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The Real Writing Process of J L Worrad
Episode 20822nd May 2022 • The Real Writing Process • Tom Pepperdine
00:00:00 00:47:29

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Tom Pepperdine interviews J L Worrad about his writing process. Jim discusses how writing for himself gave him his biggest success to date, how he approaches character led narratives, and how his love of ancient history and culture helps inform his world building.

You can find all of Jim's information here: https://jamesworrad.com/

His YouTube playlist for Pennyblade is here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL4Powld4dC3deslNDzqnrRf0bWqJYXu0Y

You can also support this podcast here: https://ko-fi.com/therealwritingprocess

And you can find more information on our upcoming guests on the following links:

https://twitter.com/Therealwriting1

https://www.instagram.com/realwritingpro

https://www.facebook.com/therealwritingprocesspodcast

Transcripts

Tom:

Hello.

Tom:

And welcome to the Real Writing Process.

Tom:

I'm your host, Tom Pepperdine.

Tom:

And this episode, my guest is the fantasy author.

Tom:

J L Worrad.

Tom:

Now there's a great story about how we met and why he's on the show, but I start to

Tom:

tell it about a minute into the interview.

Tom:

So to save me repeating myself, we'll just get straight into it.

Tom:

And I'm here with J.

Tom:

L.

Tom:

Worrad.

Tom:

Hello, Jim!

J. L.:

Hello there, how are we doing?

J. L.:

You alright?

Tom:

I'm very well, my first question to you as always, what are we drinking?

J. L.:

Well, I've got coffee to get me awake.

J. L.:

I got water and then finally, I don't know why I'm lifting these up, I've got wine.

Tom:

Yes.

Tom:

Cheers.

J. L.:

Cheers, I'll have the middle, the middle glass over here.

J. L.:

Twenty quid bottle at Sainsbury's, but they did it half price,

J. L.:

so I was like, oh hello.

Tom:

That's it.

Tom:

Always love a bargain.

Tom:

Absolutely.

Tom:

So, Which of these trifecta would you say is your writing drink?

J. L.:

Ooh, good question.

J. L.:

Generally the brown hair, the coffee.

J. L.:

I'm very caffeine fueled and then if I need inspiration.

J. L.:

I turn to Dionysos, and it hit the wine.

J. L.:

A lot of the book Pennyblade was done on the wine, as I recall.

Tom:

Well, I saved this from the intro, cause I wanted to say this because

Tom:

we actually only met 10 days ago.

Tom:

And it's a funny story, which is why I wanted to share it.

Tom:

I was checking into the hotel at Easter con and your friend, Dan, who's part of

Tom:

your writing group was in front of me.

Tom:

We just got talking and he was like, you've got to meet Jim.

Tom:

He's an amazing writer.

Tom:

He writes

J. L.:

Oh thanks Dan!

Tom:

And he writes about horny elves, and I was like, (Jim laughs) that sounds good.

Tom:

And then I didn't meet you until later on in the night.

Tom:

In the classic writing convention bar con where everyone congregates and

Tom:

that the networking really begins.

Tom:

And you had definitely had a few pints by then, because cause Dan

Tom:

was just like, oh Tom, come and meet Jim, he writes about horny elves.

Tom:

And you're like, I do.

Tom:

Do like horny elves?

Tom:

I write about horny elves.

Tom:

And I was like, sure, who doesn't like horny elves?

Tom:

So it was like, my book launches tomorrow, come along.

Tom:

And I was like, I will come along.

Tom:

I shall listen to an excerpt of the horny elves.

Tom:

And then I shall buy said book on horny elves, which I duly did.

Tom:

And you signed.

Tom:

And I got you to sign in blue, in line with the language, and I come back and I

Tom:

was like, all right, let's give this a go.

Tom:

I was blown away.

Tom:

It's really good!

Tom:

It's well-written.

Tom:

It's not what you expect when someone says a horny elf book.

Tom:

I expected irreverent humor, almost a parody type style of fantasy.

Tom:

Not the sophisticated commentary on cultural misunderstandings and clashes

Tom:

and the class system and having a matriarchal society and you know,

Tom:

just sort of like gender politics and there's notes on religion.

Tom:

And I was just like, yeah, the central character's a horny elf,

Tom:

but there's a lot going on here.

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

I think that's the problem.

J. L.:

When a horny elf is running at you, you tend to miss the sort

J. L.:

of the surroundings, I guess.

J. L.:

I tend to focus on that.

Tom:

It's properly.

Tom:

You know, there's clear cultures, strong characters a really strong plot.

Tom:

And I was like, I understand why Titan picked it up.

Tom:

I was just like, okay, this is not a self-published little thing.

Tom:

And it's promoted the hell out of it.

Tom:

And it's got quotes from Anthony Ryan on the front, Anna Smith Spark on the back.

Tom:

RJ Barker, friend of the show, RJ and yeah.

Tom:

I was just oh, I get this.

Tom:

Oh, I get why there's such a buzz about it.

Tom:

And it was the creativity juice of red wine.

Tom:

And I love it so much, but it's just like, I didn't know who

Tom:

the fuck you were 10 days ago.

Tom:

I barely know you now.

Tom:

We've had a few drinks together and you very kindly did a mini episode,

Tom:

but it's just, I want the audience to know as much as I love this book.

Tom:

It's not vested interest in you because I don't know you.

Tom:

It's I love the book.

Tom:

And then I was reading the book.

Tom:

It was like, no, I need him on my show.

Tom:

I need to know the mind that can write so well.

Tom:

And write about a horny elf.

Tom:

It's just, it was very unexpected, Jim.

Tom:

And this is your first fan.

Tom:

You've written science fiction in the past, but this is your first fantasy?

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

Which I wrote on a sort of a whim, really.

J. L.:

I've been doing the science fiction for a while.

J. L.:

Sort of Indie Presses.

J. L.:

And then I was just like, I had some time spare and, oh, wouldn't

J. L.:

it be good to write a fantasy book.

J. L.:

I have no big idea.

J. L.:

I'll just make this character go along, see what they bump into.

J. L.:

I didn't really world build all that much.

J. L.:

I went okay, they'll be a kind a weird elf island.

J. L.:

And if that's going to be a weird elf island, I better have a very sort of

J. L.:

generic human mainland you can relate to, like your fantasy medieval world.

J. L.:

And then just send them along, see what happens and see what gets created.

J. L.:

Which is a process I've never done before, I'm a worldbuilder by trade, you guv'ner.

J. L.:

And then well when I do novels then oh, this part I'll just I'll do it bit by bit.

J. L.:

I feel I said it in the short interview where it's just a lazy architect approach.

J. L.:

The thing was I wrote the whole thing because I wasn't

J. L.:

going to send it anywhere.

J. L.:

In fact I had this romantic idea, that I'd just pressed delete after I finished it.

J. L.:

It was just going to be a writing exercise.

Tom:

Okay.

J. L.:

Then I didn't because after I got to the end it was like, this is all right.

J. L.:

I'm not going to send it anywhere.

J. L.:

Because the reason there's horny elves, weirdness and dark stuff,

J. L.:

some funny stuff, whatever it is, it's it's near the knuckle, you know?

J. L.:

Well, no one is ever going to see this.

J. L.:

It's just a joy ride for it's own sake.

Tom:

Yeah.

J. L.:

And then um, I got to the end of it and actually it's probably

J. L.:

the best thing I've ever written.

J. L.:

Once you've taken the fear off..

Tom:

So is this fundamentally changed your writing process then?

Tom:

Like you say, you used to be a world builder are you now very character driven?

J. L.:

Yeah, I think so.

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

I mean, looking back though.

J. L.:

I mean, um, the science fiction space opera epic I did before, it was like an

J. L.:

idea and a plot, but then the idea was very character, it was like what happens

J. L.:

if you've got a planet with people are raised to have several personalities.

J. L.:

So that's a very character idea, even though it's a big sci-fi idea.

J. L.:

You've got personalities clash with each other inside the same skull or whatever.

J. L.:

And so yeah, so that was always there, but then I went okay, I'll

J. L.:

come up with a kind of cool piss take character and just go for it.

J. L.:

And it just seemed to connect.

J. L.:

So yeah, maybe I guess I'm a character writer.

Tom:

Yeah, and are you w orking on a novel now?

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

Titan, bless 'em, not only were they crazy enough to print the first

J. L.:

novel, said here you are, have two.

J. L.:

That maybe factored in my agent Max is absolute sweetie.

J. L.:

So there's a second.

J. L.:

They went, have a second one.

J. L.:

Oh, can I have sequel?

J. L.:

They were like, do a stand alone and see how it goes with the other stuff.

J. L.:

And so I'm, working on a standalone fantasy book, but it is in the same world.

Tom:

Okay.

Tom:

Completely different characters?

J. L.:

Completely different characters.

J. L.:

It may even be a different century.

J. L.:

I'm not too sure yet.

J. L.:

I'm getting that pull.

Tom:

But again, I guess then a lot of the world building's done for you.

Tom:

And so it was just the draw of the character.

J. L.:

It's the character, yeah.

Tom:

And it, is it one point of view?

Tom:

Is it multiple point of view?

J. L.:

Ah, this one is, yeah, I went a bit.

J. L.:

Maybe I went a bit too ambitious but yeah, this is more a third person,

J. L.:

obviously Pennyblade's first person.

J. L.:

This is like, several different people's views.

J. L.:

It's a bit of a courtly intrigue thing going on, so hopefully

J. L.:

you get a bit drawn, you know?

J. L.:

Oh, I don't know who to side with.

J. L.:

They're fighting against each other, but I like them both.

J. L.:

That's the feel I want for the reader.

J. L.:

You know, that kind of thing?

Tom:

Was it just as soon as you started mapping it out, you felt

Tom:

that this was best as a third person, or was it you started as first and

Tom:

we're like, this isn't working?

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

I had one third person for one character.

J. L.:

This guy and he's one of the many bastard brothers of the king.

J. L.:

But whereas the others are more knightly and get in a fight and that.

J. L.:

He's not that kind of guy.

J. L.:

So he's got into the theatre world, so he's kind of theater type.

J. L.:

So he's got a foot in the Royal Keep and a foot out on the streets.

J. L.:

So that's his kind of thing.

J. L.:

So that's, that was nice.

J. L.:

And he was going along, but then it's oh wait, hang on.

J. L.:

Okay, the queen hates him, so I'd like to get into the Queen's head.

Tom:

Yeah.

J. L.:

It was a bit of a war.

J. L.:

A bit of a past, so then you do that and then it by the end of it, it's like,

J. L.:

go on let's get inside everyone's head.

J. L.:

Go on, let's have a party sort of a, sort of a book.

Tom:

And when you're developing a character, do you keep their traits and

Tom:

their history and everything in your head?

Tom:

Or do you like to map things out and actually write a biography?

Tom:

Or I know sometimes you read writing exercises of interview your character.

Tom:

Do you do any of that sort of thing?

J. L.:

I don't sit down and make a big list of where they keep the

J. L.:

stocks or what they think of this.

J. L.:

I don't like trapping them.

J. L.:

I like the first few chapters, get getting to know them.

J. L.:

It's like an organic thing.

J. L.:

It sounds slightly pretentious, but I do like having chats with them.

J. L.:

That's a weird way of putting it.

J. L.:

You know what I mean?

J. L.:

It's yeah.

J. L.:

You get a vibe from them.

J. L.:

They pull a certain way.

J. L.:

I'm very much into that.

J. L.:

And it's a weird feeling that some of them are better at improvising than others.

J. L.:

When you're writing a scene, which is really odd.

J. L.:

I don't know what that's about, but uh.

Tom:

An episode that's gone out recently with Bonnie Gomez, she, she

Tom:

said this great thing about having to translate, almost articulate

Tom:

her characters because some of her characters are illiterate, and they

Tom:

can't really communicate themselves well.

Tom:

And you do have to treat them like real people and it's like you say

Tom:

some are very good improvisers, some are very lightning quick.

Tom:

But not all of them are, cause that all multi-faceted complex characters

Tom:

that are very real in your head.

Tom:

And it's communicating that on the page and to the reader.

Tom:

So yeah, I completely understand.

Tom:

That's definitely, you're not alone.

Tom:

That's definitely an author thing.

J. L.:

Oh that's cool then.

J. L.:

I do have one thing that do is probably very weird, but when I

J. L.:

get a good character I like, where I work my day job, my night job,

J. L.:

I worked at a hotel at night.

J. L.:

And uh, every hour you have to do a walk around, to ensure everyone's asleep.

J. L.:

And you go around the corridors make sure there's no noise.

J. L.:

So what I'll do is I'll get into the mind of this character and I'll do a

J. L.:

hotel walk around if they had to do it.

J. L.:

And it's, they're often there'll be bored or they'll be really into it, whatever.

J. L.:

And you'll come round to the end and go, yeah.

J. L.:

I can write this character.

J. L.:

That's very method, isn't it?.

Tom:

It's like walking a mile in their shoes.

Tom:

It's walking a hotel in their shoes.

J. L.:

Walking a hotel in their shoes, yeah.

J. L.:

Yes, no one's ever popped out the room to get a towel would see me sort of.

Tom:

Yeah, it is.

Tom:

It's when you start dressing as the character to do your walk,

Tom:

I think there might be a few phone calls, a few emails then.

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

I'll just say this is the new uniform.

Tom:

On that then, moving from character development.

Tom:

I do want to talk, because obviously you said you're a world builder.

Tom:

Initially with your science fiction but your general approach to research, do you

Tom:

like to have a real world basis on like physics and certain developments of it?

Tom:

Or do you just want it to be like adventure in my heads.

Tom:

So is it all made up or do you have a real-world based and research stuff?

J. L.:

Yeah, I I did classical studies at uni, so been a classics nut and

J. L.:

ancient history and stuff like that.

J. L.:

So I got a compost heap in the back of my head of knowledge

J. L.:

of how other cultures behave.

J. L.:

Cultures were built on very different ways and means.

J. L.:

So yeah, I just sort of go by that really.

J. L.:

Does that make any sense?

Tom:

Yeah, no, absolutely.

Tom:

Yeah, I think with culture is based a lot on art and the stories that

Tom:

are told, and obviously the oral history of different cultures.

Tom:

You look at different religions, different world religions and how they're born out

Tom:

of their mythos and those religions then base the moral standpoint of that culture.

Tom:

And I think if you have studied in a background where you have

Tom:

read widely on the development of culture through the arts and how

Tom:

it's developed across the world.

Tom:

It can lend itself to a world where we go, okay I want them to have this kind of

Tom:

moral compass and this kind of worldview.

Tom:

So what kind of things would have happened in their history to link that?

Tom:

I mean, that's how it's coming across.

Tom:

So..

J. L.:

That's exactly it.

J. L.:

And also just the material culture can affect things.

J. L.:

If you are from the village high up in the mountains, your idea of a river is

J. L.:

a young dancing spring-like, very clear.

J. L.:

That's your idea of a river God or Goddess.

J. L.:

Whereas if you live in the low lands, it's a sleepy slow dark thing.

J. L.:

And that, that can affect your idea of time in a sense.

J. L.:

Because it's a flow.

J. L.:

So that's the nearest thing you think about time, if you think of

J. L.:

a river and just things like that.

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

I know Tej Turner, previous guest on the show as well, uh geography was

Tom:

very important to the cultures that he wrote about in his world-building and

Tom:

taking that point would be the river.

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

I hadn't even thought of that.

Tom:

But as soon as you were saying that, I was also thinking about the equator and

Tom:

how cultures near the equator their days and nights are fairly static, but you put

Tom:

them near the poles and the seasons and the longer nights and the longer days.

Tom:

And how that view of the gods and the changeable..

J. L.:

Each season of food and it's dead in winter and the Yuletide rituals.

J. L.:

Or the big classic one of course, nomads on horseback versus the

J. L.:

agricultural people working in fields.

J. L.:

You go with an earth goddess generally, or a sky god if you're on horseback

J. L.:

and going across the Plains, you know.

Tom:

I did do a little bit of research, speaking of research.

Tom:

It was about swordplay.

Tom:

Obviously Pennyblade, mercenary of the story.

Tom:

You researched a lot of sword skills.

Tom:

You developed a lot of that on your previous book, and it is really nice

Tom:

how you know, the central character uses rapier and how the interaction with

Tom:

different types of swords and weapons that she encounters throughout the book.

Tom:

But I was just wondering, is there anything like sword play that you

Tom:

had to research in your current book?

Tom:

That's like a key part.

Tom:

So you've said they're part of the arts, have you researched the arts or you

Tom:

say it's a different century, is there anything about the technology of the

Tom:

day or just courtly life, if they're part of the royalty uh, or, you know,

Tom:

it's all like the bastard side of it.

Tom:

So there maybe the more of the aristocracy.

Tom:

But yeah, you know, is there anything of those that you've had to research?

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

I haven't had quite the luxury like I had with Pennyblade because I had all the time

J. L.:

in the world with that, but yeah, I've always liked that sort of Shakespearian

J. L.:

theatre anyway, and that sort of era.

J. L.:

So I started reading up about street criminals of theatre, that kind

J. L.:

of side of things and just trying to work out where I am with it.

J. L.:

But yeah perhaps not to the extent of Pennyblade.

J. L.:

Perhaps not as much as I would have liked.

J. L.:

There's some fascinating stuff.

J. L.:

There's a, a book that was released in the Elizabethan times about a

J. L.:

guide to looking out for criminals.

J. L.:

Some of them just seem made up.

J. L.:

They've got names like Tawny catchers and batundervilles.

J. L.:

So it's just so specific, But yeah.

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

So it's definitely worth looking into.

Tom:

And do you prefer getting books from the library, like finding stuff online,

Tom:

just watching dozens of YouTube videos.

Tom:

What's your research source?

Tom:

Your research source of choice.

J. L.:

These days I tend to just look on Amazon and grab a

J. L.:

couple of books about the thing.

J. L.:

And then I'll borrow from friends and then I don't really read those

J. L.:

books and just go on YouTube.

J. L.:

So yeah, there's a lot of YouTube channels out there.

Tom:

There is, there's a lot of content.

Tom:

So it's always useful and free, so it's the great equalizer.

Tom:

Um,

J. L.:

I think we learn well, listening to people.

J. L.:

Perhaps better than reading.

Tom:

I hope so!

J. L.:

Yeah (laughs).

J. L.:

I don't think anyone's learning things here.

Tom:

They're learning there's a great discounted wine in

Tom:

Sainsburys at the moment.

J. L.:

Oh yeah.

J. L.:

Keep an eye out.

J. L.:

We're not sponsored by Sainsburys.

Tom:

No, I've got a Nectar card, that's it.

Tom:

But so with your getting these books and borrowing from friends and watching things

Tom:

online, are you a prolific note taker?

Tom:

Do you have lots of notebooks or a folder on your computer or is it just you just

Tom:

absorb it and keep it in your head?

J. L.:

No, I like having a notebook with me.

J. L.:

I find the phone's really good these days.

J. L.:

And then you can put notes in the old note bit, that's pretty good.

J. L.:

And I would like to get a new notebook for every book.

J. L.:

Every novel I write, I like to get the right one.

J. L.:

Like the one for Pennyblade was like, it's like black snake skin but it's plastic.

J. L.:

But yeah, I've filled that one up the stuff.

J. L.:

And yeah, make notes.

J. L.:

I like to collect images, I'm very visual.

J. L.:

It used to be, I'll cut them out of magazines and newspapers, stuff like that.

J. L.:

But these days just get them off the internet.

J. L.:

I'd make whole set of images.

J. L.:

Cause a lot of it's about mood, isn't it?

J. L.:

I like to know whether a book's going to be light or dark.

J. L.:

And I don't mean in terms of the content.

J. L.:

I feel that it's a very hard thing to explain.

J. L.:

It's is this going to be a kind of lights or is it going to be

J. L.:

nice, dark, rich kind of thing.

J. L.:

And then, yeah.

J. L.:

I'm sorry, I'm probably speaking a lot of jibberish here.

Tom:

No, absolutely not.

Tom:

And I think it'll resonate with a lot of our readers where, readers?

Tom:

No, listeners, they do read, pointless if they didn't, but yeah, our listeners

Tom:

who a lot of them write as well.

Tom:

And I think that resonating of light and dark, because you do

Tom:

visualize what you're writing.

Tom:

Most writers do.

Tom:

I do occasionally hear of those who don't visualize.

Tom:

And it's just the words on the page and making them sounds as

Tom:

descriptive as possible, which is that's for another time.

Tom:

You are a visual writer, we'll focus on you.

Tom:

But yeah, I think there are other visual writers who get exactly that.

Tom:

And I think it's really interesting and I think a mood board, a visual

Tom:

mood board can be massively beneficial.

Tom:

So it's great that you do that.

Tom:

Another thing about your planning and beginning process uh, you

Tom:

mentioned how with Pennyblade, you just wrote it for yourself.

Tom:

You just had this character and you were just writing to see where

Tom:

she went and what was going on.

Tom:

Now you've been commissioned by Titan for another standalone book, and you've

Tom:

chosen to set it in the same universe.

Tom:

Is there more planning in the outline and have you mapped out the plot

Tom:

or is it still, like you said you started with an initial character.

Tom:

Are you still in that kind of free forming, let's just see where it goes.

Tom:

Or is it more, no, I need to be strict and really map out so I know where I'm going?

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

I must have mapped out.

J. L.:

So I drew out the, um, tennis courts or the sports field, the set of rules.

J. L.:

It's it's set in one of the cities that's in Pennyblade.

J. L.:

Okay, I'm not going to leave there.

J. L.:

It's all in that city.

J. L.:

And there's a big, magical fantasy thing going on that's to do with

J. L.:

that city and the big castle.

J. L.:

Cause it's called The Keep, but it's called The Keep for more than one reason.

Tom:

Okay.

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

There's something inside it.

J. L.:

And so once you've got character and the idea then bang, that's great.

J. L.:

So sorry, what was the question again?

Tom:

It was whether you had more of a strict outline.

J. L.:

Yeah, of just the rules of the game.

J. L.:

And I can bounce the ball around most those rules.

J. L.:

Can't leave the city, it's got to be focused on this big, much more thing.

J. L.:

These characters are handling it against each other.

J. L.:

If that makes sense.

J. L.:

And then we'll play the game.

Tom:

Yeah.

J. L.:

So the plot is not sort of worked out, but the

J. L.:

rules of the game was set out.

Tom:

It's interesting that using that terminology, rules of the game,

Tom:

cause I know that you are a big D & D roleplayer guy back in the day.

Tom:

So do you feel that.

J. L.:

Oh God yeah I didn't say, actually Pennyblade was partly

J. L.:

going to be a role playing game.

J. L.:

It was going to be a campaign, I was going to write it for a friend and

J. L.:

then it just went weird and horny.

J. L.:

This is clearly a novel, but anyway, sorry, carry it on.

Tom:

Yeah, I think it's, you know.

Tom:

For those who haven't read and listened to all your other interviews.

Tom:

Yes.

Tom:

Found that it wasn't going to be so much of a campaign as just a long monologue.

Tom:

The players would just be an inconvenience to what was happening.

Tom:

It was like no, you can't have decisions because I know how this plays out.

J. L.:

Yeah (laughs).

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

But it sounds like having that, like you mentioned the queen and the multi

Tom:

characters although you don't have literal human beings having an input.

Tom:

It does sound like you've got these multiple points of view and these

Tom:

multiple characters playing out, it almost dictating to you a campaign.

J. L.:

Yeah, they're my own players.

J. L.:

gaming group.

Tom:

Yes.

Tom:

It's like it's computer versus computer rather than player versus player.

Tom:

Nice.

Tom:

It's a style.

Tom:

It's a method and I hope it works for you.

Tom:

So I'm going to move on now from once you've mapped out the rules of

Tom:

the game and you started writing the story, how you discipline yourself

Tom:

to get all the words on the page.

Tom:

Are you someone who sets themselves a daily target?

Tom:

Are you someone who just goes right, I'm going to sit down for the next

Tom:

four hours or is it just like I've got a bit of time, I might as well

Tom:

just chuck a few words on the page.

Tom:

How do you map out your writing sessions?

J. L.:

Oh, I have to be a lot more serious these days cause

J. L.:

they gave me an advance and all.

J. L.:

So it used to be, I do about minimum of a thousand words a day.

J. L.:

Try to.

J. L.:

But some days it's just not going to happen.

J. L.:

But I really aim for 1500.

J. L.:

If I get carried away I can keep going up to 2500-3000 whatever.

J. L.:

That's quite rare.

J. L.:

To be fair though, I was just thinking the other day, I really

J. L.:

should do this for myself really.

J. L.:

I remember reading Ian Banks saying that people get caught on the, how

J. L.:

much you write a day when he was saying that actually really want to

J. L.:

make it how much you write a week.

J. L.:

And I think there's wisdom in that.

J. L.:

Because some days you're just not going to have the energy or life gets in the way,

J. L.:

but it's some days you just just write, there's gold pouring out your fingers.

J. L.:

So I think maybe that's the best way.

J. L.:

Maybe have a word count, but make it for a week, which I haven't

J. L.:

done, but maybe I should do.

Tom:

I think, and also some days you're just problem-solving.

Tom:

It's just okay, they're there in the vaults and the ceilings

Tom:

coming down and the doors close and the sands trickling out.

Tom:

And it's just like, right, how did they get out of this?

Tom:

And yeah, you just want to make sure the narrative makes sense.

Tom:

So having a day to go, I'm not going to write anything.

Tom:

I'm just going to think through a plot problem.

Tom:

That's still a massively important part of the process.

Tom:

But yeah, you shouldn't beat yourself up if you need a day or

Tom:

even a couple of days like that.

J. L.:

Some of my best writing's been done washing up or walking around park.

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

That's that leads onto the next question beautifully.

Tom:

I was going to ask if you have any writing rituals about the time of

Tom:

day that you write or the location?

Tom:

Do you need complete silence, comfy clothes?

Tom:

How do you structure your writing sessions?

Tom:

Um, I've asked a lot of questions in that.

Tom:

Let's break them down.

Tom:

What time of day do you prefer to write?

J. L.:

It seems to be afternoon and evening, I wish it was the morning.

J. L.:

My brain can receive in the morning, it can't really broadcast or transmit.

J. L.:

Yeah.

Tom:

And do you play music or do you need complete silence?

J. L.:

Yeah, I need a bit of music, but it's gotta be the right kind of music.

J. L.:

I can't have lyrics because I start listening to the story.

J. L.:

So classical is very good.

J. L.:

I'll tell you what's good.

J. L.:

A lot of that, I don't play computer games, but the SkyRim

J. L.:

and Dragon Age soundtracks.

J. L.:

There's a really good YouTube channel called Terminal Passage, which

J. L.:

has all these obscure, prog rock and jazz stuff from the seventies.

J. L.:

This guy must be buying this really weird vinyl somewhere, and then

J. L.:

putting it on this YouTube channel.

J. L.:

I've discovered an amazing stuff.

Tom:

What was that YouTube channel called again?

J. L.:

Terminal passage.

J. L.:

Yeah, there you go.

J. L.:

And you'll find something on there you can put on.

J. L.:

I've made a whole list.

Tom:

I also feel it might be a good thing to listen to whilst reading the book.

Tom:

Have it as an unofficial soundtrack to reading.

Tom:

Just put on a bit of Terminal Passage while picking up your copy of Pennyblade.

J. L.:

Yeah, any of that.

J. L.:

A lot of those songs did come up.

J. L.:

Yeah, yeah.

J. L.:

The weird prog rock end of that.

J. L.:

Yeah, but there's something for everyone.

J. L.:

I'd like to get into that sort of zone, as far as music goes.

Tom:

Well, as I was researching you, I found that you have a YouTube

Tom:

channel that you don't use at all.

Tom:

I recommend that you start gathering and putting playlists of these videos

Tom:

and music videos on the channel.

Tom:

I would love as a reader of your work to just go, oh, I know I

Tom:

can go on Jim's YouTube channel.

Tom:

And it would just be like, here's the Pennyblade channel

Tom:

and title to be announced.

Tom:

Yeah, just having those playlists.

J. L.:

Yeah, I am learning something here.

Tom:

That's is a freebie.

Tom:

As soon as you do, I'm claiming credit But that's fine.

Tom:

I'm happy to do it.

Tom:

And yes, you've mentioned yes for getting ideas when washing up or going for a walk.

Tom:

Alpha wave, that's a proper psychological recognition of

Tom:

the creative part of the brain.

Tom:

When you have a repetitive task that you don't need to concentrate on it

Tom:

allows your brain to develop a certain thought pattern where it's just going,

Tom:

okay, I'm walking a route I know.

Tom:

I don't have to take my bearings.

Tom:

I don't have to look as focused on obstacles as I

Tom:

would in an uncharted place.

Tom:

Washing up, I know the shape of the items that I'm washing, I know

Tom:

the routine of what I'm doing.

Tom:

And it allows the brain to go, okay, muscle memory is

Tom:

taking care of most of this.

Tom:

Let's go problem solve the other aspects of our lives.

Tom:

And so it's, the shower is also a commonplace, again it's muscle memory.

Tom:

Repetitive action is not something that requires a lot of focus.

Tom:

It allows the brain to go, we don't need to focus in depth on

Tom:

this, let's do something else.

Tom:

So..

J. L.:

Alpha waves.

J. L.:

I like that.

J. L.:

Maybe I could call one of these a album, what are they called?

J. L.:

A setlist thing, you were saying?

Tom:

Playlist, yeah.

J. L.:

Playlist!

J. L.:

That's the term I was looking for.

J. L.:

Alpha wave, there you go.

Tom:

Tell you what, I'm going to down a bit more wine and

Tom:

then I won't be as articulate.

Tom:

So that's alright.

Tom:

I will get into my two glass genius zone where everything I think I believe is the

Tom:

most intelligent thing I've ever said.

Tom:

Unfortunately, I'm being recorded.

Tom:

So I will find out whether that's true or not.

J. L.:

This is the ultimate test.

J. L.:

Well, in that case I better have a quick top up.

Tom:

Yes, absolutely.

Tom:

And I'm not cutting this bit out.

Tom:

I think it's very important to know that we're going onto our second glass.

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

That's round two.

Tom:

Yes, I'm not driving anywhere.

Tom:

But it's a very important part of uh, here's a insight into my life, a lifestyle

Tom:

choice I'm drinking from the box.

Tom:

Uh, So a one and a half litres, I love my life.

Tom:

That's it.

Tom:

You can have a bottle, I'll have a liter and a half, thank you.

Tom:

Yes.

Tom:

What the hell we were talking, writing, I guess.

Tom:

Yeah, writing rituals and yes, actually here's a good question.

Tom:

Do you get to a point in the writing process, maybe like 10,000

Tom:

words in or somewhere, where you just feel like you've lost it.

Tom:

Like, I'm not sure if this story has legs anymore.

Tom:

I'm not sure if I have the ability to write this book to the standard I want.

Tom:

And just have a complete lack of confidence moment.

Tom:

Has that ever happened to you?

Tom:

And if so, have you got through it?

J. L.:

Every time.

J. L.:

Every bloody time, you go, what have I done?

J. L.:

I've been there so many times I feel like I live, do you know, was it Quint in jaws?

Tom:

Yes.

J. L.:

Yeah, he was talking about, oh yeah, it'll come for yer.

J. L.:

It's eye's lifeless like a dolls.

J. L.:

I found the thing is perhaps look to push on initially, but push down.

J. L.:

It's like, well why am I in this?

J. L.:

Have I got something wrong, you know?

Tom:

What's triggered it?

J. L.:

Yeah, dig under rather than trying to push through, and I find that helps.

Tom:

That's an amazing piece of, I've not heard that before and I'm

Tom:

definitely going to start suggesting that on other other episodes and yeah,

Tom:

I was because partly I find a lot of writers get this critical self-doubt

Tom:

around the same place in the book.

Tom:

Maybe it's two thirds of the way through, or it's just an image.

Tom:

Have you noticed that in your writing, is it around the same kind of

J. L.:

I'll be honest, I've just come out of it.

J. L.:

With the one that I'm doing, it was just like urgh.

J. L.:

It's all just clicking now, I'm in that home run.

Tom:

Great.

J. L.:

And yeah, so feeling good but I'm a bit, a bit late for time now, but

J. L.:

it's a, yeah, it's a learning process.

Tom:

Yeah.

J. L.:

Yeah.

Tom:

It's part of the process.

J. L.:

Yeah.

Tom:

But yeah, I'm glad to hear that you've mainly broken through, but

Tom:

also for our listeners, it's just that indication that all writers feel this.

Tom:

So it's yeah.

Tom:

Okay.

Tom:

That's good.

J. L.:

I'd feel odd without it.

J. L.:

I'd think maybe there's something wrong.

J. L.:

Or you just write a novella, I don't know.

Tom:

If there's no doubt, then it's probably shit (both laugh).

Tom:

Um, so once you've finished the first draft, are you someone who, do you

Tom:

edit as you go or do you write a draft straight through and then go, right, back

Tom:

to page one and read through it again?

Tom:

What's your editing process?

J. L.:

Yeah I'm a little bit naughty and I keep editing as I go.

J. L.:

And this time of I've gone don't think about it, we'll go back later.

J. L.:

But I can't help it, I do it a bit.

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

Even when I do the big edit, I really I want to do a structural edit,

J. L.:

you know, does it all make sense?

J. L.:

And then a voice edit, for that say everyone, the voice

J. L.:

of each character sounds right.

J. L.:

And that's what I like to do, but I'd never do that.

J. L.:

I just do this sort of one big edit cause I just, I see a problem.

J. L.:

I'll think I won't spot the next time I come through here,

J. L.:

so I better sort it out now.

J. L.:

And then it works.

Tom:

I mean, definitely people have different editing styles and I don't think

Tom:

that there's a universal perfect way.

Tom:

When you're editing as you go, is it like literally you type a

Tom:

sentence and go, oh, is that right?

Tom:

And type a bit more.

Tom:

Or is it the next day you look at what you had written the day before?

Tom:

Or is it the next week, you look at on a weekly review or

Tom:

is it maybe that 10,000 words?

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

It's the next day thing, yeah.

Tom:

Next day?

J. L.:

Yeah, well, I think I'll just read this bit to get myself

J. L.:

in the groove and keep going.

J. L.:

And yeah, then I ended up editing the bit I'm reading a bit, perhaps I shouldn't.

Tom:

Actually I would say from my guests, certainly that has been fairly common.

Tom:

That it's to have the consistency of narrative voice.

Tom:

You read what you wrote the day before and yeah, if you pick up noticeable

Tom:

errors, just fix them then and there.

Tom:

So I wouldn't say that's uncommon or wrong in any way.

Tom:

And that's certainly something that I found other successful writers do.

Tom:

So I think you're all right.

J. L.:

I'll tell you actually a bit of advice I found.

J. L.:

I don't know if anyone else has mentioned it.

J. L.:

This is you know, to get through the slump.

J. L.:

I do a thing where I just as I've written a load and I think, oh,

J. L.:

here's a really cool bit I really like, I wanna write, I stop.

J. L.:

The idea being that next day I get up and I go, oh, it's that

J. L.:

exciting that I want to write.

J. L.:

So I used to do a thing where I would just write oh, that's the cool bit.

J. L.:

Then you'd get to a bit that wasn't so cool.

J. L.:

And it'd be harder to get back on the saddle and do it.

J. L.:

But if you actually stop and go no, we're stopping here, save it.

J. L.:

We'll save the fight or whatever, the witty funny bit.

J. L.:

And we'll do that tomorrow and it, yeah, it is a treat.

J. L.:

And then you get back up into the scene quicker.

J. L.:

That's, that's my one bit of handy advice.

Tom:

Yeah, absolutely.

Tom:

And once you've got a story into its best version in isolation, by

Tom:

yourself, do you have beta readers that you send it to first or does

Tom:

it go to an editor or your agent.

Tom:

Who reads it next?

J. L.:

I'm very blessed by having a writer's group.

J. L.:

That was great.

J. L.:

We could bring in the chapter or so.

J. L.:

That's great on a chapter or scene level.

J. L.:

You can read that, but you call really get all to read an entire novel in a..

Tom:

Here's 120,000 words.

Tom:

Can we discuss it next week?

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

Deal with it, you know.

J. L.:

Cause we did, we read it live, so if I've got quite a dialogue full scene.

J. L.:

This is actually the days before COVID or whatever.

J. L.:

We have this with Zoom as well.

Tom:

Yeah.

J. L.:

But certainly back to the days before COVID, what I do is give them

J. L.:

a dialogue, a scene, and then I'd go and make tea in the corner of the room.

J. L.:

Whilst they read it, listen out for giggles or shocks, then you'd get a

J. L.:

nice feel of the beats of a scene.

J. L.:

So that only really works for scenes, so I've got a few people,

J. L.:

beta readers from that group.

J. L.:

A friend Matt is really good and I'll bring it to them, but um, the whole

J. L.:

book, but these days I don't if that's, I'm quite a slow writer in many ways.

J. L.:

And I don't know if I've got time to pass it to the old gang.

J. L.:

I think I have to go straight to me editors now, at Titan.

J. L.:

Which is the new game.

J. L.:

And they're pro's so..

Tom:

And what's that experience like, having professional

Tom:

editors at a big publishers?

J. L.:

Oh it's terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure really.

J. L.:

When it goes in you're like waiting for your results, medical results

J. L.:

or something, but it's really good.

J. L.:

They're really nice people.

J. L.:

They're ever so, they know how to handle the artistic temperament sort of thing.

Tom:

And I guess with Pennyblade being the first big experience

Tom:

of that kind of editing process.

Tom:

Was there quite an emotional roller coaster of getting the

Tom:

edits back and go, oh, I'm crap.

Tom:

And I'm terrible.

Tom:

It's all this red pen.

Tom:

Or was it just oh wow, great.

Tom:

They're making me better.

Tom:

How did that feel the first time you got those edits back from Titan?

J. L.:

Well, for writing groups with everything, I'm just used to it.

J. L.:

One of the few good things is that I am pretty thick skinned about my writing.

J. L.:

You wouldn't send a book like Pennyblade out into the world if you weren't, really.

J. L.:

It's not me, it's a thing.

J. L.:

I think some writers see the book as them a bit.

J. L.:

It is, but it's not an attack on you.

Tom:

Yeah.

J. L.:

Do you know what I mean?

J. L.:

So I never had a problem with that.

J. L.:

And actually they were a lot nicer than I thought they would be.

J. L.:

I thought they would be hard ass editors, sort it out or ship out, Worrad!

J. L.:

You know, 1930 style.

Tom:

Chewing on a cigar, yeah.

J. L.:

Get me more pictures of Spider-Man!

J. L.:

Which would be an odd request, but I'd give it my best.

Tom:

I thought I was writing fantasy, but I'll get a camera.

Tom:

Give it a go.

Tom:

(laughs)

J. L.:

Give it a go, yeah.

J. L.:

(laughs) But no, if you have anyone out there, if you ever get a chance to

J. L.:

work with Titan, absolutely star club.

J. L.:

They're the best in the business, friendliest people.

J. L.:

Can't say enough good things.

Tom:

Good.

J. L.:

So, yeah, there's, you know, it's very exciting every time.

Tom:

Obviously, you've had a variety of editors working with small press

Tom:

and doing short stories as well.

Tom:

Across all the editing process that you've received, what do you feel

Tom:

makes a good editor, in your opinion?

J. L.:

Oh, that's a good question.

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

I think they just got a good balance of kindness and not taking any shit.

J. L.:

They handle all kinds of people, haven't thay?

J. L.:

And obviously they got to see the big picture.

J. L.:

The version of Pennyblade I brought in was a little bit too

J. L.:

short and a little bit too blyth.

J. L.:

I mean, there was one bit where George went, is it right?

J. L.:

So this bit, if I can get it right, this is a mountain that's been carved into a

J. L.:

pyramid shape with lots of gardens on it.

J. L.:

Could you give us more than half a paragraph on that?

J. L.:

And then that just, just things like that.

J. L.:

And Yeah, I guess that's what it's about really, yeah.

Tom:

And when you've finished a project, especially one I guess that's as personal

Tom:

as Pennyblade where you're writing it for you rather than on contract.

Tom:

Is there a sense of relief of finishing and going ah, done.

Tom:

Or is it a sense of grief, you've had these characters with you and now you got

Tom:

to say goodbye because the story has done?

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

It's like saying goodbye at the top of Everest.

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

Mixture of both those things.

J. L.:

I'd love to do a sequel to Pennyblade, if it happens.

J. L.:

I love that gang.

J. L.:

And yeah, you never quite finish a novel.

J. L.:

There's always something you could always do.

J. L.:

But yeah, I remember the first time I finished a novel, which is available

J. L.:

for all good cupboards under my bed, but that's, the first time you finished

J. L.:

your novel it's absolutely gold.

J. L.:

You feel like Alexander the Great or Elvis or something, but yeah.

J. L.:

A weird mixture of elation and sadness.

Tom:

Was there much of a break between Pennyblade and the

Tom:

book you're writing on now?

Tom:

Or was it literally just okay, that's done.

Tom:

Now I better do the next one.

Tom:

How long do you have between projects?

J. L.:

Well, it seems the system that it's more like you have to do a weird

J. L.:

kind of head tapping belly rubbing thing where you're editing the last book and

J. L.:

you're also Imagineering the next book.

J. L.:

Just kind of weird.

J. L.:

It's yeah, so that's where I fit it in.

J. L.:

There's lots of ideas bubbling away.

J. L.:

It's usually have two ideas.

J. L.:

You got all these ideas in your notebook and they're inert.

J. L.:

But then you'll have two ideas you came up with separately, like

J. L.:

that'll be an interesting guy and that'd be an interesting world.

J. L.:

And that's why you suddenly get fusion and this sort of creative blast.

Tom:

Yeah.

Tom:

Going out of the timeline, because I know when this episode is

Tom:

going out and I know the one I'm referencing comes out after yours.

Tom:

Cause I like to mess with the timeline.

Tom:

But just telling the future a little bit.

Tom:

I believe a composting where you have ideas and you just Chuck everything

Tom:

in the compost and then let it filter, like decompose and become the fertile

Tom:

soil that the ideas grow out of.

Tom:

And sometimes yeah, you have two piles of mulch that you need to Chuck in

Tom:

together to create the fertile soil.

J. L.:

But yeah, and you don't see that at first, but then yeah.

J. L.:

I had force a compost a bit this time around cause I could have

J. L.:

done a different world or whatever.

J. L.:

And I was like, I suppose I better do one in the same world.

J. L.:

Something for the readers of Pennyblade.

J. L.:

I wasn't too committed to other things.

Tom:

Yeah.

J. L.:

So there was a little bit of a forced kind of okay, if I'm going to do

J. L.:

one in this world, what do I want to do?

J. L.:

And I had some ideas, I like this character, I'll go with this.

J. L.:

And the character thing seems to have worked for me with Pennyblade.

J. L.:

I'll try a character with this one and it's worked, so I can't really complain.

Tom:

That's right.

Tom:

And there might be a few other characters composting away in the background.

J. L.:

Oh they're happy, they're happy.

Tom:

Right, As my listeners know, I always like to wrap up

Tom:

with the two same questions.

Tom:

It's my belief that writers continue to grow and develop their writing

Tom:

with each story that they write.

Tom:

Is there anything in particular that you learned from your last

Tom:

story, Pennyblade that you're now applying to your latest one?

J. L.:

That's yeah, simple.

J. L.:

It's simple carefreeness.

J. L.:

Is that a word carefreeness?

Tom:

It is now.

J. L.:

Yeah, yeah.

Tom:

As long as your meaning is understood, then the language is valid.

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

Yeah, no, it's because I wrote that book not really thinking anyone would see it.

J. L.:

I only gave it to Titan for they'll read it and go, at least they'll know my name

J. L.:

and would've sent them a serious book.

J. L.:

And then I was absolutely shocked when I saw the email saying,

J. L.:

oh yeah, we want to buy it.

J. L.:

Okay.

J. L.:

That was a real shocker.

J. L.:

So this time around if you have a crazy idea, something farcical something

J. L.:

that however, the bad taste of it.

J. L.:

So whatever, we'll just sod it, just put it in there.

J. L.:

See what happens.

J. L.:

Yeah I've gained a certain, carefree, what the hell, gung ho thing.

J. L.:

I was careful before.

J. L.:

So I'd recommend that to anyone else really.

Tom:

And is there one piece of advice you find yourself

Tom:

returning to when you're writing?

Tom:

So something that you've read or been told that you feel really

Tom:

applies to the way that you write?

J. L.:

Oh yeah.

J. L.:

Don't lose the sense of fun.

Tom:

Yeah.

J. L.:

Never lose the sense of fun.

J. L.:

Even even if it's hard work.

Tom:

Yeah, if it becomes a chore, just take a break.

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

Take a break.

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

Or there's no bloody point.

J. L.:

Because the reader can smell that.

Tom:

Yeah.

J. L.:

It's like this, this is a loveless book, so yeah.

J. L.:

Yeah.

J. L.:

I'd always told myself if I fell out of love of it, I'll get it out of this and

J. L.:

I become a barman somewhere or something.

J. L.:

Listen, there's a few pubs down the road.

Tom:

I will always drink with you, Jim.

Tom:

But I hope I don't have to do it in your own bar cause I love reading your writing.

Tom:

On that note, I think that's a perfect place to wrap up.

Tom:

I'd like to thank you very much for being my guest.

J. L.:

Oh, thank you, that was a lovely interview.

Tom:

Oh, you're very welcome.

Tom:

Okay.

Tom:

And that was a real writing process of J L Worrad.

Tom:

Isn't he great?

Tom:

I think we had a really nice time.

Tom:

If you think this episode is slightly shorter than usual.

Tom:

And if you think I maybe cut out a load of drunken tangents and have

Tom:

kept a lot of waffle from you, then you'll bang on the money.

Tom:

Because we got quite drunk.

Tom:

And in fact, I'm pretty impressed with how coherant I made us sound.

Tom:

Whatever you think of my interviewing technique.

Tom:

Appreciate I edit these and I'm pretty fucking proud of this one.

Tom:

If you feel short changed though, and want some more chat between me and Jim, then

Tom:

there is an exclusive little interview we did an EasterCon the day after we met.

Tom:

And it's on my Kofi.

Tom:

Uh, it's only available for supporters, but if you pay a pound, you get access

Tom:

to that and all the other exclusive interviews, I did at EasterCon.

Tom:

Also, I'm at ChillerCon this week.

Tom:

So I guarantee there'll be a load of new interviews being recorded and they will

Tom:

be available as soon as I can edit them.

Tom:

So that's all for this week.

Tom:

Thanks for listening.

Tom:

And may you always keep writing.

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