As it turned out, I had no choice. When your family’s been assassinating reprobates and other loathsome individuals for seventy generations, you have a certain obligation.
So, while it was a little disconcerting to hear how dear old granny would have become a prostitute if Grandpa Joe hadn’t whacked one of Germany’s top agents just before the start of World War I, it certainly piqued my interest. Of course, as I discovered, prostitution and murder were pretty de rigueur for my family.
After all, it was my great-grandfather who was hired by the British secret service to kill Jack the Ripper and my mother’s cousins who took part in the attempted assassination of Lenin.
My only regret when I finally took up the family sica was not eliminating Jean-Bedel Bokassa just before he crowned himself Emperor of the Central African Empire and ate my two friends.
But we all make mistakes.
A Word with Jonathan Harries
The experiences were totally different. Jeff was collaborative, open to suggestions, and very thorough with his research into characters and accents. We communicated early and often and he was always willing to change anything that made me uncomfortable. In my previous experience with an audiobook they sent me a bunch of chapters to listen to rather than comment on and I felt more like an observer than a participant.
All of the family members in the book are real and were present at the places mentioned in the time frame. As I wrote in the preface, the story is about what could have happened rather than what did. There was very little fodder in the genealogical studies I did on my family. In fact it was only when I learned that my great grandfather had immigrated to England from Riga at the same time of the Jack the Ripper murders, changing both his name and profession, that the idea of a 2000-year-old family assassination business popped into my mind
I suffer more from disappointment than burnout. I have two or three manuscripts that are perhaps a few chapters from completion that I suddenly lost interest in. I think most of the issue had to do with the characters in the story. As much as I tried to know them, I think they always ended up being somewhat elusive that left them feeling like strangers.
I am not an audiobook listener but that is not by choice. I’d love to listen to audiobooks, but I suffer from ADHD. I walk a lot which is the perfect venue for listening, but I find my mind wandering and I end up missing so much content that it becomes impossible to follow the story. For some reason I can focus when I read and so that’s the medium that works best for me.
I’ve only written one stand-alone novel and I certainly hope to write more. The obvious answer – at least to me – with a series, is getting to develop the characters. Even though my great-uncle Leon is only briefly mentioned in the Tailor of Riga, I am now on book three using him as the central character. I only knew him briefly as a child, but he had such a powerful personality and repertoire of stories of exotic travels and mysterious women that his character flows seamlessly through whatever situation I insert him into.
Food and drink feature prominently in my books—mainly Indian food, which I absolutely love. My father lived in India for about five years and developed a taste for both Northern and Southern Indian cuisines. Luckily Indian food is one of the dominant cuisines of South Africa, and so he got me into eating it from an early age. I’ve visited India countless times both on business and vacation and have learned to cook different dishes. Both my sons are curry fanatics, too, which I find very gratifying. In my first series, the Roger Storm books, you’ll find the characters knocking back martinis. I absolutely love martinis – although I’ve stopped as I got to love them a little too much during the early days of COVID – and think of them as the quintessential drink. I prefer gin martinis, though I will substitute vodka on occasion. The thing that bugs me most about some restaurants is when they serve a martini in a round or stemless glass. There is no more perfect glass than the traditional V-shape with a long stem and round base. I consider it a crime to serve a martini in anything else.
My own question: Describe your writing style.
I always think of myself as an Uber driver. I drop my characters off at a certain location, pick them up when they’re done, and transport them to the next place.
I certainly don’t consider listening to books as “cheating,” or see it as inferior to “real reading.’’ That’s like thinking emails are a lazy person’s answer to letters or texts the tools of the loafer. On the contrary, they are simply the utility of the electronic age, which you can either embrace or be swallowed up by.
When I write I am totally focused on the words as they appear on the page and never even consider what they’d sound like in an audiobook or if they’d appear on a TV series. If I did, I think it would be better to write the story in a script format, which would at least be cleaner. If I did have “audiobook” in mind, I might write less dialogue and use more descriptive language, which I think – and this is pure conjecture – may be easier for the narrator. I’d love to know the answer to this question.
I always try to start the “next” novel as soon as I feel like I’m getting to the end of the one I’m currently writing. This generally means there is no actual moment for celebration. I’ve also found that friends and family who were all full of congratulations and good wishes after the first few books now barely batter an eyelid when I announce that I’ve just finished the next one. Jerry Della Femina, a famous old ad guy that you’ve probably never heard of, said, “Creative people always put their faces up to be kissed and end up getting them slapped.” That’s not to say that if I hit a million sales I wouldn’t break out a bottle of 1996 Dom Perignon from my imaginary cellar.
Jonathan Harries began his career as a trainee copywriter at Foote, Cone & Belding in South Africa and ended it as Chairman of FCB Worldwide with a few stops in between.
After winning his first Cannes Lion award, he was offered a job at Grey Advertising in South Africa, where he worked as a copywriter and ended up as CEO at age 29, just before emigrating to the US. Like most immigrants in those days, he started once again from scratch. After a five year stint as Executive Creative Director of Hal Riney in Chicago, he was offered a senior position at FCB. Within ten years, he became the Global Chief Creative Officer and spent the next ten traveling to over 90 countries, racking up 8 million miles on American Airlines alone.
He began writing his first novel, Killing Harry Bones, in the last year of his career and transitioned into becoming a full-time author a year ago, just after retiring from FCB. He’s been writing ever since while doing occasional consulting work for old clients.
Jonathan has a great love of animals, and he and his wife try to go on safari every year. They’ve been lucky enough to visit game reserves in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Tanzania, India, and Sri Lanka.
About the Narrator: Jeff Bachar
Jeff Bachar is a professional voice artist who delights in helping authors bring their stories to life for listeners. He studied acting at the North Carolina School of the Arts and has a BFA from DePaul University’s Theatre School. In addition to audiobooks, Jeff specializes in commercial and political voiceover as well as museum audio tour narration. With a master’s degree in Public Health, he excels at health-related narration for corporate videos, e-learning, and explainer videos. When he is not in his recording studio, Jeff loves to explore the world and its many diverse cultures with his family. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org