I am a big book nerd, as regular readers to this blog already know, and I read a variety of genres. It therefore gives me great pleasure to be able to interview an author whose variety of books have kept me entertained for a few years. Welsh author Owen Jones and his Thai wife currently live in Fuengirola in Spain, but his books richly detail places where he has resided over the years – from Thailand (Behind The Smile: The Story of Lek, a Bar Girl in Pattaya); from Spain (The Ghouls Of Calle Goya); from Wales (A Night In Annan) … among others. I especially enjoyed Dead Centre I & 2 … but having written over 50 novels, I was looking forward to finding out about his writing inspirations and his latest audiobook project. Hi Owen!
Hi! My name is Owen Jones. I am a writer from Barry, in South Wales.
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career as a full time author?
I can’t say that anyone inspired me to become an author. In fact, my friends and relatives from my hometown have all been decidedly lukewarm about it, but I have had such wonderful support from people I have never met, that I keep going.
You have written 50+ novels & 130 “How To “ niche manuals …that is pretty impressive! I have read a handful of them… and enjoyed them too! Your largest collection is the Megan series, consisting of around 23 novellas – Megan is a 13 year old with psychic powers (unacknowledged by the rest of her family) & her huge companion, a Siberian tiger called Grrr. The series is different from your first collection “Behind The Smile: The Story of Lek, a Bar Girl in Pattaya”. A lot of your books can be standalone novels in their own right, however, what do you enjoy most about writing a series of novellas? Do you find it difficult to not write a sequel to a book?
There are at least two reasons why a writer would produce a sequel, let alone a series. My second novel was a sequel to my first, because the heroine of the story dictated her story to me, although she was ‘only in my head’. I had done some research, and had discovered that a (first) novel ‘should not be longer than 120,000 words’, and mine was running past that, although Lek was still not finished. It was such an easy trilogy to write. Later, Lek came back to me and ‘we’ wrote four more novels in the series, although I was also greatly encouraged by fans. The same could be said of the Megan Series, although I had an idea of who Megan is or was – depending on your beliefs. The second reason why an author would want to write a sequel is because it is popular and the publisher or the public are asking for more.
What has been the most popular publication so far?
‘Behind The Smile: Daddy’s Hobby’ has been my most popular so far, but I think that that was inevitable because Orientals and Westerners have such a different outlook on life, and so do men and women, and most of the readers of this series are men, although women love it too. I have never met a Western woman in Thailand, who did not have respect for how Thai women deal with their lot in life.
What has been your favourite book that you’ve written, to date?
This is a very difficult question, because I get so involved with all my books and the characters in them. It would be very easy for me tho say ‘Behind The Smile’, because of Lek, but I like Megan a lot, and Wayne, Heng, Lily and Daisy (a new book). I like Dead Centre too, because I could imagine soldiers setting something like that up to help their distressed colleagues.
What is your latest novel, Owen?
It is called ‘Daisy’s Chain’ and is about a spoilt, rich girl living with her parents in Marbella on the Costa del Sol.
Let’s talk about the niche “How to.. “ manuals – which topic was, perhaps, the hardest to explain in manual form for you?
The ‘How to…’ series did not have its origin in inspiration as the novels did. Each of the them was once a website that I constructed because the title was a top key-phrase on Google. For example, I would check out the top key phrases of the day, and then write twenty articles around that phrase and bundle them into a website. One year, I discovered that I had written 1,200,000 words that year, and decided to try writing novels instead. I had already started writing about Lek at this point, but it gave me the impetus to put more effort into novels, and change the direction of my work. I had 145 websites in those days, now I have about twenty. The most difficult of them was probably on cancer, because I am not a doctor, and so had to be extremely careful with what I wrote.
Originally from Wales, and after living in The Netherlands, Thailand & currently in Spain, are your books available to purchase worldwide?
Yes, and not quite 🙂 They are available on Amazon, iTunes and Kobo in English worldwide, but strangely, it was only this year that I decided to get into translations. No Thai people have ever suggested that they wanted to read my books, but since I have been in Spain, friends of half-a-dozen nationalities have expressed such a desire, so I am trying to get my books translated. I currently have thirty-seven translations underway and four already completed.
You are currently getting 13 of your books narrated as audiobooks & translated into other languages other than English. The first audiobook, “A Night In Annwn” has just been produced, narrated by Andrew McGuirk. How did it feel listening to your book? Did you get involved in the production side/choosing the narrator?
Yes, it is quite amazing when I think about it… Andrew has a lovely voice and puts so much into the story. When I started getting involved with narration, I had no idea what it involved, but to the company that produces the audiobooks, my role as author, is secondary. I am the Director to them, and the narrator is the Producer. It is the Director’s job to choose a Producer and supply a set of guidelines so that he or she can get on with their job. I had to carry out interviews, choose the sex of the narrator, the speed of reading, the intonation and everything else including proofing and having bits re-read where necessary (not in Andrew’ case). In a way, I suppose, the author switches from being the scriptwriter to being the Director – just like in the films, but without a camera 🙂 I find audiobooks a fascinating medium… somewhere between a book and a film, because the narrator lends added atmosphere, but the listener still has to use his or her imagination to ‘complete the picture’.
Do you have any more ideas for your audiobooks?
Yes, several, but the one I would like to emphasise at the moment is a closed Facebook Club of readers and listeners to whom I can give free copies of my (audio)books, in exchange for an honest review. Please go here to register: https://www.facebook.com/groups/megansfreeaudiobooks/
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Sixteen years ago, I would usually have been ‘well-dressed’ in a jacket and collared shirt, but fourteen years in a remote Thai farming village changed all that. I wore shirts and shorts in Thailand – three items of clothing, except to weddings and funerals when I had to wear long trousers, but no socks. I haven’t worn socks for sixteen years, but that still fits in with southern Spain, where I live now 🙂
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?
No, not really… Amazon, I suppose at a push, since I spend more money on books that anything else. My wife tends to replace my clothes when she won’t be seen with me wearing them any longer.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
Nothing… but if I am to be practical, we are moving back to the UK this year because of Brexit, so I will need a coat… and socks.
Boots or Shoes?
I have only worn sandals for sixteen years, but in the UK, it will be shoes.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
I hope your audiobook project is a success, Owen. I look forward to reading “Daisy’s Chain” and I’m sure it’ll be just as good as your other books I have read.
All photos have been published with kind permission of Owen Jones.