Interview with Australian Author – Jim Reay

“Australian Authors” – Tell us a little about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?

Jim – I grew up in post World War II Scotland and during the Cold War. I listened to stories of family and friends who had returned from conflict and lived through the tensions, secrecy and mystery of things they would prefer not to talk about. And yet, I wanted to understand … what, how and why such global conflicts happen. That thirst for knowledge and the logical unravelling of mysteries led me to reading, researching and struggling with complex thoughts – as well as listening. What sort of thought process, philosophy and morality led people into such situations … and what motivated the characters to deal with really difficult human decisions. Find out more about me at

“Australian Authors” – What made you want to become a writer?

Jim – I have always been fascinated by adventure stories and mysteries. I came into reading as a child through Robert Louis Stevenson with ‘Treasure Island’ and ‘Kidnapped’. Then, Charles Dickens captivated me with ‘Great Expectations’, ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. From there, I branched out to Alexandre Dumas with ‘The Three Musketeers’, ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ and ‘The Black Tulip’. Then Victor Hugo with ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame.’ Books and stories opened up a world of wonder and escape from normality for me.
I didn’t ever think of actually becoming a writer in the busyness of my working life and yet lots of stories were forming in my mind. They were mysteries with adventure but also with significant social messages.
The writings of a Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth, Wilbur Smith, Nelson de Mille or Alistair MacLean seemed so far beyond my abilities … and yet the craft of constructing their stories really interested me.
Then, Colin Dexter of the Inspector Morse stories sparked a writing framework in me. Ian Rankin stories added to my development and they were set in Edinburgh, where I went to university. I went back to reading Arthur Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes.
Gradually, I wondered whether or not I could write my own many stories. In the years as I approached my retirement from full-time work, I sat down to write three of my ideas simultaneously – ‘Catching Legends’, ‘The Chess Board’ and ‘Searching for Siobhan’ – and then I discovered how much more I needed to learn about writing stories.

“Australian Authors” – What gives you inspiration for your book(s)?

Jim – All my books have a social meaning. There is a message to challenge the reader’s thinking. The plot is the vehicle to carry that larger agenda.
The plots comes from my experiences and my observations. But I am not really interested in just writing a mystery story if there is nothing more to grab the reader. I really want to write stories that make the readers identify with the characters, with the scenarios, with the locations – to want to go back and read the book again because they feel there is more in the tale that they might have missed on the first read through.
So life and the way people in society operate are the inspirations for my writing.

“Australian Authors” – Now, the big question, are you working on another book?

Jim – I am always thinking about stories and scenarios. But I do want people to read the nine books and five short stories already published, rather than pining for the next one.

“Australian Authors” – What genres do you prefer to write in?

Jim – Mysteries have always appealed to me, with a bit of adventure, crime and thrill to carry the story.

“Australian Authors” – What do you think about the ebook revolution?

Jim – I like eBooks. They provide a cheap format to get to any part of the world, especially when shipping and postage costs make sending hard copies prohibitive.
Lots of my stories are read in eBook form.

“Australian Authors” – Do you start a book with a definite plot, or do you just write?

Jim – I usually have an idea – or several ideas – plus a location and potential characters. I may have several notions as to how it might end. Then I flesh out the characters to understand how they might think and act.
Generally, the personalities of the characters find the direction for the story and I savour the experience of the plot unfolding. It is fun!
In addition to the plot, I usually have a social message that is woven through the story to challenge the readers’ thinking. The characters then determine how that might be expressed in the tale. I just enjoy, and bask in, their wisdom as things develop.
Eventually, the story will go to editors who bring everything down to earth with perceptive structural comments and demanding queries about continuity or phrasing. That is the reality check on the writing.

“Australian Authors” – Pen or type writer or computer?

Jim – Computer

“Australian Authors” – Do your characters seem to hijack the story, or are you always in control?

Jim – I have a rough plot and I like to think I am in control. In reality, the strength of the characters in their locations and scenarios will guide how I write.
Good characters don’t hijack but they do guide.

“Australian Authors” – Are your characters based on real people or completely imagined?

Jim – Is any character completely imagined? We are all products of our experiences.
Amalgams of real people certainly influence characters, perhaps by the way they speak or act, but none of my characters are directly based on real people.

“Australian Authors” – Have you thought about joining with another author to write a book?

Jim – No

“Australian Authors” – Who are your favourite authors?

Jim – Favourite authors depend on context and mood when writing – so Helen McInnes, Alistair MacLean and Robert Ludlum were influential at a time in my life. Likewise Peter Corris, Peter Carey, Tom Keneally, Kate Morton, Richard Flanagan and Peter FitzSimons have influenced my Australian writing understanding.
Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Lee Child, Nelson De Mille were among many who helped my USA appreciation.
British crime writers such as Colin Dexter, Ian Rankin, Jack Higgins and Adrian McKinty (his Irish series) are favourites.
However, I read large amounts of non-fiction as research for my stories, particularly in philosophy and history.

“Australian Authors” – What’s your advice to Authors? On writing? Publishing? Marketing?

Jim – Write because it brings you joy. Write to clarify your thoughts or to make a record.

Publishing is much more complex. First, understand your motivation in wanting to publish (whether it be a tweet, an email, a short story, an essay or a book). Before you publish, be sure that you would be happy if it was read by your parent, your child, your partner or your employer.
If you want to do it as a business, seek professional assistance. There are millions of very good writers out there.
If you want to publish so that your book is read, seek the assistance of an editor, a page designer, a cover designer, a publisher, a printer, a marketer … in short, seek the help of professionals who understand the minutiae of the publishing world. Then, do a budget of your potential costs and your potential sales. If you are content with the financial bottom line and your motivation to publish, go ahead.

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