Peter St John is another author I’ve met through the Awesome Indies. He’s been a great online friend to me, always supportive and helpful. So this interview is to help me get to know him better and for you, dear reader, to find out about this lovely man and take a look at his very unique books.
You’ll not only get to know him a little bit, but you’ll also get some insight into Jenno, the central character in his Gang Series, and one who often delights me online with little drawings and insightful sayings. Actually, you’ll probably get more insight into Jenno than Peter! Anyway read on because it’s a fun interview.
Hi Peter, tell me about your latest book.
The latest book “Gang America” is the seventh in the “Gang” series. It was published in August 2016. It’s got an American B17 bomber on the cover. (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1781325413)
It’s got me on the cover an’ all.
Please be quiet, Jenno.
Wot d’yew mean, be quiet? Tahlia’s interviewin’ both of us ain’t she? An’ any’ow, moi picture on the cover is a whole lot more important than yer stupid bomber. It’s wot the book’s all about, ain’t it?
I was coming to that; Jenno, if you’d only give me a chance.
Yeah, well – only yew should tell Tahlia as ‘ow that’s a picture of me in moi racin’ cart. An’ the book is all about ‘ow we went ter war against the American Air Force because of wot they did when they come to England ter fight against Hitler an’ the Nazis. Only it were us wot ‘ad ter fight against the Americans ter get back our roights wot they ‘ad pinched.
Thank you, Jenno, for your explanation of what the novel is about, only you didn’t say that it also has something to do with racial prejudice.
Yeah, yeah okay, but the real important part is about ‘ow us kids showed our British bulldog spirit against them invadin’ Yanks. Any’ow, Oi reckon as ‘ow we ‘elped ‘em a bit ter win the war an’ all. Cripes, sometimes yew got ter show a bit o’ patriotism.
You’re not wrong, Jenno, but I think you must admit that the Americans showed more than ordinary patriotism when they entered the war on our side.
Sounds great, now tell us about yourself and why you write.
Cripes, Tahlia, if’n Oi know PStJ, loike wot Oi do, ‘ee won’t never tell yew nuffink about ‘imself, ‘cos that’s the way ‘ee is. Oi c’n tell yew though as ‘ow ‘ee were an evacuee wot come ter moi village o’ Widdlin’ton from the London bombin’ at the beginnin’ of the war. The orphanage in London where ‘ee were, got ‘it by a bomb, see – only ‘ee don’t like ter talk about it.
Please Jenno, that’s enough. I would just like to add that the seven “Gang” books, although fictitious, are in large part based on problems and issues facing an evacuee who came to Jenno’s village. As for why I write, it’s probably because I believe it’s something I am able to do reasonably well, and can have fun doing.
Yeah, but yew ain’t said as ‘ow it’s me wot ‘as ter keep yew up ter it, ‘cos wivvout me lookin’ over yer shoulder ter jog yer mem’ry all the time, tellin’ you wot ter write an’ ‘ow ter write it, you wouldn’t ‘ardly never write nuffink wot was any good.
Jenno, you aren’t helping with the interview.
Huh, says yew. It ain’t fer nuffink that Oi’m on the cover of four of yer “famous” Gang books. So there… ( http://www.peterstjohn.net/ ). An’ cripes, Tahlia, Oi said yew wouldn’t get nuffink from ‘im about ‘imself, an’ Oi weren’t wrong, were Oi? If’n yew’d like ter see a bit more about ’im though, yew c’d take a look at: http://www.peterstjohn.net/index_56.htm .
There are lots of people writing books these days. What makes your writing different to all the rest?
Different, Tahlia? Cripes, did yew say different? PStJ’s books are real different. First of all ‘cos Oi’m in ‘em, and second, ‘cos me an’ some of the ovver characters use proper English instead o’ the posh stuff wot PStJ speaks – wot yew don’t find all that often in ovver books. Oi tried one time ter teach ‘im proper English, but Oi ‘ave ter say ‘as ‘ow ‘ee ain’t got no talent fer it. Even now, ‘ee still says “yoo” instead of a proper “yew”. See wot Oi mean?
Please, Jenno, that’ll do.
What Jenno means is, that she, as well as a few of her friends, speak in dialect. It doesn’t mean that the whole of the text is written that way, thank goodness. Besides, Jenno is perfectly capable of speaking what she calls “posh” English, when she has a mind to, as for instance, when speaking to her head mistress at school.
What genre do you write, and why?
“Genre”? Cripes that’s a posh word, if’n yew loike…!
It’s French, Jenno. It means kind, or category.
D’yew fink Oi’m ignorant, Oi know wot it means, but why can’t people use proper English words instead o’ Froggy stuff like “genre”. An’ then there’s yew goin’ all posh on me wiv “category”.
“Genre” is used by people whose profession is books and writing.
Yeah okay, Oi unnerstand. So wot sort o’ books do yew write then? Hah, Oi bet yew can’t answer.
For once, Jenno, you’d win your bet, because the genre “Nine to Ninety-nine” doesn’t yet exist, and most of my stuff doesn’t really fit any of the standard categories.
Cripes, is that anovver reason why yer writin’ is diff’rent ter all the rest?
You may be right, Jenno. And perhaps also because you play an important role in many of the stories.
Thank yew fer the compliment – but don’t that make yer genre, “Young Adult”?
You are not wrong, Jenno, provided it applies to every reader who remains young in heart – and doesn’t that mean nearly everybody?
Wot about “Crime” or “Thrillers” then?
You know very well that not all the “Gang” books are about crime. What crime or thrills there are, aren’t exactly what is usually found in that genre.
Is that why yew say yer stuff is a bit diff’rent?
Perhaps, Jenno, alas, because it means that the “Gang” books could end up on a misleading shelf in the library under “Historical Fiction”.
Don’t yew mean “Hysterical Fiction”…?
I mean nothing of the kind, Jenno. Please keep your hysterics to yourself.
LOL! Where do your ideas come from, or what inspires you to write?
Cripes, Tahlia, that’s a real easy question ter answer. PStJ’s ideas come from me, natch.
Pull your head in Jenno, before it gets even more swollen. The ideas I use, exist already “out there” in the world (and I don’t mean you, Jenno). All I do is clothe them with images and memories drawn from my own experience. It’s fun to capture ideas in this way, and the process is enjoyable. I hope, therefore, that those who read the result will also find enjoyment in what I write.
Huh, ‘ark at ‘im wafflin’ on about ideas and enjoyment. Cripes,‘ee wouldn’t be able ter do nuffink wivvout me promptin’ ‘im all the time, so there…
What kind of person would like your books best?
Moi daft bruvver,”Braces” would be best, Tahlia, so’s ‘ee’d show me more respect in future.
Jenno, I don’t think that’s the kind of answer that Tahlia was looking for. I think that, for readers, I’d like best those who had a certain nostalgia and/or respect for the values that motivated the World War II opposition to Nazi Germany. I’d also be pleased if youngsters, curious about the life of English village children in the 1940’s, and who enjoy adventures involving personal relationships, would find them a fun read.
Cripes, yeah – they could learn somefink about kids’ gangs and soapbox-cart racin’ an’ lots of ovver int’restin’ stuff an’ all. An’ any’ow, Oi reckon as ‘ow the stories are real excitin’.
Some people have been kind enough to say the same, Jenno. (http://jennospot.blogspot.fr/2012/11/gang-territory.html)
Why did you choose the indie route to publication? Did you never try the traditional route?
Cripes, Tahlia, wot are yew on about wiv the “indie route”? The “Gang” books ain’t got nuffink ter do wiv India…
Please be quiet, Jenno. Independent publishing came in after your time.
In point of fact, Tahlia, indie publishing was not my first choice, because several of my books were originally published as “mainstream works” by a traditional publisher, before he went out of business. With his disappearance, I had to cast around for an alternative, and discovered the “empowered” publishing of SilverWood Books Ltd. It was a real pleasure to work with SilverWood after the long, wearying, and frustrating hassle of the traditional route. ( http://silverwoodbooks.co.uk/ )
What’s the hardest part of being an author?
Perhaps the hardest part is keeping one’s characters, like Jenno, in line and following the plot. They tend to want to go off and do their own thing in their own way.
Wot d’yew mean about keepin’ me in line. Oi’ll ‘ave yew know, that wivvout me ter be remindin’ yew of wot ter write, an’ stoppin’ yew from usin’ too much posh English, yew wouldn’t ‘ave written no books at all.
All right, Jenno, I’m sorry. Perhaps the hardest part of being an author is the publicity and marketing, which takes up a great deal of time for little return.
That’s better, but don’t yew go a-sayin’ as ‘ow Oi don’t ‘elp yew with the marketin’ – wot about moi six free books an’ all, on Smashwords…?
Yes, thank you, Jenno. You certainly help to bring some fun to marketing.
Huh, talk about ingratitude – keepin’ me in line, indeed…!
If you could have one wish granted, what would it be?
To have an agent who would take care of publicity and marketing for me
Cripes, wot about me then?
Please, Jenno, your help is much appreciated, but it’s not quite what I had in mind.
Huh, some people ain’t never satisfied…
I love you, Jenno, but this question if for Peter. What is the most unusual object you possess?
I have a brick, embossed with the word “Kourou”, from the former prison in French Guiana. I picked it up on the beach of the infamous Devil’s Island.
Yeah, an’ sometimes Oi wish they’d kept yew there…
Jenno, please – I thought we were friends.
Yeah okay, we’re friends. But jus’ stop goin’ on about keepin’ me in line then. An’ why don’t yew tell Tahlia about the model of my cart, “Emmeline P”, wot yew’ve got in yer livin’ room. Ain’t that an unusual object?
It is indeed, very unusual, Jenno. And it’s a constant, happy reminder of you.
Huh, that’s better – but not much…
Why do you have a model of Jenno’s cart in your living room?
Soapbox cart making and racing, is very much a tradition in Jenno’s village of Widdlington. It therefore plays an important role in the “Gang” books, not least as a metaphor for some parts of the plot; as a way of describing the personal characteristics of the children and their interactions; and as a background against which some of the problems and conflicts are played out. Jenno’s cart is named after the famous suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst – which immediately tells the reader something important about Jenno’s own character.
I made a half-scale model of Jenno’s cart, which stands on a shelf of my bookcase. It can be dismantled, and carried easily to book shows and other events, where it makes an eye-catching showcase for the seven “Gang” books.
So, Tahlia, we’ve done our best to reply to your questions. I hope the dialogue hasn’t been too stressful for you, but as a fellow novelist, I feel sure that you will understand how it is sometimes, when you get into a creative literary discussion.
It only remains for Jenno and me to thank you warmly for this opportunity to share, with you and others, something of what it is like to be an author, as well as to be an author’s “inspiration”.
Cripes yeah, Tahlia, ‘cos this is the first interview wot Oi ever done – ‘cept fer the BBC, o’ corse, when Peter and me went ter London an’ saw Tower Bridge when the bombs were still a-fallin’all around. Cripes, that were an inspiration if’n yew like!
With my very best wishes, and luv from Jenno…