The Writing Life of: Jem Tugwell
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Jem Tugwell. Jem will be sharing with us detail of his writing life, telling us all about his latest book ‘Proximity‘, which will be released on 6th June 2019 and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
Jem Tugwell is a crime fiction author with a Crime Writing MA from City University. Proximity is his thrilling debut novel, inspired by the fascinating possibilities of technology, AI and the law of unintended consequences.
In a past life, Jem had a successful career in investment management, and he now lives in Surrey with his wife. He has two great children and dog. Outside of his family and writing, Jem’s loves are snowboarding, old cars and bikes.
1) As a child did you have a dream job in mind?
I don’t remember having a specific dream job, but fantasies of sporting heroics at cricket, bike racing, football, etc. kept my mind spinning.
2) Who was your favourite childhood author (s)?
I tended to read the books by parents read – a lot of thrillers and crime. Anything from Dorothy L Sayers, to Frederick Forsyth, Wilbur Smith, etc.
Probably my favourite was Dick Francis. He always got such great pace into his stories, and managed to portray huge threat of violence without describing it in detail.
3) Was there a particular point in your life that you realised you wanted to be a writer?
It’s been a recurring ambition throughout my life, and have many half-started stories to show for it.
Only now do I have enough time to dedicate to writing. As all authors know, writing five or ten thousand words is not even close to the same thing as writing a whole book.
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any special routines, word count, etc?
My aim for an average writing day doesn’t usually happen. I write better in the morning, not so early that I’m still asleep, but from about 9am. If I can do three productive hours, I will probably stop and go to do other things to allow time for ideas to circulate and form for the next day. I find it much more productive if I write each day as I’m much more ‘in the story’.
It’s harder to write at home when there are so many distractions. Writing in Spain is easier with this as the view.
5) How many books have you written? Any unpublished work?
One novel, my first, Proximity is out on 6th June 2019.
My second novel, the sequel to Proximity, I have just started writing, but hopefully out in June 2020.
I did write a non-fiction book on finance a few years ago. It’s called ‘Portfolio Representations’ and is published by Harriman House.
6) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a hybrid.
I plot at the beginning to drive out the logic of the plot, ensure consistency and work out the traits/motives for each character. At the end of this, I’ll end up with one or two sentences on each chapter that describes what happens in that chapter, where to foreshadow, etc. An simple example from the chapter of my new book is ‘Fixer welcoming players – describes the game – basic level.’ Without this planning, the plot would be full of holes and I would write myself into dead-ends and waste a lot of time on rewrites.
When I sit down to write each chapter – it’s pantser time.
Concerning your latest book:
iMe Series Book One
Publisher – Serpentine Books
Pages – 352
Release Date – 6th June 2019
ISBN 13 – 978-1916022300
Format – ebook, paperback
Leading the trend in speculative crime thrillers, Jem Tugwell’s thrilling and thought-provoking debut sits alongside Black Mirror and The City and the City in a compelling exploration of our near future. Proximity draws on Jem’s 20 years of professional experience as a software developer in the city to give an unnerving insight into how our world might be transformed by the rapid advance in embedded technology and fitness trackers.
What if the cash-strapped NHS can be given a second life by using tech to regulate our health and behaviour?
What if we can eradicate knife and other proximity crimes by tracking everyone’s activity?
What if civil liberty is seen as an acceptable sacrifice for the greater good?
What if the convenience of technology is used for control?
“Proximity is inspired by the fascinating possibilities of technology, AI and the law of unintended consequences. From my own experience, technologists are often amazed or horrified about the other uses that people imagine for their products. Clive and Zoe’s world might be closer than we think, but is it heaven or hell? How do we decide the perfect balance of free will and greater good?” – Jem Tugwell
You can’t get away with anything. Least of all murder.
DI Clive Lussac has forgotten how to do his job. Ten years of embedded technology – ‘iMe’ – has led to complete control and the eradication of crime. Then the impossible happens. A body is found, and the killer is untraceable. With new partner Zoe Jordan, Clive must re-sharpen his detective skills and find the killer without technology, before time runs out for the next victim…
7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
As Proximity is set in a near-future, a lot of time was spent on social and technological trends and thinking through the world of the book, how it came about, how it works, what are the rules, etc. Most of this isn’t directly in the book as that would read like a huge brain dump, but it was definitely necessary.
The rest of the research was predominately web search based as well as visiting a few of the locations.
8) How long did it take to go from ideas stage to writing the last word?
For the first draft, about 8 months, but the editing then took about a year. This was mostly because Proximity was the deliverable for my creative writing MA and the course deadlines were spaced out over a year. An elapsed year feels about right for the next one – fingers crossed.
9) How did you come up with the title of your book?
Proximity was about the fifth title I tried, but I settled on it when I decided to use the phrase ‘proximity crimes’ to group crimes where you have to be close to someone or something. This includes robbery, muggings, murders, etc. It then made sense to call the police department that dealt with proximity crimes the ‘Proximity Crime Unit’. Proximity on its own gave a nice link to the crimes but also to the underlying theme of constant monitoring.
10) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
The main characters are Clive and Zoe. Clive is a career cop who helped introduce iMe to policing and then watched it lead to an almost complete downsizing of the police force and made his dream job boring. Zoe is younger and grew up with iMe so has a different take on it.
11) What process did you go through to get your book published?
I had offers from agents and also publishers who take direct submissions. Ultimately, once Proximity was finished, I went with the shortest time to publication so I could focus on the next books.
12) What’s next for you writing wise?
I am writing book 2 in the iMe series, then I have two stand-alone novels I want to write. One is already planned, the other needs loads of research and world building before I can start.
1) If you could have any super power for the day which would you choose?
As everyone seems to walk around with grumpy faces on the whole time, I would go for the power to make people smile.
2) Do you have any pets?
Yes. Molly, she’s a Giant Schnauzer we rescued about 10 years ago. She’s nearly 15 now and still thinks she’s a puppy – for very short bursts.
3) If you decided to write an autobiography of your life, what would you call it?
A fatalistic life? Not a chance.
4) Your book has been made into a feature film and you’ve been offered a cameo role, which part would you choose, or what would you be doing?
I would be one of the background characters going mad at living in the controlled and health and safety mad world of Proximity. Oh, wait. That’s me now.
5) Where is your favourite holiday destination?
I love Avoriaz in the winter to snowboard, and Isla Canela, Spain in the summer for sun, beach and writing.
6) A baseball cap wearing, talking duck casually wanders into your room, what is the first thing he says to you?
‘Stop hallucinating and get back to your writing.’
I would like to say a big thank you to Jem Tigwell for sharing with us details of his writing life and for a wonderful interview.