Alan Jones isn’t my real name; I write under a pen name. It’s for a reason that no longer has any significance, but I decided to stick with it.
I retired a year or so ago as a veterinary surgeon in a practice I started up over thirty years ago in Girvan, a small Scottish seaside town on the Clyde Coast. Around half my time was spent working on farms, the other half with people’s pets. When I started writing, the stories that came into my head were gritty and violent, inspired by some of the characters I’d come across in my childhood, in and around Glasgow, using the language, the blackness, and the humour of the city I’d grown up in.
Although I knew my patients wouldn’t care, I didn’t think this would sit well with my clients , that my imaginings weren’t quite fitting with the professional, caring image they looked for in a vet. I was especially worried about the fairer sex among my clients, especially those of a more mature age.
It was an error of judgement, I’ll admit. I’d done little market research, and it wasn’t until I started attending crime book festivals I discovered that a high percentage of gritty crime readers are women, many of them in the over-50 age bracket like myself, and it was more often than not a male reader who complained about gratuitous sex, violence, or bad language in my books. As far as some of my female readers were concerned, it seemed the grittier the writing, the better.
Now, because I’m retired and, for the last five years, the genre I write in has been WW2 \ Holocaust historical fiction, I could have chosen to use my real name (which shouldn’t be too hard to find), but I felt that I’d built up a loyal following of readers under my pen name, some of whom might be willing to give a different genre a try because they like the way I write. This turned out to be a reasonable assumption, with some of the Sturmtaucher Trilogy’s most enthusiastic supporters being previously dyed-in-the-wool crime fiction addicts.
I started writing over ten years ago, and published my first three books in 2013, 2014 and 2016 and although, Bloq, the last book, did very well, it wasn’t enough for me to sack the day job.
My life as a rural vet allowed me to live and work in a beautiful part of the world. When I look out my front window, Ailsa Craig, Ireland, Arran and the Mull of Kintyre are the backdrop to the view I have, and I within a hundred yards of my front door I can be strolling along a two-mile sandy beach.
A ten minute walk in the opposite direction has me in the hills surrounding the town, and the harbour, where I keep my rather elderly boat, is five minutes away.
It’s also a two minute run to the harbour – The local RNLI lifeboat station is there and, for the last couple of years, I’ve been one of the coxswains.
When the pagers go off, I don’t have far to go. I’ll be doing a blog post about the RNLI and me in the near future, so watch this space.
Away from writing, I love reading, although I’ve hardly touched fiction since starting to write the Sturmtaucher Trilogy, as I was so immersed in researching, writing and editing, though I did read a pile of non-fiction connected with WW2 and the Holocaust. I also sail, and I love cooking, and a good film. I’ve not had much time for television, so have missed some really good stuff, which I’ll have to try to catch up on. I still play football, although I should probably know better at my age.
I also make furniture but, again, this has suffered while I was researching and writing the trilogy. In addition, I lost my workshop space when I retired – it was located in an outbuilding attached to the Surgery I built in 1990 when I set up the practice.
Only in November did I get the keys for my new workshop, an old stone barn on a nearby farm, and I’ve spent the last few months renovating it, flooring the loft, putting in electrics, and installing all my benches, tools and machinery.
It took me three days to move all the reclaimed wood and old furniture I’d gathered over the years, now better organised and stacked to allow me better to restore it, and build new furniture.
I’ll be doing a blog post soon about my progress, but here are some of the pieces I’ve made over the years – most of our furniture is hand-made, upcycled or restored.