Q: J.D....what made you become a writer?
A: When I was 11 years old, I read my first comic book – an issue of X-Men from the Chris Claremont/Jim Lee era – and it triggered this desire in me to not only take in these fantastic stories but to create them myself. I’d always been artistic as a child, but it wasn’t until I started reading comic books that I really considered the idea of being a writer. When I was 12, I started writing and drawing my own comic books; at that point, they were little more than incredibly primitive fan fiction, and they were admittedly terrible. But by the time I reached high school, I was to a point where I began creating my own characters and crafting my own stories. In that process, I created a female superhero when I was 16 called Bounty. She was a
homicide detective who doubled as a superhero, and I created her
not long after discovering the comic book Witchblade.
By that point, I had a male superhero and a female superhero, and I had designs
on a career in comics. But when I went to college, I realized that studying art had
sapped me of my love of art. So I had stopped drawing, and though I eventually
moved on to a career in sports media – I’ve been a newspaper writer, a
broadcaster, and a media relations professional – I never lost my love for
writing, and as the years past I continued honing my craft to the point where
last year I was finally ready to tackle writing a novel. The result? I turned Bounty
into a novel and wrote it for NaNoWriMo. Baltimore
Q: What is your typical writing day like?
A: That depends largely on how busy my day job keeps me. My line of work is extremely hectic from September through April, and there are days where I don’t get a lot of writing done. Sometimes I write late at night when I should be sleeping, sometimes I manage to sneak in a little writing at the office. One thing I learned while writing Bounty during one of my busiest work months ever was the ability to write whenever and wherever. Much of that book was written on the road. I wrote in hotel rooms. I had a four-hour layover in
once; I wrote three chapters. On a three-hour
flight from Chicago to Chicago , I wrote three more chapters. Because of the
nature of my work, I have to be flexible about when and where I write, and I
try to write every day – even if it winds up being little more than a few
paragraphs. Fort Lauderdale
Q: Do you outline? If so, how extensive are your outlines?
A: I don’t outline, because I find it constricts me to the point where writing feels like a chore. I’ll come up with the general plot for a book, even a subplot or two, and I’ll jot down a few pertinent notes – like if I’m introducing a new character or there’s a particular action sequence that has to take place. But for the most part, I just sit down and start writing; the freedom of this approach makes writing much more fun, and I sometimes find myself surprised by what my characters do – which, honestly, is one of my favorite things about writing.
Q: How many revisions will you typically do on a novel?
A: I wound up doing four rounds of revisions on Bounty, but I have two others projects that are in the revision process that might take fewer rounds. It really depends on the project; sometimes, I’ll write something that needs little tweaking, while others I’ll churn out something that’s extremely rough and needs a lot of cleaning up. It’s definitely the sort of thing I play by ear from project to project.
Q: What is your best tip for editing a manuscript?
A: Make sure each pass-through has a plan. Every time I go to revise my manuscript, I go in with a plan. The first revision phase will simply focus on spelling errors, grammatical snafus, and typos. The second revision phase will focus on finding plot holes and cleaning up any continuity errors. By focusing each phase, I have an easier time going through the manuscript, and I don’t spend all of my time focusing on several things at once. Sometimes, having a pad of paper handy to note things for the next round of edits will also help.
Q: Which writing habits and/or tricks of the trade have made you a better writer?
A: Honestly, reading. I’ve committed myself to reading more frequently in the past couple years, and I can tell that I’ve improved as a writer because of it. Outside of writing itself, reading is the best way to become a better writer. Don’t limit yourself to reading things similar to what you write, either; read everything you can get your hands on. Even reading the newspaper can help you improve your writing.
Q: Do you ever suffer through writer’s block? If so, how do you fight it?
A: I don’t suffer from writer’s block nearly as often as I used to; years ago, it was almost crippling at times. But these days, if I find myself blocked, I’ll step away from whatever I’m working on. I find that giving myself a little space helps me un-block, and reading helps as well. Sometimes, I just wanna get away from my own words for a little bit and get lost in someone else’s. But with a novel already under my belt and a few other projects in the works, I find sometimes that it’s not writer’s block so much as burnout. This is also where the occasional step back is beneficial, and I find that if I sometimes give myself a day or two to recharge, I come back to my project and hit my stride again.
Q: What drew you to write your preferred genre(s)?
A: Hopefully, readers of Bounty will clearly be able to see how the comic book medium has affected me creatively over the years; even if it’s a work or prose instead of sequential art, Bounty is still very much a work inspired by comic books. The murder mystery element really adds to the character because of her day job as a cop, and though I’m relatively new to the genre, it really makes writing that character much easier. What’s interesting in that regard is, for the most part, I never had much of an interest in murder mystery – either in books or on television. I’m really not a James Patterson or Law & Order kinda guy. But last year, I discovered the TV show Castle and I’ve slowly dipped my foot in the murder mystery pool since.
Q: Do you utilize beta readers?
A: I did not for Bounty, but I’m looking to do that for future works – if for no other reason than having another set of eyes to look over my work. I can only read my own manuscript so many times before it all blurs together and become a bit…dull.
Q: In your most recently published novel, what’s one scene you really enjoyed writing—and why?
A: There’s a scene late in Bounty where my main character, Jill Andersen, confronts a character she once considered her ally about what she perceived as his betrayal. It’s a dark scene where she’s hiding in the shadows in his hotel room, and she walks this fine line of anger, hurt, and determination that makes the scene really intense. I didn’t know how she would react when I wrote it, and I’m really happy with the way it turned out.
Q: What makes the main character(s) of your most recent novel so special?
A: Jill Andersen is my baby; I created her almost 20 years ago, when I was still in high school, and to see the way she has grown and flourished as I have is tremendously rewarding. She’s brave and tough and resolute and badass, but she’s also incredibly compassionate and has a soft side, a vulnerability, that surprised even me. There are so many layers to her that I’m still discovering, even today, and it’s a treat writing her. In a lot of ways, Jill is the embodiment of all my favorite fictional characters. She’s part Buffy Summers, part Sara Pezzini, part Sydney Bristow, and part Kate Beckett, but she’s very much her own person. I love how she’s developed over the years, and I look forward to writing more and more of her adventures over the next several years.
Q: What is your best advice for author self-promotion?
A: This is three-fold: 1). Have patience. There is no magic pill, no easy fix, no surefire method. This is a process, a length one – especially for authors who have published their first work. The indie author market is a really large, really packed landscape, and it will take a long time to get noticed; 2). Communicate. Talk to other indie authors to see what’s worked for them. Websites like Goodreads are a great place to connect with other writers, and you can find them on Twitter and Facebook as well. In fact, there are several author groups on Facebook where you can chat with other writers. Finding out what they’ve done can help you decide what do when promoting your work – and more importantly, what not to do; 3). Just keep writing. Publishing more books can sometimes be your best marketing tool.
Q: How do you deal with negative reviews?
It depends on the tone of the review. If there is actual constructive criticism in the review, then I take that into consideration. It doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily take it to heart and take whatever advice is given, but if it’s genuine constructive criticism, then it merits consideration. If the reviews in incendiary and bitter, then you’re better off just ignoring it. Ultimately, it’s important to realize that whatever you write is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. There will always be someone who doesn’t like what you wrote – and that’s okay. Even the millionaire bestsellers have their detractors. My greatest fear as a writer isn’t people not liking my work; it’s them not reading it in the first place.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an indie author?
A: The fact that there’s an avenue for me to get my work out to people without having to go through the lengthy, tedious, demoralizing process of going through traditional publishers. There’s a certain freedom in knowing that, and it frees me up to write my books without constantly worrying about whether or not anyone will actually be able to see them.
Q: What is your least favorite aspect of being an indie author?
A: Being so new, so unrecognizable. As I mentioned before, the indie author market is huge, and as a relative newcomer (my first novel’s only been out for two months), it can be hard to get noticed.
Q: What is your current writing project?
A: I’m putting the finishing touches on Boundless, a Bounty digital short that takes place two years before the events of Bounty and details Jill’s first night as the costumed vigilante Bounty. I’m also in the process of editing Blood Ties, the second novel in the Bounty series, which will be available in January 2016 in paperback and Kindle. I have two other unrelated projects in various stages of development, but those are a ways off yet.
Q: What are three of your favorite novels?
A: Angel Killer by Andrew Mayne; murder mystery meets magic in a fast-paced, mysterious case involving a serial killer named Warlock. FBI agent Jessica Blackwood is an interesting protagonist who has the potential to be one of the genre’s best.
Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs; I’ve always enjoyed Reichs’ books, but this one was easily one of her best. It kept me guessing far more than some of her other entries.
Heat Rises by Richard Castle; the Richard Castle books are, by and large, much better than I would’ve expected, and I think Heat Rises is the best of them. It was a surprisingly emotional read.
Q: If you could have lunch with any novelist, living or dead, who would it be? What would talk to them about?
A: I would say J.K. Rowling, just to pick her brain about what it was like creating such a vast, detailed, and fantastic universe. Not necessarily the characters themselves, but the world they all inhabited and how she managed to pack so much into her books without the books themselves ever feeling bogged down or overstuffed.
Q: What is your best piece of advice for budding authors?
A: Just write. It really is that simple…and that complicated. Focus on writing and worry about everything else later.
Q: What is your favorite inspirational quote?
This doesn’t exactly fit the question, but a few days ago, a longtime friend of mine whom I’ve always looked up to called me her hero because I wrote and published a book. To have someone I hold in such high esteem say that to me was a much-needed shot in the arm, and it gave me such a boost of confidence. The next time I’m looking at a depressing sales chart, I’ll remember her words.