Today I’d like to introduce you to A.J.Griffiths-Jones who was born near Shrewsbury, Shropshire. She has traveled extensively in her career and has recently returned to England after ten years working as Language Training Manager for a prominent bank in Shanghai. A.J. has studied genealogy for many years and has a special interest in the world of Victorian crime.
After researching the life of notorious poisoner Dr.Thomas Neill Cream for many years, her debut book ‘Prisoner 4374’ was published in May 2015.
She is currently working on a second ‘Jack the Ripper’ related book, together with a series of novels.
Hi A.J. Please Introduce us to your Blog. What is it all about? What sorts of posts do you lean towards?
I like to keep my website as varied as possible as I have a lot of interests & I’m very aware that my readers come from all walks of life. I post book reviews, original recipes that I’ve created, updates on my historical research, things that I love & I have recently started interviewing celebrities in a page called ‘Five Minutes With…’where they are asked a few random questions for fun.
What Inspires and stirs your creativity?
I’ve always been inspired by history, in any shape or form, whether it be people, events or fashion. I love to research a subject first & then put a new spin on an old tale.
Conversely, what do you find difficult to write about?
I am hopeless at writing about romance. I’m a bit of a closed book when it comes to emotions & any scenes that require a splash of love I struggle with.
What Message, if any, do you hope to Share through your blog/posts?
I would love for my readers to grasp how much time & effort goes into creating a book & to understand that not authors are millionaires. There are so many fantastic writers struggling to get their books seen & talked about, so I try to introduce new & upcoming authors at every opportunity.
How has your blog helped you as a writer/Indie Author? What things have you learned along the way that you never anticipated?
I have earned a lot of respect in crime circles, that being my main area of expertise & interest, which has given me the opportunity to share parts of my work that my readers wouldn’t usually be exposed to. It’s also taught me never to take things for granted, as you never know what’s just around the corner.
What Inspired you to write your book?
I have been researching the unsolved crimes of ‘Jack the Ripper’ for as long as I can remember & after a serious illness I was unable to work, which gave me the opportunity to create my first book. After that, I decided to try my hand at writing cosy mysteries, inspired by tales that my grandmother had told me. Five mystery books later, I’m now looking at new ways to challenge myself.
From what Point of View do you prefer to write? Is there a reason?
I like to put myself in the shoes of the person that I’m writing about, to imagine what they’re seeing, thinking, doing & even smelling, to try to get a very real perspective on my characters. My first book, ‘Prisoner 4374’ was written in an autobiographical sense & really helped readers to understand the man behind the crimes.
How would you describe your “Voice” or Style of writing?
I have a very dry sense of humour which I think shows through in my writing. My characters often roll their eyes or have exaggerated mannerisms & quirky personalities. I can be quite ‘deep’ too, depending on what I’m working on & I’m not afraid to experiment with different styles.
What genre do you prefer to write or are you truly eclectic?
I prefer historical crime but realise that to grow as a writer I must be prepared to try different genres. I recently completed my very first children’s book, which was completely out of my comfort zone. I’m pleased with the result and it’s helped me to explore a whole new creative side that I didn’t know I had.
Do you painstakingly plot out your story; are you a discovery writer or a bit of both? Why?
I always plot out the bare bones of my stories & create the characters by making profiles before starting. I like to know everything about them before writing, their likes/dislikes, how they’re connected to other characters, what they look like, how they speak etc. The only thing that I don’t do is decide upon the ending, I like my characters to lead me along & shock me in the last chapter.
Do you have a favourite or least favourite character? And Why?
My favourite character is Grace from ‘The Seasiders’, the long suffering wife of lazy, overweight Dick. Set in the 1960s, this book shows how traditional women were in those days, taking care of the home, cooking meals from scratch every day & treating a night out at the local pub as a big event. Grace is also a free spirit in her own way, which readers will see as they progress through the tale, and she has a few ingenious surprises up her sleeve!
Share an insight or secret about your book(s).
When writing ‘Prisoner 4374’, my Ripper suspect book, I put up photographs of Dr. Cream, my subject, on my desk & all the writing was done at night by candlelight, because I wanted to feel as though he were penning his own story. I’ve used actual sentences from Cream’s prison files & letters to add to the authenticity and there are actually two chapters in the book that feel more like they came directly from me than him. Weird I know but it works well.
What do you feel is your best advice to share with other aspiring authors?
I believe that there is a reader for everyone. You can’t expect to write a bestseller first time around, and you may need to try several different genres before you find your comfort zone but keep at it & listen to your readers.
Would you like to share an excerpt from the book or a poem or two to give readers an idea what you offer?
This is from ‘Prisoner 4374’, the end of Chapter Nine : ‘For now I will leave you with the vision of Dr. Thomas Neill relaxing in front of a roaring fire, with legs stretched out akimbo, boots strewn across the floor and a good book at his side. A plentiful supply of opiates lined the infamous medical bag and a fully replenished stream of murderous deeds furnished the good doctor’s dreams. Life was grand, and it was just about to get better.’
If you had to describe yourself to someone who has never met you, what might you say?
I’m easy going & take life one day at a time. I’m passionate about things that I believe in & non-confrontational about the things I don’t agree with, although I don’t take criticism easily. I’m young in my outlook & terrified of old age but I try to enjoy everything that I do & live life to the full.
If you could meet one person from the past, who might it be and why?
I would love to meet Albert Einstein. He was an eccentric genius, with a crazy fashion sense. I’d love to hear his thoughts on today’s world & with that twinkle in his eye, I know we’d have a good giggle.
When you are NOT writing, what is your favourite pastime?
I love travelling & with that comes reading, naturally. Having lived in China for a decade, I’m very curious about other cultures & lifestyles. After finishing writing each new book, I usually book a holiday with my husband & most of the time it’s to a different location. This also gives me chance to catch up on some new author’s work & recharge my batteries, so to speak.
Describe Your Dream Getaway Destination. Have you ever been there? What makes this place Irresistible to you?
I love New Zealand. We travelled around both islands in a winnebago about seven years ago & the scenery was spectacular. Some days we would be on the road & not see another vehicle for hours. You can be on a beach watching seals at breakfast & have supper in the shadow of a mountain glacier, it’s just the most diverse country that I’ve ever been to.
Do you have a Mantra?
Work hard, play hard. Seriously, you only get one shot at life so I work hard & then enjoy the fruits of my labour with some serious relaxation. I’m married but don’t have children which gives us the freedom to explore the globe & chill out with spa breaks, but when we’re working, we work very, very hard.
What “Charity” or “Cause” do you feel passionately about & Why?
I’m passionate about many charities & causes but having had friends & family members who’ve had cancer, I would have to say that the MacMillan Trust is top of my list. The nurses there do a fantastic job of caring for both the ill & their family members and very often go above & beyond their duties to ensure that the cancer treatment, after effects and sometimes death, is dealt with in the most sympathetic & professional manner. They really are amazing.
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