In Conversation with J M Peace
Welcome Jay to my blog and thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this discussion about all things reading and writing.
Carol: Can you tell me a little bit about how the road to publication was for you? Did you enter any writing competitions? Do you have an agent? How did the contract come about? On the 9th February this year you wrote about getting a publishing contract – and here it is a few months down the track and I am already reading the fully formed, ready for market, completely finished, paperback novel – how amazing is that? That turn a round is unbelievable!
Jay: My manuscript initially languished in slush piles all over the country. My breakthrough moment was being accepted onto the Hachette Manuscript Development Program in 2013, run by the marvellous people at the Queensland Writer’s Centre. Although Hachette went on to reject the manuscript, it had some recognition. Then I nearly had an agent until the agent decided to quit the job. I don’t think it was because I once threatened to Taser her. I really was only joking. After that, I just couldn’t bear all the interminable waiting and approached Pan Macmillan directly. Things moved fairly quickly after that.
I think it was about November last year when the lovely people at Pan Macmillan made me an offer. They initially had some reservations about the legal side of things, so that took a little while to sort out. By the time I actually signed the contract in February, I think some of the wheels had already started turning. The manuscript had passed through many professional hands by then. By the time Pan got it, they decided it didn’t need a structural edit so it was straight onto the line edit and full speed ahead.
Carol: I see you have a blog, www.jmpeace.com Cops and Novels. Do you think blogging benefits your writing process?
Jay: Blogging is simply my chance to have my say about things that catch my attention. But I believe the author platform is very important for anyone attempting to get work published. I was strongly encouraged by several industry professionals to start a blog. The industry is so competitive that I don’t think ‘just’ a strong manuscript is enough these days.
Carol: I loved your debut novel – A Time to Run and can’t wait to read your next book, police procedurals are one of my favourite genres to read and as a Serving Police Officer your voice is authentic and real. It seems however that this relationship with the law comes at a cost, I quote your blog www.jmpeace.com – Cops and Novels, A publishing Contract (Feb 9 2015) “What I am doing is actually bound by legislation. If you are a police officer, you are always a police officer. What you do in your spare time is (to a certain extent) the Boss’s business. You have knowledge and information which is not for public dissemination, you are an agent of the Government. There are issues with secrecy, public comment, accountability, improper use of information, professional conduct and numerous other pieces of law, directives and policies.” How do you ensure that what you write about does abide by these regulations?
Jay: Thank you for your kind comments about my story!
I sought advice from my police union and spent some time trying to come to grips with the legislation. I believe I have covered myself in regards to the procedural information I have given in the book. There’s nothing in there that is not public knowledge or couldn’t by discovered through a little judicious googling. And if someone thinks I have overstepped the mark, then I’m hoping the fake name gives me some sort of protection.
I did actually try to get Boss-type approval to write the novel. The official reply was basically that writing a book was a hobby and I didn’t need approval to do it. Whether they change their minds about that one is yet to be seen. I don’t think anyone quite expected my story to get this far.
Carol: One of the things I loved about your novel was the details of policing/investigating that you shared with the reader. Too often crime fiction novels or movies/TV series based on crime fiction skip a lot of these type of details, giving their protagonists the power to do as they please, how they please. You reveal the reality of the work, for example, having an official witness to the unoccupied house search who is vested to protect the rights of the home owner. Your protagonists get the job done whilst adhering to the rules. Was it a conscious decision to share these elements of the investigation with the reader?
Jay: Yes, definitely. This is my point of difference. This is why I write crime, I’m hanging my hat on having that voice of authority. I know what I’m talking about in regards to procedures, legislation and internal directives. My benchmark will be if other police officers can read through my novel and nod in agreement.
Carol: Another element I particular enjoyed was the inclusion of the apparitions/angels in the narrative and the optimism, hope and courage they delivered. Where did this idea for this device originate?
Jay: I’ve been thinking about this and I can’t say when or why I decided to add angels to story. I think if you get pushed into an impossible life-threatening situation like the character in the story does, you start to look for something outside yourself. I did leave it open to interpretation on whether the angels were real or hallucinations.
It’s odd, because I’m not a particularly spiritual person but an angel popped up in the sequel too.
Carol: What sort of books do you read Jay?
Jay: At the moment? I’ve just finished the ‘Treehouse’ series by Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton. I’m also reading one of the Beast Quest novels and we’ve started the Wishing Chair. Yes, all kids books. My son isn’t quite old enough to tackle these sorts of books by himself and whenever I start reading aloud, my daughter will appear and get comfortable too. Adult books? I wish I had the time. I like chick lit and popular fiction.
Carol: And my last question for you – tell me more about lateral vascular neck restraints? Why didn’t you use this method of defence when you were the subject of an attack? And did this experience inform your writing?
Jay: I didn’t expect that question! A lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR) is basically a chokehold. Except you have to be careful not to hit the person’s windpipe. So when you place your arm around the person’s throat, you need to make sure the inside bend of your elbow lines up with the centre of the person’s throat. Then you squeeze, using the muscles in your bicep and forearm to apply pressure on the veins on either side of windpipe causing the person to pass out. If you apply pressure to the windpipe, you can damage it causing it to swell, preventing the person from breathing and making you consider whether you can do an emergency tracheotomy with a pocket knife and the barrel of a pen. We do them regularly in training. The restraints, not the tracheotomies. The trainer will say – this is considered lethal force, now go practice on each other…
I know the theory behind LVNRs, but I am not good at them. I have never done one in real life. It is the sort of restraint you might try if an offender was focussed on something in front of them and you could approach them from behind. But, as with many of the things I write about, even though I may not have experienced them directly, I think I have a better than average understanding of them.
Carol: Thank you for taking part in my “in Conversation With” blog posts J M Peace and good luck with the release of A Time to Run. I cannot wait to read your next book.