Jay Eales was born among the dying embers of the Swinging Sixties, in a rural Northamptonshire town where the Co-op was (and remains) King, and almost every family was in thrall to the boot and shoe industry (May it Rest In Peace). Fast forward three and a bit decades and Jay switched teams, moving to Leicester, chasing love, a new career path and the twenty-first century.
In 2000, Jay and his partner created the Factor Fiction publishing imprint for comics and prose writing projects, and published a number of anthologies on behalf of the Foundation for the Study of Infant Death. The Girly Comic and Violent! anthologies published many up and coming and professional comic creators over the next decade. They were twice shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award as well as being nominated for the Comic Creators Guild and National Comics Awards.
Between 2002 and 2004, Jay was the News Features Editor for Borderline – The Comics Magazine, recipient of the 2004 National Comics Award for Best Magazine/Website About Comics. From 2006 to 2011, he was part of the organising committee for Britain’s longest running comic convention: Caption. He is currently the Graphic Novel Reviews Editor for the British Fantasy Society and regularly appears at conventions discussing the comics medium where he lectures and leads workshops on this much misunderstood art form.
Jay's most recent projects were curating Burning With Optimism’s Flames – a collection of dark and surreal fantasies on the theme of identity, by fourteen authors from the UK and US, including two Leicester writers. His pulp novella The Five Faces of Fear, featuring masked Mexican wrestlers and time travel was published as an ebook in November 2013 by Manleigh Books. He adapted his own short story 'Imaginary Kingdom' for the comics anthology Zombre, illustrated by Polish artist Krzysztof Ostrowski and published by Borderline Press in November 2013. His first novel progresses in fits and starts.
From 'Nine Tenths'
“It’s like living with a completely different person. Sometimes he doesn’t even look like Marcus any more. I keep thinking it’s a nightmare, and that I’ll wake up, and he’ll be Marcus again. It’s my fault. If I hadn’t thrown those bloody flowers into the road.”
“You can’t think like that, Sarah. If Marcus hadn’t gone to pick them up. If the driver hadn’t been using your road as a rat-run. If, if, if. You’re not to blame. Nobody is. Not for that. But these,” Rothkiss pulled back Sarah’s cardigan sleeve, bringing her injuries back into the light again, “these are down to Marcus, and nobody else.”
“They’re not the worst of it,” Sarah said, and Rothkiss took a sharp breath.
“He didn’t…” His words trailed off into silence, not wanting to anticipate Sarah’s next words.
“Oh, nothing physical. It’s all his mindgames. He’ll sometimes start talking like Marcus, the real Marcus, and it gives me hope. I think it’s over at last, and then I see him sneer. It starts in his eyes before it reaches his mouth. That’s when he laughs. He gives me hope, then he snatches it away, and I fall for it. Every. Single. Time. I don’t know who he is, but he isn’t Marcus.”
“Sarah, I’m not your GP, but I really think you should let me refer you to one of my colleagues.”
“You think it’s me? That I have the problem?” Sarah pushed Rothkiss away and stepped back from him.
He cut off her retreat, “I think that Marcus needs help, but you need it too. It’s a lot of pressure that you’ve put yourself under, but you don’t need to do it alone.”
“It’s not him. Why won’t you believe me? He looks like Marcus, and talks like him, except when he thinks I’m not watching. But it’s not. He’s not.”
“Sarah! Will you listen to yourself? If we were living in the Middle Ages, you’d be burning him as a witch. Or possessed by the Devil! This is not rational thinking!”
“Rational? He went to sleep Marcus Hales and woke up… I don’t know who.”
I’m not sure that I think of myself consciously as a ‘Leicester Writer’, although I am certainly a writer in Leicester. I was born in Northamptonshire, and lived in the same house for the first three decades of my life. My earliest fictions were mostly preoccupied with escapism, with trying to break away from the constraints of a car-less household, rarely venturing beyond the boundaries of town except for the occasional bus trip to Wellingborough’s Arndale Centre, and monthly visits to Uncle Jim and Auntie Joan’s for a tea of wafer-thin ham, cherry tomatoes, boiled eggs and salad cream, accompanied by The Golden Shot or Bullseye. My refuge was through the escape hatch of literature, devouring entire shelves of the public library, drawing comics and writing earnest sequels to the likes of Lord of the Flies. I cling to the safety net: I'm the habitual people watcher, the leaner by the bar at the disco. Drawn to the spotlight but often sunk in the shadows, beset by crippling self-doubt. A documenter rather than a doer. No wonder it took so long to exchange the Rose of the Shires for the Heart of Rural England. Still the safety net tugs, and every few years I make a pilgrimage to the old homestead, but despite a few cosmetic changes: ironmongers mutate into tea shops or estate agents, it seems somehow fixed in time. Nice to visit, but I can’t stay too long, in case I take root.
Some people knock Leicester, comparing it unfavourably to metropolitan cities where you can get an Ethiopian curry or a salt beef bagel at three in the morning. Nice to visit, but those places don't feel like home. Too frenetic, too alien. In the vein of psychogeographers such as Iain Sinclair and Alan Moore, the longer my roots dig into Leicester’s soil, the more ‘Lesta’ my writing becomes. I now effortlessly translate the likes of the ‘chip butty’ into a ‘chip cob’, and mine the local folklore and history for future stories. Events like the One Leicester Festival that followed the EDL March in 2010, where the diverse communities of the city came together were hugely inspiring in ways that are only now starting to surface in my writing, and will no doubt influence me for years to come.
'Nine Tenths' is a short story I wrote in early 2012 for Dog Horn Publishing’s Terror Scribes anthology of horror stories. Inspired by a news story about sufferers of Foreign Accent Syndrome, I wanted to write about identity. It was very much in my thoughts since it was also the theme of Burning With Optimism’s Flames, which I was commissioning stories for at the time. A young relationship interrupted by a car accident and major head injury. How much of our self is wrapped up in our eggshell skulls? I wanted to walk the line between the natural and supernatural for as long as I could. Has a traumatic blow to the head changed Marcus’ personality, or has something other taken up residence in his empty vessel?
Doctor Who charity anthologies:
Perfect Timing 2, co-edited with Helen Fayle, 1999 (proceeds to FSID)
Walking in Eternity, Editor/contributor, Factor Fiction, 2000 (proceeds to FSID)
Shelf Life, co-edited with Adrian Middleton & David A McIntee, 2008 (proceeds to British Heart Foundation)
The Girly Comic #1-21, Publisher/contributor, Factor Fiction, 2001-2010
Violent! #1-20, Publisher/editor/contributor from #6 on, Factor Fiction, 1999-2012
Borderline – The Comics Magazine #1-20, News Features Editor, MediaHall, 2002-2004
Service Not Included, comic strip, American Splendor DVD, 2004
See a Penny…, comic strip, Negative Burn #6, Desperado Press/Image Comics, 2006
Outlaw Wu, comic strip, The Mammoth Book of Best New Manga, Constable & Robinson, 2006
Made Men, comic strip, Robots, Accent UK, 2008
Last Suppers, comic strip, Predators, Accent UK, 2011
The Girly Comic Book Volume 1, Publisher/contributor, Factor Fiction, 2008 hardback, 2012 paperback
The Girly Comic Book Volume 2, Publisher/contributor, Factor Fiction, August 2012 paperback
Imaginary Kingdom (comics adaptation), Zombre, Borderline Press, November 2013
Spare Change, Murky Depths #12 2010 (Nominated for BSFA Award for Best Short Story of 2010)
Mightier than the Sword, Faction Paradox: A Romance in Twelve Parts, Obverse Books, 2011
Imaginary Kingdom, Alt-Zombie, Hersham Horror, 2012
Nine Tenths, Terror Scribes, Doghorn Publishing, 2012
Faction Paradox: Burning With Optimism’s Flames, Editor, Obverse Books, August 2012
Born Among Briars, More Tales of the City, Obverse Books, 2013
The Five Faces of Fear, Manleigh Books, November 2013
Zeitgeist, Terror Tales Volume 2, #1, Rainfall Books
Crazycrone: The Collected Comics of Lee Kennedy, Factor Fiction, 2014
Dark Adapted Eyes, Editor/contributor, publisher to be confirmed
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