Friday, May 21, 2010

J. Dean Interview

Interview with J. Dean

1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write? Funny you should ask that. The Summoning of Clade Josso and the Summoning of Old Velt were mostly written in the morning. What I would do is get to school about twenty or thirty minutes early, get my classroom set up, then sit down and write during my actual prep time. My prep is first period, so I have no students for the first hour of the day, which provided an excellent opportunity for me to write, usually getting one to three pages finished in a sitting.

With The Summoning of Kran (the third novel I’m currently writing), I decided to go for a change of pace. Instead of writing in the morning, I started writing in the evening, after putting the children to bed, and receiving permission from my wife that my household chore services are no longer required (which makes me happy indeed). Usually, I’ll spend about an hour writing, and as with before, get between one and three pages finished, provided no little ones need to get up for a drink of water or bathroom break-which ends up with them trying to stay up longer than they should (If you’re a parent of little ones, you know about this :D ).

This little change has taught me something about myself: it’s not so much when I write that matters. What matters is that I get a good, solid block of free time to write. I can write at six a.m. (I’m an early riser-my day is wasted if I’m in bed past eight), or two p.m. or ten p.m., so long as the time I have is uninterrupted.

2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?-The basic outline of the plot is sketched out on paper, along with character developments and a (rather bad) drawing of what the characters are to look like. This enables me to have a quick reference available while writing, and helps to keep the characters and plot consistent.

I keep my on-paper ideas very basic; the actual working out of those ideas comes while writing. For example, what I might do is write that “Character A does Action B which leads to Plotline C,” but the details as to how those things happen come as I sit and flesh out the storyline on the computer. This is done for two related reasons: first, if I put down too much ahead of time, I limit myself to how the situation can unfurl. I don’t want to be confined with how we get from Chapter 1 to Chapter 2. Which leads me to my second reason for not putting down too much: that’s half the fun of writing. I absolutely love not knowing what’s going to happen, and when dealing with the realms of science fiction and fantasy, the author has a wide open field for his imagination to play, and believe me, I like to play hard in this way.

A good way to look at my process would be to compare it to that of a cartoonist when he draws his character. The basic, pencil-drawn, colorless character is like my sketched plot and characters, while the adding of color and shades is like my development and embellishment of that skeletal outline, all done with my trusty Mac (or PC, as sometimes I’m forced to use the latter).

3: What do you draw inspiration from?-The biggest shots of inspiration came to me from Stephen King and Ray Bradbury. I had purchased my first Stephen King book as a sophomore in high school-Skeleton Crew, one of his collections of short stories. The first one I read was “The Mist.” Now keep in mind that I worked as a bagboy in a local grocery store. By the time I had finished the story, I had no desire whatsoever to go out to the loading dock on dreary, foggy days (If you’ve not read the story, I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s definitely worth the read). But it blew me away, and after reading it, I said “I want to write like that.” Not necessarily in the sense that I wanted to write in the horror genre (Although I do have some horror short stories that are free on Smashwords), but rather in the sense that I wanted to make people see everything I was describing, and that’s what Stephen King does. He makes you experience the story, describing things in such a way as to make that grocery store feel like the grocery store you visit every week (and believe me, while reading “The Mist”, I felt like King had vistited my grocery store and used it as the basis for his story). His ability to do this is simply amazing.

Ray Bradbury is another one who is a big inspiration. He causes the reader to visualize things with well-crafted word pictures. In one of his stories, for example, he describes the scattering of jacks as “making a constellation” on the sidewalk. That’s just a beautiful way to describe it, and so unorthodox. His book Dandelion Wine will make any reader revert back to eight years old, and relive summer every time the book is opened.

In addition to Bradbury and King, an honorable mention of influence should be made to two other authors who have made a more recent impact on my writing, both of whom I strongly recommend. F. Paul Wilson is an author I admire for two reasons: first, because he refuses to be defined solely by genre. His Repairman Jack books blend crime, mystery, science fiction, and horror, yet don’t fit squarely into any of those genres. That’s not easy to do. Second, Mr. Wilson is an expert at pacing. He keeps the plot moving along at an appropriate speed, so that the reader never feels like the story is dragging or speeding by, and that’s an important quality to have in writing novels.

The other honorable mention is the Japanese author Haruki Murakami, author of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. The story is original, not just in its premise and plot, but in the way that Murakami lets his imagination go with ideas. It’s a beautiful thing to see authors take unconventional paths with their work, and Murakami does this in a way that’s fun and amazing.

4: Do you set yourself goals when you sit down to write such as word count?-Yes, but not necessarily the same goal every time. Due to different circumstances, especially shortages of time, the goal differs. Sometimes it’s about getting a chapter finished; sometimes it’s about just finishing a page. It all depends on what’s available to me, and, God willing, that I can accomplish as much as possible in the time allotted.

5: Being a self published author how do you come up with your cover art?-The idea for the cover of The Summoning of Clade Josso was a fall-back idea. Originally, I had contacted an old college buddy of mine who did art to see if he would be interested in doing a cover for me. He was excited to do so, but never got back to me; probably due to life getting in the way with him. So I was forced to come up with my own cover, and did so by using a concept from the book-the design of the cloaks of the Sect members. What was designed by me and the team at Booksurge (now Createspace) was done by taking Greek lettering, running it left and right, then overlaying that with more Greek lettering, this time running it up and down, giving it the appearance of some ancient language.

While the cover isn’t bad, I’ll be changing it up a little bit for the next novel. I plan to do a little bit differently, and am in contact with a few artists who hopefully can lend their talents out-for a price, of course :D- and take the cover a step further for The Summoning of Old Velt. I’m not skilled enough to do a cover as detailed as I’d like for the Vein series. My short story covers are no problem; they consiste of me taking a snapshot of something via my cellphone camera, then fiddling with the pic with either Paint (PC) or Graphic Converter (Mac) to make them more interesting. That’s fine for the free short stories, but for the novels I want to keep a more professional look.

6: What drives you to chose the career of being a writer?-Fame and fortune! (laughs) Seriously, while I wouldn’t mind making a living as a full-time author, that’s not my primary reason at this time. I write for two reasons: first of all, it’s a lot of fun. To make up some crazy ideas and share them with other people who like crazy ideas is very rewarding. Every time I write, it’s a blast. It’s work at times, yes, but very enjoyable work.

The second reason is that I have a story to tell, and I want to get it out. And it’s a story for the sake of a story. Too many stories in either books or film adaptations turn into soapbox sermons for the latest political, social, or psychological issue. The art of simple storytelling for its own sake is something that we’ve departed from and really need to get back to, because there’s a purity to plain storytelling that becomes lost when the story is merely a vehicle for something else.

A good couple of examples of this are J. R. R. Tolkien and Watership Down author Richard Adams. When people would come to them and ask what their stories really meant, both men replied the same way: they’re meant to be taken as stories, and nothing more. I think we need more of this, more authors who want to write and take us to magical places because…. Well, just because.

7: Do you own an ebook reading device?-I don’t. Just yesterday my wife and I were in Barnes and Noble, looking for a gift for my mother in law, and I spied a Nook. I picked it up and fooled around with it for a few minutes; it was pretty cool. But I’m not in a rush to get one. For starters, I don’t have that much cash to spend on one right now. I’m hardly a “starving artist,” but neither do I have the luxury of spending money here and there as I please, so if I do decide to get one, it won’t be right away. Also, I’m just more fond of paper books that don’t need battery power!

8: Who are some of your favorite authors and What are you reading now?-I mentioned King, Bradbury, Wilson, and Murakami: definite favorites. Other authors whose works I’ve read and liked are Dean Koontz (Twilight Eyes and Phantoms), Peter Benchley (Jaws, Beast-but don’t watch the made-for-TV movie version of the latter), and Dan Simmons (Summer of Night). I also like reading various Star Wars novels as well, particularly those pertaining to the Old Republic tales or the Yuuzhan Vong war.

Right now, I’m reading F. Paul Wilson’s The Haunted Air, part of his Repairman Jack series; Halo: The Fall of Reach; and Richard Adams’ Watership Down (but that one might have to wait until summer).

9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any?-I waffle back and forth on book trailers. I’ve heard mixed things about them from both the author side and the reader side. If ever I do decide to do one, I want it to look as professional and attractive as possible, so it’s going to have to be done by somebody other than me. Better for me now to concentrate on other venues that I can use to get the word out, like your website (Thank you very much, btw!)

10: What are you working on now that you can talk about?- The Summoning of Old Velt, my second book in the Vein series, is finished; but I’m in the process of giving it a cursory edit before having somebody else do a more detailed edit of it. In the meantime, I’m diving into the third Vein novel, The Summoning of Kran, writing that one at night as indicated earlier, and putting some time into a short story or two during midday. Beyond that, we’ll have to see what the future holds!

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