Saturday, 24 October 2015

CJ HEATH, Author Spotlight

Authors Spotlight CJ Heath

I am very pleased to introduce you to Author CJ Heath, who is with us today participating in our Author Spotlight.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Chris Heath though I publish as CJ Heath (no strategy involved here, it’s simply there is a website for Chris Heath already and I wanted to avoid confusion) a 46-year-old married father of three and I’ve been with my wife since I was eighteen. 2015 will see our 25th wedding anniversary so I guess it’s reasonable to assume I’m something of a family man. I’ve lived all my life in England, first in Hampshire, then I moved the great distance of seven miles to Surrey. If writing ever funds me sufficiently, I’ll make a bold retreat all the way to Wales (Snowdonia) where my heart tells me I should live.

I’ve been many things in my life moving through various forms of retail to spend 14 years as in Security for the Ministry of Defence (including a time as a dog handler). It was a round of budget ‘efficiencies’ that caused me to write. I have always written stories but in January 2014 I received a payment that allowed me to leave the MoD and spend six months writing full time. That was the start of my career. Too soon the money ran out and I’m now employed within the Highways Agency but the time off permitted me to set a discipline I adhere to now. When I’m not working, I’m up at 6am and sat writing before seven for the best part of the morning.

Of my writing, I tend to write emotive tales. Something within me makes me want to look into the hearts and minds of my characters. I may sound cruel, but I want the reader to feel the pain and if I can bring tears to the reader I feel I’ve succeeded in my aim.

Tell us about your latest book/series.  If yours is a series please tell us the order they should be read in.

My most recent book published is The Gypsy’s Lie.
Ostensibly it’s a weepy, a piece of indulgent chick-lit but it’s categorized in the LGBT, coming of age, romance genres so as to not mislead the reader. Set in 1953 England, the main character is, surprise, surprise, a gypsy. Mickey Ray is a pure Romany, engaged to a girl he’s known since childhood, the son of the camp leader and a bare-knuckle prizefighter. What he’s never told anybody is he’s gay. He’s living a lie and expects to pretend for his entire life, but then he meets Tom, a quiet, bullied local boy and as a relationship begins to grow, his fiancé learns Mickey’s secret but is still determined to make him her man.
The story concentrates on the emotional entanglements and avoids anything that may be considered erotic. It’s a gentle story rooted in the history of the time and the culture of the Romany.

Tell us about your Work in Progress

My current story, only just begun but plotted a year ago is something different for me. Untitled as yet, it’s a reworking of an old Welsh faerie tale. The synopsis is simple in that a young man encounters a girl of the fair folk and subsequently marries her with the caveat that should she be struck by iron, she will be lost to him. The conflict is generated by a violent miner jealous of the young man and risk is introduced by the young man being an apprentice blacksmith. It feels like a fun story and though I’ve lived this for some time, I’m waiting for it to surprise me.

What inspires your writing?

My imagination sparks every story and the initial prompt can be anything from a song lyric, a location, an unusual name. Most often, I see the close of my story like the end of a film and I have to work a story around that image. Once I’ve seen the end I have to figure out what scenarios caused that situation. Sometimes the reverse engineering of the plot births a story very different to what I’d originally envisioned. Ultimately, after a few weeks of learning about my characters, they start to steer me through the story.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Mainly work and sleep. I am a shift worker and work 12-hour shifts which means I work for four days (or nights) and then have four days off. Every day off I can be found in my local Starbucks for the first three or four hours of the day with my laptop (curiously, they all know how I like my coffee). The remainder of the day is mundane such as shopping or impersonating a taxi for my wife and three sons. When the evening arrives, I become a film addict until it’s time to sleep.

How hard was it to get your first book published?

My first book, “Her Name is James” was completed in May 2014 and initially I sent it to one agent. It didn’t feel right to submit it to many people at once (though I understand this is exactly what an author is supposed to do). I waited, and waited, and waited. Eventually, I received the response that the agency didn’t handle my genre of story. Well, I was unwilling to wait so long again and with a complete dread I self-published

Did you find it hard to think of names for your characters or did they just pop into your head?

Finding names is simple, finding names that don’t match those of people I know is hard. I tend to explore baby name websites or stroll through graveyards for inspiration but occasionally. In my Dark Angel trilogy, I needed archaic names, for Gypsy’s Lie I needed names popular in the early fifties and in Her Name is James I needed everyday names for the early nineties.

Do you prefer stand-alone or series?

I prefer to write a stand-alone story although there is a commercial practicality to write a series. I found with my trilogy I had so many characters to update with, the start of the third book was little laboured and I had to sacrifice some action for the sake of character exposition

Do you read the genre you write about or do you prefer something different?

I mainly read fantasy; I’m not entirely sure how I’ve come to write what I do. I have nine stories in various stages of development and little by little I do seem to be stepping more toward fantasy but not in a wild, furious fashion, more a gentle creep into light fantasy such as the afore mentioned faerie tale and subtle supernatural touches in the world we know.

Now tell us about your absolute favourite book that you have read, and why it is special to you.

Legend by David Gemmell. Despite being  traditional fantasy the story is so rich with credible and flawed characters it’s a delight to keep rereading. David Gemmell avoided the usual clash of swords and having all problems solved by magic, he let his characters think and act as people genuinely would. I also love how he can have a coward or an assassin as the hero rather than relying on the format of a teenager coming into some hidden inheritance. How many stories can give you a lovable hero who is a sixty-year-old, rheumatic, unfriendly, stubborn son of a bitch?

How do you get your books to the attention of the public?

That is the question few authors can answer. Ultimately, the public brings a story to the public’s attention. It doesn’t matter how thoroughly you plug a publication on Facebook or pay for advertising on book sites, there are only three stages to attracting a readership; you need to write a cracking story, you need a great and honest blurb and you need people to tell others how much they love the book. For me, I’m hopeless at the blurb and the promotional side of things. I know my stories to such a depth I find it impossible to encapsulate the story in a short synopsis that doesn’t give the game away. I’m blessed with some beautiful reviews but until word spreads, I shall remain in obscurity. I’m a writer, I write. I’m not a salesman and so, as poorly as my books may do in sales, I will still write, It’s my passion and though I want to be read, the fiscal side of things will only ever be a factor to me on the day I can write full-time.

Do you have a Street Team, or the likes?  If so would you like to share the link so our readers may consider joining?

I did have a Street Team, but I persuaded the wonderful ladies who set it up and ran it that I didn’t merit their efforts. I was ever so grateful, but I am too anonymous to be found in the posts among so many other authors. Maybe one day a Street team will be warranted but now is not that time.

Bio image 

(Below is the usual identity image I use across my social media and until recently, the only image of myself I was comfortable showing anybody. I’m a very shy guy even by author standards.)


 Buy links,

Her name is James
The Gypsy’s Lie
Dark Angel
Hell on Earth

Book covers

Thank you, Christopher, for participating in the Author Spotlight, I really appreciate your taking the time and effort out of your busy schedule to make this happen.  Good luck with your upcoming books, I shall be sure to keep watching to see what you publish next!!!

Thanks again