I ‘met’ Jay Warton on Twitter initially through football chat – we are both Manchester United fans – but it soon became clear that we both love crime fiction. Jay is an author of crime fiction I read and blog.
Jay Warton is an English author who has lived and worked in Cambridge for over 20 years. He predominantly writes crime thrillers and mysteries, and yes, that probably was (and will be again, hopefully, soon) him in the corner of the pub reading or writing.
We both thought it might be fun and interesting to tell you a bit more about Jay, his writing life and his books. So here we go….
When did you start writing?
Jay Warton wrote his first book when he was eight-years-old
“A close copy of those books that grabbed my imagination at the time” says Jay
He’s been writing, with varying degrees of commitment, ever since.
“I think I’ve always been a bit of a Jackdaw” he says, “I write the kind of stories I want to read.”
For a few years, that involved literary fiction, comedy, sci-fi and fantasy, but at the beginning and in the present and foreseeable future, crime and thrillers take up most of his time.
Why crime fiction?
“I think crime fiction provides a remarkable structure from which all kinds of other ideas can hang. Writing a book about a crime guarantees there will be a narrative arc. It also naturally provides opportunities for jeopardy, growth and resolution.” he says “Crime fiction has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. There are always victims and heroes, and there should always be some kind of resolution that’s satisfying to the reader. Having these elements almost implied, leaves the author free to explore whatever other themes or areas they find interesting.”
While he’s been writing regularly ever since those early, childhood stories the progress wasn’t always spectacular.
“Life got in the way.” he readily admits.
First University and then careers in manufacturing and retail took both his time and attention.
“It got to the point where I was starting a new project every three or four years, working on it slowly and then shelving it when I got bored or came up with a new idea.” Jay continued.
An important decision – let’s talk writing!
None of those projects made it past the halfway point, and then, one day in his mid-forties Jay made a decision.
“I decided I wanted to give the thing a proper go.” he says “I wanted to be a guy who had written a book, not a guy who was writing a book.”
He wrote every day for a year or more. He committed to wordcount targets, and he promised himself that he wouldn’t start another serious writing project until his work in progress was finished.
And it worked! Eighteen months later he completed his first Joe Doe thriller. Three years after that he has two books published, another being edited, and two more in progress.
So, Jay, what did you learn during that time?
“I’ve learned so much during that time,” he says (he’s redrafted that first novel three times since it was ‘completed’ all that time ago). “but the main difference was discipline and commitment.”
“In the beginning,” he says, “you need to write every day. It needs to become something that might not happen now-and-again rather than something that does happen from time-to-time. It needs to become part of your life, rather than an occasional hobby.”
Is there anything else?
Well, yes, Jay believes you also need to have some idea of the size of the project, and of the length of time you want it to take.
“You need to set some goals and you need to have an end point in mind. Otherwise, it’s too easy to let the thing slide, or to move onto something else.”
And also, he believes, you have to keep adding new words.
“It’s easy to get caught up in a cycle of redrafting and editing, but unless you add new words regularly, you will still never finish. It’s better to have an imperfect, completed first-draft, than a perfect fragment of something you’ll never finish.”
It all sounds a little intimidating to begin with, but Jay doesn’t think it should.
“The targets don’t have to be challenging, the timescale can be years or decades if you like, and the word count goals can be tiny. You might only work for twenty minutes on a given day, or you might just jot down a couple of sentences in your notebook.”
“But, if you work regularly, and you add new words to your project when you do, then eventually, you will finish your book.”
“How good it is and what you do with it once it’s finished, is an entirely different matter,” he adds with a smile.
Jay also believes it’s good for authors to be there for one another and so became the founding member of the Cambridge Scribblings, a support group for Authors which only has one rule – meet up and write new words. A little difficult at the moment as they would normally meet up in a cosy pub but there are other ways, as we’ve all learnt, to keep in touch! It’s good to have a support network.
Now let’s talk books!
The first couple of books Jay finished were out-and-out thrillers. He describes them as “the kind of books you buy to take on holiday, to read on the plane and the beach.”
So how did his latest, Sleeping Sickness, end up as a locked-room mystery?
“I’ve always loved those golden age writers,” he explains, “The Marples and the Poirots and the Wimsey books. I wanted to write one of those.”
And then the idea for the murder came to him.
“I thought the puzzle element was good, and that it was original. That gave me the opportunity to play around a little with the structure of the story. To take a few risks.”
After writing thrillers for a few years solidly, he felt immersed in the world of the hard-as-nails single-minded, driven heroes of that kind of book.
“I started to wonder how they would behave in other environments. What they would do if their neighbors dog got stolen. They couldn’t track the thieves down and execute them. They would need to be able to behave differently in different situations.”
And that was how he ended up with an elite US special agent in a Cambridge College, at the exact time that an impossible murder takes place.
“I wanted to write my version of a golden age mystery. I wanted to tip my hat to all those great writers and all those great characters. I wanted to write something that took place in the city I live in, a city I love, and I wanted to play around a little with the thriller characters. I wanted to see how they would behave in a situation that was life-and-death for the people involved, but that might seem somewhat more sedate and civilized than their usual day-to-day lives.”
The result is Sleeping Sickness available now yada yada yada…
But, like many authors at the moment, it can be difficult to get the word out about your books, virtual publication launches have become the norm and some authors have put back publication dates. Jay has come to terms with that…
“Heffers, my local bookshop in Cambridge, occasionally stock Leave No Trace and they’ll hopefully be selling Sleeping Sickness when everything opens up again.” he says “So, yes, Sleeping Sickness is kindle only for the moment and, unless Heffers have a few copies, I only sell through Amazon for now.”
Thanks so much, Jay, for your time and thoughts it’s been such a pleasure having you visit my blog.
Introducing Agent Joe Doe. A man with a remit to invesigate whatever and wherever he choses
Government agent Joe Doe is alone, isolated ~ and hunted from all sides in a town completely cut off from the outside world.
No phones. No radio. No way out.
Doe doesn’t scare easily but in the town jail he meets a man who worries him more than any one man ever should.
No back-up. No equipment. No way he’s leaving.
If Doe can’t stop him escaping, it won’t just be the small, island town that is in danger…
It’ll be the entire U.S.A.
Sleeping Sickness – the first Tyler Buchanan Mystery by Jay Warton is out now
Tyler Buchanan is trapped. Battered and bruised, on his way home from a brutal, classified assignment, and forbidden to fly until the US government can debrief him.
All he wants is a few days of quiet rest, with a friend, in the historic and beautiful University town of Cambridge. Instead, he finds himself in the midst of an impossible murder.
The Cambridge University Sleep Center is a luxuriously appointed research facility in one of the older colleges. It is locked up tight from 10pm to 7am, to protect the sleep of the patients within.
So, when one of the residents is found dead, in a room that no-one could possibly have entered, suicide seems to be the only possibility.
But not for Buchanan. He knows it was murder. Can he unmask the killer before his bosses recall him and he has to leave the country.
Sleeping Sickness is a contemporary take on the classic locked room mystery. One victim. Six suspects. One murderer. And only Tyler Buchanan to find the solution.
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