Author Interview – Jemahl Evans
This week’s interview is with Jemahl Evans, author of The Last Roundhead, the edited memoirs of Blandford Candy, the last surviving Roundhead. Laid out like Flashman’s memoirs it tells the story of the early days of the First of the Civil Wars in the mid seventeenth century. I’ve just finished reading the ARC and will write a review next week.
How long have you been writing for and what made you start writing?
I have always scribbled bits and bobs, ever since I as a child, but I kept it to myself mainly. The opening to The Last Roundhead came to me one afternoon when I was teaching in Hounslow, but then it sat on my laptop untouched. I came back to Wales in 2010, after my father died and Mum was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and COPD, and started to write more productively. I wrote a local history for the centenary of the village rugby club in 2012. In the Summer of 2013, with a long Summer ahead of me, I came across the Roundhead file and started working on it again.
Do you write for a living, or do you also do other work?
I teach part-time.
How did you get into being a professional writer, and how much effort did it take to be able to write your novel?
Online writing communities such as YouWriteOn funded by the British Arts Council and Harper Collins Authonomy site were central in helping me get published. Some of the support and advice I got on there was invaluable. I won awards on both sites and John Bayliss (the author of the brilliant DI Springer novels) suggested I submit to Holland House Books. Luckily for me Robert Peet at HH saw something worthwhile in that first draft to work on, and I had the advice of one of their editors as I finished it. It takes discipline to write every day, and some days it’s easier than others, but it’s very satisfying.
Were you always good at telling stories, or has it come to you as an adult?
Ha! Good at spouting bull, I think my friends would say. I’ve always written little stories and ideas but as I said kept them to myself. My grandfather was a born storyteller, and I would listen to his tales as a child; I think that certainly had an impact. And, there has always been a fascination with History, most historians are storytellers at heart. The English Civil War has always been of interest – it’s probably the most important period in the development of the UK – but is often overshadowed. Bringing that period to life and telling the personal stories of those momentous events is important I think. At school it is a period studied in Year 8 (12-13 year olds) but rarely looked at afterwards, that is a shame. There is a lot more to our past than the Second World War!
Were you good at English in school?
Well, my first degree is combined studies History and English, and I always enjoyed literature, but my English masters at school wouldn’t have considered me one of their better students, I fear.
What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?
Read! Read! Read! and Write! Write! Write!
What is the most useful advice you’ve been given?
As above. A lot of people talk about writing a book, some will even start and stop after a couple of chapters. Get the first draft finished and then re-work and edit.
What is the strangest advice you’ve been given?
Why don’t you turn your Civil War romp into a time slip romance? Seriously.
How do you deal with the stranger reviews?
I try to take all of them with a pinch of salt – good, bad, or strange. Most reviewers say something that makes you think about your work critically and that’s always good.
Who do you write for?
Anyone who likes history with a bit of humour thrown in.
What sort of things do you write?
Historical Fiction, and I have dabbled with Heroic Fantasy.
What do you have in the drawer? (i.e. what have you written but not yet published)
Gosh, I have about twenty Blandford Candy books sketched out, I have an idea for a YA book about Turold the Dwarf, who fought at the Battle of Hastings for the Normans, and is one of the few named figures in the Bayeaux Tapestry. A micro-history of the Peterloo Massacre is something else that could be completely different from the Roundhead books.
Describe your writing process, what, where, when and how please?
I write best late at night in bed, and edit best early in the morning over a coffee. Getting the first draft down is like pulling teeth, but once that is done, the process of reworking and editing is something I really enjoy. Finding the right word or phrase is like doing a giant crossword.
Where can we read your words?
The Last Roundhead is on pre-order now on Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith, independent bookshops etc. Support your local bookshop, I say!
The Last Roundhead (Amazon UK)
My blog – http://jemahlevans.wix.com/jemahlevans
And you can follow me @Temulkar on twitter.
The Last Roundhead on Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25563432-the-last-roundhead