Publisher’s background Note: J.C. Martin’s story, ‘Just One Cut’, won third fiction prize in the pixelhose.com First Writing Competition and is included in 22 Naked Bodies Inside, a short story collection that resulted from the competition. Her book, Oracle, has been published by J. Taylor Publishing.
Dourandish: Tell us a little bit about yourself:
Martin: I was born in Malaysia, where my childhood revolved around lots of books, animals (including dogs, chickens, rabbits, quails, fish, tortoises, and the odd cat), and exploring the overgrown woods near my house. After university, I worked in cancer research and as a Science teacher, before becoming a martial arts instructor and pursuing my writing career more seriously. Currently, I live in south London with my husband, newborn son, and three dogs.
Dourandish: When did you start writing?
Martin: The first ‘book’ I wrote was when I was eight or nine, where I stapled bits of scrap paper together to produce a comic series starring anthropomorphised versions of my then pet dogs. I wrote my first practice novel at fourteen. Since then, I wrote on and off, producing fanfiction short stories, some of which have been published.
Dourandish: When did you start writing seriously?!
Martin: I decided to seriously pursue writing as a career just three years ago. I started a novel, and changed careers to free up more time to concentrate on my writing. The result was Oracle, my first novel, published last summer.
Dourandish: Do you have a specific style? If so, how did you develop it. If not, why not?!
Martin: I read a lot of James Patterson’s Alex Cross novels growing up, and my other favourite authors are Richard Montanari and Boris Starling. I like to think that my writing style possess the fast, tight pacing of Patterson’s novels, with a dark psychological edge like Montanari’s and Starling’s works.
Dourandish: What kinds of stories do you (like to) tell?
Martin: I enjoy fast-paced mysteries dotted with tantalising clues that keep you guessing until the very end, with intriguing characters who, despite being thrust in extraordinary situations, live lives and possess qualities that make them relatable to readers.
Dourandish: How do you get your ideas?
Martin: Oracle was inspired by a combination of current affairs, when London won the bid for the last summer Olympics, and mythology. My current work-in-progress was inspired by various locations around London, and the history of the London Underground. Other story ideas have spawned from the world of science and technology, and from observing events and people around me. Oftentimes the story springs into mind when I ask myself “What if…?”
Dourandish: How, and how many times on average, do you edit a piece?
Martin: At least three times. For Oracle, my first novel, I edited my manuscript twice before querying/submitting. The novel underwent an additional three rounds of editing with the publishers before release.
Dourandish: How did you go about finding an agent and/or a publisher?
Martin: I started off querying agents the usual way, by first researching agencies to find those who represent crime thrillers, and who may be interested in Oracle. I got a couple of full [manuscript] requests, with one agent seeming particularly interested. However, after sending in my full manuscript, I heard nothing back from said agent for weeks. This was at the start of 2012. As Oracle is set in London in the run-up to the Olympics, I wanted the book to be released in time for that. Bearing in mind how slow the wheels of publishing turn, the likelihood of that happening was appearing slim at best should I continue waiting on that one agent. I decided to submit Oracle directly to publishers instead. There are, after all, some very good independent publishers out there that accept unagented submissions. One of these is J. Taylor Publishing. Within days of submission, they requested a full [manuscript], and within a week, offered me a publishing deal.
Dourandish: Tell us about rejection.
Martin: It’s part and parcel of being a writer. Unless you are very fortunate or talented, you will experience rejection in some form along the way. The important thing is to never let rejection discourage you. Don’t forget, the “No” you receive from one publisher/agent is just one person’s opinion.
Dourandish: Tell us about some of your successes.
Martin: My biggest achievement to date is getting my first novel published. Apart from that, I have a handful of short stories published online and in magazines, as well as won some writing contests, including 3rd prize in Pixelhose’s short story competition.
Dourandish: What have you learned from your writing experiences that you consider invaluable?
Martin: I’ve learned that, well, you never stop learning as writer. Every story you write hones your skill in some way, so the longer and more often you write, the better a writer you become.
Dourandish: Where can our readers find out more about you?
Martin: You can find out more about my writing on my website, JC-Martin.com, or follow my blog, Fighter Writer, for book-related news. I can also be found on Twitter and Facebook. Oracle is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both print and e-book formats. For a sample of my writing style, you could download my horror novelette, The Doll from Smashwords, for free.