Today I am absolutely thrilled to post the second in my new series of Author Interviews. Please let me introduce Brent Jones, who recently published his sophomore release Fender, (my review here). He is running 4.7 of 5 stars on Amazon and succeeded in garnering 18 reviews of 18 ratings on Goodreads! A record in itself!
His Amazon editorial reviews have been outstanding as well: “Brent is a kick-ass storyteller. . . . I have little doubt [Fender] will tug at the heartstrings of anyone who reads it.” –Dana Gore, Author of Choose Awareness
“[Fender] is as visceral as it should be. . . . There is laughter, tears, foul language, anger, more laughter and eventually, glimmers of hope . . . I can’t recommend this one enough.” –Shannon O’Sullivan, Book Reviewer (readsandreels.com)
The cover is sweet and catches the eye; few photos of beagles could not (catch the eye). Peaceful, inviting colors–haven’t we all wanted to ride into the sunset (sunrise(?)–okay–doesn’t matter–like we used to say in my motorcycle organization, “it’s the ride; not the destination.”)
Without further ado, I invite you to meet the young and extremely talented Brent Jones:
Let’s talk about your education and background…did you set out to write?
I’m a college dropout, actually. As a kid, I excelled in school, but after graduating high school, I lost interest. I’ve always enjoyed learning—reading and watching documentaries, for instance. I thought I might like to pursue teaching or journalism, but I ended up spending most of my twenties in sales. A few years ago, my wife and I bought our first home in Fort Erie, which is about 20 minutes outside of Niagara Falls. We started our own social media management business—an online agency of sorts—which I exited to write fiction full-time at the end of 2016. I always loved to write…
This is your second intensely character driven literary fiction novel–how did that focus come about?
Sometimes I’m asked why I write contemporary fiction. How come I don’t write about Martians or vampires or ghosts or zombies? The thing is, I think truth is often stranger than fiction. The demons most of us end up battling are internal. I’ve always enjoyed man versus self type stories, so that’s what I write. I like to explore how we, as humans, react to the most uncomfortable situations we could find ourselves in—situations that make the reader think, “That could happen to me, too.”
Your debut novel (The Fifteenth of June) centers on a family tragedy that forever changes remaining members–was yours a less than storybook childhood?
I had a good childhood, actually. I came from a working class family, raised in a (predominantly) blue collar town. My parents cared deeply about my brother and I, and busted their asses to provide for us. It wasn’t that my family encountered a ton of tragedy—certainly not as depicted in The Fifteenth of June—but all families encounter grief and loss at some point. It’s an experience I think most readers can relate to on some level.
How much of your books come from your own experience?
There’s a saying that authors ought to write what they know. I have no intention to write anything autobiographical, but I do often take seemingly unrelated experiences from my own life and find a way to blend them into works of fiction. Drew Thomson, for example, works briefly at a call center, which I did many years ago. Brennan Glover is coaxed out of bed by his dog at a difficult time, which is an experience I had at one point with my own dog, Gibson. Ideas conveyed within the story sometimes come from my own experiences, but never the main plot.
Do you spend a lot of time on research? i.e., we know the travel in this book stemmed from an extended trip by you and your wife southwest. Was there additional time in research over that on confirming landmarks, etc.?
When my wife and I traveled across America in 2015, we kept detailed notes on where we stayed, what we did, ate, saw… those notes became pretty valuable when writing Fender, as did the handful of photographs I took on the trip. But I did have to spend time using Google Maps and Google Street View to refresh myself on specific aspects of each setting. Some of it I invented, such as the surroundings on the Milwaukee River Walk. I described a bandstand in Fender, itching to be filled with music, but I don’t recall if there actually is a bandstand down there or not. The bar in Portland was entirely made up, too. I make up what I don’t know, or I ask someone who does know. For example, without giving too much away, I’m doing some research for an upcoming novel, and I’ve asked a local librarian if I could shadow her for a day to get a better idea of what she does. But sometimes, I’m just clueless. Drew Thomson, for instance, likes to smoke pot—I don’t. I have no moral opposition to it. I’ve just never enjoyed the sensation, so I leave that stuff alone. So I actually had to do research to figure out the difference between a joint, blunt, and spliff, because prior to writing The Fifteenth of June, I didn’t know there was a difference.
We know you and your wife own two dogs, neither of which is a beagle. Are the remarkable photos of the beagle a friend’s pet?
The beagle used on the cover is a stock photo, as is the one I use in the background of my social media cover photos. I have no idea who either of those dogs are, but using their likeness cost me only a couple bucks each.
Who created your cover and was it strictly from your instruction or their inspiration?
The cover of Fender was designed by a gentleman from Toronto named Michael Rehder. I found him through Reedsy. I had first envisioned the cover as a side profile of a sedan on the interstate, with Fender sticking his head out the window. The two main elements of the story I wanted to capture on the cover were the open road as a symbol for new beginnings, and Fender as a symbol for hope. Michael came back to me with an alternate design that he felt looked cleaner and expressed the same meaning. I agreed, and that’s how the design came together.
Do you have friends like the loyal and lovable Frankie and Rocco?
Not really. I’m a bit of an introverted loner, actually. I like to keep to myself, and I rarely make plans with others. I have a handful of good friends I keep in touch with and see every so often, but no friends with the type of bond that extends back to childhood.
What chapter of Fender gave you the most trouble?
I can’t actually say without giving away spoilers. Let’s just say I did plenty of research for one particular chapter, and I ended up watching hours of heartbreaking videos. Had to write between sobs.
You’ve recently created an audio book of your debut novel, The Fifteenth of June. Do you plan to create an audio book for Fender?
Yes! The man, the myth, the legend himself, Mr. Wyatt Baker will be narrating Fender, too. We just began production a couple days ago. I expect it will be available for purchase on Audible and iTunes by the end of October.
Getting any ideas for your next novel yet and will it stay genre loyal?
Over the next few months, I will be publishing several short stories. The first one, The Matchbook, is already complete, and I would say it stays fairly “genre loyal.” I’ve also started work on my next novel(s), and I don’t want to say too much yet as they’re still taking shape. What I can say is that I may be venturing outside of the literary / contemporary fiction genres a little, and I may also be publishing a series instead of a standalone novel.
How can we best contact you?
Any of your readers who subscribe to my email newsletter will be given free access to samples of my novels, as well as complete short stories—coming soon! It’s the best way to keep up to date on new releases, events, giveaways, and promotions. I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as @AuthorBrentJ.
I’m excited about the idea of a Brent Jones series and am looking forward to receiving your short stories! Brent’s books are available in digital download and print, and will both be on audio soon. Check out Fender, you’ll love this contemporary literary story and the beagle as much as I did! ©2017 Virginia Williams