Interview with Alex Mahon
Author of Jake of all Trades
A.T. Mahon has written features and stories for various publications and was a joint winner in the 'Scotland into the Future' contest run jointly by Canongate and The Sunday Herald in 1999. He now lives in Spain with his wife and cat.
When he's not teaching English to students, whose high level of English surpasses most native speakers, he treks in the Pyrenees, or unsuccessfully fends off the cat who occupies the chair at his writing desk when not in use. Advice on how to entice him off it would be greatly appreciated.
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How would you describe Jake of all Trades to a new reader?
- It's a hardboiled mystery featuring a hardened criminal who is his unqualified and unskilled, which means he has to learn the job as he goes along. In this story he is hired to find a missing schoolgirl by any means fair or foul.
To what extent is Jake of all Trades based on your own experiences?
- I grew up with people like him when I lived in Glasgow. Though they were rough characters, they were okay as long as they never saw you as a threat.
Jake of all Trades is a good example of this genre. Who has inspired you?
- I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane also features a no-nonsense protagonist, though mine doesn't have the qualifications to be a P.I.
You make good use of locations in the book – there’s a real sense of place. Are these locations significant for you?
- Yes, the locations are real, though the names have changed. I've lived in such places or heard about them from others, so I've experienced what life is like there.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors? How would you advise a new author about traditional publishing versus self publishing?
- Both are fine, but as I've noticed, in Britain, we're still paperback lovers, so publish your stories using both methods.
Which authors do you most admire? Which qualities, in particular, have influenced your writing?
- My taste in authors is like my taste in music. I love a variety of styles and genres. I admire any author whose story maintains my interest throughout, whether it's a short story or an epic.
Jake of all Trades is a thrilling read, a real page turner. How important was it to you to write with pace and energy?
- I prefer to move things along quickly as daily life is mostly humdrum, interspersed with moments of activity. The active moments are what we want to read about, though it's good to slow the pace for the reader to catch their breath.
If Jake of all Trades was to be adapted for TV or film, who would you see in the lead role? Who did you have in your mind’s eye when you wrote him/her?
- I didn't have anybody in mind when I wrote it. But I'd prefer an unknown actor as somebody famous would seem out of place in such ordinary settings.
How have readers responded to Jake of all Trades?
- It's just out and I've only tweeted it so far to get the feel of how things are. But I've sold a few copies in Britain, despite not advertising it anywhere except on Twitter and Facebook.
Where next? What are you working on now?
- I'm working on a second book featuring the same character. After that I may write in a different genre, maybe fantasy.
Jake is not long out of prison for violence and takes on any job he can get. He is also a private investigator, though he doesn't have a license, despite what his fake qualifications state.
Mrs Carson, his ex-teacher, hires him. They despise each other, but they forego their animosities for the sake of the job in hand. She wants him to find a missing schoolgirl by any means possible. In doing so, he comes face to face with perverts, rapists and gangsters.
With little information to go on, he has to cut corners, which includes aggression.
Along the way, he not only discovers the who's who of the underworld, but also who he really is. It's a far different picture than the self portrait he had painted of himself.
Things come to a head when he confronts both the antagonists and his own demons.