, dealt with and interacted with in life. I will also admit to putting a little of me in several of the characters seen most often in the series. The locations were easy. Change the names to protect the innocent and visualize the places I knew as a child. Twenty-four stories later, here I am.
Discussing main characters is a bit dicey. You see, the series is truly about a whole town. Everyone in town has a part in the stories, and they all contribute to the plot and subplots as it goes along. True, the sheriff, Cash Green and his loyal deputies, Ericka Yamato and Horace Scofield, are the centerpieces, but so are the two doctors in town, Doc Stone and Meg Monroe. Grandpa and Grandma Burman, The Falls version of the town’s social hierarchy and their family members are all intricately involved in every story. I have large box stuffed full of index cards, each one listing a character, a person that is involved in one or more of the now twenty-four stories. (Working on twenty-five!) But to me, they’re all family. That’s what small towns were like back then.
2. What is your writing process like? Do you thrive on routine or work spontaneously as the whim takes you?
Chuckles. My wife would tell you that I am a “very patterned person”. I’m a stubborn but caring old Scotsman, and I write a chapter every morning and edit every afternoon. At the present I’m working on the next Falls story in the morning and I’m editing the seventeenth novel in the series, THE FALLS: COLDBLOODED, getting it ready to be published on CreateSpace as a paperback. The first sixteen stories in the series are already paperbacks and available at Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace and Amazon.com. I am, as I’ve said, a stubborn, determined old Scotsman. That said, I decided early on not to spend money on anything I didn’t have to, just write stories for people to enjoy. I am, above all else, a simple storyteller. So, I had to learn how to do my own covers and although I have been an artist in oils in a past life, it has been a humbling and learning experience.
3. What exciting moment or moments have made you realize that you were really an “author”?
I will admit that the first time I saw one of my stories on Kindle, actually sitting there on the Amazon screen staring back at me, that moment was special. The same thing when I received my first paperback in the mail. After the years of trying to get an agent to work with me to get published, it was uplifting and truly affirming. Of course, seeing the first check from Amazon was a pretty nice feeling as well! I have to admit to grinning like a loon when I got the first checks made out to me in pounds and euros as well! Pretty neat! It still is special when an old friend, a relative, or a complete stranger lets me know they like my little stories. That will never get old. It touches my heart, makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something special.
4. What do you do to spark up your creativity when you feel the well of inspiration is running dry?
I’ve been lucky. I just sit down and write. I’ve never gone through a dry spell, and haven’t had “The Block” so far in any of my writing. (Okay, so my fingers are crossed as I write that sentence.) I love writing. When I go a few days without writing, like when the grandkids are with us, or on vacation, I get the itch to find a computer and get started. ‘Sides, when I sit down, the characters in my head just tell what to write. Easy enough.
5. Who are some of your favorite authors and how do you feel they have influenced your desire to write?
I love stories…all kinds…all genres. I love Stephen King. He was my first, my all time favorite. Although I didn’t always love his subjects, I loved the way he wrote. My early short stories were modeled after his writing style. Then there’s Grisham, Patterson, Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series, JK Rowling, Agatha Christie, Rick Riordan and lots more. Lately, I have been keenly immersed in many of the authors that write for the youth market. Books such as Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series, Michael Scott (Nicholas Flamel), McAffrey, Lacey, Mull (Fable Haven) and Sage (Septimus Heap). I enjoy many of the cozy mystery series as well. Cozy mysteries have a special place in my heart. I believe that they are a breed “above” the thrillers and horror tales in many ways and I find the writers of cozy mysteries to be sweet, caring and goodhearted people. Which brings me to a subtle point about my own series. I’m technically a derivative of the traditional cozy mystery, which I like to call a Small town mystery. My stories include amateur sleuths, but working in conjunction with Cash Green and his crew. At times there are murders “on stage” but not with gratuitous graphic violence. Unlike the real world, however, there is no crude swearing or cussin’ in my stories as my grandmother would have called it. Heaven knows there’s enough of that out there in the daily news without me adding to it. (Although as principal of six schools, I heard some really mindboggling run-on curses in my day!)
George, this has been just great. Not only are you talented, but a great guy too. And fellow readers, get to know George a little better — visit his blog and follow him on Twitter. Don’t forget to pick up your own copy of his latest – THE FALLS: THICKER THAN WATER on Kindle.