M. Jonathan Lee is a nationally shortlisted British author. His debut novel, The Radio was nationally shortlisted in The Novel Prize 2012. He has released four further novels, The Page, A Tiny Feeling of Fear, Broken Branches, and the critically acclaimed Drift Stumble Fall. His sixth and latest novel, “337“ will be published November 30, 2020 by Hideaway Fall.
M. Jonathan Lee was born in Yorkshire, England where he still lives today with his wife, children and dog, Alfie.
The author kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions and I’m delighted to share his answers with you today.
- Congratulations on your latest novel “337” which will soon be published by Hideaway Fall! What do you think has been the most instrumental factor in your success as a novelist so far?
Probably honesty. I try to be as honest as I can with all my writing which in some ways reflects the time period in my own life. I try to get inside the characters, to actually feel them.
- What was the inspiration behind writing “337”?
My grandmother was in a nursing home and I sat alongside her in the last few days. I was acutely aware of the fact that there was so much knowledge lost forever at that moment. I then began to weave a story around this. What if she had a secret that could only be solved whilst she was alive, that kind of thing.
- How long did the writing process take?
In total from sitting down to do the first word to finishing was six weeks. After my editor got her hands on it, it took me about another three weeks to edit.
- Do you create an outline or time-line before you begin the actual writing process?
No, I have the main characters in my head and a one sentence, “It’s a story about a woman dying who knows what happened to the main characters missing mother” synopsis. I have run and re-run the story and scenes in my mind hundreds of times and so when writing the whole thing just flows.
- Did you have family and/or friends proof-read your novel, or did you depend on your publisher’s editorial staff?
My editor, Charlie Wilson (shout out to @LandmarkEdit – she’d love to see this comment). She’s amazing. I’ve had her since book one and I’m not letting her go.
- Are you a people watcher? Are your characters based upon the people you meet?
Very much so. My characters are generally a fusion of three or four people. Some are completely made up.
- How important do you feel setting plays in novels? Do you think a writer can write convincingly of a setting that they’ve never visited?
I try to write about places I’ve visited and actually smelled the air. I even went to Prague for a scene when writing A Tiny Feeling of Fear (which remains my favourite book). Its obviously easier to write when you know.
- How important is the reading of FICTION in general? (especially in our present climate of social and environmental upheaval)
Absolutely vital. Storytelling in whatever form is essential to humans. We have a tendency to be comparative and hearing how others live their lives is vital for existence, in every way.
- What did you do for a living before you became an established novelist?
I managed a tax and trust department at a Financial Advisors’ in Leeds. I left to concentrate more on writing in 2015.
- I’ve learned you lost a brother to suicide. How much has this traumatic event influenced your writing?
Very much. It inspired me to write The Radio which in some ways I believe saved my own life. I cannot describe the cathartic benefits to me. Sorry, that’s brought tears to my eyes.
- How are the covers chosen for your books? Are they your personal choice, the publishers…?
The whole book is a concept to me, so the covers are vital to the reading experience. I get very involved as far as directing illustrators and artists with my vision of how the cover should look. I am of course ably assisted by the very arty Sarah who I’ve worked together with for around 19 years.
- Have you ever been so wrapped up in your characters that you dream about them at night?
I’ve definitely dreamed about scenes. So yes, I suppose I have.
- I feel all writers must also be avid readers. What type of books do you read for pleasure?
My reading is hopeless at the moment! I don’t think I’ve bothered to finish any book since lockdown. I don’t know why, I am just picking up books that by a certain point bore me. I usually read psychological fiction (a bit like what I write) or true crime type stuff. I love Nick Hornby. And Mark Haddon.
- If you could sit and enjoy a chat and beer with another contemporary novelist – who would it be?
Nick Hornby without question. He loves music as much as I do!
- What thriller novelist writing today do you most admire? Why?
Er, earlier in the year I read “The Collini Case” for the first time. Wow.
- What current novelist do you feel is underrated or deserves to be more well known? (I like to ask this question because it gives me and my readers fodder for our TBRs!)
I’d be happy for that one to be me 😉
- Where do you physically write? At the kitchen table, in an office, etc.?
I have a room that used to be the garage where I write. Its full of guitars, records, the house printer and my desk and keyboard.
- What part of your career as a novelist do you dislike the most?
I think the initial disappointment that comes after The Radio was released and I found that I was alone and the sales relied entirely on me. Its kind of an explosion of excitement when the book came out followed by nothing. I thought the publisher would promote everywhere but instead that was left to me.
- What interview question have you not been asked yet that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
What a brilliant question. I guess after 8 years I would have expected: What does the M in your name stand for? I have never been asked this question. Not ever.
Actually, the ‘M’ doesn’t mean anything. When Jonathan first got published there was already a Jonathan Lee on the author scene, and our Jonathan didn’t have a middle initial to use so he made one up: ‘M’ for Meaningless!
- How do you wish to be contacted by ‘fans’? Do you prefer Facebook? Twitter? Your own blog?
I’m happy for people to get in touch via facebook (https://www.facebook.com/JonathanLeeAuthor/inbox)
or twitter (https://twitter.com/MJonathanLee)
or email me direct: email@example.com
Thank-you very much for visiting Fictionophile today Mr. Lee. I very much enjoyed reading the answers to your questions.