Born in Penzance, Jonathan Cox is a former Fleet Street journalist and international news agency correspondent. He recently completed a postgraduate writing degree at Falmouth University with a first class honours degree (distinction). The Cornwall Sabbatical is his first, but hopefully not last, book. To make ends meet as a writer, he also works as a consumer analyst.
Jon can be found at:
Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) book?
A long pent up demand – I wrote my first, unpublished book, in my early 20’s, a Martin Amis-esque bonk and booze buster, got rejected a lot, lost heart and it toom me another thirty years to build up courage to have another go. I took a sabbatical, doing a writing programme at Falmouth university in Cornwall, where I was born, and that led onto the book about Cornwall, my first love.
What came first the characters or the world?
In this case the world – Cornwall. I arrived in 1967.
How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?
Very – I like to think I am not a bad writer (former news agency journalist, now analyst so regularly write reports). I was turned down by around 100 agents and probably close to 200 publishers. I had a couple of tentative offers at the end of it. No advances that was for sure.
How long did it take to write?
About six months.
Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?
I am a big techno head – so compilations of EDM/dance/trance. Who doesn’t like Beachball by Nalin & Kane?
How many publishers turned you down?
What kind of reactions have you had to your book?
Some people said it ended too quickly and there is not enough of me staring at my navel, feeling sorry for myself, and then at the end getting some sort of redemption. You get the picture. I didn’t want to write about my mother’s nervous breakdowns or my brother in law’s brain cancer (both true) and plenty of more that I would not mention here for fear of hurting the people. I wanted to write what looks like a light hearted, comical but informative memoir/travelogue about Cornwall.
What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?
Helen Lederer is pure class — I met her in Falmouth when she was doing a book festival (my first not sure I would do many more) and she wrote a nice quote for me.
What can you tell us about your next book?
I want to do fiction – I actually never set out to write The Cornwall Sabbatical.
Do you take notice of online reviews?
Whoever says they don’t either doesn’t read them or is dead inside.
Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?
Yep, see above.
What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?
I am an analyst – yes, one of those type of analysts from Industry, the TV series, if you know what I mean, but based in Zurich. I don’t mention that a lot in writing circles (or that I was a news agency journalist, see the part in TCS when an established author looks like there is an unpleasant smell when I say I worked as a wire hack)
Which author(s) inspire you?
Too many to mention – at the moment I am recycling into Ed McBain. Legend in the genre I want to actually do more of. In that genre there is Lee Childs – hat great stripped down language. I love Tom Wood’s Victor the Assassin series. I also like Nordic noire crime, like Jo Nesbo, whose best books are actually stand alone rather than Harry Hole. I include Edinburgh in the genre, Sir Ian Rankin, another legend. I also like spy stuff, Ian Fleming, now we have Mick Herron, I love his description of London. I don’t think the Apple TV series does it justice. I want to be part of that gang. Outside of that, I am a child of Martin Amis, easily my biggest influence in my late teens, while Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities (along with Amis Money) is probably the best book I have read.
Which genres do you read yourself?
What is your biggest motivator?
Fear of failure.
What will always distract you?
My day job. I actually really like it and it pays the bills. I just find something is missing there while I feel immensely fulfilled when I write creatively. So I am pretty tortured on the work/writing balance.
How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?
You know I was really disappointed as my son, who is a graphic designer in the ad world, did a cover with my input, a kaleidoscope of Cornish images (the full title of my book is The Cornwall Sabbatical: Observations Through a Returning Pirate’s Kaleidoscope). There was sky, sea colours, moody shading, Celtic looking. Publisher said not commercial enough but would use it on inside cover. People forget he wrote Blackboard Jungle under his.
Were you a big reader as a child?
Yes – having an unusual family life does that to you.
What were your favourite childhood books?
Famous Five, Secret Seven, The Three Detectives that sort of stuff.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?
Sorry, you will hate me, got to be Waterstones (on Piccadilly in London is my favourite). So many floors, so many books.
What books can you not resist buying?
Actually because I moved around a lot I moved online very quickly (also ipod very first mover) so it is mostly electronic copies (the print books I add to a collection of pre-2,000 books now tend to be biographies). Electronically, I am one of those people pre-ordering all my favourite writers (Childs, Baldacci etc etc) and then get excited when they appear in my kindle library app.
Do you have any rituals when writing?
Hardest thing is starting.
How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?
One – my son gave me Rutger Bregman’s Humankind: A Hopeful History, he says I am too cynical. I tell him I am reading it but am quietly going through the whole Ed McBain back catalogue. After a chapter or two of “another thing we are all so nice about …” I couldn’t take it.
What is your current or latest read?
Ed McBain’s Blood Relatives – number 30 of the 87th Precinct series, we are now in the 1970’s (it starts in the 50s). I have another 26 to go. I loved the first few in terms of his comments, many years later, about his relationship with his publisher (who he didn’t seem to like very much). People forget he also wrote Blackboard Jungle under his Evan Hunter real name.
Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?
Got to be the next Tom Wood Victor book series.
Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?
Getting The Cornwall Sabbatical out of the door but then I need to get back into it. I find short series or flash fiction a good way to get back into it.
Any events in the near future?
I am waiting for the invites for the book festivals – we’ll see.
and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?
As mentioned the first book is a labour of love about Cornwall. The crime/thriller genre just keeps you gripped.